Language Learning Tip #2: Choose the right method for your needs.

Now that you have decided you are going to learn a new language, and that you have your goals in mind, your will start looking for ways to learn. With new technologies, you have a lot more options than before and it might be difficult to choose the right one for you. I will go through the main options and why they could be good - or not! - for you.

Option 1: Group classes

Most people will probably start searching online for classes in their city, for example "learn French in Cambridge" and you will find a lot of available group classes. Depending on the type of school, the hours, duration, cost, teacher's background and materials will vary. I have taught for the Alliance Française in London, Seoul and a bit in Cambridge too and these charities have excellent teachers (of course!) but also use good materials for a reasonable price. I have used two methods with these language schools: Alter Ego + and Le Nouvel Edito; they are both similar and good for serious learning whilst having fun and discovering French cultures. The courses cost will vary from one language centre to another but they are usually quite reasonable. If you have a lot of options in the same city - in London you have a plethora of language centres - check the centre's reviews and also the teaching materials reviews. Some books focus a lot on grammar, others on listening skills or speaking exercises and, depending on what you want to improve, having a look at the books used by these centres might helps you decide which one will be best for your needs.

Feel free to ask for a trial lesson: if you are not a beginner and already know some French, most centres will allow you to have a trial lesson to check your level. This is also a good opportunity for you to discover the centre and their teaching method. Remember that teachers all have their own way of teaching, even when we use the same books. Some are very serious, others can be very talkative, very reserved, use a lot of games or none at all, focus on grammar or on speaking practice, befriend the students or remain strictly professional... If the teaching style doesn't suit you, discuss this with the teacher or the academic team in the language centre and they will help you.

Group classes are good for people who are focused and want to learn general french and have opportunities to practice their speaking skills with other learners. It's also a great way to meet new people with whom you have at least one thing in common. Lessons are usually fast-paced and there might be activities that you are not too fond of - remember that a group class means that you learn as a group and teachers need to make sure everyone learns so it is not always possible to satisfy everyone 100%! Most of the time, group classes are good fun anyway and they're really good for speaking skills so this would be my top option when learning a language.

Option 2: Private tutor

Private tuition is good when you need to learn something specific, if the group classes schedule do not suit you (or if classes are not running) or if your student's profile do not fit in a group option. Or maybe you just prefer having a teacher all for yourself and you learn better on your own. There are a few differences between group classes and private tuition: the price, the location, the objectives and method and of course... the number of students! Private tuition is good for slow- and fast-learners, good students and ... less good students, focused people and distracted people... anyone can take private tuition because the teacher will focus on you, and you only, and adapt to your needs and objectives. This is why it is very important to meet with the teacher before booking several lessons. The teacher's personality and method might not suit you so always meet with a potential tutor to discuss your needs but also your hobbies, your job, your objectives etc. Being on your own with a teacher can feel intimidating for some people so being at ease with the tutor is essential. It has happened in the past when I didn't feel any connection with a private student and it is a difficult - and sometimes awkward - situation for both the student and the tutor. This is why I offer a free language consultation which you can book following this link:

You might think that private tuition are really expensive so it cannot be an option for you. Well, depending on how you book private tuition, yes, it can be expensive. If you book private tuition via a language centre, you not only need to pay the tuition fees but the price will also include the administrative fees and will help pay for the building and staff. Sometimes, language centres can take up to £60 an hour for private tuition and only a small portion of it will actually go to the tutor. You will be able to save a lot of money if you search for a private tutor yourself. There are a lot of platforms on which you can find private tutors: Tutorhunt, Tutorfair, Gumtree and Superprof just to name a few. On these, you can have qualified tutors but also students and price will vary from £10 to £40 an hour. A qualified and experienced tutor such as myself will not accept anything under £20 or £25 an hour but students will have lower rates. Make sure you choose the right tutor depending on your learning objectives but, as always, remember that you get what you pay for.

Option 3: Online lessons

Online lessons are getting more and more popular these days and it's not surprising: who wouldn't want to learn French in the comfort of their own home with a tutor just a click away. Most teachers will use a platform such as Skype and will teach from home as well. It's quite easy to set up as you only need a laptop with a good Internet connection, a videoconferencing software and be able to share your screen with the student. However, I have to say that I am not too keen on having online tuition for a few reasons.

Firstly, I find it quite impersonal, even more so when you have only "met" the student online. Knowing someone online and offline are two very different things, as I am sure you know from experience.

Secondly, although you save time as you don't have to travel anywhere, you might end up losing precious minutes due to - annoying - technicalities such as a last-minute update, a slow Internet connection or bad sound etc. These can really take the fun out of the lessons.

Lastly, as a tutor, it can sometimes be more difficult to know if the student has really understood what you are explaining or if they are really enjoying their lessons as you can't see their facial expressions as well as when you teach face-to-face and they are important indicators for teachers. I can usually tell if my students get a new language concept by looking at them and, a lot of the time, even if they said they understood, I have a feeling that they actually did not get it and I'll explain again. With video conference, it is a lot more difficult to do that. I can, and might in the future, do online lessons for students I have taught in the past but I prefer face-to-face teaching for all new students. However, other tutors are really good with online teaching and some students prefer it that way so if this is the case for you, just go for it!

Option 4: Self-learning

This is actually a tricky one because self-learning is something that you should definitely do but only up to a certain point. Even as a language teacher, I find it quite difficult to learn a language by myself, with only books or websites or apps. However, self-learning is an essential part of the learning process as you cannot rely on group classes or private tuition only; just like you cannot rely on self-learning only. If you use books, it can sometimes feel a bit boring and repetitive which is why learning with a group class or private tuition is a lot more entertaining and beneficial for students. But self-learning can also include using apps, websites, games, films and this is when it is actually a good idea to include these elements in your everyday life. If you don't have money to spend on language courses, you can still try and learn the basics by yourself as there are a lot of books for beginners out there. It will be difficult but I think the A1 level, or maybe just half of it for some people, is manageable to learn on your own. However, make sure you understand grammar points / subjects before moving on to the next one as, when you are learning on your own, you are the one correcting yourself and if you learn something wrong from the beginning it will then be very hard to correct this mistake! Other levels should be learned with a proper teacher as they include essential and difficult grammar points.

If you are learning a language with a proper teacher (either in a group or private tuition), teachers can only help you up to a certain point but you have to do the work outside of the lessons as well. Not only you will need to complete homework set by your teacher but try to include a bit of the target language everyday. If you learn French, listen to French music, watch French films, read or listen to the news in French, discover new French artists, read French books (even children's books to start with!). You can also use a language app which will help you through some basic exercises, grammar points and vocabulary. I wouldn't use apps only to learn a language but they are a great additional tool and they can be quite fun too.

So, what about you? How are you planning to learn French? :)

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