English with… no classrooms

If you think about learning English, you probably think about the teacher, your fellow students and sitting in a classroom for formal lessons.

In the UK, it doesn't have to be that way. At least one language centre offers lessons in the teachers' home. So students live with the teacher, study with the teacher and sometimes go out with the teacher, getting an amazing experience of the UK.

Kate Hargreaves, who started Living Learning English 20 years ago, says the approach offers total immersion and lots of flexibility.

"We offer courses for individuals or couples, parent and child or two friends or siblings who want to come together. In summer we take two young learners from different countries and match them together in the teacher's home, and sometimes we can do mini groups. The courses are designed for each student."

Kate says she takes students from the age of 10, who feel very safe and are often matched with teachers who have children of around the same age. There are more requests for courses for 7,8 and 9 year olds, but the school will only take those children if a parent comes too.

The basic offer includes tuition (hours vary according to what the student wants) plus two excursions a week and one at the weekend for students staying for a fortnight or longer. "Outside the lessons and excursions, business people might like time to do emails and catch up on work, or if the teacher is doing something for themselves and their family the student might be invited to join in on a supermarket trip or visiting family. Children have to do whatever the teacher is doing, so in the summer the teacher might be going along to see children in sports day or a celebration assembly at school and the students get to join in with a very authentic British experience," says Kate, whose teachers also work online and with international students at UK boarding schools during their holidays.

She believes that students can make much faster progress learning in the teacher's home. "It's very easy to sit in the classroom and say nothing. In 1-2-1 they have to talk to the teacher all day every day, developing communication skills. We don't say here's our programme, here's our curriculum, here's our activity programme. We say 'who's your client, what do they want? We'll find a teacher and design a course for their needs. That's why we have a very high student satisfaction rate.'"

Kate says this flexibility means that students can choose activities near the teacher's home which they want to do and can meet very specific requirements. "We have the most unusual enquiries from adults. We've been asked about teaching a businessman who wants to learn English for his coffee-machine parts business, and we're finding a teacher who can help with that and we will send him home with the language to do his job. We've also found the right teacher for a plastics factory manager who needed to show visitors round, and the manager of a chain of sushi restaurants who wanted to visit as many London sushi restaurants. We set up discussions and kitchen tours and it was incredibly useful for his business."

Kate says teachers are all over the country, in towns and villages which aren't traditional ELT areas, and teach over 300 students a week in the summer.

"One agent said that once they find these programmes for children, they don't want anything else. They make phenomenal progress, and come back year on year." This progress, and the all-inclusive programmes, make this a very cost-effective way of learning English, says Kate – as well as being very high quality, with lots of personal care.

English UK members offer all sorts of courses, from English and computer coding to English and mining, or English + golf to legal English with a lawyer

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