The ESL school – a 2020 prediction


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There is so much talk these days about online English and we certainly get a lot of requests for it coming our way. The question is, will online English ever take over traditional language centre situations or even more interesting a question, will there be anything else that will ultimately take over the language centre business?

I’m not a fortune teller or futurist but what I’d like to put forward now is firstly a list of what is available now technology-wise and/or what is in the pipeline to happen in the next 3-5 years.

  1. Google translate – place any language on the translation page and you will get the immediate English equivalent, and it is getting better and better and now with a voice that is becoming increasingly human – thanks Suri!
  2. App translator – now you can download an app that will immediately translate the sentence spoken to an equivalent English sentence. This can happen within seconds in a conversation and the accuracy again is getting better and better
  3. Skyping English conversation – already many teachers have moved away from the idea of teaching in a classroom setting and have made skype their classroom.
  4. Online English language courses – there are an infinite number of courses with multi-choice or short answer questions
  5. Online dictionaries with meanings, usage and pronunciation – thanks to google we can now find out any word and everything that goes with that together with a translation.
  6. Virtual English courses – with the right technology at home any student can link into their classroom at their local or internationally located school to catch the lesson live.

There are more (and I’d love to hear from you other ones). But the one thing I do keep asking myself is though in most kinds of learning, online or virtual courses can be amazing, and so much cheaper and suited to the student’s needs. However, the question still remains, will there still be a place for the ESL teacher and the classroom learning?



However, because these other courses will be so readily available and so cheap, the live face to face classroom courses will become very expensive and at the same time highly valued. If you are going to produce a certificate that has come from a reputable live face to face school, the employer will still be more likely to go with that one instead of going with an online certificate.

The interesting point here being that face to face courses will become a luxury, a novelty something that is unique and unpredictable, unlike an online course that is static and consistent. When something becomes highly sought after, it should in fact decrease in value right? That’s because the market is driving it. But the critical point is that if an online course can produce an excellent outcome, no one will opt for a mediocre live teacher, therefore all language centres that offer mediocre teachers will die or be forced to upgrade their teachers’ proficiency. This is not something that anyone can do. It requires the business owner to not only be a business person but an educationist. Why? Because the great teachers will become very sought after and in turn will be asking high salaries because they know the market. The astute business person may be able to hire these teachers, but it is the astute educationist who will be able to keep them. If you are a business owner who has both qualities you are already set up to win. If you are leaning only to one side and not the other, best to get some kind of high level partner who can complement your skills.

All this will push up the prices of face to face courses, and for sure there will be people who will pay for it.

So what I see in the future is 85% online courses and 15% live face to face language centre courses. This means that only the cream of language centres will survive and their businesses will be real money makers compared to what they were.

So that’s my prediction, my question to you is – what do you think will be the 2020 prediction for language centers?


9 thoughts on “The ESL school – a 2020 prediction

  1. Hmm, interesting viewpoint. I’m not so sure though. I still think there will be a huge deman for face-to-face teachers, mainly because of the younger generation. Maybe in the adult world they will prefer to do it onine, but I can’t imagine parents paying for their kids to chat to tecahers online. So, and I’m hoping, language schools will continue to boom, at least where I am in Spain they will. Might start looking into my online options though, do you know of any decent pages?

    • I understand your point when it comes to young learners. It’s hard to get children to sit still long enough to endure an online course, these do need dynamic face to face management from the teacher side.
      In terms of online ‘skype type’ learning, I notice teachers tend to do it on their own, but I’m sure there are sites. We personally at our school are looking to set something up for online skype learning, but this won’t be until next year some time.

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  4. Nope – I absolutely disagree with you. I think on line courses are fine for people who dip in and out of English. For serious learners they may use on line but will also use classroom based or tutor home based courses. There is never a substitute for the real thing. Call me a dinosaur but I cant see any sign of it abating.

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