Verona – an ideal destination for opera lovers this summer

Staged in Verona’s awesome Roman Arena, along with rock concerts and a jazz festival, the opera season includes performances from some of the world’s greatest singers and musicians. This year, the season is dedicated to great Italian Director Franco Zeffirelli.

If you’re an opera fan, it doesn’t get any better than this. The acoustics, the surroundings and the performers are all top-notch, and the good news is that tickets won’t cost the earth. The opera season in Verona is geared towards a wide audience made up of seasoned opera-goers and newcomers to the genre too.

If you want to take your opera experience one step further, there is even the option at our Verona school to take a specialist Italian and opera course. The course offers a great way to learn more about opera and the people who sing it, and encompasses morning classes to work on language grammar, syntax and conversation and afternoon classes that focus on pronunciation and intonation of operatic lyrics.

If by the end of the week you’re all ‘opera’d out’, Verona and the wider region have plenty of other entertainment options to keep you busy too. If you fancy a mooch around the city, you could pay a visit to Juliet’s house, spend the afternoon browsing the main shopping area, or dine al fresco in one of Verona’s piazzas . If you’d like a break from the city, heading out to Lake Garda for a spot of sunbathing is easy and relatively inexpensive on the train. The train journey from Verona to Desenzano del Garda is around 20-25 minutes, and costs under 10 euro.

Italian and opera courses are priced at £529 for 1 week (without accommodation) and cater for a variety of linguistic levels. Find our more on Italian courses in Italy.

Please note:prices were correct at the time of writing but are subject to fluctuation according to changing exchange rates.

Savoie – a great French study destination this summer

Summer is always a good time to visit Savoie, but this year there will be even more than usual going on. Whether you choose the stunning lakeside town of Annecy, or the historical capital of the region, Chambery as your study destination, you’ll have plenty to do outside of lessons.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Savoie region becoming part of France, an event which will be celebrated by concerts, festivals and street parties all throughout the summer.

In addition this year, Chambery has the honour of hosting the 10th stage of the Tour de France. The tour is one of France’s premier sporting events, and is watched by a huge number of people, who follow the event year after year. The path of the tour varies every year, and towns are always very proud to be included in the route. There is a real festival atmosphere as the riders pass through, which will be particularly prevalent in Chambery this year (on 14th July) as the townspeople celebrate both the 150th anniversary, and Bastille Day too!

A further event this summer, which takes place annually, is Annecy’s Lake Festival. The festival will be held on 7th August, and includes some spectacular fireworks, illuminated cruises and, in true French fashion, lots of eating and drinking!

If you want to complement all the parties and festivals with a bit of downtime though, the good news is that you’ll be in the right place. Whether you want to relax by a lake, or do some walking in the tranquil mountain landscapes, you’ll be spoilt for choice in Savoie.

And if all of this still isn’t enough to convince you, it’s worth also bearing in mind that the schools in Annecy and Chambery are offering a special offer of 4 weeks for the price of 3 in June, July and August…a fantastic deal considering the popularity of the region, and the array of events that you can enjoy this summer.

Book now!

Read our full list of French courses in France

June 2010: This month it’s about the dads…well, mostly.

Fathers Day combined with a month of top-notch sport seems too good to be true. A match made in heaven. Dads across the UK don’t need to wait until Fathers Day on 20th June for their treats – with the World Cup starting on 11th June, Wimbledon on 21st June, Grand Prix racing every other Sunday and bikes lining up for the Tour de France in July, this month promises to have wives and girlfriends groaning up and down the country.

Click here to read the newsletter

May 2010: Home or away, we’ve something for everyone!

Anyone whose travel plans have been thwarted as a result of Mother Nature covering Europe in volcanic ash may be itching to get away in May, and we’ve found plenty of exotic festivals across the globe to help you forget about your flight traumas. Madrid, Cannes, Oaxaca, St Petersburg and Istanbul are just a few of the places to let your hair down this month…

Click here to read the newsletter

Forecasts of increased international movement among staff highlight the need for language training

A recent report predicts a 50% increase in the number of staff relocating abroad for work – what are the implications of this?

A recent report issued by the global giant Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) predicts that the number of people working abroad will increase by 50% over the next decade. The report, ‘Talent mobility 2020: The next generation of international assignments’, a compilation of data sourced from 900 companies, shows that international assignments by staff have already increased by 25% over the last decade, a trend that is set to double over the next ten years.

What are the factors behind this and what are the implications for the future?

Statistics like this are not to be ignored as they have a significant impact on work practice across the globe. Brought about in part by the rise of emerging markets, the ease of foreign travel, changing demographic needs and companies searching for new revenue streams, the globalisation that we are witnessing will see many more thousands of employees leaving their home country for foreign soil – and even the number of locations to which they are re-locating is increasing, as companies explore lesser developed locations.

The implications of such large global movement cannot fail to have implications. Businesses, for a start, are likely to need to evolve their international work models so that they can efficiently manage the relocation of high numbers of staff between countries. Tax systems and immigration laws can present immediate obstacles, and further down the line investment into local infrastructure can become be a factor, especially in lesser developed countries – both to help employees live and work comfortably and also to maintain a synergic relationship with the host country.

