Why come to a language school to learn English? These days there are so many amazing apps, self-study materials and online courses for learning English that you may begin to ask yourself this question. Well, in fact everything we know about learning a language suggests that the most effective learning still happens face-to-face. This is why location-based learning is the best.
Face-to-face teaching and learning can mirror real-life tasks and challenges. Good examples here are the meetings and negotiations role-plays which language learners engage in on Business English courses. Another opportunity is provided by the ability to deliver small group presentations, complete with language feedback from a trainer and questions from the other group members.
However, in the controlled space of the classroom environment, it’s acceptable to make mistakes; indeed, language errors and misunderstandings are used as the basis of further development. You can ask your trainer and fellow learners all of the questions that you would be embarrassed to ask in ‘real life’. It’s like an expert laboratory for testing out your English skills.
Learning and practicing a language involves communication and that’s something that simply can’t be replicated when you are home alone! Experiential learning gains much better results in speaking and listening in a foreign language.
The most effective learning takes place when you’re emotionally involved; this is much more likely to happen when you’re working with a group of people than when you’re stuck on your own with a book or an app. Oh, and a great side-benefit of this is that you can network with your fellow course participants.
Sometimes, you just need that extra push to get motivated. Having to be in a specific place at a specific time with other people provides this. Compare it to doing a regular exercise class. Of course you could do many of the exercises at home on your own but you may not do them quite right and you don’t have all of the equipment, nor your trainer’s expertise…
And it’s not just Business English that benefits from being face-to-face; it’s widely recognised in business in general that the relationships developed at a distance are a poor second to the rapport built when people are in the same room (see article on why traditional face-to-face meetings are still needed).
Finally, by making the decision to come on a course for a fixed period of time, perhaps even to an unknown city on the other side of the world, you set aside that time to really focus on your English, relatively free of other commitments, with the great advantage of being able to immerse yourself in the language and culture. This makes for an effective and memorable language learning experience.
Finally, some food for thought. Sadly, a child who grows up in isolation beyond what linguists call ‘the critical period for language acquisition’ will never be able to learn a language properly ( see article on the critical period for language acquisition). But if young children with no language from their parents are put together, they will create their own language, as in the celebrated case of the birth of Nicaraguan sign language. If you don’t know the story then please watch this video… it may surprise you!