Self-taught VS Language Classes

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People often ask whether it’s possible to learn a language by yourself, or whether you need to take up language classes in order to be proficient. It’s an argument that could take you round in circles for days on end, and even then you’re always going to find conflicting accounts from people who are self-taught and those who took classes and can’t imagine having learned any other way.

So rather than trying to end this debate, I think it’s important to recognise the pros and cons of both, and how they might suit different people…

Self-taught:

Pros:

  • You can go at a pace that suits you – if you’re struggling with a particular grammar point for example, you can spend as much time as necessary combing over it.
  • You can focus the content on your individual needs without having to compromise –  maybe you want to learn about business language rather than holiday essentials.
  • There are tons of resources that are free, reliable and easily accessible – you’ll be able to find something that suits you without too much hassle.
  • You can choose the hours that suit you – lots of people complain that they don’t have the time to learn a language or that classes don’t fit in with their work, but with this kind of flexibility you can really incorporate language learning into your schedule.
  • You can be creative with how you learn – if you like watching videos to learn that’s great,if you like sitting down with a book and doing strict grammar translations that’s  also possible, if you like to work on projects that’s also something you can explore!

Cons:

  • Accountability is where most people struggle – if you’re going solo, there’s no one but yourself to answer to if you don’t do the work.
  • You have to be very proactive about practising speaking the language – without a teacher or other students, you’ll have to find a language exchange of some sort or a friend who also speaks the lingo.
  • Without someone there to correct you on your mistakes, you have to be vigilant and if you’re not you could find yourself falling into bad grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation habits.
  • Motivation – positive reinforcement from teachers and classmates is out of the equation, you’ll have to be committed and remind yourself often why you decided to start this journey in the first place.
  • Sometimes no matter how much research you do and how many resources you find, a particular concept just isn’t going in, and you need someone to sit down with, ask questions to and explain it you in a way that you understand.

Language Classes:

Pros:

  • You signed up for classes, so you’re accountable for turning up, doing the work and making progress – in short you’re more likely to see it through!
  • You have a real-life teacher who can guide you, offer insights into a particular grammar point, correct your pronunciation – and best of all you can ask them questions if you’re still not sure about something.
  • Regardless of whether you’ve signed up for group or individual classes, you’ll be able to practice speaking the language easily.
  • You have the resources cherry picked for you, and normally you have a language assessment before you join so that the language school can place you at the right level and in the right class – basically they can take you through learning a language in the right steps.

Cons:

  • Language classes can be expensive – they are great option particularly as they offer access to resources, quality control and guidance that you can’t find online, but it’s something to consider when you’re making a decision.
  • Particularly if you are taking group classes, you have to match the pace of the majority – you might not feel comfortable with a particular grammar point but if the rest of the class is, the lesson inevitably has to move on.
  • It can be difficult to find classes that suit your schedule, and you should also be prepared for homework outside of the classes – don’t expect that if you turn up to class that’s all you need to do,(a good teacher will set you tasks to do throughout the week.
  • Sometimes language classes might not suit your learning style – obviously teachers work hard to make classes fun and engaging, but they also have a curriculum that they need to follow and goals to help you achieve, and this might mean doing more textbook work or grammar practice than you want.

At this point I want to make it clear that both can be equally successful for different people for different reasons – the main thing is that you start/continue learning and that you make a success of it!

USEFUL LINK:

If you want some more guidance on what language level you are, and what your next grammar goals should be, have a look at the CEFR scale and level descriptors*

*note this is for European languages and doesn’t apply to Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Swahili, Afrikaans etc – you get the picture!

 

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NO MORE GUILT over social media!

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Social media. Pretty much everyone has it, and if I was to hazard a guess I would say that many of us think we spend too much time using it. More often than not, it’s also time that we could be spending more productively… *cough cough* learning a language.

