How to Structure Your Conversations While Tutoring on Cambly

Tutoring on Cambly is unique when it comes to online ESL (English as a Second Language) companies. The California-based entity connects native-speaking tutors with students all over the world that are looking to perfect their conversational skills. For the most part, students are just looking to talk and work on their fluency, which is nice for most tutors because it means they don’t need to worry about structuring a lesson for a 30 or 60-minute block of time. But, that also means that you need to figure out how to keep a conversation going for that long.

Photo by Yogendra Singh

How to Structure Your Free-Talk Lesson on Cambly

Small talk may come easy to most extroverts, but for some people, the thought of leading an hour-long conversation with a stranger can be pretty unnerving. As an introvert and someone who fully understands those sentiments, I’ve created this guide to help you breeze through the time while tutoring on Cambly.

The Greeting

Photo by Richard Saunders

If ever a time to make the most exaggerated greeting ever, this would be it. And, you know how 99% of the time when someone tells you their name it goes in one ear and out the other? Try to avoid that. You never know when the student that you talk to on priority hour will return for a reservation a few days later, and you’ll want to remember their name. I always start with a simple “hi,” usually followed by a, “hello,” and a quick wave. Ask them for their name and repeat it back to them if you were able to understand it enough to try.

If you’re not sure, you can say, “is that correct,” and they’ll typically let you know if it isn’t and repeat it back to you. If you have zero clues what they said and you’re not even comfortable attempting the pronunciation, just move on by telling them your name and letting them know you’re happy to meet them.

Note: you should also ask each student early on if they would prefer corrections after each mistake or if they’d like for you to make notes and wait until the end of the lesson, etc. If your reservation was scheduled in advance, you can check their preference on their profile, but if you’re on a priority hour, you may want to ask just to be sure.

Where in the World?

After you’ve said the niceties, the next topic to refer to would be their location. Ask them where they’re from if you’re on priority hour and you’ve never spoken to them before. If they’ve scheduled an appointment in advance, you can check their profile by clicking through on your reservations page. It’s better to know in advance, and that’s because of what comes next.

If you know very little about the country that your student is from, it can be beneficial to open a new tab and use Google to pull it up. Or, at the very least, keep the search engine tab open so that you’re able to look something up in a moment’s notice.

What’s Going on?

Man wearing mask walking down street
Photo by Macau Photo Agency

We’re living in very strange times. Our world is shifting into a dystopian version of its former self, which calls for different measures than before when it comes to your conversations on the platform. The Coronavirus has united everyone across the globe. Each country may be responding differently, but we’re all facing the same threat – at least when it comes to the virus.

And, that threat gives you a common bond among each and every single person you talk to on the platform, or anywhere else for that matter. I check the numbers for the United States every morning, both for my reference and because that’s one of the first things I’m asked when I’m tutoring on Cambly. Then, I check for my state, and I check New York state because, damn. All of which will help you get the ball rolling for a conversation with your student, as long as they’re at an intermediate level or above.

What do you do?

Even with the new way of the world, “what do you do,” is one of the first things I like to ask in a Cambly convo. Knowing what your student does will give you some more small talk ammo to arm yourself with. Once they tell you what they do, unless they offer it up, ask them if they’re working from home these days or if they’re still able to work at the office (or factory, etc) like usual.

School’s out for Summer

If they’re a student, that opens up another door that you can walk through for a few minutes, too. Unless they were already an online student, things have changed for them immensely, and they’ll probably have a lot to say about it. I’ve spoken to a few people who’ve been pretty screwed over by the current situation, and they’re more than willing to open up to a listening ear about it. That’s good, you want to get them talking as much as possible as that’s pretty much the entire point of the lesson when you’re tutoring on Cambly.

Come Here Often?

Ask your student about their experience with Cambly, and speaking English in general. Do they speak English at work, or are they just learning for fun? How long have they been using the platform, and how many tutors have they spoken to? What’s the most memorable conversation they’ve had? Before moving on to the next subject, I like to thank them for giving me a shot over all of the other tutors they have to choose from. You can also give them any tips you have that may help them in their quest to speak English fluently.

We Still Have to Eat

Photo by Rarnie McCudden

Even with everything that’s going on, one thing remains the same: we all still have to eat to survive, and we’re all trying to stick to our normal eating habits as much as humanly possible. Ask them about their favorite foods. How do they prepare them? What does the dish consist of? Do they like to drink anything specific with their food? You can also ask them about the traditional recipes of their country. What is the most popular food in their area? Are they a fan, or could they do without seeing it again?

Movies, Shows, or Videos?

When I’m on Cambly, I like to ask each student about whether or not they’ve tried watching any shows or movies in English. If they have and they’re pretty advanced in their speaking, you can ask them about what types of things they like to watch. I’ve noticed that in many cases, students prefer things like TED Talks and other types of educational viewing, over Netflix and Hulu, etc. Whatever they say, I dig deeper to keep them talking. What’s their favorite movie of all time? Do they use subtitles in their native language to watch?

Conversation Topic Ideas for Your Free-Talk Lesson on Cambly

  • Current events
  • Work/school
  • Culture
  • Food
  • Entertainment
  • Animals and pets
  • Hobbies

If you’re looking for some great icebreakers or more conversation topics, check out this awesome list of questions you can ask your students throughout the lesson.

More Ways to Earn Money Online

Everyone that’s tutoring on Cambly knows it’s pretty hard to make a full-time income doing so. So, if you’re looking for some other online side hustles to add more money to your bank account these days, check out this article next.

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