Activities and excursions in week 1 – by Valentina

Students in London sat outside National Gallery
London!

Exploring Chester

If somebody’s wondering if we only offer English lessons to our groups of students, I’m glad to inform you we also organise some nice trips and activities for them!

Beyond all the English lessons my class attended during the past week we had the opportunity to do some excursions around here so we got to know the area. Our first visit was the Roman Soldier Walking tour around Chester: we had a really funny guide, who explained us the roman history of the town, taught us how to march and how to create a good army. It was pretty entertaining and I’m glad he didn’t make it boring.

After taking a group picture in front of the big clock, we visited the Chester Cathedral on our own, which I personally prefer because we could take pictures and explore every corner of it without having to follow a guide.

Student holding a bird at the Falconry

We went to the Chester Falconry where we saw a lot of different birds and the two staff people showed us closer some of them taking them out the cages. For those who wanted there was the chance to hold these birds with a special big glove: I’ve tried it and I have to stay it gets quiet heavy after a while.

In our program it was planned a boat trip but because of all the rain, the river’s water level had raised up to the point that flooded the areas around it, and we weren’t able to go. Luckily, they proposed us a substitute activity to fill up our schedule: the escape room. We split into three groups and after we got locked inside the rooms, we started looking for clues to get out of it. It required a lot of concentration and cooperation between us, but I found it an entertaining activity.

Group of students holding signs in front of a wall at the Escapism
After we tried to escape

On Saturday we went on a one-day road trip to Wales by bus and we made a few stops in some little towns. The first one in Llandudno, a town by the sea, then in Conway where we walked on the Conway’s castle walls and saw the smallest house in Great Britain. We made a few other stops, which one was in the middle of nature by a river and another one in a small village where we warmed ourselves up with a cup of tea. It was really windy and cold for the whole day but I think it was worth it.

Last but not least activity of the week was the London trip. We left early in the morning to see as many attractions as possible: we started by taking the underground to get to Trafalgar Square and quickly visit the National Gallery Museum. We then walked through the city to the London Eye and the Big Ben, which unluckily wasn’t that visible due to some maintenance work they are doing, the Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace and the Tower Bridge. It was a long and exhausting day but how can you come here without visiting London. 

We had quite an intense first week with all the activities and English lessons but we’re just trying to get the most out of our time here in the UK.

Esplorando Chester 

Se qualcuno si stesse chiedendo se offriamo solo lezioni di inglese ai nostri gruppi di studenti, siamo lieti di informarvi che organizziamo anche gite e attività a loro indirizzate!

Oltre alle leziozioni svolte in settimana, abbiamo anche avuto la fortuna di effettuare alcune escurisoni ed alcune visite qui nei dintorni, per poter conoscere la zona. La prima visita organizzata era un tour sugli antichi romani per le strade di Chester: abbiamo avuto una guida molto divertente, che ci ha spiegato la storia romana della città, ci ha insegnato come  marciare e come creare una buona armata. È stato piuttosto interessante e sono felice che la guida non abbia reso il tutto noioso.

Dopo aver scattato una foto di gruppo di fronte all’orologio di Chester, abbiamo visitato la Cattedrale per conto nostro, cosa che ho personalmente preferito poich è abbiamo potuto scattare foto ed esplorare ogni signolo angolo della cattedrale senza dover seguire una guida. 

Students inside cathedral
Looking at the stained glass window in Chester cathedral

Siamo andati alla falconeria di Chester dove abbiamo visto diversi tipi di uccelli e due ragazzi del personale ce ne hanno mostarti alcuni da più vicino fuori dalle gabbie. Per chi volesse, c’era l’opportunità di tenerli sul proprio braccio con un guanto apposta: io ci ho provato e devo dire che diventano pesanti dopo un momento.

