Hey! Hey you! Yes, you! I see you…
Do you see me? I can see you. How hard it is though and how much we are all feeling the same and how much we want some kind of normal back, but just with added hand sanitiser. It has been a tough 2 years. I remember when in March 2020 we were booking in students, excited and giddy (and that’s just us!) for summer 2020 and overnight it stopped.
‘It won’t last’ many of us thought in the early days of the Pandemic. It did last though and it is lasting and when we look back on this we will ask ‘what did you do in the Pandemic?’ because whatever it was, it wasn’t what you thought it would be.
We thought that summer 2020 would be like every other summer, filled with laughter, dreams and long evenings of summer funshine* (there’s a new word for you). we thought that summer sports would run into pizza nights in the outdoor classroom, and we thought that friendships would be made across the globe, as they are every summer, well at least for us.
But things changed. But you know what? If they changed once they will change again, they will change back to a time when we can be together, when all we have to worry about is whether we should do sports then the disco or disco then sports. And when that day comes, we will be here. You will be here and we will be together. Laughing in the funshine*
*Funshine. Abstract Noun. The happy feeling you get when you are enjoying yourself outdoors, in the fresh air, with friends.
Learning a foreign language is simply amazing. it challenges how you think, how you speak and how you write. You can see clear meaning everywhere and you can express that yourself. I would only ever argue to not learn a language if you don't have curiosity. If you want to sit in your native language safe zone and never venture out to bright and breezy pastures new, then yes, try something else.
But if you do have that curiosity, if you do want an insight to another culture and you do think about why we say the things we do in our first language, then absolutely open that book, turn on YouTube or buy a Google some phrases!
You will not look back and you will not regret it. You'll never be bad at it as it is a journey that we are all on, throughout our own language learning. Every time you hear a foreign accent in your own language, be brave enough to think that behind that accent is another language, maybe more than one and that this person has had the courage to build upon that foundation. They have the courage to say, I'm not finished learning yet.
Do you have that courage?
I am really excited to be part of the #wowchallenge
Starting my own business was daunting, exciting and didn’t feel real. Somewhere at the back of my mind I thought that I would be back look at the jobs ads soon enough. After 20 years’ teaching English in Italy and the UK, gaining my diploma in TESOL and travelling the world to promote international summer schools, while building my own consultancy, I still had my doubts and thought I would probably fall, but I knew I needed to get on with the challenge and start my own school.
I had 2 wow moments, but the first one was the first time a student booked my summer camp. Out of all the other options they chose BLISS! The messages that I was sending out had been received! They had been interpreted and they had had a positive impact. This was huge! You know when you hear about small business owners doing a happy dance when they make a sale, I can tell you this is absolutely true. I called my family and friends, and I finally came off cloud nine when I realised things had gotten real.
The determination I felt to have more than one lone student in my summer camp made me WhatsApp, present, call, Skype and talk my way to one booking after another and while the camp shaped up, in a modest fashion, with each and every summer camp student booking celebrated the same way as the first.
#wow.lexfiscal #wow_lexefiscal #sayitwithasnapshot #WoWchallenge
About a year ago the word lockdown was not much used, no one was clear on how to socially distance and it is a verb or a noun or an adjective? It turns out to be all three. We were concerned it would seem rude to step back from people, until we flipped that on its head and realised, we were keeping others safe by doing so, so terribly British to be afraid to offence mid-pandemic.
I think that lockdown (should it be Lockdown?) is different depending who you are, where you are and who you are with.
For me, I spend every day at home. I try to learn something new and I talk and talk and talk, a lot! (Which is actually a quote from my dad’s father of the bride speech!) On the phone, to my husband, even the poor dog when I think about it. But it is what keep me sane.
People gasp at how clever, through Skype etc, my dog is and how he understands everything I say to him. I inwardly blush when I think about how I chatter to him all day every day and so with all this practice, he understands me seemingly without effort.
