Why Tutoring Needs to Prioritize Interactive Practice Over Lecturing

By Ernest Bio Bogore

Proofread and fact-checked by Ibrahim Litinine

Last updated

Meet Samantha. 

Samantha is a busy executive at a healthcare company who’s been dreaming of learning French. 

Like many of us, she thought language classes with a tutor would be her ticket to becoming fluent fast. 

" If I have an expert teaching me the rules and helping me practice, I'll be speaking like a pro in no time! " she figured.

Samantha signed up for a bunch of private lessons and showed up ready to learn, taking careful notes as her tutor explained French grammar step by step.

She memorized vocabulary, practiced verb forms, and did every exercise her tutor gave her.

But as the months went by, Samantha still struggled to hold a real conversation in French.

Despite her tutor's expertise, she felt more and more like she was just watching from the sidelines instead of truly learning to communicate in a new language.

Samantha’s story shows us the big problem with the way most language tutoring gets done.

Languages aren’t just a bunch of facts you can memorize by having someone tell you the rules over and over. They’re living, breathing skills that you master through continuous practice, personalized feedback, and your own motivation to soak up the authentic flow and culture of the language.

If we want tutoring to really work, we need to rethink the old idea of the tutor as the all-knowing teacher who lectures at you.

In this piece, we’re discussing how the traditional tutoring method is broken and how we need to rethink it.

🇫🇷 Learn From Meghan's Mistakes!

Meghan spent months trying out techniques like vocabulary memorization, spaced repetition, and gamification apps like Duolingo. None of it worked, instead it ended up being total waste of time and money. She had a breakthrough only after discovering Get French Classes where she went through our active immersion, that helped her:

  1. build the daily habits of speaking French,

  2. practice under real-life scenarios through private French classes,

  3. improve fluency through group classes with other French learners.

Join one of our French courses and start speaking French today.

Why the traditional tutoring method is broken and works against the learner

Here are a few reasons why the industry should move away from the conventional way of teaching languages.

It promotes one-way communication, which contradicts the interactive nature of language

The fundamental flaw of the traditional lecturing approach is that it limits language learning to a one-way flow of information from tutor to learner. This directly opposes language’s inherent purpose as a tool for mutual, co-constructed communication between people.

In real conversations, meaning is negotiated through back-and-forth exchanges. Even simple interactions need both parties to actively adjust, clarify, and work together to understand and be understood based on reactions and cultural contexts. Language is inherently a reciprocal, participatory process.

The lecturing nature of tutoring negates this vital mechanism. The learners just sit there and listen without being able to have a real conversation. They don’t get to ask questions on the spot, say things in their own words, or figure out the meaning together with the teacher. As a result, language feels like a strict set of rules being forced on them, not a lively back-and-forth that builds understanding and relationships.

When we first learned the language as kids, we did it in a completely different way. We actively took part in conversations, going back and forth with the people that spoke better around us over and over. We had a natural desire to understand others and make ourselves understood. Lectures where the teacher just talks at you don’t have any of that give-and-take. 

To sum up, just talking at learners creates an unnatural, one-sided learning environment that doesn't fit with how language is supposed to work — as a two-way street for people to cooperate and understand each other. 

Lectures let teachers pass on facts, but they teach language as a boring monologue instead of something meaningful that both sides build together. Good tutoring has to work with language’s back-and-forth essence by having the learner and teacher practice with each other, not at each other.

It favors learners to be over-reliant on the tutor, which breeds lazy learning

On top of not matching how language naturally works as a two-way thing, lectures also make learners way too dependent on the teacher in an unhealthy way. This dependence keeps you, the learner, from putting in the hard work you need to truly master the language.

When tutors act like they know everything and can explain it all perfectly, it makes learners lazy. Instead of facing the tricky parts themselves, learners just typically let the teacher baby them and hand them all the meanings and rules on a silver platter. 

The issue is that you get used to just sitting there and taking in info through lectures instead of finding the patterns yourself by actually using the language, making mistakes, and learning from your tutor’s feedback.

Lectures take away the mental struggle it’ll otherwise take you to figure the language out, which robs you of chances to think critically and stand on your own two feet. And there will always be holes and weird exceptions that the teacher didn’t specifically talk about. 

Learners who are too used to having everything laid out for them get completely lost and can't handle it when they run into all the unclear, conflicting parts of the language in real life.

