This week a moot point was raised in the tto-meeting at my school. Most of us have managed to pass the Cambridge exams, recently or a couple of years ago, and it was felt that something is needed to guarantee ongoing language development.

Of course a lot of sources are available for reading and listening. I used to read the London Times online but this site charges a fee now, so I have changed to The Independent and The Guardian, not too bad either. Every so often I listen to a BBC Radio 4 programme, my preference is Melvin Bragg’s series In Our Times. My penchant for intellectual content is not very suitable though to develop every day down to earth informal language, which is badly needed in the classroom to guarantee that our students master the language in all its registers. So I feel I need to go abroad at least every two years. I believe this is recommended in the European Platform’s standard, and it makes sense. Just going on vacation in the Cottswolds will not do. Being a tourist doesn’t really immerse you in the language.

At our meeting I was envied by my colleagues for having embezzled the fee, £ 885, for the iNet immersion tour this autumn from the management. I had to concede though that I am going to splurge on other costs, for the flight and dinners, which will leave me about € 500 out of pocket. Unfortunately my application for additional funding by a teacher mobility programme was turned down, as the coffer had been emptied already. My willingness to fork out money of my own was frowned upon by my fellow teachers as they feared it would set a bad example.

The tto-programme was touched off six years ago without calculating its costs on the long term. It is quite clear that our management has not put by any money for keeping up performance so far. They have congratulated themselves on having succeeded in paying the training for the Cambridge exams, and being certified by the European Platform and that’s about it. Going abroad is a costly affair which exceeds the normal schooling funds available.

So it was decided to advise the school administration to allot each colleague a fixed amount of money each year, to be used for immersion courses in England of own choice. It’s up to the teacher to save the money a couple of years for a prohibitive academic course at Cambridge University or to go to the bottom of the market for a nifty course at one of the many competing language schools amongst other seekers of basic language lessons from around the globe. (I did such a course years ago as I felt I could use some extra exercise while preparing for my Cambridge Advanced Exam then, and I can assure you it is the cheapest way to stay a fortnight in London as they offer you boarding with locals who will expand your informal register of English. However, the English of your fellow students, from China, Brasil, Poland or Spain mostly will be ghastly.)

I am curious about the policy of your school in these matters.

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