||London is one of the top ‘must-visit’ cities in the world,” enthuses Ann Hawkings at Malvern House about a city perennially popular with students for both its tradition and modernity. “Its draw is a unique combination of history, art and culture, but also the modern image of Britain as the most cosmopolitan city in the world, and a leader in media, design, arts and contemporary culture,” she adds.
All contributors were eager to underline the uniqueness and diversity of the city. “London provides students with a cultural experience like no other. As well as improving their English during their stay, students will experience a variety of different cultures and activities and will see the sights that London has to offer,” exclaims Jackie McGuire of Stafford House School of English, recently opened in the Bloomsbury area of the city. “I think that anyone in the world would benefit from spending time in London. They will go home with better English, but also great stories and inspiration,” argues Hawkings. The city has something for everyone, claims Peter Bulmer at Academy SJW, “In my experience, age is not an issue and the city has as much to offer students in their sixties and seventies as it does for teenagers.”
Moreover, London has a number of distinct areas, each with their own identity, a city “essentially composed of lots of interconnecting villages”, suggests Bulmer. “Academy SJW is located in the elegant residential area of St John’s Wood in North London,” he explains, adding that the area is quiet and safe and that a little celebrity spotting is more than possible. “Our neighbours include musician Paul McCartney and model Kate Moss.” St Giles International has schools in Russell Square and Highgate, two distinct districts. In Russell Square, home to the British Museum, “Students can enjoy the hustle and bustle of being in the centre of the city and explore all that it has to offer,” advises the school’s Rachel Bell. “Highgate is one of the greenest and safest areas in London,” she continues. “We have many great historical attractions within walking distance such as Kenwood House and Hampstead Heath, Highgate Cemetery and Alexander Palace. We are surrounded by three ‘villages’ Muswell Hill, Highgate and Crouch End, offering fashionable bars, pubs and restaurants.”
“Malvern House is located in an iconic building in Piccadilly Circus, so we are in the heart of London’s best known attractions,” attests Hawkings. She also recommends the east of the city as a booming district. “East London is a great area with a cool art scene, trendy, independent shops, markets, restaurant and parks. With the Olympics coming up, this will become a very exciting area to experience.”
City landmarks such as the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace and the London Eye will be familiar to most. However, students will have an altogether more rewarding experience if they visit some less famous areas, believes Bulmer. “Instead of paying UK£60 (US$93) to watch Arsenal [a North London premiership team] play football, we encourage them to support less well-known teams such as Brentford and Leyton Orient. In our experience, the welcome is always warmer in smaller clubs, and if you’re the only Japanese or Korean spectator in the stand, there’s a much better chance of chatting to people and making new friends.” Bulmer applies a similar principle to the city’s many museums, “Once our students have ticked off the National Gallery, British Museum, and the Tate, we encourage them to take in the smaller and often more rewarding galleries such as the Serpentine in Kensington, the Photographers’ Gallery in Soho and Dulwich Picture Gallery.”
London also has a surprising amount of free attractions and events that students can enjoy. “We often direct students towards the free museums, galleries, musicals, markets, festival events and parks of London,” advises Bell. Jane Dancaster at Wimbledon School of English concurs, “Over 70 London museums offer free admission, such as the British Museum and the National Gallery.” The plethora of parks and gardens are another costless attraction. “It is one of the greenest cities in the world, with more than 1,800 parks and open spaces. You can see wild deer in Richmond Park, play golf on Wimbledon Common, go boating in Hyde Park or enjoy a variety of music at one of the many free weekend music festivals,” adds Dancaster.
Indeed, there is also a bewildering choice of festivals reflecting the city’s diversity throughout the calendar year. “Students are informed of the many events which happen around London each year so they can take part, such as the St Patrick’s Day Parade, Chinese New Year, the Thames Festival, Guy Fawkes celebrations, the Lord Mayor’s Show, Trooping of the Colour and so on,” attests Bell. Stafford House run similar excursions, informs McGuire, with recent events including the Tea & Coffee Festival and the turning on of the Christmas lights down main shopping thoroughfare, Regent Street.
With such an abundance of culture and history in London, it should come as no surprise that the city itself is increasingly becoming a learning resource. “We run a course called London Language Experience (see box) that combines a general English programme from a text book that includes language aims, vocabulary, role play and grammar, which focuses on a famous neighbourhood in London,” explains Hawkings at Malvern House. “Students spend one day in the neighbourhood following an audio tour that incorporates their lesson, and also interaction with the London public. The course is great fun, and students love getting to know the ‘inside story’ about London,” she adds.
Elsewhere, Language in London has been running a cultural experience programme for six years and has won a British Council prize for innovation in English language teaching, explains Director, Stuart Rubenstein. “The students don’t use course books and the lessons take place outside the school using London’s cultural heritage as the classroom. Everyday, the group meets at a different museum and gallery and begins with a discussion on a theme related to one of the exhibitions.”
“B“Students really love London as a study destination, they tell me London is a lively, cosmopolitan and stimulating place with a choice of activities that they can do: from going to musicals to visiting museums, from going shopping to walking through the city markets. Students love the beautiful parks in London. There are various episodes related to the kindness of the local people that students like to talk about. Everybody is very helpful, respectful and prompt to give help about finding places, buying tickets for public transportation or about any other useful information.”
Emanuela Marianecci, SC Inglese, Italy
“First of all, London is one of the most fascinating cities in the world. Many students link learning English with London. Our students, especially younger students between the ages of 18 and 27, want to combine their language travel with typical tourism and therefore London is a great choice. One can find lots of cultural and historic sights to see such as museums, exhibitions and [landmarks such as] Buckingham Palace etc. On the other hand, students can enjoy entertainment and the city’s entertaining nightlife. Due to its multicultural diversity, London has always been a popular place to go and study English.”
Anja Fischer, Timpany Language Courses S.L. (formerly Language School Worldwide S.L.), Spain
Bringing London to life
Designed to bring London’s history and culture to life for international students, London Language Experience (LLE) is a new learning tool being utilised by several language schools, including Malvern House. Luke Vyner invited STM on a tour, taught us lots we didn’t know about the city, and explained how the city itself inspired the product.
“We all know London is an amazing place to learn English, however to get the most from your time here, understanding and integrating yourself within its culture is vital. As a learner gets involved with their environment, they are more likely to explore further, speak to locals, and learn English in a more natural way.
Our courses aim to bridge the gap between language and culture, with our audio tours taking learners out onto the streets of the real world. The listening is key and our cinematic soundscapes provide a modern way to learn about London, get an insider’s perspective and have a thrilling experience along the way. We use ghosts, historical figures and fictional locals to take students on their journey who else but Winston Churchill should walk you to Downing Street, or Shakespeare to the Globe?
The language, characters and themes of our courses have an immediate relevance to learners, and with its history, people and places there's no English-speaking city in the world quite like it.”