Ollie Phillips Spain – what do you want him to do?

Ollie Phillips Spain – Is Spain ready?

So we’ve told you that Cactus Ambassador Ollie Phillips is jetting off to Spain this weekend

Now we want YOU to tell us what you want to see him doing!

Reply in the Comments box with your choice of the following:

I would like to see Ollie Phillips in Spain…

  1. Dancing flamenco
  2. Kite surfing
  3. Making a paella
  4. Ordering sangria and tapas in Spanish
  5. Pretending to bullfight
  6. Playing Spanish guitar

…and we will do our best to make it happen!!

But quick – he goes on Sunday 5th July, so get your votes in now!

Ollie Phillips Spain: Ollie is going to learn Spanish in Seville and try Spanish and Kitesurfing in Cadiz. Cactus offers Spanish courses in Seville, Cadiz and across Spain, many of which offer the great opportunity to combine Spanish lessons with activities such as surfing, tennis, flamenco and cooking.

FREE Language Learning Webinar – Fri 3rd July

Join the Journey: Learn a language with Cactus!

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s really like to take a language course, now is your chance to find out – from the comfort of your home or office!

Date: Wednesday 3rd July

Time: 1.00pm – 1.30pm BST

Registration: Google Hangouts

Cactus is hosting a free half-hour webinar via Google Hangouts to explain what a language course is all about. Answering common questions about our courses, listed below, this short webinar tells you everything you need to know about our evening courses, with the chance to ask your own questions in a Q&A session at the end.

  1. Who takes a language course?
  2. So I’ve booked my course. What happens next?
  3. What level am I?
  4. Who is my teacher?
  5. What will I learn on my course?
  6. What are the classes like?
  7. What progress will I make?
  8. What support will I get?
  9. Why should I book with Cactus?
  10. What happens at the end of the course?
  11. What other options are there for learning a language?

Whether you are interested in learning a language to improve your career prospects, travel the world or chat to foreign in-laws, an evening course will prepare you for any situation. You can take one course on its own or progress through the levels to achieve greater fluency in your chosen language.

Join us with no obligations – it’s all free. You’ll just get great advice and information on language learning and language courses. Join the webinar and you will also receive an exclusive discount off our evening language courses!

To register, sign up here via Google Hangouts.

Cactus offers 10-week evening courses in 15 locations and 21 languages across London and the UK. Courses are available at all levels and start in July, October, January and April.

Spanish course Barcelona – a first-hand review

Spanish Course Barcelona: Creative Web Manager John Biddulph takes a break from PHP and Javascript to learn a different language – Spanish in Barcelona

I took a Spanish beginner course in Barcelona last October, and my first day was very organised and welcoming. I met five other students in my group of different nationalities and ages.

The times of my classes were just great, starting at 2pm in a spacious air conditioned classroom. There was one day when I was unwell and was unable to go in, so I contacted Cactus who were very helpful and contacted the school for me.

My teacher, Isobel, was lovely. She was very helpful and we all had fun reading and acting from our activity book and also had time for a few language games.

Being a complete beginner to Spanish, I would advise taking a short evening course beforehand to learn the very basics. This means that you can learn some proper Spanish on your course and practise using it out and about in the city.

Barcelona is an amazing city – there are plenty of nice places to go sightseeing and some great tapas bars and cafes for food and drink. It’s easy to get to and it was a great starting point for me learning Spanish. I can’t wait to go back again!

Cactus offers Spanish courses in Barcelona and in many locations across Spain and Latin America.

Learn some Spanish before you go with our Spanish evening courses in London, Brighton, Manchester and other major locations across the UK. Courses start in January, April, July and September in over 20 languages and at many levels.

Ollie Phillips in Spain – Sneak Preview

Cactus Ambassador Ollie Phillips is all set to go to Spain to make us want to learn Spanish…

You’ve seen Ollie tell us why he learnt French in France as a player for Parisian team Stade Français – now he’s learning Spanish and is all set to go to Spain to get the rest of us in the mood, too!

Next month Ollie will jet off to Seville with Cactus – a vibrant city of flamenco, tapas and fiestas – before heading to the coast to try Spanish & Surfing in Cadiz. We’ll be making a video to show what this beautiful part of Spain has to offer and to highlight the many benefits of learning Spanish in a country where it’s spoken.

