English Language in the Lakes
17 April 2009

If you were learning English, would you always speak the language, even on a day away from the school?

Students at Nab Cottage in the Lake District quickly learn to use English at all times. Sometimes that surprises them, and other people.

Tim Melling, the school director, said: "Two of our students went out to a café on a day trip. They were both Spanish, and chatting to each other. The people on the next table asked where they came from. When they heard both were from Spain, they asked: why are you speaking English to each other?

"The student started laughing. They hadn't realised they were both speaking English, because they had done nothing else for a week."

Learning English at Nab is an unusual experience. Students live in the cottage as part of the Melling family. Daughters Nicky and Hannah are part of the team, as well as other teachers. Students speak only English whilst in public areas at the centre.

Tim and Liz's experience teaching in a school in Tripoli helped give them the idea of creating a community for students to learn in. Later, when their daughters were small, they thought it was a good way to combine work and family. 

Most students love the intense experience of being part of a community, and having to speak English for everything all day long. But the approach is not good for everybody. One man arrived by helicopter. He left after a day because he hated not being in control.

At Nab cottage there is emphasis on taking risks, being creative, looking after the environment and supporting each other.

Tim does not claim students learn English more quickly with his approach. But he says they gain confidence to use the language faster, and so gain fluency.

The Mellings started by running their general English courses for ten months of the year. For 20 years they ran courses for six months of the year. Now they offer three months, as well as specialist courses outside the summer. "It can be relentless," says Tim. "It is very high energy. We do this from early morning and we share our home with people from all cultures and backgrounds. But it is very positive."




by Susan Young - susan@englishuk.com  

What would be the quickest way for you to speak English confidently?


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