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The truth about online learning

If for the past years, the skepticism was something most people had towards e-learning, the current health crisis has propelled us all to a new paradigm where online has almost wholly replaced face-to-face contact. If you’re still feeling uneasy about being camera ready and having to force a certain shyness to disappear, rest assured that you are not alone!

Let me take you back a few years to 2017. At that time, I had been running my French teaching business for two years in Geneva. It was still a rather conventional private tutoring model, where I would meet my students in person at previously agreed locations. The time I didn’t spend teaching, I would spend getting from A to B or stuck in traffic…

I was a young professional building my reputation and career and had all the time in the world so it didn’t bother me that much. The trouble was that I had to refuse some contracts because I simply didn’t have enough time due to all the travelling. I started looking for a better, more efficient solution to make better use of my time. That’s when my dear husband Sam, a mobile security specialist and geek-of-all-trade, suggested teaching on Zoom. Despite my then fear of anything remotely techy (I was trained as an opera singer and barely knew what FB, IG, YT, and WordPress were at the time!), I gave it a try.

It was not perfect, but I had managed to move some classes online on Zoom to accommodate complicated schedules and hard to reach locations. I worked hard to reproduce the high-quality language services I was offering in person and slowly became more and more accustomed to using technology in my lessons. After about a year, I became a real Zoom aficionado! Whilst developing my own teaching methodology with that application, my opinion on face-to-face lessons completely changed as I realized how much more efficient and enjoyable online learning was for my clients and myself. So, in 2017, soon after getting pregnant with my first child, I moved my entire business online, becoming a pioneer of French e-Learning in Switzerland... and the rest of the world!

Did this change my business radically? Absolutely. Did it make it more impersonal? Quite the opposite. I was able to reach more people and have more meaningful interactions that made French Lessons a high point of my students’ days, instead of being just another task waiting to be scratched off a list.

Online lessons don't mean impersonal learning

Prêt à Parler’s online learning method is far from using the same repetition methods popularized in the 70s and 80s, i.e. boring repetition learning. You still have a teacher who will focus on you only, instead of an entire classroom. You’re free to be comfortably installed in your favorite room, drinking your choice of warm drink (tea for me!), ready to seize the day and start making significant progress. I firmly believe that if you’re in a familiar setting where you feel at ease, learning will happen seamlessly and instinctively.

Our lessons are about you

I don’t need to explain the advantages of having lessons in small groups, or how private one-on-one lessons can make all the difference in the way you learn. Having those same individual lessons online is even better because there are no limits to what you can learn. Most language coursebooks are offered in online versions and the internet is our oyster when it comes to finding exercises based on your personal interests.

My team of Super Profs and I strongly believe this creates long-lasting memories which are much more conducive to a successful learning process in the long run. We always prepare the lesson plans ahead of time, but if you feel that you need something different, be it for work or understanding one of the many referenda we regularly have in our daily life in Switzerland, our teachers are flexible enough to find the information needed on the spot and adapt their lesson plan to your needs. That is indeed why they are called Super Profs!

No one is at the back of the class

Going to regular classes is sometimes like going to the movies in Switzerland. In essence, most cinemas don’t have assigned seats and depending on how early we get there, we can either get a good place or be stuck in the back of the room, under a taller student, making the teacher a disembodied voice. The idea of a Charlie’s Angels like experience may be interesting in theory. Still, without the Angels or Bosley in the room, having to listen to somebody you can’t see, for however long it lasts, is not something that ranks high on our list of fun things to do.

At Prêt à Parler, you always have a clear view of your teacher’s face, which makes it easier to interpret their facial expressions and even to copy certain gestures that will make your pronunciation improve faster! Remember when you first tried to produce the “u” sound in French? Wouldn't it have been easier if you could have seen and heard a live demo with extra tips on how to create that sound?

Not our first rodeo

Most companies are still struggling to make their people feel happy and comfortable using online tools like Zoom to facilitate their content. That’s not the case for us.

All our Super Profs have more than three years of experience with Zoom and many other interactive tools used in our lessons. (In case you’re wondering, three years’ experience is actually a lot in the online teaching world!) They know how to work the camera to make lessons feel warm and personal, making the upgrade from face-to-face learning to our online set up a smooth one, and so much more efficient! As long as you also have a good quality internet connection, there are no delays or feedback sounds (no more echooooo!), and if there are any troubles, our IT Team will get it on track in less than 5 minutes. Just drop them a line on your private Slack channel and consider it done!  Plus vite que l’éclair!

Think of it like yoga for the mind

Bored is not something one associates with our lessons—quite the opposite. Our lessons are pretty exciting, and you’ll have the opportunity to stretch your “French muscles”. You’ll develop your vocabulary through the use of different format exercises and new tools. YouTube videos, real-articles published in widely read French-language newspapers and magazines, our interactive whiteboard and of course, some good-old PDF/Word docs are just some of the cards up our sleeve. By the end of the lesson, you’ll get an email summary with everything you learned and a link to the recording of the lesson. Any notes you didn’t take are safely stored for you.

One last thought

There’s one quote by Andy Molinsky, a Professor of Organizational Behavior at the Brandeis International Business School, that has stuck to my mind. “One big advantage of virtual settings is that they lower the bar for participation; you often get thoughts and insights from people who ordinarily might not speak in an in-person environment.” Prêt à Parler might be a “distance learning company”, but for so many of our clients, our method is as close as they get to learning something that genuinely matches their needs and preferences, and where they don’t feel reluctant to participate. Ours is a safe space, and we can’t wait to share it with you!

Don’t take our word for it. Contact us to schedule your free trial lesson today and see for yourself! Come for the French lessons, stay for the most engaging learning experience of your life! If you’re not ready yet to commit to a learning program, feel free to explore our daily free content on our Instagram & Facebook and if you have any other questions or ideas, add me on LinkedIn and ask away!

I hope you are now convinced that online learning is a great way forward when it comes to learning French! Courage & restez en santé et en sécurité à la maison avec vos êtres chers!

Isabelle

As a native Québécoise, born to a Franco-Belgian family, now living in Geneva with her husband and two children, Isabelle is no stranger to the expat reality! Trained as a professional opera singer, her passion for arts and languages led her to become an ambassador of the French language & francophone culture, i.e. a French Teacher!

She founded Prêt à Parler in January 2015. Since then she's been hard at work helping native and non-native English-speaking expats make French part of their everyday life! Prêt à Parler's mission is based on what Isabelle does best: helping busy professionals and parents improve their language skills by providing a high quality, eco-friendly, fun, no-nonsense approach to learning French online!

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