OK, you’ve decided to learn a foreign language, now you just have to figure out how to do it. You’ve probably considered taking a traditional in-person class.
Here are some things to consider before you visit your local community college to sign up.
Traditional Classes Are Both Cheap and Expensive
When I say that traditional classes are both cheap and expensive, I don’t mean that some schools have low prices while other schools charge a lot.
By both cheap and expensive, I mean that most people can afford to pay the money prices. That’s the cheap part.
The expensive part of traditional classes is the time they take compared to how much you actually learn.
You’ll Waste a Lot of Time for Every Class
To get a good idea of how wildly expensive, traditional classes are in terms of time, let’s add up the various time costs of a typical one-hour class.
1. Commuting time. I’ll assume this is 20 to 30 minutes each way, for a total time cost of 40 to 60 minutes.
2. Waiting time before class. You probably have to get to class 10 to 20 minutes early.
You’ll end up wasting at least 50 minutes and perhaps as much as 80 minutes of time for every class hour.
And how much of your class hour was really productive? I’ll assume that 30 minutes was productive.
So when you add it all up, you’ll usually waste 1 hour and 20 minutes and up to 2 hours in order to get 30 minutes of really productive learning time.
What I Learned in the French Class I Took
I recently took a short in-person French class. The three-hour class started on Monday and ran through Thursday for two weeks.
My time costs were the three hours of class, plus my commuting time, plus the wait time before the class (I didn’t want to be late) plus my study time. Let’s call it five hours of my time per class session.
Was it a good use of my time? Well, after the first hour of class I was tired and didn’t learn much. So the second and third hours weren’t a good use of my study time.
So what did I learn? I learned that French women are really charming!
But I didn’t learn much French.
Consider a Weekly Language Club Instead of a Class
Once-per-week language practice with native speakers can be very helpful. However, you can get this benefit by finding or starting a language club.
I’ve started and run a couple of successful language clubs for languages that I was just beginning to learn.
If you want to find an existing club, try doing a Google search for a club near you by using a very specific search term like “Spanish Language Clubs in San Francisco.”
No Teacher Can Really Teach You Anything
I know that sounds radical, but it’s the truth. Teachers can present the material and hopefully lower your frustrations. But you always have to learn your language by working on it yourself.
Good teachers do a wonderful job of encouraging you, correcting you, and telling you how to pucker your mouth to make the sounds come out right.
But you always have to take the time to learn what you want to learn. Your teacher can’t do it for you.
The Best Learning Mix Is Human Teachers Plus Software
Human teachers can do a much better job of encouraging you, correcting you, and telling you how to twist your tongue so you sound more like a native.
On the other hand, our software is infinitely more patient than any human teacher could ever be.
Human teachers can inspire you with a love of their language.
On the other hand, our software knows what you studied, when you studied it, and when you will need to review it.
Use In-Person Classes as a Place to Review and Not a Place to Learn
In person classes can be great for socialization, encouragement and support, but they cost a lot of time for the amount of material you will learn.
If you do decide to take an in-person class, use it as an opportunity to ask your teacher, to review and help you improve what you learned with our software.
When you combine loving, supportive teachers, plus our infinitely patient software . . . that’s the best recipe for learning a language.
Last updated: August 26, 2012