When you first decide you want to learn French, the natural next question is: how? While there are myriad ways to learn French online and offline workbooks purporting to provide all the material necessary to teach yourself a foreign language, in practice none of them, no matter how thorough, measure up to dedicated instruction time with a qualified teacher.
Such teachers are available, both online and off, in two basic structures: either a class with numerous students, or private one-on-one tutoring. But which to pick? Both have their advantages and disadvantages. The best way to learn French will ultimately depend on your needs and how you learn best.
First of all, gauche as it may seem to mention it, there is the issue of money. Private tutoring time can run significantly more expensive than a larger class, logically enough: either way the teacher needs to be compensated fairly for their time, but in a class their compensation is spread over multiple students, reducing the cost to each individual. So there is that to consider if budgeting is a concern for you.
However, commensurate with a higher cost for private lessons comes a higher focus on your learning. Just as cost of a teacher is spread over all the students in a class, so too the teacher’s time is divided between them: any personal attention or accommodation for your individual needs and preferences has to compete with others’. If your learning patterns fit well with the teacher’s educational methods, this may not be much of a concern, but finding a match like that is essentially a matter of luck.
Another primary benefit you purchase with the extra cost of a private lesson is convenience. Classes must take place at a set time, and students are expected to arrange their own schedules accordingly. If you miss a lesson, it’s incumbent on you to catch up on your own or risk falling behind permanently. Commutes can also be onerous. Again, it’s certainly possible that you will find a class that fits well with your schedule and doesn’t require much travel to reach, but you can’t count on it.
A private tutor, on the other hand, only needs to work to your schedule (and their own), and can be available at a time that’s convenient for you. There are limits, of course, but when it’s often a matter of as little as a half an hour either way to avoid conflict, the ability to control your scheduling can make all the difference. There again, tutors generally meet at your home, or in some public place convenient for you. If this means a long commute for them, you may be required to pay a little extra to cover transportation costs and time, but the time commitment of the commute has been shifted away from you.
Private tutors are also available online. You can take lessons via Skype or Google Hangouts and receive all the same benefits of private lessons, typically at a lower cost than traditional in-person lessons, with the added convenience of being able to take your lessons anywhere you have an Internet connection.
However you choose to proceed, best of luck and welcome to the study of French!
Don’t wait too long to get started. Search for a French tutor near you or online today!
Photo by Morgan