Many of you wonder whether it’s better to take private classes or classes at a well-known school. A lot of people prefer to take classes at a school, and there are several reasons for this. College courses could be cheaper than a private instructor. The school might have a good name. They may think the professor will be a more experienced teacher, or they will be stricter, or the instruction is more structured. Or maybe they simply feel more motivated when they’re in a classroom with other students.
Some of these are good reasons, but in reality, private classes are always more effective. Consider the biggest benefit of private classes: they are all about you. A college course might be more strict and structured, but this isn’t always a good thing. Not all students learn at the same pace. If you learn faster than others, you’ll feel bored and unchallenged. If you learn slower than others, then you won’t be able to keep up, and you’ll feel frustrated. In either case, you’ll feel like you’re wasting time and not learning enough.
In a private class, on the other hand, the professor adjusts her teaching to your speed. She can move faster or slower depending on your pace. If you have questions, you can ask them at any time. The professor will wait until you understand. She will work on your weaknesses, and can give you more practice, or schedule an extra lesson for review. If you already know something, she can move quickly through that part.
As for the question of prestige: remember that though a college may have a good name, that doesn’t mean all of their professors are experienced. You could have a better chance of finding a great instructor on your own—and that way, you can actually ask how many years of experience they have, and choose the teacher you like.
But what about the other students? Doesn’t it help to learn in groups?
Well, in some ways. Some say that if you’re not around other students, you can’t practice. This is true in a sense, because you can’t practice with anyone other than the professor. But, instead of practicing with somebody who knows only as much or less than you do, wouldn’t you rather practice with somebody who really knows the language? They’ll be a model of pronunciation, and they’ll correct you when you’re wrong.
Now, a lot of students get shy trying to practice a new language with somebody who speaks it fluently. It can seem easier to practice with somebody who also makes mistakes. But in the end, it’s much better for you to practice with a person who knows. And remember, your instructor’s job is to teach Spanish to people who don’t know it—they hear mistakes all the time! That’s like feeling shy about being sick when you go to the doctor—that’s why you’re there in the first place! And if you just like the company of another student, remember you can always take a private class in a group of 2 or 3.
So, I know that it’s difficult to afford private classes, but if you can do it, it’s worth it! Just make sure you have an experienced instructor, and ask them how long they’ve been teaching. And the great thing about private lessons is you can take as many or as few as you like.
If you can’t afford Spanish private classes, I’ve recorded private lessons with my past students to accompany my Spanish learning books. They offer a lot of the benefits of private lessons: you can hear the student practice, and make mistakes, and my explanations and pronunciation and corrections. It’s a great way to feel like you’re in a private class without having to pay the price of one.