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050 What learning method is best for me?

What learning method is best for me?


Welcome back to the Art of Business English. In today’s episode we are going to be looking at the different ways in which you can learn English. I will be evaluating each learning method and giving you my opinion based on my more than 10 years’ experience as a teacher and coach.

In this episode I will be covering self-study, academic classes, online courses, private-lessons and intensive courses.

If you have every wondered what the best way is to learn English and what would work best for you, then sit back and grab a pen as today I go into detail and explain each of these in detail for you.

If you’re an AOBE premium member then login to download the episode transcript and get a special discount code to our confidence in FCE online course.

Episode transcript

Hi everyone. Welcome to another episode of the Art of Business English. Andrew Ambrosius here again to enlighten you today on how to choose the best learning format or solution for you. What do I mean by that? Well, basically what we're going to be covering is how you can decide between the different options and styles and ways that you can learn English, and basically trying to decide which one would fit into your personal scenario or lifestyle or situation. And basically, just give you some ideas about the difference or the similarities between the different learning styles.

In this episode, we're going to be covering several factors. Firstly, we're looking at self-study, so basically learning English on your own, so learning how to study and doing that alone. In the next part, we're going to be looking at academic courses, so studying English through a traditional methodology or traditional way by going to a language school, like what I have here.

Then, I'm going to be looking at the next one which is private lessons. Private lessons are one-to-one classes that you can do, or one-to-two classes that you can do with a private teacher. Whether that be in your house, or in your office, or at your home. Sorry, or at an academy, sorry. Those are three ways or three places where you could private lessons.

Then, we're going to be looking at online courses, so learning English via an online course, and maybe some of the benefits of that as well, which is very popular and becoming more and more popular nowadays. And then I'm also going to be looking at intensive courses, so what are intensive courses and what are these formats?

Okay then, let's just kick things off then by looking at self-study, so learning on your own. Learning on your own is probably one of the most difficult ways I think you can go about learning English. However, it's also probably the most cost-effective way because you don't really need to pay for any resources. You could just go through material on the interview or on YouTube. You can search for websites with material that you can download, activities that you can do.

You can look on videos, look on YouTube, sorry, for videos. You could find a channel that specializes in English. Now, with self-study, there are some benefits. For example, if you already have a good level, so if you already are quite advanced, then self-study's a great way to go, because you basically already have enough understanding of English that you can just improve your vocabulary or you can improve your range of expressions just by learning them online, or just by coming into contact with them. Just by reading books or reading blog posts, or articles, things like that.

Now, what that means is that once you've got to that level, you're really going to benefit from being able to just read and learn on your own. What you're going to lack, though, maybe here's a bit of context, so you might learn a new expression, and unless you have a native person around or someone who speaks English to an expert level, then you're going to not really understand the context maybe and you'll be like, "Okay, I would like some advice on that."

That's one of the drawbacks of learning English on your own. However, as I said before, it's cheap and because you don't really need to pay for anything, however, again, another negative drawback here is that if you do have a low level of English, then you're going to struggle, really struggle to teach yourself English. Here, I would recommend if you did want to try that, you could watch some movies in original version with subtitles in Spanish, that would help.

Mind you, it's going to be very difficult to start from a low level, watching movies in another language. It's very difficult, even at my level, where I've been learning Spanish for a good 10 years now, even then some of the movies are really difficult to follow in Spanish. That's after all those years of learning. You really can struggle with low levels.

If you are thinking of starting to learn English, I wouldn't recommend doing it alone. Another problem with trying to find things on the internet, and this is a big issue that many people have, and it's not just related to English, it's also related to most things. I mean, there is so much information on the internet, and you can just start trying to look for one thing, and then you see this, and you see that, and you see this and you see that. You get lost, or really confused.

You have information overload and you get overwhelmed, and it's really difficult unless you have a step-by-step course or a step-by-step structure and someone's explaining each step of the way to you. It's really difficult to know what's the best order to learn material in, what's the best way to go about it, how to understand the different grammatical elements, blah, blah.

Self-study is an option, it's great if you've already got a good level. Not great in my opinion, if you're just starting out, or you've got a low, intermediate level. I wouldn't recommend you doing that. If you do want to improve your English, though, alone at home, then there are lots of resources. I would recommend looking for some great blogs, listening to podcasts like this, The Art of Business English, they help, reading as much as you can, and watching any series of Netflix or wherever you watch or consume series, watching those in original version as best you can.

