You’ve made the decision to start learning a new language. Now, another decision awaits. Should you take a private class, where it is just you and the teacher, or a group class, where you are one of many students. Whether you opt for a virtual, or in-person learning environment, you also must decide whether to be part of a group or private class. Both options have advantages and disadvantages.
Here are five things to consider before you make your decision.
To most people, money is perhaps the most important factor to consider. Studies have shown that Americans are willing to pay up to $6,000 to learn a new language. Obviously, group classes cost less money. In most cases, the savings can be significant. And since learning a new language involves taking many classes, the amount of money saved by opting for a group class can be substantial. Usually, a private class costs around three times as much as studying with a group. Keep in mind, however, that while you may be saving money, your language learning might also be inhibited by other factors.
- Speaking Time
Whereas a group class can save you a lot of money, it also limits your speaking time and interactions with the teacher. A good teacher will make it a point to appropriate speaking time as evenly as possible. If a student in the class “hogs” the time and speaks a lot, it can be a problem for the other students and a challenge for the teacher. With a private class on the other hand, the only limit to your speaking is how much the teacher encourages you to speak.
- Different Accents
Students in a group class can come from all over the world. That means many different accents will be heard when they are practicing their new language. Some accents are easy to understand while others can be quite difficult. Since part of the objective is understanding, or comprehending the new language, as much as it is speaking it, a classmate with a hard to understand accent can make comprehension difficult.
- Background Noises/Distractions
If you chose a group class, be it individual or group, you can expect distractions from the other students. In an Internet based language class, you might be sitting in a quiet room in front of your pc or video device, but that doesn’t mean your classmates are. Students can be taking the class while riding in a car or other moving vehicle (train or bus), or even while killing time at the airport. In these cases, expect the occasional horn honking, loudspeaker announcement, or other similar distraction. Although your classmates are not intending to be disruptive, the background noises around them are.
If you are in a face-to-face class, the noises might be different, but they are still omnipresent. Yawning, eating, talking to another student or the constant beeping of a mobile device make take your attention away from the class and the teacher. Any type of disruptive behavior is learning inhibitor. Expect that with a group class.
From the teacher’s perspective, the more they get to know you, the more they can provide insightful feedback which can accelerate your learning. Many online learning companies rotate teachers—which is a very good thing— but in a group class environment, the 45-minutes to an hour they spend with the class really doesn’t give them a chance to provide constructive individual feedback.
If it is a face-to-face group class, here again, depending on the size of the class, the teacher does not get to know you nearly as well as if it was a private class. Sitting in a foreign language class and repeating the words back is only part of the learning, the more substantial learning comes when you know how to best direct your studies when you are not in class. That is why teacher feedback is SO important.
There is no doubt that the amount of discretionary income you have to invest in your class and the time with which you can dedicate to it, will greatly influence the type of class you choose to take. Keep in mind, however, all the other factors. There is much to consider here. Learning a new language can be a difficult journey. Give careful to thought to the learning environment that works best for you. Make sure you are not only prepared to learn but have the proper expectations about what to expect from the type of class you choose.