As I was thinking about this, it occurred to me that people largely use social media to keep in contact with friends, to get information and keep up to date with the news. It’s these last two especially that are important – there’s now lots of fact and figures about how we consume media and they make for very interesting reading…28% of 18-24 year olds use social media as their main source of news, a staggering 62% of Americans get their news from social media and almost every newspaper, magazine, or publication you can think of is now available in digital format.

So how does this have anything to do with learning a language? Simple, you combine language learning with social media. First off, you can change your language settings to the language you’re trying to learn (every little bit counts). Second of all, all those articles you’ve been catching up on, well chances are you can find the same information but in German, Spanish, Russian, Polish, Portuguese, Igbo, Romanian, Swahili… you get the idea. All you need to do is find some national or even regional newspapers, magazines or sites to follow (Buzzfeed is always a good shout – they have a lot of short and fun things on there). It’s free, easy and can give you a great insight into what matters to a particular country or culture.

If news isn’t your thing the same rule still applies, look for a magazine or site that’s about a hobby of yours – it can even be language learning pages! In fact liking language learning pages regardless is a great tool and the best part about all of this, aside from it costing you nothing at all, is that it’s a great reminder to keep practising!

So go on, get back on twitter, facebook, instagram, snapchat, pinterest or whatever it is you like to use!

If you want more tips, don’t forget to subscribe to my blog! You can also follow me on twitter @meetEmProc

 

 

Reading Material

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Hello again!

As the title of this post suggests, today’s blog is all about reading so I’ll get stuck straight in!

One of the biggest complaints about language learning is that there’s not enough time in the day to practise. A quick scour of the internet will probably lead you to believe that this is false, that you are simply not making time for it and instead wasting those precious minutes. Quit watching Netflix when you could be practising, use the commute to work to your advantage, stop spending time on the internet and social media.

This is valuable advice…to a degree. Continue reading

Improv comedy and Expedition Happiness

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Hello all!

This past week I did something I’ve never done before and went to see an improv comedy show entirely in German. Two things happened: firstly I laughed a lot, secondly I understood 95% of what was going on!

Because of this, I can’t wait to go again and here’s why you shouldn’t miss out on a similar opportunity either (note: I’m aware this can only really apply if you’re living in a country that speaks your TL)! Continue reading

Immersion

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Hallo!

It’s me again, and this time I thought it would be a good idea to talk about language immersion – the difficulties but also the rewards.

Obviously the best way to immerse yourself in a language is to be in a place where the language you’re learning is the mother tongue. However that is not always possible.

So here are some other tips for sneaking more language learning into your day… Continue reading

The past & adverbs of time

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Hallo!

Today, I would like to talk about the past. Why? Because the form of the past is very important in every language (for example, whilst Chinese has no past form, but the past is communicated by context and time markers). We use the past to explain everything from memories and stories to logical thinking and future decisions (with regard to previous experience).

So what if you haven’t quite mastered the past tense in a foreign language just yet?… Continue reading

Big Changes Ahead…

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As the title suggests, there are big changes coming – in just a few weeks time I will be moving to Austria.

So what does this mean? Right now, I’m splitting my language learning time between Russian and German. Although I speak some German already, it only seems right that I brush up before I go.

Will I still be blogging? Given how busy the next few months ahead of me will be, I’m going to take a break from blogging BUT I will be back!

Until then if you get stuck for ideas, or just need a bit of a pick me up, be sure to check out some of my other blog posts and useful links!

до свидания, bis bald!

Russian Children’s TV – Weird and Wonderful

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What I’ve learned this week: Russian children’s TV is a gateway to the weird and wonderful…

Learning a new language is a lot like being a child again – there’s a lot of words you don’t know (if that’s not an understatement I don’t know what is), you are constantly asking questions about what something means, and it seems like everyone else knows more than you do.

But children learn Continue reading

Should You Use Duolingo, and Other Apps?

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We live in the digital age, and as such it shouldn’t come as a surprise that language learning is increasingly done online – whether that’s via apps, courses or even Skype.

But it’s using an app that I find particularly interesting – you can be on the go, anywhere in the world but will you have actually learnt anything by the end of it bar a limited grasp of the language? Continue reading