Let's move on then and look at the next one which is very popular in most countries around the world, and that's taking an academic course. What are the benefits? Well, an academic course, there are hundreds if not thousands of academies spread across most major cities, even smaller towns and cities. You do have access to a lot of academies, especially here in Spain. It's a massive market. There are academies on every corner.

Now, what's great about academies? Well, they're there, they're pretty reasonably priced. I mean, most academies are going to be charging between I don't know, 50 and 80 or 50 and 90 Euros a month, depending on what course you're doing, and depending on the quality of the academy. If it's a well-known or big academy, or if it's some autonomo doing classes in their house.

It depends on what type of academy you're looking for, and the benefits of an academy is that you generally go once or twice a week, so you've got this consistency, and you've obviously got the trainer there who's going to be teaching you as you go, or the teacher who is going to be teaching you every step of the way. You'll have to buy books, so there's an investment in books, which are usually about, I don't know, 30 or 40 Euros for the course.

You do have a small investment at the beginning. Generally, most academies will make you pay some form of registration fee, so that could be the same price as the first month. The initial investment could be a little bit high. Maybe you'd need to pay, I don't know, 150 Euros just to start things off, and then your monthly payment of between 50 or 90 Euros a month.

Some academies or some centres will make you pay the whole course, so that could be quite a large investment, maybe you need to spend 5, 6, 7, 800 Euros at the beginning of the school year. That's another problem I guess, or consideration. Many academies run courses from a typical school year, so for example, here in Spain, you would start your course in October, and you'd run right through until the end of June.

You're going to be looking at a good nine months of commitment to a course, and if you don't start in October, then you're going to miss a portion of the course. Because many of these courses, they have a specific start date and a specific end date. You really need to be quite organized and actually get yourself into a course at the end of summer, beginning of autumn, okay? Here in Spain specifically.

That's a consideration. Another consideration is that you never know, I mean you really need to do your research, because there's so many academies, you're really going to have to make sure that you find one which has got quality teachers, basically. There are so many academies, so you could also be overwhelmed by choice, which is a consideration you need to make.

Another problem is that many academies, especially in larger cities, they've got this high rotation of teachers. Every year, maybe they've got these people that come to live, for example, you take Barcelona here, one of the biggest problems that we have in Barcelona is you don't have this consistency. You've got lots of teachers who are maybe American, they're British, or they're people who have come just to live in Barcelona for a year, maybe two maximum.

They come in, they start a course, they think they're amazing, because they've just finished their teacher training, and they don't really have much experience, but they get signed on to an academy, and the academy just has them for a year or two. Now, that's great, you've got a native teacher, they have some recent training, but you don't really have these long 10, 12, 20, 15-year teachers who basically have been in the business for a long time, they've got their well-established school, and they've got a lot of experience.

The key to learning is not just the students' discipline and motivation to learn and to follow a course, but also you need a really good teacher with a lot of experience. I mean, there's so many mediocre teachers, so you really need to be careful with that. You need to get some opinions, some feedback, talk to people that you know, and make sure that you get a quality teacher, or you go to a school which has got really high calibre teachers.

Because that's going to make a huge difference in the long run, to your motivation and to your overall learning experience. That's something to consider when you are looking at getting an academy. Finally, with an academy, you're going to have to be dedicated and stick to it for the whole school year, which is like nine months, as I said, from October to June.

Make sure you keep that in mind when looking for an academy. Before we finish the one about academic courses, I just wanted to mention a couple more things which I didn't mention before. If you have great accountability, then every week like, "Come on Maria, let's go to class," that can help keep you motivated.

The next thing is you do need to consider that you're going to need to have some travel. As academic courses are presential, you will need to travel to the academy, you'll need to find parking, so that's another thing that you need to keep in mind. It could get a little bit expensive if you don't have good parking. You need to travel, so you could have an issue with needing to drive half an hour, or 10, 15, 20 minutes, who knows, but that's something that's going to add to the overall time required to get yourself to that class.

