When you are planning to study English, what should you look for in a school? Here is a list of things that will help you make a good choice.
- Why do you want to learn English?
Do you want to learn English so that you can apply to a university in the United States or England? Perhaps you want to learn business English so that you can succeed in your international career—or work abroad. Or you may want to learn English simply to travel and explore. When you know your goal, you can look at the types of English language schools to see if they fit your plans. Some programs have instruction in general, academic and business English, but some do not.
- Does the course curriculum have what you need?
All English language schools should offer instruction in reading, writing, and speaking English. But some schools are more focused on reading and writing than on speaking. If your interest in English is largely professional or personal (that is, career or travel/exploration) you will definitely want to find a school where speaking is a priority—and where you are given many opportunities to speak in class. And even if your interest is academic, having strong speaking skills will help you navigate an English-speaking university.
- How is the school environment?
Some schools are entirely dedicated to English instruction. Others are departments within a larger school that also offers other subjects. Whichever you choose, make sure that the entire school environment supports English language learning. That is, everyone in the school environment understands and enjoys interacting with people who are learning English.
- What is the quality of the teachers?
Some schools hire teachers who do not have a lot of experience and/or who are not certified in English language instruction. Try to find a program where the teachers are very experienced and where they understand that teaching ESL is a special subject, different from teaching English grammar to people who already speak the language. And of course, you want to find a school that is accredited by local and national organizations, including the Region and Ministry.
- Does the school give you opportunities to meet local native speakers?
Sometimes when you are studying in your country, it can be hard to meet the local native speakers. Your school should offer you opportunities to meet Americans, both in class and outside of class.
- Does the school offer activities outside of class?
An important part of any school experience is your social life. And when you are learning English, using English in real settings, outside of class, is very important. Look for a school that provides you with plenty of activities outside of class—organized gatherings to attend films, conferences, conversation exchanges, parties, and more.
- Are the school staff friendly?
Be sure to review the school’s website, and contact the staff at the school with any questions you have. If it is difficult to contact the school or if you have a bad experience talking to the school advisor, that may be a signal that the school is not for you.
Whatever school you choose, bring your curiosity, your enthusiasm, and your courage. The best way to learn English is to practice—so prepare to start speaking!