Last week, I had the pleasure of participating in a little known language programme called Angloville. The programme is an immersion in conversational English for Hungarian natives, and both the ‘Anglos’ and Hungarians spend an intense week teaching and learning English from morning till night. The programme requires hard work from both parties, but the rewards and benefits were beyond what I had ever imagined.
I found the programme through HelpX, as it works on this same principles of working in exchange for food and accommodation. Except, instead of being kept in a shack at the back of someone’s farm, our accommodation consisted of a gorgeous, 3 star hotel complete with thatched roof, pool, and its own thermal spring, which is situated only 40 minutes outside of Budapest. Furthermore, as a student of English Language, this programme was exactly what I needed to spice up my CV.
Before beginning my week at Angloville, I was apprehensive. I had never heard of this programme before, and the promise of a free week of luxury in the sunny Hungarian countryside seemed too good to be true. Yet, what I found was a genuine, well-coordinated and professional programme which lived up to its promises and then some.
In our Angloville group consisted of 12 native English speakers from Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Canada and America, as well as 9 Hungarians. Before the week began, everyone was made aware of Angloville’s two rules: 1. Always be on time, and 2. Only speak in English! For a native English speaker, this was a piece of cake; but it was clear that this rule was going to be confusing and challenging (but ultimately rewarding) for the Hungarians. Consequently, I made it my goal to try as best I can to be a helpful English teacher.
Our days began at 8.30am for breakfast. At 9.30am, there was a review session, solidifying yesterday’s work, as well as a mentor meeting. The programme assigns an Anglo to a Hungarian for daily work on a presentation which the Hungarian will present at the end of the week. This was probably the most formal work expected of us, but the work was enjoyable. I was assigned a co-mentor, Scott, as well as our mentee, Pál. These guys turned out to be two of the most wonderful human beings on the planet, who I consider friends for life.
Later, we had 1-on-1 sessions. This worked on a rota, to ensure we were always speaking to different people. Then, we had group activities at 1pm, and lunch at 2pm. After lunch came 1 and a half precious hours of free time, and we often hit the pool or went for a walk on the beautiful grounds of the hotel. After, we had more 1-on-1 or 2-on-2 sessions. This were always enjoyable. Admittedly, the first couple of days are difficult because the Hungarians are, understandably, working out the chaos in their heads that occurs from immersion in another language, but by the third day, I could already see their English drastically improving.
After dinner, we had an entertainment hour, in which we took it in turns to entertain each other by playing dictionary, pub quiz etc. I took the liberty of teaching everyone ceilidh dancing, naturally. Entertainment hour normally involved some form of alcohol too; wine, Pimm’s or Palinka if you were feeling like a badass. Then, we were free to socialise and chat with each other. This meant more alcohol. But, despite talking literally all day, our conversations were ALWAYS enjoyable. In fact, what amazed me most was how much everyone truly opened up to one another. We would often have long chats about history, politics and our personal experiences. Other times, we would just teach each other swear words in our respective languages, because that’s always a giggle. (Hungarians swears are really colourful!)
There are a few things I really need to highlight about my experience at Angloville:
1. I met the most open, honest, intelligent, funny and genuine group of people from all over the world, who by the end of the week, felt like my family.
2. I watched in awe as the Hungarian’s English improved and they slowly became more confident and fluent. I was incredibly proud to think that I contributed towards their progression.
3. The co-ordinators, Seb and Alex, were excellent and provided the perfect amount of direction whilst giving us freedom to discuss whatever we wanted. For example, we were often given scenarios and idioms to explain and discuss, but if the Hungarian simply wanted to discuss something of their choice, that was perfectly OK.
4. I discovered a part of the world that I seriously doubt I would have had a chance to otherwise.
5. I realised that my Scottish accent is an absolute headache to those who haven’t heard one before, especially when my pronunciation of ‘six’ sounds like ‘sex.’ I got myself into more than one tricky conversation.
Ultimately, I couldn’t recommend Angloville enough. I applaud this wonderful programme and the way in which it is run, and not only the that; it actually works. My mentee, Pál, actually said that by the end of the week, he was beginning to think in English. The progress was truly amazing.
So, if you are over 21 and a native speaker of English, and would like to spend a week in the Polish or Hungarian countryside, please look no further than Angloville. At the moment, Angloville is young and still growing, but it’s effectiveness, sleek coordination and principles deserves the reputation of a much larger, well established company. This was one of the most rewarding and valuable experiences of my life, and I would do it again a hundred times over.