Will A Group Help you Learn a Language? The Dos and Don'ts of Language Courses

Today I want to talk to you about group classes in language learning - those kinds of classes which are often considered the traditional way of studying. I've taught various groups here in Lancaster, and sadly teaching German to English native speaking adults is unusual and none of my classes ever make it past the A1 mark as people drop out for many reasons. Of course this is a shame for the tutor and the remaining students, and so I want to put down some information you should consider before trying one of these classes.

language courses

How to tell if you will like a group class

This one is difficult, because the group class is all about people. Like people, it is a bit unpredictable and you may find that the group dynamic isn't your bag. But certain things never change, and these are important to consider:

  • Students are expected to speak in front of others
  • The class pace is set by the tutor and you may experience too many or too few repetitions
  • Others might know more than you, or much less
  • You'll laugh, chat and connect to other language learners
  • You're likely to save money
  • You'll experience great opportunities to speak a language

So in short, group language classes are for you if you are reasonably confident and motivated by talking to others, and looking for great value.

Where to look for a great group class

Here are 5 places to consider, no matter where you live:

  • Your local library (here's a list for the UK)
  • A university, community college or adult college in your town. Sometimes these are public, sometimes private, but all of them tend to run language classes, at least for beginners.
  • Private providers like Berlitz and EF offer classes all around the world
  • If you live near a cultural institute such as the Instituto Cervantes and the Goethe Institut, these should be on your list. The language classes at these particular places tend to be great quality, and with dedicated learners.
  • If you are retired, try the University of the 3rd Age

DOs and DON'Ts of Language Courses

My own experience with group classes is quite varied: I've studied Polish and French at adult classes, and taught various groups in German. I know from being a course participant that it can be hard to keep up with the expected homework, and easy to underestimate how much the student has to bring to the class.

DO make sure you know the expected level - perhaps the class uses ratings like "Basic", "Beginner" and "Intermediate" or rates itself with the European Framework? Whichever it is, call the provider and ask what they will expect you to know before jumping in.

DON'T get discouraged and suffer in silence. A good class tutor will have an open ear for repetition, revision and explanation requests.

DO your homework. Read over your notes.

DON'T expect the class to do all the work for you, as you are only experiencing a little bit of exposure and your tutor will hope you commit to studying at home for an hour per week.

DO get to know your learning materials. Again, it's useful to call before booking and check which book the class uses, if any.

Will you try the group class?

My personal opinion is that group classes are fantastic. You need a good teacher who can bring a bit of fun to the class, and it means you have to get ready and energised at set times, but it's very much worth it. The class environment gives you buddies, it helps you practice and it's affordable too. So, will you get over your doubts and sign up?