Lockdown means not meeting my friends, but it also means spending family time at home. It means not meeting my mum for coffee and chitchat, but it means buying a new bean to cup coffee machine that rocks. It means not knowing about the future, but it means I know what I will do today. We can take happiness from the different world that we now live in. I can guarantee you the outside world will be waiting for us when we are able and ready.
Until then, we are, all of us, not just me and not just you, we are all in a tunnel, waiting for the green light to turn to go and let us come out into the daylight.
And when that day comes, we will be ready.
Much love, from Scotland.
Our director, when she was a student at university, became very frustrated when she couldn’t get a job, because she was a student. “I will not tolerate this, mum!” she cried, back in the day. Her mum, her sounding board and now summer school member, nodded her head wisely, as she agreed wholeheartedly that it was very unfair.
How is any young person supposed to get ahead in life, without a start? Without getting on the climbing frame of life and trying their best? We have all fallen off a few times sure, but none of us would be where we are today, without a helping hand up.
We at BLISS take our educational duties very seriously. We want to help young people thrive and survive in life and we can support this in two ways. We can teach young people, real authentic, how-it-is-actually-used-and-spoken English, a valuable skill at home and abroad and for business or pleasure. We can ensure that all of our classes are relevant for each age and for each stage and we can provide a safe and natural environment where students can talk to each other, to residential and activity staff and to teachers, all in English. This environment is called Natural Acquisition and it works. The language remains with you as you are learning through experience and through action, rendering it more natural to you.
The second way in which we can help young people, is, when they are old enough, we can offer them an internship. Now, the summer school is a very special place and so we only ask very special people to join us, but when you do, you will get valuable work experience, make friends for life and be involved in the magic of summer school that will remain with you forever. Nothing quite beats a summer at camp. It is full of new experiences, new routines, hearty laughs and a lot of hard work to make it as special as it is. However, as much effort as it takes to make it all look seamless, the satisfaction is unlike any other. We will give you a start, we will give you a reference and you know, what? We will pay you, as we will value and appreciate you and your input.
When you apply to us, we will review your application and if suitable, we will call you for a Skype interview. We will consider all backgrounds, all educations and everyone who is in the age bracket. As long as you can work in the UK, you can work with us.
This is exactly what our director meant when she told her mum, way back when, that she wouldn’t tolerate not having a chance to get her foot on the climbing frame of life. She would also like to thank the children’s adventure park The Play Factory, who gave her the first chance to get on the climbing frame, quite literally.
If you want a start and to be a part of our special team, send us a covering letter telling us why, along with your CV.
We look forward to hearing from you.
During my thirty-year career teaching Latin, people asked me one question more than any other. We know how the Roman Catholic Church pronounces Latin, but how did the original native speakers, the Ancient Romans, pronounce it? Obviously, we can’t go back two thousand years in a time machine and make a tape recording, but we can reconstruct the sounds of the spoken language by following many clues.
Firstly, Latin poetry was written to be read aloud. We should therefore expect an abundance of sound effects in the Aeneid, written by Virgil (70-19 BC), during the last eleven years of his life. A common literary device was onomatopoeia, where the sound of a word is strongly suggestive of its meaning. Simple examples in English might be: crash; thud; hoot; wail. In the first book of the Aeneid, Virgil describes a storm at sea, which swallows up an entire ship: “torquet agens circum et rapidus vorat aequore vertex.” (I: 117). “The peaked wave spins and twists it round, snatches it and swallows it up in the sea.” If we were to insist on the English convention of pronouncing the letter v as in English, all Virgil’s mastery of onomatopoeia would go for nothing. If, however, we treat the letter v as a consonantal u and pronounce it as a w, we can hear the “bloop bloop bloop” of the sinking ship in the last three words. This tells us that the joke in “1066 and All That” about Caesar describing his enemies as “weeny, weedy and weaky” is not quite as loony as it first appears (he described his lightning-quick victory at the Battle of Zela 42 BC in the famous words “veni, vidi, vici: I came; I saw: I conquered”).
