Blog Post the Third: Further adventures in tutoring subjects I don’t know

When I wrote that the fall had been a time of expanding my tutoring boundaries, I didn’t just mean in math. I’m taking a class called German Diction—or Lyric Diction—or Vocal Diction and IPA—depending on who you ask. (IPA stands for the International Phonetic Alphabet and is one of my favourite things.) The class is taught at the VCM by Kiiri Michelsen and it cycles through 4 semesters over 2 years, to cover German, French, English, and Italian. This is my first time taking it, although I plan to take the next 3 semesters as well. It’s an excellent class.

The course is intended for classical singers, and it covers every aspect of how to prepare the text of a song in the given language, from translating it, to pronouncing every syllable correctly, to interpreting the poetry and shaping the phrases in a natural way. It doesn’t have any prerequisites except maybe the ubiquitous English credit.

I already had something of an introduction to IPA and a solid grounding in basic German before I took the class, and as a language tutor, I’m used to paying attention to the way words and sentences are constructed. This certainly gave me an advantage over the students who have never studied IPA or German before; they had a much steeper learning curve. A number of my classmates have also studied German before, though, and several of them have taken Kiiri’s class in other languages in past semesters. All things considered, I was pretty surprised when one of the students in the class asked me to tutor her in it.

I had to double-check that yes, she was indeed asking me to tutor her in a class that we were both taking together. I suggested that we just study together, and she counter-offered that she would buy me a tea or coffee each time. I am pretty much incapable of turning down either, so I happily accepted that as a reasonable compromise.

We’ve only had a couple of actual study sessions, but I think I’ve been helpful. My classmate tells me that she thinks I’m a great tutor, which is always lovely to hear and also rather reassuring in this case, since I’m getting tea and coffee (and a muffin one time!) out of the deal.

Our final exam is on Friday morning, but since I have 4 other exams, a few final assignments to complete, and several documents to edit between now and then, I’m not thinking about it too much yet. Regardless of my final grade, I know my German diction, comprehension, and interpretation have improved a lot this fall, so I’m happy with the class. If I can be as effective a tutor as Kiiri is a teacher, I’ll be doing very well and so will my students!


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