Nel programma era pianificato un tour in barca, ma a causa delle continue piogge, il livello dell’acqua del fiume si era alzato a tal punto che le zone a esso limitrofe si sono inonadate e non è quindi più stato possibile andare. Fortunatamente, ci hanno proposto un’attività sostitutiva per riempire la giornata: l’escape room. Ci siamo divisi in due gruppi e dopo essere stati chiusi dentro alle rispettive stanze, abbiamo inziato a cercacre indizi per uscirne. È stata un’attività che ha  richiesto molta concentrazione e cooperazione tra noi, ma l’ho trovata molto interessante e divertente.

Sabato siamo andati in Galles con il pullman e abbiamo fatto delle fermate in alcune piccole cittadine. La prima in Llandudno, una cittadina vicino al mare, poi a Conway dove abbiamo camminato sulle mura del castello ed abbiamo visto la casa piu piccola della Gran Bretagna. Ci siamo fermati un paio di altre volte: una nel mezzo della natura vicino ad un fiume e un’altra in un piccolo paese dove ci siamo scaldati con una tazza di te. Per tutta la giornata è stato piuttosto ventoso e freddo, ma penso che ne sia valsa la pena.

Ultima ma non meno importante attività del fine settimana è stata la gita a Londra. Siamo partiti la mattina presto in modo da vedere più attrazioni possibili: abbiamo iniziato prendendo la metro per Trafalgar Square e abbiamo vistato velocemente il National Gallery Museum. Abbiamo camminato per la citta fino al London Eye e al Big Ben, che non era sfortunatamente molto visibile a causa di lavori di manutenzione, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace e il Tower Bridge. È  stato un giorno lungo ed estenuante, ma d’altronde come si può venire qui e non visitare Londra. 

Abbimo avuto una prima settimana molto intensa con tutte queste attività e lezioni di inglese, ma cerchiamo solo di goderci ogni signolo minuto del nostro soggiorno negli UK.

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Studying with The Language Guys by Valentina – week 1

Student's in a classroom writing their CV's
Writing our CV’s in English!

What do foreign groups of students think of our English lessons?

The most common questions schools are asking themselves before they book English lessons abroad are: is it really worth it? Are my students going to get something out of it or are these lessons going to be the same ones we usually do in class?

Here, for those who are wondering, a feedback from a group of students that attended our English lessons in Chester.

Last week my classmates and I attended the English lessons organized by the language guys. We started at 9:00 and we were welcomed every morning by our teacher for the week, a native English speaker, who explained us some grammar, new vocabulary and we especially had conversations with. We discussed about topics we don’t usually treat at school, like how to create a CV, the labour market, universities and our future career and personal goals.

Throughout the day we had some breaks, so that we could have a snack and get some fresh air.

What I liked the most about these lessons is the fact that they are not held in a traditional way through the use of textbooks and focusing only on the grammar part, but the conversation plays a big role, which I think is the most important part to learn a new language. In addition I really appreciated that the teacher encourages you to speak and improve your English without judging your opinion, your grammar or pronunciation mistakes, making everybody feel comfortable to participate.”

Cosa pensano i gruppi di studenti provenienti dall’estero delle nostre lezioni di inglese?

Le domande più frequenti che le scuole straniere si pongono prima di effettuare lezioni all’estero in lingua sono: ne vale davvero la pena? I miei studenti impareranno qualcosa, o saranno le solite lezioni che si svolgono anche comunemente in classe?

Students together outside language school building
Outside the language school

Ecco, per coloro che se lo stessero chiedendo, un feedback da un gruppo di studenti che hanno frequentato queste lezioni a Chester.

La settimana scorsa io e il resto della mia classe abbiamo frequentato le lezioni di inglese organizzate da The Language Guys. Le lezioni inziavano alle 9:00 e venivamo accolti da un’insegnante madrelingua inglese, la quale ci ha spiegato della grammatica, nuovi vocaboli e con cui soprattutto abbiamo tenuto conversazioni. Abbiamo toccato argomenti che a scuola solitamente non vengono trattati, come il mondo del lavoro, creare un CV, i nostri obiettivi personali e lavorativi e l’ università. Durante il corso della giornata erano programmate delle pause durante le quali si poteva avere uno snack o prendere una boccata d’aria, per non rendere il tutto troppo pesante.

