Say you want to learn a foreign language for whatever reason, which learning method would you choose?
You’d be compelled to choose to learn in a classroom, especially if you’re not the type who learns languages easily on his own and need the extra push. At the same time, you also think about the costs and whether you’ll get anything out of that class making it worth your money.
On the other hand, if you are more pro-active when it comes to learning languages, you’d probably want to learn more independently. It is relaxing and there are no stresses. You just need to find someone whom you can put theory to practise with.
Things to think about
The deciding factors for either independent learning or classroom environment are:
- opportunities for practise
- study motivation
Once again, the most effective way of learning is to be in that country interacting with the locals. But I’m talking about before going there and preparing you for it. I’m talking about an alternative way of learning a language if you don’t have the money or time to fly to another country.
Both classes and independent learning have their own pros and cons.
|no study or time pressure||no interaction with other speakers/learners|
|no homework or deadline||no guidance or verifications from teachers|
|cheaper (<$60 a book or internet (costs vary))||not having deadlines may not be motivating|
|take your time||no certificates or credentials|
|lots of interaction and practise with other speakers (more friends?)||expensive fees (can cost from $100 – 300)|
|a teacher to guide you||creates pressure for assignments/exams|
|structured with goals and aims||quality of each class varies|
|possibility of a certificate or grade||satisfaction not guaranteed|
|possibility of learning a lot in short amount of time||intensive|
Which of this is better? The answers vary from person to person and it also depends on their interests and learning capabilities.
The importance of practise
Practise is a very important aspect of language learning and a language class can deliver that. Teachers are available to correct you and give you information. However, it comes at a price. And if you don’t have the money, you can’t learn. Personally, I don’t think that money should deter someone’s interest in learning something, but hey, that’s society. Also, each class can differ in quality depending on how good the teacher is in teaching the language.
In my experience, I did learn French on my own using books, CD-ROMs and the internet as well as from high school. I did manage to learn how to make sentences using the past perfect and the future tense from my CD-ROM. However, I had nobody to practise my French with. Then I took French 2 for one semester in university and all that practise and learning in the classroom strengthened my knowledge in French. Still, it would be nice to practise French again with someone locally in Melbourne.
Another problem with classes is that the languages they teach are limited. If I wanted to learn a language like Basque, Dzongkha, Navajo or Chechen, chances of finding a class that teaches that language or someone who speaks it in Melbourne is low. And Melbourne is a multicultural city. It may have to do with a low supply of teachers of those languages and a low demand of students wanting to learn those language. I can probably find books and information of those langauges on the internet, but once again, no opportunities for practise.
Thinking about costs?
A language class at a TAFE or an institute would cost around A$250 (1 hr for five weeks). You can buy a language book that teaches from Level 1 to 4 for usually A$30. A person can buy eight language books at around A$30 each, which altogether is almost as much as the cost of a language class. It also takes a while to read each of those books as well as grasp the language, which one cannot do without the interest or ability to teach himself. But then again, quantity does not equal quality.
At the end of a class, you’ll probably also get a certificate stating your qualification in that language which may be good for employers.
Are you lazy, stressed out or a commit-a-phobe?
Another reason to choose either classroom or independence is based on your pro-activeness, perseverance and self-motivation. This goes back to the whole interest you need in order to start learning the language. But, despite wanting to learn the language, you hit a speed bump in your learning process which involves aspects you just can’t comprehend. On top of that, if you’re enrolled in a class, assignments and tests can stress you out. You may question yourself whether you can handle the pressure of committing yourself to study for tests and completing assignments while balance those with work and family. If you’re not enrolled in a class, you don’t need to worry about assessments. But you may say to yourself that “You don’t have time to learn” as an excuse of not having any motivation for yourself to learn.
You may think to yourself that you can’t just learn everything in three weeks. Every person has their own learning ability. Some people can learn something in minutes while for others it takes days. The great thing about independent learning is that you can take breaks and learn as much as you want in a day. Having constant breaks allows you to relax and sink in what you’ve just learned. The key to learning by yourself is taking baby steps and learn gradually. There will be an article about how to gradually learn a language.
What I think
As someone who enjoys independent learning in his own room, I still personally believe that classes are the second most effective way of learning another language. Second to actually being in the country. I personally prioritise practise as very important because practise solidifies everything you’ve been taught and classes readily offer that. If I learn in my own room, I have to find someone I can practise with. However, there are so many languages I want to learn, but I am not going to pay A$300 for each class especially when locations of those classes differ and classes don’t offer a wide variety of languages to learn from.
If you’re unable to be in another country or commit to a class then teaching yourself is better. Every time I teach myself another language, I also teach myself on how to be self-reliant, pro-active and self-disciplined rather than have someone hold my hand the whole time.
But at the end of the day, learning another language is very rewarding. Whether you are learning either in a classroom or by yourself, it’s better than not learning it at all.