English for Families
It’s the Chinese Year of the Dog and this got me thinking about dogs in general and about how here in the UK we do as a nation have a particular fondness for dogs – so much so that we include them in a lot of our colloquial language, especially idioms.
The dog in the Chinese Zodiac symbolises loyalty and good fortune and famous ‘dogs’ are Donald Trump and also Winston Churchill!
Loyalty and companionship are probably the characteristics most prized in a dog and one of the main reasons that we are fond of this animal.
Here at Fleetham Lodge we have two dogs – a sheepdog called Maguire and a Jack Russell terrier called Arty.
Maguire is almost 10 years old and Arty nearly 6. They are generally friendly dogs but we are well aware that not all people like dogs and so we are very careful to keep them contained and away from the main part of the house. Some of our students, however, have been very excited about having dogs in the house and asked to play with them. In fact two young students were so engaged in playing with the dogs in our paddock that the poor dogs came back thoroughly exhausted – the students were none the worse for wear!
Although we supervise such activities with young students, there have also been several adult students who wanted to take the dogs off for walks locally and of course we are always happy to have them do this either alone or together with us. There are several local walks around the adjoining lanes where it is very easy to take the dogs on their leads. There are some rules – the dogs should be kept on their leads in public places and should not be allowed to run into farmer’s field (especially where there are animals) but these are mostly common sense and if followed then a walk with a dog is a great way to see the local countryside.
In addition to the dogs we also have two cats (who get on ok with the dogs) called Winston (Winnie) and Churchill (Churchie) – they are also very friendly and we have had students in the past who were more ‘cat people’ than ‘dog people’ and enjoyed giving them attention. Finally our three hens (who don’t have names) not only produce eggs for us but are a delight to see wandering around the garden. Lots of our guests have enjoyed collecting, cooking and eating the eggs and we have proof they are good – we have for the past 4 or 5 years won first prize in the egg section of the village Feast!!
If you are not an animal lover – no problem – our animals do not have free range of the house so you needn’t even meet them if you don’t want to.
We have had some interesting animal encounters on our visits out into the countryside. Once we met a herd of cows walking down the road – which was quite a sight and on another occasion we had to cross a field of horses which we were a little wary of but one of the students was very familiar with horses and she went ahead and made friends with them so we could pass through unnoticed!
We’ve come across deer, owls, hares and many other countryside inhabitants on our journeys to and from different venues.There is always a lot of wildlife to see.
Farm visits are a good way to get up close and personal with animals in a controlled environment and
we have ‘Big Sheep, Little Cow’ right on our doorstep. It’s always a treat to feed the baby lambs. For those adults interested in farming we can easily arrange a visit to our farmer friend who runs a completely organic farm and has given a tour to several of our students followed by tea and cake in their lovely farmhouse.
Being in the countryside means that there are always animals to see both far and near.
But back to our year of the dog.
Here are some dog idioms to delight and amuse.
- Hair of the Dog – cure a hangover by drinking another alcoholic beverage
- Bark up the wrong tree – mistaken
- Dog eat Dog – cut-throat situation
- It’s the tail wagging the dog – who is in charge, the boss or the tea-boy?
- Don’t buy a dog and bark yourself – listen to the expert you have hired
- Dog days – the end of summer
Mara and Roberto Bianchi wanted to improve their English fluency. Both had need of English in their jobs and spoke well but felt that there was room for improvement in their English skills. They also wanted their three children Francesco 9, Clara 8 and Silvio 4, to have the chance to be immersed in English too. The two older children had begun English at school and this was an opportunity to get Silvio started too. They were looking for a venue where they could be be surrounded by English, all be able to take some lessons which were appropriate to their ages and ability but, as it was during the holiday period, they did not want anything too ‘academic’.
Fleetham Lodge seemed the perfect choice.
They came, as a family, for two weeks from the beginning of August.
On all our family courses we want to co-ordinate the lessons so that the whole family can be free for activities and trips at the same time – we generally use two teachers to enable this. We were faced with the issue of Silvio and how to manage his mornings. The solution, a teenage baby-sitter! Silvio worked with the other two children for the first 30 minutes or so of their lesson where the teacher played games and focused on speaking activities and then he spent the remaining time with one of our teenage daughters who played games, did some art activities and even watched a bit of English TV – Cbeebies The parents were on hand but Silvio thoroughly enjoyed being with his ‘new friend’ and rarely sought them out. So parents had their dedicated lessons, Francesco and Clara were able to engage fully in what they needed and Silvio ‘had a ball’.
In the afternoons everyone was available to go out and about which we did together – teachers and the family – on some days the family went off by themselves to explore and be tourists. York was a perfect venue for this as we were able to take them to the train (the train station in York is in the middle of the city so it’s very easy to get everywhere on foot) and collect them again at the end of their visit. Newby Hall is another fab family day out as there is something for everyone – the house for the adults, the wonderful children’s play area for the kids, the stunning gardens for everyone and then tea and ice-creams before heading home!
Having two teachers means that the children can be supervised outside while the parents visit the house (children are welcome to do this too but in this case there was little appetite for it!).