Instead of lectures, tutoring should slowly move towards the Socratic method more and more. This means using questions and activities to get learners to figure out the meanings and rules on their own, not just telling them how it is. This pushes you to do the hard mental work you need to really get the language down in your bones.

Think about how babies learn their first language. They don’t have someone lecturing at them. They actively listen, test out guesses, and tweak things based on feedback from everyone around them. 

Language learners need that same chance to be in charge and learn for themselves. Relying too much on the tutor’s explanations takes away that priceless experience of working it out on your own.

These days, with AI making personal learning journeys and endless language stuff out there, tutors shouldn't just be talking at you like they're some all-knowing guru. Instead, good tutoring is about being a personal coach. The tutor’s job is to make activities just for you, give feedback, and help you learn to stand on your own two feet. Giving that up to just be a talking head puts you to sleep and messes up the whole learning process.

It prioritizes explicit over implicit competence

The lecture style also tends to focus way too much on teaching strict grammar rules instead of helping learners develop their natural, intuitive feel for how to actually use the language in the real world. It also leaves very little room for learners to practice using the language and get quick, helpful feedback in the moment.

In lectures, teachers usually spend most of the time formally explaining grammar stuff — things like how to conjugate verbs, what the different parts of speech are, fancy language terms, and all that. Knowing about that kind of thing is useful, but putting too much attention on it gets in the way of the main goal — getting you to know the language in your bones.

The reality is that you need way more than just textbook explanations of grammar to really master a language. You have to develop an instinctive sense of how the language works in real situations and cultural settings (we can’t emphasize this enough). Stuff like how tiny tweaks to how you say something change the meaning, when to use expressions, being able to smoothly switch between formal and casual speech — those are the key natural language skills that make you sound truly fluent.

But grammar lectures that aren’t connected to real contexts don’t do much to help you grow those intuitive language abilities. Research shows that getting way too caught up in nit-picky grammar terms can get learners stuck at a level where they know a bunch of technical stuff but can’t actually use it - they never quite get over that last hump to true mastery.

Plus, the one-way style of lectures doesn’t give many chances for the quick, corrective feedback that fosters good practice. When learners try to use the language themselves, getting live coaching from a tutor in the moment helps them see what they’re missing, make fixes, and gain the right instincts by trying again and again. Lectures don’t have that back-and-forth help.

Instead of lectures, good tutoring doesn’t waste time on extensive grammar lessons. It gives you, the learner, as many chances as possible to practice using the language in realistic ways while getting ongoing small bits of feedback. This way, tutors help you gradually figure out the hidden patterns and the best ways to use the language through experience and adjusting in the moment — not just memorizing rules.

A bit of grammar knowledge does help with learning, but getting a language down means steadily moving from technical knowledge toward the end goal of building smooth, automatic language instincts. That change happens not by just sitting and listening to lectures, but through back-and-forth feedback and learning by doing.

🇫🇷 Learn From Meghan's Mistakes!

Meghan spent months trying out techniques like vocabulary memorization, spaced repetition, and gamification apps like Duolingo. None of it worked, instead it ended up being total waste of time and money. She had a breakthrough only after discovering Get French Classes where she went through our active immersion, that helped her:

  1. build the daily habits of speaking French,

  2. practice under real-life scenarios through private French classes,

  3. improve fluency through group classes with other French learners.

Join one of our French courses and start speaking French today.

The new way of tutoring we’re advocating for at Get French Classes  

Here are some of our ideas for what the ideal tutoring should look like.

The tutor, as a practice companion, who helps learners gain real-life experience of how conversations actually happen

Instead of acting like they’re giving a lecture, good tutors should create a stress-free space that encourages learners to naturally use the language. They should be like a friendly partner with whom you can actively practice speaking and experiencing the language in real conversations.

For example, let's say you're learning how to make polite requests in a new language. A tutor could have you practice this by doing role-plays — like pretending to order at a restaurant or asking for directions. 

The tutor would play along, and give you in-the-moment tips and corrections based on the exact situation. If you accidentally use words that are too formal or casual, then the tutor will point that out by reacting the way a native speaker would.

This sets up a back-and-forth exchange environment where you learn the practical ins and outs of the language, not just by memorizing rules, but by trying to use it for real and adjusting based on the tutor's natural responses in the conversation. 

