This post is going to be a little different than what most might expect to find on a site like this. Let me start off by saying this. I have spent many hours in various language classes learning different languages and have never felt that I have become proficient because of these classes. However, be that as it may I don’t feel that we should completely disregard classroom-based learning. I find that a lot of people who have negative experiences with learning a language in class often blame it on their teachers or professors.
I find that this is a bit misleading and sometimes doesn’t get people to take responsibility for their own learning. The biggest issue with classroom-based learning is that too many people expect the classroom to do the learning for them. They show up to class with their textbook in hand and blindly sit through a lecture without paying much attention. They then get up and go home and if they actually have any homework to do they rush through it memorizing anything they need to (instead of actually learning) before forgetting completely about the language entirely until the next class.
Now I can’t speak for everyone, but this experience speaks volumes to people like me. I get it, when in you’re in a classroom you may or may not want to actually be in learning a language that you may or may not actually want to learn it can be difficult to stay motivated. Some of us don’t have much choice however because you may be in a situation where you have no choice but to take a language class. Putting that all aside, let’s outline some reasons as to why learning a language in a classroom actually puts you at an advantage to native speakers (or at least isn’t as bad as some people say)
To start off, you tend not to make the same mistakes that native speakers do. How many times have you heard someone say something to the effect, “English is such a difficult language because we have things such as “there, their and they’re” or “to, too, and two”. If you’re like me you have probably have heard this about a million times from various people throughout your life. The problem with this is that the majority of people who make these sort of mistakes are NOT foreign speakers of English. Simply put, those learning English as a second language don’t really make these sort of mistakes. Why is this? Well to start most foreigners learn English in school. Because of this, there is an emphasis on these sort of mistakes that is put on them by their teachers. When native speakers learn their own language they typically go off of what sounds best to them. Foreigners typically go off what they learned in class. Yes, this can get you in trouble in many situations, but when it comes to situations like this you can often have a leg up.
Another benefit to classroom-based language learning is that you can start learning much quicker. If you’re reading this article you are likely not a child, however if you are beginner French learner you sort of are a child in a sense. There are few situations in life where an adult can be placed in a situation where they are treated like a child and when it comes to language learning this is exactly what you need. If you start learning through books or other language courses you often deprive yourself of being able to ask questions and receive personalized information, something that is extremely valuable for a “child“.
What do you think?
Is there any merit to classroom-based language learning or is it a set up that is just simply doomed to fail? In my opinion constant self study and repetition provides the best results for language learning. All I am trying to say is that although there are likely better ways to become fluent in a foreign language that doesn’t mean there aren’t benefits to doing it the old-fashioned way.