I have often been asked how you choose the right language centre and the best language courses. As a language centre director, I say come to us! Of course, it isn’t always that simple. We might not be the best fit for the learner, for instance if they prefer large group lessons. So, I’ve put together seven top tips to help you find the best language course for you.
#1 Look for language student recommendations
Recommendations from students are a useful way to find a reliable language centre, but this is just a starting point. What is right for Mr. and Ms. Smith may not be the best fit for you. Do your own research on language courses and be clear about what is most important to you to learn a language, such as good rapport with the teacher, flexibility, budget, and so on.
#2 Get a free trial lesson
Before signing up for your pick of the language courses, a trial lesson will give you the opportunity to meet your teacher. They may come highly recommended, but you still need to make sure you understand each other and have some common ground.
Learning a language can make you feel vulnerable, frustrated or demotivated. You may have problems with time management or even memory. Sometimes, older students realise they must repeat lessons more often to understand concepts. When you learn a language, it’s essential that your teacher is supportive, helps you stay motivated, makes you feel safe and respects your learning pace.
Think carefully before signing up. Make sure you feel a connection with your trainer and feel confident they will be able to support you in the way you want. You should never compromise for something less than you want and need.
#3 Beware the magic method
In any learning environment, the method should be YOU! For learners to progress, language classes need to be tailored to their needs. For example, if you are a senior learner in a class scheduled to complete five lessons per week, you may find yourself struggling compared with younger peers because you need more time to grasp concepts. Similarly, if the teaching method focuses on online language learning and you don’t process information in this way, this may not be the class for you.
Look for language classes that focus on the person and adapt to what they need to learn. In group classes, it might be more challenging to adapt to every individual, but the teacher can at least provide the group with opportunities to negotiate at least some of an individual’s needs. For instance, some group members might want to work more on writing than oral skills, and in general language courses, both should be catered for. Never forget, it’s your language class that you paid for. You should have a say in what you are going to learn.
#4 Match language class size to your personality
Deciding whether to learn a language in a group classes or one-to-one is a personal choice. In a group, you might feel supported and motivated by your peers. If you prefer a personal rapport with a teacher, like to ask a lot of questions or need more flexibility, you might find one-to-one classes meet your needs and expectations better.
One-to-one classes can be more expensive, but if you’re a fast learner and grasp concepts quickly, you might become bored in a group setting and not make progress at the pace you want. In contrast, slow learners can end up feeling frustrated if they can’t keep up. You also need to make sure you feel comfortable with the people in your class. Group dynamics are not an exact science, so studying in such a setting can make learning more challenging. If you opt for group classes, make sure you can sign up for a trial lesson or one session before subscribing for a whole year!
#5 Test your language learning routine
When you haven’t learnt a language for years, decades even, and you are multitasking with other projects, family or work, ask to sign up for a few lessons. Learning a new language is a journey, and you need to make sure you can travel on that road whilst fitting everything else into your life.
Start small. Look for a language centre that offers a short course of four weekly lessons, so you can see how to fit language learning into your schedule before signing up for 20 or 30 lessons. By taking a short course, you have an opportunity to get to know the teacher and other students—you can make sure you have the time to learn and that the language centre is a good match for you. Beware of big discounts offered for signing up for a year unless you are comfortable with the language training centre and their trainers and you know you have the time to learn.
#6 Look for customer service
Students are clients, so communication between you and the language centre you have chosen should be fast, responsive and meet your objectives. Issues with payments, classes, cancellations, absences, and curriculum need urgent replies. If you find you are waiting more than 24 hours for a response, ask yourself how important your business is to them. You should expect and get first-rate customer service!
#7 Check out a private trainer
You may consider a private trainer who doesn’t work in a training centre. If this is a better solution for you, go for it! Make sure the trainer is legally registered with their canton (ask to see their ‘statut d’indépendant certificate’) or can prove that they don’t need to be registered, otherwise, you may be liable for their social contributions. Also, if they are not registered with any social contributions body, it might be more difficult, or impossible, to deduct the amount you have paid from your taxes in situations when you have the right to do this.
Enjoy your language learning journey
Learning a language takes you out of your comfort zone, so you’ll want to find a training centre committed to your learning and to matching you with a trainer you feel comfortable with. Whether you’re learning a language to help you settle in a new community, to improve your communication and prospects at work, or to challenge yourself, take the time to choose a language class that’s right for you. Congratulations on making the first step to learn a language—enjoy the journey!
If you would like a trial lesson to learn French or English with us, call Lara Epiney Takache today on +41 21 560 75 39. Find out more about our flexible LLS Babbel language programme and read our student success stories.
Written by Lara /LLS Director
Photo by Albin Hillert