YOU WILL :
THAT FEELING OF NOT PROGRESSING
A MASTER KEY
Before You Leap Into a Language
You May Have to Put Your Money
Where Your Mouth Is
These are excerpts from an article by
reporter Brandon Mitchener on intensive and
full-immersion foreign language training.
The article appeared in the Wall Street Journal Europe
Friday-Saturday, June 27-28, 1997.
ONE: Look at language classes like any other
investment. After shopping around for a two-week crash
course, David Ecklund, a 47-year-old American sales
executive living in Brussels, thought he was lucky to
get into a group course that a local school was
running for another U.S. multinational. It was cheaper
than places out of town and so, says Mr. Ecklund, "I
figured I’d stay in Brussels."
He got what he paid for. Instead of
building the little he had learned of the language at high
school, Mr. Ecklund got an intensive exercise in
frustration. "In a classroom environment with seven to 10
people," he says, "you learn at the pace of the slowest
student." Even worse, he was so put off by the experience
he gave up entirely on learning the language for three
Whether you pay for language classes yourself, like Mr.
Ecklund, or your company pays for them, there’s nothing
more frustrating than wasting time and money on language
lessons - especially in a class that’s supposed to be
"intensive." But even one-on-one instruction can be a
waste if you choose the wrong school. And with prices for
intensive and full-immersion classes ranging from $20 to
$100 an hour - not to mention the possibility of losing
income from having to take time off from work or using
vacation time - it pays to choose carefully. (Intensive
refers to morning classes with afternoons off, while
full-immersion programs pretty much involve
First off, decide what kind of return you want on your
time and money and choose a school - or combination of
schools - that maximizes the potential reward while
minimizing the chance of wasting time and money. Many
language schools don’t offer refunds. The most important
criteria for a successful intensive or full-immersion
experience are small class sizes and professional teachers
as well as preparation, follow-up and realistic
expectations on the part of the student.
On his second try, Mr. Ecklund
found just what he was looking for: a full-immersion
program at DIALOGUE, that both helped him with his
pronunciation and grammar and adapted itself to his
interests - including vocabulary geared to his logistics
business. Mr. Ecklund is commercial director of
Caterpillar Logistics Services Inc., a unit of
The key to Mr. Ecklund’s satisfaction, in his view, was
the one-on-one philosophy of the school, DIALOGUE, which
offers indi-vidualized courses ranging from 20 hours of
instruction a week to a more extensive 40 hours a week.
Mr. Ecklund is convinced that the school, which is run
out of the home of the teachers and includes full board
and round-the-clock attention, is a bargain. "If you go
to group classes, you might save money, but you’ll
probably spend the same amount over time because it’ll
take you much longer," he says.
In fact, people who have taken a full-immersion plunge
say group classes should be limited to five students,
especially if you’re beyond the absolute-beginner level.
The more numerous or more advanced the students, the
more likely the ability level will vary wildly.
Small Is Beautiful
reason to opt for one-on-one instruction, or at least go
to a school that offers one-on-one lessons, is the
opportunity to work on specialized vocabulary and cultural
issues that wouldn’t be part of a traditional curriculum.
Of course, schools like DIALOGUE have their price. (…) But
considering the degree of individual attention they
provide, students who attend them have a better shot at
1 WEEK OF DIALOGUE
1 YEAR OF STUDY