Contrary to what you might expect a website focused on independent language learning to advocate, we still believe courses are a great resource.
However, the purpose of this website is to make independent language learning more effective, motivating and cost-effective than any course could ever be, so admittedly, we are quite biased on the subject. In this entry, we will focus on who should choose a course and how, leaving our comments on why independent learning can be more effective for a later entry.
First, what is a course? In general, it is when someone with a great deal of language experience designs a program to help students learn a language. They mix the strategies, tools, goals and timelines that they think will help students succeed. The most attractive characteristic of a course is that someone has taken the time and energy to do all this for you! Hopefully, they have considered all of the elements found in this dictionary, and weaved them into a comprehensive program.
The question you need to consider then is which “type” of learner the course is designed for, and whether that “type” fits your learning style, content preferences and goals. Someone who finds the classroom boring, exams stressful and activities (often pulled out of a 20-year-old textbook) de-motivating probably shouldn’t sign up for a university language course. Yet, that is the first and sometimes only method for learning that many students are aware of.
With the internet, an almost infinite number of resources for any learning style or budget are available (see the Resource Database to see just how many). If you want to practice French by reading translated Japanese comic books, you can. Or maybe listening to Johan describe personal development strategies with an intermediate level vocabulary is more your style. More than 101 different learning methods have been developed by polyglots around the world, and many of them are awesome. The point is — there are too many awesome options to settle for one that doesn’t get you excited about language learning.
Courses are arguably most effective in the beginning of the learning journey when the student is frequently learning new concepts because questions arise more often and having someone there to answer them is effective (though this can now also be done online). Furthermore, this is the time when you want to avoid forming bad habits, like pronouncing a word incorrectly, because fixing them down the road becomes much more challenging. That’s one reason intensive language courses can be a great way to jumpstart a language journey.
Of course, not all courses are created equally. So, trying a few out before investing a significant amount of time in any one program is ideal. Then you can compare your results to those you might achieve using the strategies and resources available to independent learners found at ilearnlanuages.com and decide what is best for you. To evaluate a course, you’ll need to already have a bit of language learning experience—which is why this dictionary exists!
Finally, you will probably try to find a course by reading reviews online and weighing the opinion of others to make your decision (like we do for everything else). Just remember that affiliate-link programs to language learning resources are the number one revenue source for a large number of blogs/websites, which creates a bit of a conflict of interest, right? So make sure you read reviews that come from a variety of people who aren’t financially compensated, like the Review Team at iLearnLanguages.com.
Independent, Goals, Motivation