Call me old-fashioned, but I find it hard to imagine learning a language without taking face-to-face classes. I have tried it several times, where I just bought a book with CD’s such as ‘teach yourself’, and I have seen some results, but not the type of lasting result where you really cross the border from knowing a couple of phrases to being able to speak the language to some extent.
I guess it has to do with the way I have been conditioned to learn language. The Dutch school system emphasises language learning a lot; in such a way that it is impossible to leave secondary school without at least having studied (besides Dutch) English and another modern language, usually either French or German. The teaching came with a chapter structure, homework assignments, tests and peer pressure.
Always wanting to be a good student, I wouldn’t want to score an insufficient grade. Traditional-style teaching breaks up the material in clearly defined ‘blocks’ and tests provide a clear milestones. I knew that by the date of the test you need to be proficient in a certain sentence structure or know a defined vocabulary.
It’s true that online or do-it-yourself learning methods provide similar structure and some also have tests included, but the results aren’t as public as in a school and you can set the date yourself. With school-style teaching there is no excuse, you have to learn until you’re proficient, and in the run-up to your test, that test becomes your top priority. The flexibility that web or purely book-based methods offer has its down side too.
I’m not saying that I’m not seeing the value of all types of electronic tools that can now help in the learning process. They can provide great support in gaining an understanding more quickly and reinforcing what has been learnt. But in the end it’s the discipline and continuous effort that pushes a learner from a non-speaker to a speaker. And to me, classes are indispensible to maintain that discipline.
How about you? Do you think it’s necessary to take classes in order to learn a new language?