Mary L Tutor Interview
- Q. Hi Mary! Would you kindly give a brief self-introduction to the Cafetalk community?
A. Hi guys! My name’s Mary, of course, and I currently live in Lincoln, Nebraska. I’m originally from North Carolina where I lived until I graduated university. Since then I’ve moved around quite a bit. After getting married my husband and I moved to South Korea where we taught English for a few years. We had many chances to travel around Asia while living there, including Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Japan. After we came back to the US we lived in New York for a while, and finally ended up in Nebraska where my husband got a job. I studied art in university and always loved drawing and illustrating, but I also developed a passion for studying foreign languages. These days when I have free time I’m usually spending it studying Korean or Japanese.
- Q. Tell us a bit about where you’re from. Where did you grow up, and what is the town you live in now like?
A. I was born and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina. It’s located on the east coast and is considered part of the South in the US. Charlotte is a huge city, and I grew up in a suburban area. Most of North Carolina is rural though, and there is so much beautiful nature to enjoy there. There are great beaches as well as mountains, and I spent most of my childhood playing outside and enjoying outdoor activities like hiking and camping. Nebraska (where I live now) is also very rural and people here enjoy outdoor activities, but the land is very flat and there are few trees. Hiking and camping isn’t as fun to me here, but it’s a good place to run or cycle.
- Q. Before returning to the US, you stayed in South Korea teaching English for quite a while. Can you tell us a little bit about your time there?
A. I was an exchange student at Yonsei University in South Korea for one semester, and during that time I just fell in love with the country, the food, and the language. I especially loved the convenience and excitement of Seoul. I’d never experienced a big city like that, and it’s very different from New York in my opinion. It’s affordable, clean, safe, and convenient. I returned to Korea with my husband to teach English because I wanted to improve my Korean skills and experience living there as more than a student. I surprised myself by really enjoying teaching kindergarten, and found the job really fulfilling. After work I loved to go to the Han River to hang out with coworkers, and take walks there. I love that Seoul is a busy metropolitan area but with pockets of nature everywhere. We came back to the US to be closer to family and so my husband could attend graduate school, but I miss South Korea so much. If I had the chance to live there again I definitely would.
- Q. When you are not teaching on Cafetalk, what are you usually up to? Do you have any special hobbies or interests?
A. I actually have a full time job, which is running a graphic design business. I have different kinds of clients, but most of my work involves Photoshop and portrait retouching. I manage a few employees, too! Graphic design is freelance work, however, so it’s really busy part of the year and really slow at other times. During the slow times I focus on my language studies, cook, take a lot of walks, and play with my two dwarf hamsters.
- Q. A lot of students are probably curious about the atmosphere in your lessons. What can a student imagine a lesson with you to be like? What’s your “lesson style”?
A. I have two kinds of lesson styles— casual free talking, and more focused lessons for serious or advanced students. I think I’m really easy to talk to, and I also recommend lots of expressions and vocabulary during conversation lessons. I always take notes in the Skype chat box so students can see corrections and study them later. For my advanced students I try to challenge them to not only use difficult vocabulary, but also choose topics that spark debate and interesting conversation. I want students to be able to share and explain their opinions in English, not just talk about basic topics.
- Q. In your profile you mention that you use Cafetalk as a student to study Japanese and Korean. How has studying these languages (on Cafetalk) had an effect on your development as a teacher?
A. I loved Cafetalk as a student right away, because of the one-on-one time you can get with a native speaker. It’s the best way to improve your speaking. I’ve taken lessons with a lot of different tutors, and I’ve also studied at different levels. I’m an advanced Korean speaker, so I look for challenging lessons that really help me improve my vocabulary and challenge me to talk about difficult topics. After taking really helpful lessons from some of the Korean tutors on Cafetalk, I started to offer the same lessons in English for my students! I take what worked for me and apply it to the lessons that I teach. I also find it really helpful when tutors type notes in the Skype chat box, so I do the same thing for my students. Basically I learn a lot from other wonderful tutors on Cafetalk, and that’s helped me improve my own lessons.
- Q. Other than your conversation classes, your English journal class seems to be very popular. How do students improve their English by writing a journal?
A. I firmly believe that using your target language every day (or regularly) is the best way to keep up with your vocabulary and not forget things you’ve learned. When students write in the daily journal, they are refreshing their memory and practicing using what they’ve learned recently. I give detailed corrections, and also explain some of the corrections when necessary. For more advanced students I suggest alternative expressions that may sound more natural, or suggest other vocabulary. Speaking one-on-one with Skype lessons through Cafetalk is a wonderful way to learn, but writing is another good way to practice (especially for shy students!) because you have to take time to think about what you’re writing, and be a little more thoughtful than when you speak.
- Q. Finally, would you like to leave a message for your current and future students?
A. Thanks so much to my students who have stuck with me, and who have been so fun to talk with! I teach on Cafetalk because it’s so fun, and it gives me the chance to meet new people and have interesting conversations every day. I look forward to meeting new students. Everyone who uses Cafetalk has a passion or motivation to learn languages, so we have at least that in common! I hope to see you soon.