Along with learning new skills such as swimming, sports or canoeing, kids are also finding out how to be independent and self-sufficient at camp. Given the right surroundings, they might even learn to speak a new language or improve their fluency in another tongue.
That's the benefit of a camp with a language component, says Aruna Ogale, executive director of the Ontario Camps Association. Some ESL camps for kids allow English-as-a-second-language students—whose families might be new to the country— the chance to immerse themselves in the language, helping ready them for the school year. Other camps might simply provide kids with some opportunity to practise a second language.
Children who have experienced an overnight camp before might want to consider an immersive camp in another language. "It's a win-win situation," explains Jacqui Raill, camp director of Camp Ouareau in Saint-Donat, Quebec. "They are learning the difference in culture and making lifelong friendships based on trust and compassion."
At Camp Nominingue in the Laurentians in northern Quebec, kids enjoy typical camp activities and the bonding and friendships that result. But 20 to 30 per cent of campers each year are francophones, sent to the English-speaking all-boys residential camp for the English-language experience.
"The biggest advantage is the immersion experience," says Scott Taylor, executive director of Camp Nominingue. "We do all of our instruction, all of our programming, in English. But the majority of our staff is fluently bilingual, so if a camper truly doesn't understand—or in the case of an emergency—they can speak French."
The situation is reversed at Camp Claret du Lac Elgin in Sherbrooke, Quebec. There, although bilingual staff can speak English if needed, camp sessions take place in French. "Most of the (campers) have been in French immersion, in Ontario and in some of the other provinces, and they come to practise their French," says camp co-director Pauline Rondeau.
For parents choosing an immersive camp, Raill recommends that the camp have activities their child is interested in. "Your child should be passionate about the camp they are being sent to," says Raill. With the right attitude, campers will not only pick up vocabulary but also have higher self-esteem and often improved marks in school.
Photo: Camp Nominingue (by Christinne Muschi)
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