With English becoming an ever increasing skill to acquire and perfect in the globalised marketplace, the overwhelming choice of places to study reflects this reality. From online distance learning to classroom teaching, it’s important to consider your learning needs very carefully when choosing which arrangement is best for you.
In our experience at PS English, private one-to-one lessons are a good fit for many Japanese students. Past and present students repeatedly tell us that group lessons do not always provide enough opportunity for the speaking practice that they had hoped for. Furthermore, it can often be the case that some European students who are used to and comfortable with speaking in front of their peers tend to dominate the conversation. Japanese students tell us that they feel left behind and unable to contribute in such situations.
Unfortunately, such cultural differences may represent the differences in educational priorities placed on the value of speaking in class. Although the Japanese education system is trying hard to improve its students’ grasp of communication in English, rather than solely focusing on reading and grammar, the fact remains that students often leave school having had very little contact with spoken English. It’s no wonder that they arrive in the UK surprised at the reality of a language which sounds so different and alien to the printed words of their grammar textbooks.
Private lessons can help to redress the balance. While reading and writing skills need not be abandoned completely – indeed they can act as springboard to conversation and discussion – speaking and listening practice tends to be the focus. Private lessons allow students to maximise the time devoted to their specific goals. If mistakes are important to students, our teachers can help understand where they are going wrong and attend to particular challenges in far more detail than could ever be possible in a group lesson. Nevertheless, mistakes are an important stepping stone to greater understanding of the language and should never be thought of as a weakness. In one-to-one lessons, an equal amount of time can be spent on speaking for fluency. This is when getting the message across is more important a goal than being completely accurate. It entails going beyond one’s comfort zone and expressing ideas on engaging and interesting topics that are carefully chosen according to individual interests. Private lessons allow this kind of experimentation with language with specific feedback provided by the teacher.
Group lessons do have their rightful place in the mix of learning environments, but for most occasions we feel that private lessons provide the best learning opportunities. Private lessons provide a tailored curriculum, accelerated progression, and appropriate pacing. But crucially they provide a relaxed space in which Japanese students can challenge themselves to speak English to the best of their ability. And a chance to dominate the conversation.
The growth of the internet and ever increasing broadband speeds at affordable prices have opened up a sizeable niche in the eikaiwa sector – that of online private lessons on Skype or other platforms such as Google Hangouts.
In Japan, there is fierce competition between competing eikaiwa schools that solely focus on this way of learning English. Many offer extremely cheap private lessons at times convenient to the learner by often employing non-native speakers. Qualified teachers from the Philippines are streaming their English knowledge across cyberspace to reach an eager Japanese audience.
Beginners of English with no real intention or opportunity to live overseas will benefit hugely from these types of private lesson. But are such lessons enough to feel confident when living and working in an English-speaking country or with such an opportunity on the horizon?
At PS English, all teachers are native speakers of English with the large majority from the UK. A native speaker will provide a level of accuracy of English that is rarely matched by non-native speakers. A native speaker will know the local customs, idioms and colloquialisms that rarely get taught in the EFL classroom. So we offer the ideal combination: a native speaker with all the in-depth knowledge of the workings of the English language. This arrangement will help students to practise having natural conversations with exposure to a typical English accent and an ideal model for good pronunciation. It will also allow for clear explanations as to when and why the conversation sometimes breaks down.
But what about the quality of the streaming and the lack of genuine face-to-face interaction? Paradoxically, some of these drawbacks to online lessons might actually work to the advantage of the student. While Internet connection issues do occasionally occur, they tend to be few and far between. A more legitimate concern of online lessons is the lack of clarity of facial expressions and gestures that people use to communicate in ordinary situations. However, any shortfall in reliance on non-verbal communication, however vital it usually is, actually forces the student (and the teacher) to become ever better active listeners. Online lessons require both parties to attend to the actual content of the words being spoken and to rely less on other cues. This could help students over time become more accustomed to the way English is truly spoken and understood.
Another aspect of the growing attractiveness of online lessons is the advancement in software and apps that promote more effective e-learning. A good example of this is the attempt to bring the benefits of a whiteboard in a traditional classroom to the computer screens. Most teachers start their careers in a typical face-to-face environment, but some have exceled in harnessing the technology to become specialised online teachers. The traditional barriers to online learning such as the immense benefit of visual aids and explanations have largely disappeared. The teacher and student can nowadays view each other’s notetaking in real time.
Above all, online Skype lessons are for many people the ultimate in convenience. Students can avoid wasting time travelling to a classroom and enjoy learning from the comfort of their own home.
How are you?
日本人の英語 - I’m very fine.
自然な英語 - I’m fine / I’m very well thank you.
日本人の英語 - We need to discuss about this problem.
自然な英語 - We need to talk about / discuss this problem.
日本人の英語 - I have never been to there.
自然な英語 - I have never been there.
日本人の英語 - The wedding party was enjoyable.
自然な英語 - I had a great time at the wedding reception.
日本人の英語 - His girlfriend is very smart.
自然な英語 - His girlfriend is very good-looking/attractive.
日本人の英語 - In these days, I’m studying English.
自然な英語 - I’m learning English / taking English lessons at the moment.
日本人の英語 - I forgot my umbrella on the train.
自然な英語 - I left my umbrella on the train.
日本人の英語 - These days, I couldn’t sleep.
自然な英語 - Recently, I haven’t been sleeping well.
日本人の英語 - My co-worker works hardly.
自然な英語 - My colleague works hard / works long hours.
日本人の英語 - I took a holiday [from work] yesterday.
自然な英語 - I took/had a day off yesterday.
日本人の英語 - When will you graduate university?
自然な英語 - When are you graduating?
日本人の英語 - I want to discuss about this matter with you.
自然な英語 - Let’s talk about this.
日本人の英語 - I visited to Italy last year with my wife.
自然な英語 - We went to Italy on holiday (UK) last year.
日本人の英語 - Thank you for your calling.
自然な英語 - Thank you for the call.
日本人の英語 - I’m not in good condition.
自然な英語 - I’m not feeling well.
日本人の英語 - I watched a movie in the theatre.(US)
自然な英語 - I went to the cinema. (UK) / went to see a film. (UK)
日本人の英語 - My family is five.
自然な英語 - I have a wife and three children.
日本人の英語 - That food was very delicious.
自然な英語 - That meal was delicious / fantastic.
日本人の英語 - I have been to Paris three years ago.
自然な英語 - I went to Paris three years ago.
日本人の英語 - Almost Japanese enjoy to live in London.
自然な英語 - Almost all Japanese enjoy living in London.
日本人の英語 - He entered the room.
自然な英語 - He went into/came into the room.
日本人の英語 - I joined the party late.
自然な英語 - I was late for the party.
日本人の英語 - Recently, I have changed my residence.
自然な英語 - I’ve recently moved house.
日本人の英語 - I attended Keio university.
自然な英語 - I went to Keio university.
日本人の英語 - I entered the company in 2012.
自然な英語 - I joined the company in 2012.