How much does it cost to learn English?
Let’s start by agreeing that this is a ridiculous question.
It’s unanswerable—how much it costs to learn English depends on so many factors. Are you taking English courses? What kind? Where? For how long? What level are you starting at? What level are you trying to reach?
But in addition to the fact that there are so many factors in the cost of learning English, I’d like to suggest that there is an important cost that people rarely consider: the cost of their time.
So in this article, I’d like to explore a little about how to think about the costs of learning English. We’ll go through some typical costs for different kinds of English classes and hiring English tutors as well as how you can learn English for free.
But more than that, we’ll also look at what learning inefficiently may cost you, and how you can reduce that cost as well.
How much do English classes cost?
This is the main cost you’re thinking about when you’re talking about learning English: how much money will you have to pay?
As an English teacher, I’m the first to admit that English lessons can be quite expensive. And that expense gets much greater when you consider that you usually take lessons over several years.
The exact costs, of course, depend on a number of factors including the kind of lessons you’re getting, where you live, and so on. Here are—roughly—what different types of lessons cost from most expensive to least.
Immersive “English tourism” courses
These are the kind of courses where you travel to London or Melbourne or Vancouver for an extended period and take a full-time immersion course in English.
These can cost up to a thousand euros a week for tuition fees and living expenses. Flights, of course, also add a significant expense.
1:1 classes with a teacher from an English school
These are the kinds of lessons where you go to your local English school and pay for a professional, qualified teacher for private classes.
These can cost up to €100 euros an hour, although you can find some that are cheaper.
Group classes at an English school
These are classes you take in a classroom with a group of other learners. There might only be a few other students, or you might be in a class with 20 to 30 others.
The cost of these really depends, but typically cost around €20 to €40 per hour of class.
1:1 private classes with a qualified teacher
In this type of class, an English tutor gives you a lesson in person or over Zoom. Because they’re not affiliated with an English school, these are usually a bit cheaper.
Private lessons can go up to hundreds of euros an hour for very qualified teachers (or popular influencers).
But you can often find lessons with a good, qualified teacher for €20 or even less.
1:1 online classes with a tutoring platform
Teachers on these platforms typically set their own prices, and prices vary a lot., Prices typically start at around €8 per hour, with the average cost of around €15 per hour. Naturally, the more popular the teacher, the higher the cost will be.
These are the video lessons that English teachers give online. Some of these teachers have qualifications, and some don’t.
These are free… but they are normally trying to sell you something else. They often aren’t real lessons, and they may not be very effective.
The cost of learning English depends on how long it takes
Of course, how much you end up paying for lessons depends also on how long you take lessons. This is generally what I see new students fail to appreciate: they think they can buy a 10-week course learning English at an English school and get fluent by the end of it.
It doesn’t work like that.
For even the most dedicated people, learning a foreign language will take at least a year. And for most people, who do it fairly leisurely, it can take several years.
Over several years, those costs add up.
Here are the factors that affect how long you could be taking English lessons:
- 1:1 vs. group lessons. In general, the research suggests that people learn more effectively in one-on-one classes than group classes.
- How often you practise. The more you practise English and the more you use it in everyday life, the faster you’ll learn.
- Whether you learn actively or passively. Active learning is a much quicker way to learn English. Passive language learning is much slower.
In general, you can reduce the time it’ll take you to learn English by choosing more effective ways of learning English, doing those a lot, and engaging with them actively. And the quicker you learn, the less you’ll pay for lessons.
The cost of your time
When we think about the cost of English, we’re mostly thinking about how much money we have to pay.
But I encourage you to take a broader view and also consider that time is a resource that you “spend” learning English.
Thinking about time as a cost is actually built into the English language. Whereas in many languages (French, Spanish, and Portuguese, for example) we would say we “pass time” doing things, in English, we say we “spend time” doing things.
That might be a strange way to think about time, but in this case, I think it’s useful.
It reminds us that time is a resource—it’s valuable.
When you spend your time learning English, you might not spend it doing other things that you enjoy: having a coffee with a friend, reading a book, and so on.
Or think about it this way. If you earn €X per hour at your job, then that is the minimum cost of your time. If you spend an hour watching an English video on YouTube, then you are essentially paying €X to do that, even though it seems ‘free’.
Thinking about time as if it were a cost, like money, guides us to make sure we’re spending it wisely.
Spending time learning English wisely means finding activities that work and that you enjoy.
Find activities that are effective
You don’t want to spend hours and hours doing activities that don’t work. Instead, choose activities that we know are effective.
We know that 1:1 tutoring can be an effective way to learn. We also know that to learn a language, you need lots of exposure to it. For example, we need lots of comprehensive input activities where we practise processing language.
Effective input activities can include:
- Listening to English podcasts
- Reading English books and articles
- Watching English Netflix series (with English subtitles—or none)
- Listening to audiobooks while also reading them
You also need to make sure you are doing output activities, not only input activities.
Effective output activities include:
- Shadowing English speakers
- Having a conversation with a speaking partner
- Talking to yourself in the shower
- Writing a journal or summary of your day
- Recording yourself speaking
Find activities that you enjoy
You want to spend your valuable time doing things you like when you can. So choose English activities that you actually enjoy doing.
Better yet, turn your passions into an opportunity to learn English.
Similarly, you can do what you like in English, too.
If you love grabbing coffee with a friend, make it an “English” coffee, and challenge your friend to speak with you only in English. If you love reading, read in English. If you love to cook, cook in English.
And so on.
Doing the things you already love will help you learn more effectively, and it will also help you make the most of your time.
Can you learn English for free?
The price of learning English can start to look pretty intimidating if you think about it in terms of taking lessons for years. Even if you learn relatively quickly, the costs of English lessons can still add up.
So do you need to pay anything to learn English?
Absolutely not. That’s the beauty of it.
There are tons of resources available that make it easy to create your own immersive English learning programme at home with only free resources.
Now, not all of the free resources are good.
You have to do some research to find resources that work for you. Remember that some of the ‘free’ resources will probably not teach you as effectively.
So you won’t spend any cash, but you might spend much more time, and it could end up becoming a much more expensive way of learning English.
And that’s where learning English is never free: in the time it takes.
The trick for the budget, and time-conscious, English learner is to find the options that help you improve in a more effective, more engaging, and more interesting way. That way, you’ll learn quickly and you’ll enjoy it.
Of course, that’s the goal of Leonardo English. We want to tell fascinating stories in English and pair those with resources like key vocabulary and transcripts to help you learn more effectively.
The idea is that you get the best of both worlds: affordable resources that are effective and that you love to use.
Learning English is an investment
“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” — Benjamin Franklin
Any discussion of costs isn’t complete without looking at what you get from them—the benefits.
And learning English provides so much.
There’s way more that you learn when you learn English than just English. It opens doors, personally, professionally, and culturally.
And while it’s not easy to do, learning English is within reach.
With the right resources, you’ll find that you can learn effectively without it becoming too expensive—on either your wallet or your free time.