A language student again: group or 1to1


December 15, 2014 by Willy Cardoso


Today I asked my Italian teacher to teach me something and she said it was at “the level” above mine. But before I started to ramble on about learner’s internal syllabus and the complex-adaptive nature of (my) language acquisition, she was already writing what I asked on the board. I felt very happy! Then after I ‘got it’ she excused herself to make some photocopies of the grammar topic in question and I now have some really exciting homework to do.

This week, I decided that instead of having 4 hours a day in a group, which is what I’ve had for two weeks, I was going to have 1,5 hours one-to-one; which is what the same money can pay. It was the best decision so far.

Because at the moment I’m not feeling particularly ‘Vygotskyan’ in SLA terms 🙂

– which in the most simplistic terms would mean social interaction in the classroom isn’t doing much for me as a language learner.

An unfair reading of a master theory of learning and cognitive development, I know, but you see… this is how easily co-opted things can become. Socioconstructivism = lots of pair and group work.

Not the case.

But in any case, I think this is something foreign language students [in private language schools] should seriously consider if given the chance: fewer hours on a one-to-one approach which is non-prescriptive; that is the teacher ‘follows’ the learner; or many hours in a group where the learners ‘follow’ the teacher (in this case, follow the book, the syllabus, the levels, the ‘norm’).

I don’t think there is a best one. But thinking about it may help learners choose the best – for them.

More later, but in the meantime you may also enjoy (if you haven’t already) reading this post about my experience in a Spanish language lesson, and this other one about learner internal syllabus


One thought on “A language student again: group or 1to1

  1. alexcase says:

    If they have the choice, I recommend combining the two – a group class with a fairly fixed syllabus where they can slowly build up their level, and a one to one where they can ask questions and follow their own interests, including perhaps further practice of tricky things in the last group class and/ or prep for the next one.

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