When you are preparing to live abroad, thinking about how you are going to learn the language can be a heavy question on your mind. If you are considering starting on your language learning journey before you go, we recommend checking out this post for our top tips for before you move abroad. Once you are already living in your destination, however, we believe that taking classes at a language school can be beneficial to your progress as well.
Note: What we refer to here are not private classes but group classes at a language school. For more information on private classes (which you can also find many times at the same language school), check out this post.
Why We Believe Language Schools Bring Value
If you are wanting to learn a language, especially the more grammatical side, language schools can be a huge help for you. This is because you will most likely be placed in a group of people at a similar level to you and be able to advance together. We also think they can be beneficial if you are studying for a Spanish language exam like the DELE exam because, oftentimes, the curriculum is structured around the exam.
And because you are already in a group, studying in a Spanish language school can also help you find a community in the city you are in. While you cannot expect close interaction with the locals, it will connect you with other people who are in the city and share a similar experience to you—attempting to learn the language. This is a great way to get started in your new city because having something in common is a strong base for creating friendships.
At the same time, our experience has taught us that all language classes are not the same and there are several elements you are going to want to keep in mind to find the best option for you. Here are the top three questions we think you should be asking yourself (and the language school) before you start studying there:
1.) What Kind of Learner Are You?
This might be a really hard question for you to answer if you have never thought about it before but understanding yourself as a learner will really help you find an educational fit that works well for you. We believe that there are many ways to learn languages and just because someone you know does really well reading in Spanish, it doesn’t mean you will too. Instead, you might find that watching movies and listening to songs are better mediums for your language learning journey. And when you know what works best for you, you will be able to find a school or teachers who are able to provide you with the kind of learning that suits your needs.
In addition, when choosing classes it is important to think about what kind of schedule and teacher rotation you are looking for. Some people favor one teacher who gives all the classes, whereas having a different teacher (and subject) every hour really works well for other people. Most schools offer one option or the other, so having an idea of what your preference is can help you narrow down the choices.
If you have no idea how to get started, we recommend considering how you have found learning other things in different classes throughout your life so far (including things that might seem irrelevant like mathematics). What has worked best for you? What really doesn’t work well? When you can see a pattern for what types of learning work best for you, you can also look for a school that offers something more along those lines. Even when it might seem like every place offers the same things, knowing the nuances of how you learn will allow you to differentiate the options.
2.) What Kind of Classes and Other Interaction Would You Like?
You will find many different types of language schools out there, some that just focus on classes and others where they have many cultural events as well. If you only want the grammar lesson, it might not matter to you that the school has a mini café and daily breaks where you can get to know your fellow classmates. On the other hand, if you want social integration, the classes themselves may be the least important part of the package.
We have found that in Spain there are many different options and a lot of schools will offer things like movie night or culture outings in the town. We personally love this extra interaction that is offered by the schools and have often taken advantage of the cultural activities to learn more and make friends. Just keep in mind that sometimes these extras are included in the price of the classes themselves or they might have additional charges, but, if this is something that is of interest to you, look for it specifically when searching for schools.
3.) What are the Reviews?
In our experience, the cheapest place might not be the best experience but that doesn’t mean you have to go with the most expensive one either. What you really want to make sure you are doing is finding a place that is good fit for your needs. That is why the final question we think you should be asking is “What are the reviews?”
When reading what other people have experienced, remember what you have already answered to the previous questions. Feel out what sort of environment you will find there and if it will fit your needs. If it just doesn’t really feel like it will be a good fit, maybe you should consider going elsewhere for your studies or taking private one-on-one classes. Remember, you can always try a place out, but you don’t have to stick with it either if it’s not helping your progress!
The Downsides of Studying at a Language School
While there is lots to be learned at the language schools and you do have the opportunity to create a community, you will find that the level of integration into the city will probably be only within the foreign crowd. While you may have the chance to carry out intercambios de idiomas with locals that are organized by the school, in our opinion, it is not the same as living with Spanish roommates for example. Still, we want to note that this is not necessarily a bad thing!
While you might not get the “authentic Spanish experience” at a language school, you will learn loads, meet some new people, and probably have a wonderful experience. In all honesty, we wouldn’t change our time at a Spanish schools for other language learning opportunities just because our growth with language teachers has been so great.
What have your experiences with language schools been?
P.S. If you are moving to Granada and looking for schools, let us know and we will share our recommendations!