Summer English!

campo estivo inglese 2014I watched a 9 year old girl looking at our summer camp brochure: she saw the words "summer camp" and continued reading. She saw "horse riding" and her eyes lit up, "Mamma we can ride horses!" She saw kayaking and archery and her smile got bigger. She saw caving and high ropes and she gave a squeal of delighted fright, then she started jumping up and down and telling her parents how much she wanted to come.

Her parents took hold of the brochure and saw the word "English" and they smiled approvingly... but as soon as they directed their daughter's attention to the fact that this was not simply a summer camp but an ENGLISH summer camp, well, her excited jumping stopped quite abruptly and she waved her arms as if warding off a monster.

 I can understand her change in behaviour. The idea of a summer camp is exciting to many kids: new friends, fun activities, running around in the open air without parental guidance... and being summer obviously the main attraction is the absence of scholarly pursuits! But why does the idea of hearing and speaking English put such a damper on children's spirits? That's exactly the kind of reaction we'd like to eliminate. We want children to be excited about speaking a second (or third, or fourth) language! We want them to feel the satisfaction of communicating and being understood. We want them to realize that language is not about memorizing vocabulary and grammar rules, but about interacting with their world in a larger context.

When children leave our camps, they are not fluent in English and luckily that has never been our goal. But they have been free to make mistakes in an environment that does not punish mistakes with low grades or accusations of not having studied and this opportunity improves their confidence in their English abilities. They have experimented with the sounds and combinations of English words and they have unconsciously acquired new vocabulary and phrases. 

Most importantly, they have had fun.

For info about our 2014 summer camps, click here