Young Learners and Boarding Schools


Find schools for students age 10-18

During the past decade, there has been an increase in the number of younger students (ages 10-14) who want to come to the United States to learn English. Junior Boarding Schools, which accept students starting in the fifth grade, are helping to fill this need.

Adolescence, especially the early teen years, is a time when young people, curious about themselves and their world, are ready to explore. Junior boarding schools work alongside parents to help young people make this sensitive transition to early adulthood. Even if the family is overseas, you can expect the school administration and teachers to keep in close contact with parents.

Usually these programs are on the same campus with preparatory schools (grades 9-12) so older students are nearby to provide mentoring and role models.

Success in learning a language

Language research demonstrates that it is easier to learn language before adolescence. One can always learn other languages throughout life, but having an experience of learning a language at a younger age usually increases the ability to speak the language more clearly and naturally.

Younger students are less inhibited about experimenting with language. They possess a high level of curiosity and have less fear about making linguistic mistakes. It is also easier to leave their first language for a summer or a year during the middle school years, allowing them to have the option to return home for a full high school (secondary) program in their first language if they choose.

Many Junior Boarding Schools have specifically designed programs to meet the language needs of younger international students. These programs immerse the students into a setting where English is the dominant language. Classes where reading, writing, speaking and listening are taught, are often coupled with projects, cultural trips and events. The students learn from well-trained language specialists, from working on projects together, from attending cultural gatherings, and from each other.

Learning the new language with other language learners makes learning fun. Using English to communicate throughout the day, in classes, in activities, in the dormitory and on field trips allows the students to integrate their learning into real language acquisition.

Students’ own words of praise

Students who have attended these programs have written about their experiences. Many arrived scared, and with little language background. They comment on the friendliness of their teachers and the students they meet from other countries. Their reactions to their experience include:

“I learned English as well as a lot about other countries.”

“The most important part was I learned to challenge myself to try new things.”

“By the end of the program, I really understood what people were saying”

“Going back home, I became the best English student in my class.”

“I cried when I came, but I cried harder when it was time to leave.”

Making a decision to learn a language is one thing. Going to another country to learn it allows the language to “take on a life of its own.” The young person’s experience goes beyond academic performance to include emotional growth and cultural immersion.

Why the U.S.A. is the place to go

Junior boarding schools are also ideal for this age group because they are caring communities providing a structured environment. Life here is challenging, safe, exciting and supportive. Teachers act as surrogate parents and friends. Classroom learning is interactive as students learn about teamwork and cooperation.

Many of the schools in this catalog will help make the dream of communicating in English a reality. Take time to look at the many wonderful language programs that independent schools throughout the United States have to offer. If you are starting at a younger age, you will find that your language confidence and ability will grow rapidly.

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By Mark J. Hansen
Mark J. Hansen is English as a Second Language Director, Fessenden School, near Boston, Massachusetts.