People travel all over the world to learn a language, so they might as well enjoy the place they travel to while they are learning,” asserts Torrique Borges from LAL Language Centre in Cape Town, South Africa, 100 metres away from the beach. At the school, with facilities including 16 classrooms and a large garden with barbeque facilities, he enthuses that the ocean promenade is part of student life. “The ocean can give so many different experiences,” says Borges, “From having a great view to smelling the fresh sea air, relaxing on the beach [or] swimming or surfing in huge waves.” In Cape Town, he adds, students can sometimes spot groups of southern right whales from June to November.
Borges notes the school moved nearer to the beach in 2007, perhaps accounting for an increase in recommendations. But while the idea of spending leisure time at the beach is obviously appealing to language students, such a location also adds to the educational experience. “The main benefits of learning English by the beach is that you are immediately integrated into a relaxed, multi-cultural environment,” explains Samantha Milton at Sydney English Academy (SEA) in Australia. “[This makes] you more confident so it’s easier for you to practise your English.”
It was initially hard for SEA, now only 20 metres away from Manly Beach located in Sydney’s northern beaches to attract Korean students when the school launched in 2003. Milton suspects they thought learning a language in this idyllic setting might be distracting, “But this perception was quickly dispelled once students saw that we were completely focussed on assisting each and every student to achieve their potential,” she enthuses, adding that programmes include weekly progress check exams and one-to-one interviews.
Milton notes that in terms of attractions to SEA, “The list is endless. Manly Beach has got to be one of the most perfect swimming and surfing beaches in the world: safe, unpolluted and with consistent swells.” She says the school works in partnership with a surf and a dive school to deliver English with surfing and scuba diving courses.
Auckland-based Unique New Zealand, which launched in 1989, has also experienced good growth. The school’s Nick Arnott enthuses that the English Plus Activities programme for eight-to-18 year olds now attracts a wider range of nationalities, “And this has led to longer peak seasons based on other countries’ school holidays,” he informs.
An interesting trend Arnott notes is the growth in requests for family courses. “It’s become popular for parents to accompany their children,” he says, explaining, “The children join the English Plus Activities programme and the parents join our adult English classes. This trend is spreading across most of our markets recently we have welcomed families from Europe, Asia, the Middle East and South America.”
The English Plus Activities course is made up of morning lessons and supervised afternoon activities and excursions. Some activities, such as barbeques, volleyball and kayaking, take place at the beach that Arnott describes as “one of Auckland’s most beautiful and popular”, while others take place all over the region.
Classes structured around beach-related activities are unsurprisingly common, with Laura Ellington of Intercultura Sámara Language School in Costa Rica, reporting, “Classes are four hours per day, and [alternate in the] mornings or afternoons so that everyone has a chance to do all the activities in the area.” Classes are small, she adds, with students and teachers sitting around one table. “Pedagogical games are all part of the learning experience,” she says, “very different and more fun from what people may have experienced in school.”
Like others, Ellington notes a surge in popularity at Intercultura. “Within four years it outgrew the city programme, mostly because of its amazing location. Sámara Beach is beautiful, and we are fortunate enough to be right on the beach. Our gates opens onto the sand, so it is easy to combine study with a quick swim in the ocean.”
A trend she has noticed since the school began in 1993 and subsequently moved to its beachside location in 2001 is a growth in Europeans. “[We] now have fairly equal numbers between European and North American [clients], compared with about 75 per cent North Americans 15 years ago.”
A handful of language schools near the beach
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