Immersion vs. Challenge:
Which Program is Best For My Child?

At English Adventure camps, we have two programs to choose from, based on the camper's English level. For help in deciding which level is right for your child, please use this guide.

We often hear comments like “It looks difficult but I’d like my child to be in the highest English level program,” or ”Even if it’s beyond their ability, I want my child to try Immersion Camp."

We also get parents incorrectly signing up their children for Immersion Camp because they’re unaware of the English level of their children.

The most important thing to consider when choosing a program is whether your child will enjoy themselves at camp. Please understand that campers who are signed up for a level that is beyond their abilities will not be able to make connections with other campers or their counselors at camp.

English Challenge Program

Best for:

  • Kids with even NO English experience
  • Kids who are learning English, but still need some support in Japanese. 1-4 years of studying English, beginner to intermediate learners.

Challenge English Level

Beginners (0-2 years of English learning):
- True English beginners with no history of English study
- Children aware of simple greetings and introductions in English

At this level the aim is to become familiar and comfortable hearing English. Campers will enjoy hearing English during their activities and through the fun they have at camp, will become motivated to learn more English.

Intermediate (2-4 years of English learning)
- Can complete basic introductions and answer easy yes/no questions
- Can speak in basic complete sentences

By using the English campers already know in a comfortable, fun environment, they go home with a positive view of English. Campers can experience using English freely, outside the classroom. Instead of seeing English as a subject of study, campers learn to see English as a communication tool.

Program Characteristics

Campers signing up for the Challenge Program often come into camp with having learned some words or phrases in English, but are uncomfortable understanding much everyday English, and require Japanese support during daily activities. For that reason, all staff working with Challenge Program campers can speak English and Japanese.

A major perk of camp is that campers, through play while using the level of English they’re comfortable with, will return home with an increased interest in English and a stronger motivation to improve.

Immersion Program

A 100% English environment:

  • Returnee children
  • Native-English speakers living in Japan
  • International School students who are comfortable conversing in English
  • English students who have progressed to the point where they are able to feel comfortable in a 100% English environment.

Immersion Program English level

We expect children applying to our Immersion Program to speak only English, all the time. At our camps, the Immersion Program is a 24-hour English-only environment, and is the closest your child can come to an overseas experience without a plane ticket!

If you are not sure if your child is ready for a 100% English only environment, you can test them with questions like these:

- Tell me about your family.
- What are you looking forward to most about English Adventure camp?
- What do you like to do when you are not at school? Why?
- What is your happiest memory?
- What is your favorite thing (or activity)? Why?

Can you child answer these questions properly, in their own words, using more than just yes/no? Grammar doesn’t matter much – many Immersion campers aren’t 100% fluent.As long as they can express themselves in English and understand, they might be ready for Immersion.

And of course, if a child has forgotten how to say something in English, it’s no problem! Our bilingual staff are happy to help them recall and improve their English. You don’t have to be a perfect English speaker to join the Immersion Program, but you have to be willing to try!

The Immersion program is a 100% English experience. Japanese is forbidden from being spoken. If your child is unable or unwilling to avoid speaking any Japanese for the entire camp, please don’t sign them up for the Immersion Program.

Of course, we don’t expect perfect English from our Immersion Campers. Camp is about communication, not perfect grammar. Campers must simply be willing to find a way to communicate using English entirely. And if they get into a situation where they need a translation, we allow them to ask the question “How do you say _____ in English?”

If you choose the Immersion Program, please talk with your children before camp and let them know camp expectations. If they are unable to safely experience camp without any Japanese, we will ask them to move out of the Immersion Program. In the event that there is no space outside of the Immersion Program, we will ask that a camper is picked up and brought home.

Specific Examples

Sometimes, borderline cases come up where it’s tough to tell if a camper is ready for Immersion camp. Please refer to the below examples to gain a better understanding.

For campers who are unsure if they can avoid using Japanese

If your child has some conversation skills but would rather make friends in Japanese than English, please ask your child to consider trying the Challenge Program.

We want to make sure camp is safe and fun for all campers. If a camper’s language level makes it difficult for them to enjoy camp, then they’re not getting everything they can out of English Adventure. Ask your child where they would be most comfortable, and make sure they know all the implications of a 100% English environment before signing up for Immersion Camp.

Especially if your child has never been to an English Adventure camp before, unless they (and you!) are confident that they can avoid speaking any Japanese, consider signing them up for the Challenge program.

Children who graduated from international kindergartens in Japan

Even if they’ve graduated from international preschools, Japanese children often go straight into Japanese elementary schools and speak entirely in Japanese there. When such campers get tired, homesick, or frustrated, it can be tiresome to speak English. Make sure you’ve talked with your campers about what your expectations are before sending them to camp.

In the Immersion Program, campers are going to have to speak quite a bit of English (not just listen). In addition to understanding instructions, make sure your Immersion camper can express their feelings in English.

Returnee children who are worried about choosing a program

- Several years after coming back to Japan, some children aren’t sure how strong their English level is
- Children who were abroad during their preschool years
- Children who went abroad for a short time and didn’t pick up much English
- Children who went abroad but because they speak only Japanese at home, might feel uncomfortable about a return to an English Immersion environment

However, we get plenty of returnee campers who initially feel reserved about speaking a lot of English again, but eventually “warm up” and feel very happy to be able to use their English. They are also in great company: we have many returnee campers just like them! Such campers usually return home with a renewed motivation to keep up their English.

Many of these campers do no initially feel like they cannot speak English anymore, but they do feel an initial resistance to “turning back on” the English parts of their brains. This is totally normal considering their lives are full of situations where they’re only hearing Japanese. Camp serves as an important place for these campers to reignite their English capabilities and be surrounded by friends who are all speaking English.

If your child has sufficient English skill and motivation to try out a 100% English camp, we encourage you to sign them up for the Immersion Program.

Camp is a place for friendships

Even if they are not 100% fluent English speakers, Immersion campers who can communicate successfully have a great time at camp. There’s no problem at camp when someone forgets a word or doesn’t understand something complex – they can just ask!

What’s important is that campers feel safe and have fun with English. Not just everyday speaking, but also expressing their own feelings.

However, campers who are placed in a program whose English level is far beyond what they are comfortable with don’t have much fun at camp.

Camp isn’t a place for individuals to have a good time, it’s a place to make friends and enjoy activities in a group. If a camper can’t speak with the children around them, they can’t enjoy camp to the fullest. We find that this is a pretty good indicator of whether a camper is ready for Immersion Camp: if they’re comfortable making friendships that are 100% English from the moment they wake up to when they go to bed.

Please consider carefully the program you put your child in.

Also see the following Frequently Asked Questions:
My child has forgotten a lot of English. Maybe he/she should join the English Challenge Program?

“My child can basically speak English, but his/her reading and writing are very poor. Which course is best?”

For more help choosing the right program for your camper, please click here.
 Camper Language Wizard

English Adventure's sister organization, NPO Mirai no Mori, creates life-changing outdoor experiences for abused, neglected, and orphaned Japanese children. Learn more about how you can help.