About Ollie

ollie_phillipsA professional sportman who has travelled the world playing rugby, sailing in the Clipper Round The Wave Race, commentating for Eurosport and Sky (in French) and delivering workshops to global brands, Ollie has first-hand experience of the importance of language in international communication and understanding.

He has come on board as Cactus Ambassador as he is passionate about sharing his experience to inspire Britain’s younger learners in particular to learn a second language – opening the door to infinite career and other opportunities.

Cactus runs language courses in over 120 destinations abroad, as well as private and corporate language training, evening courses in the UK and TEFL courses worldwide.

 

What is doing a TESOL/CELTA course really like? An Insider’s Perspective

Cactus Managing Director Fay Drewry gives us a first-hand account of life as a TEFL trainee in Barcelona

Having decided I wanted to do my TEFL course in Barcelona and try living and working there for a year – hopefully to improve my Spanish – I set about trying to work out which course I should do and at which school. I had never been to Barcelona but I knew instinctively that it would be a city I would love…a city with a beach, and sun, and Gaudi, and chicos guapos…what more could I want?  I spent quite a bit of time trawling through various websites trying to compare TEFL courses and locations and prices, until I came across CactusTEFL.com. Finally a website that explained everything I needed to know, allowed me to compare courses and start dates, plus they were on the end of the phone to help me with my application – great! So I applied, did the pre-interview task, had a Skype interview with the school, and before I knew it I was accepted onto the course. So far so good, and I even managed to book myself onto a part-time Spanish language course, just to make sure I wasn’t just speaking English all the time!

My course expectations

Having always been fairly academic (good A level results, good degree) I didn’t think that doing a 4 week teaching course to become an English language teacher would cause me too many problems. This was not entirely the case. Initially I questioned if I really needed to spend a significant amount of money on learning how to teach a language I already spoke fluently. How hard could it be? A lot harder than I thought, as it turned out.

So I arrived in Barcelona courtesy of Easyjet, and for the duration of the 4 week course I stayed with a family in a nice part of the city. They were lovely. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to spend much time with them. Mainly because I spent the majority of my ‘free’ time holed up in my room frantically trying to work out the stages of lesson planning, creating materials with no idea of whether they would actually work in class, and writing assignments that at 4am in the morning didn’t make a lot of sense to me either.  This was essentially, the beginning, middle and end of the course. A learning curve like no other I had ever experienced. It wasn’t that the information was complicated or intellectualised – most of it, in fact, was common sense. There was just A LOT of it.

In at the deep end – the course in detail

There were 18 people on my course, but there were 2 courses running simultaneously, so there were about 35 of us all together. English, Scottish, American, Irish, Canadian, and Dutch. A great mix of people from 18 to 55, with a range of motivations, backgrounds and reasons for doing the course.  Teaching in front of my other 17 classmates started on the second day of the course. Not embarrassing at all.  We had to teach our fellow trainees for 5 minutes about something we knew or were good at – having just left PwC as a trainee accountant (the most boring year of my life) I decided to teach everyone how to complete a balance sheet. Not that this had a lot to do with teaching English but it did get us up, writing on the board, in front of a group of people.  From there on in the rest of the course flew by – everyday filled with so much information to take on board, so many different things to think about, so much to understand. Classroom management, lesson planning, setting of lesson aims, achieving lesson aims, checking meaning of target language, ensuring free practice of target language, error correction, varying interaction patterns, catering for different learner styles – not to mention making the materials for all the activities from scratch. It was a surprise that all 35 of us made it through to the end of the course without having a nervous breakdown (only joking – ish).

Throughout the course everyone teaches for a total of 6 hours. Each time was a pretty nerve racking experience – but with each teaching practice the feedback from the tutor helped me to identify which areas I was getting right and which points I needed to work on. This made me feel like I was actually progressing and improving, and allowed me to focus on just a couple of things at a time – rather than trying to get everything right, which was basically impossible. We all had mid-course and end of course tutorials with our tutors, which made us aware of exactly how we were getting on and if we were on track to pass the course. This was an extremely positive aspect of the course – as there were no nasty surprises at the end with someone thinking they were doing great when actually they were going to fail.

So, I got to the end of the course in one piece and passed! What a relief. The lessons learnt were invaluable and there is no way, after having done the TESOL, that I would ever want to stand in front of anyone and try and teach them English without having done the course.

