How to Find a Foreign Language Teacher or Conversational Group
Though the idea of being able to speak in a secret language with your friends has appealed since childhood, I think I really got the foreign language bug when we moved to Germany several years ago. We immediately enrolled our four year old in a local German kindergarten, and his younger brother followed suit as soon as he turned three. But after two years, it was time to move again and the search to find a German teacher or conversational group began.
I didn’t have much luck finding a teacher for the kids for the next two years that we lived in Maine, but I was able to locate a conversational group. Plus we hosted a German foreign exchange student for nine months (who is to this day an honorary member of our family!). Last summer, we moved to the Detroit area and like finding a church, fun kid activities, and the local library, finding a foreign language teacher was on my list of things to track down. Unfortunately, it took a backseat to unpacking and getting settled until Melissa began French lessons for her kids and her contagious enthusiasm prompted me to begin the search. So without further ado, below are some tips for how to find a foreign language teacher or conversational group in your area that Melissa and I have used:
For the purposes of this post, I’m using Detroit and the German language as an example (this is after all what I was looking for!). Obviously, you can apply these tips to search for whatever language you wish to study, wherever you live.
First, Google it! Here are some Google search examples:
- “German language Detroit”
This search alone pulls up a meetup at a downtown Detroit brewery and two meetups in different suburbs.
Other search terms that yield good results are:
- “German school Detroit”
- “Conversational German group Detroit”
- “Stammtisch Detroit”
Stammtisch literally means “regulars’ table” and it’s the term typically used in the US to describe conversational German groups. They frequently meet at breweries because they are German, after all! 😉 I did find one in the Detroit area that meets at a library though.
If a Google search yields no results, try searching the language section of meetup.com: https://www.meetup.com/find/language/
Finally, if all else fails, try contacting the embassy or consulate for the country where your foreign language is spoken. For example, the German embassy site has a tab on their website for Language & Education. From there, you can find a whole page on where to learn German, including listings of German language schools and German summer schools in the States. In Detroit, our closest German consulate is in Chicago, but there is an Honorary Consulate in Detroit and his phone number and email are listed. You could email your closest local representative to ask about language meetup groups or teacher recommendations if you weren’t able to find anything else in your area.
Even if you are just beginning your language journey, a meetup group can be a great resource for finding a teacher — or putting to use your new-found skills! If you’re like us, the hardest part of a conversational group will be overcoming your shyness about your language skills (or perceived lack thereof) enough to attend! Don’t let your fear of making mistakes prevent you from attending — everyone else there is learning and making mistakes too. We’re all on this journey together!
If French is your language of choice, a great resource is the Alliance Française. They are an international organization whose mission is to promote the learning of the the French language and culture. Melissa has now tried lessons for her kids and herself and an adult conversational group at her local chapter in New Orleans and has given glowing reports. You can find a map of their local chapters here.
As for my search for a German teacher in the Detroit area, I was able to find a school for bilingual German/American kids. Though that doesn’t apply to my children (they’ve lost a lot of their proficiency!), I contacted the principal to ask about private lessons. She put out an email to the teachers asking if any of them would be willing to tutor my kids. (As homeschoolers, our flexibility to meet outside the hours of the school was a nice selling point.) The kids have been taking private lessons for the past two months and I couldn’t be more pleased with their progress! Though Melissa already touched on this in her post, the accountability factor alone has been worth the cost to me! Speaking of cost, since price was one of the questions I had before we began lessons, I’ll share that here in case you too are considering language lessons. The rate is $50/hour and my two oldest are taking 30 minute lessons each, so they’re splitting the hour. We may increase that at some point or shift the distribution of the hour, but that’s where we’re at now. Incidentally, that matches the rate Melissa is paying in Louisiana and (from what I hear) is in line with what music lessons cost – think of it as a similar investment!
Hopefully these ideas are helpful as you seek to further your kids’ or your own education! Have a tip for finding a foreign language teacher or conversational group? Let us know in the comments below! I’ll likely be repeating this process myself in the next year or two (military life), so I’m all ears!