Voyager's French Language Immersion Trips featured in Tes Magazine
10 Jan 2021, 10:41 by Kate Moore
Tes interviewed Catherine Montgomery, French teacher at Thornhill College, about her experience of Voyager School Travel's French Language Immersion programme
In the Tes article, entitled "Total Immersion Is The Way To Teach Languages", Catherine describes how she took a large group of 14-16 year olds from Northern Ireland to France on our Normandy Experience French language immersion trip. In the article, she explains the research behind language immersion saying that "immersion introduces students to a language in context, so that they view it as a component of an entire culture, rather than something static in a textbook."
Young people learn that language is a living thing
Catherine believes that French immersion is the best way to teach a language saying the more of a target language you can use, the better for your students. But with only three 35-minute lessons allocated to teaching her Year 10 French students per week, she acknowledges that it is a challenge to build immersion into her MFL teaching.
That's why Voyager School Travel's language programmes aim to be totally immersive - with children only speaking and hearing French throughout the trip - giving students every chance to practise the language, from the moment they step off the coach. We estimate that children on certain French programmes will hear and speak more French in a week than they will experience in a whole term at school, leading to significant progress.
Catherine said that her students didn't really believe that they would only be speaking French during the trip. "It was not until our guides for the week – both native French speakers – introduced themselves on the first morning that reality began to sink in; the students looked at one another in shock."
But they quickly grew in confidence, and by the second afternoon in Normandy, they were making comments such as, “I understand more French than I ever realised."
Catherine explains that Voyager's immersive French trips are effective in increasing her students' confidence in speaking a second language, which she says is a big hurdle in students' willingness and progress, "It helps to build confidence – one of the most difficult aspects of learning a language" she says.
As well as explaining the educational benefits of a French immersion trip, Catherine shares some of her experience of running a school trip to France.
A teacher's top tips for a successful French Immersion Trip
Make it clear to parents that their children will be speaking French all week when you first tell them about the trip. It’s a real selling point and will increase the uptake.
Consider setting up the trip for students before they choose their GCSEs; the experience is more likely to motivate them to pick a foreign language as an option.
Book with a travel company that specialises in immersion trips. Although there is an added cost to using a company, it reduces the pressure on you to organise everything, leaving you free to concentrate on teaching.
Catherine took her group on our Normandy Experience programme, a guided French language tour of Normandy which offers students a balanced mix of cultural visits and excursions with the option of a day experiencing the activities at our own Château. We offer a full range of language immersion school trips to our centres in Northern France and Normandy as well as guided French tours of Paris.