Secondly, the Romans, just like everybody else, made spelling mistakes. There is a wall in Pompeii, covered in Latin graffiti. The name “Hortesius” is mentioned. We know there was a common family name “Hortensius” in Ancient Rome, but the Pompeian graffiti artist spelled it as he heard it. This goes a long way to explaining how the Latin word for “table” (mensa) ended up as “mesa” in modern Spanish, as well as the Italian istruzioni, which in English has its N.
Thirdly, there is transliteration, where Roman names, originally written in the Latin alphabet, are represented in Ancient Greek texts by spellings using the Greek alphabet. The most famous instance is “Cicero” the famous Roman orator and politician. Was he “Kikero” or “Sisero”? In modern English, we call him “Sisero”, but the Ancient Greek historian Polybius used the Greek letter kappa to tell his readers about “Kikero”.
I’m going to leave it at that for now and wish everyone well. Stay safe.
Before I had children, I was quite happy to be a passenger in a car and be driven around by someone else willing to accept the responsibility of getting us both safely to wherever we were going. With the arrival of my son and daughter, however, there came a ‘Damascene’ moment, when I looked into the future and saw other blokes ferrying their own kids and mine to swimming clubs and birthday parties, while I would be a fairly useless dad, unable to return the favour. With this cringeworthy vision in mind, I resolved to learn to drive. I can now proudly claim to have been the family taxi-driver for the last 38 years.
What has this to do with learning another language? The answer is pretty obvious. It is possible to be a ‘passenger’ and just let people of other nationalities learn English, so that they take the responsibility and make all the effort. This, bad though it may be, seems to be the attitude of most native speakers of English. Do we want to rely on other nationalities to do all the work and should we not at least make an effort to meet them halfway? I would hope the answer is a red-faced ‘No’.
Are there any reasons, other than being shamed into it, for learning languages? Of course there are. We humans are naturally acquisitive. As a child, I loved collecting picture cards from Brooke Bond tea, gluing them into an album and proudly poring over my completed sets. I also collected words, both English and non-English. Maybe I was, to say the least, atypical, but when I was at primary school I found myself collecting the ‘complete sets’ of the numbers 1 to 10 in as many languages as I could, tabulating them, learning them by heart and, perhaps most important of all, observing the similarities between ‘un, deux, trois, quatre’, ‘un, dos, tres, cuatro’ and ‘uno, due, tre, quattro’. At one time, I could count up to twenty in thirty-six languages. When I went to secondary school and discovered Latin, the basis of modern Romance Languages and the root of over ten thousand English words, the lightbulb flashed on in my head and has never switched off. Over the next sixty years, I made it my business to learn as many languages as I could. The count stands at nine so far, although I must admit that most of them would need a lot of polishing up even after the rust is scraped off.
Along the way in this linguistic Odyssey, I have come across one mini-treasure after another. Perhaps the best way to illustrate this is to look at the idioms that various languages present and to let them put cartoon-like pictures into your head. I don’t think I’ll ever look at a dragonfly the same way ever since I learned that, in Basque, it is a ‘witch’s needle’, or a hotel in the same way ever since I found that, in Greek, it is a ‘container for foreigners’. When Italians are furious with someone, they ‘wear the devil for a hat’ and in Latin, one might fish for compliments ‘with a golden hook’.
I am going to sign off now, with the promise of more musings to come. In the meantime, don’t just rely on other people to translate for you. Looking at the world through the eyes of speakers of other languages is like being colour-blind and then suddenly being dazzled by a rainbow.
George N Littlejohn
COVID-19 BLISS Summer School Update.
24th March 2020
Firstly, our thoughts are with those who are affected by this global pandemic. We really are in unprecedented times.
We are working in accordance with the guidelines form the UK government, we ceased travel in February and we are now working from home. We are healthy and we hope you, reading this, are too.
Our start date is 28th June 2020. We are working hard to get everything in place and ready for our first arrivals on that date. We will be operating from 28th June to 2nd August. We are doing everything we can to ensure our summer provision will not be interrupted for you.
