With the constantly evolving requirements of schools, universities and employers, language proficiency and practical international experience are becoming increasingly important. Language-stay programmes for school-age children are still extremely popular. Young language learners plan these trips for many different reasons. For example, some may see a language stay as a means of improving their marks at school, while others may be interested in learning more about other countries and cultures while practising or mastering the local language “in the process”.
Language-stay programmes for young learners are not just about improving vocabulary and grammar: many young people plan language trips with the aim of becoming more confident in their use of the language. These experiences can also promote self-reliance and openness to other cultures and mentalities.
When booking a language stay for a young learner, it is important to make sure that the course also includes a programme of sports, excursions and leisure activities with age-appropriate supervision. The catalogues should specify which activities are included in the price. Other important considerations are the lesson content and composition of the teaching staff, as well as to what extent the child will be accompanied by an adult while travelling to, from and within the destination city and how the school ensures that learning groups are appropriate to the child’s age and level of proficiency.
WHAT IS A LANGUAGE STAY, AND WHAT OPTIONS ARE THERE?
Language stays of various durations are available for travellers of practically any age. A wide range of languages can be learned or improved in numerous countries around the world.
A language stay includes regular language classes, accommodation, travel to and from the destination and a programme of leisure and cultural activities. In the traveller’s free time, there are many opportunities for getting to know not only the country and its people, but also the other international participants. Language courses are run in groups of learners from different countries and offered in various formats, ranging from private tuition and group lessons to highly intensive business-language courses in mini-groups.
The two- to three-week language courses for young learners can be easily organised during the school holidays.
For young people who have already finished secondary school, language courses in a foreign country can be a great way to improve language proficiency and gain international experience before starting university studies or vocational training. Language-stay programmes can also be combined with other types of activities, like volunteer work, internships or travel. In such cases, the language course generally takes place at the beginning of the trip to help the traveller acclimate to the culture and mentality of the host country.
Language-stay programmes are suitable for any child or teenager who is open-minded and interested in other cultures and languages. The minimum age is 8, but young people generally go on their first language trip between the ages of 12 and 14.
AVERAGE LENGTH OF STAY
Most language-stay programmes for young learners are 2 to 3 weeks in length and take place during the school holidays. Longer programmes are generally aimed at young people who have graduated from secondary school or university.
WHAT TYPES OF COURSES ARE OFFERED?
The most popular type of course is the classic language-stay programme with morning classes – or both morning and afternoon classes if an intensive course is chosen – combined with a homestay. The choice of language course is generally based on the needs and aims of the participant.
Options range from standard and intensive courses to mini-group courses, business courses and bespoke private tuition. These options can also be combined: e.g. a mini-group course (max. 8 participants) with private tuition. Targeted, one-to-one tuition, usually offered in combination with group courses, enables pupils to focus on specific school requirements.
|Holiday Course||15 lessons per week. Covers general language skills, e.g. vocabulary, grammar and conversation.|
|Main Course/ Standard Course||20 lessons per week. Covers general language skills, e.g. vocabulary, grammar and conversation.|
|25 – 30 lessons per week in standard groups of no more than 15 participants. Mini-group courses are particularly effective owing to the small group size of 6 – 8 participants. In addition to courses covering general language skills, it is also possible to book one-to-one tuition on specific topics. Intensive and mini-group courses with a focus on business are also available.|
|Private Tuition||An ideal alternative for language travellers with a limited amount of time. This option enables the participant to achieve optimal results within a short time frame. These courses can be booked with a specified number of lessons or areas of focus. The minimum programme length is one week.|
In addition to the classic types of courses, numerous special formats are available, including family language stays, high-school-preparation courses and exam-preparation courses.
WHAT TYPES OF ACCOMMODATION ARE AVAILABLE?
The participant can choose to live with a host family or stay at a student residence or boarding school/college. The least expensive and certainly most authentic option is a homestay (host family). Participants who need more independence and prefer to spend their time in a group of people with similar interests should choose accommodation at a student residence or boarding school. Those who do not mind sacrificing a little flexibility for the chance to fully immerse themselves in local life should choose a homestay. However, although this form of accommodation can be chosen for language learners of all ages, it is important to bear in mind that children staying with a host family cannot be supervised around the clock owing to their trips to and from the school. Therefore, accommodation at a boarding school/college should be chosen for young learners who are very inexperienced and less independent. At these accommodation sites, group leaders are on duty 24 hours a day. In addition, the child does not have to travel long distances alone, as is sometimes the case with homestays.
HOW IMPORTANT ARE LEISURE ACTIVITIES?
Leisure activities complement the language lessons and play a very important role in the overall language-stay experience. These activities give the participants more opportunities to improve their skills and spend time with other language learners while getting to know the country and its people. In this sense, excursions and tours are important components of the language stay. The leisure programme should be appropriate to the age of the language learner. For example, older teens expect to have more freedom while younger participants still require very close supervision. Programmes at boarding schools tend to offer more sports activities than the classic language-school programme because boarding schools have the appropriate facilities.
Some language-stay programmes for young learners allow participants to choose either a mix of activities or a specific type of sports training, like tennis, golf or horse riding. A mixed leisure programme generally consists of various sightseeing, sports, cultural and creative activities.
TRAVEL AND LOCAL TRANSFER
For most of the programmes, customers can either organise and book their own travel or choose an all-inclusive package that covers travel to and from the site.
Customers who plan to use their own car or think they could find less expensive travel options themselves should choose the option “independent travel arrangements”. It is also possible to request that the travel costs be subtracted from an all-inclusive package. However, bear in mind that booking your own travel does not always pay off in the end.
WHAT IS THE ADDED VALUE OF A LANGUAGE STAY?
Language-stay programmes are much more than simply a means of improving language skills. In the case of young learners, such programmes are often the child’s first solo trip to another country and can therefore be an important step on their journey to becoming more independent. Language-stay programmes promote not only personal development but also confidence in the use of the language. In addition, they enable the participant to experience the culture and mentality of the respective host country first-hand.
WHAT SHOULDN’T YOU EXPECT FROM A LANGUAGE STAY?
Schoolchildren should not expect their language marks to improve drastically after their trip. This is impossible to achieve through a programme that only lasts an average of 14 days with approx. 20 lessons per week. However, participants will certainly notice an improvement in their language proficiency and feel considerably more confident, particularly in their communication skills. In general, the extent to which improvements can be achieved will depend on the length of the programme, the intensity of the language course and the size of the group. Owing to the numerous cultural and language differences, many things will feel unfamiliar to the participant. It helps to have reasonable expectations, be flexible and keep an open mind. With this attitude, you are sure to enjoy an exciting and successful language-stay experience.