You want to improve your English conversation skills and are interested in trying out some online classes. So you look around and two main options catch your attention: group conversation classes and one-to-one tutoring
Your best bet to give them both a try and see which works better for you. Either way, here are some things you need to look out for.
The Other Students
When you take group conversation classes, your learning experience will depend a lot on the other students. If you get along well, you’ll be able to learn and grow as a team, motivating each other along the way.
But for group lessons to be effective and enjoyable, two conditions need to be met:
- everyone needs to be at the same level
- everyone needs to learn at roughly the same pace
The first condition is usually met by having students take placement tests, which most online schools do. However, online schools usually can’t guarantee that the second condition will be met. After all, they can’t measure how fast people learn. As a result, the faster learners may feel dragged down by the slower ones and the slower learners may feel pressured by the faster ones.
And sometimes, you’ll end up with annoying know-it-alls or students who ask too many questions. So if you’re interested in online conversation classes, make sure to shop around.
Or try some one-to-one lessons. You’ll have the spotlight to yourself and be able to learn at your own pace. All you have to do is make sure to get along with your tutor!
Another point to consider is how much customized instruction you want from a teacher. One-to-one tutoring will offer the most customized instruction as the tutor only needs to focus on one student: you. You’ll be sure to get feedback tailored to your specific strengths and weaknesses, allowing you to make faster progress.
However, not everyone needs customized instruction. For example, beginners tend to make only certain kinds of mistakes, while advanced students usually make a greater variety of errors. So beginners can find one-to-one tutoring less useful than advanced students.
Of course, there are also differences between students at the same level. For example, if you’re Brazilian, and all your classmates in an online class are from China, you’ll make different mistakes from everyone else. In that case, you may want to see if you can switch to a different class or try one-to-one lessons.
Yet another thing to consider is how much speaking practice you want. In group classes, everyone takes turns speaking, so if you’re taking an hour-long class with five other students, you may only get about ten minutes of speaking practice.
And that’s if the class is managed well. Unfortunately, in many conversation classes, some students will talk more than others, so if there’s a student who hogs the teacher’s attention, you’ll have even less time to speak.
However, some students are OK having less speaking practice. After all, having to speak for a whole lesson can be stressful! If you feel this way, you may want to start with group lessons and then try one-to-one lessons later when you feel more confident.
Alternatively, you can “jump in at the deep end” and just start taking one-to-one lessons until you overcome your fear of speaking. As one of our students put it, “I felt that small group lessons just postponed the ‘pain’ of speaking by myself.”
So if you’re ready to get a lot of speaking practice, try some one-to-one tutoring. Just make sure your tutor doesn’t talk too much!
Learning Vocabulary and Grammar
One other thing to consider is how much vocabulary and grammar you’ll learn in group classes vs. one-to-one lessons.
With one-to-one classes, your tutor will be able to teach you more words directly relevant to your life. While you won’t get as much of this with group classes, you will be exposed to more words: the words that matter to your classmates’ lives. Either ways, you’ll be learning in an intimate setting, which makes words more memorable.
Another important aspect of learning new vocabulary and grammar is “noticing.” As the British Council explains, “A learner might make an error in the use of a preposition, but "notice" its correct use by another learner.”
Funnily, we tend to notice vocab and grammar more when another non-native speaker uses them, so one benefit of group tutoring is that you can learn a lot from hearing what other students say.
One issue is that other learners may use certain words or sentence patterns incorrectly, which may cause you to make mistakes as well. So if accuracy is your number one concern, you may want to stick to one-to-one instruction, where you’re just listening to the teacher’s English.
Give It a Try!
If you’re still unsure, there’s no better way to find out besides taking real lessons! Most services and online teachers offer trial lessons at a discounted rate.
In general, one-to-one tutoring is easier to control for as you only have two variables to worry about: your tutor and yourself. Either way, make sure the e-learning platform you choose is flexible. For example:
- If you’re shopping for online group classes, will the learning platform allow you to switch to another class if you don’t get along with the other students in your original group?
- If you’re looking for a tutor, will the platform let you try lessons with different tutors so you can see which ones you prefer?
- Will the platform let you switch between group classes and one-to-one lessons? If so, how early do you have to reserve one-to-one classes?
And while you’re shopping around, why not give Engoo a try? We’re a one-to-one tutoring platform, but at $1.66 per lesson, we’re more affordable than a lot of services offering group lessons. We’re also highly flexible: you can choose a different tutor every lesson if you want. Book a free trial lesson today!