When most people think about taking language lessons, they think of one-on-one classes. Why? Well, there could be a number of reasons. When we think of school, we think of uncomfortable desks, boring textbooks, and well-meaning but overworked teachers and we don’t want that.
Another reason is a simple calculation we tend to do. We think: well, there is 90 minutes. If I get the teacher all to myself, all that time will be mine. So, 90 minutes = all for me! Yay! Some students feel like this:
But, if I “share” the teacher with others, we will have to divide that time by the number of students! So, if there are 5 of us, that means 90/5 = 18. So, we only get 18 minutes each instead of 90 minutes. Of course, I prefer the one on one class!
Well, as someone has done countless of 1 on 1 classes as well as countless group classes, I can tell you the math does not always work that way.
Yes, classes can be too big. Believe me, I know: I once had to teach a “speaking” class of 50 Chinese students. Though they were well-behaved, teaching that many students was an exercise in frustration. What’s the point? You can barely hear what other people say, the teacher is too busy to pay too much attention to what you are saying, and you will probably be as frustrated as the teacher. I believe that particular class ended me with kicking a piece of chalk through a window :p Who kicks chalk when they get upset? The younger me :p
These guys might have a problem getting the teacher’s attention. I hope this picture isn’t of a language class:
But, if you have the class of a right size (from 3 to 12 people, in my experience), you benefit from your classmates. Why? Well, you can’t always think of everything you don’t know. Being able to work with a partner is just one of the reasons there is a sort of synergy that arises when you put many heads together.
Do you remember when your teacher in school said “If you have a question, someone else in the class probably has the same question” ? Well, it’s often true! In language learning, it is very important to figure out what you know and what you do not know. I often compare language to a large house, the rooms of which you have to explore. It’s more effective if you do it as a team. One of your classmates might ask: “What’s the difference between ‘I have gone’ and ‘I went’ “? You might have been wondering the same thing but would not have thought to ask.
There are people to share your frustrations, to answer your questions. One on one class can sometimes be frustrating if you or the teacher don’t have energy on a particular day. Students feel more pressure in a one on one class. They feel like they have to perform for the teacher and if they get anything wrong, they get frustrated.
If there are other classmates who are engaged in the class, they can suggest other topics, or change the energy of the class. It has often been the case that the class energy was running low when a student asked me a question, or cracked a joke, which got us rolling on another idea.
More things happen. If class consists of you sitting and listening to the teacher, you are probably not in a language class. You have to talk in a language class! That is the only way you can improve! If you always to talk to the teacher, interactions tend to get monotonous. Discussions are richer. There is more laughter, more possibilities to talk to different people.