Learning English in an Immersion Summer School

Summer school students at Yale

Learning English In An Immersion Summer School

When you choose a summer school program to improve your English language skills, it’s important to consider the options that will give you, or your child, the maximum benefit in a relatively short space of time.

Most people are familiar with learning a language in the traditional way. You go to a class, you study from a text book, and you practise conversations that nearly always seem to involve telling people your name and asking where the train station is. Which is important, but at the end of the day you go home and for the most part you don't think about your newly learned phrases again until the next class.

WHAT MAKES IMMERSION LEARNING DIFFERENT

When you’re learning English in an immersion setting, every single second of every single day is spent speaking and listening to the language. So even if your English class is over for the day you will still be using and processing the language. 

For students who already have a good standard of English there is still the opportunity to improve in this environment. If you attend a summer school program that offers a balanced choice of academic subjects and elective classes, you might not choose not to take a language class. But in all of your other classes and electives, be it Tennis, Journalism, Art, Debate, Theatre or Fencing you will still be taught in English, speaking English and any assignments you have to do will need to be submitted in English.

The benefits are huge. Not only does it mean that you will be forced to practise your newly learned skills from class every single day, but by living in an English-speaking environment you’ll also pick up native phrases, abbreviations and intonations that real people use every day. It’s the difference between learning “Hello, my name is Claire” but then knowing that most people are more likely to say “Hi, I’m Claire”.

WHY IT WORKS

Immersion learning forces your brain to learn the language the same way as you learned to speak as a child and studies have shown that people learning in this way have a higher linguistic proficiency and metalinguistic ability even years after the program. The sheer amount of information that you will be taking in on a daily basis is vast, and while that might seem overwhelming for the first few days you will be amazed how quickly it starts to become second nature and you find yourself using a new phrase with ease.

WHERE TO GO

Obviously the choice of summer schools is nearly endless. But when it comes to immersion learning it’s important to make sure you pick a truly international school with the right accreditations. Simply put, you or your child won’t see the same benefits if you choose a school only to then find out that the majority of students are from the same country, and they spend their time speaking to their new friends in their native language.

If you pick a school that limits the number of any one given nationality it will guarantee that your child will be mixing with students from all over the world, all of whom will be learning together and speaking English together. Not many summer schools do this, but those that do, do it really well. It means that there isn’t the choice of being able to fall back on a native language, and also offers a built-in support network where students can learn from and help each other in trying to grasp the intricacies of English.

Letting students have the freedom to explore their local surroundings is also an important consideration. A school with campuses in safe locations means students are free to explore and practise their new skills by conversing with locals.

THE REWARDS

There’s no doubt about it, learning a new language in an immersion setting is daunting, but it’s incredibly rewarding and the confidence boost you will get when everything starts falling in to place is worth every minute. Not only that but by the time the summer is over you will go back to high school with greatly improved language skills and ready to get off to the best possible start for the new term ahead.

The greatest rewards always come when you get outside of your comfort zone.