Okay, let's move on to the next part, which is private lessons. Private lessons are really like quite a popular idea, and people think, "Wow, private lessons are the holy grail." I recommend private lessons. They're a good way for you to work exactly on the material that you want. If you are working in business, maybe you want business English, you're a busy person, and you want the teacher to come to your office and just work specifically dedicating the class to you and your needs.

That's the benefit of these types of classes, private lessons. A good teacher will respond to your needs, they'll develop really highly focused and specific material that you require and that are based specifically on your area or need, and if you're preparing a presentation, if they're a great trainer, they can help you with that presentation. If you're having guests at your company, then they can come and help, maybe translate with you, or they can help prepare the tour for you.

That's one of the real great benefits of having a personalized teacher. Again, as I mentioned before with the academy, it really does come down to having a fantastic teacher with a lot of experience. I mean, the best and most powerful private teacher for those of you who are interested, one, speaks Spanish is fantastic. They can really facilitate the speed at which you can learn material if you can quickly contrast things in Spanish with them.

Secondly, if they're native in Spanish, if they're a native person that speaks Spanish, that's extremely beneficial. The next thing is that they have lots of experience. Not just as a teacher, they have business experience, they've worked in other areas. If you can find a private teacher who is native speaker of English, who also speaks Spanish and bilingual, and they've got lots of experience as a teacher, and they've got lots of experience in other areas of business, then that is a really powerful recipe for a great teacher, and will help you and should lead to you achieving your learning goals and objectives.

What else? Well, one of the negative aspects I guess of private lessons is they can be quite expensive. For example, you could be paying between 20, 15 probably for the cheapest teachers, but these teachers would not really be that great and wouldn't have much experience, so they'd be starting out, but you could be paying up to 50 Euros an hour for a really good private teacher, trainer, coach.

One of the negative things I guess, negative, you pay for quality, you should pay for quality, is that you could, if it doesn't fit your budget, then you may be limited to academic courses, for example, if you can't afford to get a private teacher. The good thing about private teachers, though, they can come to your office, they come to you, so you don't have to move. What else? Another benefit of a private teacher is that if they're a great coach, they'll also motivate you.

Because you're paying this money, it's like a personal trainer at the gym. You will go to class religiously, and maybe you will be able to advance much quicker with your process, because that hour and a half or two hours is just dedicated to you. And you can spend a lot more time speaking and working specifically on the areas that you are having trouble with. There are a lot of benefits to private lessons, and we do encourage people to get those if their budget allows it.

Let's look then at the next point I was going to cover, which is online classes. Online classes have become more and more popular, and there are many benefits to having online classes. But we need to evaluate the situation here. Basically, the technology's getting better all the time. You can literally do a course online nowadays, which has all the resources and material that you could ever need. You can download PDFs, you can do online quizzes and exercises, the exact same style as they would be in a book.

You can have the listening material, and everything's there, available 24 hours a day, and you can study this material at your leisure. Now, one of the other benefits is that with this video conferencing technology nowadays, it's very simple for you to be able to attend an online class with other people, up to 20 other people, 25 other people. This means that schools particularly can leverage their time and try and approach more people, which means they can be a bit more competitive on pricing.

Nowadays, online classes are a great way to have flexible access to material at a quite competitive price, and you still can get that academic contact with the teacher, because you can attend online classrooms where you're literally talking face-to-face in real time with a trainer. Online classes have got these benefits. Another thing is that you don't necessarily need to invest as much money in material, because if it's a good online class, then a lot of the material and the quizzes, material will be actually already on the campus or the learning platform, which will allow you just to be able to focus on it there, work digitally online.

If you do want to download something, you can download and print it, but the comfort is there. You can do it all from your tablet or your computer, and this gives you a lot more flexibility, and allows you to work in a time that's suitable to you. Obviously, you'll need to attend the live session which means you'll have to be there live. If you can't, for example with my online training, when I do an online course or an online class, a live session, I'll actually record the sessions.

I'll upload the recording at the end of the session, so if anyone is there or is unable to make it, then basically they can watch that class at their leisure. They won't obviously have the interaction, but other students are asking questions so it's probably likely that the same questions come up and they've already been answered.