However, the health and wellbeing of our students, staff and parents is our first priority. It is an ever-evolving crisis and the advice we are given changes daily. We are aware, of course, of the travel restrictions which currently would affect most of our students. However, please rest assured plans are underway for summer, and we will do all we can to go ahead.
Excursions are being booked and planned, supplies bought, returning staff are in place and room allocations are being done. This summer is set to be the best one yet; we have many new students enrolled who will be meeting up with our returning students, who we are looking forward to seeing again.
As is prudent, we will be revising this statement, in accordance with UK government guidance.
Stay safe, stay home.
Managing Director, BLISS
I became an English Language consultant in 2018, 17 years after I taught my first English class. I did what many people did, I lived the dream, well my dream anyway, I just never stopped!
Back in 2001, after having finished university and not really knowing what to do what the rest of forever, I took a plane to Naples, with my best friend. He was there to keep me company for a week and then he was coming back home. That was the plan, and that was always the plan.
That was a moment… and even now when tough times arise, I think back to me standing there in Naples airport. Completely alone for the first time in my life. Waving off my best friend in the world, knowing my family were in Scotland wishing I was too. How did I do that? Well, I don’t really know. But I did and so started my relationship with the English language.
As a novice teacher I made all the usual mistakes, I spoke too fast, I didn’t know my own grammar well enough and I thought I was too young to teach. I had no experience to tell me anything different. Most of my courses were in businesses, so my students were generally in their forties or fifties, which was daunting to me in my twenties. I couldn’t speak Italian so I had to evoke the primary TEFL rule – only English in the classroom! And everywhere else as it turned out!
I slowly started to learn my second language, through everyday situations. I went to the supermarket and learned what a “busta” was, as a plastic bag was waggled in my direction. “Il resto” was not thrust into my hand as would happen in the UK but left on the counter for me to embarrassingly slowly pick up, coin by tiny coin. I learned through experience, I learned how to pay bills in Italy, to have a bank account, to start friendships, to have waiter service in a pub. Everything was different, but then again so were the words I was using to function in this Brave New World. I started to think in Italian and I started to um and ah in Italian, as we do in our first language. It wasn’t an uphill stroll, improving day by day. Every day in the sunshine was an extra verb learned – far from it. My colleagues and friends spoke Italian, many had been there for a while or they had studies the language at uni or something similar, I was starting from zero (well, I had ciao and pizza pretty well embedded!). There were days, many days, I just thought nope. I can’t do this. It’s beyond me. I just can’t.
Often, I would look at my English teacher colleagues and I would be kinda awestruck. We were all there, living a fairly normal life, we all had jobs, a house, paid our bills and we were all functioning in 2 languages. I too moved into that group. My language picked up momentum and I started to converse fluently, I wasn’t daunted by a new situation and oh how proud I was when my family and friends visited from Scotland! Even today I sometimes still dream in Italian. An Italian friend told me once (best compliment ever!) “you trip over the words the Italians don’t even know”. That guy was one of my good friends over there (not because he said that!!) he couldn’t speak even one word of English.
Teaching English as a Foreign Language changed my life. There are no doubts about it. I progressed through my career in Naples teaching in private and state schools, businesses, at the University of Naples, I taught everywhere. I loved it. Then, when I was offered the opportunity to manage a school in the centre of Naples, with my own wee team, I jumped at the chance. It created a new need in me. I didn’t realise it at the time, but I needed to have my own school and that was where I was going. The big boss management of my Naples school were all in Milan and popped down once every few months to check in, so I basically ran the school the way I wanted to and I loved it. I learned about customer service, about loyalty to and from staff. Having been a teacher for years I knew about the difficulties inside the classroom, but this new adventure taught me about the journey a student goes through to get into the classroom.
Scotland was calling. I delayed coming home as I didn’t know how I would cope and what I would do. Many of us do that, many of those guys that inspire awe.
