When you’re starting to learn a language, you’re probably wondering whether to sign up for a language course or classes. And these things cost money so it’s an important decision to make.
Are language courses worth your money? I hope that this article will help you decide for yourself.
If you’d rather watch my video on this topic, here it is. Otherwise, continue reading!
Are language courses worth your money?
Language learners often jump at the idea of joining a language course because it seems like the ultimate solution to their language learning problems.
But often, they don’t ask themselves whether the language course is actually worth their money. Or what it is exactly that they’re paying for. Or why they’re paying for that specific thing.
So, if you’re wondering whether a language course is worth it, I would encourage you to first ask yourself what you actually need.
Identifying your language learning needs
Don’t start by browsing courses to see which one you like most. Start with your own needs. What is it that you’d like help with? What is it that you’d be willing to pay for? What is it that you wouldn’t be able to do on your own, or you’d find hard to do on your own.
Exploring these questions will help you pin down your needs and then find the best tool to meet those needs. And that tool might indeed be a language course or classes. But it might be something completely different (see my post about how to choose language learning resources).
Focusing on your needs will force you to think outside the box. And it might turn out that a course is not actually the right way to go. Or, if it is, you might find it easier to select the type of course that matches your specific needs.
So, start with your needs and then look for the right tool.
Your language needs: examples
Let me give you some examples of what I mean by language learning needs.
You may decide, for example, that all you need is some speaking practice. If you’re really good at organising and planning your learning, you know exactly how to learn grammar and vocabulary by yourself, then you might decide that speaking is the only thing you’re willing to pay for.
Well, in this case, a course would probably not be right for you. Instead, you may choose to pay a conversation partner or find a free language exchange partner. 1-1 tuition with a teacher could also be a good idea, as long as you focus specifically on speaking.
Compare it with this example:
You’re about to start learning a new language and you’ve never done it before. You have no idea how to learn a language or what resources to use. You don’t know how to learn grammar, where to start, and how to memorise things. You don’t know how to stay motivated or what type of activities you will enjoy.
In this case, you will probably need some kind of direction and a course could be a good solution for you.
Like I said, focus on your needs first and the rest will follow.
Now, browse your courses
So, once you’ve explored your needs and decided that a course is something you’d like to pursue, it’s time to browse some courses.
When looking at examples of courses, you will need to find out exactly what they’re offering, what you’ll be paying for and how that matches your needs.
If all you need is speaking, and a course you’re looking to sign up for contains speaking, grammar and vocabulary, it might not be right for you. You’d probably be wasting your money if you can already learn grammar and vocabulary by yourself and the only thing you’d be taking away from the course is the speaking bit.
Don’t be tempted by courses run by native speakers
I know it can be tempting to join a language course at a language school because they’re often run by native speakers. And that’s one of their main selling points. Believe me – I’ve been there myself.
Here’s how these courses are often marketed – X number of hours per week with a native speaker. But what does that actually mean?
It’s important for you to find out at this point what the native speaker is there to do. Are you actually going to speak the whole time? And how many other people are in the class? How much speaking will you actually get to do?
I know that often, the native speakers are not there just to speak. Often, they do standard language teaching activities with you – they’re there to supervise and make sure you’re learning grammar, practising your writing skills, and so on. They’re often not there to just help you with your speaking.
So, don’t be tempted to sign up for a language course just because it’s offering X number of hours per week with a native speaker.
You might be wasting your money if you sign up and all you actually need is speaking practice.
Language courses give you a chance to get feedback
One thing language classes can be really good for is getting real-time feedback. When you study by yourself, it can be difficult to know when you’re making mistakes.
So, for example, if you’re trying to practise your writing, you might be making mistakes that you don’t realise you’re making. When you’re in a class, though, you’ll be corrected there and then.
There are, of course, ways around it.
You can find an exchange partner and share your writing with them, and get feedback that way.
So, if feedback is important to you, I would encourage you to consider what types of things you’d like to get feedback on and then try to decide whether you’d rather get it from a course teacher or in another way.
The real work happens outside the classroom
Whether or not you decide to go ahead and sign up for a language course, the most important thing to remember is that the real work happens outside the classroom.
Language courses and classes are there to guide you, and provide support and feedback. And the real work – the vocabulary learning, the reading practice, the listening, all of these things have to be done on top of attending your lessons.
The bottom line
So, the bottom line is language courses and classes can be beneficial as long as you know exactly what you need and the course provides that specific thing. Some language learners will find that they can learn independently most of the time while others will find it easier to get a bit more direction.