Learning Languages Through Culturally Immersive Trips

Experiential learning is at the heart of everything we do here at Leysin American School. Giving students the opportunity to apply their learning to real-life situations allows them to gain confidence and see the applications of their studies to the real world. At LAS we offer a variety of language courses that challenge our students and combine classroom learning with experiential learning opportunities. We believe that students improve drastically by putting their language skills to the test, and what better way to practice than by visiting the country where the language is spoken!!

Each year we take our French learners to Thonon-les-Bains, a beautiful city located on the French shores of Lac Léman. Students are given the opportunity to practice their language skills by going to markets, ordering in restaurants, and visiting landmarks in the area. In the morning, the group explores the weekly open market of the town, where they can use their French language skills in authentic settings and soak in the vibrant atmosphere of the market. This market is one of the biggest markets in the historic capital of Chablais, a province of the old Duchy of Savoy. Though students can practice their language skills, they also learn an important cultural element of France: going to the local market!

In the afternoon, the group heads to Yvoire, a small medieval town best known for its medieval buildings and summer floral displays, as well as the Jardin des Cinq Sens, a garden in the middle of the fortified walls. Yvoire is said to be one of the most beautiful villages in France, and lets students see a different area of this very diverse country. Students continue their cultural exploration while enjoying a crêpe or refreshing ice cream (ordered in French of course!).

Prior to the trip, the students study topics that aid them in their market and restaurant purchases. They learn how to talk about quantities, food and drinks, and how to ask for directions to different places in town. This equips them with the language skills and confidence to immerse themselves in the culture when they arrive! In addition, this day trip is followed by a range of activities inside the classroom, where students are able to reflect on what they have learned through role-plays, discussions, letter-writing tasks, and more. This is a vital element of the whole experience, as it allows them to reflect on their learning and discuss areas of confidence of difficulty with their classmates and teachers.

Each year, this is a really successful day trip, as it allows our students to gain confidence in the French language and test their ability to extend classroom learning to real-life settings. Learning about the culture of the country rather than just the language is a really important and often overlooked part of language acquisition in schools, and our students always have a lot of fun on these trips. We look forward to continuing this tradition each year and taking our students to a variety of new and exciting places!

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