Edinburgh School of English goes to Tedx

Last Saturday our students escaped the weekend’s torrential rain in Edinburgh’s magnificent hotel Caledonia, host of Herriot Watt’s Tedx event. The theme of the conference was ‘Breaking Barriers’ and with our students new language skills they were doing just that.

We all listened to fascinating talks ranging from artificial intelligence to sexism in Hollywood. The event gave the students an excellent opportunity to practice their ability to listen to a variety of presentation styles in English. During the breakouts the nature of the topics ignited debates amongst our group, determined to challenge each other’s thoughts on these controversial notions. It was brilliant to witness how excitement among pupils to discuss these ideas, surpassed any confidence issues over the English required to get involved in the conversation. At Edinburgh School of English it is especially important to us that our pupils feel just this, the self-assurance to allow classroom work to transcend into real life.

What’s more watching a range of speakers also prompted consideration amongst pupils of how people communicate. Everyone agreed that regardless of the ability to demonstrate perfect English, listeners best understood the ideas from speakers who spoke confidently, with eye contact and belief in what they were saying. The event was a fantastic practical demonstration for our pupils that confidence is one of their greatest assets to communicating effectively. At Edinburgh School of English we are helping our students become so much more than theory and test results. We ignite their passion for learning and experiencing new cultures, ensuring they have the confidence to explain this in English!

Inspired, our students are now going to participate in Edinburgh School of English’s own TedX themed event. Aspiring to replicate the communication skills they saw in action, pupils will get the chance to spread their own ideas on topics they really care about.

 

 

 

 

 

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Do Social Activities help?

Sincere apologies! It has been a while since anything has been posted here. Thankfully, this has been due to the school being busy and due to the August festivals that happen here in Edinburgh every year – the Fringe, International and Book festivals being the most prominent.

For our students, this is great! There is lots to do and see and we purposefully run a social programme that allows students to experience the best of the festival. This programme runs all through the year – in common with many other schools around the country.

But, why do this? Yes, students want to see more of the city they are visiting – but they can do that themselves, surely?

Well, yes, they probably can. However, a social programme provides much more to students than simply sightseeing opportunities.

Students get the most out of studying when they feel comfortable in a situation. When students are at ease in a classroom, they will be more inclined to ask questions – thus helping them achieve their specific goals. By having a school social programme, students meet and become friends with their fellow students, thus negating any embarrassment previously felt about asking a question, helping them to feel more at home and able to ask.

Additionally, overall communication will be improved as students have the chance to converse and interact with many other students from different nationalities. Ultimately, this equips students with skills needed for successful daily use of their chosen language and may not happen if they did all activities by themselves.

Also, students need to relax and have a good time. Courses can be quite intense and if students don’t have a channel provided to release any stress, they will be limited in the language they take on.

Lastly, students often get to experience the culture of the place where they are visiting, far more so than if they were a tourist, by taking part in a social programme. This aids cultural awareness, which will no doubt benefit them in their future endeavours.

Ultimately, learning a language is about the experience you have had when learning that language and a bad experience will lead to bad learning. A good social programme helps to improve the experience and help remember what has been learned – often complementing a reinforcing classroom work.

Thus, at Edinburgh School of English, we see our social programme as an important part of the service we offer. You can see photo’s of our programme on our facebook page http://www.facebook.com/edinschoolofenglish – you’ll see that our students make full use of it and have a great time doing it!

What do you think would be some good activities for English students to do? Are there any awful activities we should avoid? Use the comments to let us know!

Jerry

UK Language Learning

It is interesting that the UK is finally taking note of the importance of learning a language from an early age. As reported by the BBC, schools in England and Wales will introduce a foreign language from the age of 7 in primary schools from 2014, subject to public consultation. The Scottish government has previously said that Scottish school children will start learning a foreign language from the moment they start school, aged 5.

This is something I wholeheartedly support. I often feel that my struggle to learn French was directly linked to the fact that I only started learning when I was 11 years old and was only required to learn a foreign language until the age of 15. Being young, and not very good, I instantly dropped French after my standard grade, which is something I now bitterly regret.

Native English speakers often have the attitude “Oh, everyone speaks English anyway.” and I feel that this is why foreign languages have previously been seen to lack importance compared to other subjects. Of course, though, they are wrong.

What’s strange is that my mother, being fluent in French and Italian, had a golden opportunity to bring me up as a bilingual child. However, perhaps inadequate support, or a lack of knowledge of effective implementation, prevented her from doing this with me. If she had known that what she was teaching me was being backed up in the classroom, I wonder if she would have perhaps been more willing to give it a go.

I learnt a lot about my native language by using principals I learnt in French. Tense’s, for example, were something I was never taught in English class (English Literature was favoured over English language), but, they are something I became familiar with by learning their French equivalents.

I feel that by teaching children from a younger age, not only will there be a vastly larger number of British children who become Bilingual and take languages further than GCSE or Standard Grade, but standards of our written and spoken English will also improve. Indeed, in her book, Raising Bilingual Children (Mars Publishing 2003) Carey Myles states that “Bilingualism has been linked to a variety of positive cognitive benefits, including early reading, improved problem-solving skills, and higher scores on the SATs, including the math section.”

Working in a Language School, I am constantly surprised by students’ abilities and often ashamed at my own lack of a foreign language. What is common among the majority of our students, is that they have been learning English since they were very young and many of these students come to us aiming for fluency, not just to achieve conversational level. This will hopefully be the outcome for UK students.

Personally, I’d be happy if I could still have a basic conversation in French! Who knows, had I been caught young – perhaps I’d be doing that and more by now!

For me, there is a long way to go – so here’s hoping that the future generations of UK children will be able to go into a foreign hotel without asking “Do you speak English?” in years to come!

Jerry

English Speaking Universities

I have read with interest the recent news, reported by the BBC that the Politecnico di Milano, one of Italy’s leading Universities is now switching the majority of its Undergraduate courses and all of it’s Graduate courses from Italian Language to English.

The University’s rector, Giovanni Azzone states that if the University wishes to remain visible on the world stage, then it simply must adopt the English language.

Citing that English is now the language of higher education, particularly in science and engineering internationally, and with it being the international language for business, graduates will become more employable, research will be more widely shared and the best international students and professors will be attracted to the University.

Thus, I presume, ensuring the continued success of the University.

Additionally, pointing out the increased competition from wealthy American and Asian universities, Mr. Azzone suggests that to effectively compete with these, students must use English.

I believe it to be a shrewd move by the the University and, to me, this all makes perfect sense. I see it as the University simply reacting to the increasingly globalised world that we all now live in.

Like any good business, they are adapting to fit the new needs that are fast emerging, ensuring that they stay ahead of the game – and being the first Italian University to do this, they should be well ahead in 5 or 10 years time compared to their Italian counterparts.

Many Northern European universities already teach in English and enjoy excellent Erasmus schemes with other Universities and don’t distinguish based on language. Thus, they already receive top talent and are able to be ranked higher for research as this is in English.

This realisation of the global language is something that Edinburgh School of English has advocated for a long time. The communication skills workshops we run are specifically designed to help students use English in international teams and build confidence in English, focusing on performance, fluency and accuracy. Furthermore, incorporating student interests and focuses, we keep classes topical and relevant to the student, leading to a higher level of applied skill when outwith the classroom.

We aim to to help our students perform to the best of their ability on the world stage!

It is my thought that as more Universities and businesses enforce an English Language requirement, communication focused English courses such as ours will become ever more in demand as parents and students alike realise the opportunities this opens to them and the need to remain competitive in ever increasing competition.

We’ll see what happens in 5-10 years time…!

Jerry