Trying to find the best foreign experience option so that your children learn fluid English can cause a few headaches.
What if my child has a bad time? What if he doesn’t enjoy it? What if he doesn’t understand a word? Luckily there are several companies that work hard to make sure the foreign experience is an enriching and enlightening one for all involved.
The options fall into three categories, as explained below. All ways are valid and in the end choosing the right one largely depends on your child’s character and requirements.
Spending one or more academic years abroad
Many Spanish parents are sending their children to school abroad in order to improve their knowledge of English language, customs and education. The children have a wonderful time, polish their English, make new friends and learn a new culture. Many students live with host families who treat them as one of their own. Likewise at school the new child is only a stranger on the first day of term. From then onwards they are integrated into the school with no further ado. By the end of the academic year the Spanish child has learnt more than just the language; he or she has had their horizons broadened and has gained inside knowledge of an alternative education system for their peers.
On their webage the company specializing in academic years abroad, Into Intercambio, has a FAQ section which covers all the usual doubts and queries raised by Spanish parents. What is the best age to send my child abroad for a year? Will the school year abroad count towards my child’s final grades? Although the answers are tailored towards their own products, I still recommend all parents thinking of sending their child abroad for a year to check it out as the advice is thorough and orientated specifically to Spanish parents: Into Intercambio
Spending summer holidays in England
There are many ways that your child can spend summer holidays in the UK, with or without parental supervision. The leading company in organizing these combined language experiences is Inglaterra Al Alcance, which literally means England within reach. The owner, Noemi Rodriguez, is Spanish and resides in England from where she spends all of her time making dreams come true for children and parents alike. The service she offers is professional yet personal, the aim being always to keep individual wishes in mind. Inglaterra Al Alcance offers a wide range of products, from intensive language summer schools for under-16s, summer jobs, English cultural weeks for Spanish Primary and Secondary schools, bespoke family leisure and language vacations or host families for children who travel abroad during the vacation period. It is worth contacting them to discuss your individual needs and expectations. They have years of experience and are happy to listen: email@example.com
Taking part in a cultural exchange
The company My Family Abroad (previously known as My Family Spain) offer a cheaper alternative for those families wishing to increase their children’s exposure to English but can’t or don’t want to send their children abroad. Why not invite a foreigner to be a guest in your house? My Family Abroad match host families with language volunteers with the aim of helping the former improve their English and the latter travel abroad relatively cheaply.
The volunteer lives with the host family as a guest, not as an au pair. As such the host family is actively encouraged to take their guest to local sites of tourist interest. In return the host family receives full immersion in English as the majority of language volunteers speak very little, if any, Spanish. The children in the home have little choice than to speak English to the new friend over breakfast. Having had the luck to have been a language volunteer many years ago when on my year out I can vouch for the experience which was as enriching for me as it was for my family who didn’t know what hit them when they discovered I didn’t speak a word of Spanish!
Whichever option you choose, the most important thing to remember is to run all ideas past your children. Get them excited by the options and allow them to decide. Their expectations and desire to travel abroad will only increase if they see how much fun it is going to be.