International House Bristol has been welcoming students through its doors, from all across the globe, since its establishment in 1987. Formerly known as The Language Project and operating from Director Val Hennessy’s living room, the school is now affiliated with globally recognised International House.

With two flagship centres within Clifton, International House Bristol offer a warm and welcoming atmosphere, with a professionalism to rival the best of the UK’s international language schools.  From the receptionists to the class tutors, and the students themselves, the culture is one of inclusiveness, personal development and academic excellence.

The Queens Road building caters for all ages of students and the Oakfield Road venue caters for adult students only.  Both have eight classrooms with a total capacity of approximately 100 students in each.  Offering the highest standards in their teaching, with a dedicated team of language teachers providing students with individualised learning plans, International House Bristol has developed an enviable reputation as the leader in language tuition.

Val Hennessy decided to start up her own English language school while working on her PhD.  With modest beginnings, focusing largely on summer school classes, and establishing The Language Project from her own living room, the universe smiled upon Val and her language school when she was awarded a university scholarship just three weeks after its inception.

Soon, the school was in the position to employee external teachers, and expanded to fill larger premises – one of which was in Colston Street.  Five years ago, The Language Project became an affiliate of International House, which has brought new standards to the teaching techniques and attainment targets, setting International House Bristol apart for its strong dedication to both its students, its staff and its global partners.

“Through the school we give people the means to communicate with people they could never have communicated with.  We help communities to build bridges.”  Val Hennessy explains.

“Very often British people will say they are useless at languages.  But every baby is born with the same physiology.”

Clearly passionate about her vocation, as Director of International House Bristol, Val Hennessy takes her role seriously – seeing their job as a school of international language learning as a pivotal developmental tool in both a professional and personal sense:

“You can transform students’ worlds by giving them a skill that they didn’t have before.  This is not mass produced learning, this is bespoke learning.”  Val says.

Teachers are constantly refreshing and updating their skills and more often than not, have completed their CELTA certified teaching qualification either at International House Bristol or at another certified language school.  Pete Stone, currently undertaking his higher diploma in Teaching English as a Foreign Language, has been teaching as a permanent member of staff at International House Bristol for the past four years.

Having decided to leave behind his days in finance, Pete opted for a career change inspired by his time travelling previously.  Enrolling on a CELTA course was the beginning for Pete, who has since been taken on from a temporary to a permanent teacher at International House Bristol and is now undertaking his higher diploma qualification.

“I used to have many boring years in finance, but in this job, every day is different.  It’s a very professionally run school and the team is very well supported.” Pete says.

All teachers bring their own unique perspectives to the classroom but standards are maintained across the board, ensuring that all students who come to the school to study are taught in a uniform way with the qualification being internationally recognised.

English language student Michael came from Switzerland to International House Bristol in January to study on a one month intensive English language course.  Embracing the challenge and viewing it as a means to build his experience and skills, he chose Bristol for its dynamic reputation and admits that he preferred to go where he would be fully immersed in an entirely new culture.

“I’ve had a beautiful homestay family, and have learned so much during my time here.  I think if you read or talk the whole day with other people, it really helps.”  Michael explains.

International House Bristol offer a wide range of language courses to suit individual needs.  From Intensive courses to one-to-one lessons, with flexible start dates, and course durations ranging from two weeks to a year or more, Michael chose the month long course for its shorter duration to fit in with his family and home commitments.  There are clear differences in the teaching in the UK compared to back at home in Switzerland, as he explains:

“Here, we take theory and then we practice our conversational skills with groups.  In Switzerland, you have the theory but you never have the chance to practice it in real situations.”  Says Michael.

International House Bristol is generally busiest during the summer months, with school students coming to the school to immerse themselves in the English language.  Val Hennessy recalls:

“Some years ago we did a course for Chinese teachers and they came here to update their skill – they were all products of the one-child policy – lovely, but hilariously egotistical.  I stayed in touch with many of them after they left.  One has stayed in touch to date – and when he has a grammar question, he’ll fire off an email to me.  I’ll answer his emails on holiday, and at midnight.  I don’t mind because he is just passionate about teaching.”  Val laughs.

The school has opened doors for its students from its establishment in 1987 – forging enduring working relationships across countries and cultures.  Creating an ethos of acceptance, the staff within the school operate an open door policy – enabling both current and past students to remain in contact and receive support should they need.  Not only do students learn and grow, but so too do International House Bristol’s staff.  Teacher Pete Stone says:

“I‘ve learned a lot about other cultures and hopefully taught my students about our culture too.  We have a cultural question everyday.  We compare life in our countries.”  

“It’s a global village condensed into IH Bristol.”

Director Val is a strong believer in the immersion of the culture and language being studied.  Without this, the experience is not the authentic one it could be. They have a dedicated social programme designed to introduce visiting students to the local culture within Bristol, including local highlights such as graffiti walks.

