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Short Language Gaps for Great Strides

The past few months have seen several Language Gappers take short, intensive courses in various locations in France and Spain. I’m going to explore why going abroad for a week or two, to practise and hone your language skills is incredibly useful.

Firstly, you may be nervous of travelling alone, and just want a taste of what it is like to spend time in a host family learning about the language and culture. Rosie was in exactly this situation. At just 15, she is a very motivated language learner who wants to go beyond GCSE to take languages for A level. With no school language trips available at her school, her family approached me to find a way of her experiencing French culture first hand and combined with their annual holiday to France. As she is a little shy, I chose a small language school on the stunning West Coast of France where I knew she would not be lost in a large group. The Language Gap’s partner school was totally flexible with the dates and arrival times, and it meant that her family was able to take her to the host family and meet them before her stay. This was reassuring, and she had a really productive week as a result. She says of her experience, “It forced me to converse in French and did things I wouldn’t have done with my family e.g. go to see a French film and eat home cooked French food. It made me realise that I had to be very responsible for myself and that I coped well without my family.” It was a really important experience that has built her confidence in the language, and in her ability to be independent and resourceful. The positivity of her attitude towards her time in the language school is really exciting: “It was a really lovely region of France that I hadn’t visited before. I had such a friendly language school and host!”
Rosie’s mother was pleased with the outcome of the trip, and says that she has definitely increased in confidence, with the added bonus of improving her French comprehension and vocabulary.

Another good reason for a short trip overseas is to take part in an organised Language Camp. The Language Gap’s partner organisations run these in many European destinations such as Valencia, Malaga and Madrid in Spain, and Biarritz, La Rochelle, Nice and Paris in France, Berlin, Vienna as German speaking destinations, and residential International Language Camps in the Swiss Alps. Running from early July until mid August, they are a fantastic way for teenagers to get to know the language and culture, combined with group language lessons and a huge range of activity options: pro tennis, dinghy sailing, surfing, cookery, multi sports, scuba diving, adventure sports, horse riding and many more. The settings for these camps are ideal for the more confident teenager like 16 year old Louis, who approached The Language Gap wanting a fun and action packed couple of weeks in Spain. The summer camp our partners run in Valencia suited him brilliantly, and he had a great time while improving his Spanish: “my host family were very welcoming and understanding, and the language school was helpful and chilled. It was easier to learn because they would make me speak, whereas my Dad speaks Spanish already.” For the more laid back teenager, having to speak the language whenever they want to communicate is a massive incentive with immediate rewards. Louis has become more motivated and independent: “I would like to carry on learning Spanish. Travelling alone is a lot of fun, as I had my own responsibilities.”

Probably the most common request I get at The Language Gap for short courses is for specific exam preparation. I have partner schools all over Europe and the world who will prepare students for the full range of UK examinations (GCSE, A level, International Baccalaureate), and also for national language examinations such as the DELE in Spain, DELF in France, TestDAF in Germany, and the JLPT in Japan. Experts in preparing students for specific examination skills, they will also ensure that the student is immersed in the culture and strikes a balance between classroom study and activities. Theo, in his GCSE year, needed to spend some intensive time focusing on his GCSE exam skills, and our partner school in Leon, Spain, were happy to help. They designed a brilliant week of activities and lessons for him. As he wants to continue with Spanish to A level, the opportunity to spend some time in a Spanish secondary school and hanging out with Spanish teenagers was useful and fun. He was interested to compare his own school experience with theirs, attending a Maths lesson in Spanish was a real challenge. He took part in a wide range of outdoor activities, and even got to sample some of the more exotic local dishes (he has adventurous tastes!) such as pigs’ ears. He has returned home with a fantastic Northern Spanish accent, and a huge amount of confidence: “the host family were really welcoming, and their apartment was cool. The staff at the language school were so fun and full of energy. I loved the mountain biking and all the walking in the mountains really made my legs ache. My Spanish teacher was really helpful with the GCSE work, and I know what I need to prepare for the exam now. It was an amazing week, and I would definitely like to spend longer in a Spanish speaking location next time.” A successful week abroad like this will open up the possibilities and the world to the inexperienced traveller, and whet their appetite for more.

These are not the only three reasons to make your Language Gap a short one. You may want a refresher course, a language holiday combined with a cookery, art or music course, or an introduction to a language before a relocation. The Language Gap can organise any of these in locations all over the globe. It’s a good time now to be thinking about preparing for next summer’s exams, and making plans for the holidays while flights are still cheap, so just get in touch!

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Rosie getting to grips with la cuisine in France

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Louis all ready for the waves in Valencia

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Theo out on a tough cycle in Leon