Updated: Jul 14, 2020
You’ve decided you want to take your English learning seriously so you’re looking for the best option to help you achieve your goals. For a lot of people, going to a language school to study English is a popular choice. It feels familiar because we’ve all been in classrooms and we’ve all attended classes with a teacher. Learning a language like English, however, is a completely different experience compared to other subjects. It requires a lot more practical activities because the aim of learning English is to use it with other people. It’s also a more personal experience as each person learns languages at their own pace.
So, should you go to a language school? Should you study in a school in your own country or go to an English-speaking country? What kinds of schools exist? In this article, we’re going to look at the advantages and disadvantages of the options for English language schools to help you decide if they’re right for you.
Study English in your own country
For most people, learning English begins during their school years and that can be a mixed bag in terms of quality. Regular schools are focused on giving you a broad range of knowledge which means that the English you will learn will depend on your own personal dedication and interest. If you’re still in school and you want to improve your English further, going to an English language school as a supplement can be a good option.
The main advantage is that the school will be focused on the teaching of English and maybe other languages. Teachers, who will mostly be non-native English speakers, will generally be hired based on their English level and some qualifications, such as university degrees and teaching certifications. A lot of English learners are concerned about having non-native speakers as teachers. Both native and non-native English teachers have their strengths and weaknesses but what is most important are qualifications. Teachers who are native speakers but don’t have any teaching qualifications will not have the right skills to teach you. Check with the school you’re signing up for about what qualifications their teachers have.
If you’re not in school, depending on your financial and job situation, you have a few more options to consider. Going to an English language school can be a lower cost option that also keeps you close to your job. It’s even more beneficial if you’re just starting your English learning or your level is still low. There are definitely benefits to learning English from someone who can speak your own language. But, if what you’re looking for is interaction with a native English teacher then you can look into either finding a tutor that lives in your country or get an online teacher, which is cheaper of the two options.
Learning English in your own country is definitely possible because the English teaching world is growing and more and more teachers are getting the right qualifications. Regardless of teachers being native or non-native, as long as they’re qualified you will have more chances to find one that will teach you at a high quality. If money and time, however, aren’t an issue and you’re interested in having an adventure, you might want to consider travelling to an English-speaking country to learn English.
Study English in an English-speaking country
Learning English in a country like the UK, the USA, and Australia is becoming more and more popular as the years go by. From younger learners who are still in high school to adults and professionals, the amount of people choosing to live and study abroad to learn English is quite large. Even families are choosing to send their young children to spend a few weeks or months to improve their English. It’s definitely a beneficial experience if you have the time and money because you will not only study English but you will also have more chances to use it.
Travelling to an English-speaking country means you will live there and that requires you to have the language ability to take care of your needs. It’s quite possible to find communities of people from your own country but that would defeat the purpose of you living in an English-speaking country. If you are taking this option, it’s best to dive in with both feet and try to use your English as much as possible to get by. This way, your English fluency will improve as well as your confidence in speaking the language.
By travelling to an English-speaking country to learn English, you’re more likely to have lessons from a teacher who is not only a native speaker but also properly qualified. The UK and USA both have schemes for training teachers to teach English and companies that are accredited by language organizations, such as the British Council, are expected to hire qualified teachers.
Generally, traveling abroad to learn English is a great experience with a lot of benefits if you can afford to make the trip. Like a lot of things in life, however, it does come with its own set of risks which grow larger due to the high cost. The risks stem mostly from the school you choose to sign up with.
Big company or small school
The choice of English language school usually boils down to two major categories: you’re either signing up with a big company or a small local school. The differences between these two choices aren’t always obvious because of the way bigger companies advertise themselves. Small schools for learning English don’t have the budgets to advertise as much which makes them rarely get exposure to agencies. Both choices have advantages and disadvantages when it comes to your English learning.
Large companies, like Education First (EF) and International House, have a lot of resources and systems to help their students learn English. The main advantage they have is that they are forced to hire qualified teachers in order to keep their accreditations with organizations such as the British Council. If you’re studying with a big company, you can rest assured that your teacher has been trained properly. You can also expect that in most cases a large company will have a lot of materials and resources to offer its teachers which is highly effective when delivering a more personal experience. On the other hand, learning English with a big company can be an unpleasant experience for a number of reasons. Big companies don’t typically pay their teachers well enough which means your teacher may not be motivated enough to do his or her best. Some of the biggest companies may also expect their teachers to use their own English coursebooks and materials which gives limited options to make lessons more personal. This isn’t a frequent thing but it does happen. Finally, large companies are more focused on the evaluation and review scores you give them as a customer and not so much on the English learning results their students have. It’s important to remember that a big company will likely operate like any other company in any other industry so don’t expect a proper educational environment.
Small local schools may not have a large number of resources for learning English but they’re generally more focused on delivering a quality educational experience. Prices for smaller schools can be high or low depending on the region they're located and the number of English teachers and staff they have. Smaller schools also usually do not have a lot of technology, such as computer labs and projectors in the classrooms, that you might find in big companies. Teachers may also not be paid well enough but the main difference is that they likely have more time to plan their lessons. It’s also a lot more likely that you will have the same teacher throughout your course which can have a lot of benefits for your learning. Small schools sometimes may not have the budget to maintain accreditation with language organizations so it’s possible some of their teachers may not be qualified or still working towards their qualification.
Overall, the choice boils down to your budget, time, and your expectations of your experience. Big companies have a lot of resources while good small schools are better environments for learning English. You do, however, have to be aware of a specific type of language school you should avoid.
I’m not sure where the term “cowboy school” comes from but it’s used a lot in the English teaching industry in the UK. “Cowboy schools” are language schools that pop up during the summer period, which is the busiest time of the year for English language companies, and then they close once the period is over. The problem with these schools is that they don’t usually have regular staff and teachers that work for them which means it’s more likely the teachers aren’t qualified. Resources for teaching are also likely to be scarce and the facilities might be questionable or unfit for learning English. Not all pop-up schools are “cowboy schools” but it’s important to check how the company you’re signing up with operates or else you may end up with a bad English learning experience. Learning English in a language school has a lot to offer in terms of your own improvement. You get to interact with other English language students, speak a lot of English, and receive feedback on your progress. The choice of learning English in your own country or in an English-speaking country comes down to your preferences and budget. The internet, on the other hand, is becoming more and more a popular place to learn English because of the lower cost and convenience of learning at home.
There you have it! I hope this has been useful. If so, share this article with someone who wants to learn English, follow us on Instagram and try making some examples in the comments below!
See you in the next lesson!