What Makes a Great Language Class: 5 Tips Before You Enroll

What Makes a Great Language Class: 5 Tips Before You Enroll

We've all had that sudden urge to enroll in a language class that we've been wishing to take for years. Similar to that 'I gotta get to the gym' feeling, but less intimidating. After looking around for a bit we've found language classes that seem so obtainable, but at the same time felt the process of getting started a little daunting. Where is this fear of getting started stemming from? Is it those 4-years of foreign language classes in high school which didn't prepare us to speak a single sentence in college? Or was it from a language course we took from a tutor that didn't help us learn properly either? All we know is that, instead of jumping for joy at the many classes and opportunities available, we're thinking 'Ugh, will this one be worth my time?' 'How do I get started?' 'How will I know if this will really work?' 

These thought patterns are very common and I hear them all the time from new students at JP Linguistics. So, we wanted to share with you a few tips to think about before enrolling for your next language class. This process should be exciting not daunting. We hope these helpful tips allow your language skills to become what you've always dreamed they would be!

1. Learn From Native Instructors

If you are going to learn a foreign language, the best way to learn is from a native instructor. Free language APPS and digital technology are a great start, as long as the person teaching you is native from a country that speaks the language you are learning. Think about it like how you buy groceries. If you want fresh, organic, REAL food, then go to the source of where the groceries come from (farms & gardens). If you want 'organic, REAL' education, go to the source of where the language comes from. In French, for example, this means France, Africa (countries like Morocco, Zimbabwe, Nigeria) the Ivory Coast, Gabon, Guinea, Belgium, Switzerland, Canada and many more. If you are taught a foreign language from a non-native speaker it is similar to eating the processed, chemically treated foods. The source is no longer the authentic source. It might sound harsh, but native speakers have a strong sense of the language that most of the time is needed to have a full and complete understanding. Many Americans study languages for years to teach to other Americans. Many get very close to mastering the language, but there is nothing more real than a native speaker. If you want the best, then learn from the best - a native speaker that has a strong understanding of the linguistic and cultural background.

2. Set Goals While Learning

With most things in life, setting goals helps you to realize your vision into an actual thing. Without setting goals, success can still be achieved but you might find that, without focus, the initial vision might turn into something you didn't intend it to become. There are many programs, language APPS, colleges, companies, and free language groups available. You should consider how many of them are helping you to set your language goals. If you don't have any goals yet, have you ever considered making some? One way we, at JP Linguistics, help set goals for our students is to utilize a system called the European Common Framework of Reference for Languages. This program, established by the European Union, helps students who are learning a foreign language to stay on a goal-oriented track. It helps you and us to keep realistic and attainable goals. Simply put, each language level and class has a language goal. If you enrolled in a French 101 class, for example, the instructor should be able to tell you exactly what you will be able to accomplish after the class is completed. That is what is called "Objectifs Communicatifs" such as greetings, how to introduce yourself (your age, profession, and where you live, and "Objectifs Linguistiques" such as how to conjugate basic verbs like 'To be' (Être), ' To Have' (Avoid), 'To do' (Faire), 'ER' verbs. Furthermore, your instructor should be able to tell you more specifically what will be taught in each week of the course, including the book/online resources and activities. This allows you to know what's necessary for each step in reaching that goal and to create realistic goals to map out the length of your studies. The instructor with work along side the student to facilitate the learning and to help achieve the end goal. Notice the phrase 'work along side.' The instructor's job is to facilitate the course, not to robotically spoon-feed information. It is essential that a student comes prepared and willing to learn with each class. The work the student puts in to the learning, weighs heavily as to how much the get out of each class.

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3. Learn Through Immersive Environments

Learning a foreign language can be a challenge for many reasons. Students must be able to learn a new language structure and memorize loads of new vocabulary. In addition, students must also be able to grasp a brand new cultural way of thinking. If you close your eyes for a moment and try to describe the French culture, what comes to mind? For some, this might create thoughts like 'Delicious foods,' 'Skinny people having witty conversations at a cafe with croissants,' 'Artists on the street corners in Paris,' 'Beautiful vineyards in the South of France,' etc. Getting a true grasp on a new culture isn't only about the language, it's about understanding how foreign nations think, act, cook, what they believe in and why they believe it. This means taking the language deeper into the core of our senses. When describing a culture we can often describe how it tastes, what it looks like, how it feels, what it smells like, and what it sounds like. For example, when you experience the language at a dinner you get to use the language but also the culture around  "eating". If you pay close attention, you will learn how to cut your food a certain way, how to interrupt someone to comment on something or to ask something. For example, pay attention to where their hands are (on the table, under the table?), where and when to drink and how they say to 'Cheers!' 

When we immerse ourselves in to language learning, we learn more about cultural habits,  environments, and ways of thinking. This relates to learning how to speak a foreign language because we better understanding of why certain cultures act the way that they do, thus speak the way they speak. At JP Linguistics, we focus on immersive learning environments because it allows people to learn in a hands-on way, while learning a new skill with the language. This includes activities like 'Macaron & Croissant Making En Français' in which students can learn to speak French while learning to cook authentic recipes taught by native instructors. 

4. SELECT A CLASS THAT MatchES Your Learning Style

We all have busy lives. We all have different goals and aspirations. We all have different ways of interpreting information. An instructor with a training in Pedagogy (the discipline within Education that houses theories and practices to train someone to teach a course properly), understands this. A well-trained instructor is able to tailor a classroom to different learning styles depending on who is in the class. We believe very strongly in this at JP Linguistics, which is why our instructors are constantly trained in Pedagogy to provide experiences that match our student's needs. Below are a few interesting learning styles (among others). Which one are you?

  1. AccommodatorConcrete Experience + Active Experiment: strong in "hands-on" practical doing (e.g., physical therapists)

  2. ConvergerAbstract Conceptualization + Active Experiment: strong in practical "hands-on" application of theories (e.g., engineers)

  3. DivergerConcrete Experience + Reflective Observation: strong in imaginative ability and discussion (e.g., social workers)

  4. AssimilatorAbstract Conceptualization + Reflective Observation: strong in inductive reasoning and creation of theories (e.g., philosophers)

(sample of the David Kolbs model, as seen on http://www.businessballs.com/kolblearningstyles.htm)

5. Be Entertained and Have Fun

 The whole point of learning a foreign language is getting out into the world, traveling, and putting it into practice. That's why taking the time out of your busy schedule each week to sit in a classroom and learn should be fun! Lessons should be engaging and utilize numerous sources of material (including the games and activities created by your instructor). Many of our classes utilize videos, music, games, online resources, food, field trips to art galleries and more. The book is an essential part of teaching because if maintains the goal-oriented track for students, but there is no reason a class should not be entertain and fun. Check out the video below geared at French 101 students, just as an example:

There are many things to consider when enrolling for your next language course and fear should not be one of them. Before you sign up for your next class, keep in mind the tips mentioned above 1. Learn From Native Instructors, 2. Set Goals While Learning, 3. Learn Through Immersive Environments, 4. Select a Class That Matches Your Learning Style 5. Be Entertained and Have Fun. If you are looking to enroll in a French class and want all of these incorporated in to your lessons, then look no further than JP Linguistics' Group Classes, Private Lessons, Tutoring, and Special Programs. Click HERE for more information, our feel free to reach out with any questions HERE.

Bonne Journee!