Would you like to know what people who have the right to vote in Britain’s EU referendum think about Brexit? Do you understand the issues any better than UK citizens do or do you think we should leave all decisions to a political élite? What about devolution? Independence for Scotland? or Wales?
What if you could visit the National Assembly for Wales and ask the guides or other visitors, even politicians, about just such issues or about Welsh politics in general?
Wouldn’t it be impressive if you could do all that in English?
Would you know how to ask the questions? Would you have the confidence to ask them? Just as importantly, how well would you understand the answers?
This is exactly what my immersion clients experience when they visit Wales.
First, we talk about the political system here and compare it with their own. We might do this against the background of Penarth’s magnificent scenery, while strolling on the beach or along the cliffs, or while sipping coffee, looking over the sea to our mysterious islands or across Cardiff Bay to the Senedd building. It’s easy to be a dedicated student in such superb surroundings.
We draft a list of questions they would ask if they met the Minister for Housing, say, or the Minister for Natural Resources. People’s enthusiasm really begins to show at this stage. They always come up with some outstanding questions.
We include queries or comments they might use in more general conversations on these subjects. Everyone wants to be able to say what they think in a social or business situation. Nobody wants to be limited by a lack of vocabulary. This type of practice in using grammar makes English users more skilful when speaking or writing.
I help them to prepare sentences in which they express their own opinions on these topics. Some are more skilled than others at putting their thoughts into English words. This is the advantage of one-to-one learning. We can spend as long as necessary examining the grammar behind a particular structure, or I can simply provide suitable idioms, if that’s what the client needs.
We practice all this, working on pronunciation, intonation, fluency and confidence. With expert tuition, anyone who is committed to becoming proficient in English can achieve their goal.
Then we stroll across the Barrage, flanked by sea on one side and a swan-filled lake on the other, to put all this into practice in the Senedd, home of the National Assembly for Wales.
Whether you’re an architect, an environmentalist, a lawyer, a linguist or a budding politician, if you take an intensive course with me you’ll discover that the Senedd is an amazing place and you’ll probably come up with new questions on the spot. It’s an unforgettable experience that helps make individuals both competent and confident, equally important attributes.
The Barrage is a man-made structure, separating seawater and freshwater, holding back the tide. Don’t let your lack of English separate you from the rest of the world. Don’t let the wall of fear hold you back from fluency.