Why Edinburgh is the place to be this August

Throughout August, Edinburgh is transformed into a hub of entertainment, where parades, shows, plays and a variety of other performances occur every single day. There is actually not just one festival, but several that take place simultaneously.

The initial festival, known as the Edinburgh International Festival (EIF) was established in a post-war effort to “provide a platform for the flowering of the human spirit”, but since then lots of other organisations and theatrical companies have set up their own festivals to run alongside it, the biggest of which is known as the ‘Edinburgh Festival Fringe’.

The Edinburgh festival (the Fringe festival especially) has proved an important platform for many of today’s best known performers, comedians in particular, and has propelled many ‘unknowns’ to stardom.

Edinburgh is a lively city that is brimming with entertainment at the best of times, but August really is a fantastic time to visit, or study in the city. It will ensure that you get not just a taste, but an in depth insight into the UK arts and culture scene.

More information on English courses in Edinburgh

More information on the Edinburgh Festival

Money Observer - 13 May 2011

The Money Observer is a highly-respected business and finance magazine with a strong social media presence.  Cactus teamed-up with the magazine to run a competition to win two evening courses through its Freebie Friday Twitter pages.  The giveaway was a big success with great interest from the Twitter community and potential to revisit in the future. “With summer just around the corner, holidaymakers up and down the country will be packing swimsuits and dusting-off language phrase books before jetting-off overseas.  We’d like to offer tw, free 10-week evening courses to Twittter followers who want to be able to say “Hola!” and “Ciao!” like a native this summer.”

Learning Arabic in Morocco and the UK: Cactus staff review

Why are you learning Arabic? This is a question I have been asked quite often since I started studying Arabic in Brighton last July. What are the reasons for someone to want to learn a foreign language? As a foreign language teacher, I have come across many different reasons as to why people want to learn to speak in a different language to theirs. I have learnt several languages before and this time I have been given the chance to learn one more. I have learnt English, German, a bit of Italian and French. This time I wanted to go for something that made my brain work in a complete different way and that’s how I ended up taking an Arabic course with Cactus.

I started at Level 1 on a 10-week Arabic evening course in Brighton, and I was one of those “complete beginners” with no previous knowledge at all. The only words I knew were those that are used in Spanish such as Insh’Allah (in Spanish “ojalá”), “almohada”, “aljibe” and a few more.

The first lessons were a bit of a challenge as I found myself in a class with a few students that had some sort of knowledge as they had relatives or friends or knew people from Arabic-speaking countries. I have to say this was a bit demotivating as I felt I really knew nothing. It was hard to guess meanings as I could have done with German, being similar to English, French or Italian. I was absolutely lost and I did not take it very seriously. I did, however, enrol on the Level 2 course and it was then when my love for this language started. I bought different books to the one used in class and also did a bit of self-study a couple of days per week to really learn the alphabet and get familiar with the writing.

The lessons then became more and more interesting, not only the language aspects but also the cultural ones. My teacher is very familiar with the different dialects and different cultural issues all across the Arab world.image

Arabic is a fascinating language and the writing has some sort of magical effect; it feels more like painting than writing. No wonder it´s one of the main decorative components in the Arab world.

In Level 3 we moved away from the alphabet, writing, basic vocabulary and conversations, and we started to go deeper into different grammatical structures. Arabic is not so complicated when it comes to verb tenses; it´s complicated when you want to speak and write properly and use the cases and different ways of building plurals. Let´s keep in mind I am talking about Modern Standard Arabic – I won’t even start talking about the many differences when it comes to colloquial Arabic. It was during this term in Level 3 that all the revolutionary movements started and this made me want to learn more and more about this language and culture.

Although many people kept telling me that the Arabic I was learning was not useful, because no one speaks like that if you travel to any Arabic-speaking country, I still wanted to go somewhere to learn a bit more and put into practice what I had learnt – and so I did.

imageThis Easter I decided to do a 1-week intensive course in one of Cactus schools. My destination was Rabat, in Morocco. I could have chosen Egypt but I had already been to Morocco and found it a fascinating country. I have to say it has been one of the most amazing experiences I have had when it comes to learning a language. The learning environment at the school was excellent, my teacher was highly qualified and very motivating, and we were encouraged to speak Arabic at all times, even at a very basic level. This course gave me the confidence to speak and made me realise it is absolutely necessary to go to the country where the language is spoken to really make an improvement.

imageEven though I had learnt quite a lot during these 3 terms in the UK, it was all stored in my head but never used. In Morocco in a matter of a few days I was having short conversations to taxi drivers, waiters and people at the “souks” and this made me feel really good. They could understand me and I could understand them; even if I wasn’t saying everything properly or using the right verb form, I made myself understood. Isn´t that what the aim of learning a language is after all? COMMUNICATION.

I cannot describe how grateful people were that I was making the effort to speak to them in Arabic and it made such a big difference to the way they treated me everywhere I went. Although I have to say hospitality is part of their everyday life.

I can´t say that in a week I learnt a lot more than I knew already but I definitely learnt to put things together and to actually use them. Now is time to move on to the next level and keep on learning more and maybe next year I can go back and do a more advanced course.

