Group or private lessons: which is more effective?

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.