Learn a New Language By Actually Speaking It
Try for 100 Days
100-Day Risk-Free Trial Trusted by 200,000+

Learning Language: App vs. Class vs. Private Tutor

A comprehensive overview of the pros and cons of language learning with a teacher versus an app versus classes. There is no perfect solution; you have to understand what works best for you.

I have taught French for several years. And before I became a teacher, I was a student. I learned French through formal schooling and immersion, and I learned Spanish at school and with an app. In fact, I am still a language student, actively learning Greek right now.

This time I am using an app, at least to start, and also teaming up with a buddy. She helps me stay on track and not slack off. So with all this experience I feel qualified to give an opinion on the different methods of language learning.As you can imagine, there are advantages and disadvantages to each way of learning.

As there is no single best way to learn, you should pick the tools or combination of tools that work best for your learning style and the amount of time you have to devote to it.

Learning with an App

There are a lot of different apps out there that you can use to learn a language. They will all teach you vocabulary and grammar rules, albeit in different ways, and they all have a free version.

My favorite one, hands down, is Duolingo. I like it because it teaches you the language by making it fun. There are no grammar drills or flashcards like in a formal classroom. Instead, it's presented as a game. You start out at the beginning and earn your way to higher levels by getting correct answers. From the very beginning, Duolingo has you reading, writing, listening, and speaking the new language as you are learning it.

Pros: The first pro of app-based learning is time. Lessons are usually very short, around 5 to 10 minutes. This allows you to squeeze in time for language learning in between everyday tasks. I know people who do them on the bus or train while commuting to work. Others use their morning and afternoon work breaks to do a lesson.

No matter how busy you are, it is pretty easy to justify taking 5 or 10 minutes to do something for yourself.A secondary benefit of these shorter sessions is that you have a tendency to work daily (versus longer, once a week classes). This daily practice is key to language learning. When your brain works with a new language regularly, you're able to retain more of what you learn.

Cons: On the flip side, app-based learning lacks accountability. When working by yourself on an app, you aren’t accountable to anyone except yourself. As I mentioned, I'm trying to overcome this by having a study buddy as I learn Greek.

Another drawback of using only an app is that you will have questions, but there is no one to ask. Most apps have a feature where you can talk or message other users, although in many cases you have to pay for this extra feature. You can ask them your question, but they may not really know the answer either. For example, do you know when to use ‘who’ versus ‘whom’? Would you be able to explain it to an English as a Second Language student?

Finally, no matter how good an app is, there always seems to be something missing. With Greek, I have found that learning a language with a new alphabet is quite challenging on Duolingo because I had no idea of what the letters of the Greek alphabet even were. Although the first lessons are devoted to teaching the alphabet, I was still so lost that I wanted to give up. I had to look up and learn the alphabet before continuing just so I had some frame of reference from which to try to understand it.

No matter what app you use, you will find yourself having to do some work outside of the app to help you understand certain things better.

Learning with a Teacher

There are several different options for finding a teacher. You can use a subscription service like Rype. You can look for a formal class in your area or online. And you can hire a teacher and pay by the lesson, typically $20 to $50/hr. Even if you have a teacher, it doesn’t guarantee success. You still have to schedule and show up for your lessons each week. So in this way, it is similar to an app. You need to have the motivation to use whatever tools you decide on.

Pros: The main benefits of a teacher are what we discussed earlier as the weaknesses of an app. With a teacher, you have someone to hold yourself accountable to and you have someone to ask questions.

Everyone learns differently and you make associations in your own unique way. The great thing about having a good teacher is that they can help guide you through the process in a way that works best for you. Some students like to learn in a traditional way, with a textbook. Others like to learn through dialogues or have lesson tailored to their specific needs or industry. An app can’t really tailor a lesson to you, it is made for everyone.

A teacher will help keep you on track. If you have a goal of learning a language over the course of six months, you will need to be able to plan out how you will do that. But if you have an experienced teacher, they will already know where you need to be at the various stages of your learning. They have already mapped out how much time is needed to achieve a given level of fluency.

Finally, a teacher is aware of many resources to aid you in your learning. They are aware of the best online content to watch and listen to for your specific language. They also know which websites are the best ones to use based on accuracy of content. (It is sometimes hard to know if a site is credible with so many out there.) Your teacher may have even created their own content in the form of slide shows or informational documents that they will share with you.

Cons: The biggest drawback of using a teacher is that it can be very expensive, and you will still have to do work outside of your lessons. Students who pay for hourly instruction with me typically have 1 class each week because it costs $25 per class. This is not enough time to actually learn a language, and so they need to do a lot of work outside of class to really learn.

Using a subscription service like Rype, students have the ability to have more classes each week for less money, which is great, because you can learn faster. Learning a language requires repetition and it is best to expose yourself to it a little each day, or a lot, depending on how much time you have to devote to it. With this method, students can afford have a lesson almost every single day.

Why not use them both!

So, as you may have suspected, I am recommending that you use a teacher, but also that you use an app! The best way for many people to learn is by incorporating both methods into their strategy.

In fact, my most successful students use apps, take lessons with me, and use as many other resources as they can find to help them learn French. So in a way having more resources and tools equate to an easier time of learning because they can make it more enjoyable and efficient than the traditional classroom structure.

But, all of these tools don’t mean that it will be an easy thing to do. Learning a language takes work but the rewards are great!If you want to choose only one method, I would recommend having a buddy to learn with you if using an app.

If you want to go the teacher route, I would use a subscription service so that you have more face time each week with your teacher.

Do you constantly feel intimidated when you speak a new language?

Speak With Confidence on Day 1

Join 100,000+ learning to speak confidently in 3 weeks with Jumpspeak's AI Immersion Method.
Start Speaking
Get Unlimited Spanish Conversation Practice.
Get access to our free language hacking course.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.