The accommodation arrangements are also perfect for a family. They occupy a whole floor of the house and so have their own privacy and can arrange the sleeping arrangements to suit them. In this case the two boys shared a room and the daughter had her own. Everybody is close together and they have 3 bathrooms between them.
We view mealtimes as part of the learning and as such will always eat together. In the evenings meals were eaten together; the family, teachers and our own family who were here. However, sometimes, as when for example we had pizza and movie night for the children, all the adults were able to enjoy a more ‘sophisticated’ meal (the teachers stay here also during the courses) after the kids were in bed.
And the results?
Well the children, as is to be expected, began absorbing English like sponges and chattering away to everyone. The adults also enjoyed the opportunity to use English constantly in a relaxing and non-threatening environment and improved their own fluency a lot. One day when Roberto was helping to make coffee, he began to count out the spoonfuls in English – he was amazed – “Now I’m even thinking in English” he said!!
When thinking about visiting a country it’s quite natural to be drawn to the places that are most famous. The capital city or certain landmarks – for the UK this would, of course, be London and then perhaps Oxford and Cambridge or Stonehenge, Loch Ness etc. These are certainly worth visiting and London is also a city to come back to again and again to quote Samuel Johnson’s famous line:
‘When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.’
However, London is not especially representative of the UK as a whole and there is much more to discover. The fact we are quite a small country also makes it very possible to explore further afield and find new places to experience. So I want to fly the flag for Yorkshire and point out some reasons why you may want to consider coming here for your English course.
Yorkshire is often called ‘God’s own country’ – people are fiercely proud of being from Yorkshire and have a word for those interlopers who move here from elsewhere in the UK – ‘offcumdens’. However, that doesn’t mean we don’t like visitors – the opposite is true – we are very warm and welcoming and eager to present the fantastic things this great county has to offer!!
10 Reasons to visit Yorkshire for your English language course
- Space – we are the biggest county in the UK by a long way. We have vast expanses of landscape for walking, cycling or just enjoying the outdoors. The roads are not crowded and getting around is quick and relatively easy. I can do a 70 mile round trip in 90 minutes! (This was my daughters’ school run). The Yorkshire Moors and Dales are amazing places to explore and when the Tour de France came here in 2014 even the cyclists were surprised at how fabulous it was!
- Friendly People – northerners are noted for being more friendly and open that their southern counterparts. I think there is some truth in this. People are inclined to chat more and there is a slower pace of life here. Students to Fleetham Lodge have reported that people were happy to chat with them and were generally helpful.
- Something for Everyone – large swathes of Yorkshire are rural – especially North Yorkshire with agriculture being the main industry, however there are cities – Leeds, York, Bradford, Sheffield all of which offer good city amenities – shopping, restaurants, museums and galleries as well as their own particular history. We also have a great coastline with plenty of beautiful golden beaches and lovely seaside towns to visit – Whitby with its Dracula connection, Scarborough a typical seaside resort dating from the Victorian times and Robin Hood’s Bay an old smugglers village as well as smaller fishing villages along the coastline.
- Pubs! – we have so many of them (more than other places), from the quaint traditional country inn to vibrant city venues, Yorkshire certainly tries its best to continue this very British tradition and it’s not all about drinking, most now provide good food and a lovely ambiance for a relaxing lunch or dinner. Tann Hill, England’s highest pub, is a favourite of ours – in all weather!
- History – we have our fair share of historic houses some of the most famous such as Castle Howard and Harewood House to name just 2. We also have a large number of ruined abbeys with all the history of the reformation that they exhibit. There are other gems with magnificent gardens to visit too. York is a city going back to the Roman times and has much to offer a history buff in terms of architecture, archaeology and is one of the most attractive cities in the country.
- Literature – You may not have heard of Bram Stoker but you will have heard of his masterpiece Dracula! Whitby is the setting for some of this story written while he was visiting the town. The Bronte sisters were also natives of Yorkshire and we have done many Bronte days out following in their footsteps.
- Yorkshire Pudding – this famous delicacy is what really makes a traditional Sunday roast dinner and we’ll provide one just for you (although I am not the best maker of these puddings!). We source all our food locally and have some wonderful food producers right on our doorstep. Our very own vegetable garden gives us organic vegetables and our very free range hens provide excellent eggs (we have been local egg champions in the Feast for the past few years).
- Market towns – being a largely agricultural area, North Yorkshire (yes the county is split into 4 sub-regions) has several Market Towns – these are largely Georgian and are so called because the farmers would come here to sell their produce. The markets still exist but sell more than just food nowadays and are a great place to visit.
- The oldest working Georgian Theatre in Britain – this gem of a theatre, small but perfectly formed, often features as one of our afternoon visits. If there is a performance then we’ll include this too.
- Fleetham Lodge – this is where your course will be and it is in the heart of the Vale of York
between the Moors and Dales and so ideal for all the things mentioned above! Of course in-between visiting these places you’ll be immersed in English and getting expert lessons to help you improve all your English skills so you can take full advantage of these trips.
These are just some of the reasons why Yorkshire is special. There is much to see, do and experience and I hope that this little snapshot will entice you to visit here and book an English Immersion Course at Fleetham Lodge very soon!