UK Events: Brighton Festival

The Brighton Festival is a 3-week arts festival held each year in May in and around Brighton.

This tourist Mecca of the south coast is inundated with day-trippers and weekend breakers for most of the summer, but if you can visit during the festival this is a great time to come. Busy? Yes…but worth battling the crowds? Definitely.

The festival is jam-packed with acts and performances from top international actors, dancers, singers, comedians, authors, journalists and musicians, which means that there is something to cater for all tastes and interests.

Brighton Festival’s Children’s Parade is a spectacular gathering of more than 4000 participants, which forms the opening event of the festival each year. There is usually a theme assigned to the parade, which this year will be the elements – earth, air, fire and water.

The Brighton Festival Fringe is a series of performances by newer or less established artists, or those whose type of act is not covered by the main festival. It’s a great place to discover new talent or to see a type of performance that you have not seen before. Most of the shows are less expensive than the main festival events too.

Tickets go quickly, so it’s worth booking sooner rather than later!

Quebecois French versus ‘France’ French

French Canada, located just beyond New York on the eastern side of Canada, can cater to your needs. But do they speak the same variety of French as in France, you ask? Sacré bleu! Not quite. In Quebec, Québecois is spoken, and yes, there are differences. Before you go, let’s look at some of the history and the variations.

The origin of Quebecois French is from Classical French in the 17th and 18th centuries, brought to “New France” by French colonists. The influence of the area began to play a major role in the evolution of the language – that is, interaction and contact with Native Americans and their languages plus the different foliage and fauna gave way to new words. This, combined with the isolation from Europe and the fact that French settlers retained the older pronunciations, gave way to a new dialect.

One simple analogy would be to say that Quebec French = American/Canadian English and France French = England/UK English, but even that can be misleading because the differences in Québecois and France French are even larger.

Some fun differences:

‘France’ French: parking/parker

Québecois French: stationnement/stationer

FF: le weekend

QF: la fin de semaine

FF: Je t’en prie

QF: bienvenue

Along with different pronunciations, idioms, slang, the speed of the spoken language, swear words and exclusive cultural references are definitely different in Quebec than in France. This, however, does not mean that you won’t be able to engage in the culture when you visit Quebec. As long as you try, the local Canadian will most likely appreciate your efforts.

Of course, English is sometime welcome, too. If someone starts a conversation with “Bonjour hello”, as if it is one word, they are actually inviting you to use whichever language you prefer. So even if you haven’t been on your French language course for long, and you just want to try out a bit of the language, you will be able to speak English in the more urban areas with ease.

Cactus Language offer French courses in the UK, New York, France and Canada, including Quebec!

German Courses: Hamburg – Why It’s a Great Place to Learn

In actual fact, Hamburg (formally known as the ‘Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg’) is Germany’s second largest city, both in terms of size and overall population. The port of Hamburg is the central hub for trade with Eastern and Northern Europe. As a container port, Hamburg holds second place in Europe and seventh place in the world.

Perhaps a lesser known fact, Hamburg has over 2,300 bridges – more than Venice and Amsterdam combined!

Although traditionally an important centre for trade, Hamburg is now a real media hub, and also has a thriving tourist industry. Popular amongst visitors to the city are:

– the harbour (Hamburg’s oldest and liveliest area)

– the Speicherstadt area in the east of the city, and its ornate warehouses

– the nightlife centre of St Pauli and the Reeperbahn (Hamburg’s infamous red light district)

– the weekly fish market (Fischmarkt) that takes place on the waterfront

– the impressive town hall (Rathaus), located in the commercial district

Hamburg is a very cosmopolitan place, and is home to many students who attend the large university there. If you’re looking for a place with oodles of history and culture, and fantastic nightlife to boot, look no further.

Cannes: Top 5 reasons to visit (in English / en français)

Cannes – English Version

This year the 66th Cannes Film Festival takes place from the 15th to the 26th of May 2013. During this international event, Cannes shows to the world all the luxury and glamour that characterise it, but the city is much more than glittery celebrities making an appearance on the red carpets. It is also an awesome place to stay, and to study French!

