Why do people insist on courses?

I thought of the idea for this thread because i read several other forums, and there is a guy on one of them. Let’s call him Pete.

Pete has been studying French for at least 4 years that we know of, and in 2014 complained that he wasn’t getting anywhere despite 400+ hours of concentrated French ‘study’.

He has since gone on to complete many more thousands of hours of French ‘study’ and yet has only just been certified at a B2 level.

He has now recently been complaining that it just doesn’t come easily to him etc.

The problem ? He was advised several years ago to ditch his reliance on structured courses and to start devouring native material. He refused.

He recently added in native material to his routine, but despite complaining at feeling like going nowhere has now decided he needs to do more structured and focused ‘study’.

You see, Pete spends most of his time on courses. Structured courses. Courses you can buy. Free courses. He’s OBSESSED with them.

WHY will some people just not let go of nonsense courses and just get into native territory ? Even at B2 i can guarantee he wouldn’t be able to understand joe public on the street because all his exposure has come from pre-manufactured, forced, contrived speech written by someone in a studio and put down on record by voice actors.

His time taken to get to a B2 in French is mindboggling given his effort and consistency.

I am at B2 listening level according to several online tests after a couple of years of doing barely any concentrated listening practice and mostly just reading with some listening here and there. And i feel i’m not suited to learning languages at all.

Thoughts ? Why do some people just seem unable to let go of courses, especially at higher levels where they really need to be pushing on to language the way it is really used ?

“…WHY will some people just not let go of nonsense courses and just get into native territory ? Even at B2 i can guarantee he wouldn’t be able to understand joe public on the street because all his exposure has come from pre-manufactured, forced, contrived speech written by someone in a studio and put down on record by voice actors…”

I’m all for people using authentic native content ASAP.

But I think there is a place for ‘designed content’ such as Linguaphone, Assimil, the old Practise and Improve series from Passort Books, and the like.

If Linguaphone did an advanced second stage course for Italian (they only do them for French, German and Spanish) I’d be temped right now to work through it in a systematic way as a way of ‘de-rusting’.

In fact, I reckon it’d be just the linguistic viagra that I need to get my droopy Italian preening like a peacock :smiley:

Courses are appealing because (1) they are easy to do, (2) student can trust the course (or the teacher) and hold them responsible for the learning, that mitigates the stress, and (3) after you finish the course, you feel like you accomplished something. Because of these reasons, when I started to learn French, I spent the first 6 months on Rosetta Stone and Duolingo. What a waste of time!

I think courses are valuable when starting out. I know some people like to start from scratch with native content, but others feel more comfortable having some structured approach at first. Still, I agree that once you get to a solid intermediate level, you probably should have already been using predominantly native content and certainly should start doing so. I’m not sure, honestly, how you can really get beyond an upper beginner stage using just structured courses.

1 Like

I completely agree. It’s a good idea to use a structured beginner’s course so you can learn to conjugate verbs and decline nouns, adjectives and pronouns. It can also introduce you to things that will be a source of major confusion if you are to discover it yourself. For example, I just came across the Serbian noun class ending in -lac and learned to decline it. I had seen the strange declinations of that class before here and there but I never knew how to produce the nominative singular and therefore I couldn’t even look up the word on wiktionary. For some reason the author of Teach Yourself Complete Serbian omitted this class. Or I forgot about it?

My experience with Russian is that my progress was steady but slow back in 2012-2015 when I relied on structured courses and after I began making a big effort with reading, my comprehension improved in months. Now I can read just about anything (with varying speed) but had I stuck with the structured courses then I am sure I wouldn’t have been able to read a children’s song to this day, much less the Wikipedia article about stars which I have gotten about half-way through at this point.

Edit: Also there is a difference between reading something and understanding it. Without the rich exposure to all kinds of language registers and vocabulary you will misunderstand more.

Thousands of hours and just at B2? Man that would totally suck.

I think that a course would be useful for someone who is starting from scratch to study a language that is very different from the ones that he has studied.

Generally, according to the common opinion, courses are the only way that a non gifted person can learn a language.


I’m Pete. I’m not your Pete, but I’m a Pete nonetheless. I have the memory of the proverbial goldfish and just switch off when the material is hard. Courses give a bit of social pressure as well as some structure and, as someone else said, a sense of progress. Lingq is really hard for me and I find it hard to keep at it for long as it’s such a chore.

On the other hand, I do enjoy talking with natives and I like the satisfaction when I understand some content that I encounter in real life. But in a place like Lingq it feels artificial and I don’t have that feeling of progress to the same extent. I believe what you say about needing to hit native material but the step up in difficulty is just too much for the untalented. The best I can do is force myself every now and then, then retreat back into some structured courses. I am still encountering stuff I don’t know in these courses so it still feels worthwhile.

I’m an ESL teacher and I don’t believe in courses! Why do people insist on taking cooking courses or art courses for that matter? Music classes destroyed my interest in guitar when i was a boy!