It's like how you would figure things out talking to someone in real life, gradually getting a feel for what to say by picking up on the other person's cues.

The point is for tutors to stop lecturing and instead come up with activities and prompts that get you, the learner, actively talking and using the language. 

Role-plays, casual debates, dialogues, and games to solve problems together — these are the kinds of things that will get you to practice in a realistic way, while your tutor gives on-the-spot feedback.

Most importantly, tutors also need to create a relaxed vibe where it's totally okay and expected to make mistakes. It's hard to get fluent if you're always scared of messing up or getting corrected every two seconds. 

Your tutor should be there to encourage your efforts, gently steer you in the right direction, and frame mistakes as positive chances to learn and improve.

By being supportive but also direct and clear in their feedback, tutors become your practice buddies in your language-learning adventure. The immersive activities, natural conversation practice, and well-timed tips and corrections set up the perfect conditions for your language skills to grow organically through your own repeated experience of really using it.

The Tutor, as a guide, who brings the learner’s attention to cultural and linguistic nuances and customs

Beyond serving as an engaged and fun practice companion, the tutor should act as a personalized guide, adapting the path of language learning to each individual learner’s needs, interests, and goals. 

Rather than explicitly lecturing rules, the tutor needs to use thoughtful questions and curated examples to stimulate the learner’s own inductive discovery of linguistic patterns.

For example, when a learner struggles with a particular grammatical structure, the tutor could provide sample sentences exemplifying the concept: " What do you notice is different about how this verb form is used in each example?

By redirecting attention, the tutor guides the learner toward recognizing patterns organically rather than decreeing rules to be memorized.

The tutor should also curate activities not from a one-size-fits-all curriculum, but tailored to the learner’s specific motivations for learning the language. If the learner’s goal is to learn the language for travel purposes, dialogues should be about transportation, hotels, sightseeing, etc. 

For professional needs, the tutor should incorporate more specialized vocabulary and situational roleplay. A good tutor will always try to draw out your motivations for learning the language. They will then use this to create a learning journey that’s engaging and relevant to helping you reach your specific goals.

But a tutor’s job goes beyond just teaching the nuts and bolts of the language itself. They also have a key role in painting a picture of all the cultural stuff that's deeply tied to any new language.

Tutors should also shed light on the subtleties of how formal or casual to be, cultural assumptions, humor, and just overall social skills for communicating with people in a savvy way. These insights show how the language you're learning connects to whole different worldviews and ways of making meaning.

Basically, a tutor is kind of like a guide helping you climb a mountain — they suggest the best learning strategies based on what you want to achieve, give you eye-opening cultural context, and most of all, guide you through a personal process of discovering the language for yourself in a way that fits your needs.

The end result for all learners might be reaching the same set of language skills, but a skilled tutor knows that the path to getting there looks different for every single learner. Their job is to light up the different ways forward you could take, not force everyone down one single road.

The tutor, as a reflection of the learner, who helps highlight mistakes and focus on the most important patterns

A great tutor does more than just practice with you — they're also like your personal guide, adapting your language learning journey to fit your unique needs, interests, and goals.

Instead of just spouting off rules, a good tutor uses thoughtful questions and handpicked examples to help you discover language patterns on your own.

For instance, if you're having a hard time with a certain grammar rule, your tutor might show you a few example sentences that use it, and ask, " What differences do you notice in how this verb works in each sentence? "

By getting you to focus on the right things, the tutor helps you recognize patterns naturally, rather than just telling you to memorize a bunch of rules.

Your tutor should also pick activities and topics that line up with your personal reasons for learning the language. If you're learning for a trip, you might practice things like booking a hotel or chatting about sightseeing. 

If it's for work, your tutor can focus more on job-specific words and situations. A curious tutor will keep asking about your goals so they can create lessons that are engaging and relevant to what you want to achieve.

Plus, a tutor's job goes beyond just teaching you words and grammar. They should also clue you in on important cultural stuff that goes hand-in-hand with the language.

They can explain the nuances of being formal vs. casual, cultural norms and assumptions, humor — all the little things that help you communicate smoothly and appropriately. These insights show you how the language ties into the culture's unique worldview and way of thinking.

Basically, a tutor is kind of like your language sherpa — suggesting the best learning strategies for your goals, providing helpful cultural context, and most of all, guiding you to discover the language for yourself in a way that's personalized to your needs.

