There are various schools of thought on how to learn French (or indeed any other language). Assuming that you do not believe that restaurant French is enough to get by in Suisse Romande, then you may be faced with deciding whether you, your partner, or colleagues should embark on a language course.
This is often a pretty straightforward decision. What is not so easy is deciding how it should be learned. Private tuition, traditional classroom teaching, immersion programmes and online courses are all basic options with a plethora of variations and combinations. And then how much time and money can you afford to spend?
According to Frédérique Diant, head of language training at Ecole-Club Migros, first find out what your personal learning style is. How do you learn fast and easily? Are you a visual or a kinetic learner for example? Migros is the largest language trainer in the country and it assesses all candidates to better advise what course and method will work best. Students can mix and match intensive classroom-based teaching (which are mainly in the evenings), with home-based or on-the-move learning methods, such as pod-club and web-cam one-to-one tuition.
Diant is forceful in arguing that we all learn better in groups, and explains that Ecole-Club’s students are generally professionals, which allows teachers to take a more effective facilitation role than the more traditional directorial role. Language is the keystone of culture and so the organization has taken the novel step of offering free cultural talks on Fridays to people keen to learn and understand more than just the language.
Christian Graf of the Swiss-based language company, Boa Lingua, describes a very different approach. His company, which was established 25 years ago, organizes tailor-made courses for students in the country where the language is spoken. If you want to learn Swedish, then you will be sent to Sweden. Immersion is the key. Boa Lingua appoints a counsellor to each learner, assessing his or her abilities. The counsellor then helps put together a package that will suit the learner’s aptitudes, budget and time availability.
The company does not deliver courses itself, but uses a network of accredited partners. The counsellor remains in touch with the learner to monitor progress and to deal with any issues that may arise during the course. Learners generally live with a family, but accommodation in hotels or elsewhere can be arranged as required. Graf states that his clients range from college students needing to boost their grades or prepare for overseas study, to senior executives wishing to polish their language, or to learn specific business, scientific or legal language.
Time is one of the main constraints faced by adult learners, especially full-time employees. Looking to ease this pressure, Flying Teachers, sends its teachers to its students. The company primarily services the corporate market and it tailors its courses to meet the needs of specific businesses.
Edit Adrover, School director believes that people looking to learn a language need to choose a school that offers well-structured classes, which are goal-oriented and which quantify progress. This enables students to know how they are doing. “Schools need to teach students how to actually use what they’ve learned and turn theory into practice.”
This sentiment is mirrored by Frédérique Diant. “What is important is to know how to learn. We learn better in groups, and we must remember the practicalities of learning – people are far more likely to turn up to a class than to an individual session.”
“Speaking the language is the key to integrating into any society. It’s really important,” adds Edit Adrover. It greatly facilitates social interaction across the board. There is no down-side to being able to communicate better. It is a matter of becoming more in tune with those around you. As Frédérique Diant advises, “first learn the melody of the language, then everything else will fall into place.”