La cosa che più ho peferito di queste lezioni è il fatto che non vengano svolte in maniera tradizonale, attraverso l’uso di libri e concentrandosi solo sulla grammatica, ma viene lasciato un buono spazio per la conversazione, che credo sia la cosa più importante per imparare una nuova lingua. Inoltre ho molto apprezzato il fatto che l’insegnante sproni tutti a parlare e migliorare il proprio inglese senza giudicare per l’opinione espressa, gli errori grammaticali o di pronuncia, facendo sentire chiunque a prorprio agio. Si è creato un ambiente piacevole e amichevole che ha alleggerito la lezione stessa.

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All about Christmas in Spain by one of our Spanish teachers

For us (Spanish people), La Navidad (Christmas) is one of the most important celebrations along the year. Navidad is the perfect time for being out or in with our family and friend
s. Navidad in Spain starts on December and its keep going until the 6
th of January.

On Nochebuena (Christmas Eve) we prepare a big dinner around a big table (sometimes it is not big enough for all of us, and we have to bring chairs from another rooms). In our table you can find ibericos, such us jamon Serrano (Serrano ham), manchego cheese, salchichon, etc. and drinks as rioja wines or champagne. One traditional dinner is pavo trufado de Navidad, which is turkey stuffed with truffles (the mushrooms, not the chocolate ones!), but the star product is the seafood: all kind of different seafood. After dinner, some people go to la Misa del Gallo (the mass of the Rooster). It is called this because a rooster is supposed to have crowed the night that Jesus was born.

During all day and especially after dinner, people walk through the streets carrying instruments, such us zambombas, guitarras y panderetas (tambourine, torches, guitars and drumbs) and they sing villancicos (Christmas songs). One Spanish saying is ‘Esta noche es Noche-Buena, Y no Es noche de dormir’ which means ‘Tonight is the good night and it is not meant for sleXmas tree Spanisheping!’

On December 28th is Dia de los Santos Inocentes (Day of the Innocent Saints), people try to trick each other into believing silly stories and jokes, even newspapers and television participate in this funny day, very similar to April Fools Day.

New Year’s Eve is called Nochevieja or ‘The Old Night’ in Spain and one special tradition is that you eat 12 grapes with the 12 strokes of the clock at Midnight! Each grape represents a month of the coming year, so if you eat the twelve grapes (uvas), you are said to be lucky in the new year. Las uvas de la suerte started to be eaten in 1909 due to a massive harvest in Alicante (Valencia).

The favourite day is la Fiesta de los Tres Reyes Magos (The Three Wise Men or Epiphany) celebrated on 6th of January, and it celebrates when the Wise men brought gifts to the baby Jesus. Children have some presents on Christmas Days, but most are opened at 6th of January. Children write letters to the King during the month, asking for toys and presents. During the Epiphany Eve (January 5th), they leave shoes, three glasses of milk for each King and three of water for the camels! If the children have been bad, the Kings might leave pieces of carbon (coal made out of sugar in the presents)!

 

Christmas in different languages in Spain

A few different languages are spoken in different regions in Spain. In Spanish Happy/Merry Christmas is ‘Feliz Navidad’; in Catalan it’s ‘Bon Nadal’; in Galician ‘Bo Nadal’; and in Basque (or Euskara in basque) ‘Eguberri on’.

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The Language Guys win at Educate North

Educate awards 7

The Language Guys have recently won a prestigious award for their innovative language classes at Third Educate North Awards, delivered in association with the Telegraph media group.

The awards were hosted by founder Rob McLoughlin and brought together leading vice-chancellors, principals from the FE, as well as some of the most talented staff in the North’s higher and further education institutions.

