Friday, 5 June 2009

Student Feedback: Nerja

I always love hearing student feedback. It's easy to get bogged down in the day to day trivia of running CESA. It's good to be reminded of the pleasure that a great language course in a wonderful location can bring!

Here are the views of a student who attended a two week Spanish course in Nerja, aimed specifically at the Over 50s. This is a growing market - and it's nice to see that you don't have to be 17yrs old to want to work on your language skills! Actually there are Student Reports galore, featuring the views of students who have attended language courses with us (so if Spanish isn't your thing, take a look at the French, German, Japanese reports instead).


Spanish course in Nerja

"On the first day, the applicants for the Over 50s course met each other in the school garden – the new ones feeling a little awkward, the more experienced ones (who had obviously been through similar experiences before) looking more relaxed.

One by one, we were called in for the level test and finally found each other split up into two groups: one for beginners and one for a slightly more advanced students. I ended up in the latter group, together with a Finnish lady who, delighted, could not stop talking about the many similarities there are between her language and Spanish, and three Germans with a great eagerness to learn.

Our teacher, Francisco, seemed to have identified our strengths and our weaknesses very quickly and was not put out of countenance, although at the same time he treated his ‘flock’ in a very sensitive way. Three hours a day, we had to concentrate – something which was not all that easy at the beginning. But as we now know that the little grey cells regenerate, we do not really mind anymore. For two hours – interrupted by a short coffee/refreshment break in the garden/cafeteria, it was about grammar (the compulsory exercise); in the third hour, it was the turn of the free exercise: we brought newspaper articles to class, which often even led to heated discussions.

Honestly, the two weeks just flew by – also because the afternoon activities were, without exception, extremely interesting: whether a flamenco seminar, a visit to Nerja’s impressive stalactite caves, wine-tasting (by Paco, who turned out to be a real expert in the matter), a seminar about bull-fighting, a visit to one of Andalusia's most beautiful white-washed villages, Frigiliana, or the cooking class, in which Daniel, the teacher of the 50+ beginner course, gave the job of professional paella cook a try for the first time in his life ... and, according to the public’s unanimous opinion, performed this job quite charmingly and almost to perfection. Speaking of Daniel, he and teacher Laura were also the ‘tour guides’ in charge of the trip on Saturday, which this time was to Seville (other Saturday's they take you to Malaga or Granada).

Conclusion: Nerja is worth more than one trip.

The unanimous opinion of us ‘advanced’, as well as that of the ‘beginners’, was excellent – with special mention to the teachers, who were both professional and very relaxed. Next time, maybe we will plan another two-week Over 50 course and combine it with a ‘cultural holiday’ for further language study, because this whole region is so worth seeing, hearing and tasting, that one should definitely devote more time to Andalusia."

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Learn French Verbs

Whenever we're asked what preparation a student with only basic or rusty French knowledge should concentrate on before they go on a CESA course, one of our first comments is always - learn your verbs! Of course it helps if you refresh your vocab generally (and your grammar and your pronuciation etc etc) - but to get you going, to give yourself a real kick start, the verb is king! The work you do beforehand will really pay off once you're abroad, ensuring you get the most out of your time on a French language course in France with CESA.

We all know the key to speaking French well is developing the confidence to use it - but to gain that confidence, you need knowledge. To build that knowledge you need a solid foundation and that's why knowing plenty of useful everyday verbs is so important.

That's why I'm so keen on this French Verbs website - if you're trying to learn French this is a must for you. Here you'll find a great list of verbs (in a compact format) that gives you a word for most situations (and if you think something has been missed, the author would love to know so he can add it to his list).

So get memorising and there'll be no stopping you!

PS If we find something along the same lines for other languages I'll let you know (if you know of something out there already - please share it with CESA)!

Friday, 22 May 2009

A new look for Italy!

We've had a brilliant time in the office working on the new Italian Gap Year pages for the website. It's been something of a learning curve; keywords, links and SEO generally not being my forte, but I was determined to learn!

