Well, do I?

While all of methods have their advantages and disadvantages, I find a mixture of learning with a tutor and self-work with apps and other resources to be the most effective way of mastering a language.

Is It Possible to Learn a Language for Free?

It’s definitely possible to learn a language for free. In fact, I have a friend who has learnt French on her own and boasts about having learnt it without spending a dime in the process. I can also attest that her French is excellent.
It’s certainly possible to get to a high level in a foreign language with no paid help. There are plenty of free resources around the web, materials, events organised by language institutes, language exchange partnerships and language learning groups.
Having said that, I have to admit that to learn solely in this manner you need to 1) be VERY motivated and 2) to know what you’re doing. If you have both, you definitely can succeed. Otherwise, you may decide to make your life a bit easier by getting a language tutor.

What a Teacher Can Help With

First and foremost, a good teacher will give you structure. You don’t have to worry about what to cover next, everything is prepared for you. Be cheeky and keep asking for suggestions on how to work on certain skills more, in your free time.
Another advantage of 1-on-1 tutoring is, of course, that you have your teacher’s full and undivided attention. This means that as they notice what kind of mistakes you make and what you struggle with, they can prepare tailored-made lessons for you.
Last but not least, a language tutor means a certain level of accountability. Yes, they’re a service provider but you’ll see for yourself how it feels to cancel a few lesson in a row, when you’ve shared with them how serious you are about your goal of becoming fluent in a language.

What a Teacher Can’t Help With

A teacher can’t help you, if you don’t want to learn. It doesn’t matter whether you’re learning a language because you should or because you want to, you need to go through the motions.
At minimum it means that you need to show up for a class, participate actively in it and do your homework. Ideally, you should spend some time learning the language every day by reading a short article, listening to something or learning some vocabulary.
The most important thing to remember is that a teacher can’t do the work for you. If you just come to the lessons with no interest you’ll eventually get to an intermediate level and stay there. I’ve seen it many times, particularly working as an in-company language teacher.
Part of the problem is that the more time you spend learning without seeing much progress, the less motivated you are. In the words of Yoda: “Try not. Do or do not. There’s no try.“. If you just want to give it a try, rather wait until you feel stronger about language learning.

The short answer to the question “Do I need a language teacher?” is: “It depends.”. If you’re very motivated and you really can’t spend money on language learning, you can do without a tutor.
If, however, you don’t mind to spend a bit to make your life easier, you should get a teacher as they are real benefits to having one. Now, how to find a good tutor? That’s a question for another post 🙂

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