But home I went, to face the biggest challenge yet. I was lucky enough to land a role that saw me managing an EFL summer school. I had to move an hour from home (that’s fine, still the same land mass after all), and there I started to learn about a whole other world, with TEFL at its heart.
Together with my staff, many of whom are still with me today, we grew our summer school until the host school couldn’t cope. Until the dining hall had to be staggered and the theatre had to be rota’d. Until I annoyed people with the summer school’s success! I managed a team of six + teachers, all the activity and residential staff and I loved it. I had 22 nationalities one year, not even the biggest year, I was really proud of it and I poured everything into it. My self and my soul and you know, it was never even like work.
My experience in and out of the classroom gave me the understanding of how each student came to our school and ultimately what they wanted out of the time they spent with us. I was the happy host of happy children, with a few mum’s tears in the background. I went to an industry conference and one agent told another agent that my language school was “the best there is”.
And what of my Italian? It’s part of who I am now and eight years after having left Italy full-time, I gave a presentation to a school. In Italian. I am not telling you I didn’t make mistakes, I am not telling you I wasn’t anxious beforehand, I did and I was. But I did it and they clapped and understood.
I learned Italian through Natural Acquisition. The natural use of the language, with a focus on communication and the rhythm of the language. Fundamentally it’s how babies learn their first language, listen, recognise, repeat, practise, repeat. Our summer school, through all of this experience and understanding is based on the same principle. That is how we remember, that is how it becomes ingrained.
At BLISS, we too are students, we are language learners, we have been away from our families in the quest for adventure and learning, we have had to make new friends, we sometimes felt like everything was new and incomprehensible. We have the empathy and understanding through this personal experience to create a safe, nurturing and supportive learning environment, because that’s what we do. That’s how we learn.
And what of me now? I left my bursting-at-the-seams school and well, I told you that I became a language consultant, I did. I did that for a moment and I still do, I am also a teacher trainer. I love to do that, setting off new teachers onto their own journey. That’s a privilege. I also got my qualifications to be the Academic Manager of our own school. I write the syllabus, I train the teachers and I observe the classes. Why wouldn’t I? It is part of my fabric now, it’s who I am, it is what I do. It is also how we gained British Council Accreditation.
And deep down, it is what makes me me, having my own school, just like back in Naples. But now, it is in Scotland. It is flourishing and it is growing. The flowerpot that is our school is bigger than before, so we have room to grow.
Every day I speak with people who have legitimate concerns about sending children abroad to learn, and every day we register another student or group on our system.
Teaching English as a Foreign Language changed my life away back in 2001 and continues to enrich me day by day. That’s the reason I have dedicated my career to language teaching and that is why I will continue. And you know what? Italian made me walk the walk, and ultimately talk the talk.
And it’s not even like work.
Suzanne Brown, BLISS Director
This summer we have really pushed the boat out, literally. We have seen how much our students loved being outdoors and trying things they hadn't done before, so we decided to make these experiences a full afternoon option.
Outdoor Adventure sees BLISS team up with a local activity centre, who welcome hundreds of Scottish boys and girls every year to their centre. These guys are the experts in everything adventurous and outdoorsy!
We will be running this programme all the way through summer and you will have 4 days offsite and one day onsite, with this option. Coordinated by our very own Jorge, who is working with the activity centre, we will see our students learn to Paddle board, Kayak, go Aqua -Zorbing, try out archery too to name a few things! All of this with the dramatic Perthshire scenery as a backdrop.
This is an excellent way for students to learn outdoor skills, as well as team building and practical skills too. All, of course, in English.
There is ample opportunity to mix with local students too, as we will all be learning together. On our one day onsite, we will be taking full advantage of our outdoor classroom that we have at Glenalmond College. And we are absolutely sure we will relax into long summery evenings, by the camp fire, toasting marshmallows.
This option is available in all weeks from 28th June to 2nd August 2020
We are English language experts. We think about English and the teaching of English, we implement that in our school. The BLISSful blog is an insight into English language summer schools and why we are different.