Summer is over—despite the numerous days of over 30 degrees Celsius that will be torturing us over September—and a lot of us are thinking about joining new courses, including language courses. One of the most common dilemmas for people has to do with whether a private and tailor-made course is more effective than a group course. Before committing to anything, one needs to take some significant parameters into consideration.
First and foremost, time. How much time do you have for learning a language? How flexible are you with your available time? Will your schedule remain the same for some time, or will it change? These are important questions since they are intimately related to our dilemma. Indeed, if you have no other commitments and have ample time in your hands, it would make a lot more sense going for a group lesson, which is also considerably more economical. However, if you are trying to squeeze a language course into an already demanding personal schedule with many other changing commitments, then going for private lessons that tend to be more flexible is definitely wiser. Think about it, you do not want to be the one who always comes late and ill-prepared. And you definitely do not want to annoy those impatient fast learners (see further down) who signed up thinking that they will be fluent after a term. And believe me, there are many of these people out there, and they are not delusional, they do become fluent after a few months.
Second parameter is money, which needs to be linked with finding the right course for your personal learning style. How much are you willing to spend on a course? Are you someone who thrives being in a group or do you tend to hide behind your book hoping not to be spotted? This is an important consideration since for some people who are more introverted being in a group allows them to slowly-slowly get over their diffidence whereas for some others it simply confirms their bashfulness and closes them up to the extent that they do not get much out of the course. So, for the latter choosing private over group lessons, albeit a more expensive option, can prove to be more effective, and in the long run even more economical. Further, one needs to have an idea, even a vague one, of how fast they learn. If you are an extremely fast learner, then being in a class with other people who are learning at a normal pace is bound to slow you down while being alone with an instructor allows you to move at your own individual pace. If you are both a fast learner and particularly impatient then you should know that being slowed down in a group can be quite frustrating for some people; in that case, it is evidently better to choose a private or small group setting. Similarly, if money is not a concern to you, and you want to optimize your time, opting for a tailor-made course is definitely preferable. I need to add a caveat here; private lessons tend to be more effective when there is chemistry between teacher and student.
Another parameter is whether you want to socialize during the course which could also allow you to practice outside the classroom. Indeed, this is a double whammy. Many people end up being good friends with their classmates (we have various people at Cosmopolis who continued to meet outside the classroom for a coffee or a drink long after they stopped being classmates). A friendly ambience, some witty banter, a sympathetic comment all enhance our openness and receptivity during the lessons. Additionally, some people who join language courses are new to a country, and being in a class allows them to meet new friends and start feeling more at home in the new country.
There are obviously some more factors to consider. Whether you choose to go for a private or a group lesson though, one thing that you should never forget is that you should always be made to feel comfortable and welcome in a class, irrespective of your learning style, age, country of origin, gender, or any other factor. Indeed, we learn better when we feel comfortable and welcome.