How to kick off speaking

I’ve known for quite some time now that it is time I started practicing actually speaking Korean. Life is busy and to be honest my language learning is secondary to a lot of things. So I move ever more toward making this next step of doing some 1 on 1 conversation.

I signed up for iTalki a while ago but then became rather reluctant. Today I made a short list of tutors who are active and are able to do lessons at the times of day I could make it.

I’m on the cusp of actually contacting one (or two) to do a trial lesson.

So I’m sure many of you here on LingQ have started your speaking similar to me (by getting a tutor).

I want to know if there are things which you found really worked for you.

If you remember your first times not having really spoken before, did you:

  • try some kind of prearranged conversation topic?
  • have more of a ‘lesson’ setup with reading text, answering and asking questions on it?
  • work from a study resource which probably included rehearsed or ‘preset’ dialog?

And what kind of feedback was most useful to you after or during the lesson?

Just go cold turkey. Do only 15 minutes the first time. It will be enough. Then work up to longer sessions. It will be tough, in my experience, especially understanding what the tutor is saying. But it will send you back to your input activities with renewed energy.


It’s not as scary as you think, you’ll be nervous and worried about it in the minutes leading up to it and you’ll be scared to death when the call comes in haha, but to be honest, it’s just a basic conversation of perhaps mostly yes or no answering, if you can muster something more than that then you’ve done well.

Your tutor won’t expect you to be able to carry on a conversation for the entire time, if you can manage a word or two they’ll be impressed lol. If you don’t understand, just say so, it doesn’t matter, and perhaps they can say it in another way, or more slowly or whatever. If you have to get it in English then so be it.

Funnily enough, my best lesson to date was my very first lesson, but I think that was because we did the whole introducing ourselves thing, where we come from, what we do, how old we are etc which is pretty much the first stuff you learn, right? Since then I’ve had perhaps 20 lessons or so and it seems to get worse for me in terms of improvement, but again, I think it’s just because we’re talking about things that you don’t learn in the first few pages of a text book lol.

I’m interested in reading more comments regarding structure, I don’t really have a plan for the lessons, my teacher sends me some exercises (I do them but only to have something to talk about really) but we spend most of the lesson just chatting about random things in the way conversations often go.

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It is not scary. It is just a little tiring at first, and you run out of things to talk about. it is also hard to understand what is said at first. That is why it is best to work up to longer sessions. I would not recommend going for a professional teacher necessarily. Try different tutors at iTalki and settle on the one or ones that you have the most in common with, and where you feel the most at ease.

Thank you (and others in this thread) for the input. As it turns out only a few tutors are available during the very limited hours I could make it. So I dont have too much choice but at this time it comes down to one professional and one informal tutor.

A number of the professional tutors seem to prefer exercises, homework, coursework and drawing up study plans. To be frank I’m not hugely keen on that kind of approach. However the professional tutors do seem more likely to rephrase things, help the conversation along, type notes and do other bits to really maximize the learning (or so I am lead to believe in the various articles I have read so far on this).

Anyway I have contacted a tutor and they have gotten back to me. So I’ll set up a time for next week to do a trial lesson and will see how it goes.

Steve recommends just diving in the deep end (so to speak) and I’m very nervous to do so. Part of me wants a pre-arranged topic, list of words we’ll be using, and … well… lots of preparation!

You’ll do fine. Steve’s right, it’s not scary, you just think it will be, I’m sure everyone is nervous the first time. To be honest, I still get a bit nervous each lesson but it’s less so, but there’s no need for me to feel this way as it’s never scary whilst in the lesson.

It’s just frustrating when you can’t say what you want to. I think that’s the worst part, if you’re not used to struggling for words, it can be quite surprising how frustrated and limited you feel. It’s still a lot of fun though.

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I had my first ever conversation in French with a tutor here on LingQ. I had only been studying French for about a year and a half at that point and I truly didn’t know if I was ready. I had no idea what it would be like and, aside from my usual French study, I had prepared nothing in advance. As I watched the time get closer and closer, my nervousness skyrocketed and when Skype started ringing, I thought I might lose my lunch.

However, my tutor was very kind and patient, and he quickly realized that I was beginner and adjusted the conversation to my level. I still had a lot of trouble, and I was pretty embarrassed to discover later, while reading the conversation report, that when he had asked if I had any children, I had replied, “I am a girl.” I was trying to say that I have a son!

Anyway, the point is that I survived and I’m glad I just jumped into it without a lot of thought. The most important thing is to start the process. You can work out the details as you go along.


The most important thing is to have enough sleep before the event.

I also have time zone problems and that’s why I say that.

Fair enough. I have to take a late lunch break at work to make things happen. Gotta do what you gotta do I suppose and just accept the bits which outside of any reasonable control.

I’ve already done the prep work - set up laptop at work with headset, tested Skype volumes, installed the Korean keyboard, will print out a ‘cheat’ sheet with some introductions and words which I’ll review right before the session.


I know how you feel OP. Speaking when put on the spot is nerve racking. However, it’s really not bad. I’ve met with a couple of tutors and I was surprised how much I can say from passive knowledge of the language from just reading and listening.

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I agree with Steve, go cold turkey. In regards to study resources use a program that practices dialog like Assimil or Pimsleur ( I prefer the former ), after your a bit more advanced in the language ( getting past the point were you need a tutor ) maybe try out a website like " My Language Exchange " and just practice speaking with people in casual conversation
( they correct your mistakes and in return you correct theirs )

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So actually today I had a second trial session with a different tutor. It was the opposite of my first experience. I’ve been reflecting all day on why it didn’t go well.

Now I’m not going to come and post about every iTalki session I have, don’t worry :slight_smile: This is just because it has me thinking and perhaps someone has an opinion or experience to share.

It was an off day for my Korean and somehow I really struggled. To make things worse she kind of phrases things a little differently than what I am used to so while I knew what she was saying 80% of the time, I can’t say I fully understood what she was saying. It was rough.

But she has a workbook she is very keen on working through so actually a lot of the lesson was talking in English and looking at the workbook. I’d say it wasn’t a lesson per se but rather her largely introducing me to the kind of thing which we might do. Basically reading / comprehension and looking at grammar.

Now it is very clear that I am butchering the language when I try make conversation. I know it. I can feel it. So herein lies the conundrum:

This tutor is focused on correctness. So even for the Korean which I was butchering, we stopped to fix up all my grammar. So we did not have much of a conversation really. It became very evident how far off the mark I am. She said she prefers to keep the free-form conversation until Intermediate stage, with much more limited and targeted use of the language in the beginner stage (although with promise that actual lessons involve mostly speaking and almost entirely Korean, but based around the workbook’s lesson for the day).

Compare that to the first tutor I had who overlooked a tonne of language mangling done by myself. I got some feedback from her during the half hour, some vocab & corrections, but she generally let a lot of things slide.

If I chose a path based purely on how I feel, I’d go with the latter because it ended with me feeling enthusiastic. The former leaves me feeling somewhat down because my shortcomings are myriad and if perfection is the aim, clearly I’d have to go back to basics. Get one thing right consistently, then introduce the next thing, and so on.

I’m tempted to go with the style which left me enthusiastic. If only because its easier to keep up in an ongoing kind of basis.

However I am also aware the the majority of language learners (and I mean people who have learned a language to a high intermediate degree) did so by gritting their teeth and going the path with the textbooks, exercises, and similar. Making sure there is a solid foundation.

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