Last weekend a group of students, accompanied by Mike (our social programme organiser) visited Liverpool. The trip was for the weekend, they left on Friday, stayed for 2 nights and then returned to London on the Sunday. Of course Liverpool is best known as the birthplace of the Beatles and as a tourist in Liverpool it is really hard to avoid the Beatles. You can buy virtually anything you want there with the Beatles on it – pens, t-shirts, models of the Beatles and in Matthew Street (right in the centre of town where the Cavern club is – which was the place the Beatles played when they were in Liverpool) you can find 3 or 4 shops selling absolutely nothing but Beatles souvenirs. That’s fine if you like that sort of thing. You can also go on tours of Liverpool (of course they are Beatles tours) and you visit the homes of the Beatles – see in the picture above – and such famous places as Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields – yes these are real places! It’s actually fascinating. But Liverpool has lots more to offer than this – there is a newly developed dock, the Tate gallery has a smaller version of the London gallery there and there are now plenty of restaurants, cafes and shops – and of course the 2 football teams of Liverpool and Everton. There are 2 huge universities in Liverpool and the students there add to its relaxed international feel. Although the Beatles were born there and first performed there as soon as they were famous they moved to London – so after 1964 Liverpool didn’t really have such a strong connection. But it’s a great city and there is plenty to do to make it worth while. Also only 3 hours away n the train, so if you’re really pushed you can even get there and back in a day.
Archive for June, 2010
David Morrow is the UIC summer School administrator and also the Summer School Director of Studies. That’s a wide range of responsibilities but it does mean that many of you will have one reason or another to work with David during the year as well at the summer schools. David has a rather unusual working year – it begins in the spring when we start the registration process for the summer schools. This means working with agents and students from all over the world to help them register students for the 2 summer camps we run in Ascot and to give them the admin support they need after this. You might imagine it’s a simple process for an agent to sell a course and just give us a booking, but it is never simple. Students decide to come late, the occasional one drops out because they are ill, flights change, the UK government might decide at the last minute it needs more information for visas – in fact the whole situation is quite fluid (!) from April until June and it’s only really a few days before we get to Ascot that we’re certain who we’re really going to have studying with us there. Once the Summer camps begin David moves down to Ascot for 6 weeks to run the academic side of things – working with another DoS and a couple of assistants / senior teachers to make sure the academic programme is top quality. Although many of thestudents we have want to come to the UK for a holiday course, we do take the academic side of things very seriously and want to ensure students go back home with more English than they came with. David says that the reason he likes coming year after year to Ascot is to see the students grow and develop – and not just as people but with their language skills. David is qualified as an English language teacher, and also has a PGCE – qualifying him to teach in state schools in the UK, this specialised in the ‘middle years’ from 8-12, which is probably the largest age group we have in Ascot. After qualifying David decided not to take a full time job in a school, and has continued his career having a varied (but interesting) life which as well as working at UIC includes teaching on a winter camp in Korea for a month in January and continuing to hone his skills working in a corporate office environment form September until Christmas. So, all in all no chance to get bored – the year divided up into nice different chunks and the opportunity to develop different skills. This gives UIC something quite unique!
Apart from working David likes swimming, and his favourite songs for the summer are” There must be an Angel” by the Eurythmics and “Walking On sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves.
If you’d like to see David in action then come on down to Ascot this summer. If you’d like to know more about the courses then have a looka t our website.
Now that summer has finally arrived in London (and as Glastonbury has started, now the festival season is well on its way) the radio stations all seem to be playing summery songs – if you look in today’s independent and see John Walsh’s list of songs about summer, those talking about the things that make summer so exciting you’ll see they are all American. In fact he suggests the summer song is about sun, sea, surf, girls and cars and the Americans have always done that better than the British. The songs ….. ”Summer in the City”, “Surfin’ USA”, “The Boys of Summer”, “Dancing in the Street”, “Summer Breeze”, “Up On the Roof”, “Summertime Blues”, “Summer of ’69″, “Girls in Their Summer Clothes”, not forgetting of course “Summer nights” from Grease. He struggles to find many British songs that are able to capture the feeling of the summer in the same way – a few notable exceptions being “In the Summertime” by Mungo Jerry, “Sunny Afternoon” by The Kinks, “Lazy Sunday”, complete with birdsong and church bells, by the Small Faces and summer holiday by Cliff Richard. And of course the one we British love best of all “Oh I do like to be beside the seaside”. The kind of list John Walsh suggests is a part of it – teenagers and cars and surf, but there is also the kind of music that is evocative of summer – what makes you feel like it’s hot and summery – for example Mas Que Nada by Sergio Mendes. Much of this feeling will be cultural – for example the wonderful “Soul Limbo” by Booker T and the MGs which is also the theme tune to BBC cricket and of course reminds every Englishman of cricket and that is just the same as the summer. You can listen to lots of this music on Spotify for free if you are in the UK Tune into the UIC radio station next Tuesday 6th July and listen to “The UIC Summer top 10″!