14 years after doing my Trinity TESOL I’m now the Managing Director of CactusTEFL…but that’s another story…

Cactus TEFL is an admissions and advice service for quality teacher training courses worldwide. Cactus works with the majority of well-known course providers to offer CELTA, Trinity CertTESOL, equivalent and online courses in over 90 locations across 36 countries. Cactus TEFL also offers free post-course careers advice and support, as well as access to our very own TEFL jobs board and job alerts.

Cactus Language is a leading provider of language courses in over 120 locations abroad.

10 top locations to learn Spanish this summer

If you want a little more from your holiday this summer, a language course is the perfect option. Not only can it be booked last minute, but you can get all the sand, sea, culture and history that you’d expect from a regular holiday. Spanish is our most popular language and with Spanish courses in Spain and across Latin America, there is a language course for every taste!

We’ve asked our language holiday advisors for their recommendations as to the best places to go this summer in Spain and Latin America. And who better to ask – they are the ones who have visited and taken courses in our many destinations.

It’s not too late to book – just take your pick, and get it in the diary!

Location Why Go?
1. Bocas del Toro, Panama Caribbean beaches and islands; excellent diving and surfing; laid-back, rustic vibe; close to the Costa Rican border; on the backpacker trail but still relatively unknown
2. Cartagena, Colombia Magnificent colonial city; Caribbean charm; friendly, warm locals; Colombian Spanish has a reputation for being particularly clear
3. Ibiza, Spain Exhilarating nightlife; spectacular natural scenery and beaches; ancient hill towns; mild climate year-round
4. Jaco Beach, Costa Rica Laid-back surfing and beach culture; relaxed but lively nightlife; courses include Spanish & surfing
5. Playa del Carmen, Mexico Beautiful beach; choice of watersports; lively nightlife; proximity to ancient Maya & Aztec sites
6. San Sebastián, Spain Golden beaches & excellent surfing; famous for its delicious pintxos (tapas); popular summer teen & children’s programmes
7. Santiago de Chile, Chile Southern Hemisphere skiing; vineyards and wine tasting; European in feel; leafy parks
8. Santiago de Compostela, Spain Off the beaten track; classic walking trails; history & culture; traditional bars and excellent tapas
9. Sosúa, Dominican Republic Watersports, especially diving & kitesurfing; attractive climate; cheap destination once there; whale watching in winter
10. Valencia, Spain Vibrant summer location; beaches and watersports including Spanish & kite surfing, impressive City of Arts and Sciences; the place to eat paella

More about Spanish courses in Spain

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Cactus offers Spanish courses in 12 countries worldwide. Courses are available from one week upwards, for all ages and levels, and can be combined with a range of activities from sport and cookery to music and art.

Junior language camps – a wise choice for the summer

Learn a language, make friends of the same age, enjoy fun activities and excursions – and pass those exams!

If your child is learning a language, a summer language camp will give them the holiday of a lifetime and put them one step ahead when they return to school in September.

These camps  offer a fantastic opportunity for students aged 5-18 years to learn their chosen language in a safe and fun environment, where small group language classes are accompanied by exciting activities and excursions, comfortable accommodation in a host family or residence and 24-hour supervision.

Why book a language camp?

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  • Hand-picked selection of locations to study French, Spanish, Italian, German and English
  • Stimulating programme of social, sporting and cultural activities
  • Courses geared to different ages between 5-18 years
  • International environment guaranteeing new friends of the same age from all over the world
  • Great way to boost confidence and improve language skills naturally
  • Excellent preparation for GCSE and A Level exams
  • Increased employability and opportunities upon leaving school (see how studying abroad can make you smarter)
  • Courses for parents available in the same location

Where do we offer language camps?

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Spanish language camps:

Spain: Seville / Denia / San Sebastian / Segovia

Costa Rica: Heredia

French language camps:

France: Montpellier / Cannes / Antibes

Canada: Quebec City

German language camps:

Germany: Berlin / Lindenberg / Augsburg

* Summer programmes for young adults aged 16-20 years are also available in Berlin and Vienna.

Italian language camps:

Italy: Salerno

English language camps:

USJuniors

England: London / Cambridge / Canterbury / Nottingham / Southampton / Brighton / Manchester / Liverpool / Cheltenham / Bournemouth / Ascot

Ireland: Dublin

Scotland: Edinburgh

USA: Long Island, New York / Brooklyn, New York

 

Most courses are available from one week upwards during the summer months. We are also experienced in arranging school trips abroad, in these and other locations.

