School trips are an important, almost invaluable aspect of teaching modern foreign languages. Taking students to a country where the language they are learning is spoken natively offers unparalleled opportunities to improve their listening and speaking skills – in comprehension and vocabulary – and even pick up local newspapers and books to test their reading abilities. The languages learnt at schools are varied, giving organisers a broad range of destinations to choose from for educational travel. Four top destinations for four (or five) languages are Bilbao and Cantabria in Spain, Brittany in France, Moscow and St Petersburg in Russia, and Beijing and Xian in China.
Bilbao and Cantabria (Spanish)
Bilbao and Cantabria, in the northwest of Spain, are known for the especially “pure” Spanish spoken there. For Spanish students looking to concentrate on their core Spanish skills on school trips, Bilbao and Cantabria are ideal, with numerous chances to practise Spanish-speaking skills. The region is also testament to Spain’s long cultural history, beginning with the Caves of Altamira and the spectacular prehistoric paintings of animals that date to up to 35,000 years ago. More recent artworks are on display in the European Guggenheim, in Bilbao.
Brittany (French and Breton)
Brittany, in northwest France, is a land of 300 Catholic saints, ancient megaliths, Celtic culture and a delicious marine and sweet cuisine. School trips to Brittany will focus on French, spoken widely as the dominant language of the region, but Brittany is also the home of Breton, a Celtic language most closely related to Cornish. Students can see how the two languages co-exist in Brittany, most noticeably in the signage. Combined with that, the unique culture of the region will make the trip a particularly memorable way to visit France.
Moscow and St Petersburg (Russian)
Learning Russian invites students on an educational excursion to the cities of Moscow and St Petersburg, two vast and brilliant cities that have played an important role in Russia’s tumultuous history. Visiting them, students will gain an increased understanding of Russian history, as well as language-enhancing conversations with Russian people on the Moscow Metro or sampling Russian food. Moscow and St Petersburg are both well known for their central political spaces: Moscow’s Red Square, with the Kremlin on one side and the onion-shaped domes of St Basil’s Cathedral at the far end, and St Petersburg’s Hermitage at the Palace Square.
Beijing and Xian (Mandarin Chinese)
As China’s political power grows ever greater, many schools are recognising the value of teaching their students Mandarin Chinese. School trips to the Chinese cities of Beijing and Xian give students a rare opportunity to immerse themselves in the Mandarin language, as well as seeing some of the most famous historical monuments in the country. In Beijing, students can visit the vast Forbidden City and go on an excursion to the Great Wall. At Xian, they can discuss the remarkable imperial burial of the Terracotta Warriors. Throughout, the possibilities to speak to Chinese people will take their language skills to the next level.