As a teacher at Languages United, I think the essential features of any effective English speaking class are live online lessons with a teacher and international classmates. This gives you face-to-face contact with your teacher and other English language students.
1. Meet students from around the world
Choosing a course with a mix of international students is a great opportunity to meet people from around the world in the online classroom. After all, why do you want to learn English? To talk to yourself? No! To talk to other people from around the world? Yes please! And if you join an online English language course you get to meet people who are doing the same thing as you - studying English.
There is something very special about being part of an international online group. Imagine hearing the tropical birds outside a student's window in South America or the busy traffic of Moscow's streets. This creates an instant connection between learners and motivates you to keep improving your own English level.
2. Experience real British culture
Students who want to study British English also love finding out more about British culture. Choose a course with teachers who live in the UK and can share their passion for their local culture with you.
Sometimes I like to invite mystery guests to our live online lessons - real people who live and work in Bath - and this gives you the opportunity to ask questions and practise your speaking skills. At the same time, listening to natural spoken English is a really good way to help your own fluency too.
3. Share the same experience
I am writing at a time when we are all experiencing life in a global pandemic. This is the first time in history that human beings have shared an experience that has affected so many people in so many countries. I have found that coming together online through an online classroom has led to students sharing their experiences. We are so connected, thanks to technology.
There are lots of technology platforms for live online lessons such as Skype, Microsoft Teams and Adobe Connect. We use Zoom, with all the enhanced security features switched on. Using break out rooms students can work in small groups just like in a traditional classroom.
4. Compare cultures
It is also because of technology that online learning is possible. Imagine being in a class and being able to look out of an apartment window in Hong Kong, see the fields from a farm in Portugal, the beach from a balcony in Brazil and even share your teacher's view of Bath, UK. Studying an online English course with live video lessons is a wonderful opportunity to share your corner of the globe with your classmates.
5. Learn more than language
Did you know that there are more non-native English speakers in the world than native speakers? If you live outside an English-speaking country, when you speak English you are likely to be speaking to a non-native speaker.
If you are part of a mixed nationality online class you will learn more than language. You'll get to know other people's personalities and culture which is an amazing way of increasing your own awareness and understanding of our connected planet.
6. Practice speaking English in a small class
In my classes I only speak English. You might not think it at first - but this is perfect for language learning. You will have to help each other and work together using the English that you have.
Conversation in a natural setting in your online classroom is exactly the type of speaking skill you will find really practical and useful. When you are looking for the best online English course, make sure you check the class sizes - if there are too many people you won't get much opportunity for English speaking practice.
7. Instant feedback from your English teacher
You can study online courses when it is convenient for you, and that's brilliant. But joining a live online class is even better because your qualified English teacher is an English Language expert and he or she can correct mistakes, help you to perfect your pronunciation, and guide you through the mysteries and secrets of English.
These are my thoughts on choosing an online English course - I hope this information is helpful for you. Maybe I'll see you in a Zoom classroom soon. I hope so!