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Advantages and disadvantages of Structured lessons on italki

This is the fifth article about having German or other language lessons with italki teachers and tutors and making the most out of it. 

If you have never heard about italki, please read this article first and if you don’t have an italki account yet, sign up with this link and receive USD 10 in italki credits for your future language lessons.  

The series of articles about how to use italki efficiently consists of these articles:

  1. Improve your German on italki
  2. How to work efficiently with a community tutor
  3. Working with multiple teachers
  4. How to afford professional teachers when you’re on a budget
  5. Advantages and disadvantages of structured lessons
  6. Speaking practice – Avoid these pitfalls

If you have never had online language lesson and are just getting started with italki, you may be wondering if you should  choose structured lessons or not. Booking structured lessons generally means that the teacher will take the lead and you will either work with a book or with professional materials the teacher prepared for your level. Such an approach has advantages and disadvantages and that’s what we are going to discuss in this article. 

Advantages of structured lessons

Structured lessons make most sense when you

  1. are an unexperienced language learner
  2. want to learn a language from a totally different language family
  3. find it difficult to organize your language learning
  4. don’t have much time 

If you have never learnt a foreign language before or just had ineffective language lessons at school (happens a lot in North and Latin America), you run the risk of starting with a lot of motivation but not getting anywhere. Structured lessons will not only provide you with useful advice and help from your teacher but you will also have your books/materials. You know what you did, can get back to it and you know what’s coming next. 

The farther away your target language is from your native language, the more sense a structured approach makes. You can certainly buy books and learn Korean or Arabic on your own but in my experience, a teacher will always add that additional piece of information or explanation that you need to make progress. 

Some people simply learn better when a teacher provides them with a structure and gives them homework. They need that bit of external motivation to keep going. 

Another story are busy people who  don’t have the time to solve every grammar problem on their own. For them, a teacher also provides motivation. They are often well-organized people who book lessons weeks in advance and like to watch their progress. 

Disadvantages of structured lessons

Not everyone is a fan of structured lessons, of course and that’s totally all right. They probably won’t work well for you if you

  1. prefer to study a lot on your own
  2. learn rather through immersion than through actual studying
  3. are an experienced language learner who is studying their 5th language

If you book a structured lesson once a week but study on your own for 10 hours between lessons, it’s likely that both you and your teacher will end up being frustrated because your teacher is prepared to continue where you stopped last time and you tell them that you already know everything. You could try to keep your teacher informed about your progress and arrange to skip certain parts of the book you’re using but in my experience people who study a lot on their own do better with informal lessons. 

When you have a structured lessons, you will do grammar exercises and listen to explanations from your teacher. It’s personalized but still a bit like school. If that’s totally not your style and you’d rather watch a lot of movies, listen to podcasts or simply talk to native speakers, stay away from structured lessons. 

Experienced language learners may or may not like structured lessons but they often don’t them because they are familiar with all kind of grammatical concepts and don’t need a lot of explanations. 

Conclusion

Whether to give it a try with structured lesson has little to do with your current level but rather depends on your experiences with languages, your personal situation and preferences and also on your target language. As a native English speaker who already speak Spanish you may decide to learn Italian on your own and with community tutors but Japanese in a structured way with a professional teacher. On italki, you’ll find the right teacher for your needs, no matter which language you choose. 

If you don’t have an italki account yet, use this link to sign up and receive USD 10 in italki credits. 

Happy language learning!

Daniela is a native German speaker who has taught the language online since 2012. She speaks English, Spanish, Portuguese and some Hungarian. Currently, she's residing in Peru but maintains a traveling lifestyle as a digital nomad. In March 2020, she published her first book "Deutsch online unterrichten" for aspiring online German teachers and is now concentrating on writing fiction for German learners while pursuing some other small projects.

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