We have been offering English plus sports programmes for the past 10 years,” vouches Marisa Grixti, Sales and Operations Manager at am Language Studio in Sliema. “The school decided to introduce them due to Malta being so popular with activities that involve the sea.”
Indeed, water-based sporting activities are common leisure pursuits in Malta and students interested in studying there can combine language instruction with tuition in kayaking, sailing, kitesurfing, windsurfing and even diving. In fact this Mediterranean isle boasts a number of good quality dive sites, and along with neighbours Gozo and Comino is popular with dive enthusiasts. Malta’s temperate weather is a big draw card, says Grixti, with diving possible all year round. The water temperature peaks at 26 degrees Celsius in the summer, dropping to lows of 13 in the winter. As well as diving at beginner or advanced level, students at am Language Studio can elect to develop skills in sailing and windsurfing also. And, while English plus sports programmes are not a mainstay part of the business, enquiries are “increasing constantly” observes Grixti.
According to Simon Agius, Marketing Executive at the European School of English (ESE) in St. Julian’s, student demand led to the school introducing these types of courses five years ago. He explains, “ESE has been offering sports activities for leisure purposes for a much longer period and it was the interest of a number of students to complete a course rather than experience it once, that prompted the school to offer courses alongside the English course.”
Students typically book 20 language lessons per week, affirms Agius, along with anything from nine sessions amounting to approximately 45 hours spread over a two week period for a diving elective or four sessions amounting to 12 hours in either sailing or windsurfing. Like Grixti, Agius notes this is a real growth area for the school, with nationalities such as Austrian, Swiss, Czech, Slovak, Russian, Italian and Dutch particularly drawn to them.
Maryse Gatt at inlingua in Sliema says that as well as offering English plus diving, sailing and windsurfing, the school also introduced an English plus golf course and an English plus spa option recently to help “target different age groups, widen our exposure and sell advantages to both agents and direct clients”. She observes, “Golf and spa packages attract the more mature students whilst English plus sailing/windsurfing and diving packages target students aged 18 and over.”
Alpha School of English in St. Paul’s Bay has also expanded its course offerings to encompass a wide variety of extreme sports to, says school Sales and Marketing Manager, Maureen McDonald, “complement their English learning experience”. She adds that their innovative Extreme Adventure course, designed to excite and bring out the adventurer in students, gives course participants the freedom to create their very own course programme. Students can select their favourite sport from an extensive range of 17 adventure sports that includes abseiling, climbing, kayaking, mountain biking, sailing, diving, windsurfing and kitesurfing.
At EC Malta, Marketing Manager, Sophia Fergus, notes that they wanted to offer younger students more than just a standard diving course. The school’s new Adventure Malta programme, incorporating 20 lessons of general English, is a residential course based at a beautiful four-star resort and spa in the northern part of the island. Fergus relates that students can study, relax and sleep while participating on an activity programme that includes fishing, snorkelling, horse riding, abseiling, kayaking and go-karting. “In addition,” she says, “students can take four half-day lessons of PADI Open Water for beginners or PADI advanced for experienced divers. Or they may opt for four half-day lessons of sailing, also leading to an internationally recognised qualification.”
With any sporting or recreational activity there is a certain level of risk involved and McDonald affirms that the school ensures all candidates are made aware of the safety. Courses are periodically reviewed and modified based on feedback received from instructors, she adds. Fergus also notes their programme, which is specifically geared towards 13-to-17 year olds, is fully supervised. “A special EC school bus is provided to and from all activities across the island,” she notes.