Rabat is such a good place to spend some time. It´s probably the best place in Morocco to live if you come from a western country. It is the perfect combination of tradition and modernity; people are very laid back and time seems not to matter much. Days actually seem longer when you are in Morocco.

imageThere are beautiful places to visit such as the Kasbah of the Oudaya, the Hassan Mosque and its Tower, the Mohammed V Mausoleum, the Royal Palace the remarkable Andalusian Gardens in the new city quarters. The ruins of Chellah are not to be missed either.

Cactus runs part-time and evening language courses in 24 languages and 41 locations across the UK, and in 6 locations across the US and Canada. These are the ideal way to brush up on a language before you travel abroad, whether for work or pleasure.

Cactus also offers language immersion holidays in more than 30 languages, in 60 countries and 500 destinations worldwide. 

Discover the World of Languages with Cactus Language Training

As all seasoned travelers know, the only way to truly get under the skin of a place is to learn the language.  Being able to say even a few words and phrases helps to open doors, build local relationships and lend an authenticity to your travel experiences and writing.

Cactus is one of the world’s leading language training companies, and every year we help over 15,000 people learn a language, with courses for everyone from complete beginners to advanced learners.  We have a global network of approved schools and highly experienced teachers. Our aim is to make language learning fun and accessible for all.

With that in mind, we would like to offer all SATW members a massive 50% off all our international language courses (including accommodation).  And since we run courses in up to 30 languages, in 60 countries and at 500 destinations worldwide, there’s sure to be a destination that appeals. 

Many of our courses combine languages and a range of exciting activities, from French and Surfing in Biarritz, to Mandarin and Calligraphy classes in Xian.  We are also always open to discuss suggestions for funding full press trips, so let us know if you have a specific commission in mind.

For all enquiries and to claim your discount, please email or call +1-212-601-9343, quoting “SATW Discount”.  We’ll look forward to hearing from you.


What kind of people teach EFL?

The reasons why and when people choose to teach EFL can be loosely categorised, but not really the people themselves. They come from far and wide, from a variety of age groups and from a huge assortment of professional and academic backgrounds.

Perhaps this is due to the fact that every native, or near native, English speaker possesses a proficiency in the main skill that needs to be imparted – English. Granted, this doesn’t mean that everyone will be a great teacher, but the basic skill that they will be required to teach is there, and the rest can be improved.

There are lots of reasons why people choose to teach EFL, but there tend to be four main groups of people: people taking a gap year, people taking a career break, people who want a retirement or second career option and people who want a full-blown career in TEFL.

A gap year activity

So-called ‘gappers’ tend to be in the 18-25 bracket, and are normally taking a year out just before or after they have finished their studies. Sometimes the main impetus for them to train in TEFL is so that they can spend a year abroad in a specific country in order to hone or learn foreign language skills.  For others, it is simply a way for them to see new parts of the world and learn more about different cultures. Other gap year TEFLers may be teaching as part of wider volunteering type-projects, normally in developing countries around the world. TEFL can certainly be a ‘worthwhile’ project to undertake in this type of year off from work or study, and skills that are learnt through teaching will be a welcome addition to the CV of anyone trying to get onto the career ladder.

A career break option

Teaching TEFL as part of a career break is similar to teaching on a gap year in terms of its length and appeal -many people who take gap years or careers breaks have the same reasons for wanting to do so and are only looking to be away for a year or two at the most. Career breakers tend normally to be a little older – between 25 and 35 in general. Although sometimes both career breakers and ‘gappers’ train in TEFL with a specific goal in mind – to find a job in a certain area of the world and stay there for a set amount of time – others train in TEFL more as a ‘back up’ option. There is usually casual work available on the travelling route, and having a TEFL certificate in your back pocket will certainly come in handy if you come across informal teaching work and want to top up your funds along the way.

A second career, or retirement project

It’s interesting to note that one of the first questions asked by the majority of potential TEFL course applicants over the age of 45 is ‘am i too old’? This must mean, I suppose, that TEFL is still largely associated with this kind of gap-year/career break travel. The answer to the question of course though, is no. Trends over the last 10 years or so (admittedly before the recession struck) have been that people retire from their main profession earlier, and consider relocating to the likes of France and Spain to enjoy their retirement in warmer climates. Both of this things have encouraged far more people within this stage of life to consider TEFL, either as a way to ‘give something back’ via voluntary work in the UK, to make a bit of extra money via private tutoring, or for those who relocate abroad, as a way to integrate into the local community.

A long-term career

Often people who start off teaching TEFL as a gap year or career break option enjoy it so much that they end up making a career out of it. Other people, although less abundant in number, know right from the start that TEFL is the career path they want to follow and train for this accordingly. They may also choose to study for an MA in TESOL. It could be that they have permanent plans to relocate to a country and set up a school, or simply that they want to remain in the UK and teach or train within language schools, or the lifelong learning sector.

In short, there really is no one type of person who teaches TEFL, and one reason for why people choose to do so. The industry comprises a mix of short-term teachers and long-term teachers, those who are doing it for money and those who teach on a voluntary basis, those who teach in the UK and those who teach abroad. The good thing about TEFL is that there are opportunities and suitable courses for everyone, irrespective of what capacity they hope to teach in.

More about TEFL courses worldwide

More about TEFL in different countries around the world