The end goal might be the same, but a skilled tutor knows that the path to getting there is different for everyone. Their role is to show you the options, not force you down a single track.

Bonus: Creating a supportive yet challenging environment

Great tutoring is all about finding the right balance — making the learner feel supported and confident, while also consistently bringing in new challenges that push them to grow.

The tutor has to keep tweaking the difficulty level to keep the learner in that sweet spot for learning.

On one hand, if things are always super hard and the learner feels constantly overwhelmed or criticized, they're going to lose motivation and shut down.

The tutor needs to use encouraging words, celebrate the learner's efforts, and regularly point out how far they've come. By making it feel like a team effort, not a grueling solo climb, the student stays energized.

At the same time, the tutor can't let the learner just chill in their comfort zone forever.

To level up your language skills, you need to tackle tougher and tougher stuff—  through practice that's a little higher than your current abilities, but not so hard that you're totally lost. A skilled tutor is great at figuring out where that line is and creating activities to gently nudge you past it.

For instance, your tutor might start a conversation practice using words you already know, then gradually mix in trickier grammar, expressions, and cultural stuff related to the topic you're pretending to talk about.

Or they could teach you strategies like using descriptions to talk around a word you don't know. You feel on solid ground because it starts with stuff you recognize, but you're also pushed to reach for a more advanced language.

To get this right, the tutor has to carefully read your reactions. Are you getting frustrated, or are you on autopilot because it's too easy?

Your tutor has to pick up on these clues and smoothly adjust by making the activities harder or easier, doing shorter or longer bursts of intense practice, and giving more or fewer corrections — basically, changing things on the fly to keep you in that ideal learning zone.

How we are living and breathing this shift at Get French Classes?

Before starting our company we talked to a lot of language learners and read through several review comments about language learning services online. 

The consensus was that traditional language tutoring methods, which, as we detailed earlier, heavily rely on one-way lectures and grammar lessons and fail to provide learners with the skills, instincts, and cultural understanding they need for real-world communication. 

At Get French Classes, we understand the importance of prioritizing interactive practice, personalized feedback, and cultural immersion in your language learning. So, we design our service and curriculum to bring about just that. 

Our approach combines the best elements of private tutoring, group practice, and online courses to create a comprehensive and affordable learning experience. Through bite-sized video lessons, learners gain practical, conversational French skills in real-world contexts. 

We train our tutors to be your companions in your French learning journey. Rather than acting as an external consultant who lectures you on an hourly rate, they’re more like the native French-speaking correspondent you get to practice with and ask questions. 

They ensure you don't fall behind and keep you on track to achieve your goals. And the teaching style is that they prioritize exchange, back-and-forth communication rather than having you just listening to them teach you random stuff. But it doesn’t end there. 

Your tutor ensures that you:

  • understand previous lessons you took by discussing them with you and practicing related assignments, 

  • learn essential nuances and information (which is withheld from the classroom to avoid information overload), 

  • get the opportunity to ask questions and practice live by checking your submitted homework and receiving feedback from your tutor. 

The core value of our curriculum is that we get you practicing — a lot. So, you’ll also have interative bi-weekly group sessions with 4-5 learners at the same level foster discussions, debates, and peer feedback. 

Your tutor is the moderator during theses group classes. Here again, his role is not teach you or lectures you set courses. Instead, the tutor seeks to create a stress-free environment where you can all feel free to make mistakes, point them out and elevate elevate each other. 

Doing so further enhances your conversational skills and confidence. And, this blended approach of video lessons, one-on-one coaching, and group classes ensures that you get the support, practice, and cultural exposure that you need to develop genuine French proficiency.

The best part is that all of our service and coaching come at the single, flat fee of $307. 

We believe that language learning should be an engaging, interactive, and rewarding experience. Join us today and experience our truly learner-centered approach to mastering the French language.

🇫🇷 Learn From Meghan's Mistakes!

Meghan spent months trying out techniques like vocabulary memorization, spaced repetition, and gamification apps like Duolingo. None of it worked, instead it ended up being total waste of time and money. She had a breakthrough only after discovering Get French Classes where she went through our active immersion, that helped her:

  1. build the daily habits of speaking French,

  2. practice under real-life scenarios through private French classes,

  3. improve fluency through group classes with other French learners.

Join one of our French courses and start speaking French today.