It’s time for sleigh bells and EnglishIt’s cold, Christmas lights are everywhere. So it must be time to pack the children off to English camps. Winter English camps have become a staple of Korea’s educational system. The camps are offered by a huge number of institutions and have a variety of themes. The camps are welcomed by Korean parents as they help their children improve their English skills at a reasonable cost, while making sure they are busy and supervised over the winter break.
The JoongAng Ilbo and the COEX are jointly hosting English Quotient and Emotional Quotient 2006, an English learning camp using “sensibility,” that will run from Dec. 19 this year through Feb. 23 next year. The title of the camp is a play on the acronym “IQ” and captures the notion that intelligence is not just about intellect but involves emotions and creativity as well.
The EQ and EQ 2006 working under the slogan, “Feel to Learn,” promises parents it will develop children’s language abilities in addition to their creativity and imagination, by using 20 plays that are designed to stimulate a child’s sensitivity to art and culture.
One of the plays is a musical and there is an opera. The children learn to perform both in English. Another activity involves creating one’s own robot or spaceship using magnetic sticks. With various versions displayed on the walls and floor using projector beams, the children will be able to play with the images without having to wear special gloves or glasses. A word spelling contest is also offered every 20 days for students who love competition.
Lee Seung-gyu, an elementary student in Goyang, Gyeonggi province, said his first experience of an English camp was a two-day program offered during a weekend at the Gyeonggi English Village’s Paju camp in October. Since then he has been asking his mother to send him to as many as she can.
“Since we spoke in English while playing games I realized I had to study more,” said Lee. “I think the village has given my son the motivation to study English,” said Kim Mi-yeon, his mother. Ms. Kim said she is planning to send her son to a two-week program during the winter vacation.
Suh Chan-young, a fourth-grade student from Incheon, has taken a three-month course at Global English Center or GEC, an English village camp in Incheon. Suh, who visits the camp every Tuesday and Thursday, has been learning dance, music, science and cooking with an English instructor. “When I first sent my child to the camp I was worried if he would even understand what the teachers would say,” said Choi Seon-ok, Suh’s mother. “Since attending GEC he has found English fun and interesting,” she added.
Kim Min-woo of GEC said that parents must be careful when selecting a camp. They should always keep in mind their child’s personality and learning capacity. “Parents should not send their children to just any English village,” Mr. Kim said. “If the child is usually shy, it is best to send the child to a one-day program.”
Lim Hee-joo of Seoul English Village’s Suyu camp, believes that children will get the most from the camp experience if their parents are careful about setting their objectives. “The program the parents should choose will vary depending on whether the goal is to stimulate a motivation toward learning English or experience a foreign culture or pre-study for a child traveling aboard,” he said. “For students in lower grades the most appropriate program is the two-day program that focuses more on plays and music. For higher grades programs that focus on learning advanced English language skills are the best choice.”
Stephen Woody, an English instructor at the Gyeonggi English Village, thinks it is important to select a program that is closely related to something the child would usually have an interest in. “For a child who loves music, a music video or a multinational dance program would be appropriate,” he said. “For a student who usually finds science interesting, a science project program or a robot workshop would be the best choice. The students will make most progress in English when they find their program fun.”
“English ability is not that important when attending an English village,” said Cho Jae-hyeop at GEC. “English villages are not a place where students should attend when they are already good in English. The desire to learn English while experiencing an environment where English is the only language spoken is all that is needed for a child to participate in an English camp,” Mr. Cho said. “The students who follow the foreign instructors can clearly see their English improving. It is also helpful for the students in improving their English when they exchange emails with the foreign instructors even after the program ends.”
Mr. Woody said an English village is designed to create an atmosphere where students can easily use the language skills they have developed at school through the various learning programs provided by the villages and camps and the meetings they have there with foreigners. Mr. Woody said one of the more important objectives is for the children to have the opportunity to practice in an all-English environment.
There are simple techniques parents can use to help their children get the best from the camp experience. For example, Ms. Lim recommends that parents find out what words will be most commonly used at the camp and then they should help their children to memorize them.
Mr. Kim said students who attend a good program will see a big improvement in the confidence with which they speak English. To consolidate these gains she suggests parents should replicate the camp experience at home. Mr. Kim suggests parents establish an “English Zone.” For example, in the morning English could be mandatory when in the bathroom. After school English is mandatory in the living room. At night, English is required when in the kitchen.
“It is true that the learning benefits from the village drops by more than half if the students do not continue practising when they get home,” said Lee Sang-jae at Seoul English Center Suyu camp. “It is important that parents keep their children interested in continuing the experience they had at the camp through video tapes, English songs and story books.”
by Kim Nam-joong,Lee Ho-jeong