Jimmy is an EFL teacher from Ireland currently working and living in Malta.
Now that the Internet is capable of providing us with enough language learning materials and applications to keep even the most studious of us busy for years, it can seem unnecessary to actually take classes to learn a new language. Why would anybody pay money to learn something which they can learn online for free? Here I will attempt to present the best answers to this question.
You see, the benefits of classroom learning have been proven, and as the saying goes, you get what you pay for. Internet resources are good, but are free for a reason and can often give the learner the false impression that they are making progress when they are really just running around in circles. There are some things about a language that just need to be taught the good old fashioned way, in a classroom with books and a professional and qualified teacher.
If you still need convincing here are five of the main reasons why I think you should choose classroom learning over independent study:
1. Self motivation isn’t as easy as it sounds
We’ve all been there. We tell ourselves that we will push ourselves to our limits and work as hard as possible to obtain our goals. Heck, we even do it… for a few weeks. Usually after we start to notice some improvements and feel some sense of achievement, we fall back into our old routine and lose the motivation that is required to continue being a self-‐learner.
If you are learning via the Internet, you should keep in mind the amount of distractions readily available to you. As soon as the going gets a little tough, the temptation to just check your e-‐mails really quickly may prove too much, and before you know it you are knee deep in the latest viral story.
One of the major advantages of taking classes, is that you aren’t self reliant.
There is a professional who creates your lesson plan for you, assigns projects, makes sure that the work gets done and that you aren’t constantly checking your phone for notifications…
2. You will learn relevant material
Taking on the challenge of learning a new language by yourself is a hard one, and one that affords the learner the option to study whatever they like. You won’t have to learn about tricky things like the past tense or conjunctions if you don’t want to, rather you can learn what the words of a song in another language mean or what kind of vocabulary you would use to get a date.
This can be detrimental to your learning process, as you will miss a huge chunk of the most important stuff. Teachers know what the most beneficial material to learn are, and will usually focus on the necessary, not the trivial.
3. You meet other language learners
One really beneficial aspect of taking a language course is that you are put into a room with a group of people who are all there to learn the same language that you are. Not only will this improve your social life, but it will also give you more people to practice your conversational skills with real people.
Practicing with fellow learners is also beneficial because you will be at roughly the same level, meaning that the conversation will never get too confusing or difficult to follow, increasing your practice time.
4. Diverse and specially created learning materials
When learning online, many people seem to limit themselves to just one or two websites. In the classroom teachers prepare relevant and specific learning materials such as audio conversations, real life materials such as newspapers and other content that has been created with the student in mind.
The more you diversify your learning material, the better, and while there is a wealth of real life learning materials online, these should be used in addition to, not a substitute for, classroom hours.
5. You have somebody else to impress
Learning online by yourself means that you only have one person to monitor and assess the progress of and that is you. It’s easy to give yourself a pat on the back for understanding a sentence or for conjugating a verb when you are by yourself, but professional teachers may not be so quick to award praise, preferring to see the students push themselves to their limit before shelling out congratulatory pats on the back.
Being your own boss can be disastrous for some of us. You are a lot more likely to give yourself a break when you feel you deserve one, or else just stop studying altogether once you feel you’ve done enough, whereas in the classroom you are at the mercy of the clock.
There are a multitude of other reasons to choose a classroom over the bedroom, and if you do decide to take classes, this doesn’t mean you should stop learning on your own time too. Like I’ve said, the Internet is an invaluable resource for learners everywhere, use it to the best of your advantage, but never underestimate the effectiveness of classroom learning.
Do you agree? Do you have any points to add? Have you had any particularly bad or good experiences in or out of the classroom?
About the author:
Jimmy Monaghan is an EFL teacher from Ireland who is working for the Elanguest English language School (http://www.elanguest.com) in St. Julian’s, Malta.