What do teenagers really need from a vacation language course?
This all came about through analysing my son's experiences on teenage language courses and then adapting a course at Malaca Instituto to better attend to the needs of this age group.
What do teenagers really need from a vacation language course? Perhaps the better question would be, “What do their parents want?!”
The answer is probably a mix of engaging activities and positive outcomes ranging from making new friends, expanding horizons and developing language skills.
However, as a father of an 18 year old, I am certain that many would also say that the number 1 objective is “improving their school exam marks”. The real question is how to achieve this.
Meanwhile, somewhere in France...
My son has been on several vacation courses in the UK and in France in quality schools that provide high quality programmes. On his return, his positive comments have focused around new friends, sports activities and (much to my concern) not very much on the language course. This is not to say that the language course was not good: I have no doubts at all about the schools and their teachers who are amongst the best in the world and are using cutting-edge language school methodology.
But there was this nagging problem: was the course itself totally relevant to his perceived short-term needs? Neither of us were convinced.
Typically, teenagers converge on a language school from various corners of the globe, are tested on the first day and placed in international classes at their current level. So far, we are ticking the boxes of “making new friends” and “expanding horizons”.
Now the language classes start: small international classes – very good! His oral language skills will begin to be activated from the first minute as he can’t escape the teachers’ questions nor avoid the pair-work. There will be a certain amount of consolidation of the class’s knowledge in general, and then “off we go” to learn some new structures and develop vocabulary. So far so good.
However, my son is sitting in class thinking about the next set of school exams he will face which don’t include these new items he is learning.
However, my son is sitting in class thinking about the next set of school exams he will face which don’t include these new items he is learning. What he desperately needs is to revise those structural areas – grammar, question forms, syntax etc – where he knows that he is weak – the days when he was either physically absent from class or dreaming about winning his next Triathlon.
Quite possibly, the other students in class are having similar thoughts – the only problem is that their “absences” all cover different areas and so can’t be dealt with effectively in a class environment.
So, how do you tackle this problem?
Simple. You create an additional course.
Meanwhile, somewhere in Spain...
If my son was having this problem over in France, I was pretty sure that the students coming to our language school in Malaga were having the same problem.
Determined to resolve it, we started a series of strategy and exploration meetings to see how we could alter our course offerings to ensure students had fun but also got the individual attention they needed.
We believe that we have found the formula that really provides what everyone wants: parents, students and teachers! The Young Adult PLUS programme adds four one-on-one lessons each week to a typical vacation group course with international classes and activities. These individual lessons provide more than enough time and intensity to revise and practise each student’s specific areas of weakness, as identifed by their level test.
Malaca Instituto's Young Adults PLUS provides:
- Activation, confident use and consolidation of previously taught items;
- New friends and contacts from around the world;
- A lot of fun in the classroom and on the activities;
- Personal development and expanded horizons;
- And perhaps most importantly...
- ...specific, personalised revision of areas of weakness to improve exam results.
And in the end...
We launched our new course offering in 2017. And what did the marketplace think about this concept? It produced a 35% increase on our Young Adults programme, and so far in 2018, it appears that we are maintaining this level.
Introduced for the first time in 2017, it produced a 35% increase on our Young Adults programme.
If you'd like to know more, you can contact me anytime.
As for my son, he's now at University and dreaming about an "Erasmus-year" to perfect his French. Not only is his mind off and running... his body is too, as he prepares for his next Triathlon somewhere along the way. Luckily for me, I can cheer him on from the sidelines!