Note: See bottom of article for the information on Open House in MLA in association with Expats.cz
Archimedes Language Academy (My Language Adventure) is certainly something different. Even its appearance suggests that this is not typical school. The main area is a large open space. On the right is a kitchen with a large, high wooden table. On the other side of the room is a climbing wall, and at the far end a stage with a piano and a guillotine. The latter is merely a prop. The color scheme – lime green and exposed wood – lends a natural and relaxing mood.
Attention to space is not the only way Archimedes is different. The school offers an elaborate yet flexible study program that is far removed from textbook exercises and conversation classes. The school endeavors to make learning fun. Moreover, they make learning accessible.
Archimedes achieves this through a combination of technology-based experimental methods and old-fashioned support. The school has its own iTunes app, the ALApp, designed for iPads. The app includes an audiobook in Czech and English, allowing you to read along and listen in both Czech and English, digital flashcards, which can be sorted into easy, medium, and hard (the app then reminds you of the ones in the hard pile every day) and dictation, which is very easy to use.
While learning apps are widely available, Archimedes has the benefit of being supported by a staff of teachers. For example, the results from the dictation are sent to the school, so that a teacher can check your progress and give you feedback.
Supporting the high-tech approach are one-to-one sessions, which take place in the school’s modern classrooms. The classrooms have comfy office chairs and Fatboys, and seem far removed from typical learning environments. But it’s not just about furniture. The individual sessions are very much about building on what was learned in the apps and other services. The sessions are further integrated into the app in that phrases from the class are sent directly to the student.
An additional service is the phone calls. Depending on how many are ordered, a teacher will call the student and they will have a short conversation. Of all the ideas, this is the one which appealed the most to me because it allowed for regular practice.
Students also have direct input into their courses. They can bring materials they want to focus on, which reflect their interests. “If you’re a responsible person, and you know what you want, and you have your interests and you would like to talk about your stuff, you can build your own database of personal phrases,” said the general manager, Jiří Horák.
Workshops provide a further opportunity to use the language. Sometimes, students can even lead them. These workshops range from beer tasting to being a talk show host, and last up to three hours. “If they have something they’d like to talk about, they can present it, and that’s another way to effectively learn,” Horák said. Apart from providing a fun and interactive way of using the language, each workshop covers very precise grammar points.
On top of that, the school concerns itself with the student’s study habits. “We teach students not just the subject, but give them the way to get the information in their head: how to find time for studying, how to motivate themselves,” he said.
To achieve this, the school sets a manageable study routine that shows how much time can be spent on each activity.
The seed of the idea came on a car trip to Croatia. Horák and his business partner Miroslav Pešta were discussing how they could make learning more fun and interesting. “We started to put together everything that we knew, everything that we’d tested, everything that we had found,” he said.
Initially, it was a mix of methods. One initial suggestion included a developing an elaborate role-play scenario, like in the film The Game. This idea was not included, but the men did retain three main ideas which are at the route of the methodology.
“I brought the dictation from Pech. Mr. Pešta brought the superlearning. He loves it. The flashcards we both new,” Horák said.
This methodology is reflected in the apps. The flashcards are based on the ideas of Hermann Ebbinghaus, a German educator who developed the idea of the forgetting curve. Systematic routine memorization in small portions is more effective than cramming a lot at once. Dictation is based on the techniques of Karel Pech, whose many bow strings included pedagogy with an emphasis on kinesthetic learning, which explains the climbing wall.
Superlearning is based on the methodology of the late Bulgarian psychologist Georgi Lazanov. In the app, superlearning means getting the learner into a relaxed state through classical music while English and Czech phrases are played. The relaxed state should make the learner more receptive to the language. Having the mother tongue played with the target language is a means of preparing the mind.
It doesn’t end there. Horák said that they are open to suggestions from students and look to incorporate those ideas. And as technology changes, the school plans to adapt.
“We have over a hundred students. We know every name. We know how their study progresses,” he said.
Students can pick and choose, using the school’s calculator to work out the price, thus tailoring courses to your time and interest. Only the app which contains one module’s worth of work is necessary to buy. Even the length of time it takes to complete a module will be determined by the individual, though on average a module takes from four to six weeks.
Most of all, you have to be motivated. The Archimedes courses seem to be very much about what you bring to the lessons and how determined you are to learn.
If this sounds like something you would be interested in, you can visit the school for a language audit. Based on your oral skills, Archimedes works out which module to put you in. The emphasis here is on active ability – which is reflected and supported in the methodology.
OPEN HOUSE in association with Expats.cz
Expats.cz & My Language Adventure would like to invite you to Archimedes Language Academy next Wednesday, November 28, for an Open House with Czech Traditions. Come see their fun premises (which include a guillotine and climbing wall), network with others, and learn Czech phrases while you try one of their workshops: Polka Dancing and Decorating Christmas Cookies (cukroví). Taste Czech beer and cuisine and learn pub phrases and more. The event starts at 18:30, but you can drop by later as well (you just risk missing out on beer and cookies). Register today to reserve your spot – we look forward to seeing you there!
Check out the videos Expats.cz produced in cooperation with Archimedes (My Language Adventure) here.