My first English Town!

„The spacious Georgian course center overlooks Russell Square and offers Career Builder courses that give you the competitive edge in marketing, law or international business.“

I’d been in London at the EF School at Russel Square in September 2014.1 That was the (natural) consequence of my efforts to improve my skills in English speaking and writing. The special reason why I travelled to London was that there was a frame programme called „Careers beyond borders„. I decided to book an intensive course for one week exactly at that week. With the different presentations and due to several workshops of the programme it was possible for me to learn something specific, for example writing a CV in English. I also learned thereby the topic „elevator pitch“. I hope that I applied it successfully to my own homepage. Before my journey to London I prepared myself via EnglishTown, the virtual Learning Platform of EF. In this blog I’m going to compare the two ways of learning English because I think that both have their different advantages. Furthermore I think that these advantages could be combined. At least I would assume that both should work together very fine. But in reality there are some difficulties. But first of all let’s go ahead with the comparison.

EF School at London Russel Square. The large conference room. Photo: Alexander Klier

EF School at London Russel Square. The picture shows the large conference room, with its nice furniture, in which the most sessions of the frame programme „Careers beyond borders“ took place. On the lectern speaking is David Pires, Digital Marketing Manager of EF.  He encouraged me to write this blog.
Photo: Alexander Klier. Published with friendly permission.

 

EnglishTown – My own preparation

I decided to improve my competencies in English speaking and writing in February 2014. That was the time in which I faced many changes around my workplace and I also decided to realign myself. For this purpose I felt that it is necessary for me to speak English more fluently.2 What could be the right learning environment for me? That was my question which I had to answer. After a short research time on the internet I found a test report from the well-known German institution „Stiftung Wartentest„. They tested several course offers. And ranked EnglishTown among the best.3 Additionally it was said, that the Platform is very interesting to test und works – as a platform – as well as a normal course. About my own learning strategies I know that E-Learning works very well for me. So I decided to check out EnglishTown in the context of a 30 day trial. After choosing and testing it I knew that this had been the right decision. Two important features convinced me:

  • The possibility of practicing speaking in classrooms with other students all over the world and to every time I want to and
  • the necessary and evaluated writing challenge after to finish and pass a unit.

After each lesson in class and writing about the topic of the unit I got a detailed feedback from the teachers. Additionally I have the great advantage of four private lessons each month with my subscription plan. The private lessons also include detailed feedback and helpful support from the teachers.

Experiencing the EF campus in London

By learning and practicing on the EnglishTown platform I eventually decided to join a course of EF in London at the campus Russel Square. I think it also has been the right decision at this stage of my learning progress. It had been a great experience for me – and really an intensive course. Normally, I was very exhausted in the evening and couldn’t do other things than driving back to my accommodation and rest.4 During the course, we, that means the students, spoke the entire day in different contexts about various topics. This course construction worked well. Nevertheless, it was possible for me to get an individualized time table. The schedule was in such a way individualized that it also included some lessons of the frame programmewich was the very reason for me to join the programme in the first place. Last but not the least I want to mention that all teachers have been excellent. After one week I had developed the ability to speak in many cases fluently in the context of the course. The timetable included lessons, or better the possibility to learn via the iLab too. That means it was possible for me to learn in a familiar learning environment because the iLab is based on the same platform as EnglishTown. So both courses have something in common despite their completely different „philosophy“.

Some funny things …

happened in both courses. Or better during my trial to combine both advantages.

  • The most important point for me is that EnglishTown and EF courses abroad are based, as mentioned before, on a completely different philosophy. That means for example, that you couldn’t transfer or apply the certificates of EnglishTown to the EF courses abroad. I had to pass the specific test to be assigned to the right level.5
  • The other thing I realized is that although you have the possibility to use the iLab for six month after attending the course it has nothing to do with the EnglishTown platform. That means it is not possible to change after the course in the normal learning environment of EnglishTown and practice the new skills there.6
  • The third thing worth to mention is that you should be aware that EnglishTown as a platform needs an adequate technical equipment. The precondition normally include a sufficient bandwidth of the internet connection. Even in the case you have the right equipment you should bear in mind that it is sometimes impossible to hear the other students in the class. This is a real advantage of face-to-face courses.

Over all I have do admit that both kinds of learning environments are working well. For me the better way is still learning via EnglishTown. But the changing to one week intensive speaking in London at this stage of learning progress was very helpful for me. For the future, I wish that the two different possibilities will be blended. That’s what I’m experiencing in my profession as well: That the blended-learning environment works best when it is a real blended-learning construction.

  1. The quotation is from the advertising at http://www.ef.co.uk/ils/destinations/united-kingdom/london-russell-square/ []
  2. Indeed many of interesting workplaces are requiring the competency of fluently speaking and writing English. Sometimes the demand is to speak it in a language proficient way. []
  3. Here is the link to the test site of Stiftung Warentest. []
  4. I have to concede that another really good thing had been that my accommodation was in the house of a host family together with two other students from other countries. So it was nearly impossible to speak German all the time. []
  5. That was not really a problem but I’m wondering how that could be and why it is not possible to interchange the achieved results. []
  6. I’m also wondering whether this could be a topic of improving the learning environment and put together what belongs together. Such a possibility could make the accounts and learning environments interchangeable. []
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