Come the holidays, many parents send their children back to school to polish their language skills.
While local tutorial schools specialise in grammar and exam techniques, study trips abroad offer Hong Kong children the chance to speak like natives.
Apart from improving their linguistic skills, overseas trips provide children with a wide range of benefits.
'Language travel trips focus more on living the language, personal growth, cultural exchange and sightseeing, in addition to just grammar,' says Adrian Kwok, country programme manager, Education First Language Travel.
English and Putonghua overseas learning trips are offered to children aged from seven to 14, and six languages, including Putonghua, Spanish, Italian, English, German and French, are offered to 16-year-olds and above. Such trips also offer an international environment where students speak the local language with their peers during group activities and excursions. Children and young adults also often make lifelong international friends. A typical trip places students with a host family or in a student residence, making them more confident about daily casual interactions, Kwok says.
'Parents find their children [to be] more independent after the trip, as they make their beds, tidy up rooms, get up in the morning all on their own.' Study trips abroad also help home-stay students learn about other ways of life and experience famous landmarks and tourist attractions.
'Such cultural exchanges and sightseeing experiences enrich students' vision and arouse their interest in international news on the destination they have been to,' he says.
Trips are offered around the globe, with Britain, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and the mainland topping the list.
Reputable organisations should impose age restrictions on courses, depending on their location and activities.
'Destinations such as Singapore, Sydney, Perth, the Isle of Wight [in Britain] and some British boarding schools are all suitable for students from seven to 14,' he says.
Students from 16 years old and above are offered destination choices such as Britain, France and Spain.
Costing between HK$15,000 and HK$36,000, the average stay is one to six weeks and incorporates a slew of activities.
An Education First language-travel course fee typically includes a return air fare and transport for all excursions, all meals and admission to theme parks and museums. Parents can also expect their children to be provided with text books and other resources, plus about 20 language lectures a week.
When deciding which trip is best, it is advisable to check the organisation's years of experience and whether they publish their own teaching materials and textbooks, Kwok says.
Teaching staff should be native speakers and certified in teaching English as a second language.
Organisations should be registered travel agencies and offer recognised certificates to students.
They should not outsource elements of the trip as this could affect quality and, ultimately, students' safety, Kwok says.