There could be a million reasons for wanting to learn a language – hobby, work, study, relationships, art and culture appreciation, travel and tourism, breaking barriers, etc. Most important is the fact that you “want to”. Keeping that in mind, what are the factors one must consider while choosing a language school or course that suits you? Here are the top 8 things you could keep in mind while researching for the same.
1.HOURS OR UNITS?
Most language schools tend to talk about units in their brochures. It would make sense for you to ask their representative to explain – exactly how many hours of work go into each level. A unit is about 45 minutes of work / activity. So if a school promises you 100 units of class, they are actually talking about 100 x 45 minutes and NOT 100 x 60 minutes.Another common problem you might encounter is – language schools tend to break up a level into many sub levels. For example an entire A1 (beginner’s course) might be offered to you as two sub courses – an A1.1 & A1.2, which together make up one level of the language you wish to pursue.So while you feel you may have done many levels of the language, you might have just progressed to level 2 or so, but have paid twice as much.
2.LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
Make sure you choose a good school within a short radius of your place of work or residence. That will help with regularity in classes and when you want to pick up a new language, may I say, regularity is a key factor here. Remember you are dealing with something absolutely new – in terms of sounds, scripts, and ever-to-be-built vocabulary. Chances are you will be more regular when your class is close to either your place of work / stay. If you are going to have to change a number of buses, or drive through bumper-to-bumper stuff, your brain will find enough reasons to stay back.
And if you miss 3 consecutive classes – you will have to be an extremely motivated person to catch up and keep at it. Hence we repeat Location, Location, Location
3.EXPERIENCED FACULTY & STUDENT FEEDBACK
I combine these two points because they just have to work in tandem. An institute could boast of faculties who are adorned with degrees, stayed abroad and picked up the language, or who can speak like a native. None of these guarantee a good or effective teacher. Always check for student feedback about faculty at an institute. Did they find the faculty helpful, were they able to reach out to them in class, were they able to overcome cultural and language barriers of the students, and did the students enjoy these sessions while constantly making progress.
A good language school should be able to offer you various batches and flexibility in timings. While we would not advocate you switching between batches each time you miss a class, it would be good if they had more options for the courses being taught there. That would mean they have a constant flow of students, and that can happen only if students are happy with the school. Enquire if they have intensive classes, weekday , weekend slots, how they would help you compensate in case you have to miss a number of classes (obviously we assume for genuine reasons). Flexible options and accommodating your interests would also be a factor to look out for.
5.TEACHER : STUDENT RATIO
This is a very important factor when you pick a language school. How many people are you going to actually interact with? A booming class of students does not necessarily signify a great trend. On the other hand a student: teacher ratio of 15/ 20 : 1 would be a good count. That would mean each student would get a chance to speak in the desired language and more chances of voicing your doubts / thoughts during class hours.
Most schools have a prescribed book for you to follow. But a good language school would always supplement the regular activities in class with relevant inputs from other books based on the topic being dealt. While this is not a must on a daily basis, a school that does give you supplementary material especially according to student’s requirements – is definitely a positive sign.
You are investing your time, energy and money in this venture – so make sure you check on the school’s accreditations and their ability to certify. Can the school give you a nationally / internationally recognized certificate? Or are they affiliated to someone who can? Or could they train you to take up the certification exams? And if yes, have they had a fair share of success – most students might require an average of two attempts to clear the International exams, anything more than that should ring an alarm.
Finance usually ends up being the deciding factor for many. But don’t just base it on finance or just your budget. If you find a fair combination of at least 4 of the above mentioned points at an affordable rate – then Go for it!
While we cannot have a perfect mix, a majority of factors working to your benefit is definitely something.