That's a real great benefit. I mean, one of the drawbacks I guess, of online courses, is that you need to be quite disciplined. You'll have to make sure that you do the study, and you put in the time and effort. But again, that's similar to self-study. If you do have 100% online course with no live classes, then you really need to be disciplined. These courses generally are going to be cheaper, so there's a benefit there, a price benefit. If you have the discipline, and you're going to be able to save money.

If you have an online course with live sessions, then you do have a bit more accountability. Teacher's going to be there, asking, checking on you, and nowadays, a lot of online courses do have email support from teachers. They'll be checking you, see how you're going with your progress. There are forums as well in most online courses, all of my online courses have forums, so if you have any questions, you can put topics up there. You can participate online.

There are a lot of benefits of that, and finally, you don't need to travel. You can do it from the comfort of your home or your office, which is great. I mean, you've got that flexibility, you're cutting out travel time, and you're still getting most of the benefits of being presentially there, especially if you're doing a course which has live sessions included in it.

For me, online courses are great. I think they're going to have a big future, and finally, before I wrap up this section, I mean nowadays, and this is probably going to happen in schools as well, as the next technology improves, you won't need to worry about being in a ... Maybe you live in a village, population 2000, the quality or the calibre of the teachers is very poor. Let's take an example. Imagine the teachers in that village are really limited. They've got no experience.

The fact that you can do an online course breaks down these barriers of distance, which means that you could be accessing a fantastic teacher or coach who's living in another city miles way from you, but because of these live sessions, because all you need is a decent internet connection, suddenly you've got access to a world of teachers that you would never have been able to access in the past. That's another great advantage to having an online session.

You can have teachers from other countries even, so you could have a specialist in finance who's based in India, for example, when you are living in Europe, which will be fantastic. Then you're getting access to different accents and different people, different experiences, different cultures. I think online courses are going to become more and more popular, and they're going to really enrichen the learning experience.

But I would like to point out that unfortunately they do have a little bit of a bad reputation in some cases because some of the platforms and some of the people who set up online courses really have poor quality material, poor quality platforms that look ugly, they look really cheap and nasty, and I think this takes away from the learning experience.

You need something that's very crisp, clean platform. I mean, it's like if you go into a shop that looks old and run down, it's not really conducive to the learning environment. It's really important that the platform is quite aesthetically pleasing, the course or the platform is easy to navigate. Those are some considerations that you'll need to have when choosing an online platform.

A good online company should let you try the platform first and if you don't like it, then they can give you a refund. Those are some considerations for online courses. Let's move on then to the last point which is intensive training or intensive coaching courses. Now, these are quite popular too, and I mean, we've done a lot of them. We've done residential intensive courses, we've done very short workshops, one-day workshops. We've even done beer and sushi. We've done a workshop on beer and sushi, so we did a maridaje between beer and sushi because one of my colleagues is a craft brewer.

It was really quite interesting, we had a lot of fun. I mean, these little intensive workshops can be a lot of fun. Very specific topic doesn't necessarily have to be business. Can be something fun like beer and sushi, maridaje. But we can also do two days intensive, a week intensive, and the benefits to these intensive courses is that you're working on specific topics again, so it's highly focused, and they're great for people who are busy, because if you are busy, it's like, "Okay, I'm going to block out these two days on my calendar."

Again, you need to have quite a good level of English for these to be effective, so working level of English, at least a B1 or B2 level, so intermediate, upper intermediate, to really get the benefit. What happens with these courses is they're generally focused on specific topics, mainly business is quite popular, and you just are in a full immersive environment for a day, two days, a week, whatever the time is, and you're working every single day, intensely, doing specific topics.

For example, we would do presentation skills, we would do how to attend meetings, and a lot of these courses, especially the ones that I run, they're based on role playing. You're teaching the key language, the target expressions, and then you're putting it straight away into practice. That's really great, an effective way for people to feel that what they're learning is really specific and relevant to their daily work or their daily life.

Intensive courses, they're tiring, I won't lie, they really can tire people out. If you've done a five-day intensive residential course, you'll know that by Wednesday you are ready to go home. Then you get past the Wednesday and Thursday or Friday, generally you feel better. But it's a hard slog getting from Monday to Friday.

