Pros And Cons Of Learning English Online
Before you try and answer the question of how to learn English online, it might be useful to start with the question of why learn English online, in fact, why are you learning English at all?
By double-checking your motivation and objectives, you should be able to ensure that you learn English in the best way for you. Learning English online is often seen as a cheaper solution than learning in a local English school, or learning English in England, but it has to work, it has to be an effective use of your time.
How to learn English online: Check your motivation
The question about motivation is important, because the cheaper or simpler the solution, the more motivation you’re going to need to reach the same outcomes. Learning English online can be free of charge, or cost just a few pounds or dollars, but at that price there will be very little to keep you inspired, and you will need to be the driving force behind your learning. So one answer to this question of how to learn English online is “with support”. That could be the support of other students, or it could mean finding an online English tutor. Once you have a small team around you, you’ll be more likely to complete the exercises you’ve set yourself, practise new language you’ve learned or revise for the next session. That gentle external pressure to complete work and move on is one of the biggest secrets of how to learn English online.
How to learn English online: Set objectives
If you don’t know where you’re going, it’s very difficult to know when you’ve arrived. If you need English for your studies or for work, you might be able to identify a specific level of English you need. English exams are a great way to find test and confirm your level to yourself and other people, and it gives you a formal qualification too. Tests like IELTS or Cambridge exams such as Key (KET), Preliminary (PET), First (FCE), Advanced (CAE) and Proficiency (CPE) are very comprehensive ways of testing your English which lead to an internationally recognised level which universities and employers can all use to understand your level of English.
If you’re wondering how to learn English online for an exam such as these, that might be difficult, unless you find an online course which definitely covers all the different aspects of the exam, including speaking and listening. This is when sometime it is better to use face-to-face classes.
By setting objectives, you can also measure your progress. By being aware of your level and how you are moving towards your objective, you’ll be able to see how effective learning English online is for you.
Be certain of the quality
Also, be careful of the quality of online English materials – it’s very important that you don’t learn incorrect English, because it will be quite difficult to unlearn it later. We have had situations here at our school in Hampshire (UK) where students come to us who have spent many, many years teaching themselves English online, and then absolutely insist a particular phrase or sentence in English is correct when in fact no one would ever say it in real life or understand them!
Don’t blame yourself if it doesn’t work out
Even if you’re using a great online English course, with no errors or mistakes, it may still be hard work teaching yourself. The reason learning English online is so cheap is that there is very little or no teacher time, and the same materials are being used for everyone, regardless of what you want to learn, or need and regardless of your learning style, your motivations, you character, your interests, your life and your experiences of learning English in the past.
In short, an online course is not adapted to you. You’ll possibly go through most of it without feeling a deep connection to it, you won’t feel it’s about you, and you’ll still have to do a lot of work once your skills have improved to adapt what you’ve learned to be able to talk about you and your life, and have the kinds of conversations you’d like to have.
If you find it doesn’t work out, that you’re not learning, and you’ve not progressed, then it’s easy to blame yourself – to say “I didn’t try hard enough”, “I wasn’t motivated enough”. That is unfair, because it is very hard to stay motivated when you’re learning something that isn’t about you. Only a tiny proportion of the population can be totally self-motivated in these conditions. Eventually, most people will give up. If they are really keen to learn English, that’s the time when something like a local English class in a group with a teacher, or best of the best, attending an English school in the UK will help the most.
The Pros and Cons of learning English online
Here’s a summary of our pros and cons of learning English online:
PROS (the positive things about learning English online)
It usually will cost less money to learn English online
+ Learning online can fit around your availabilities
+ There is no need to book time off work to study online
+ Online English courses can give you access to more vocabulary and things to read than you would ever need.
+ Learning English online is flexible, and you can do as much or as little as you need to
+ You can combine online English with face-to-face learning as a really great way to consolidate what you learn with a teacher (we think this is the best way of learning online!)
CONS (the negatives about learning English online)
- It can take a long time to build your knowledge through online learning
- You have to be extremely motivated to learn online over a long period
- The quality of cheap online courses may be low, and the English you learn may actually be incorrect
- Learning English online is not the best way to practise speaking and listening with real people
- Sometimes the technology gets in the way of learning, and the experience is not organic like real life
- Online English courses can give you a false sense of security – they don’t always prepare you for the randomness of real life
- Online courses are generic, and do not focus on you, your learning styles, your strengths and weaknesses, your objectives or your likes and interests
- If it doesn’t work out learning online, there is a risk that you’ll blame yourself and become disengaged with learning English (for the wrong reasons)
- You generally get what you pay for, but some big brands charge much too much money for their online programmes, and it might be cheaper in the end to just learn English in England!