However we wanted to show case the Gap Year in Italy and didn't feel we were doing so as well as we might - then Stef (one of our CESA Gappers who has recently returned from Italy) kindly said we could use some of her photos to show other potential Gappers what a course abroad is all about. The photos were fantastic and we were enthused!

So much so we've added new details on the Italian language courses for the Over 50s as well!

Then of course the whole thing snowballed. We're really pleased with the results.
We'll see what the students think over the next few months!

Monday, 27 April 2009

Summer Courses for Teenagers

Every season of the year has it's own special signs; leaves falling and Christmas shopping panic setting in, proves it's the Autumn, New Year's Resolutions (broken or otherwise) can only mean January, the desire to buy hot cross buns weeks before Easter actually arrives, signals the on set of Spring (or maybe that's just me). By these signs we know where we are in the year. The same is true for CESA the rhythm of the year can be marked by the language courses that students are enquiring and booking, each season means we have either more GAP, exam orientated or adult enrolments etc or as is the case now that Easter is once more behind us - the summer teenager season has been declared officially open.

Dealing with parents whose child is already working towards AS or A2 A'level exams, or is still learning the basics of a language is very different to talking to an adult student - the needs, concerns and questions asked are very specific and when dealing with teenagers, whatever their language ability may be, centre on questions of safety, welfare and support. Quite rightly so. It is a big step to let a child go abroad alone, in many cases for the first time. Whether it is for a week, a fortnight or longer the parent/s want to be assured that all will be well and their child will return to the UK (or wherever home may be) not only linguistically more confident, but happy with the whole experience. After all, travelling without the family, living and studying with strangers and coping with the time away from home, is yet another step towards adulthood and requires serious consideration.

Thankfully the CESA team have built up relationships with a number of excellent language schools and can help parent/s ascertain which programme offers the right environment, degree of linguistic challenge and personal freedom appropriate to each individual child. Whilst I personally advocate staying with a host family as the best accommodation choice - full immersion in this way can really reap rewards linguistically - it isn't always right for everyone. Frankly some students simply won't go abroad if that is the only choice - so CESA ensures there are always a range of residential options on offer. Colleges may offer different degrees of freedom, allowing them to go out in the evenings only twice a week or perhaps not at all, or to go out each night but only until a set time or may provide total freedom from any curfew. Linguistically the colleges also differ, some provide courses that are all about fun and gaining in confidence, concentrating on the pleasure in learning a language, others will provide students with a far more demanding, academic course content. There is no one course that will be right for every student and CESA aims to offer as wide a range of course options for the teenagers as we do for our adult language learners.

The good news is there are some really terrific courses available and at present there are places available on most of them throughout the summer! So whether you like the idea of a two week course combining language lessons with lots of sports and beach activities in Tarifa to improve your Spanish or want a more academic A'level (IB/Matura etc) friendly course in Biarritz or Nice to enhance your French there is a solution available for you (and your parents).

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Private Tuition or Group Study?

This is a constant query CESA is asked to provide a definitive answer on by language students (or their parents) whatever their current ability.

As with most questions black and white answers don't always help and generally the people you are asking have a vested interest in giving you one particular answer. So how do you decide the best approach for you?

For some students it's simply a question of budget. If you're young, funding the course yourself and keen to get the most linguistically for your money - group tuition is far and away the best solution. Far better to stay abroad for longer (giving you more time to soak up the culture, immerse yourself in the sounds, social etiquette and mannerisms of a language) than paying the steep bill that one to one tuition entails.

However some younger students, by this I mean the exam sitting teenager section of society, relish a little private tuition to boost self confidence, address any personal queries or weaknesses and give them a healthy push in the right direction prior to the latest academic hurdle in their life.

Private tuition is a god send to our adult students who either need the intensity and pace of learning to meet a very specific deadline, a presentation, new job abroad etc (which really needs a posting all of it's own to do the subject justice) or at the other end of the intensity scale our older students who plan on moving abroad when they retire, are learning a language as a hobby and simply wish to cover general conversational skills, without too much grammar at their own pace. Our older students love to take 10 or at the most 15 private lessons spread over a week, which leaves them free for plenty of indulgent lunches, sight seeing, exploring and relaxing.

