Just a couple of decades ago, if you decided to start learning a language as an adult your choices on how to go about it were uncomplicated and limited. In today’s world your learning options have increased and diversified beyond recognition. Having more choice also means having to make decisions about which one is the best for you. In this article we explore your possibilities and how to choose the route that suits you as a learner.

Evidently, there is not one unique option which fits all learners. The best way to learn depends very much on your natural disposition as a learner, your learning goals, your budget and your time constraints.

In the pre-internet days, learning a language would generally mean joining an evening class. This is still the number one choice for lots of learners, who prefer to learn in a social environment surrounded by a familiar classroom setting.

The obvious advantage of learning in a group is the interaction among students. Interacting with other learners creates somehow realistic scenarios in which to practise a second language in a fun way.

The main drawback of learning with others is having to share the tutor’s attention. Teachers must help all students, which in turn might mean you have to go at a slower pace than you could actually go or on the contrary, slow down your pace to match the majority’s.

In order to make good progress when you study in a group environment is to do your homework religiously as this will definitely support the learning you do in the classroom.

For those who have the means and prefer to have a teacher all for themselves choosing private tuition has always been an excellent option. The obvious shortcoming of this choice is that by having the exclusive attention of your tutor, you must forgo the social aspect you would have enjoyed in a group environment.

Face to face private tuition suits more those who like to have the luxury of having lessons designed to their goals and learning style. In order to complement the lack of social interaction, students can join a meet up group in their second language or enjoy online chats and forums.

The benefits students get out of having private tuition are considerable and for some learners, being able to enjoy tailor-made lessons tops the social side of language learning in a group.

Both group and private tuition centre on having a tutor to guide learners, but some students completely forgo the role of a tutor and guide themselves independently. Using self-teaching courses has always been a very popular choice. It’s affordable and accessible at any time and place.

Self-teaching courses are the right option if you just wish to get to grips with the very basics. Old self-teach courses have evolved into software apps available on your phone, computer or tablet. There are literally hundreds of applications which help you learn a wide range of languages. One of the great improvements on their self-teach “grandparents” is the voice recognition feature, enabling students to be corrected when making mistakes.

When you are really serious about acquiring a second language to a mastery level, using apps or traditional self-teach courses exclusively is not going to cut it. Despite their claims, it is very unlikely that you will become a fluent speaker but they are a good place to start if you do not have access to private or group lessons.

In the last twenty year or so, the advent of the internet era has deeply changed the face of language learning. The basic teaching and learning methods might have remained almost untouched, but the variety of media and access to almost an infinite amount of data has developed the way we see language acquisition today.

Using face time or skype to have a lesson with your tutor might have seemed like something out of Star Trek only a few years ago, but it is now the chosen method for lots of students around the world. Online learning offers a few advantages over face to face learning. Some of its best features are its flexibility in terms of time and location, the ability to record lessons, the use of interactive whiteboards and having immediate access to the internet.

Online learning is ideal for students who live in remote areas, are technologically minded or have severe time constraints. Preferably, it should be complemented with some face to face interaction either in a group or an individual environment to practise some more realistic day to day situations.

Our advice is to not stick to just one of these option. The best thing about all these varied and different ways is that you don’t have to choose just one. Now more than ever before, students can pick and mix methods and resources to have a well- rounded learning experience. For instance, group or individual lessons can be complemented by applications to help you consolidate learning vocabulary, such as flashcards games or Duolingo. Knowledge acquired through face to face lessons can be also reinforced by having extra online lessons. Mix and keep it challenging to motivate your learning.

There has never been a better time to learn a language.

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