Is your child getting bad marks in English? There might be an easy solution says Christopher Hills, director of Weymouth English Centre.
“She is good at maths but languages are not her thing.”
“He hasn’t got any talent for languages.”
We often hear such comments, but look a little deeper and you often find there is a reason. Boring grammar lessons at school, lessons that are not interesting or motivating, little connection between work in the classroom and the use of English in the real world, to name just a few.
A young girl once arrived on one of our English language courses in England and told us straight away that she didn’t want to be there. Her parents had sent her because her school marks in English were bad. She didn’t see the need to learn English – she was never going to get a job that needed it. A day or two later her host family called to say they were very worried about her: she spent most of her time in her bedroom, was crying a lot and hadn’t even unpacked her suitcase.
But then she found that the lessons were not boring, they were fun. What she learnt in the morning classes she was able to use when she was out in the town or on activities. This was all new to her – and she found that she was not so bad at English after all. She had switched off to the language before because she had convinced herself that she was not able to master it. Now there was motivation to learn, she found that she improved faster than she had ever imagined possible. She started talking to her host family, and things improved rapidly.
Two weeks later, when it was time to go home, there were more tears: this time because she didn’t want to go home!
Years later I was at the lovely Mespelbrunn Castle in Germany. There was a group of tourists in the courtyard, listening to their tour guide talking to them in English about the history of the castle. When the guide had finished, she came over to me and thanked me for the course that she had taken with us all those years ago. It was the same girl who had not wanted to come to England on a language course. As she now said, it had given her the motivation she needed and had changed her life as a result.
I wouldn’t recommend sending your child on a course against his or her will but, for those who are willing to give it a try, it can give them the chance they need to find that they can master the language. A couple of weeks of speaking English with English people, especially in a host family environment, can improve their language skills and, just as importantly, boost their confidence. And that is all it takes for their marks at school to show a considerable improvement.