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Interview with Clive Barrow BEET Language Centre


About BEET Language Centre
BEET was established in 1979 and is a friendly, family-run school with a separate teacher training centre in Bournemouth. The school welcomes an average of 200 students, 17 to 35+ years old from normally around 25 nationalities at any one time. In homestays, student houses or executive homestays.
BEET is well equipped with library, interactive whiteboards, free university counselling, canteen, computer centres, car park, free wireless and free access to our online learning platform, before, during, and for 3 months after the course ends, plus a superb programme of lectures, films, music, theatre etc & weekend excursions.

About you

Q. Languages you speak or would like to speak?
I studied French at school as a boy and Spanish in Spain in my twenties. I should like to speak every language there is! However, that is somewhat ambitious and possibly academic, because if I am not mistaken, we shall soon be able to understand each other by means of miniaturised simultaneous translators. I wonder where that will place us.

Q. Favourite travel destination?
I rarely return to the same place, except on business, because there is so much still to discover. However, I have plenty of favourite museums and galleries, and restaurants! So, in that sense, Madrid, London, Barcelona, Paris and Taipei come at the top of a very long list.

Q. Favourite pastime?
Without question having my family around me for an evening meal!

Q. Dream dinner guest(s)?
The Dalai Lama

Read more about Clive Barrow and the foundation of BEET Language Centre in Melanie Butler’s article: "And the BEET goes on..." (EL Gazette, November 2013).

This month, we talk to Clive Barrow, Managing Director and Founder of BEET Language Centre. Located in Bournemouth, which was voted best coastal resort in the UK by the British Travel Awards 2013, BEET is also celebrating its own achievements, gaining top scores in its recent British Council and ISI inspections (view more news on the subject).

Q. When did you join IALC and why?
BEET joined in 2007, the year we all went to Cape Town, a fairly spectacular start to a new world for us. Joining IALC was something we should have done before. I was present at an early meeting with Alberto Sampere in Madrid, when aspects of the Association were being discussed, and later on I was asked to join. I decided against, which was a mistake because IALC has grown into the finest pan-global association of language schools in existence. So, to be given a second chance to join was very fortunate, and 2007 was a great year for us!

Q. What do you like most about being part of IALC?
I don’t think anything can compare with the feeling of being part of our international “family”, because that is what we are, and the annual get-together, with the committee meetings, the seminars, the AGM and then the workshop itself to me has all the excitement of a family reunion. And the workshop is the best of all workshops!

Q. How is 2013 going for you, and how does it compare to last year?
Last year, with what some call the Olympic Effect and then recession in quite a few countries, was not our busiest, but it was still a good year. However, this year so far we are 9% up. Next year, of course, is another question, but it looks promising.

Q. What are your main aims for BEET in 2014?
Next year we are celebrating 20 years of our International Academic Year, which has been hugely successful for students wanting longer courses at affordable prices, and we want to increase numbers on this. We also plan to increase the volume of teacher training courses, and introduce a new course for the 50+ market, but with a difference. I suspect also we shall have yet another celebration, as BEET hits its 35th birthday!

Q. What are your most popular student activities?
I rather hope the lessons themselves are the most popular activities! However, we also have a very full extra-curricular programme, with something happening every weekday evening. The most popular is undoubtedly the BEET Revue, a comedy show performed by the teachers. Then the BEET Pantomime (not the same as mime), which this year is Cinderella, is performed just before Christmas. The weekly excursions with teachers are also very popular. Other activities include pub visits, boat discos along the coast in summer, music events, films and the evening lectures on British culture. Of course, the 4-day Air Festival in August is a major attraction to Bournemouth.

Being a university and a holiday town means there is a plethora of things to do all year: we have local theatres and cinemas, live music venues, a first division football club (we lost gracefully at home to Real Madrid earlier this year!) and eating is a very popular pastime. Bournemouth boasts one of the largest collection of cosmopolitan restaurants anywhere. Just within walking distance of the school we have Turkish, Japanese, Italian, Indian, Lebanese, Chinese, English (so unusual!), Thai, Greek and Spanish, in addition to wine bars, coffee houses, snack bars etc., and we are not even in the town centre!

Q. Where do the majority of your students come from?
We normally have between 20 and 30 nationalities in the school at any time, whether it’s March, June or October, and more in summer. At present, the biggest numbers are from Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey, Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Spain. The mix, however, varies from month to month, but it is always extensive and there is always a bubbly international feel to the school, whatever the month.

Q. Finally, what would you say is unique and special about learning English at BEET?
I think the personal attention that comes from being in a school that everyone feels is just like a big family is vital. As a community, all staff are here to make sure each student benefits. One big help is having a Cambridge qualifying teacher training centre. We know exactly what a teacher is like before we offer employment, and this is a genuine advantage.
But, in the end, the whole student experience is what matters. So, we work hard to ensure good homestays, a full programme of events and activities, a well-equipped school with Promethian interactive whiteboards in all classrooms, qualified and skilled teachers, a library, knowledgeable and helpful reception staff, and above all a school that encourages international friendship through the medium of English.

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