Occasionally, these forums see requests for information on foreign language courses in Europe. Well, I spent last week attending one such residential course, so here's my report. In order to avoid the appearance of a business promotion, I'm not going to state the name or the location of the company, but if anyone has interest in more specific information, I can provide it via private message. Although the company advertises their services for all levels of language proficiency, from complete beginners to people who just need a slight refinement, I think it would probably work best for people who already possess at least an intermediate fluency in the target language. Although you can pick your own goals for the course, the instruction is geared primarily towards higher language skills, such as conducting presentations, interviews, negotiating contracts, and understanding complex and technical speech. Not so much for casually greeting people or ordering a meal in a foreign tongue. The course began on Sunday night with a social gathering. Right from the start, all communications were conducted in the target language. While enjoying a wine, beer and cocktail, the students were paired off. We then interviewed and presented each other to the group. Nice little ice-breaker, I thought. We then had our first communal meal... all the meals were served in a common dining room. A staff moderator sat at each table, mainly to keep the conversation going if it started to die off... which at first, it did frequently. The food was, for the most part, surprisingly good. Lunch and dinner were also accompanied by a generous amount of alcoholic drinks. (cont)
I answered Harold's question privately, but for the benefit of the group, the company operates training centers at a few different locations and offers courses in several languages. Not every language is available at every center, and they offer some languages more often than others.
Based on the results of a pretest that we completed before arrival, they then divided us into two smaller ability groups. The first session of each day (apart from communal breakfast) was focused on oral presentations. Each student prepared a briefing on a variety of subjects. As the week progressed, the topics became increasingly more complex and esoteric. After the presentations, the instructor broke down some of the key phrases that we can use to further better refine our speaking ability. I found the specific method used at this course particularly effective. The instructor would make a simple statement, then ask each student a question based on the statement. With each student, he would slightly alter the question and add different levels of complexity, so that student wasn't simply rehashing the question, but transforming it into a new idea. It went something like this. " She is prepared to receive treatment and she should be released. Who should be released?" "She should be released." "Do you think she should be released?" "Yes, I think she should be released." "Who thinks she should be released?" "He thinks that she should be released." "Why does he think she should be released?" "He thinks she should be released because she is prepared to undergo treatment." etc. (cont)
The next daily activity I found less useful. It was more or less rote repetition of words and phrases on a computer program. The phrases became increasingly longer and more difficult. The main intent was to improve pronunciation. After the communal lunch, we had another small group session. For this, we would usually watch a TV news item of 2-5 minutes length, then discuss the topic in depth. Special emphasis was placed on particularly difficult semantic constructions. Same question-and-answer format as in the morning was used. Each day, I then had my daily private lesson. This followed a similar structure as the group lessons, but was geared specifically towards my career field. Two or more private lessons per day are also available. Following my private lesson, I had an extended period to review the day's material. After dinner, we then had a different evening activity each day. It varied from performing a comedy sketch, a "desert island" scenario ("What would you take?"), a tour of the local historic town, and an evening with "invited guests". The official evening activity ended each day at 10, then the bar opened from 10 until 2. Besides being an opportunity to relax and socialize, it think it may have served another purpose... by making sure that we probably wouldn't get sufficient sleep and possibly be a little hung over the next day, you get to experience language immersion when your brain may not be at its most receptive and sharp, thus forcing you to work even harder (cont.)
Overall, I'm completely satisfied with the results. I was fairly proficient at my target language previously, but this experience allowed me to take my fluency to the next level. In addition to refining the skills previously mentioned, I now find that I have completely surpassed the step where I have to mentally translate things into English. I can now think directly in the language, and I can pick up the meaning (if not the specifics) of "background speech" without having to direct too much mental focus. Although it wasn't my intent when I enrolled, it also provided a good chance to network with a group of professionals whose services I might need in the future. Because the course was anything but cheap, I wouldn't recommend it if your only goal is to know a little bit of the local language on vacation. But if you're considering a move to another country or want to expand your business abroad, this course would be ideal.
Thanks for your report, Tom - very interesting! I agree you shouldn't try to violate forum guidelines by naming the company, but I'd like to know what language this was for - or does this company do multiple languages?
I'm bumping this up because after replying to a similar thread recently, and I had one or two private messages about my experience.
Bumped again, based on a request.