Posted by: janecronin | September 25, 2016

Choosing a language course

I’m often asked to recommend Spanish language courses, other than my own, and I usually give the rather diplomatic answer of “it depends”.  In fact the choice of the right language course does depend on a number of important factors, such as the time you have available, how well you manage the internet and what devices and connection you have at your disposal, how much money you are willing to spend, what are your aims in learning the language, what kind of learning background you have already and what is your learning style.  Although you may have never given much thought to any of these points, they are the unknowns that go through my head when someone asks me this question.

Let’s look at the last three points a little more closely.  What are your aims in learning Spanish?  Some people have a reasonable grasp of grammar but want to learn how to apply their knowledge in practical situations.  Other people can “get by” in real situations, but want to deepen their understanding of the language and speak with more accuracy.  Also, the way you intend to apply the language varies:  do you need it just to get by in everyday situations, to join in social activities with Spanish people or do you need it for your current job or to be able to expand your work prospects?

Regarding our learning background, this also makes a big difference to the kinds of language courses that are suitable for us.  There is no point in wading into a course that uses lots of grammatical terms, if we have no idea what they mean.  This can sometimes be a problem when people go to native Spanish teachers.  Younger Spanish people are taught grammar at school so they are inclined to assume that you as a language learner understand grammatical terms.  You might end up feeling like the dunce in the class, when the real problem is that you were never taught about grammar at school.

Finally, we all have different styles of learning.  In our generation at school this was never recognised and everyone had to learn everything in the same way.  Nowadays, educators are more aware of different learning needs and where language learning is concerned, some people learn better by hearing, others by reading, and others by seeing visual images or being put in practical situations.  Different people cope with tasks in different ways and everyone learns at a different speed.

Finally, be aware that a lot of the courses on the market are teaching South American rather than European Spanish, as of course America is a much bigger language market than Europe.  I’ve given you a lot of different things to think about, but at least give some of these issues a thought, rather than just reaching for the most popular or recommended course which may not necessary work for you.


  1. Jane is right on the button, as usual. Over the last two generations, grammar has been neglected in the teaching of English as a subject. The popularity of SMS messaging has, in my view, accelerated this decline .. 4U etc!

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