The Surprising Reasons Why Private French Classes Are NOT for everyone

by | Apr 9, 2021 | French language tips

Take in these figures for a moment. According to the very serious Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, about 300 million people speak French in the world. And about 50 million people are currently studying French as a second language. 

That’s a lot of people. And with high numbers like these, you can feel confident and assured that your decision to learn French is a practical one. French is useful, relevant and isn’t going anywhere. In fact, by some estimates, it ranks on the top 10 list of most common languages spoken in the world. It’s the official language of 29 nations from Europe to Africa to North America.

In short — French speakers are everywhere! 

With so many people learning and speaking French, there is no reason you can’t either. Because if they can do it, you can too — I promise.

But what is the best way to learn French as an adult? The first question prospective students usually have is whether it’s better to take one-on-one lessons or join a classroom. It’s the age-old question — group classes or private lessons? In this article, I explore these two learning options and unpack the surprising reasons why private French classes Are NOT for everyone. 

How do people choose their French course? 

The main challenge adult learners face is finding a course that fits their lifestyle. In order to make a rational and calculated decision, students will usually take the following criteria into consideration: 

  • Dynamics —  what’s involved?   
  • Frequency — how often? 
  • Structure — which format?
  • Schedule — when is it?
  • Location — where is it?
  • Rhythm —  what’s the flow? 
  • Teaching style — how is it taught?
  • Price — how much does it cost? 

With the overwhelming amount of information and plethora of French schools both online and offline, how can you determine or confidently choose the best strategy for your learning? And for learners who’ve gone so many years without studying — how can you figure out which path is best for your specific needs?

As I noted, there are a lot of options. So many that it can feel pretty anxiety-invoking if you don’t have a clear plan. Sifting through all the possibilities and doing the necessary research to figure out where to invest your time and money can feel like a job in and of itself.

You’re constantly weighing the necessary factors: finding out where to look in the first place, comparing prices, reading reviews, making sure teachers are native French speakers AND speak your own native language. It’s a tall order to fill. 

And if you don’t do your research properly — you risk sinking money into something that you might regret later or just completely abandon. 

Together or apart? Group or Private Lessons 

There’s a common assumption that learning French with private lessons is the best strategy no matter what. With all that one-on-one attention it surely makes sense, right?  Not necessarily.

In an effort to make your decision easier, I’ve done some field research and investigation. I’ve asked my amazing polyglot network to find out which method people (specifically people who have learned multiple languages successfully) prefer and why.

My findings show that group classes are amazing for people who:

  • Thrive off of team spirit — people who like group motivation
  • Enjoy a ‘togetherness dynamic’ and benefit from the group accountability that comes with it 
  • Crave a collective rhythm
  • Enjoy learning from others, their experiences and questions
  • Like the social aspect of meeting new people and making friends who are also language learners 
  • Want a sense of belonging to a community of other language learners, usually as a motivating tool 
  • Are extroverted or enjoy interacting with others

If you demonstrate or vibe with any of these traits, you may actually show faster progress in a group setting.

On the other hand, private one-on-one French lessons are good for people who

  • Are more introverted and feel nervous when speaking in groups or around others 
  • Need to work on their self-confidence and don’t want to be around other learners where they can more easily compare their progress
  • Are concentrated on having faster and more efficient results — usually due to a preset goal or exam 
  • Need personal accountability during every step of their progress
  • Prefer to have customized training to address specific grammar or vocabulary 
  • Want to be the sole star of the show (or lesson) 
  • Are fast learners, and maybe bored by a group setting where the pace will also be determined by others 

I myself teach both private and group French lessons, and I can tell you that the dynamics of each are dramatically different. As I’ve witnessed with my students, both options are amazing, it just depends on the right fit for you.

One of my students recently took a one-month intensive course at my school. Excited by her progress, she continued private lessons once they ended to improve her skills even more. After the third lesson, she came to me with a confession. Begrudgingly, she admitted she wasn’t feeling the private lessons as much. She preferred the dynamics of the group, the motivation and the group accountability they offered. While she still enjoyed her private classes, she found them to be more pressure and less exciting than the group interactions. Other students feel exactly the opposite way.

As head of a language school, my role is to make my clients and students happy. And above all, to be transparent and honest. I cherish and celebrate my students, and I want them to feel motivated and get the results they set out to acquire. That’s why in the past, I’ve recommended certain clients to search for group classes elsewhere, knowing at that time that my school couldn’t help them. Since 2020 though, I’ve been able to help these students by offering online group courses.

Why was I wrong? 

As a private French teacher for many years, I had convinced myself that one-on-one lessons were unequivocally the best solution. No matter what.

But I was completely wrong.

During my own polyglot journey, I’ve studied several languages trying both group and private lessons. While I personally prefer private classes because I love creating a strong connection with my teachers, I see how group classes offer opportunities for light-hearted interaction and community building that private classes may not. 

It can take the pressure off when you are in a group setting. It can feel reassuring when your fellow students make the same mistakes as you or struggle with the same grammar concepts.  

It can also be really fun to connect with other learners and celebrate each other’s successes. Plus, group lessons are more affordable than one-on-one lessons.

If you were like me and thought private lessons were the only way to go — I encourage you to consider group courses. With the insights above, I hope you’ll be able to find the best language course for you and your goals.

Let me know what you prefer — group courses or private lessons?

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