Find out what a Language Study Tour is really like from a real French teacher. Stowe School visited Nice in October. We asked their teacher why he chose this tour, and how it benefited his students.
“Confidence levels are definitely boosted and it really is a joy to work with interested students who now want to learn for the right reasons.”##1. Why did you feel it was important to take your students to France?Although we enjoy the luxury of two French assistants at school who spend lesson time with our GCSE students, there is no substitute for going to France and being surrounded by the language.
Whether it’s at home with the French host family, in lessons at the language school, or out and about on excursions in the afternoons, our students are immersed in the language and get the opportunity to interact with so many different people in French.
Our teachers and guides at the Alpha B school in Nice were very perceptive and accommodating with our students. They were able to adapt and pitch the French at a level that stretched our students but did not leave them out in the linguistic cold.
2. What made you choose a language study trip over a more traditional French exchange, or a cultural trip?Most important to us at this stage were the language lessons offered every morning in the school, and the fact that they were given by native French-speakers.
From a practical point of view as a boarding school, we are not in a position to be arranging exchange visits, as it’s a challenge to host exchange students at the school itself.
The added bonus of this trip was that the language school is in such a great location, in the centre of Nice, and that the staff are so knowledgeable about the city and its surrounding attractions along the coast.
3. Why did you choose Nice?Well, a long time ago I spent two fabulous summers in Nice and I have great memories of the scorching weather and the shimmering blue sea, not to mention a few great nights out in the old town!
October half term is always a gamble where the weather is concerned, so the French Riviera is the best bet for some sunshine before coming back to England for the winter months.
Also, there are some beautiful places to visit along the coast, with no shortage of shopping and photo opportunities.
Let’s not forget too that Nice is a bustling city that has to get up and go to work every day, so it’s a slice of real life for our students.
4. How beneficial were the lessons for your students?We found that the lessons were very helpful and that the teachers were very attentive to the questions and needs of our students.
As I said earlier, the teachers were quick to adapt to the linguistic ability of our students and there was a great mix of grammar, conversation, local investigation and time spent on students’ homework that they had brought with them from Stowe.
5. What was covered in the lessons and were you given any input?There was a good range of material in the lessons that covered all four of the skills and, prior to the trip, I was able to specify exactly what needed to be covered in the lessons.
This, I believe, is the real advantage of bringing our students over to the school. All of the trip participants come away from the lessons every year saying just how much they have discovered and learned. They’re just so much more geared up for using the language than before the visit.
6. Were your students able to use what they’d learnt in class in their cultural activities, with their host families, or out and about in Nice?Clearly, some students are more daring than others, so it all depended upon individual circumstances and chemistry between our students and their host families.
But we were regaled with tales from the dinner table of linguistic successes and failures, as well as new vocabulary that they had learned and were keen to test their UK teachers on!
I have to say that, because of this, I end up learning a load of new words and expressions each time I take the trip as well!
7. How did your students feel about staying with host families?Before the trip, students were full of bizarre questions about the hosts. One thing was for certain – they were nervous! Our students were so scared they were going to be whisked away from the airport by complete strangers who spoke little or no English.
However, as the week progressed, it became clear that the host families were not some awful band of child-eating ogres, but rather they were lovely people who were genuinely interested in their guests and who made every effort to show them how people live, eat and work in Nice.
By the end of the week, many of our students were in tears at having to bid farewell to their host families!
8. Have you seen any difference in the attitudes of your students since the trip?There is a very clear difference in the students’ attitudes to the subject following the trip, regardless of their respective levels of ability.
I am convinced that the trip is a factor in A Level choices in Year 11 – the experience of having used the language in a real-life context brings the subject to life and gives it meaning, especially after so many years of simply being told to learn this vocab, learn that verb tense, and translate this passage about what you may or may not have done last weekend.
Confidence levels are definitely boosted and it really is a joy to work with interested students who now want to learn for the right reasons.
9. What were the benefits of organising the trip through a specialist tour operator?The benefit for me was very straightforward – time!
Halsbury took care of pretty much everything – from the moment we arrived at Luton to the moment that we returned at the end of the trip.
Also, their telephone-answering policy is just fantastic in these days of call centres and hold music. The phone is picked up on the first ring and, in the five years that I’ve worked with James and his colleagues at Halsbury, I can barely recall a time when they weren’t available for a conversation.
Responses to price enquiries and travel details have always been very prompt and, whenever there has been any need for adjustments and revisions in our itineraries, this has been done without fuss. I’ve been able to plan school trips with the minimum of hassle or worry and without the need to devote hours to the phone or the internet.
As a specialist tour operator, Halsbury are in the best possible position to deal with potential problems and to ensure that everything runs smoothly, as it has done on each of our trips with them so far.
Ready to plan your next language trip? Contact us today for any information or advice you need, or to request your tailor-made quote.