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!