A question I often get asked is ‘How much or How many’. How many hours will we study per day? How many trips will there be in a week? How many tasks will I get to write? How much time is spent in the classroom? They are valid questions and are often used to assess value for money but it is important not to get too hung up on these things, as they don’t always give the full picture. The bigger picture that you need to know about is what the outcome will be for you and how this will give you the results that you are looking for. The amount of time you receive may not give you your desired outcome if it doesn’t address the things you need for you to move forwards with your English language goal. So ask lots of questions and make sure that this isn’t just a numbers game.
Value for money is really important when you are considering
investing in a course and we all fear poor value as it simply wastes our time and we don’t get results. I know from my own courses that most students who come here want to leave with more fluency, better vocabulary and also improved confidence in using English. Those who study IELTS want to get to their band score goal – these are clearly defined outcomes and so the course I provide must deliver this as far as possible in the time available. I too need to ask great questions! And I do!! I want to be certain that I can deliver what my students want in the time we have together and so it is important to find out where they are now and how much can be achieved.
The great thing about English language is that given the optimum environment everything you do will help you improve. Talking over breakfast or dinner, watching a movie that you can discuss, having a guided tour of a house or garden – all of these things can help you boost your English skills just as much as sitting studying in the classroom. In fact, I would go so far as to say that as long as you engage in these activities you can actually gain far more English! The main point about these non-classroom situations is that they are spontaneous and often with ‘random’ native speakers who are totally unconnected with your course making them ‘real, live’ experiences. There is higher ‘risk’ for you and no expectation for them so they are incredibly valuable as ‘tests’ of your language ability.
This is the idea around studying in-country so personally I feel that a really valuable question to ask when choosing your course is; how much exposure to random language events will I get?
Of course these cannot be ‘stage-managed’ by your school but if there are times when you are out and about on visits or if you have a chance to engage in non-classroom language activity then use these opportunities to test out your language skills and the result should really make you proud of yourself! If your teacher is on-hand to help you out if you get stuck, then so much the better.
On all our courses here at Fleetham Lodge we provide lots of chances to engage in activities like those described above. From our point of view this is true immersion. It’s an opportunity to test what you have learned and put it into practice. The very best way to make sure things are retained is by using them – so this helps you to do just that. In our experience this fact of being literally surrounded by English at all times is what helps our students to make great strides in their fluency and confidence in speaking and listening. Some even ‘complain’ they are now ‘thinking in English’ – which is a wonderful thing to have happen while your are here – not so great when you go home perhaps :-).
So the next time you are looking at courses don’t only consider the number of hours of contact time with your teacher but also the opportunities that are available to use the language outside of the classroom.