British universities are under attack from the government (that’s what they say – of course the government says something different) but there is no doubt here in the UK that the situation for people going onto study at university is going to be rather different over the coming years. The story of the last few years has been of increasing numbers of school leavers going onto university (Tony Blair’s government was aiming at 50% of all school leavers going onto higher education) and ever increasing numbers of international students also coming to do degrees. The universities are now under attack form many different directions – increasingly difficult for international students to get visas, limited places for UK students (perhaps 20,000 places short this year), possibilities of a raising or abolition of the cap on tuition fees for UK students (currently at £3250 a year) and most recently a cap on the pay of all the staff working in universities – so potentially a demoralised staff!
Given that most students still think it’s worth the investment in a university education and it seems to still be the case that graduates earn more over their lifetime than the education costs them, what does the future hold. There was a report in the Independent this week of a student just about to graduate, and having calculated that his degree cost £29000 is wondering seriously whether it will be worth it! Read about it here. The situation with international students has been well reported – as it becomes more and more difficult for international students to get visas, for example to progress from language school courses to university courses this huge area of fee income of the universities (remembering these students pay about 3 times as much as their UK counterparts).
Given that our European neighbours are still investing in universities and opportunities will get ever more competitive universities are having to be more and more inventive to ensure their own futures. One of the areas they are now looking into in ever increasing numbers is the possibility of doing a degree by distance learning – so gaining the skills and knowledge but being able to work at the same time – and with all the cost savings this entails. Again in the independent you can read a story reporting on a speech made recently by the new education minister laying out how important the government sees this – doing distance degrees from further education colleges. You’ll see in the article that the University of London has been offering degrees this way for over 150 years and includes amongst its alumni Nelson Mandela!
At UIC we are aware of the need for learning materials which students can access online or before they come – or after they leave. We also know that not everyone is lucky enough to have the opportunity to come to London to improve their English. So if you are interested in finding out more about our on-line support, get in touch.
George Orwell (one of Britain’s greatest writers) said in perhaps his best known book ‘The Road to Wigan Pier” the the British are “despite their convictions of innate superiority, actually the laziest people in Europe”. He was describing a different time (the first part of the last century) but I wonder how many across Europe would still agree with this. The German ambassador to the UK, Georg Boomgaarden, said on Thursday that the numbers of British school children learning foreign languages was problematic. He didn’t actually agree with Orwell but there was a hint that he might have had some sympathies with him! He acknowledged as a good thing that language teaching had become compulsory in primary schools in the UK – and was still compulsory up to the age of 14, but then nothing. Mr Boomgaarden said “It makes no sense to make early language training compulsory and then not follow it up.” He also said he thought England would benefit culturally and materially if there was a return to the days when modern foreign languages were compulsory for 14 to 16-year-olds. You can read the article in the Independent here.
We have often written about the differences between British school children and their contemporaries in Europe and how far behind the British children generally are in their language learning. German particularly is suffering a dramatic fall in popularity and this is potentially hugely significant when over 100 million people speak German in Europe and this represents one of the biggest trading partners of the UK.
So why not change things a little – learn a foreign language today - UIC has courses in 6 different modern languages – including German. Over the next few weeks you might see some of the “think German” campaign being promoted in the UK.
London is without doubt the biggest melting pot in the UK – people for all around the world live here and have been coming here for hundreds of years. If you look even further back then there has been virtually constant immigration to London – of course one of the best known groups of immigrants were the Romans over 2000 years ago! There are several legacies of this movement of people – the multiculturalism we enjoy in London – a huge variety of restaurants, music, fashion, religions for example and also a huge variety of languages spoken. We know that students want to come to the UK to study English (and many of them want to come to London) and so this is an additional source of international visitors coming here and adding to the general colour of London. You might think the most widely spoken languages are European, but in a recent survey of 850,000 children – asking what the first language they spoke at home was – the most commonly spoken language were: English (71%), Bengali & Silheti (5%), Panjabi (3.5%), Gujerati (3%), Hindi/Urdu (3%), Turkish (2%), Arabic (1%). Greek, Spanish, French and Portuguese are the most widely spoken European languages and all about the same numbers – under 1% each. So, you can assume that around 30% of the population in London doesn’t speak English at home, and this alongside another statistic – that around 10% of school children don’t have English as their first language – surely must give London the title of ‘most diverse city on the planet’.
