Oh, language learning. One of my favorite things, and one of the things I started in school. But is the classroom really the best place to learn a second language?
This past May, I finished a semester where I had two foreign language classes: Spanish and French. I was originally planning to major in Spanish, and the program I was in required a second foreign language. I have since then changed both majors and schools, and I intend to continue learning languages on my own. So, I thought now would be a good time to explore the pros and cons of foreign language classes.
I will start with the Pros:
A class is scheduled. You have a specific day and time set aside to go to class and work on your target language.
It is easier to find study buddies. When you are in a foreign language class, the other students are usually at the same level as you, which can be good when it comes to needing a practice partner. You both know what you have to learn, and you can help each mph other, since you understand how much the other person understands.
The instructor can be a good resource. As with any class, a good foreign language teacher can be very helpful to their students. You can go to them with questions about the material, and they should be able to help.
Next are the Cons:
A classroom is very structured.
This is probably a pro for some people, but I don’t like to have to learn specific material that I know I will hardly ever use. I think that structure is important for complete beginners. We should all know how to greet people and talk about ourselves, but there comes a point the vocabulary is not necessarily going to be the best for each person.
There are a lot of grammar drills. In a classroom setting, the teacher has to be able to teach anywhere from 5-50 students, and some schools and colleges have a specific curriculum that has to be followed. These lesson plans include a lot of busywork practicing grammar without really putting things into context with everyday life. This is fine for awhile, but it soon gets boring.
You are not as independent as you could be. You are stuck learning the same thing as everyone else, and if you are either way ahead or behind the rest of the class, you will not have a good experience. If you are learning faster than average, you will get bored. If you don’t learn as quickly, you might become resentful of the language as catching up will seem like a chore.
Other thoughts on language learning in the classroom:
I think that when you are just starting to learn a new language, it is good to have some guidance. This semester, my Spanish class was intermediate, but I was in French I. The knowledge of a teacher was very helpful in beginning the language, and I believe that is especially true for someone who has never gone about learning a foreign language before. Once you have learned one, it is easier to teach yourself another, because you will then know the best method for you.
Thanks for reading!
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