Overall we'd say that the best plan is to spend time abroad - and lots of it - so you can practise your new language skills consistently. Trying to cram 40 private lessons into a week to maximise your language learning is rarely a good solution in the long run, unless your goal is clear and your stamina strong!

Friday, 17 April 2009

Why I love Nerja

If you want to work on your Spanish, feel the sun on your skin, not have to commute (other than a short hop on foot to school) and have a truely amazing and refreshing language course - Nerja is for you!

We've always loved it. As a town Nerja is laid back, the views over the Balcon are spectacular and if you're lucky there'll be a festival or two to enjoy whilst you're there.

My daughter took to the place like a duck to water - though I suspect her enthusiasm for studying Spanish here when older (too young for the school at present) is born more from the long days spent swimming and mooching at the beach than a serious critique of the college (fair enough I guess she's only just twelve).

Her pleasure in the time we spent there; being introduced to paella, watching a flamenco show with the students in the college garden, swimming in the residence pool whilst we talked business on the patio and loving every hour spent in the sea - encapsulated the joy that I know all language students experience (whatever their age) at the college. It's good to unwind. It's great to spend time in a fabulous town. Nerja is the perfect place for the language novice to try the language on for size. You can't get lost (well you'd have to work at it). It's compact, friendly and you'll bump into other language students wherever you go. It's great for the stressed out adult, who needs a break from the frenzy of daily life as well as chance to improve their language skills.

So next time you plan on taking a week or a month or two out to work on your language skills - don't think of the bright lights of the big Spanish cities, take it down a gear or two, and be kind to yourself. If chilling when you study is your thing - Nerja ticks all the boxes!

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

The ONE week option

When you want to improve your language skills, but the boss / college life / family commitments mean that six months abroad or even just a few weeks abroad is impossible - don't despair - there is a solution! Take a week out and try an intensive language course for 5 working days for size.

A ONE week course: the ideal boost to current language skills, the perfect taster course and the best way to try a language course abroad out if this is a new concept to you.

Many language colleges allow students to follow a Standard Group Course (20 lessons per week format) whilst living with a local host.* You're only away from the office for 5 working days, but the combination of structured tuition with qualified teachers who are native speakers whilst living in Nice, Paris, Berlin or Madrid etc ensures you are totally immersed in the language. Studying with other like minded language learners adds to the sociability of the experience.

The Intensive Course or Mini Group Courses * allow you to extend your time in the classroom and enhance your language practise, particulary oral expression in additional small group lessons. Combined Courses * ensure students benefit from the camaraderie of the group lessons and also concentrate on their personal linguistic goals during private one-to-one classes.
Private Tuition as a stand alone programme offers the greatest degree of personal attention and offers rapid results. Generally a student is assigned two teachers for the week (depending on the number of lessons required). The flexibity of the private programme makes it particularly attractive to students with only one week to devote to their studies.

* Do remember that depending on the college chosen, either all or part of the first Monday is given over to level tests and induction talks, so you should anticipate receiving full daily group lessons on Tuesday/Friday only. We recommend you avoid weeks with public holidays as the college will be closed on these dates.

Accommodation: Generally students can choose to stay with local hosts, in the college residence or in nearby Hotels. Some hosts don't offer one week stays (this is indicated on the CESA Course Finder, once a course is selected).

Students are welcome to book ONE week private tuition courses in ANY of the language colleges offered, subject to availablity.

CESA recommends a range of colleges for ONE week group course options, based on personal experience and past student recommendations....
French: Nice, Paris (1) , Tours, Montpellier , Hyeres & Antibes Spanish: Madrid (1), Salamanca, Nerja, Seville, Granada & Valencia Latin AmericaMexico: Cuernvaca, Playa del CarmenCosta Rica: San Jose, Playa JacoEcuador: Quito German: Berlin, Lindau, Kitzbuhel, Vienna Italian: Florence (2), San Giovanni, Sorrento, Venice Portugese: Lisbon, Faro

There really is no excuse - so get talking!