English conversation lessons: When, where and how long: FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

and a few other things you should know (such as prices).

Think of it as some kind of agreement. (Updated 23 October 2019)

1. So where do we have lessons?

Conversation lessons are conducted either face-to-face at a suitable meeting place or on SKYPE.

2. What levels do you teach?

Most of my material is suitable for intermediate level onwards. Pre-intermediate is possible on some topics, but it will be difficult, particularly if you want more than one hour.

3. What are these suitable meeting places for face-to-face lessons?

This depends on you and even your location. I am based in Krakow, so that tells you that any face to face has to be at least in this area. We can either meet up at your home, in a city centre cafe (but we are expected to buy drinks there), and if I get permission, at an existing language school. However, the price will depend on how far you are from my location as I have to include travel costs. Some schools will charge extra for the use of their facilities and I would have to pass this cost on to you.

4. Why is my location important for face-to-face?

If you want to have an English lesson at your home, first, you have to be in or around the Krakow area. This is because I have to spend time travelling to your location. If you live the other side of the city, then this could put the costs up a lot, even more if you just want a one hour meeting. Realistically, I will not travel long distances across a city to teach just one hour unless I am offered a price I can't refuse! In this situation, you should seriously consider the SKYPE option as no travel costs will be involved.

5. I'm not in Krakow.

So quite clearly SKYPE is the best option here. It is also cheaper than face-to-face.

6. How long are lessons?

I would recommend a minimum one clock hour (a teaching hour is 45 minutes) or a maximum of two clock hours (or three teaching hours at 135 minutes). Longer is available, but I would suggest a break halfway, for example, 15 or 30 minutes for a three-hour session. With face-to-face lessons, your location could also be an important factor - the cost of travelling to get to you.

7. When is the best time for lessons?

Anytime after 0800, preferably no later than 2100 and not Saturday or Sunday. I prefer not to teach outside of these times as I am a family man, although if you are prepared to make some kind of offer that would change my mind, then I would certainly consider it.

8. I've never had SKYPE lessons. What do I do?

First, if you haven't already done so, you need to get yourself a SKYPE account (check the appropriate website for your country). When we have agreed a time and day, I will pass on my SKYPE name to you. Just before we have our very first meeting, I will send you a reminder either by text or email. When we have SKYPE lessons, I would advise you to get yourself a headset with a microphone. This is not obligatory, but it does cut out sound problems that I often get when communicating. Also, from time to time, I will share my screen with you as I often include a PowerPoint presentation. Last but not least – I know this seems obvious – but do make sure you have a good internet connection! And once you've got those, position yourself and your camera so there is no bright light in the background, such as a window. The result is that you become a very dark shadow and I can't see you!

9. What about ZOOM and WEBEX, which are business apps and popular with business conferencing?

I find ZOOM most useful when SKYPE appears to fail due to connection problems, so if you're confident, we can use this system. I do not have WEBEX installed, mainly because I had more problems with that than SKYPE. But if there is nothing wrong with the SKYPE app, then we will keep to that. Plus, let's face it, more people are familiar with SKYPE.

10. Is the first lesson for free?
Sorry, no, but your first lesson is always in the form of a 'get-to-know-you' exercise to hopefully make you more relaxed. Many new students do have problems with a) using SKYPE for lessons and B) facing a native speaker for the first time!

11. Are there any conditions as regards payments?

With face-to-face meetings, this is usually paid on the day unless there is any other agreement made (such as with companies issuing invoices).

With online lessons, I am usually paid for the next four meetings. I will assume that if this is not paid before the first scheduled meeting then we will not be continuing unless I hear from you. SKYPE students: If I don't receive a payment from you before the start of the next cycle of meetings, I will send out a reminder notice 48 hours before the start of the next cycle. Again, if this is not paid before the next scheduled lesson, then I will not continue unless I hear from you (although I can't guarantee you will get your usual time back!). See also 24 as regards finishing lessons. For invoice-paying clients, payments are made at the end of the month - but I do expect them to be paid fairly quickly, of course!

12. What if you do not have the time I want for lessons?

During school semesters I am often busy to the point that I have to turn down enquiries. You can either wait for a time to become available when students complete their lessons, have lessons in July and August when there will be more time available, or you can have lessons when there are cancellations. This, of course, means you would have to be flexible, but if so it's almost certain that you would get a lesson every week as often there are one or two cancellations that happen each week. There is often a lot of rescheduling going on at the start of the new school year so if you can't have lessons now, there's a reasonable chance you can have lessons at a fixed time starting in September.

13. Do you do 'proper' English lessons, that is, using coursebooks?

This is certainly possible, but this would require additional materials such as a teacher's book. Because of this, coursebooks, teachers' books and any activity books (if needed) would all be an additional cost.

14. Can I have group lessons?

This is certainly possible, but face-to-face is certainly better here and would be more economical.

15. Would you consider any 'intensive' courses?

Absolutely! But these would have to be 'full' intensive courses - that is, by my definition, courses for many lessons a day over a period of days - and these would have to be planned a minimum one month in advance as I would have to cancel existing lessons and it is only polite that my students are told in advance. I know a very nice guesthouse in the Tatra mountains that is set up for this, but it's best outside the tourist season and would probably need to be booked well in advance.

