Why Tutoring is a good job for linguists – Part II


This post is written by guest blogger Patrick Goodridge a linguist, language teacher, and writer based in Philadelphia, PA. Read more about Patrick below or on the Career Linguist guest bloggers page where you can also learn about being a guest blogger for Career Linguist yourself!!

To read Part I of this post featuring ideas 1-3, click here.

Why Tutoring is a Great Occupation for Linguists (Part 2). 

  1. Tutoring builds social skills and critical self-promotion skills.

One of the concerns of graduate students in all fields, linguistics included, is that years of diligent work within a tight-knit group of scholars will cause one’s social life to suffer. It’s not the case that students at this stage won’t be able to socialize at all, per se, but their ability to relate to others outside of their field has the potential to become strained. Tutoring is the perfect antidote to this isolation, since it allows you to extend the reach of your interactions beyond your field and, often, beyond academia in general.

I have met so many interesting and inspiring people through tutoring: a Princeton grad and MD/PhD student in Penn’s Perelman School; a Chinese highschooler with a passion for the Classics studying abroad on his own in Philadelphia; a young aspiring comedian enamored with German culture. The remarkable backgrounds are not limited to the tutees themselves; parents of students I tutor for standardized tests are often interesting, passionate, and well-accomplished professionals in their own right. They also value success enough to invest in the future of their children, tutoring being a chief way to do so.

One of the families I worked with the longest was that of a lawyer with his own practice and a doctor-turned-hospital administrator. They were determined to give their kids the best opportunities possible by having me work with them on SAT/ACT writing for three hours every Sunday. Another was an artist couple with beautiful, life-like classical-style paintings adorning their den right as I entered the house. It was no surprise that, considering the passion they had for art, their son was star in his own area of interest, track and field. Interacting with such a diverse set of individuals helps open one’s mind to other areas of endeavor beyond their own. This can give one a new perspective on their own work, perhaps inspiring them to explore new areas of focus. Moreover, if you cannot pursue all of these endeavors yourself, at least you can learn about them and grow as a person in the process.

In addition to a simple exchange of lifestyles, tutoring helps one develop abilities in a very nuanced type of social skillself-promotion. To be a successful tutor demands that you inform others around you about your skills and services. This means having a knowledge of your own unique skillset and the ability to articulate information about it effectively to potential clients. For example, a historical linguist may market him or herself as an expert on SAT/ACT vocab, able to leverage his or her knowledge of Latin or Greek vocab etymology to help students. An insight like this could be the catalyst for the tutee not just succeeding on a standardized test, but for actually developing a true love of material they once found tedious.

It’s hard to underestimate the importance of self-promotion; someone could be the best tutor on the planet, but won’t be able to share his or her talents if they can’t reach the very people who need them most. While sites like Wyzant, a social media site that pairs students and tutors, promise easy access to the most ideal clients, the strings attached can be a bit constraining–Wyzant collects a “finder’s fee” of 45% for beginning tutors! Sometimes direct marketing is the best; I have a friend who found 10 ESL clients just by hanging up flyers in the residence halls with the most international students.

  1. Tutoring is the most direct way to teach others about what we all love—language!

It’s striking to me as I proceed through a lesson with any given student just how often I find myself calling on the principles of linguistics to provide insight. I’ll talk about nominalization in explaining what a gerund is, discuss Russell’s Paradox with a math student, or explain denotation and connotation, agreement, and well-formedness with a writing student.

Linguists possess an in-depth knowledge of difficult concepts like grammar (for which there are entire sections on the SAT/ACT/GRE), and have skills in analysis and form that apply directly to areas like writing and reading. By appealing to your linguistic knowledge as a tutor, you can share your love of language in a way that benefits your clients in a direct, concrete way.  Working to benefit humanity in such a way is, it’s often argued, the goal of science to begin with.

Thank you Pat for this insight into your world and perspective! Stay tuned for more posts from Pat, and if you are interested in joining the community of guest bloggers for Career Linguist, please reach out!

There are many ways to join the Career Linguist community 🙂

and here’s to what’s next!

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