The beauty of the one-to-one format,” observes Hannah Robinson at Languages International, New Zealand, “is that we can cover anything the student wants.”
As Petra Heintze, Director of Carl Duisberg Centren (CDC) at Radolfzell, Germany, points out, not only can the provider go into the special study needs of the client, it can also arrange leisure activities in accordance with their special wishes or hobbies.
Typical profile? Typical aims?
There are many reasons for choosing one-to-one. According to Miriam Sborgia of Brazilian study travel consultancy, Frontless, individual study is especially appropriate for business executives, and John Cooknell of Berlitz, London, UK, confirms that it is frequently chosen by senior managers or executives needing to make fast progress in a short time. Generally speaking, he says, upper-intermediate is the starting level, and clients need to be able to perform in a given professional situation. “Many will have important sales meetings to attend, critical presentations to make, or new businesses to open.” They often need to study field-specific vocabulary, such as Aviation English, Human Resources or Oil & Gas, or a mixture of different fields.
At UK-based Oxford International Study Centre, one-to-one is offered in a very wide range of subjects, explains Principal, Carolyn Llewellyn, who identifies two main types of client for these programmes professional people and an increased number of school students, during their holidays, wanting one-to-one exam revision.
Another common category of client is university age students. The Constance centre of Humboldt-Institut, Germany, receives many international university students, notes Marketing Director, Brigitta Alkofer, and those wanting to prepare in as short a time as possible for the TestDaF proficiency exam choose one-to-one. Similarly, at Brazilian language school, Diálogo, students wanting to take the Portuguese proficiency exam, Celpe-Bras, often undertake one-to-one classes, notes spokesman, Vinicius Barbosa.
Because of the individual attention afforded, one-to-one tuition is also a popular choice for those with other types of specific requirement. In Australia, Port Douglas English Language Centre offers one-to-one courses for students with special needs and/or learning difficulties, notes spokesman David Hurford. Barbosa also highlights their appeal to older people with language difficulties and students from Asian and Islamic countries who experience problems because of the very different nature of the language.
However, according to Alexia Josephs, Marketing Director at Home Language International, a Monaco-based home tuition specialist, there is no “typical” profile one-to-one students are of all ages, nationalities and backgrounds, she stresses. When you think about it, this is really very much the point.
With the focus of tuition 100 per cent upon the individual, “You can take the whole personality, with all its strengths and weaknesses, into account,” contributes Sven Haushalter, Director at CDC, Berlin, “[This includes] the ability to concentrate and focus on things, learn strategies, learning speed, interests [and] motivation.” As Inge Groeneveld, Marketing Director at Academia Columbus with schools in Costa Rica, Ecuador and Mexico additionally points out, even the tempo is personalised, so that students are afforded “the maximum amount of flexibility and individual support”.
While it is standard practice for language schools to conduct a student needs analysis, either prior to or immediately upon arrival, in the case of one-to-one students, at Set Idiomas in Argentina, this exercise is more detailed, explains spokesperson, Natalia Bermudez. Indeed, she notes, “It is the keystone for syllabus organisation.”
At EC, students complete their needs analysis in advance, so that teachers can prepare material and plan the first session, explains Nadya Aquilina. At CDC, participants can use the online portal to contribute need analyses, self-evaluations and take a placement test, before lessons start, so that the teacher is able to compose an individual programme and, underlines Haushalter, “This is adjustable during the lessons at any time.”
The content of private tutoring programmes at ILSC Education Group is built up by the student, with guidance and recommendation from their instructor, says Director, Nadine Baladi, and the course may focus on anything from basic grammar review to conversational fluency or high-level business negotiation tactics.
The student may be guided in this process to a greater or lesser extent by the teacher. “Obviously, an executive usually has a very clear idea of what he/she wants to learn, and, together with the teacher, they will decide content for the custom-made class,” observes Humboldt’s Alkofer. “With juniors and teenagers, the class is still custom-made for their needs, but they have less influence on what they are taught, as this decision is usually taken by the parents and the teacher, and oriented on the goal the student wishes to reach.”
