About three weeks ago, I shared an idea in my Facebook group for Digital Nomad Language Teachers: I asked if anyone was interested in offering small group lessons and join forces to spread the word about the project and do the marketing together. Well, and now I’m working together with a group of language teachers from around the world to make this project become reality. During the past couple of days, I was approached by teachers and prospective students who wanted to know more. That’s why I decided to write this article, to share my idea and vision for the Language Learning Club.
Why Group lessons?
So why group lessons? Most online teachers work in 1:1 settings, especially when they’re freelancers. Well, two years ago, I taught two group courses for a Russian online school and a couple of weeks ago, I offered a 4-weeks German conversation course for two small groups. It’s a totally different dynamic compared to 1:1 tutoring. Some of my students actually said they’d like to have group lessons once in a while. For me, it was also a great experience and combining all this, the idea emerged: Why not offer group lessons?
Win-Win for teacher and Student
I was also thinking of the financial aspect. As a member of several Facebook Groups for teachers, I know that discussions about prices are common. Logically, teachers try to find ways to raise their rates and earn a decent salary. That’s understandable but I’ve always seen the other side, too. I’ve lived in Hungary, the Czech Republic, Portugal and am currently in Peru. An average person in many countries simply can’t afford to pay US$ 30 or more for a language lesson. Sure, you can easily find cheap teachers, too. However, they often don’t have much experience and as a result, they aren’t very good or they disappear after a while. I mean, even in Hungary or Peru a teacher will find it difficult to make a living charging US$10 or less an hour.
Finding a balance between offering affordable lessons for students from (almost) everywhere and enabling teachers to earn a decent salary is not an easy task. With Language Learning Club, we’re thinking of prices of US$ 8 – 12 per student for a 60-minutes lesson which would mean US$ 32 – 48 for the teacher when there are 4 students in the group. For people in some countries, these prices may still be too high and some teachers may find they need to charge more because they live in places with high costs of living. However, you won’t find a perfect solution in today’s globalised world.
I nevertheless think it’s a win-win for both students and teachers. Students will benefit from quality lessons with experienced teachers and teachers won’t compete against each other but decide about the prices together.
More than just another Website to book a language lesson
It’s my vision that Language Learning Club differs from similar websites by focusing on the community aspect. By studying in a group, students will connect with other people who learn the same language but come from different countries and cultures. This is motivating and challenging at the same time. Students do not only learn from their teacher, they also learn from each other. Not only grammar and vocabulary but also culture, tolerance and openness. This is something which 1:1 tutoring cannot provide.
However, Language Learning Club will also be a community for teachers. Last year, I wrote an article about the possibility to teach a language without formal qualifications. I stick to my opinion that a university degree doesn’t make you a better teacher but quality is essential for me. Unfortunately, I’ve seen too many bad teachers, people who think they can make some quick money “teaching” their native language to foreigners – without having any idea how their language works and how to explain this to students.
At Language Learning Club, we will support all teachers and offer them training sessions, webinars and courses so that they are able to provide those quality lessons every student deserves and requires.
Lessons or courses and what Kind of Lessons?
Another question which came up. On sites like italki or verbling, the student books a single lesson or a package of 5 or 10 lessons and teacher and student agree on how to work with each other. With a group, this is not possible or at least more difficult. Online language schools tend to offer courses which last for several weeks and often aim to take the participants from one level to the next. Monthly subscriptions are also a possibility.
Until about two years ago, verbling still offered group lessons. They used GoogleHangouts and up to 9 students could sign up for a lesson. I took part in some of these group lessons and although I think that 9 participants are too many, I liked the concept. Basically, the teachers offered various kinds of lessons: Conversational lessons with given topics for intermediate and advanced students, role plays, reading a text with a follow-up discussion, practising a certain grammar aspect, describing pictures and making up stories, vocabulary lessons based on games etc. The lessons were grouped by level but didn’t follow any structure, so it was perfect for people who mainly needed practice. People who prefer to learn by themselves, for example, but need to practice speaking.
The Language Learning Club teachers will offer such lessons in the beginning. Later on and depending on demand, courses may follow. It’s my vision that this will develop naturally within the community. Students will get to know each other and may decide that they want to work regularly with the same teacher and the same “classmates”.
Which languages will there be?
At the moment, we’re teachers for English, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Catalan, Afrikaans, German, Croatian, Japanese and Arabic. I’m sure that we will team up with teachers for other languages in the future. I’m actually trying to find teachers for French, Russian and Chinese who’d like to join.
Are more teachers needed?
If Language Learning Club becomes a success (and I do believe in this), more teachers are welcome to join. As mentioned above, you don’t need a degree and you won’t be left alone. Each language (or at least the major languages) will have a representative who is responsible for new teachers for this language and I’ll be the one who coordinates teacher training. Not all of what we’re going to offer will be free. Just like with the group lessons for students, I want a win-win for experienced teachers who invest their time in the project and new teachers who need help to get started. At this point, nothing has been decided yet. The project is barely three weeks old, after all.
At this moment, we’re looking for a French, a Russian and a Chinese teacher with experience and willing to dedicate some time to the project. If you’re interested, please get in touch and I’ll give you more details.
A bilingual project
More than half of the members of our current teacher group are either Spanish native speakers or understand Spanish. Personally, I’ve always felt more at home in Latin America than in my native Germany (I’m currently in Peru and heading to Argentina in September). In my experience, Latin America is about as monolingual as North America although more and more people have at least some basic knowledge of English. Often very basic, that’s what I see here in Lima at least. Well, so our website will be available in English and Spanish and part of the teacher training will be offered in Spanish, too. I believe that there’s a lot of potential for English lessons in groups in Latin America, especially as the people here are normally very social but also a bit shy when they’re supposed to speak English.
A quick introduction to the teachers
Within the next couple of days, all teachers will introduce themselves on our Facebook Page but here’s already a short overview of our administrative team, sorted alphabetically by languages:
Afrikaans (+ English): Marge Higgs
Arabic (MSA): Sleem Zayeni
Catalan (+ English and Spanish): Angela Moreno
Croatian (+ German): Marijana Vujasinovic. Marijana will also be responsible for the Facebook Group (coming soon).
English: Ben Evans. Ben is also responsible for everything design and video and our Instagram account.
German (+ Inglés para hispanohablantes): Daniela Fries (that’s me). I’m responsible for the general organisation, the content of the website, the Facebook Page and teacher training.
Italian: Martina Scattolin
Japanese (+ Spanish): Ara Cely
Portuguese: Luciana Pegoraro. Luciana is also responsible for the general organisation, the Facebook Page and Group and a lot of design things.
Spanish: Óscar Ortega, Emmanuel Tartagal (+English). Óscar is responsible for the technical aspects of our website. Without him, I’d be completely lost as I’m not capable of setting up anything but a simple blog like this one. If he finds the time, I hope that he will also offer teacher training for Spanish native speakers. Emmanuel, on the other hand, is our representative for Spanish.
Together we’re currently doing our best to feed our Facebook Page and Instagram account with useful materials, spread the word about our project and work behind the scenes to prepare our launch.
Website and Social Media Links
Website: http://languagelearningclub.com (If you don’t want to miss our launch, make sure to sign up for our newsletter. If you’re student, it will give you access to some special bonuses we won’t offer anywhere else)
Facebook Page: https://facebook.com/languagelearningclub.com
Any questions or comments? Please write in the comments but keep in mind that this is a new and ongoing project :-).