Choosing a language school abroad I – Size does matter!

Learning a foreign language is about interaction and active participation

Learning a foreign language is about interaction and active participation

If you are planning to take a language course abroad, here you will find a series of posts with tips to help you find a good, reliable school.

School size:

Give some thought to what you would like to find when you arrive at your destination: a big, chain-type school with hundreds of students coming in each Monday, or a medium-size or small school with a limited amount of newcomers per week.

My personal choice is a small to medium-size language school, with a relaxed, cosy and friendly environment. Chances are that in a small, laid-back school I will also find friendly and relaxed staff and teachers, who will really have time for me. Not only do I want to learn a language or improve my language skills, but also to get to know the local people working at the school, as well as my fellow classmates from around the world.

Usually, the “about us” section in the website of every language school has a description of the school. Some schools are cooperatives in which the administrative staff and the teachers equally share the profits, or even non-profit organizations. I like to favour this kind of schools whenever possible.

Course size:

Foreign language classes with 15 students or more are just too crowded for my taste. Learning a language is about interaction and active participation, not just absorbing grammar rules and vocabulary (which I can do at home on my own).

In class I want the teacher to be able to focus on my weak points and help me overcome them, I want to work with my classmates, use and exercise my newly acquired skills, and have fun. Ideally, group classes shouldn’t have more than 12 or 13 students, 15 at the most.

You will be able to make the most of each class in smaller groups, with student-centred lessons and more time of personalized attention. It’s not about craving for attention or selfishness, but hey, in-context language learning is not for free, so it does make sense to try to make the most of each class minute!

Obviously, the fact that I prefer the smaller schools with reduced group classes does not imply that I also go for “reduced” quality. In the next post I will discuss quality standards and labels.


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