English lessons (Group or private?)

Introduction

So, you’ve decided you want to get more serious with your English studies and have decided to take lessons. The question is, would you prefer to join an English class or find a private tutor for one-to-one lessons? Let’s look at some of the advantages and disadvantages to both and help you make the right decision.

Group lessons

Group lessons can be found in a number of places:-

  • College / University courses (Degrees etc)
  • Evening classes
  • Online group classes

All of these can be slightly different in style (as well as cost!) The main difference though is between the college / university courses and everything else. These courses have a finite length (typically a number of years) and can cost a significant amount of money but will give you a credible certificate at the end of it which could be useful for things such as finding a job. The other classes still have merit but if an employer had to choose between someone who had done evening English classes for a few years vs someone who had completed a University degree then the person with the degree is most likely going to be the favourite choice. 

Group lessons – advantages

  • Cost – As you are going to be in a group of people then this usually brings down the price. A lower price means more money for you and with that extra money maybe you could even afford more lessons if you wanted.
  • Socializing – It can get a bit lonely fighting the language battle all by yourself. In a group class though you can find friends who are in a similar situation to you, you can have fun and maybe practise outside of lesson time.
  • Certification – As mentioned earlier, studying on a course gives you the opportunity to get a certificate at the end, proving your ability. This could be something as big as a University degree which is great for showcasing to potential employers. However, even it is something smaller (like completing a two-month evening class course) then it’s still an accomplishment you can be proud of.

Group lessons – disadvantages

  • Fixed time – Some people like having to show up at a particular time. It can give them the motivation to get things done. However, maybe you need more flexibility and want to be able to schedule lessons when you are free (especially true if you have a busy lifestyle.)
  • Content – When you join a class or a course then you study what is there. If they are studying prepositions then you have to study prepositions (even if you already know everything about them.) For beginners this isn’t an issue but for someone who has studied a long time then they may be better suited for private lessons.
  • Student contact time – When you take private lessons you are always in contact with the teacher throughout the lesson. This however isn’t the case in a group lesson. The teacher may give a presentation at the start which you’ll hear and maybe ask a question or two. After this though you will likely be split into pairs or groups to practise, with the teacher only stepping in to help if necessary. You will still have contact with the teacher (again for things like questions) but remember that the teacher’s time is split between the whole class.

One-to-one lessons

Thanks to the internet, one-to-one lessons are more popular and are becoming more affordable than ever before. You can browse a list of teachers from most countries and can have your lessons online. This is great as if you live in a country that doesn’t have many native English speakers then you can still have access to them.

Alternatively if you prefer face to face contact (and not screen to screen) then you can still scout out local teachers and conduct lessons that way. The best places to look are on signboards in places like libraries / colleges etc or through directories such as Yell (UK) or other online directories.

One-to-one lessons – advantages

  • Lessons designed for you – This is the biggest advantage in my opinion. You have a teacher that knows your level of English, knows your goals and knows how to get there. They won’t make you learn unnecessary things and will take the best path for you to reach your target in the shortest time possible.
  • Schedule – You can schedule lessons when you want and how often you want. Maybe you have a busy schedule and can only fit in one lesson a week in between meetings etc, no problem. Maybe you want to get more lessons in, no problem you can book as many lessons as long as your tutor has enough hours to spare. You can’t do this with a class that meets at a fixed time each week.
  • Student contact time – You will be in contact with the teacher for the entire lesson. You will converse in English and any activities will be done with the teacher. In a class full of other students the teacher will check in on you when they can, with private lessons though they are assessing and looking after you every step of the way.

One-to-one lessons – disadvantages

  • Cost – This is the main disadvantage for private lessons. They usually cost more as you have the teacher all to yourself now and can’t “split the bill”. That being said, there are a range of tutors at different prices so make sure to look around for the right price.
  • Certification – The aim of a private tutor is to improve your English but you can’t get anything to prove your level through just the tutor. You would need to take an external exam (IELTS etc) or complete a course if you need something on paper. However, if you need some extra help then a lot of students will hire a private tutor as well doing their course or studying for an exam.
  • Teacher’s ability – When you join a course (especially the more credited one’s like a university course) you are guaranteed a certain level of ability from the teacher. With a private tutor however it can be difficult to find out if a teacher can actually… teach. Make sure to take advantage of “trial lessons” and find out if you get on well with a tutor’s methods before committing to them long-term.

Conclusion

Being an English teacher myself, it is tricky trying to remain unbiased in this area. I have however tried my best to remain objective throughout this article.

The last thing to say is that although you have some ideas for what is good and bad about both methods, the only way to find out what works best for you is to try these methods yourself. Maybe you are able to sit in on the first class of a course or find out more information online before committing. As I also said earlier, try a trial lesson with a private tutor and see if they are a “good fit”, if not then find someone else. Also remember that at the end of the day, you get out of education what you put in. Work hard and you will succeed, whichever path you take.