But these can also be done online. For example, here at The Art of Business English, we are now in the process of running our first small group coaching program. This is going to be very similar in nature to a residential course, or a presential intensive workshop. We'll be doing an online, four-week session, where every week there'll be a two hour training and coaching session. The course is about powerful presentations, so here we'll be learning a lot of skills on how to open a presentation with impact, how to use storytelling, how to use facts and figures, how to use anecdotes, these types of skills, to make your introduction very engaging and how to engage your audience during the presentation, which is incredibly important.

Then we'll be looking at really important skills like hands, body language, gestures, intonation in your voice. Then we're going to be covering things such as how to close your presentation effectively, and how to take questions. I mean, a lot of people do not really like taking questions. They know their topic well, but when they have to take questions from the audience, they can really struggle, and they can get quite nervous. We'll be doing an intensive powerful presentations short course, basically it's a small group coaching program, with a maximum of eight participants. That's going to be for all of our AOBE listeners.

But this type of format can also be quite effective. It's great if you've got a good level of English, and you want to improve your confidence and work on specific skills. These intensive courses, they can be a little bit expensive. Especially if you're doing a residential one, because residential ones generally, they include accommodation, they include food, so better if the company can pay for you.

However, they're quite effective, especially if you don't have a lot of time. They are intensive, so they can be very tiring, and maybe you get a bit overwhelmed, but you can learn an incredibly large amount of information on these courses, and you can put that into practice in your workplace in the coming weeks. I would definitely recommend intensive courses as well, if you can, and if you have the time, and your budget permits.

And going back to what I said earlier, if you are interested in joining an intensive four-week program, we do have one here starting in mid-November of 2018. If you're listening to this podcast today, it's in about two weeks. I'm going to be running an early bird access, so if you are interested in joining the program, as I said, there's a minimum four people and a maximum eight. Once we've got eight people we're going to close the program.

So, I do have an early bird access for anyone who would like to jump in and join the program, with Andrew and myself. There's a website with all the information, but there's going to be two epic coaches. Myself, Andrew One, and my colleague, Andrew Warner, who's Andrew Two, and we both together have combined 20 years of teaching experience, and we've been teaching together, doing business English for many, many years.

So combined, Andrew and I both have 20 years teaching experience. I'm Andrew One, as I said, and Andrew Two has also been working in this field for a very long time. We've got excellent skills in communication, presenting, marketing. We're going to bring all of this experience to this small group coaching program. It's going to be a lot of fun, a lot of really exciting, interesting material prepared, and lots of skills to help you guys improve your presentation skills and make them really powerful, make them engage, and help you at the end of the day become more confident and sell your products and your services better.

If you are in middle management, if you are a director or an executive, this course definitely will be fantastic for you. As I said, it's two hours a week and we're going to be covering the things I mentioned earlier. If you are interested in the early bird access, then you should go to www.TheArtOfBusinessEnglish.com/sgcp, so sgcp, so that stands for small group coaching program, so sgcp.

That's where you'll find all the information. You'll find the early bird offer, and as I said, it's only limited to eight people, minimum four. Eight people maximum. Go over to the website, have a look and yeah, sign up, and we'll see you on the course. We're looking forward to having some highly motivated and interested participants and you're going to really learn a lot.

Because it's a new course, and because it's the first one we've done here online at The Art of Business English, it's a super, super, very valuable offer, and I'm sure you'll find it more than reasonable. Have a look, take a look and check it out, and I'll see you all there.

Well, that is it from me today. I'm going to leave you guys now, but that's what I wanted to share with you, the different formats for learning English. Now I hope you have a really good idea and understand the benefits of most of these and maybe some of the negative aspects of each of these ways of learning, and again as always, if you do have any questions, then please email me. I'm always here for you, I'm happy to help. Love to get your comments and I love to get your feedback.

Until next week, have a great week, and if you are here in Spain, have a great holiday on Thursday and long weekend. If not, the rest of you, have a great week and I'll see you all soon. Take care now. Bye

Business Idioms

This six module course helps English language learners build their knowledge of business idioms and their understanding of them in different business scenarios.

We cover idioms for marketing, finance, behaviour, operations and production, manegament and planning.

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Andrew is the CEO and founder of the Art of Business English. Besides teaching and coaching native Spanish speakers in Business English, he is also passionate about mountain biking, sailing and healthy living. When He is not working, Andrew loves to spend time with his family and friends.

Andrew Ambrosius

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