N: 50° 24′ 55.789″ W: 5° 4′ 25.388″
As the first Dutch person ever, I enjoyed a great week of surfing and language lessons at Babel Fish language school in Cornwall last summer. Although this school has not been around for long, you get the feeling that teachers Alex and Toby have decades of experience running a school. Their passion for education most certainly contribute to that. At the very bottom tip of England on the impressive cliffs of Cornwall, in the now mainly tourist town of Newquay, the school is located in an antique cottage. Cornwall is steeped in history to explore and get lost in.
Surfen en Engels in Newquay
My week started on Sunday with my arrival at the smallest airport you will ever see. There I was picked up by Alex who brought me to my host family while I stared out the window at the green hilly landscape of Newquay. I was a bit tense about whether I would feel at home in the host family where I was staying that week, but these nerves soon disappeared when I met them. It was a sporty and pleasant family who could cook very well. The first afternoon they showed me all the places where I would spend my time the next week. The school, the park and finally the beach. As we approached the coast I could smell more of the salty air, I heard gulls scream and I felt the wind blow through my hair and then wow! … what a view!
Continue reading after the photo’s or find more information about surfing and English in Cornwall
The next day I had my first English lesson, which mainly meant that we had to introduce ourselves to the class before being divided into two high-level groups. It was very special to sit with people of many different ages from all different countries and swap stories. Then we all walked to the beach to get our first surf lesson. Once you’re in the water, you don’t want to get out. Because suppose you miss that giant wave you’ve been waiting on all day! The waves are often really great here! After the wonderful dinner, my fellow student Carlo (from Italy) and I were taken to the local bowling hall to get to know our new friends better. A couple of our new friends Alex and Toby came along for the fun. Although the comical Toby managed to convince us that the qualities that are needed in bowling belong mainly to the simple souls. After this pleasant evening we went back to our host family, where I soon fell asleep from an exhausting day.
On Tuesday we had our first real English lesson. Yet it didn’t feel that way. Our teacher Toby, who really fascinated us all, said that learning a language starts with learning the sounds. Just like a baby learns to talk. I felt much more involved in the lesson than I am used to at school. The lesson went really fast, but I also started to get hungry. Fortunately there was lunch! Delicious pasta with bell pepper and olives. And then surf lesson again! At the end of the lesson I was able to stand on my shelf long enough to have a competition against my new Italian friend.
Wednesday was another intensive day, on which my English improved a lot. Through class, but also by playing football and talking with the host family. “The surf” was also “amazing”, as Alex would say. We ended the day in the cinema with the film “Yesterday”, about a parallel world in which the Beatles no longer exist and the protagonist tries to remember all their songs. A very good exercise for English and also a very nice film.
The following morning we had a conversation in class about the film and about speaking techniques and tricks that writers such as Roald Dahl constantly use to convey a feeling. Very interesting and educational. Due to a lack of waves we did not surf that afternoon. We did walk through the entire city to watch a surfing competition in another bay, which despite ‘the flat sea’ was still fascinating. After all, it is not something you see every day. Unfortunately it then started to rain (‘cats and dogs’ as they would say in England). Fortunately we were close to a real ‘fish and chips’ shop, where we sat out and enjoyed this English institution.
Friday was my last English lesson and I thought that was a shame, since I could learn a lot more from Toby. Fortunately my fellow students and I gave useful advice to continue our learning process. This shows again how involved he was with the individual development of everyone. The waves were again insufficient on Friday. To alleviate this disappointment, we “coasted”, a combination of swimming, climbing and jumping into the water. In the end, this was perhaps even more fun than surfing and strengthened the bond we had created last week.
Saturday was my last day with my new friends. The program included a visit to ‘The Eden project’. This park, which consists of various botanical gardens, has a rich history and is a lot less boring than you would expect from a botanical garden. Especially the tropical ‘dome’ with a waterfall in it was spectacular. This place is legendary among English school kids and adults a like.
In the evening we celebrated the birthday of both grandfathers of the host family, which was a very pleasant evening with delicious food. After dinner, I went to town one last time to say goodbye to my new friends.
On Sunday I was the first Dutchman to fly back from this memorable week with a view that I would not see again soon. In retrospect, one week was a bit too short. After all, you are always dependent on the weather when you go surfing. That is why I recommend you go for at least two weeks. Still, I could look back on a great week in which I had made many new friends and also improved my English. The atmosphere in the group was super cool and I have never laughed so much in one week. Overall a great week for which I want to thank Alex and Toby very much. In addition, of course I also thank Hannah, Jamie, Kezia and Xander for their hospitality during the week.