A private teacher or a language school or both?
You have a number of options if you want to study English in the UK:
- Learn with an independent English language tutor (face-to-face, Skype or a combination)
- Join a class of other students at more or less your level
- Arrange 1-1 lessons (tutorials) at a language school
- Combine classes with tutorials (1-1) in a language school
- 1-1 lessons in your teacher’s house (homestay)
- Combine independent private lessons with some language school classes
There are advantages and disadvantages with all of these options.
If you have your own accommodation and live in a town or city, it is possible to look for your own private English teacher for all your lessons. You may have to travel to their house, meet in a cafe or they may be able to come to you. You will have to agree a price and I recommend you check the teacher’s qualifications and experience. More experienced teachers will have the .
You should look for a teacher who has at least a Cambridge CELTA or Trinity CertTESOL qualification or equivalent. A Cambridge DELTA or Trinity DipTESOL qualification is even better because this means a teacher is usually very experienced and much more knowledgeable about teaching English. A good 1-1 teacher should be reliable, on time and be happy to give you homework.
A language school
If you join a class it can be fun to meet all the other people, but the teacher will not always be able to teach you what you need because the teacher has to satisfy the group or work from a particular book. Some teachers will occasionally be able to give you individual guidance. With many language schools you have to book for a minimum of 2 weeks. A good language school will usually provide a social programme for the evenings and the weekend.
If you are looking for an excellent language school in Oxford, I can recommend one. Contact me for details. Many language schools are large international businesses but in my experience, smaller independent schools often give you a higher standard of teaching and better value.
What you need to check
Make sure that any school uses properly qualified teachers and is accredited by the British Council. An excellent idea is to check the British Council’s report on the school with you can find here http://www.britishcouncil.org/accreditation-az-list.htm. You can ask how many DELTA-qualified teachers the school has. If more than 30% of the teachers are DELTA qualified, this is usually a good sign.
You should also ask how many students there are in a class. I recommend 12 as a maximum. If there are more than 12, the teacher does not have time to give much individual attention and the room may be cramped.
Remember that very cheap schools often have too many students in each class or many students from a particular country or use host families who may not be very interested in their guests. As always, cheap is not usually best.
Arranging 1-1 lessons at a language school gives you personal attention but can be very expensive (around £60 per hour). This can be an option for students whose fees are being paid by their company. Some language schools can organise a combination of 1-1 lessons and group lessons.
Home tuition means you live with your teacher and you need to speak English all day. You will get to know a lot about British culture, your teacher and their family. You may also get better quality accommodation and food. Your teacher will usually organise a couple of local excursions for you each week. However you might miss meeting other learners and will not have all the resources of a school e.g. a library or computer room. Also your teacher will have very limited time for lesson preparation and may not be very experienced.
Another possibility is to combine a morning at a good language school and have private lessons outside the language school in the afternoon.
If you are a total beginner (know less than 50 words of English), it is usually better to learn some English in your own country (reach level A1) before coming to Britain.