I can't think of a nicer way to learn English than doing English speaking mountain walks! The other day, I was out a walk in the beautiful Picos de Europa, in Cantabria Spain and the idea came to me. In fact, I had been having similar ideas for a long time. Why not make English learning more hands on, exciting and further away from the boring old class room? Well I finally managed it!
I'm lucky that I currently live and work right in the heart of the Cantabrian national park, and I thought about taking a few of my Spanish friends out for a nice mountain walk, up to Pico Jano. What a day! The interesting thing about going on a walk, is that not only is it physically and visually stimulating but there is so much to talk about! The conversation literally never seemed to end the whole walk. We chatted about so many different things, not just mountains and walking, but also about being in nature, the outdoors, food, culture and much more.
As a language graduate, I found that I learned Spanish much faster when I was on my erasmus year in Seville. Doing activities, and socializing with Spanish people every day was just the beginning. Later on I lived with two lovely Spanish girls in Asturias, who invited me to so many events and cultural activities. It was an invaluable opportunity for me to improve my language and a great way to get involved with the society I lived in, not to mention that I had so much fun in the meantime. So my point is, I learned a great deal more spanish, faster and more efficiently in the two years living in Spain, than I did in four years at university sitting in spanish classes learning from books.
Of course I don’t dismiss language courses or degrees. I do think they are very necessary for learning vast amounts of information about the language and culture of the given place. I absolutely loved my degree. However for the practicality of actually becoming fluent or improving significantly in the spoken language I do advocate immersion in the language through other more exciting avenues.
I have been teaching English from more than two years, in various places and situations. Whilst I do believe it is important to know the nitty gritty grammar, which is essential to some extent, I am not the biggest fan of sitting in a class and doing book work all the time (after a whole day in school or work who needs more of that!). Yes, book work is important, grammar drills and writing exercises of course are necessary. Yet I am a firm believer that you learn better whilst actively doing things, whether it be through music, art, dance, interactions with others (games, activities, sports etc) or even mountain walking!
Previously, I worked teaching english in summer camps and in an arts and crafts academy, where children get to be creative, and generally have fun. I found that compared to those who had to sit for an hour and do book work, the children who played games in english, sang in english, painted and created things in english, normally seemed to learn faster, better and were generally happier as little growing humans. So why then as adults do we put ourselves through the classroom structure once again, in fact especially as adults, where we are independent and don't rely on our parents telling us what to do. If i was presented the idea of an immersion day in english going out walking (or cooking, music, day trips etc) for 5 or 6 hours with a native over sitting for two or three hours a week in a classroom after work, I know which one I would choose. Sadly i’m not sure there are too many companies or people that offer this type of teaching English. Now there’s an idea...