Roman Malanke

Economics of Language Classes

What follows is a little piece from my upcoming e-book on language learning. Enjoy!

If you decided to learn a foreign language why even bother with self-learning if you can just sign up for a language school? Well, there are two fundamental reasons:

1. Learning in a language school is way more expensive than learning on your own.
2. Learning on your own can be more effective than learning in a school.

Recently I’ve read an advertisement of one of the numerous language schools in Kyiv. It offered six levels of programs in Spanish from beginner to advanced (A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2). Each program is one semester long and costs around $250. It means that to get to C2 level I would have to spend $1,500 and attend 3-hour classes twice a week during three years.

For comparison, learning on my own I spent no more than $100 in total on books, audio courses and software and got to the same level in two years. By integrating learning into my daily routines (like commuting or housework) I didn’t have to allocate any separate time during the week and could attend swimming pool or salsa classes instead of language lessons. In the end I used the money that I saved and indulged myself with a wonderful two-week trip to Spain.

But even price considerations aside, I believe that learning on your own is fundamentally more effective than attending classes. The reason for this is that when you learn on your own you are being proactive and curious, which is a powerful catalyst for acquiring and retaining knowledge, while someone who chooses classes passively hopes that other people will select the material and put the knowledge in their head.

From a pure practical standpoint, can you name me one thing that a language school might offer of which I cannot find better on my own these days? Well-structured material? Well, I can find plenty done by exceptionally talented volunteer teachers around the world and distributed for a modest price or for free. Speaking classes with natives? Well, I can choose from millions on Skype and talk with those who share my interests and values.

Let’s face it: nowadays the only unique thing people get when they pay for classes is the feeling of being obliged to learn, otherwise money will go to waste. I don’t need to pay someone $1,500 to deal with my laziness and lack of self-drive. Do you?