Contact us or call us on 00 44 (0) 1273 830 960 for further information and a quote.

For full information on junior language camps please visit the Cactus Language website.

Cinco de mayo: a day of history and celebration in Mexico

5th May is an important and fun date for Mexicans all over the world

Cinco de Mayo is an annual festivity celebrating the unexpected victory of Mexican forces over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on 5th May, 1862. Although it is an unofficial Federal holiday, it is one that holds plenty of meaning for Mexicans in their home state of Puebla as well as those who reside in the US.

In Mexico, 5th May has become a day to celebrate Mexican heritage and as such people come out in force, dressed in traditional dress and ready to enjoy the food, drink and dance that typically accompany Cinco de Mayo festivities. These are usually limited to the state of Puebla, where the battle originally took place.

North of the border, in the US, Cinco de Mayo has also taken on an importance significance, mostly in areas that have a high population of people with Mexican descendency. In these areas, the day is usually seen as a celebration of the culture of Americans with Mexican ascendency, but is often enjoyed by other Americans regardless of their origin. Music and dancing are an important element of Cinco de Mayo celebrations, with baile folklorico and mariachi displays taking place each year in the center of Los Angeles. American schools take the opportunity to educate students about Mexican history, and traditional religious symbols such as the Virgin of Guadalupe are also revered at this time.

Elsewhere in the world, Cinco de Mayo celebrations are limited but certainly newsworthy! Mexican beer is enjoyed on the Mediterranean island of Malta, an air guitar competition takes place each year in the exotic Cayman Islands, and a Canadian sky diving club near Vancouver holds a celebratory skydiving event. It may be one of the smaller festivals in the Latin calendar but it is certainly one worth catching if you can.

Cactus runs Spanish immersion courses in locations across Mexico, and also Spanish evening courses throughout the year in the UK.

Top 5 Spring festivals in Spain

Fiesta time is upon us! If there’s anywhere that knows how to throw a good party, it’s Spain. These festivals are the perfect pick-me-up after the long winter months, and a great incentive to learn a little Spanish too!

1. Moros y Cristianos, Alicante: 21st-24th April 2015

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Of the 150 or so locations in Spain to celebrate Moros y Cristianos, there is no beating the celebrations that take place in Alcoy, Alicante. The festival dates back to the 16th century and commemorates the Battle of Alcoy in 1276, when the Christian army of Saint George helped defeat the Moorish troops lead by Al-Azraq. In homage to St George, the people of Alcoy made him their patron saint and vowed to hold a festival in his honour each year…and what a festival it is. With 28 armies in mock battle, intricately-made costumes on show, a spectacular procession and breathtaking firework displays, the streets are full and the atmosphere is electric in this fitting tribute to the battle that expelled the Moors from Spain.

Spanish courses in Alicante

2. La Feria de Abril, Seville: 21st-26th April 2015

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Little may need to be said about what is arguably Spain’s biggest fiesta. The solemnity of Semana Santa the week preceding Easter is cast aside as the vibrant Andalucian city of Seville erupts into the much-anticipated April Fair, a week-long party of flamenco dancing, horse shows, bullfighting and more. This is Spanish fiesta at its best. The only problem is what to see and how to reserve enough energy to stay up all night and join the locals at what they do best – party, party, party!

Spanish courses in Seville

3. Patios de Cordoba: 4th-17th May 2015

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Exploring a city’s streets is one thing, but knocking on somebody’s door and entering through heavy wooden doors that are kept closed for 50 weeks of the year is a real privilege. And this is what Patios de Cordoba grants you – the chance to enter into the cool shade of private homes and feast your eyes on their patios which have been lovingly adorned throughout the year with all manner of flowers, plants and decorations. Lemon trees, geraniums, roses, carnations, fountains – the list is endless, but the colour and scent won’t fail to impress, and nor will the chance to enter hidden corners of Andalucia away from the rush of modern life.