For clients seeking pure one-to-one study, the choice is between a course in a language school or with a home tuition provider. Staying and studying in a teacher’s home allows the student to benefit from total immersion in the language both inside and outside lesson times. This factor is frequently appreciated by the parents of school-aged children, as Jackie Verrall of English Language Homestays (ELH) in the UK points out. Furthermore, many homestay specialists can provide a wide range of one-to-one language options. Home Language International, for example, offers specialised vocabulary, while ELH can provide specialisms such as pre-Cambridge First Certificate, Business English, Aviation English, as well as English-plus.
At Explore English UK, Julia Traskas points out that teacher hosts are available with a wide range of experience. “We aim to match the client wherever possible with a teacher who has experience relevant to their needs,” she comments. “So, a business person who wants to improve their presentation skills would be matched with a teacher who has experience of making presentations in business situations.”
The right combination
Language schools, meanwhile, frequently offer the option of either full-time one-to-one study or a combination course, where individual classes are taken alongside group study, and, at Spanish language school, Malaca Instituto, spokesman Bob Burger reports that, increasingly, professional clients are opting to mix standard group courses with one-to-one.
While commenting that this could be a result either of budgetary restrictions, or the fact that his school’s average age range, outside summer, ensures that these clients will be in standard classes with people of a similar age, he believes there are positive benefits to be gained from a combined course: the networking and social advantages of group participation, plus the benefits of the “group dynamic” (with the chance to learn from the mistakes of others), alongside the one-to-one advantages already described.
His view is shared by Baladi at ILSC, who, noting that 85 per cent of its one-to-one students are concurrently enrolled in group classes, observes that group work balances out the formality of a private programme, because it provides the student with an opportunity to use English in a more natural and relaxed setting. The lower price point of group classes also allows students travelling on a budget to increase classroom hours “without breaking the bank!”
The popularity of combination programmes is confirmed by Roland Bartholomé of French language school, Ceran Lingua, who reports that courses including either one or two private lessons per day represent 80 per cent of executive course sales. At Berlitz London, meanwhile, “This option has doubled in popularity in the last three years,” notes Cooknell, “and we now actively promote the courses, as they are high-intensity and mid-budget.”
Many schools take a very flexible approach to combining courses. At Bell, for instance, students can attend one-to-one lessons on a full-time basis, or combine with any group programme, explains Natalie Dawe. In its Executive Combination course, participants undertake intensive one-to-one sessions in the morning, focusing on specific language needs from presentation to negotiation skills, or learning English in the context of a specific industry. Then, in the afternoon, they can practise their English through group activities, such as case studies or problem-solving tasks, and share ideas with other professionals.
Another approach is to take one-to-one tuition as a preliminary to group learning. At BLC, based in Bristol, UK, “We advise complete beginners to have a week of one-to-one lessons before they are ready to join a class,” notes Marketing Manager, Jennifer Jackson. At ELH, too, students can begin with one-to-one study and then join a group programme, Verrall confirms. In Spain, at Inturjoven Spanish Courses in Seville and Cordoba, it is possible to begin with group tuition and then change to one-to-one or vice versa, explains spokesman Máximo Sepulveda Ramos. This kind of flexibility can prove invaluable, such as in the case of students on a regular group course who are lagging behind their classmates and want to make up ground, as Alkofer points out.
When choosing between exclusively group study and combining with one-to-one, opinion suggests that an element of one-to-one is always beneficial. As Alisha Fields of Germany’s F+U Academy of Languages testifies: “We notice a higher learning success if students take a combination of group lessons and individual lessons.”
The rise of one-to-one
As the benefits of one-to-one study have become more widely known, there has been a clear upward trend in this sector of the market for many providers. Cooknell notes that, over the past 10 years, private tuition has been Berlitz London’s core product, accounting for over 80 per cent of overall business in 2011, and, he observes, “We have seen a continual rise in interest in these programmes, over the last five years in particular.”
At ILSC, meanwhile, where private students currently make up 16 per cent of student numbers, Baladi relates that “demand has grown exponentially” across its seven campuses. Furthermore, at Port Douglas ELC in Australia, says Hurford, the proportion of one-to-one programmes has increased by at least 25 per cent over the past few years.
According to Sepulveda Ramos, one-to-one bookings are “continuously increasing”. However, enrolment tends to be seasonal, and he records that individual students represent approximately 80 per cent during the school’s low season, decreasing during high season, to account for 30 per cent of total bookings.