One bonus that businesses may however see is a lesser need to offer financial incentive to staff to work overseas. Not only is it seen as good business sense to have staff employed in the places where they are needed, it also appears that these staff – especially younger workers – are eager to work a stint abroad. The report quotes that, of 4,200 graduates, 94% expect to work more internationally than their parents and 80% actually want to work abroad as part of their own personal development.

Of particular interest to Cactus is the news that 70% of these graduates expect to use a non-native language at work. If relocation abroad is to be fluid and of benefit to all parties concerned, investment in language training cannot be overlooked. Indeed, a recent article in Re:locate magazine ( cites language and cultural training – along with home search and spousal support – as ‘examples of policy elements that provide untold value and [which] can make or break an assignment’. Rather than be considered as luxury extras, support services such as this should be given priority when it comes to aiding a staff member to settle in a foreign country. Committing the cost early on could prevent further cost from a failed relocation down the line.

Cactus Language Training offers all types of language and cultural training for relocation and other purposes. Specialising in tailor-made language training for businesses and individual needs, training is available in many different formats and in languages and locations across the globe.

March 2010: It’s all about treats this month!

There’s something about March that lifts the spirit after the long and cold winter months. With the days getting longer and the sun beginning to burn a little warmth through the clouds, we’re emerging from our hibernation eager to make plans and get out there and do something.

Click here to read the newsletter

February 2010: Be a part of February’s festivities

February is an exciting month with a wealth of cultural events taking place around the globe. Chinese New Year is one of the highlights and this year is the Year of the Tiger. The international festivities start on February 14th and offer a unique insight into this fascinating culture.

Click here to read the newsletter

Language opens door to new markets – the increase in Arabic, Russian and Mandarin

At a time of global economic downturn, tapping into new markets has never been so relevant to the success, indeed survival, of businesses worldwide.

As recession deals its harsh blows to flailing western economies, drawn deeper into a spiral of unemployment, inflation, negative home equity and soaring energy and fuel prices, it is becoming clear that we need to look further afield, on a global scale, to maximise our earning potential.

With a market in recession, as is now the case with the US and many countries in Western Europe, one of the best things a business can do is diversify – not necessarily product, but clientele. Forming strategic partnerships with emerging markets such as Russia, China and the Arabic world is one such critical step. These developing markets are less affected by the crises currently deflating confidence in western economies and, perhaps more importantly, are still doing well despite the economic decline that surrounds them. They have up to now received investment from developed countries, they have built financial reserves from recent growth, and they harbour newly affluent locals who, although not as brazen in their spending as their western counterparts, have money to spend and investments to sniff out. They are keen to be at the forefront of the global economy and this may be their time.

So, how best to get in on the act with the developing powerhouses of China, Russia and the like? One key factor that cannot be overlooked when it comes to gaining access to foreign markets is the importance of language. Long-term partnerships with any new market depend on relationship building; these relationships in turn are formed through linguistic and cultural awareness. English may be the accepted tongue when it comes to international communication, but there can be no underestimating the importance – if not supremacy – of other languages on a regional scale. Often the quickest way to open doors is to speak to someone in their own language and, in a world where English rules, where it’s the easy option, the effort to speak your target market’s language and understand its culture will not go unnoticed.

Let’s look at Russia. This is a country whose economy is thriving off oil exports and military manufacturing, fast emerging as the energy-producing superpower of Europe. Culturally and in business, Russian as a language is spoken by some 270 million native and non-native speakers, and it is used extensively across Eastern Europe, along with German and Polish.

Further east, China’s official language, Mandarin, is now spoken by a billion people worldwide. Although English is increasingly taught and spoken in this booming economy, anyone aspiring to do business in China will be at huge advantage with native knowledge or even proficiency in Mandarin – especially away from the big cities. Being able to communicate on a ‘personal’ level is valued no more than in Asian countries.

And finally, Arabic. Spoken by more than 250 million Arabs, this ancient language of the Qu’ran spans North Africa, from Morocco in the west as far east as Iraq. Finance, oil and intelligence depend on it, while, as with many foreign cultures, businesses with knowledge of the language have the edge when it comes to understanding nuances, customs and beliefs that often go unnoticed in English.

Any business aspiring to infiltrate these emerging markets would therefore do well to adopt a strategic approach to multi-lingual communication. Updating a website so it is accessible in multiple languages, recruiting native speakers and outsourcing translators are useful steps. Yet utilising the workforce that you already have is arguably the most effective way to embrace the new multi-lingual environment that lies ahead.

Linguistic and cross-cultural training will provide employees and businesses with language skills attuned to their particular markets and an appreciation of the cultures within which they want to work – an investment that will reap long-term rewards. Cultural awareness in particular may be easy to overlook, but it is key in building successful relationships, preventing costly misunderstandings, managing multi-cultural teams and reducing culture shock if employees are relocating.

Language in this sense really does help to open doors, and investing in an emerging market equipped with the appropriate knowledge is a step that could potentially both rescue and future-proof your business.