Why Traditional Language Courses Don’t Work

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I know, controversial. 

But… it’s true. 

Traditional language courses are no longer the most effective way to teach (or learn) a language. 

Whether you have come here to learn more or the title annoyed you so much you just want to punch me in the face, I hope that you’ll hear me out. 😅

Because with the influx of AI and other learning methods, I honestly believe that we’re about to see HUGE change in our industry. And as business owners and teachers, we need to be prepared. 

What are traditional language courses?

Traditional language courses are the courses you probably taught for years at brick and mortar language schools. 

They typically follow the CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference) levels and group students based on their current language ability. 

These courses usually last a certain amount of time, based on how long it takes to reach the target level. 

This format has been used successfully in language schools around the world for decades. But just because something has worked in the past, doesn’t mean it will forever (or that it will work for you). 

Why? For one big reason…

The language learning world is changing

These days, students have more choices on how to learn a language than EVER before. 

As well as the traditional methods of finding a teacher or a school, they can now choose to learn from apps, podcasts, online courses and even AI tutors. 

You may roll your eyes at some of that. But you can’t argue that they are an attractive option for many language students. Especially because they often promise big results for low prices AND in a much quicker time. 

If students can reach their goal of being conversational with 3 months of bitesize lessons instead of a year of weekly classes… why would they choose to learn with you?

That’s the question we all need to ask ourselves. And we need to start by understanding what your ideal students really want from their language classes. 

What are your students really looking for?

Most people start their language learning journey with a clear goal in mind. And that goal is unlikely to be achieving the B2 certificate. Even students who want to pass an exam want to do it for a specific reason that positively impacts their lives. 

When we sell our CEFR courses based on the levels alone, we completely ignore these goals. We assume that the student knows what the levels mean in real life terms – and that they are okay with spending years learning the language before they actually use it. 

Before you try and hunt me down, I am NOT saying that you should stop following the CEFR levels. You absolutely should if that’s relevant. I’m saying that in order for your offer to stand out in a competitive market, you need to position it in a way that entices your ideal students. 

So, what do they really want?

They want tangible results 

Basically, they want to be able to actually use the language effectively in their real life. 

They probably don’t dream of being an A2 level speaker. But maybe they do want to organise their next holiday or prepare for a job interview or make friends in a new country. See the difference?

By creating an online group language course that is clearly focused on your students’ life goals you will find it easier to stand out and market your course.

They want to achieve results quickly

Promising students they will get fluent in a really short amount of time is unethical. BUT!! It’s true that people want results, and they want them fast. 

No, you don’t have to suddenly do icky marketing to benefit from this. Instead, try breaking your course down from an entire language level to a smaller, more achievable goal that students can reach in a few months. This is less overwhelming for you AND for them. 

They want to enjoy the course

Obvious, I know. But many teachers lose sight of this in trying to make sure the student reaches the specific CEFR requirements. 

If we throw those aside and think about how the student wants to actually use the language, it’s so much easier to build the course content around those real-life goals. 

Plus, by allowing them to speak about topics that are actually relevant to their end goal, they will be much more motivated to learn. 

So, what should teachers do instead?

Basically, I recommend that instead of focusing on the levels, you focus your course on a goal that excites your audience. For example, instead of offering ‘a course for A2 students’ you could offer something like ‘a course for IT workers who need English for work’. 

It’s true this approach is quite different from the typical language courses we are used to. So, it does require you to look at things from a slightly different perspective.

Here are the three main shifts you will need to make.

Create a solution to a problem 

Your students have a goal, but something is stopping them from reaching it. So, they are searching for a solution to that problem. They are not just taking the course for fun. 

If you can identify the problem and create the perfect solution, it becomes a lot easier to market and sell your course. Because you’ve created it for a specific purpose. Which gives people a reason to buy it.

Promise a transformation

The ‘transformation’ is the goal that your students will achieve by the end of your course. It helps them see the value in what you offer. 

Promising something may feel a bit icky, but hear me out. It should be realistic – i.e. something that you KNOW is possible if they show up to all of the sessions and do all the work. 

For example, it could be to have their first conversation with their partner in Italian. Compelling, but also achievable.

Reduce the time frame  

It can be tempting to try and teach EVERYTHING you can to add tons of value for your students. But this approach usually overwhelms people and means they are actually LESS likely to buy from you. 

Instead, you should make sure that your course is only as long as it needs to be for them to achieve their goal. This will make it more appealing for your students and give you more to sell in the future.

You may feel some resistance to this approach, and that’s ok! I accept that it’s very different to what you may have done in the past. 

But trust me when I say that many of my clients have seen amazing results from creating life-based language courses. 

Like Elisabetta, who’s gone from being close to burning out with language school work to selling out her signature group course and creating more balance in her life and work. 

No matter which language you teach, I believe that you can too. 

Where should you start?

Great question, teacher! 

If you are ready to start planning out your course ASAP, then read this blog post to find out how to create an online language group course. 

If you want to learn about my signature 4-step process to creating a profitable offer, join the waitlist for the next Language Course Worth Gold challenge. 💰

Or, if you want to test your idea, build a course and launch it with my full support, join the next round of the Rocket Accelerator. 🚀