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Which English Class is Right for Me?

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When you look at a school’s list of English classes, it can be very confusing.  So many classes!  So many levels!  How do you know which English class is the right one for you?

This is a good question!  Usually, when you enroll at a particular school, the school will give you some sort of placement exam.  You might be asked to take a grammar test.  You might also be asked to write a paragraph or two.  You might listen to an audio or video clip and answer questions about what you just heard.  You might be interviewed by a teacher or other school personnel.

What do you want to be able to do with your English?

All these provide the school with an idea of what your English level is.  Then they will be able to recommend an English class that is suitable for your level of proficiency.  You don’t want to be put in a class that’s too easy for you—you’ll probably get bored, and you won’t learn anything.  You also don’t want to be put in a class that is too hard for you—you’ll probably get frustrated, and you won’t learn anything.  You want a class that is just right—easy enough to be familiar to you, and hard enough to challenge you in new ways.

What about other classes, though?  What if you are beyond the basics—at the intermediate or advanced level?  What English class would be right for you?

To answer this question, you must first think about your goals for learning English.  What do you want to be able to do with your English?  Which English classes you take will depend on your answers to one or more of these following questions:

Do I need to learn English for my job?

If you need English for your job, you’ll have to be good at communication.

If you need English for your job, you’ll have to be good at communication.  You need to be able to communicate with customers and clients in English.  You need to be able to listen and understand what they say to you.  You also need to be able to speak to them, and they need to be able to understand you when you speak.  You’ll probably also have to communicate using email or other forms of written communication.  You might have to read technical manuals or other professional publications.  You might even have to give presentations in English.  There will also probably be times when you can’t meet customers or clients in person, so you’d have to talk to them on the telephone or by using Skype. 

If you need to learn English for your job, the following types of classes would be good for you:

  • Listening Comprehension
  • Conversation or “Free Talking”
  • Pronunciation or Accent Reduction
  • Business English
  • Phone Skills
  • Presentation Skills
  • TOEIC

Do I need to learn English to attend university?

A score of 550 on the PBT gives you an idea of what an average college or university would expect in terms of English proficiency.

Most English-language universities will require a certain level of proficiency in English.  In the US, this means you should have a certain minimum score on the TOEFL.  Requirements vary from school to school.  Schools with stricter admission standards require higher minimum scores than do schools with more flexible admission standards.  To give you an idea, a school with more flexible admission might require 500 on the PBT (61 on the iBT), whereas a school with stricter admission might require 600 on the PBT (100 on the iBT).  In general, a score of 550 on the PBT (79 on the iBT) seems to give you an idea of what an average college or university would expect in terms of English proficiency.

The reason why schools have this requirement is because they want to be sure that you are able to keep up with English-speaking classes at the university level.  You’ll need to be able listen to lectures, take notes, read textbooks, and write papers.  You’ll need a fairly sophisticated vocabulary to do all these things at an English-speaking university.

If you need to learn English to attend university, the following types of classes would be good for you:

  • Listening Comprehension
  • Conversation or “Free Talking”
  • Pronunciation
  • Academic Writing
  • Academic Reading
  • TOEFL

Do I need to learn English for everyday life?

If you plan to live in an English-speaking country, you’ll be using English in a variety of situations.

Maybe you have moved to an English-speaking country, or you have plans to live in one.  If so, you’ll be using English in a variety of situations.  You’ll have to go to the store and shop for groceries, clothes, or other items.  You’ll have to talk to the auto mechanic and explain what problems you have with your car.  You’ll need to rent an apartment or buy a house.  You’ll probably need to read a bus or train schedule.  You’ll have to understand others when they talk to you, whether they are asking for directions or just making small talk.  You’ll want to be able to understand TV shows, movies, and radio.  You’ll probably want to read books and newspapers.  You’ll need to fill out forms.  You’ll want to be able to talk with your neighbors or your children’s teachers.  You’ll have to be comfortable using English on the telephone.

If you need to learn English for everyday life, the following types of classes would be good for you:

  • Listening Comprehension
  • Conversation or “Free Talking”
  • Pronunciation or Accent Reduction
  • Phone Skills
  • Survival English or English for Living

These three situations are probably the most common reasons someone might have for learning English.  Once you’ve mastered the basics, understanding your learning goals will help you to focus your energies on English classes that are designed to help you achieve these goals.

What do you want to do with your English? 

Where do you want to go?  Dream big dreams!  Contact us if you would like help in achieving your English goals!

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