Alternative holidays – Exchange conversation for accommodation in the heart of Spain

Madrid, Spain — For the last three years, over 3,000 people have participated in the unique English language immersion program known as Englishtown. Two venues, a 16th century abandoned village and a plush country-style hotel, play host to a non-stop eight-day intensive conversation program. English native speakers from all over the world come as volunteers to learn about Spaniards and their culture in return for their board and lodging while the Spaniards seek to improve their fluency in the quickest, most intensive manner possible on earth. The participants, both English-speakers and Spaniards, exchange culture, conversation, knowledge and friendship.

Englishtown was the brainchild of Richard Vaughan, a business student from Texas who came to Spain to teach English in the 70’s. “After a quarter-century of language training and experience, I realized no matter how many times a person is drilled on irregular verbs, the only way to truly understand a language is to actively practice it,” says Richard.

This led to the creation of Englishtown – eight-day immersion programs which include a cast of 20 Spaniards, 20 English-speakers from all over the world, a Master of Ceremonies to provide entertainment and a Program Director to enforce the only rule: No Spanish Allowed. All this for 15 hours a day, eight days and no stopping except for your daily siesta. Throw in a mix of activities such as conversations, scenic walks, games, meals and Spanish music and dancing, and somewhere in between the Spaniards find themselves blabbing away in English without having to stop, think and translate.

The idea was so innovative that it won the “Best Awards 2003” prize in Spain and has been featured on dozens of message boards that buzz about a deal almost “too good to be true”, travel guides, major publications and TV stations – CNN, Irish Times and Chicago Tribune to name a few. The lure is easy – English-speakers chat, play, walk, dine and wine with Spaniards with the beautiful backdrop of the Spanish countryside while Vaughan picks up the tab. Multinational clients such as Microsoft, Vodafone, Deloitte and Accenture send scores of executives to Englishtown finding it to be the ideal solution to their problem – a rapid, intense way to get their top directors speaking English.

Over the years, Englishtown has attracted volunteers from all walks of life: concert pianists, writers, CEO’s, social workers, backpackers, geologists, wandering musicians and students from a wide range of ages from 18 to 80 that coin it as having been one of the best, most enriching experiences of their lives.

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About the author
Nicole Escario has been wandering the globe for years in search for the perfect adventure. She continues on her search but has temporarily parked her rear end in Spain to manage these incredible programs.