Tips for choosing a language teacher or school.By English with Stephen

How to Choose a Language School or Teacher

This is the transcript for the English with Stephen podcast episode on How to Choose a Language School or Teacher.

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Hello, my name is Stephen Greene from In this series of podcasts, I am trying to present some of the best advice I have learned from working with students and teachers over the last 20 years or so. In this podcast, I am going to look at some of the questions you need to think about when choosing a teacher or school.

Before we talk about this, it is important to remember that even the best teacher in the world cannot help you learn if you do not put the work in. A teacher teaches, but have to learn. It is your responsibility. A bad teacher can stop you from learning, or delay you. A great teacher can help you and make you more efficient, but it is still you that does the learning.

Before we get into it all, some music!

If you are new to this podcast, I’d like to tell you that you can find the transcript to this episode, and all the other episodes, on my site Using a transcript is a great way to help your listening and learn new vocabulary. You can also find links to my youtube channel, other social media, and information on how you can have classes with me. So remember,

Now, back to how to choose a teacher or a school.

I suppose the first question to ask yourself is time and money. What is your budget and how much time do you have? It is not just money to pay for the class, but also for books, parking, etc. And it is not just the time spent in the class, but also how long it takes to get there.

Once you have decided how much time and money you can spend, you can start looking for schools or teachers.

  1. Teacher abilities

There is a lot of prejudice online about having ‘native’ speakers. I am a native speaker because I was born and grew up in a country where everybody speaks English. However, just because a person was born in the UK, the USA or Australia does not mean they are good teachers. In fact, I have learned a lot from other Brazilian teachers who have great accents, wonderful vocabulary, AND know how to teach.

So ask yourselves these questions:

  1. Does the teacher have any teaching qualifications?
  2. What kind of experience does the teacher have?
  3. Has the teacher passed any language exams?
  4. Can the teacher speak my language?

This last question is very important. When I first arrived in Brazil, I couldn’t speak Portuguese. I had a few years’ experience, but this didn’t help me predict the problems my Portuguese speakers would face. It also didn’t help me when my students got very confused or wanted to stop studying. Nowadays, I can use my Portuguese, sometimes and in the right place, to help my students.

You can find more information on why your teacher should know your first language in episode 8 of this podcast called “Use Your First Language”.

  1. Class size

Larger classes mean less time with the teacher. Smaller classes, or even private classes, give you much more time to ask questions and get feedback. Usually, the more expensive a class is, the larger the class. But this is not always true, so it is a good idea to ask.

  1. Class type

This is not the place to go into detail about methodologies, but basically you want a school or teacher who is broadly going to use the communicative approach with a focus on getting the students to use real language. This can differ depending on the size of the class, and there are many ways to achieve these main goals.

  1. Class material

If you have to use a book, then ask to look at it. Most teachers will use the book most of the time in class. The book will dictate the type of class. If the book has topics you are not interested in or is too professional or too juvenile, then maybe you have to think about a different type of class.

Incidentally, I don’t use books with my students because I create classes specifically for them to meet their needs. However, most teachers do not have the time to do this and it is difficult if you have a large class to write material for everyone.

  1. Placement

How are you going to be placed in a class? It can be very frustrating if you are in a class that is too high, or too low, for you. How is the school going to decide what level you should go into? Is there a way to change the level after the classes have begun? Often, schools, especially private schools, will try to encourage you into a class that they already have open, even if you are not totally matched to it.

So, there you are. These are the questions I would ask if I were thinking about going back to school to learn a language. I hope they are useful for you.

If you go to my site Englishwithstephencom, you will find all my previous podcasts and videos. You will also find ways to contact me if you would like to have private online classes. And don’t forget, you can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

Bye, and have a good class.

Please subscribe to your favourite podcast app to make sure you never miss a future episode.

Subscribe to the podcast here!

Alternatively, sign up to receive regular emails with all the latest information.

A misty morning in a park or the countryside. A sign pos showing the direction you need to take. Text: How to choose a language school or teacher by English with Stephen
Decisions, decisions.

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