Classroom vs. self-study

16Dec07

Steve Kaufmann, founder of LingQ, wrote an interesting post (it includes a podcast) about learning in the classroom and learning on your own. In my experience, I have learned that I prefer self-study.

I learned a lot in the classroom, but I’ll admit that the style used wasn’t the most motivating. In college, it was the same thing everyday–go through the section and listen to the professor read, every now and then we’d repeat what the professor said. We’d then break off into pairs and do the questions out loud and then as a class. I had a hard time following the textbook’s format, and understanding the larger picture of what we were doing.

With self-study, I have goals set but I get to pick the content and determine what direction I want to go. I can learn in a way that is the most logical for me. There is no pressure to try and keep up with the pace of the class or to perform well– i.e. no tests or grades. I also get to choose the resources I will use, which is a big plus. If a book doesn’t work for me I can always find another one.

At my college it is a requirement to have two semesters worth of a language (here, only French and Spanish count). I placed into a higher-level Spanish but took French (at the beginner’s level) instead. I’ve always wanted to try French, and no matter how boring the class got I tried to retain something but it was a bit difficult because there wasn’t much time to “digest” everything. Plus it was all about memorization, something I hate.

After I took French I was left a little weary of trying to continue learning it. After all, I had always thought language-learning was something you had to do in a classroom. But here I am now–much wiser, adding it to my list of languages to master (eventually) because I get to do it on my own.

Do you prefer self-study or the classroom for learning a language (or both perhaps)? How did you stay motivated in either setting?

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