What’s the best way to improve your language skills?

Language learning

Language skills

In this blog article, we take a look at self-learning, learning under the supervision of a teacher and hybrid learning, and we also compare these methods.

The importance of language skills is growing in an increasingly global environment. Companies have multilingual customer bases, and there are also individual needs: A new office abroad needs a leader or someone to provide local employees with induction training. An employee needs to brush up their language skills for an assignment abroad. Someone wants to improve their language skills before moving permanently to another country. In such a case, a good knowledge of the local language is also a social strength.

In other words, the range of needs is extremely diverse. Language skills need further development at the company and individual level. How can you combine language training with work and free time? Fortunately, there are the flexible options.

What are the options to improve your language skills?

We all have our reasons to study. Perhaps you want to brush up your skills or learn a new language. Motivation and the time available for learning vary as well. Although there are numerous factors, it’s possible to find the best way to learn for everyone.

Teacher-driven learning

Modifiability is one of the strengths of teacher-driven learning. A language trainer can test and assess the learner’s skill level for the further development of their language skills. If the goal is to improve their current skills, the training can be adjusted to better serve their need for language skills in their current or future duties. This can be done by improving their presentation and negotiation skills in another language, among other ways. If the development need is related to writing certain types of text, for example, the focus will be on achieving this goal.

In teacher-driven learning, feedback is the most significant benefit in terms of motivation and continuity. A professional trainer notices improvement and knows how to bring it to light. This motivates the learner to continue. The learner will also be informed about what they should focus on to improve further. A language trainer should be seen as a coach above anything else. Much as in the world of sports, their goal is to improve and fine-tune the learner’s skills using the available resources.

And yes, a language trainer can give you homework. This depends on the trainer, of course, but there will probably be homework, as learning is supposed to continue beyond the lessons. It’s a two-way street: if something that was discussed in class remains unclear or questions arise outside the lessons, these can and should be shared with the trainer. They are there to help and correct any mistakes.

Teacher-driven learning can be provided to individuals or small groups. In a small group, the participants’ skill levels must be similar for everyone to fully benefit from the training. No one wants to attend a lesson to repeat things that they already know—or get lost from the outset.

Information technology brings flexibility to teacher-driven learning, as training can also be provided online. Learners can participate using their computer at work or at home, for example. All they need is a laptop computer, tablet or smartphone. Nevertheless, most learners seem to favor face-to-face training, which can be provided in the company’s meeting room or another suitable quiet facility that can be booked. Training can also be provided at Acolad’s facilities.

Teacher-driven learning is particularly suitable for learners whose skills need considerable development in spoken language or writing certain types of text. This always involves tailoring. The topics and content are selected to support the development of language skills and work performance.

Teacher-driven learning requires commitment and an opportunity to participate in lessons. This may require the learner to have their employer’s permission to participate in training during working hours. Lessons during the lunch break are a surprisingly popular way to organize training.

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Self-learning

Self-learning offers a particularly wide range of options. Massive amounts of various learning materials are available, even from libraries. These are supplemented by a wide offering of digital learning material.

The multitude of materials makes the choice difficult. Which materials are best suited for you and best support your individual development needs? Making the right choice may take a long time.

In self-learning, the learner must have the motivation for systematic long-term learning. They must have clear goals. A great deal of self-direction and motivation is needed if you seek to master a language on your own.

The strengths of self-learning include flexibility. Self-learning materials seldom depend on place or time. You can do exercises at home in the evening or test your listening comprehension skills when you’re commuting. In terms of freedom, digital learning material is on a completely different level than teacher-driven learning.

Opportunities for self-learning during working hours may be scarce, unless the employer provides materials and otherwise encourages learning. For companies, employees’ language skills are always a strength, as their skills are reflected in their capability of serving customers and other stakeholders.

However, self-learning doesn’t cover the full range of skills. Self-learning materials are ideal for improving your reading and listening comprehension skills, but they aren’t as effective as teacher-driven learning in terms of spoken language. This also applies to written language to some extent. The vital feedback that helps you focus on your individual development needs is also missing. Digital learning material usually provides feedback on exercises and tests, so the learner is not left completely without feedback.