 

Educate Awards

Emma Woollard Managing Director of The Language Guys pitched against other talented finalists from leading Universities across the UK and won the University Entrepreneurs Challenge Award and Grant, for her innovative business idea of foreign language tuition in bars and restaurants, a fantastic achievement for both the business and the University of Chester!

Due to Emma’s success, she has been invited to come back next year and be part of the process in talking further about her business and its progression.

 

 

Emma said, “I’m honoured to have been selected to receive the award, The Language Guys is a recent start up and I’m amazed at how fast things are moving. We now offer classes in Chester where we are based and also in Liverpool, we have plans to start in Manchester next year. As someone who has both studied and taught languages, I saw an opportunity to take languages out of the classroom and combine learning with cultural and social elements. We offer courses such as French and Wine, Spanish and Tapas and English classes, and people are really enjoying the social element to their learning.”

 

Educate awards 4
With Phil Hodari, sponsor of the University Entrepreneurs Challenge Award to The Language Guys

 

 

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To attain higher overall standards in British schools lies in the ability to master language learning

 

In 2013 the government announced ambitious plans to raise the bar of overall education standards in Britain – particularly for disadvantaged children. With the aim being to achieve a better start at secondary school for pupils, the government loosened the criteria for the assessment of pupil performance – commissioning schools with the ability to remove the levels system and implement their own systems of measuring pupils’ progress.

This should have been a gift to those schools seeking to improve their language programme, who would now no longer need to focus attention on attainment of grade percentages, but could instead focus on delivering holistic language tuition. However, as we previously discussed, British schools are facing a dwindling language skill set amongst its newly qualified teachers. This is hindering British schools’ ability to profit from the new ambitious learning precedent put forward by the government.

It's all about methodology

And while this is frustrating for the teachers, it is also detrimental to the overall education of the pupils. The pupils essentially miss out on the opportunity to learn a new skill on the same footing as their classroom counterparts, because some pupils, who may experience difficulties in English, have the opportunity to learn a new skill from an equal perspective of other pupils in the class. This presents an essential opportunity for pupils to develop their learning confidence – not only in languages – but in all subject areas. That is to say, an improvement of pupils’ overall learning confidence will impact their performance in other subject areas and thus help them to develop an overall increased educational experience.

This sentiment is echoed in a report by the Guardian and British Academy who published in their article a claim that stated that learning at least one additional language could be helpful in combatting depression. By providing an additional window on the world, people are able to connect with more ideas and people. And being able to connect to different people, histories and cultures is an essential tool for students to learn about wide range of topics in various subject areas. The lesson therefore is that in order to improve the overall standards of education set forth by the government; students must have the ability to open their mind through the world of languages. And while making languages a compulsory subject in primary schools is a big step in the right direction, schools must now ensure that language provision is being adequately provided for.

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It’s all about methodology

To get Britain’s next generation fluently conversing in a second language we must adapt our methodology of language learning. In 2014 the government outlined a new initiative to achieve just that. Now it is down to Britain’s teachers to deliver this ambition.

 

What’s the big plan?

A reshaping of the modern foreign languages GCSE has resulted in a new set of expectations for students. It is hoped that the new course design will equip students with the ‘ability and ambition to communicate with native speakers in speech and writing’. By developing confidence in the student’s communication it is expected that the student will be able to express ideas spontaneously and fluently in their second language.

It's all about methodology

There isn’t much time.

The government’s ambitions have left teachers with little time to facilitate this transition. Within two years students will be sitting the new language exams. In these new assessments the student will be expected to take part in a spontaneous ten minute conversation.

While this new style of assessment will hopefully result in a higher level of fluency amongst students, it also means that the student will not have due time to prepare a pre-rehearsed monologue. The differences between the necessary skills involved to enable a student to hold a fluent and reciprocal conversation as oppose to memorising a speech are stark. These are skills that will need to be developed in the classroom in good time before the assessments. Specifically, in order to achieve this, the learning attitudes and methodology must be developed.

(more…)

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