In UIC you will find students from over 50 different countries every year – all here to learn English and all here to add colour to the city – not to mention bringing millions and millions of pounds into the local economy – whether from their school fees, the accommodation fees or just the money they spend day to day on ravel, food, newspapers and so on. These students are not only valuable culturally, but economically and hopefully one day the government will recognise this!
London is home to many Greek people, and many Greek things. Some of them are in the British museum and the Greek government has been asking for them to be returned for centuries – more vociferously in recent years. The main objects are the Parthenon marbles which have been in the British museum for the last 150 years. The marble sculptures were a part of the Acropolis in Greece and are also known as the Elgin marbles – after the British Ambassador to Greece. He claimed to have permission from the Greek authorities to remove the marbles but there is a huge controvosy as to whether this permission was given properly – or whether the marbles were in fact stolen. Whatever the history you should really take the opportunity while you are in London to visit the British museum and see the marbles for yourself. UIC social activities often include visits here – it’s only a 15 minute walk from the school.
London’s Greek community was established thousands of years ago but the first real Greek immigrants came around 1670 – fleeing from persecution of the Greek Orthodox church. In the 1920s and 30s many Greek Cypriots left home to settle in London – many opening cafes and restaurants in Soho. Nowdays there are almost 200,00 Greek speakers in London – often held together by religion – it was, and still is a very important influence in Greek life and can be experienced in the cathedral of St Sophia (the Church of the Wisdom of God). Founded in 1877, it still stands in all its glory in Moscow Road, Bayswater. And today, most Greek immigrants from the mainland try to settle in West London, as close as possible to their favourite place of worship.
If you want to try one of the longest running restaurants in Soho (and one with a bit of history) then Jimmys in Frith Street (Jimmy the Greek) is for you. It’s been described as the ‘coolest traditional Greek restaurant in London”
What most of know Greece for though is holidays, beaches, sun and sea. In June you don’t need to go to Greece to get this. From Friday 18th to 27th June, a “Greek Beach” by the Thames will pop up on the South Bank, with sun loungers, Greek music, sand sculptures, beach football and competitions to win Greek holidays. Find out all about it at the Taste of Greece website. It’s a great opportunity to try some Greek food, learn some Greek songs and do a little Greek dancing.
The admin team at UIC is one of the most important parts of our operation. From the moment you make an enquiry, to processing your enrolment, dealing with payments, monitoring your attendance, helping you with all the things you’ll need help with outside your class, accommodation, transport, work placements, or just general information – then you’ll be in contact with one of our admin team. This is a group of 6 people who work closely together to make sure you have a great experience – if you have booked your course through an agent or directly one of them will be the first people you come into contact with, and from then on every time you do anything that is outside your class you will need one of them! Some of the students in the school don’t meet the admin team, maybe they only come for a short time or perhaps they have no problems – but there is certainly a large amount of contact behind the scenes. We will have processed your booking,a rranged your accommodation and prepared for your arrival. Most of the students in the school will, at one time or another, find some reason to ask for help or advice, and don’t forget that between them they speak Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, Greek, Chinese and Turkish – so if you’re not sure how to ask for something in English you can always try your own language (not too often though!) As we teach Japanese and German we can also help you in those languages. Also, Yeliz and Sonia have been English teachers in other countries and perhaps most importantly all of them have lived in other countries, so we do know what you feel like trying to live in London as a foreigner. Yeliz and Vivianne work in the school office – on the 2nd floor in the school (next to the e-learning lounge) and Sonya, Sofia, Angelika and Ahmed work next door in our offices at no 80 Mortimer Street. If you want to talk to any of us just ask.
We also have a group of people working on our children’s summer schools throughout the year (Gaynor and David) although this will increase to around 80 staff in the summer and Javier and Susie running the foreign language courses based in London.
