Language Schools: Once online, forever inclined     

Students are increasingly favouring virtual language lessons following the necessity brought about by COVID-19. Click on the link in the story to access our latest ‘Language Schools special edition’

(photo: Pixabay)
February 27th, 2021 5:00 pm| by Ben Hamilton
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There are some things you need to do in person, but not perhaps as many as we might have thought at the end of 2019.

Playing team sports – that’s definitely one. And making love … with a partner. 

But once you’ve ruled out the bodily contact activities, are there really so many activities that we need to do in person?

As far as Danish businesses are concerned, the answer is an emphatic no.

READ MORE: Our latest ‘Language Schools’ special edition

Compete with a classroom?
One such industry is language teaching. After all, when you think of a typical class, it’s a high-octane cauldron of togetherness, right? 

After all, students feed off the energy in the room, carefully learning from the teacher’s example and then jumping up to mingle and practise with their classmates. 

When the first lockdown was applied, many thought classes would just stop: how could you replace that learning environment?

Well, vroom-vrooming into the room came Zoom, the video communication platform that might very well be changing the way we learn languages forever.

Screen comforts
Now, of course, online learning was a thing already, but never before have there been so many people doing it. The question is whether they will want to go back.

There’s Julian, for example. Not much of a people person, he tends to get shy and this hinders his learning.

Elizabette’s the opposite, and often her enthusiasm and extrovertness is her downfall. The teacher hates her, and the other students think she’s selfish.

And spare a thought for Pierre. He’s fallen in love with the teacher and can’t look her in the eye at crucial moments in the learning process. But with Zoom, he can gaze all he likes.

At their own pace
There are just some of the myriad of students who are enjoying learning from the comfort of their home – and, let’s face it, when the wind chill is -12 outside, it’s a much more preferable option.

For many students, it also enables them to learn at their own pace.

For example, they might have found the Danish vowel ‘å’ a tricky one to master. But because they recorded the lesson (with permission, of course!), they’re able to rewatch, practise and perfect, and reap the rewards. 

And let’s face it: everyone enjoys watching themselves in action, along with that classic moment when Herve unintentionally stood up to reveal he wasn’t wearing any trousers.  

“They figured it out”
At UCplus in Copenhagen, one of two teaching schools to offer free lessons, students have been thriving during the lockdown, according to Mette Lherbier, the head of the language centre.

Last spring, the teachers were quick to demonstrate their versatility, effortlessly taking all studies online. “The teachers figured it out,” Lherbier told CPH POST proudly. 

And even as the restrictions were eased, the online learning continued, with many of the students preferring to mix it up. 

Numbers increasing
The return of the free classes since July 1 last year has resulted in a lot more students learning Danish. 

The government’s reversal of the 2018 decision of its right-wing predecessor to charge students for lessons means newly-arrived residence permit holders can learn Danish for free.

Numbers at UCplus in Copenhagen, for example, went up from 500 to 2,000 over the following months.

In 2018 and 2019, student numbers fell by 75 percent.

Changed landscape
Nevertheless, the landscape has changed forever, and now only a select number of schools receive state subsidies to offer free classes – more or less the same establishments that won tenders in 2018 to offer heavily-discounted courses (2,000 kroner a module).

Some of the other rules implemented in 2018 also remain.

For example, students are still required to make a deposit of 2,000 kroner at the start of the course, and this is putting some off from taking the classes.

The deposit is only payable by self-supporting citizens. Foreigners enrolled on an integration program and au pairs are exempt from paying one.

Split into regions
In 2018, the country was split into regions, which involved lumping many municipalities together.

So, for example, while Copenhagen, Aarhus and Glostrup are single-municipality regions on account of the large numbers of potential learners, in areas of the country where there are few non-Danes, students might need to travel further!

Again this has probably put some off.

Two tenders in capital
In Copenhagen, where a huge proportion of the new arrivals first find their feet in Denmark, there are two schools offering free classes: UCplus and Clavis.

UCplus currently holds four other tenders in Denmark, including in Ringkøbing and Silkeborg, while Clavis holds the monopoly in Aarhus, Roskilde, Ringsted, Holbæk, Ringsted and, during the summertime, Faxe.

Speak holds the tender in Gentofte.

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