16. Why a guest house for full intensive courses?

Well, I could do intensive courses at your home, but from experience, a regular, very familiar location can be quite tiring for both teacher and student. I could do this at your company, but for the same reasons as above, plus the fact I'm sure there is no guarantee I'll get your full attention because of outside interruptions from colleagues. But at a guest house in the middle of nowhere... you would be surprised what a difference this makes. I get very few interruptions!

17. What about intensive courses - that is, by my definition, one-two hour meetings every day for a week or more?

Realistically, these would probably only happen over summer when my workload gets easier. To make such an arrangement of regular lessons every day would, for sure, inconvenience some of my other students who may have a weekly lesson at the times you need, so outside of summer I would seriously only consider full all-day intensive courses. Your only hope is that for some reason, I have a free slot at the same time on some days or every day. If not, you will have to be flexible and be open to different times each day, perhaps in slots that appear because of cancellations.

  

18. Do you teach children?

As long as their level of spoken English is up to an intermediate level, then no problem. At pre-intermediate, I would use a coursebook such as Incredible English. I would prefer not to do beginners or elementary with children - this is best dealt with by schoolteachers with experience in teaching primary school children. I do get enquiries about activities with young children by speaking English through fun and games, but I do not feel that, professionally, I am best qualified for this. It’s best if done by professionals in this area.

19. I'm a language school. Would you like to do lessons for us?

I'm not joking - I'm asked about this a lot. I've even been offered jobs. But realistically, you wouldn't be able to afford me, your lessons are most likely not going to be in my area and you probably are unable to offer me any blocks of lessons, which is the absolute minimum requirement. Plus I want a work contract. So sorry schools. Unless you want to make me a serious offer, please do not write to me.

20. What if I miss lessons?

It happens to all of us. Even teachers, particularly if you've got sick children. But if you know in advance you're going to have to miss a lesson, please do tell me. Somebody else might like that time for that one occasion. However, if you are regularly cancelling lessons because of work commitments or other reasons that are preventing you having regular meetings with me, we may have to talk about this and discuss whether it is a good idea to continue while the situation lasts. A good rule is that you should attend at least four agreed dates in every five (unless there have been some special arrangements agreed between us for exceptions, such as holidays). But if I turn up for an agreed lesson – either by face-to-face or even on SKYPE - and you are not there, this will count as a lesson and will be charged. So I would like you to inform me with a minimum of 24 hours notice if you are cancelling a lesson. With the exception of the first proper lesson or if I have taken time off, I will send you a message to confirm your next lesson. Otherwise, I will assume you know when your next lesson is (as we have agreed to it at an earlier date) and I will be there to teach it.

21. But this is difficult as it is not possible for me to have fixed times and days.

Then another possible option – particularly if you are someone who wants lessons, but cannot commit to a schedule – then take the flexible plan, in which you can pay for the next two sessions, but then notify me when you are available and I will try to find a slot for you, but there’s no guarantee that I can give you the time and day you prefer.

22. And what about if I'm going to be late for my lesson?

With face-to-face lessons, unless I get a message from you telling me that you are going to be late, I will wait thirty minutes, after which, I will finish and leave. But the lesson will be charged. For SKYPE lessons, I'll apply the same rule, but if I'm still on the computer and you call after half an hour, I'll give you the lesson for the remaining time.

23. So how much are lessons?

A full list of prices can be found here, and a PDF download is also available here.

There are additional costs if you require coursebook lessons: They depend on if you are a group or an individual, your location (this depends on where you are from where I am located: if you're close then the charge is minimal or not at all) and the travel time to get there. However, I have to say that as I provide original material for conversation lessons, it is still very good value when you compare me to language schools! If you would like a quote, then please contact me!

24. What if I wish to finish having lessons with you?

That's okay - I won't shout at you (though I might be a little sad to lose you!). However, it's best if you finish lessons at the end of the current payment cycle at the time. So if you've paid for the next four lessons, then do finish those lessons - there won't be any refunds if you wish to finish but you've only completed one, two or three of those lessons from that four-week cycle.

25. I'm a company. Could you issue me an invoice?

Absolutely. I am a sole trader (I have a business), so as long as you work for a company (or you are the company or a sole trader) that can receive invoices, then this is not a problem. But I would expect prompt payment, particularly if there is a set number of lessons in a month. The rule about giving me 24 hours notice for cancellations applies here too (see 20). Please note that at this time I am not VAT registered - well, until this job earns me lots and lots of money then I'll have no choice...

26. I'm interested. So what do I do next?

Just send me an email at rhvideo@poczta.onet.pl or even through nativespeaker.com.pl and tell me what you would like: Conversation/coursebook, Face-to-face/SKYPE, location, preferred day and time.

27. Great. Is that it?

Just about. First, do tell me if you agree to these conditions if you are serious about having lessons with me. They are not binding and you don’t have to sign anything: it’s purely what we call a ‘gentleman’s agreement’.

In addition, you can be assured that if you are having lessons with me, I'm not going to tell anybody else about you unless you give me permission to do so. It's all to do with the new privacy laws!

Finally, click 'NEXT' below to have a look at the list of subjects available for discussion and another link to a sample!

All media on this website is © Roger Hartopp 2019, except where noted that they are the copyright of a contributor.

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