I show every ESL student I teach LingQ, and then I show them how to use it.
I show them how to read for general comprehension, how to read and notice new vocabulary and phrases. I ask them to highlight new words when they read non-digital newspapers and then to write them down in a notebook or some other device. I help them define the words and I ask them to try using them in new sentences.
I show them the Podcast app on their iPhones (to date, exactly 0% of my students have known what a podcast is before I explained it), and ask them to download Castbox if they use Android. After that, I ask them about their personal interests and we hunt for matching podcasts and download them. I also give them a few intermediate level podcasts from VOA and BBC for comfort. Then I suggest they listen to podcasts in the car when they go about their daily lives. And, if we have time, we do 5 minute samples of podcasts and try to discuss them.
We watch YouTube videos for pronunciation practice. I encourage them to relax and watch movies on Netflix (without subtitles in English or their native language). Then if they liked the video, I suggest they watch it a second time with English subs.

I teach them to be independent language learners… and it is Still an uphill battle against step-by-step programmed courses, even after all this.


I can never comprehend why people are so categotical, so flat in their opinions???
This topic has the title: Why do people insist in courses?
And I can ask: Why do people refuse the language courses?
Everyone must have an opportunity to make a choice: where and how to learn a target language.
It’s very well if you can be an independant learner. But it means to be responsible for your study or not enough study. Some students can do it, some students are not so sure, not so daring and prefer (especially at the beginnig) to start in the class.

And despite all critics ‘step by step’ method is the best one to make a beginning.
If you don’t want to be frustrated, don’t start with a TV news or some newspaper’s articles.
With time you can do it, but not from the every beginning.

And who told you that all materials on courses are artificially pre-manufactured?
For the levels A1 and A2 maybe.
But as a language teacher, I add from the level B1 more and more authentic native content.

All my podcasts or interviews for the level B2 here in lingq.com or anywhere use natural vocabulary which is used in an average native speaker’s conversation. They are not artificially prepared.

And my last note - the level B2 is a very high level!..
The half if not more of the native speakers talk on this level!.
And only very educated people talk on the level C1.
THe level C2 is the level of a writer.
Are you a writer?
Maybe your name is Shakespeare or Hemingway?


I have some friends and they still doesn’t understand why I am learning in lingq. They all believe in curses.

I agree, structured courses are fine for level a1/a2. It gets people moving in the right direction. I see my role as an ESL teacher as a coach and an assistant. People who aren’t ready for independent language learning come to me for help. I’m happy to provide it.

I’m not a writer no but i’m at an English level far, far beyond what a non-native needs to be to pass C2. As are all well-read, life experienced native speakers.

I’m not against all courses. I never said i was. I’m expressing my bafflement (yes i’m using this word) at people who use courses and get nowhere (like most people who use courses) in terms of actually knowing and using the language and yet continue to insist on using them despite the evidence that they don’t work or work very slowly.

This is about the apprehension to dive into native material, not the slagging off of boxed courses.

With boxed courses alone you will NEVER get to high levels of proficiency because courses designed to take you there just don’t exist. You need native content. High level of proficiency IS real life. It’s not a letter and a number.

As a side, B2 isn’t a very high level. It might be on paper, but in the real world it doesn’t equip you for real life. Go speak to the returns department of But fr on the phone in French and see how far B2 gets you. Go to the builder’s merchant and ask them about their flue pipe and see how handy B2 is. Not at all. From my experience, people in real life phrase their words and sentences much differently from how courses present them. At least from a French-English standpoint. You can always tell when someone has learned their French writing through a course because it’s too easy to literally translate into English even though it makes perfect sense in French. It’s just not how they would phrase it.

Maybe I’m a little late, but I’d like to add a point that I still have not seen touched here.
some people have said that courses are good for beginner levels, I MUST agree. Especially if we are talking about certain languages.

Like, when I started learning french, the impression I first had was that it was very similar to my own native language Portuguese, so I only looked through some very basic aspects of verbal and nominal morphology, but that was it, after that I used linqg and other things.

But I have been trying for quite some time to get myself engaged in Korean, but I haven’t been able to, sure, It is my fault, I do not have the time or the energy to focus in a language like korean right now, but every time that I tried, the language seemed so overwhelming that I could not go on, you know?

Other experience of mine is Latin, I study classical literature and language at University, and as Latin is a “dead” language, I don’t think the ideas of studying languages that we have here apply to it. I literally don’t know how could I learn Latin if not by classes. And I say it as someone who studied English and studies french alone, so…

Well, what I meant is that for each group of languages, maybe different approaches of learning can be used.

This is a different problem in my eyes. You can’t be bothered to study Korean. Doesn’t that tell you something ? We must do what we enjoy. If you enjoyed it, you would find time to spend with it.

The same reason people like to make top 10 lists and buy exercise products like “8 minute abs” or follow directly instructive pathways… It’s difficult, complicated, and confusing to build skills that are long term and have unclear paths. It’s nice to have a concrete… “If I follow this pathway, I will be improved”. outline in front of you.

So we can equate it to fear of going it alone ?