Spanish courses in Cordoba

4. Horse Fair, Jerez: 10th-17th May 2015

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You don’t have to be a horse lover to enjoy Spain’s best horse fair, the Feria de Caballo in Jerez. Taking place in its famous sherry-producing town, Jerez de la Frontera, could be incentive enough. Or maybe you’ll be won over by the sight of impeccably-dressed locals riding through the streets and ladies dressed in bright flamenco dresses, ready to wow the crowds with their Sevillanas dance displays. But most of all you can’t help but be impressed by the supreme skill and care taken to train and groom the horses that star in this annual show. If there is one performance not to miss, it’s the Dancing Andalusian Horses – a true equestrian ballet, fully choreographed, accompanied by traditional Spanish music and costume. You’ll swear you didn’t know horses could do that type of thing…

Spanish courses in Seville

Spanish courses in Marbella

5. San Isidro, Madrid: 15th May 2015

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If you want to experience the most quintessential of Spanish traditions then head for Madrid during its San Isidro festival. Not only is this the world’s most important bullfighting festival, it is also an excuse for flamboyant Spanish fiesta in the form of music, dancing, fairs and what is known as a romeria, or pilgrimage, to the shrine of Madrid’s patron saint, San Isidro. Las Ventas bullring plays host to the much-anticipated bullfights, concerts are held in the beautiful Plaza Mayor to concerts, and Vistillas Park is transformed into an open-air dance hall. Book tickets to specific events in advance, or just turn up and soak up the exhilarating atmosphere.

Spanish courses in Madrid

Cactus offers Spanish courses in many locations across Spain as well in countries throughout Central and South America.

Top 5 romantic places to learn a language

Love is certainly in the air around Valentine’s Day, but there are some places in the world that ooze charm every day of the year. With this in mind, here are our top 5 destinations for sharing a little romance whilst learning some of the local lingo.

1. Cologne, Germany

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If you want a romantic European city break but something a little different from much-lauded Paris, then the German city of Cologne may just hit the spot. This is a place that inspires couples to fix padlocks to the railings of a bridge and, to ensure everlasting love, throw the key into the river below – and not just on Valentine’s Day. As the river Rhine collects keys of all sizes, so its visitors fall in love with the city too. Oozing with history, magnificent architecture, a stunning Cathedral, cobbled streets, boutique shops and traditional bierkellers, this is an unforgettable and charming place that is likely to steal your heart.

German courses in Cologne

2. Cartagena, Colombia

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Some say that Cartagena is the most romantic city in South America, and it’s easy to see why. Sitting on Colombia’s northern Caribbean coast, you can’t help but fall in love as you walk through the Old Town’s narrow cobbled streets, tropical flowers spilling down from balconies above, the infectious beat of salsa on every street corner and warm days drawing to a close as the sun dips below the horizon each night. The natural warmth and affection of the locals, coupled with an inherent love for life, is nothing short of infectious.

Spanish courses in Cartagena

3. St Petersburg, Russia

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A city steeped in history, legend and intrigue, St Petersburg is an unexpected yet wonderful choice if you want to whisk away your loved one. It has no shortage of romantic spots, such as the spectacular Heritage, the fairytale-like Winter Palace and the elaborately decorated Mariinsky Theatre, home to the city’s best ballet and opera and a wonderful opportunity to dress in your finery. Special moments should be saved for a cruise along the Nevsky Prospect, which is equal if not better than a boat ride on the Seine in Paris. And when it comes to eating out, St Petersburg is a treasure trove of exquisite places to dine.

Russian courses in St Petersburg

4. Québec City, Canada

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Québec City is one of the oldest cities in North America and as such is full of history, character and charm. It is a perfect romantic winter getaway, celebrating its Winter Carnival just before Valentine’s Day – a perfect excuse to wrap up warm, play in the snow and dive into a friendly bistro for a chocolat chaud. Amongst the city’s many magical spots are the Quartier Petit Champlain, an enchanting European-style neighbourhood of boutiques and cobbled streets, the magnificent Château Frontenac and the UNESCO World Heritage treasure of Old Québec. This is a place that makes you feel warm on the inside even when it’s snowing outside.

French courses in Québec City

5. Florence, Italy

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It would be impossible to talk of romance without including Italy. Although the whole country is synonymous with amour, Florence is a wonderful place to base yourself. In the heart of Tuscany, surrounded by rolling hills dotted with cypress trees and vineyards, its historic centre is a magnificent concentration of some of the world’s finest art and architecture. Head for one of the city’s magnificent squares, such as Piazza della Signoria and Piazza della Repubblica, which make perfect spots to sit down to a real Italian gelato and watch the world go by. Wander hand in hand through the city’s cobbled streets beneath magnificent Gothic and Renaissance architecture and indulge in delicious Tuscan food by night; for a romantic couple’s escape, it doesn’t get much better than this.

Italian courses in Florence

Cactus offers language courses in locations across the world, for all ages and levels.