Now that I’ve left my English school (Smith’s School of English Nagaoka) running smoothly in the very capable hands of Gen (my profit-share teacher) for the summer, I’ve just started a language course myself and I’m gaining a new perspective on language schools from the other side of the desk. I’m in Montpellier, France, and will be taking 3 hours of French here every morning for the next few days and I thought it would be interesting to compare the education I get here with the one we’ve been delivering in Japan for the last few years. I have studied Japanese at language schools as well, but I think that as a French language student, I much more closely resemble many of the Japanese ones we encounter since I also had about 6 years of French schooling, which left me with a fair amount of grammatical knowledge and vocabulary but little communicative confidence. In contrast in Japan, I’ve found listening and speaking not to be such a big problem, but reading and writing hugely challenging.
Anyway here are some early impressions: my level test was about 45 minutes long and consisted mainly of grammar questions. Although we don’t officially have a level test at Smiths, I realised how important the oral aspect of the trial lessons are for placing students in the right level to suit their speaking ability: to my surprise I did far better in the test than my speaking level would indicate, and as a consequence I’ve been lumped in a class with nine other students (some of who have been studying here for weeks already) who are much more fluent – it’s not comfortable, and my confidence has taken a battering already on the first day!
The second impression I got was more positive, and it might be something we could adopt in the future: at the start I was presented with a simple A4 z-file with some school information and rules printed on A4 sheets already inside. It also had a stylish cover with the school logo on the front. In the first lesson, and I guess for all the lessons judging by the thickness of some of my classmates’ files, the teacher hole-punched A4 hand-outs, which we used in class, and so I now have them all neatly tucked-away. It would be great to be able to provide something similar, and it certainly helped me feel I’d joined a professional institution.
More insights later as I get them!