The following is a German News Article that has been translated into English; this article was written from information given by Udo Hoepker and his stay here at Southbourne School of English.
You’re never too old to learn English 12th October 2016
Udo Hoepker started to learn the world language as a pensioner. Of course directly on site.
It is no longer classed extraordinary to to travel abroad and learn a foreign language. Students can acquire this experience as Au pairs and somewhat insignificantly older people get attracted by social volunteering programmes overseas during a gap year. But who gets the itch to do this in their mid fifties? Well, Letmathe has one resident who felt exactly this desire.
“This book is the reason why I am learning English”, Udo Hoepker starts and points on the book “My Lively Lady” written by the English author Sir Alec Rose. Then, in the 90s, he received this book after a house clearance. Printed on the book cover is a sailing boat, the lively lady. A coincidence? After all, Hoepker is an experienced sailor himself.
One day the curiosity became prevalent
“This is why I have always been interested in the content of the book, but I never understood a single word written in it.” For many years the book should stay on the shelf in Hoepker’s home in Droeschede. Until 2007, when it had become impossible for the former car salesman to ignore the ambition to learn English. Hoepker had just turned 63 and retired, when he bought himself a dictionary. “Things went quite well with the help of this dictionary. I could manage approximately one page per evening.”
At the institute of education he joined a learning group for seniors, which still exists to this day. Udo Hoepker was getting on well and made progress. “But then I thought to myself that it would be much more beneficial if only I could practice in real life circumstances.” In 2014 he came across an English language school for adults, the family run Southbourne School of English, situated in the city of Bournemouth on the South Coast of England. Only a few days ago the now 72-year-old has returned from his 6th two week trip. “To begin with we all had to sit an exam to evaluate our level before we were allocated to the most suitable class.” Hoepker has been classed “Elementary”. Before he could move up to this level, he had to pass two stages, the beginner and the starter. Looking at it from a sporty point of view, he plays in the 5th of 7 leagues. “Organised almost a bit in military order”, he admits about the way the school is run. “You are only allowed to speak English. Otherwise you risk a date with the principal. Or if you are not in the class room after the second bell, you have to wait outside for the whole lesson.”
Together with him, a lot of (mostly younger) students from all over the world work on the improvement of their English knowledge. Hoepker got to know Arabs, Asians, South- and Northamericans, the classes are kept small. At the end of every day, teachers hand out the homework. Hoepker struggled to begin with, but soon gets a hint: A group of students does their homework together after school – in a quiet corner of a pub. Eventually, they are done for the day.
Hoepker favours the life in a host family
After finishing the homework, Udo Hoepker returns – exemplary – to his host family. “It is an opportunity which you should perceive”, he explains. Students could easily book a room in a hotel, as lots of married couples do, but this is not for him. “Guess what they do when they get back to their hotel room?”, Hoepker asks. “Exactly, they speak German.” He has not made any bad experience on the island so far, with that one exception. During his first trip to the UK he found himself in a slighlty uncomfortable situation when British Airways “mislaid” his luggage into an airplane which was heading to New York. Friends in his home village Droeschede reacted somewhat irritated when they first heard about his language courses abroad and asked, if it did not feel like a holiday, what he was doing in England. Hoepker replied: “No, it is much better than holidays.”