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A well-suited language school can help propel you to the land of dream achievers, while a school that isn’t catered to your needs can do exactly the opposite.
That said, choosing the right school can be far from a walk in the park; it’s a long process that involves a series of steps. However, fear not.
Whether you are considering learning Chinese, Spanish, French, or any other foreign language, our action-oriented guide will help you find a language school in the easiest and most stress-free way possible.
Tip #1: Define your needs
The first thing to do in your hunt to find a language school is to define your needs. Of course, becoming fluent in your desired foreign language is the endgame. But, what really motivates you to want to learn the language?
Are you preparing for a specific test, perhaps a visa test? Are you planning to join a university abroad? Or perhaps you just love the culture of the country (or countries) that speak the language?
Whatever the reason, it’s important you know that different classes offer different training, which is therefore suited to different purposes. As a result, you must precisely understand your need to be able to choose a school that best suits your specific purpose.
Tip #2: Research the school
Now that you know the language you want to learn and your drive for doing so, you’re going to need to put on your research hat. There are likely many language schools in your area, but not all can guarantee quality services, or the right services for you.
When narrowing down your options, it’s advisable that you check on things such as the school’s accreditation, online reviews from former students, and the application processes. If possible, visit the school to meet the staff and ask if you can sit in on a class for trial purposes.
Here are some red flags to look out for:
- No online presence
- No accreditation
- A learning program dominated by more out-of-classroom activities than in-classroom time
- More freelancing, part-time teachers than full-time, in-house teachers
Tip #3: Research the teaching staff
There is a saying among the education community: a learner is only as good as their teacher. While this isn’t supposed to apply to every case in existence, it certainly applies to most. Nobody wants to be taught by a teacher who doesn’t get the best out of them, do they?
Therefore, it’s important to find credible information about the teaching staff working at the schools you’re considering. Here, you must be bold enough to ask as many questions as possible to get sufficient information about your would-be teacher.
Questions you should consider asking include:
- What is the teacher’s highest level of education?
- Is the teacher qualified to teach the language?
- Has the teacher received any further training?
- Does the teacher have reputable and legitimate testimonials?
Tip #4: Teacher-to-student ratio
The next thing you need to confirm to find a language school that works for you is the teacher-to-student ratio, as class sizes vary from school to school. Some institutions will have a max class size of six, others 14, and some even as many as 40.
A school with a smaller class size (ideally eight to ten students) is usually preferable, as this will mean more time and personal attention will be dedicated per student. Smaller class sizes can also make for more comfortable learning environments especially when you are just starting out.
Tip #5: Availability
This is largely associated with the type of teachers the school has and the teacher-to-student ratio.
- Will you be able to contact the teachers after class hours?
- How fast do teachers answer emails?
- Do they have office hours?
In most cases, teachers love being in contact with their students. However, if you are in a big class, some of these privileges may not be granted as the teachers simply won’t have as much time for each student as a teacher with less students would. Either that or the teachers just don’t allow questions etc. outside of office hours because the school might not pay them for this time.
Tip #6: Personal Reasons
Once you have considered the six preceding steps, you’ll then need to make your final decision. If everything has gone well, you’ll probably have narrowed your decision down to two or three schools. Now, it’s all about weighing in your personal preferences to make an informed decision.
Factors you should now consider include:
- Your budget: Prices vary drastically between course types, duration and the qualification of the teachers.
- Payment options: Do they require full payment upfront or offer some financing plans?
- Refund policy: Is their refund policy fair?
- Course duration: How long will the course take to complete? Is it long enough/short enough?
- Schedule: Does the program favor your schedule? Ideally, you won’t need to choose between language learning and a life.
BONUS TIP: Going abroad? Pick your location wisely
Location, location, location. It makes a sizeable difference and must be considered when choosing a language school in another country.
Options are plentiful but where do you really want to spend your time? Which countries are more affordable, which countries perhaps offer a more immersive environment than others, which have the best food!
Certain languages of course, such as Italian, offer one country to study in. But then where do you go inside Italy? Accents vary throughout the country as does cost of living. Then you have languages like Portuguese and Spanish which don’t just offer different cities, but different continents to choose from, where is the best country and city for you?
Take also Mandarin Chinese as an example. The characters even change depending on location. Mainland China using a simplified version of the language and Taiwan using the traditional characters. It’s like learning a whole different language, or so it will feel!
When deciding which school to pick, it is therefore absolutely key to make sure you spend some time researching the perfect country and perfect city to suit your needs.
We hope this guide has offered all the information you need to find a language school suited to your personal situation and needs. Please know that you should always contact your prospective school with enough advance and request advice before making any decision with regard to payments and accommodation.
If classroom study isn’t an option for you, however, you can always teach yourself a new skill. There are plenty of language apps, textbook PDFs, YouTube channels and online tutors that can help you learn anytime, anywhere. Leave a comment below if you have questions about language schools, or tell us about your experience and attempts to find a language school that worked for you.