CILT (the National centre for languages) reported recently on the ever growing need for people to learn and become proficient in a foreign language. They quote the Chief Learning Manager of Deutsche Bank saying “Multilingualism is an indicator of both general mental agility and an internationalist outlook. Both of these are qualities the Bank seeks in its workforce.”. These skills are not just practical things – employers see the ability to learn a second language and the ability to study something perhaps seen as difficult good in itself. It is also one subject which helps you communicate – another great skill to have. The subjects students do best in at school (those getting A* at A-levels) are Maths and Latin – so anyone doing well at a language when it is not a lnaguge they have learned at home is unusual – and more likely to get you good job offers.
And its not only the Deursche Bank which expects these kinds of skills. The ELAN report – Effects on the European Economy of Shortages of Foreign Language Skills in Enterprise make clear that “a significant amount of business is being lost to European enterprise as a result of a lack of language skills. On the basis of the sample, it is estimated that 11% of exporting European SMEs (945,000 companies) may be losing business because of identified communication barriers”. In other words, nearly a million British businesses are losing out because they can’t recruit enough high quality graduates who speak European languages. And in the current economic situation, where do you imagine it’s likely the recruitment will be for graduate jobs – a German or French or Italian who speaks English fluently as well as their own language or an English graduate who doesn’t speak anything except English – and maybe doesn’t even see the reason to speak another language.
Perhaps it’s best summed up by the quotation “British people think English is more important than it actually is” – this seems to be confirming what many of us fear – that British graduates don’t see the need to bother. And if you ever needed any confirmation just imagine going to a rail station anywhere in Europe and not being able to ask for information in English – and then compare this with the likelihood of being able to ask for information in Spanish, French or Japanese in somewhere in central London – Oxford Circus tube station for example!. Absolutely no chance. And when we recently contacted the staff at Oxford Circus tube station to see if they would like to be involved in a training scheme to improve their language skills the response was typically non-interested.
So, why not come along to UIC and see if you can’t find a way of improving your skills, and giving yourself a leg up in the ever more competitive job market. You can find all the training you need at UIC – evening language classes and study alongside people from all over the world who are here to learn English – who are happy to make a huge investment in their futures.
You might have seen our blog post a week or so ago about the student visit to Northern Ireland. Well, here’s one better! We are not one of those schools content to just go to the pub on a Friday evening. Whilst of course we do all those kinds of things in London (but better) we also organise regular trips outside London – to the normal touristy places like Oxford and Cambridge, but we also take things one step further. We have visited not only Northern Ireland and Amsterdam, but students have just come back from a trip to New York!
Mike (our social organiser) took 8 students to New York for the weekend and while there met up with 2 students who used to be at UIC and happened to be in NY! The students came from France, S.Korea, Italy, Russia, Venezuela and Brazil so a bit of an international team for the visit. The trip left London on 3 June and came back on the 7th. We spoke to Veronique from France and Alexandra from Russia (pictured here on top of the rockafeller tower)
UIC: how long have you been in the school? V: 5 months and 2 weeks, A: since December
UIC: are you enjoying your time in London: V: Oh yes, I wish I could stay longer
UIC: Why did you decide to go to NY with the school? A: It’s a great opportunity – the price was good and its nice to go with friends – usually it’s difficult to find friends at home who want to go on trips like this – and when you get a group together the price gets cheaper.
UIC: How much did it cost? £590 for 4 mights and 5 days.
UIC: Where did you stay? V: In a hostel in W60 street – it was near Central Park and the rooms were only sharing with 6 people, and we had our own bathroom so it was OK
UIC: What did you do? V: We saw everything we could – The statue of Liberty, Central Park, MOMA and we climbed to the top of the Rockefeller building to get a view of NY. A: We also went to the Ground Zero museum where the twin towers were and saw lots of reminders of what had happened on 9/11. It was very moving. V: and we went to Coney Island and even swam in the sea. It was so hot – 32 degrees and very very humid. All the landmarks we saw were smaller in real life than we expected. Times Square was amazing.
UIC: How were the people? V: They were very friendly, if you looked lost in the street they were always trying to offer advice, A: but the staff in the restaurants and especially the airport were sometimes a bit rude.
UIC: did you find it expensive? V: so-so but it was confusing to have the tax added onto everything in the shops – the price on things wasn’t what you actually paid. A: And you had to pay in all the museums – not at all like London where most things are free
UIC: would you like to go again or did you see everything you wanted to? V: I’d love to go again, A: and me too
UIC: Thanks very much