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Taking English off the page

Taking English Off the Page

The latest issue of the Study Travel Network magazine includes a roundup of some of the best “travelling classroom” courses available around the world. It includes our Cultural Experience programme.

So what is a travelling classroom and why has it captured the imagination of so many students of all ages who want to learn a foreign language?

Different to school

Our Cultural Experience course was developed because we wanted to give our students the opportunity to learn outside the classroom in a way that is fun, engaging and different from the experience of learning in school.

Engaged learning

We describe it as “taking English off the page” because, rather than sitting in a classroom environment, students learn while taking part in trips and cultural experiences.

We take them to fabulous National Trust houses in South Devon such as Coleton Fishacre - the holiday home of the D’Oyly Carte family who rose to fame in the 1920’s though Gilbert and Sullivan operas and built their house at the height of Art Deco.

Each location lends itself to particular language structures, so students are drawn into the language by virtue of what they are seeing, hearing, touching or tasting and smelling. South Devon is very rich in properties such as these.

Students exploring the language of taste and smell at Sharpham House (International Award winning wine and cheese producers).

We also go to the amazing RAMM museum in Exeter,

and to the beautiful Buckfast Abbey which, along with a fascinating history and superb presentations displaying the influences Benedictine monks have had on society and culture, also has award winning gardens such as the Sensory Garden, a re-working of a Medieval Pleasure Gardens.

Did you know that, in the medieval period, some gardens were designed specifically to stimulate sight, sound, touch, hearing and taste?

Conversations (in English!) often begin in the car or minibus on the way to the venue. The landscape, architecture and wildlife visible on the way help students ask questions. These conversations are rich in content and students often forget any nerves in their eagerness to participate. Questions come thick and fast.

Once we reach the venue, we hold a lesson that is based around our location. It might be about a museum artefact, for example, or the life of a Benedictine monk.

The subject matter is engaging, the environment stimulating and students say they feel far less inhibited than they would do in a classroom.

In some cases, students begin the course feeling shy and lacking the confidence to speak and end it feeling full of confidence and able to express themselves (or at least be willing to have a go at expressing themselves) in English. For the students it is empowering, and for us as teachers it is rewarding.

Mixed Groups and School Groups

We teach two kinds of Cultural Experience courses.

All year round we run course for small groups of students aged 18 plus (a maximum of four to a group) from anywhere in the world.

Students benefit from one-to-one attention in a small group like this and from interactions with people from different nationalities.

For more information about the Cultural Experience course for adults visit our website.

As well as these, we run Cultural Experience courses for larger groups of 15-30 students from the same educational institution. For these groups, the chance to leave behind the formality of the classroom and practice English in a different setting offers a great opportunity for confidence-building and expansion of knowledge.

For more information about the Cultural Experience course for year round ministays visit our website.

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