One-to-One Language Classes

As many of you already know, Dirty Shoes works at Gaba and Gaba is no cheap school to attend. It costs some 7,000 yen per 40 minutes of lesson (although she gets paid only a small fraction of that) and since there are several other schools that offer group lessons at much more affordable rates, I often find it intriguing why people would pay so much for Gaba.

I, myself, have gone through several language classes before, i.e. 6 years of Japanese language class, 5 years of Korean, 6 months of Spanish, Thai, and Malay. And for all of these lessons, I have always been in group classes. In my experience, I found that my Japanese classes at once a week, 3 hours per lesson was at a good pace (apart from my full-time studies at Yamasa in Okazaki). For Spanish, I attended lessons twice a week at 2 hours per class, which was also decent. I took Thai and Malay in NUS, so there were more classes per week what with lectures and tutorials. And among all, the one I found lacking the most was my Korean classes, which was only once a week at 2 hours per lesson. Including the time where the teacher spends time talking about random topics in Japanese that I have no interest in, the lessons were really really short.

I’ve always enjoyed group lessons because I get to meet new people and get to practice conversation with other people and I can freely make a fool of myself in class. In the early days, when our Korean vocabulary was very limited, the teacher told us to make a sentence each from the list of vocab we were given. Since I was chosen among the last few to make the sentence, many other options were used by my classmates, and with the remaining few words, I said, “I go to hotel with high school girls.” Everyone laughed (though a couple were shocked). But imagine me saying that in a one-to-one lesson with the teacher. I bet I’ll be arrested for sexual harassment.

The other thing I find beneficial in group lessons is that, some students know words I don’t and when they use it in class, I get to learn things outside the textbook. That was why I prefered group lessons over one-to-one (apart from the fact that it’s cheaper, which played a very important part). That is, until I had my one-to-one Korean class with a new teacher recently.

Let’s start with what I do best: digress. The reason I ended up attending a one-to-one class was because, when I decided to go back for Korean language lessons, I asked the consultant about the pace of the class, because it was the same school (different outlet) I used to study at, and I honestly told her I dropped out previously because the pace was too slow. The teacher sometimes took a couple of months to finish one chapter and when we finally get to the last chapter, she would start from the beginning again instead of proceeding to the next level. While the consultant replied that the typical pace is 2 chapters per month (4 classes of 2 hours each), she said it’s possible that the teachers might slow down to match the speed of each class.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: that is the worst way to conduct class. It wastes my time just because someone else in class is not serious about the lessons. If half the class is absent one lesson, the teacher doesn’t proceed with the lesson and instead does a review just so the others don’t miss it. Hello, I’m also a paying customer. Why does an earnest student who turns up for class have to pay for a revision class I do not need just so the other lazy students do not get left behind? If the teacher proceeds, it will give other students less incentive to skip class and more motivation to work harder to catch up if they fall behind. That sounds to me like what a language school should do. Why punish the dilligent to favour the lazy? More often than not, the absent ones are absent not because they are ill but because they want to go have fun somewhere else. Of course I didn’t say that to the consultant. But when she saw my reaction to her response, she suggested me to take individual lessons since I can proceed at my own pace and can even ask the teacher to teach me anything outside the standard textbook syllabus. Further, since I can only attend class at night, there were no two-hour group lessons during the times I’m available. And so, I decided to go try a one-to-one lesson.

At my first lesson, I found that the one hour was pretty draining since I constantly have to be on the ball, catching as much as I can what the teacher says and respond to her. It was a very productive one hour that matches or even betters a three-hour group lesson unlike in class when the teacher says something I don’t immediately understand but someone else does, the teacher would typically proceed and then I don’t get the chance to keep asking questions. It was then, I understood why people would pay for individual classes. Yes, it may be more expensive, but I’m paying to buy time. Not only will the pace be faster than attending a group lesson, where I can probably finish in two years, what the group does in four, I also only spend one hour per lesson instead of two. That is practically 75% of time saved and made available to do something else, or time gained to utilize the new skill to make money.

While I still find 7,000 yen steep for my financial status, I can see why the rich are willing to pay so much for Gaba. Especially when I hear about Dirty Shoes’ lessons on how she customizes the class into something that is practical for each students’ status and circumstances, it’s definitely worth the money. After all, the rich already can get so many things with the wealth they have, the only thing they desire is probably time. And at just 3,000 yen more, that’s pretty cheap a price to pay.

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