Long admired by holiday sun seekers, Cyprus is now steadily emerging as an EFL market. “The main reasons are that not only does Cyprus offer a superb holiday destination, with beautiful beaches and scenery, first class facilities and a thoroughly modern infrastructure compared with most countries in the region but it also has a long association with Britain and the English language,” argues George Phylactou, Assistant Director at Xenion Education.
Cyprus’s connection with the UK it was a British colony until 1960 means that English is very much the lingua franca, informs Phylactou, “Our long association with British language and culture also means that English is spoken better here than in other non-UK countries and the British mindset is much better understood.” Indeed, Malvern House is a British school cementing this connection, “Malvern House Cyprus and The Language Explorer are modelled on our school in London, so it is a very English institution,” explains Ann Hawkings. “Students tell us that they speak more English here than they would in London.”
Although teaching overseas learners is a relatively recent trend, schools were keen to highlight an established English teaching industry for native Cypriots eager to learn the language. Antonis Ioannou at Plato Education Services, which operates Lingua Summer Courses, advises that they celebrate a 40th anniversary this year. “The English language teaching sector in Cyprus is huge. People have been learning English in Cyprus for years,” attests Phylactou, adding that Xenion’s language school was established in 1980 and was one of the first to offer international-focused courses in 2001.
The tourist credentials of Cyprus make it an obvious choice for junior and family programmes. “Our students choose to come to this island because they are able to combine the best of both worlds an English course together with a great holiday,” enthuses Joanna Galecka at English Sunny School of Cyprus (ESSC). Typical excursions include beach trips and water sports, while Phylactou says, “I must admit that the greatest of them all is the day spent at ‘Waterworld Waterpark’ Europe’s biggest themed water park.” Several schools offer family packages including ESSC, which has family programmes with kindergarten and babysitting provision to occupy the little ones while parents study. Hawkings advises that The Language Explorer’s family package “allows parents to study at the same time as their children”.
Language Conquests EFL, meanwhile, take advantage of the guaranteed fine weather with a range of sports based courses. “Every October-November a 15-hour English for Sports course is offered that coincides with the annual Lemesia International sports event in Limassol,” explains Director, Krini Askansis. “Learners will attend lessons in the morning, allowing free time in the afternoons to partake in various watersports and also participate in the three kilometre race for adults.”
However, as well as the outdoors fun, there are plenty of intensive study options available. Ioannou advises that Plato offers a number of English for Specific Purposes courses as well as exam preparation in the shape of City & Guilds, Ielts, iGGSE and Toefl. Phylactou stresses that Xenion is flexible in its course offerings, adding, “The only immutable aspect of our courses is that they cover all four language skills and meet recognised, international educational standards.” For an intriguing angle on traditional culture, Language Conquest EFL offers specialised English through Agrotourism courses, which, Askansis informs, include trips to traditional villages, bakeries and wine growing areas. Meanwhile, she adds that the industry-inclined will be able to meet with local business owners who obtained EU funding for the restoration of traditional buildings, which have been converted into restaurants, museums and art galleries.
With over 10,000 years of history and more than 20 world heritage sites there are plenty of cultural excursion opportunities. Galecka recommends visits to the birthplace of Aphrodite and the ruins in Paphos, while Hawkings lists trips to Nicosia, the Troodos Mountains, Kykkos Monastery, the village of Lefkara and the medieval castles of Limassol and Kolossi as typical excursions.
In terms of numbers, Andreas Constantinou at the Cyprus Tourism Organisation informs that data wasn’t collected on language tourism until relatively recently. Nonetheless, he estimates that 2011 saw a 40 per cent increase over the previous year, and advises that Russian students account for half of the total, followed by Italy (20 per cent).
“The sector is growing steadily and I believe it has great potential,” argues Phylactou, noting the viability of the country as a year-round destination, and adds, “The sky is the limit for Cyprus in this field.”