With client interest on the rise, many study travel consultants are already benefiting from their involvement in the one-to-one market. According to Josephs, 99 per cent of one-to-one clients make their bookings via a consultancy, while agent referrals represent 70 per cent of bookings at ELH.
Remarking that the proportion of one-to-one clients finding Berlitz through an agent has, in the past been low, Cooknell highlights a rise from 10 per cent to 20 per cent over the past five years. “This proportion is growing year-on-year,” he says, “and [we are] now actively seeking more partnerships overseas.”
Case Study One-to-one Business English at Bell “A student from Germany recently studied on an intensive one-to-one course, focusing on developing business language skills, particularly writing and oral skills. Activities included the composition of business emails, developing effective networking vocabulary and telephone techniques and focusing on presentation skills which incorporated the tutor videoing their student presenting for feedback and self-assessment purposes.”
Case Study One-to-one Ielts preparation at Bell “A student from Spain attended a full-time 21 hour per week one-to-one course to develop her general and academic English, particularly to improve her debating skills, especially in the areas of English literature and culture, in preparation for applying to an English-medium university. She also wished to prepare for the Ielts exam. As such, a specially-designed programme was developed around activities promoting discussion and debate of literary and cultural topics, including the art of constructing arguments, focusing on specific vocabulary and Ielts exam preparation. Interspersed with this programme were inspiring trips to museums and places of cultural and literary interest to further enrich her learning experience.
Case Study One-to-one Academic English at Living Learning English, UK: “A student from Belgium attended a full-time 15 hour week one-to-one course to develop his Academic English, particularly focusing on improving his speaking, reading, listening and writing skills in the format and demands of the Ielts exam, in preparation for applying to study for a Master’s degree in Australia. A specially-designed programme was developed around the practice of the speaking, reading, listening and writing tasks that will be tested. In preparation for the listening, the course focused on situations in or around educational settings. Reading work focused on passages from magazines, journals and newspapers: the student was tested on his ability to understand main points, find specific information and transfer information from charts or diagrams. The student practised writing reports from graphs and charts and writing discursively. For the speaking, he prepared two-minute presentations and engaged in one-to-one discussion. Alongside the English classes, visits to local places of interest and participation in social activities with the family made this programme a total immersion in the British language and culture.”
As Julia Traskas of UK home tuition organisation, Explore English, points out, “One-to-one is, of course, more costly than group learning.” In the current global financial climate, this might initially appear to be a negative factor. However, look a little deeper and it is, she maintains, “a far more efficient and cost-effective way to learn.”
According to Kate Hargreaves, Principal of fellow UK home-tuition provider, Living Learning English, progress is two-to-three times faster than in group learning; therefore, she says, one-to-one tuition is cheaper, if you look at what you have to spend to make equivalent progress. Moreover, “Students easily understand that sometimes they benefit more in fewer one-to-one lessons than in more group lessons,” comments Alexandra Borges de Sousa from Portuguese language school, CIAL.
Meanwhile, at German language school, the Humboldt-Institut, Marketing Director, Brigitta Alkofer, points out, “The type of client who books one-to-one courses with us is usually not concerned about money, nor affected by the economic crisis. The benefits [of] these programmes are obvious...and we usually don’t have to spend extra energy on educating our clients about them they already know.”
Furthermore, for John Cooknell of Berlitz, London, UK, “A climate of slow growth means that many companies are investing now in their talent pool and are willing to invest additional funds, as they appreciate the high return on investment only one-to-one training can give. Many managers and executives simply do not have time, and so private tuition is the natural choice,” he underlines.
As to the future of one-to-one programmes, an atmosphere of optimism prevails among providers. Indeed, English Language Homestays has recently expanded its original UK business with the opening of a new centre in Cape Town, South Africa, solely for one-to-one clients. “This has provoked great interest, with both our existing clients and new ones,” comments spokesperson Jackie Verrall.
David Hurford at Port Douglas English Language Centre in Australia is similarly upbeat: “Our prediction is that the growing demand in quality one-to-one programmes might one day outstrip the supply. Language students are getting more quality-sensitive and would not hesitate to pay more for a fast-track course that brings tangible benefits,” he claims.