London, New York… Brecon? Rural Wales may not be the first destination that comes to mind when you think about business English courses, but, since 1977, Trebinshun House in Brecon has forged a reputation as one of the UK’s leading language schools for executives. It is now one of ESL’s most consistently popular destinations for an executive English course.
Studying at Trebinshun House, you enjoy an experience somewhere between a language school and a spa, where high-quality, personalised tuition is mixed with relaxation in one of the most beautiful corners of the UK. We caught up with Peter Johnson from the school to find out more.
ESL: For whom are Trebinshun House programmes designed?
Peter Johnson: Our programmes are designed mainly for business and professional people. Such programmes can be highly specialised, concentrating on finance, HR, production, IT, marketing or whatever specific area our student needs to concentrate on. We also design programmes for other types of people such as academics and doctors. One of our most regular clients was formerly Head of Economics at La Caixa the large Catalan bank. He has retired now but is still asked to lecture at universities throughout the world. Because of this he often does a course with us at Trebinshun House to keep his English at a good level.
How important is location for a language course?
Our setting makes a great contribution to the continuing success of Trebinshun House. We are situated in the Brecon Beacons National Park, and our mansion house nestles in the foothills between the Brecon Beacons and the Black Mountains. This really helps to foster a sense of serenity and well being for our students. Anyone who has taught in London will recognise the contrast.
When I taught in London students would often arrive late and furious after a terrible journey on the underground. Public transport in the UK is not nearly as good as in France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Switzerland etc., and people can be really disturbed and dismayed when the Northern Line, for example, has a bad day. In smaller cities such as Oxford and Cambridge, students often have to depend on buses, which are not always reliable. When a student is upset because of travel problems, it is almost impossible to get them to concentrate on the lesson.
At Trebinshun House where the maximum journey distance from your accommodation to your classroom is about 40 metres, this problem is unknown, and this is one of the great advantages of the residential concept.
“The concept itself is the greatest strength. I will highly recommend a course at Trebinshun.” Wencke Ahlers Dusseldorf
Our aim is to provide a peaceful and beautiful environment, comfortable accommodation, superb food and a very stimulating social programme. The location is a vital element in this. Once the student feels completely relaxed, he or she can really concentrate on the language course and make remarkable progress in a short space of time. We are completely aware of how vital it is to create an atmosphere which is professional, friendly and trusting, so that real learning can take place.
“The atmosphere is confidence-boosting and the environment is very welcoming.” Anne Bergeron – Paris
Where in the world do your clients come from?
Mainly from Europe, in particular France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Turkey, Russia, Poland, Sweden, Denmark, Netherlands and Austria. But in recent years, we have also had students from Japan, Morocco, Columbia and Panama.
How are executive needs different?
Executive needs are many and varied. For instance, there was a German executive who had to present his company’s latest product to a potentially very critical American audience. He spent most of his course fine tuning his preparation and perfecting answers to every conceivable question, so vital was this presentation for the future of his company. Other executives need to concentrate more on negotiations or meetings in English. Speaking and listening are the skills which they need most.
However they regularly need to listen and speak in business situations and this is where their needs are different from people who want General English. In the past few years fewer people have asked to concentrate on telephoning, while more have wanted to improve their emailing.
How do you personalise the experience?
Our most popular course is the Intensive Combination. This consists of 15 hours of individual tuition and 15 hours’ tuition in a group of maximum 4 people. But every course taught at Trebinshun House is different. First of all, we need to address the student’s linguistic needs. As noted above we can do this in great detail by immersing the client in both the skill and the specialisation he or she requires.
For example, there may be a series of meetings concentrating on finance, marketing or HR. This is usually taught in the group sessions, of course. Naturally we never forget that all students start from a different place. They all have strengths and weaknesses in their knowledge of English. In the individual lessons, we can analyse the weaknesses in grammar, vocabulary or functions and make very swift progress towards real improvements. This may include strategies for continuing this progress after the course is over. The feedback we receive on our courses and teachers is almost always excellent.
“An excellent course with excellent teachers and content in a wonderful atmosphere.” Fritz Koop Dusseldorf
What is the classroom environment like?
We have small modern classrooms. We don’t want or need barn-sized rooms as our maximum group size is 4.
The classrooms are all well equipped with state of the art computers. This is very important as it enables us to stream BBC programmes. As mentioned before listening is a vital skill for many of our students, and they enjoy this type of listening comprehension exercise.
Can you tell us a little about Trebinshun House’s food policy?
Since Trebinshun House was founded in 1977 we have always been very clear the food plays a vital role. We serve basically British food but with some well known foreign dishes. Breakfast is hearty, English, but with lots of healthy alternatives. Lunch is light; there is still work to be done in the afternoon. Dinner is 3 courses served with good wines. We aim to use fresh ingredients, locally sourced as far as possible. Students have remarked on the delivery vans from the local towns and villages. We nearly always get a top mark for food on our feedback sheets. Many students say how amazed they are that the food is so good.
“The food I think is better than Italian food.” Floriana Verzeletti – Milan
What activities do you offer?
Trebinshun House offers a lively and varied social programme on 6 evenings a week. We often visit nearby towns. For instance, a local theatre group recently staged A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and we took the students there. This was Shakespeare in the Valleys. Our students didn’t understand every word but they all said they enjoyed it very much. We also visit Hay-On-Wye with its wonderful array of bookshops and there is a superb Welsh whisky distillery near Brecon.
There is an excellent selection of charming pubs nearby, which we sometimes visit. The Trebinshun House team is now very well known at the Quiz Night of our local pub. With the combined power of our international knowledge, we have been known to win!
Other social evenings take place at Trebinshun House. We often have guest nights with interesting speakers, our own quiz nights or a barbeque. When the weather is good we take long walks so that we can really get to know the beautiful countryside around us. The social programme is always very popular and its aim to continue the learning process in a relaxed setting outside the classroom.
Find out more about an Executive English course at Trebinshun House or any of our executive English courses worldwide.