The question of starting and maintaining a language school business comes all down to your reputation. Can you prove that you are able to teach languages in a way that provides long-lasting benefits to your customers?
Is it possible to start a language school without proper school accreditation – and is it actually desirable?
Teaching Languages For The Fun Factor Alone?
In fact, for some customers, it might be actually a big plus that they won’t be learning in an academic environment and learning a language only in the most practical way possible to get started.
For those customers, accreditation is not important at all. If this customer looks to book a language training in a very exotic location like a remote island and wants to learn a new unknown language to experience the culture more intense as part of their vacation – obviously accreditation is utterly unimportant.
The Focus On Your Ideal Customer Dictates Your Business Decisions: Do They Really Care?
Do you want to train taxi drivers to be able to speak English so they can serve their customers better? Do you want to train tourist-service providers like Skydiving and Paragliding services to reach more customers and improve their experience while being on vacation?
Those two services probably won’t need any special diploma. While the taxi drivers might want to know if the course you offer can be deducted from their taxes – it is quite different for students that need a well-recognized diploma that counts toward their future career requirements.
So obviously teaching without a “proper accreditation” is certainly possible as it all depends on who you think your customer is and what they care about.
Faking Accreditation: The Sure Way To Kill Any Language School Business
On the Internet, a small language school can make them look bigger and more professional than they really are in real life.
While there is nothing wrong with presenting yourself professionally and even if you are a one-man-show like a personal language coach or only a small team of three people running a small language school. You can utilize the Internet to compete against bigger companies by impressing your customers and explaining what your advantages are compared with other bigger institutions.
But faking accreditation is simply a fraud. Putting images and logos of companies that have not approved you and you are not being part of their network can and will lead to legal consequences in the end. People today do their proper research and will report and complain about you in review websites and other social media “shit storms” if you are engaging in misleading fraudulent accreditation claims.
It should be not even necessary to talk about this.
Creating Your Own Accreditation As Alternative
If you are creative you might come up with your own accreditation alternative that won’t be recognized by many at first. However, if you specialize in a specific niche, let’s say teaching lawyers or teaching professionals in the hotel industry you might want to consider to develop your own accreditation in cooperation with those industries.
This might be a long way to go. It might be easier to understand the official accreditation channels for the country that you operate in and get those first.
However, as a marketing advantage, it is something to consider to explore alternative niched accreditations and just like obtaining trademarks or copyrights you could make a big difference in creating a branded valid accreditation for yourself.
Different Forms Of Language Accreditation
Accreditation is different in every country – and not all forms of them are recognized and accepted across countries. If a student travels to Europe, some of the certificates he gets might not be accepted in the United States.
Depending on your desired customer and language student it is the duty of your language school to do research what options you have to offer multi-national recognized diploma and certifications.
The Common European Framework Of Language Levels CEFR
This is a major model and example of how language certification works that is accepted across the world. The CEFT framework divides learners into different levels and for each level the learner has to prove that they are able to manage it in reading, speaking, listening and writing.
There always two stages within the different three groups, the lower stage 1 and the more advanced stage 2.
The three levels are labeled with the letters A, B and C. A being the basic speaker level, B the independent speaker level and C the most advanced proficient speaker level.
They look like this:
- A Basic Speaker
- A1 Breakthrough or beginner
A2 Waystage or elementary
- B Independent Speaker
- B1 Threshold or intermediate
B2 Vantage or upper intermediate
- C Proficient Speaker
- C1 Effective Operational Proficiency or advanced
C2 Mastery or proficiency
For academy levels like Universities might require even higher levels like that (for example English literature studies), but all those levels give agreeable verifiable levels of skills that are widely accepted otherwise.
Which accredited certificates use those CERF levels?
You have the TOEFL test – “Test Of English As A Foreign Language” which is widely used around the world. This test takes around 4 hours to complete and is the only test form currently (as of October 2018) offered as Internet-Based-Test. There are numerous test centers worldwide.
The IELTS test is the “International English Language Testing System” that offers an academic version and is recognized worldwide and also used for obtaining work permits and as well for immigration purposes. It takes about 3 hours to take.
The CAE Cambridge English Examinations assessment is a non-profit organization that is mainly used in the United Kingdom but is also accepted by many Universities outside of the country. The most notable aspect of this accreditation is that never expires, unlike other certificates that have to be renewed regularly.
Some other certificates that are not suitable for Universities but very helpful for business careers include the Business English Certificate BEC and the Test of English For International Communication TOEIC.
An example of accreditation networks in Spain is the Instituto Cervantes – they are the leading recognized certified brand. Their minimum requirements for becoming a member is that your language school needs to deliver face-to-face Spanish language courses, that you are located in cities where the Cervantes Institute has no center of their own and that you meet certain quality requirements, such as teaching at least for 2 years already, offering all three levels of Spanish language according to the CEFR standard and employing a minimum of two Spanish language teachers that hold a University degree.
Accreditation networks such as the Instituto Cervantes leverage the verifiable existing CEFR standards and combine them with national standards of promoting high-quality language services.
It takes time and effort to acquire those memberships for those networks, but they will provide a long-lasting positive reputation that will enhance your public image and depending on your potential language students will be often an actual requirement before your business make take officially take off.
The decision with language business networks you need to join in order to improve your reputation has been discussed in former articles, and not all of those business associations have the same strict requirements and can also be used to improve your reputation.
Look around other language schools that you like in the same location where you want to operate and see what the current business standard for language schools is in your country and specifically in your local area.
In order to gain trust with new potential customers and boost your language school reputation, it all depends on your available budget and resources (like qualified teachers that meet certain standards to meet certification levels) you have at hand.
Often it is a good start to join local business communities and government-endorsed business networks to get started.
Obtaining proper accreditation for your language school is for sure a long process that needs patience and is certainly not a one-time item to be completed within a few weeks or months.
Whatever Helps Your Language School Reputation: Start Today!
In conclusion, it is obvious that you are indeed able to start a language school without any accreditation at first. In many cases, it is the only option to start.
Depending on your target customer profile, but that in the long run, you need to acquire believable and verifiable evidence that you are able to provide language skills that meet certain quality levels. And for that, it makes absolute sense for your language school to obtain the necessary accreditation as fast as possible.
In order to obtain proper accreditation you also usually have to operate a language business for a certain period, which means that at any given time there are always language businesses run successfully without having a proper accreditation just yet. Everyone started somewhat small, to begin with, right?