Hybrid learning

Hybrid learning combines the strengths of self-learning and teacher-driven learning and enables the development of every aspect of language skills. The language trainer focuses on the development needs and provides feedback and tips for improvement. Outside lessons, the learner focuses on self-learning materials either independently or under supervision, which is why private lessons are needed less often than in teacher-driven learning.

Hybrid learning is most effective when the learner knows they need encouragement and guidance from a language trainer, but they are also motivated to use their own time to improve their language skills. The trainer is responsible for helping the learner put their skills into practice in their work as effectively as possible.

Selection criteria for learning methods

We discussed the strengths and weaknesses of various learning methods above. Next, we take a look at how these methods fare in terms of various selection criteria.

Speed of learning

When the goal is to learn a lot over a short period, hybrid learning is the most natural option. Hybrid learning enables the learner to develop continuously—and probably also more rapidly than the other methods. Teacher-driven learning offers excellent opportunities to focus on identified development needs. If it’s possible to have lessons frequently, this method may be even more effective than hybrid learning.

Self-learning is a slower method of learning than the other two options. The lack of an instructor and provider of feedback may lead to a situation where the learning material proves to be too demanding, for example. The learner is responsible for their progress and level of motivation.

Effectiveness

Hybrid learning is undoubtedly the most effective method of the three. During lessons, the learner can focus on speaking and writing the language. Outside lessons, they can concentrate on reading and listening comprehension. Equal attention will be given to all aspects.

Teacher-driven learning is at its most effective when the need to improve language skills is individual. To a great extent, the effectiveness of self-learning depends on the learner’s motivation and available time, but the challenges include assessing personal development, especially in speaking and writing the language.

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Convenience

Convenience is a highly personal experience. If you feel that you learn best under supervision, teacher-driven online learning is probably the most convenient option. Lessons depend on time but less on place, as most applications used for providing remote lessons also work on smartphones.

In self-learning, you set the pace. You can revisit digital learning material as often as you want to, even daily, at suitable intervals. If you seek too much convenience in terms of schedules and place, you aren’t likely to achieve your goals.

Hybrid learning is a combination of supervised and independent study. This is why it’s at least as good an option as self-learning and teacher-driven learning.

The employer’s opinion also plays a role. If you can participate in teacher-driven training during working hours, you won’t need to compromise on your free time that much. In hybrid learning, you can continue to study after working hours in accordance with your level of motivation and energy.

Price

If the price is the decisive factor, you should choose self-learning. A large amount of learning material is available online and at libraries free of charge. Digital learning content is also available at very affordable prices. Quality may vary, and the challenge is to find the content that best suits your learning goals.

Teacher-driven learning is the most expensive option. However, you should keep in mind that the trainer can tailor the training to your individual needs. Tailored training is what you will pay for.

In terms of price, hybrid learning is between the two other options, as only part of hybrid learning is teacher-driven. Teacher-driven learning is supplemented by digital material that supports learning but reduces the total cost.

What’s the best learning method for you?

It may be a while since you last attended language training. However, your learning behavior probably hasn’t changed that much. Our learning behavior seldom changes. If a demanding teacher inspires you to do your best, teacher-driven learning is probably the best option for you. Hybrid learning is also a good option. When a trainer sets clear goals, you know what to focus on and aim for.

If you’re used to setting your own goals and maintaining a high level of motivation without supervision, self-learning is undoubtedly your way to improve your language skills.

The only difference is that now you won’t be studying to earn a grade or pass a course. You are learning for yourself, to develop yourself for future challenges.

Summary

Learning methods have developed over time to better serve companies’ language training needs. Learning depends less on time and place. However, some aspects of learning haven’t lost their appeal despite the digital revolution. Some people still want to learn in the presence of a language trainer, who serves as a coach, guiding learners in achieving their goals.

Hybrid learning is the best option for learners who need feedback and guidance, but are also willing to develop their skills using self-learning materials.

Self-learning is suitable for learners who know how to set realistic goals for themselves and maintain a high level of motivation without guidance and individual feedback. Digital content developed for specific target groups enables independent learners to improve their language skills for working life.

Motivation is the most important factor in learning languages. Motivation is important when needs change in working life

Does your company need to develop your employees’ language skills? Are you planning to offer your employees an opportunity to study languages alongside work? Contact us, and our experts will help you choose the optimal language training options for your company and employees.

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