Don’t fall for these top 11 traps when choosing English courses in London!

Posted on March 12, 2020

Whether you’re choosing English courses in London for your employees or for yourself, there are some common traps you need to avoid falling into. As some of these traps won’t be apparent until the actual class, you should choose an English course with a free trial as standard. We share our wealth of experience in best practice so that you won’t fall prey to situations that an excellent English teacher would have seen coming. 

Qualifications to teach English courses in London

It’s not enough for an English as a foreign language teacher to have a degree in English. Why? Because knowing literature or how to write well bears little resemblance to knowing the structure of English, and none in knowing teaching techniques. Does your teacher hold a relevant and accredited qualification to teach English to adults? The only qualifications you should accept in the UK are Cambridge CELTA, or CertTESOL by Trinity College London.

Both of these qualifications take a month, they’re rigorous and include plenty of practice teaching groups of adults. Importantly, it’s also quite possible to fail the CELTA or CertTESOL, and many would-be teachers do! 

Be suspicious of any English teacher who says “I’ve got a TEFL”. Why? What this literally means is “I’ve got a teaching English as a foreign language”. It means they don’t have a CELTA or CertTESOL. Unfortunately, there are a ton of quick TEFL courses available which are much cheaper. Furthermore, everyone gets a certificate at the end saying they did the course. Some of these random TEFL courses don’t even have a practical teaching component, only theory. 

Teaching philosopy: the communicative approach 

Lots of people think they can teach English, and have their own method. Such teachers like going through word lists and defining them, listen and repeat, and explaining in the students’ first language, to name a few. You should find an English teacher whose philosophy is the communicative approach.

This is the only method that works best as commonly agreed by modern language learning experts, and the method that we learn in our above-mentioned accredited teacher training. No learning word lists, nor flashy apps in sight. If you hear a teacher say they have their own unique method of teaching English, run for the hills.

Skills: use of resources in English courses in London

Your teacher should have lots of ideas about materials for English courses in London. There are great books such as the Market Leader and New English File series, as well as a wealth of good material on the internet. Check that the resources the teacher uses look interesting and are relevant to your goals. If the teacher insists on using the same old-fashioned looking book for everyone, this is not a good sign. 

Skills: Explaining clearly

At your free trial class, check that the teacher can explain complicated things in a clear way. Don’t accept any language teacher who likes to lecture in a self-satisfied manner about how difficult their language is to learn (these teachers do exist). Any complicated feature of language should be broken down and explained clearly, with encouragement. 

Skills: Frequent, gentle correction 

If, in your free trial class, your teacher doesn’t correct your English, it’s not because you’re not making any mistakes. It’s probably because they want to boost your confidence. However, your English will go nowhere if you’re not corrected. As British people in general are notoriously reluctant to correct the English of non-native speakers, it’s really important that your teacher corrects mistakes. 

Skills: No “teacher talking”

In proper, accredited, English teacher training, we get told off for “teacher talking”. What’s a teacher talker? In old fashioned English, “a bore”. Someone who talks and talks and no-one else gets a word in. Someone who’s so interesting they don’t have to listen to anyone else. If, when you meet your teacher, he or she just talks and talks, you should take this as a huge red flag. You can watch TV in English for free so a high proportion of listening is of little use to you. An excellent English teacher facilitates the students speaking as much as possible. 

Experience: teaching adults 

Has your teacher taught English to adults and not just kids? If you’re researching English courses in London for adults, this is the only experience that you should be interested in. Teaching English to children is a completely different skill, and any experience in this field can be completely disregarded. As an adult you won’t be singing songs, dancing or painting wall charts in your English courses, and you need a teacher who knows lots of activities to engage adults. 

Personal attributes: A native English speaker?

In London it’s obviously straightforward to find a teacher who is a native speaker of English. Not being born in an English speaking country isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as some non-native teachers achieve native English level and can fool native speakers. If you’re researching English courses in London for your employees it’s probably enough to meet a non-native teacher and check they sound like a native speaker. 

If you want English classes for yourself and you’re considering a non-native English speaking teacher, ask for proof of English ability. Insist that you see a certificate from an accredited examination board like Cambridge showing that the teacher has achieved a C2 level or equivalent. C2 level means native-like proficiency. Don’t be too polite to do this, because some non-native English teachers teach their students their own mistakes. 

Personal attributes: Punctuality and reliability 

Not the sexiest item on this list, but if the teacher cancels and rearranges the free trial twice before turning up to the wrong location late, there’s a fair chance that the whole course will proceed in much the same way. If you’re arranging English courses in London for your employees, be aware that cancelling classes leads to learners dropping out. 

Solvency of the provider for English courses in London

Something few people consider, but is the English course provider about to go bust? Many central London English schools with expensive rents went bankrupt in the last recession. In Japan, the story of Nova is infamous. Nova was the largest private English school in the country, and it went bust in 2007. As a result, learners who had paid their course fees in advance lost their money.  You can check if a UK company is being liquidated using this online tool

Location of English courses in London

Hand on heart, is the location really convenient, or will it mean factoring in an extra journey? Might a far-off English school be a tempting excuse to skip a couple of classes? Like choosing a gym and sticking to it, English courses in London need to be able to fit in with our lifestyles. 

Now you know the top 11 fatal traps, you’re in a great position to choose the best English courses in London, and we wish you good luck! For a free trial English class with a top 2% English teacher at your company in London, send us a one-line email today! 


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