The Victorians called Penarth “the garden by the sea”. With the mildest climate in Wales, this part of the Welsh coast is a gem, a jewel. It seems that little has changed since the fabulous mansions of Millionaires’ Row first appeared, housing ship-owners in luxury. Fortunes were made in Cardiff, at one time the busiest port in the world, and Penarth was a highly sought-after place to live. In this timeless world where dinosaurs once roamed, we still shop in a Victorian shopping arcade. But the BBC now films its drama productions in Cardiff and Penarth, so we are more likely to meet actors than coal exporters. Eva Longoria recently filmed Decline and Fall at The Kymin, where the beautiful gardens are always open to the public.
Penarth has countless parks where you can wander through greenery and flowers, exploring secret pathways and maze-like gardens. Hidden steps lead up and down the hills, leafy dingles offer shade in summer, open cliff-tops with panoramic views provide idyllic sunbathing conditions if you tire of the pebbly beach or its rocky neighbours. Suntraps abound in the picturesque parks and, on the pier itself, the coldest winter’s day sees Penarthians sitting cosily in a sheltered spot, gazing out at the islands and along the length of the coastline. This view was loved by the artist, Alfred Sisley.
Today, Pokémon players mingle with pensioners, pedestrians and picnickers in Alexandra Park. As the tide comes in, Penarth is transformed. Watch the paddle steamer approach the pier. See its passengers disembark. Take a trip over to England or to one of our islands. Stroll along the cliffs then relax on a bench looking across the Bristol Channel to the shores of England, make conversation with locals, day visitors and holidaymakers from other parts of the UK. Exchange opinions on the places you have visited in the area, practise your English and gain experience of different accents.
Two things will help your English to bloom: fluency, so that you sound confident, and adding variety to your language, so your conversation is filled with interesting words and structures. By committing to total immersion, you’ll find both fluency and variety become second nature.
You need English to put down roots in your brain, so that you think in English, not in your mother tongue. You need to feed and water your new language, hearing, reading, writing and saying the same words over and over again. The strength of an immersion course is that the four skills are used throughout the day, every day. Not just studied, or practised in isolation, but actually put to good use.
You’ll need to listen to announcements at the train station, to find out which platform you need. So your active listening skills will be tested daily, in real time and with real purpose. But you’ll also find yourself overhearing snatches of conversation, and sometimes listening to strangers in a park. This background noise of spoken English will become “the background music to your life”. You can re-create it, or “fake immersion”, by playing BBC Radio 4, for example, while you’re in your own country, but it’s difficult to avoid your first language when you’re at home. Here, you’ll be surrounded by English wherever you go. The learning will be effortless.
Reading signs and notices at castles and museums will tell you about the places you’re visiting. You might bring your own technical reports with you to Britain, so that we can study them together, analysing the meaning to ensure you fully understand the English, discussing the contents in depth in preparation for an interview or public presentation, or reading the documents aloud to improve pronunciation and intonation.
You’ll be speaking to survive – asking for directions and buying food. You’ll also find yourself discussing everything under the sun in English, from your emotions to the details of your profession or academic specialisation. Talking about politics or current affairs is more meaningful when you’re in a different country, with access to many new people and their varying points of view.
Writing can be as simple as making notes of addresses or opening hours when asking for directions, but many people choose to keep a diary during an immersion course, putting all those new language tricks into action as soon as they learn them. Others prefer creative writing, and experiment with words while in Wales, a country famed for its writers and orators. Still others prepare professional documentation, ready for their return home, to be used at work, at university, or in job searches.
Most importantly, you won’t be listening to and repeating other students’ mistakes. These immersion courses are 1-to-1, with the language content, tuition style and practical activities designed exclusively for you. You won’t be held back by slower learners, and you needn’t worry about asking questions or making mistakes in front of a class. It’s your lesson, not a group session, so no time will be wasted.
What better environment to enhance your learning than the wonderful classrooms you’ll discover in Penarth, as we nurture your language skills together… the Italian Gardens, the cliff-top walks, and the leafy cemeteries of All Saints or Saint Augustine’s. Not to mention Penarth Head, with its stunning views, or Windsor Gardens above the beautiful Promenade and the delightful Pier with its prize-winning Pavilion. The beaches themselves provide adventure, history, geology and archaeology, as well as beauty and wildlife. Then there’s the Marina, the river, and the Barrage leading across Cardiff Bay…
Lie on the grass and read an English novel or talk about Brexit. Admire seagulls and swans while chatting about climate change or the differing education systems of EU countries. Hear your English becoming stronger and more correct, day by day, as your confidence and accuracy increase. Wake up and smell the flowers. Listen to that English as it grows.