When you’re first starting learning a language, there’s an important decision to make: signing up for group lessons or choosing a private teacher, who can focus solely on you. This decision can often make or break your language learning experience, so it’s a good idea to take a moment to consider the pros and cons of either option.
In today’s article, you’ll find a few things to think about before choosing either group or private language lessons.
Depending on your schedule, flexibility may play a more or less important role for you. But for most adult language learners working a full-time job, flexibility is a rather vital consideration.
Here, group lessons and public language courses definitely come up short. Most of them take place in the evenings in the middle of the workweek – a time most of us would like to spend with our families or simply relaxing. Additionally, the course materials and timetable are fixed, so you will have no control over the speed or content of the language lessons.
A private teacher can accommodate your hectic schedule. Most will be able to meet you during your lunch break or schedule lessons either early in the morning or at the weekends when you might have more time. And, of course, all good teachers work their best to tailor their lessons to you specifically, making them without a doubt the more flexible option.
If you live in an at least medium-sized town and are learning a common language, it is quite likely you’ll find at least one language school offering a course in your target language. However, this is often not the case with private teachers. In small-ish places, it’s often difficult to find someone giving private lessons, as most teachers will in those cases be employed by language schools.
However, even if you live in the middle of nowhere, there is always the option of signing up for online lessons – a choice which opens up a whole world of excellent language teachers.
Personality and learning
Another thing to consider is your own learning style and personality. For example, shy people might find joining a language course rather stressful. This, in turn, will make it likely that they’d drop out of the group lessons or, in the worst cases, develop antipathy towards the whole process. On the flip side, however, group language lessons are also a wonderful way of meeting interesting people and many friendships have been formed while complaining about the next impossible-looking grammar rule.
A private teacher will, of course, accommodate your learning style and personality but if you’re the type of person who thrives off social interaction, the camaraderie of a language course might be the better choice.
Before considering signing up for a language course, you should always do a bit of research as to what the teaching style of the person running the lessons is. These days, most high-quality language courses focus on spoken language and real-life interaction but, of course, tastes and outcomes vary. In any case, you should simply check whether it’s likely that the language course you’re considering is aligned with your personal learning goals. There’s no point in signing up for a heavily speaking-focused course if you’ll only use the language for writing emails, for example.
With a private teacher, the question of goals does not cause any issues, as it’s their job to help you achieve your goals.
Quality vs quantity
Before ever signing up for group lessons, you should make sure how many people you can expect to be in your group, is there is a teaching assistant to help you, how many and long the lessons are. These are all very important considerations for making an informed decision. There’s no golden rule for how many students there should be for one teacher (it depends also on the level of the group – higher-level students usually need less guidance), but it’s clear that the more people there are in the group, the less individual attention you can get from your teacher.
If it seems that the organisation hosting the course is in it only for the money – packing as many people in the course as they can, for example – it might be a better idea to choose a private language teacher.
Of course, group language lessons are usually about 30-50% cheaper than private teachers. However, remember that you usually have to pay for the entire course upfront and will rarely get reimbursed if you end up dropping out (or simply miss a few lessons). There are also a few additional costs: textbooks are rarely included but will almost always be required; and the cost of both time and money to commute to and from the language school can also add up.
Private language lessons are definitely more expensive but can, in the long run, turn out to be more cost-effective. You’ll get the complete attention of a specialised teacher whose only objective is helping you advance. So you might need fewer more expensive lessons to reach the same level as with a cheaper but longer language course.
You’re naturally making a much more definitive commitment when signing up for a long language course than when organising lessons with a private teacher. This can work both ways: signing up and paying money upfront for a language course can create an incentive for you to show up every time, leading to better results. However, if your circumstances change, there’s usually not much you can do besides kiss your money goodbye.
Private teachers usually only require you to pay after each lesson, meaning that it’s easier to reschedule and reshuffle lessons. But this system also means that you need to constantly show initiative to schedule more lessons and it’s easy to let a bout of laziness get the better of you.
The choice of whether to sign up for a language course or take private lessons is an important one, so you should dedicate at least a bit of time to weigh the pros and cons for each. Group language lessons are cheaper and usually include an option of meeting new people and making friends. However, they’re also fixed and you have no say in either the schedule or content of the lessons. Private teachers might be more costly, but they’ll put all of their efforts into helping you advance, tailoring their schedules and lesson content to your personal needs.
To really know what works for you, you should try both options or simply combine language classes with lessons with a private teacher.