If there is anything close to a universal language, it has to be English. English is without any doubt the most widespread and popular language that is spoken and understood by people from all corners of the world. If a means of communication has become so ubiquitous, could it be used as a vessel to convey a higher, more powerful and fundamental message? We’re delighted to have as our next “Meet The Educator” guest Cornwell’s SUL Language Schools – an institution where English language teaching is a mission to promote friendship and understanding across borders and cultures. Read our interview with SUL Founder, Christopher Retallack and Stefanie Horn, SUL Sales and Marketing Manager below:
ETN Focus: Please introduce yourself and tell us about SUL Language Schools?
Christopher: Hello, my name is Christopher and I founded SUL Language Schools back in 1980. I worked in education for years previous to establishing SUL, working in the Solomon Islands, Africa and India. SUL was created because of my passion to promote greater international understanding and collaboration through English language teaching and it really has been rewarding over the last 37 years.
Stefanie: Hi my name is Stefanie, I’m the new Sales and Marketing Manager for SUL Language Schools. I have a degree in Law, and a background in Marketing and teaching English. I came to SUL Language Schools because they seemed different to a lot of language schools in the fact that they really care about what they’re doing and the reason they do what they do.
All the people who work for SUL truly care about students and they aim to make every single student’s experience lasting and beneficial, long after they’ve studied with us. They do this to help broaden students’ minds, opportunities and love of Britain; encouraging their staff to do the same with other languages.
SUL Language Schools is a family-run language school which stands out amongst the crowd, not just because of its world class academic programmes but also because the people who work for SUL care. We don’t just want to teach English, we want to help shape people’s worlds and the way they see the British, as well as open them up to the other possibilities being multilingual can offer.
Offering a range of programmes from the Standard English and activity lessons you get at every language school to the personally crafted and delivered language holidays, home tuition and study tours, which are perfectly molded to the student’s requirements. This ensures their experiences, knowledge and confidence grows even after their stay with SUL Language Schools.
ETN Focus: What makes you the right choice for international students coming to study English in the UK?
Christopher: SUL Language Schools offer a range of products that can be amended based on the students’ requirements and interests, thoughtfully put together by our experienced team. This means that our students really do get the best out of their stay with us, enjoying real British culture as well as making memories and gaining skills they’ll remember for a lifetime.
Our results also show that our students improve their knowledge, range of vocabulary, understanding in British culture, conversation and confidence after their stay with us.
Stefanie: Leaving your comfort zone and coming to study English in the UK can be scary, I know this from being a teacher in a foreign country and working with students to improve their confidence as well as their English, and so do the majority of staff working here.
This means that making our students and prospective students feel as comfortable and safe as possible before and during their stay is at the heart of everything we do. We also offer a support programme for one week after the student’s course finishes in case they have any further questions about their stay with us or their learning.
ETN Focus: What is the importance of diversity in your schools?
Christopher: Immersion within British culture is vital to a better understanding of language and interaction. This being said, we value all countries and their cultures and our team travel regularly to make sure they’re open to the world, this is something we try to implement in our teaching and our cultural stays.
Celebrating culture all over the world and encouraging students to share their own experiences we believe that diversity is key to a better understanding of the world.
Stefanie: We offer home tuition for single students, closed group courses for multiple students that come together, as well as international courses with students from multiple countries. This means students improve and practice their English with each other and are open to diverse cultures around the world, whilst being immersed in English language and culture.
We’ve also placed international young students within English schools to experience the diversity within British schools; this has come to be invaluable in integrating students with British culture and the various religions we value in Britain.
ETN Focus: What kind of international students are you looking to attract?
Christopher: We’d like to welcome international students that are interested in learning English and experiencing British culture first-hand. If students have special requirements or require teaching around a specific subject, for example, history, sport or even exam preparation, we are experienced in crafting specialised courses.
ETN Focus: What strategies and tools do you use to promote your courses to prospective students and their families?
Christopher: Previously, we’ve preferred the people approach, so meeting agents at trade shows and visiting them in their home countries has been the main focus. This is an approach we’d like to continue with but implement more support for our clients all year through. We’d also like to work with more schools and really get to know teachers and students abroad to help build strong relationships that last across countries.
Stefanie: As the new Sales and Marketing Manager I will be implementing new strategies and tools to promote our language courses from digital and social to offline and face to face. I think it’s important to really know what our clients and students want and be willing to offer it. It’s an exciting time ahead for SUL Language Schools and I’m thrilled to be a part of the team at such an innovative period in its life time.
ETN Focus: What is the role of agents in your international recruitment strategies? What kind of support do you offer to the agents you work with?
Christopher: As Stefanie has briefly mentioned above, with her arrival our strategies are something that’s being reconstructed to offer more support to our clients but as an overview, the role of agents for our international recruitment is and will continue to be vital in building relationships with our prospective students and representing us as a trusted brand.
Stefanie: Definitely, the relationships we have with our current agents are so important and we value the relationships we have with them. There’s also other agents we’re currently building connections with which is great. Not to say too much but I think moving forward we’ll be working with agents to highlight what their needs are, what support they need, how best to collaborate and make a mutually beneficial relationship. If there is any one that would like to work with us, I’d encourage them to send me an email to discuss things further.
ETN Focus: What is in your experience the biggest challenge when working with international students? And what is the biggest reward?
Christopher: Well for me, the biggest reward is also the biggest challenge. We meet such a lot of lovely people and I always want to keep in touch and up to date with everything going on with them, but time seems to slip away from me sometimes and I find myself not having the time to meet. Hopefully, with Stefanie’s arrival we will have more time to meet with and follow up with more people.
Stefanie: Yes, relationship building is definitely on the agenda!
Previously teaching international students, I’ve also found the biggest challenge I faced was adapting to the way in which each nationality needs teaching. Students all have their own ways of learning, and when different nationalities are together it can sometimes be hard to make sure each student is learning effectively. This is something SUL is really good at and the academic manager, Joe, is really invested in making sure each nationality has as much attention and progression than each other.
ETN Focus: You’ve been on the English language courses market for over 35 years. What is the secret for such a long-standing success, and what is your vision for the future?
Christopher: We’ve been a successful language school for over 35 years because people trust us, this has become even more important over the last few years with the economy the way it is and the relationships between countries.
As Stefanie mentioned earlier, we really do understand that it’s a big step leaving your comfort zone to come and study in the UK so we do make extra effort to make all our students feel as safe and happy as we can. This is evidenced by the large amount of returning students we have, some of whom stay with the same host families and build strong cross country connections, and others who visit different locations to see more of the UK and experience culture across the UK.
Stefanie: The thing I find most important is that unlike some language schools I’ve had experience with, SUL tend to put students before profit. It’s clear that our team here at SUL do care and we want to make sure students get the best from their stay with us, often going above and beyond, giving scholarships to disadvantaged children and working with local charities.
All images courtesy of SUL Language Schools.