“The older students will be taken to The Coronation Tap in Clifton because you couldn’t come to the Westcountry and not try cider.  It should be a total experience – you can’t get the best out of learning a language unless you’re learning something about the culture from which the language came from.”  Val says.

The school also puts students in touch with local, approved host families.  This creates a culture of mutual understanding and breaks down barriers.  It can also be a huge practical help for international students and can be a positive experience in terms of integrating into their new surroundings.Agnieska-pic“It’s not just our students who get changed.  We host our students with families who might be retired, or younger people starting out who need a bit of extra money – they too suddenly realise there is a whole world out there that they didn’t know about.  A lot of them form relationships with the families that last for the rest of their lives.”  Val says.

Studying at International House Bristol has been a positive experience for Michael, who has been pleasantly surprised at the efficiency of the city:

“My first experience coming to Bristol was on a bus, an old man started talking to me in his Bristol accent, and I didn’t understand at all!  But the buses always come on time – sometimes too early!”  Michael says.

Teachers are dedicated to finding the balance in their classes between theory and practical, conversational practice.  Ensuring that their students are fully prepared for the world outside of International House Bristol, they teach natural pronunciation where possible – encouraging a less stilted version of speech:

“We all have our own different personalities as teachers but we all have certain techniques – we do a lot of natural pronunciation.  Exposing our students to real English for the real world.”  Pete says.

With individualised learning plans for each student, this ensures that the experience is tailored to build upon strengths and improve on areas that might need extra attention:

“All our students have individual learning plans and they can make as much progress as they want. They get a lot of individualised exchanges with teachers. We write all our own material, which really appeals to our students. It really personalises the whole thing.”  Val explains.

With each classroom equipped for a fully interactive experience with engaging visuals, vocabulary boards and grammar cues, students are both challenged, stimulated and encouraged to reach their full linguistic potential.  Teachers keep their teaching in mode with individualised student experiences, where possible – with students drawing on a recent memory or event to create a narrative in their learned language.

“The idea is that you are able to tell an interesting anecdote, which is quite a challenge in another language.”  Teacher Pete Stone says.

“Once you’ve experienced somewhere like this, you know you’re not going to get anything better – you don’t want your children to have less than you had.”

All teachers at International House Bristol are qualified in CELTA or TESOL, ensuring that teaching standards are all at an internationally recognisable level.  The school is a centre for the IELTS exams – and students can receive the tuition they need to successfully pass these exams.  Likewise, their summer school offers English language tuition for juniors (ages 12 – 17 years) who wish to improve their grammar, vocabulary and conversational skills.  These generally run for 2 or 3 weeks across the summer months, sometimes longer.  They also offer summer residential school at Clifton College with the option to study on an Academic Preparation course (ideal for students aged 14 – 17 years old who wish to prepare for studying at an academic institution in the UK).

International House Bristol welcomes students from all backgrounds and abilities, offering support to those who enrol on courses.  Whether you are an international student wishing to improve your levels in the English language, or a native English speaker who would like to improve your knowledge of the English language and qualify as a TESOL teacher, there is sure to be the right course for you at International House Bristol.  The school attracts students from all corners of the globe, and in doing so, opens doors and builds bridges between cultures and countries – regardless of the language barrier.006_IMG_9487They are also a centre for the certified Cambridge and Trinity exams.  Offering a full service approach – you can literally arrive with no prior experience and leave with a bundle of exam qualifications.  The world literally is your oyster, with International House Bristol.

“A lot of people who do CELTA courses will perhaps have a degree in languages and want to travel and experience new things.”  Director Val explains.

Not only does the school open up opportunities in an academic sense, there are also numerous social connections to be found when experiencing a course at International House Bristol, as Val recalls:

“We’ve had marriages between former students who met while on a course with us.  It’s so exiting to think that you are creating these new arrangements all over the world.  In June this year, I will be hosting the 12 year old daughter of a former student.”

Very often, students choose Bristol for its cultural vibrancy and reputation as a dynamic, forward-thinking city.  Just one of the reasons to choose International House Bristol.

“Everything about this city, from the quirkiness of the bus drivers, to the diversity.  Our students love it here.  From the architecture to the music scene to Bristol Old Vic.  There’s nothing that doesn’t appeal.”  Val says.


International House Bristol offers year-round courses for learners of English as a foreign language.  The school also offers the certified CELTA courses, IETLS and Cambridge exam preparation, Junior Language Programme and numerous language courses for the beginner to the experienced.  They also offer evening foreign language courses, foreign languages conversation classes, book clubs in foreign languages, one-to-one or small group lessons, in-company language courses and Study Abroad programmes.

For more information:  www.ihbristol.com