How do you choose a language school?
Going on a language learning trip might be the perfect way for you to learn a foreign language.
What are the 9 steps I use to organise a language learning trip?
In this blog post series, I will outline the 9 steps I use to plan and go on a language learning trip.
Step 4 – How do you choose a language school?
Once you have decided which language you want to study, where you are going and who is coming with you, then it is time to choose a language school to study at.
Unless you are already quite advanced, I think it is so worthwhile to have classes on a language learning trip.
I used to love group classes, because I enjoyed the interaction with the other students and the chance to sometimes ‘hide’ behind other students when I wasn’t sure of the answer or doubted myself. But, now I always prefer to have individual classes or private tutoring.
Individual classes allows me to select my teacher, structure my lesson content and give guidance on what I want to focus on and improve. I have found this the best way to get what I need from my language learning trips.
Individual classes are usually more expensive than group classes, but you get so much more for your money. The teacher is only focussed on your speaking, comprehension, learning and expression. He or she can tailor their classes to suit your needs.
When I start off looking for a language school, my first stop is to ask any of my friends or contacts if they can recommend somewhere to study. A friend of a friend may have studied in your destination of choice, so it is always worth reaching out to your friends in ‘real life’ and via social networks online!
Contact your preferred school/s via email and assess their response and willingness to accommodate your needs and language learning goals. This initial contact could be a good indication of how they will look after you once you are their student.
The next step might be to ask around on various language learning blogs and groups.
Some of my favourites are:
All these bloggers run a Facebook group too – so you can connect with other language learners.
I am now offering CONSULTS to Lingo Mama readers. Book in now to receive your personalised consult and let me organise you an epic language learning trip!
Find out as much as you can about your choice of city and destination and language school. Use third-party review sites and more importantly talk to people you know (either in real life or via social) to get a good handle on if your choice of destination and school is going to suit your needs.
Asia Options has some great intel on Asian related study and reviews on many language learning university courses.
TripAdvisor may have reviews on your chosen school. Your shortlisted school’s Facebook page is also a good place to get a sense of the type of institution it is.
Private school vs a university course
Many well established and respected universities have foreign language departments. They usually run language courses for undergraduates taking part in an exchange program or for people who are keen to commit to a semester-length of learning. University courses can be better value, as often the classes are grouped – you will usually need to do an assessment test to determine your level and class placement. Some university language courses can be quite rigid and you might not have the flexibility you want to learn the topics you want to study. An intensive summer or winter course can also be an option at some universities.
When I studied Mandarin Chinese the first time in China, I spent two semesters at the Institute for International Students of Nanjing University 南大。I received a scholarship from the Victorian Government in Australia to study Chinese in Jiangsu province and Nanjing University was one of the options I could select from. I had classes four hours each day from 8.00am – 12.00pm – covering listening, speaking and reading classes. It was a fantastic experience and a really thorough program and great for a beginner.
Now I have a little more experience and less time, I usually prefer to seek out a private language institution. I find these schools generally are more flexible in their teaching style, pricing, structure and start dates. There are many schools out there though, so the key is to do some thorough research to make sure the school to enrol in is reputable.
Private schools generally lack the status of studying at a renowned university. You may not receive a certification either. So if these are important to you, you may want to consider a university course.
If you are interested in learning Mandarin Chinese, Lingo Mama readers are entitled to a special discount at Taiwan Mandarin Institute – subscribe to Lingo Mama to receive this 5% discount off courses at TMI.
Language learning isn’t generally cheap. For a one hour private class, you will need to budget for between $10 – $40 per hour depending on where you are studying. I usually don’t want to study for longer than two hours in one go. This is generally the maximum I can concentrate (and this is usually with a 5-10 minute break halfway). I tend to prefer two hours per day (in the morning is my most productive time) each weekday. So 10 hours per week. In tomorrow’s post – Step 5 – I will discuss how I set my budget, and plan my language learning goals.
Use costs to evaluate your schools, but don’t select the school based on cost alone!
Type of teaching
The qualification of teachers is important too. What certifications do they have? And how much experience? Will they be accommodating to your needs?
These questions are difficult to assess before you arrive in person at your language school. But before you confirm your place, you should ask these questions via email. Make sure if the teacher you are allocated doesn’t suit your needs that you are able to swap teachers. You may even be able to do a trial class for free or a subsidised rate.
What class materials are included in your course fees? Or will you need to purchase textbooks on your arrival? Can you supply your own course books?
Ask these questions before you commit to your chosen language school.
Does your chosen language school offer any additional activities or add-ons? Some schools provide other classes such as calligraphy or music or history. Some schools offer a full activity program in addition to your language classes.
Some schools will also arrange airport transfers, accommodation, homestays etc too.
Be sure to look into all of these options and when you choose a language school for your next language learning trip.
Is your chosen language school located centrally and near public transport? Will it be easy to get there?
Check their location on google maps, and see if there are metro/subway stations or bus stops nearby. Also, check on various accommodation booking sites if there are places to stay nearby. More on selecting accommodation in my blog post coming up. Step 6 – selecting accommodation!
How have you chosen a language school in the past? Or are you currently looking at schools now?
Let me know below!
Read my next post here! Step 5 -Making a budget and planning your language learning goals.
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Until next time,