As usual, the answer depends largely on your personal situation. I have listed some situations where you should choose for group lessons and other considerations that may lead you to choose taking one-on-one language lessons.
Some reasons for joining group language lessons are:
1. You’re short on cash
Let’s be frank about it: individual language lessons are simply much more expensive than group lessons. In Singapore, you can expect to pay well over S$ 50 per hour for a good teacher. And I do advise you to look for a good teacher. Since learning a new language takes a lot of time and effort, you want to have a teacher that can simplify the process for you and make sure you learn the language correctly.
So if you don’t have S$ 150-200 a week to spend on learning the language, you are probably better off finding group lessons at a reputable school. While you won’t get the individual attention, by sharing the teacher’s pay among your fellow students, you’ll be able to afford a good teacher.
2. You are a beginner
Language learning is not rocket science, and especially in the beginning, everyone will have to learn the same fundamentals. You won’t miss the personal attention that a private language tutor can give in your early stages of learning a new language: you and your classmates will very likely be struggling with the same concepts.
3. You thrive in a group environment
If you have a competitive personality and are driven by a desire “to be the best” or a fear “not to fall behind”, group classes add another dimension to your motivation to learn a language. Or maybe you simply enjoy being with like minded people and this gives you an extra incentive to show up for the classes.
So far for the group lessons. There are also good reasons to consider a private tutor. So when should you consider taking one-on-one language lessons? Here are three good reasons:
1. You’re short on time
You may have a busy job or a lot of other obligations. You just can’t seem to find a group class that happens on the time slots that you are available (Saturday evening and Sunday morning). Or you need to have to travel abroad for your work regularly, another very common situation in Singapore.
In this case, you’re probably better off with private language lessons. You can work out a time slot with your teacher that works for you most of the time, and if it doesn’t work out once, you won’t have to somehow find the time to catch up with your fellow language learners. You and your teacher can just pick up the learning where you left it last time.
2. You are already at an advanced level
Whereas language learning starts out with a more or less standardized set of things to learn, you will develop more specific needs as your level in the language you are learning increases. There are advanced group classes, but as the classes go from beginner to advanced, you’ll see more and more people joining the class who have learnt the language before to some extent in a different setting. The needs and level of the participants will start to diverge, which means that you’re more likely to either waste your time listening to the teacher explaining something you already know, or equally waste your time in a class as a spectator to discussions that are mostly ‘over your head’. With private lessons, your tutor can tune in to exactly your level, so every minute of what you learn is helping you improve your language ability.
3. You have very specific objectives
Let’s say you have learnt Japanese in Japan for a while, and are totally fine with writing the language. Your spoken Japanese is generally fine, but you would want to fine tune your presentation skills, especially for the use in formal business situations. Is it possible to find a group class that covers this? It is, but not likely, and even if you do find a class, it may be at a location or time you can’t make, or you find out after the class that your fellow students aren’t really up to the same level as you.
By engaging a private teacher in this case, you’ll achieve much more in a shorter time.
In short, consider taking private tuition when you have a packed schedule, are already an advanced learner of the language, or have very specific learning objectives. In most other cases, group lessons will serve you just fine.
Does what I write about classes vs. private tuition match with your experience? Please post your thoughts below!