In the first three sections I suggested that students need to first decide on their objectives and I then considered the advantages and disadvantages of studying in a conventional school and self-study.
I am now going to consider private teachers and offer some conclusions.
Private teacher. Advantages.
Private teachers are usually flexible and able to respond individually to the needs of the student. Very often a private teacher will come to the student's home or place of work. If a listening or text is used in class the teacher can ensure that it matches what they know of the student’s interests.
Additionally, private teachers are undoubtedly the best way to practice real speaking. In a class centred on conversation, for instance, the entirety of the class is spent with the student actively participating in either listening or speaking for the entire period.
Private teacher. Disadvantages.
As the teacher is only teaching one student and not a class, and as the teacher has to match his or her schedule to the needs of the student, they are more expensive than classes in a school. (At least they are in respect of good teachers – students should beware of private teachers who offer what seem to be very inexpensive classes.)
Such classes are also quite hard work for the student. Unlike classes in a school - where a student can spend time looking out of the window, surreptitiously chatting to a friend or sneaking a look at a mobile phone – private classes require focused sustained concentration. Of course this also means they offer better value for money as no time is wasted.
So what’s the best system for me then Bob?
You’ve really got to think about what you want to achieve, and what your priorities are. Schools are good for exams, grammar, reading, writing and – sometimes – listening. They are not very good for learning to speak – at least in my experience.
Computerized systems are good for people who want to study grammar, but students need to be exceptionally highly motivated to overcome the social isolation in order to continue for more than a few weeks.
Personal teachers are good for everything, and they are especially good for people who want to really use the language to communicate with other people – though good teachers are not cheap.
So you need to have clear objectives and decide what would be the best system to help you meet those objectives. It’s really your decision.