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 24 August 2022)
1. So where do we have lessons?
Conversation lessons are conducted either face-to-face at a suitable meeting place or by using a suitable conferencing platform.
2. What levels do you teach?
Most of my material is suitable for intermediate level onwards (B1). 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. These days I am based in Głogówek, a small town that is close to the larger towns of Prudnik, Kędzierżyn-Kozle, Krapkowice and Opole, so that tells you that any face to face has to be at least in this area. We can either meet up at your organisation, home, or in a town centre cafe (but we are expected to buy drinks there). However, the price will depend on how far you are from my location as I have to include travel costs.
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 Głogówek area. This is because I have to spend time travelling to your location. Opole, for example, would be perfect if you are an organisation that requires a block of lessons lasting a working day, but for just an hour (or two or three), the costs of travel and time may make this expensive. Realistically, I will not travel long distances to teach just one hour unless I am offered a price I can't refuse! In this situation, you should seriously consider the SKYPE/ZOOM option as no travel costs will be involved.
5. I'm not in Głogówek, or anywhere in the areas of Opole, Prudnik, Kędzierżyn-Kozle, or Krapkowice.
So quite clearly one of the conferencing platforms such as SKYPE or ZOOM is the best option here. It is also cheaper than face-to-face.
6. What conferencing platforms do you use?
The recent COVID-19 experiences have introduced a number of conferencing platforms on the internet. I mainly use SKYPE and ZOOM, although the likes of MICROSOFT TEAMS, MESSENGER, GOOGLE MEET - some of which have been made available for free, particularly with groups - would be considered. Indeed, I have used recently TEAMS as it is free, but should any platform go back to being a paid facility, then I'll be using the free platforms.
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. I've never had lessons on a conferencing platform. What do I do?
First, if you haven't already done so, you need to get yourself a suitable account with such a platform such as SKYPE or ZOOM (check the appropriate website for your country). If using SKYPE, when we have agreed a time and day, I will pass on my SKYPE name to you. With ZOOM and most of the other platforms, I will send you an invitation minutes before the lesson starts. Just before we have our very first meeting, I will send you a reminder either by text or email. When we have SKYPE or ZOOM 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!
10. Is the first lesson for free?
I can have a 20-minute online meeting with you to discuss the lessons for free, but afterwards, your first full lesson is charged. It 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/ZOOM, etc 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, ZOOM and other conferencing platform 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 25 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!
But if you want to make a payment for a large block of lessons, for example, a block of ten lessons or a number of lessons that make up a semester, then this can be arranged.
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?
As from September 1 2021, I will be focussing solely on conversation lessons, although many of my topics do focus on areas of vocabulary and grammar that students may find more interesting (and useful!) then the materials offered in coursebooks. I have 100 conversation topics to keep maintained and updated so all my time and efforts will be focussed on those rather than spending time preparing individual lessons from coursebooks.
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. I would prefer not to do anything below pre-intermediate - 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/ZOOM - 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/ZOOM etc 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. What about if I'm ill on the day, or I have no internet?
This is the one area which, I'm afraid, is going to seem a bit unfair, but if you cancel ON THE DAY for whatever reason, whether it is internet failure, illness or anything else that is beyond your control (and so is NOT my fault that we don't have a lesson), you will still be charged for the lesson as I have allocated my time for this lesson. It is often language school policy as teachers still have to be paid lessons they are given on the day. But also, from my own experience (and to my cost), it has been a very easy excuse for some students so they could just cancel a lesson on the day, a lesson that could have been given to another student. If I'm ill, or my internet completely crashes making lessons impossible, I can cancel on the day but I don't earn any money. If it is clear that it is my internet that has failed for a short time during a lesson, then this time is made up either by adding these minutes to the lesson or another time. So sorry, I need 24 hours notice.
24. So how much are lessons?
A full list of prices can be found here.
25. 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.
26. Is it possible to be kept informed about any new topics, prices, news, and so on?
Yes. Although this website doesn't have its own Facebook page, its companion site typicalerrorsinenglish.com certainly does, and these are posted regularly at www.facebook.com/typicalerrorsinenglish , so please follow me there and, at the same time, receive weekly updates on the typical errors website!
27. Can you help me with my proofing, homework, text I've written, prepare exercises for me?
Strictly speaking, no. I am already busy with lessons, and often the free time I have is used for preparing, writing and updating texts and quizzes which are an important part of my lessons. I just have enough free time to do the odd proofing work but this work is separate from conversation lessons and are a separate cost. I don't encourage proofing work and homework checking during my lessons (but I do it sometimes) but if you expect this to be in addition to what I'm already delivering outside of conversation lessons, well, sorry, that's no. I just don't have the time.
28. 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...
29. I'm interested. So what do I do next?
30. Great. Is that it?
These conditions are often updated as I experience situations and loopholes that some students like to take advantage of, in order to get around unintended situations that would allow them to benefit, so please follow these rules in the spirit that they are intended.
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’.
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!
If you have really enjoyed (or are really enjoying) your lessons, please let me know, and maybe even give a recommendation. Many of my students end up being friends as many have been with me now for a long time, although please don't send me an invite to your wedding... I simply don't have the time!
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Author, cartoonist, language instructor, English text proofing, and a definite sense of humour