Some people believe that languages should be taught in small classes. Others feel the number of students doesn’t matter. Discuss both views and give your opinion.

The increase in international travel, trade, and global telecommunications has made the world a smaller place; consequently the need and want to learn foreign languages is more significant than ever. Cultural immersion remains the best way to quickly and comprehensively develop language skills, but for those unable to achieve this there are classes. To maximise the effect of such classes it is best to have a lower number of students.

Classes with a large attendance are not without use: it is still beneficial to receive instruction, and the social aspect of meeting people and having a variety of study partners should not be overlooked. However as languages are primarily a communication tool large classes also reduce the amount of time individual students get in utilising their new skills. Whereas a learner receiving 1-on-1 tuition can speak at any time during a lesson, large class attendees have to share the floor with their peers.

There is also an argument to be made concerning the quality of teaching declining as the student numbers rise. A competent teacher should be able to present information to a room regardless of the amount of faces in it, but presentation is only one element of education delivery. Hands-on instruction, monitoring weaknesses, and ensuring discipline can all be affected by student numbers.

Private tuition may not be the answer for everyone – some students feel an increased sense of pressure when exposed in small classes, and fees can be prohibitive – but for the majority the advantages of small-scale classes outweigh the drawbacks. It may be useful to have one or two classmates with whom to work and develop confidence, but the key is to not become lost in the crowd. Learning languages, after all, is about acquiring and manipulating a skill, not about coasting on attendance alone.

To summarise, learning in a large class is better than not learning at all (and there are occasions when it is the only viable choice) but it is not the most efficient option. Small classes, in comparison, have numerous benefits, and cultural immersion is better still. When looking into language classes students need to consider this efficiency as well as the price.