Returning to studying English as a mature student to open up new job opportunities
Simone Pieraccini, from Italy, studied the Intensive Course at Kings London. We spoke to him about his reasons for resuming his English studies as a mature student, adjusting to learning again, and how to make the best progress in a short time.
Hi Simone. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I come from Italy, and I'm staying here for 8 weeks. I'm 50 and so my age is probably a bit higher than the average age here, so my personal experience and school experience has been very different.
This was my biggest worry before I came here, because I thought that the difference between the other students and me would be too strong. But after this period, with the help of teachers and well-organised lessons I can say that it was a good experience for me, and I would recommend it to other people.
So you've enjoyed being part of a mixed age class?
You are extremely motivated, but perhaps some of the other students have different motivations?
In fact this is probably another aspect that we have to consider. I saw, for example, during the afternoon lessons some of the [younger students] were absent and I think this was a lost opportunity and probably they don’t realise this. I know that the age and motivations [for learning] are different, but I realise too that if you don’t study in the right way then it's impossible to reach your objectives.
I think I have studied very hard, and probably my great satisfaction was the last benchmark test. I was ready to move up to the higher level, because I reached near 90%, and so probably next week I could move up to Level 7 (Pre-Advanced). For me, that's two levels difference since I arrived here! This can prove that the teaching system is good and that it works. I would say that probably this result could be faster if I was 30 years old instead instead of 50. At 50 the first two weeks were very demanding for me.
Yes, you have to learn to learn again.
Exactly, and another thing that I learned here with you is the Italian pronunciation of English is a disaster! Maybe not mine, but some other Italian students.
Which course did you take?
I took the general Intensive Course, and in the afternoons I chose to follow the IELTS test preparation classes. I found this very interesting and useful, as it's important to understand how the test is given to the student and the method.
Could you describe what a typical lessons was like in the morning and in the afternoon for you?
In general English for example we studied new words, new phrases, and grammar. We played some role plays, and we tried to think about what we had studied in real life.
In the IELTS test we turned our view on more specific areas. In each week we covered all the four areas of the IELTS test — Reading, Speaking, Writing and Listening. I found very useful your advice about Reading and Listening that you gave in the lecture.
Why did you decide to take this course?
I left my job in December — I was working as a technical director in a supermarket company and I was fed up with the job and the environment so I would like to change.
I realised that in Italy you have to know English to a good level as well, so I decided to try to get an official certificate to include on my CV. I decided that the minimum length I would need would be two months, and I agreed on this with my wife and my family.
It's the first time that I have been so determined to achieve something.
How long had you studied English for before you came here?
I started when I was probably 20 years old on the Shenker method in Piombino, the town where I lived. It was fantastic because it was an old method, I studied from a book that was published in 1960!
They taught us very good pronunciation. My problem was that I stopped to practise English for probably 15 years and forgot a lot, and then after that I stopped again for 5 years. This is my mistake because I lost money, and I lost time, and I had to start again. But I have learned my lesson!
When I get home, I have lots of books in English and I want to read one a week.
And you talked about watching movies with your children in English?
Yes exactly, this is an attempt that I want to do with them because I realise that I have to stop watching television all in Italian. Probably my children will complain, but I think this will be very useful for them!
What made you choose Kings London?
I followed the advice of a friend of mine who is linked with Kings. Of all the different Kings schools he advised me go to London as it was one of the best, and I think I agree with him.
Where did you stay?
I stayed in a homestay. I find the family very very good — very good treatment, company and food. In the evenings after dinner we stay and we talk to each other for an hour or an hour and a half and it was like another lesson.
Unfortunately I don't think this is the case with all families. The host families should always talk to the students, and not just accept money for the bed and for the food. I think I say this as I'm 50 — probably in my 20s I wouldn’t have appreciated this so much. The only advice I would give you is to check more about the family. For students like me it is very very important.
What do you think about the school facilities?
I think it's good. I found myself feeling confident with the food, even with my problems with wheat. The cook was very kind and I could find gluten-free food. I think the organisation is good.
Have you taken part in any activities and excursions?
Yes, not only with Kings but also with a tour operator I went to Bath and to Stonehenge. It was useful because it was not so easy to get there by public transport. I went to Oxford by myself because it's easier. I went into central London the first week with the school. I was aware of London because it is my third time here.
You have attended all the extra lectures, and most of the self-study sessions that were available to you also. How did you find them?
They were useful as it was another interaction in spoken English and another hour with the teacher for free. I don’t know why some other students don't attend the lectures! Some students stay in front of the computer from 1.00pm on Friday until Monday! It's a lost life in my opinion. If I could return to the age of 30, I would behave in a completely different way.
And finally, would you recommend London as a destination for other students?
For me yes, probably after 20 years old. Maybe before, it is better somewhere else like Brighton or Oxford. I think London is a real 'world capital', not New York. Here you can find so many places showing history and modern life.