1/ Cannes is a very dynamic and entertaining city. It is known to be the capital of cinema, and it hosts all kinds of well-known international events, from dance and music to pyrotechnics. Moreover, it is easy and pretty quick to reach other nice cities such as Nice, Antibes, Monaco or even St Tropez by train.

2/ Cannes’ beaches offer fine sand and azure-blue sea over more than 7 km. There are public beaches, such as La Bocca and Mourre Rouge, and more urban private beaches like the one on Boulevard Jean Hibert or La Croisette, the most famous Cannes beach front. And the city is sun-kissed most of the year, which is very attractive for those who appreciate ‘le farniente’, or chilling out in the sunshine.

3/ The Lérins Islands are worth the trip. Saint-Honorat Island is owned by monastery monks who are used to organising wine tasting sessions for visitors. The latter will also enjoy the protected natural environment and the calmness of the 16-century-old abbey.

Sainte-Marguerite Island is bigger and offers a beautiful forest with eucalyptus and pines, amazing beaches and a sea looking like the Caribbean one. This island is mostly famous for the old state prison Fort Royal, where the enigmatic Man in the iron mask was incarcerated.

4/ Cannes receives many visitors from all over the globe, and tourists like sailing along the coast and then dropping anchor in one of the ports. Pierre Canto Marina is the most illustrious port in Cannes, and forms a part of the history of the city.

5/ Cannes’ old town is full of great independent French boutiques, typical and luxury shops, museums, flower and food markets, and flea markets throughout the year. The Suquet old town and its residential area are also worth the visit.

Cactus runs a Summer Course for Juniors in Cannes, as well as French courses for adults in the nearby towns of Antibes and Nice.

Cannes – en français

Cette année le 66ème Festival de Cannes se déroulera du 15 au 26 mai 2013. Lors de cet événement international, Cannes expose au monde tout le luxe et le glamour qui le caractérisent, mais la ville est bien davantage que des personnalités flamboyantes faisant une apparition sur des escaliers rouges. C’est aussi un endroit grandiose où séjourner, et où étudier le français!

1/ Cannes est une ville très dynamique et divertissante. Elle est réputée pour être la capitale du cinéma, et c’est un lieu accueillant toutes sortes d’événements renommés, qu’il s’agisse de danse, de musique ou de pyrotechnie. De plus, il est facile et plutôt rapide d’atteindre d’autres agréables villes telles que Nice, Antibes, Monaco ou même St Tropez en train.

2/ Les plages de Cannes offrent du sable fin et une mer bleu-azur sur plus de 7km. Il y a des plages publiques, comme La Bocca et Mourre Rouge, et des plages plus urbaines comme celle sur le Boulevard Jean Hibert ou comme La Croisette, la plage la plus connue de Cannes. Et la ville est baignée de soleil la plupart de l’année, ce qui est très attrayant pour ceux qui aiment le farniente.

3/ Les îles Lérins valent le détour. L’île Saint-Honorat est la propriété de moines monastiques qui ont l’habitude d’organiser des dégustations de vin pour les visiteurs. Ces derniers apprécieront le cadre de la nature protégée et le calme de l’abbaye, vieille de 16 siècles.

L’île Sainte-Marguerite est plus grande et dispose d’une magnifique forêt d’eucalyptus et de pins, de plages saisissantes et d’une mer semblable à celle des Caraïbes. Cette île est surtout réputée pour la vieille prison Fort Royal, où l’énigmatique Homme au masque de fer fut incarcéré.

4/ Cannes est une ville hautement touristique à l’international, et les touristes aiment naviguer le long de la côte puis jeter l’ancre dans un des ports. Le port de plaisance Pierre Canto est le plus connu à Cannes, et fait partie de l’histoire de la ville.

5/ La vieille ville de Cannes abonde de remarquables boutiques françaises indépendantes, de magasins traditionnels et de luxe, de musées, de marchés gastronomiques et de fleurs, et de brocantes tout le long de l’année. Le Suquet et son quartier résidentiel valent aussi la visite.

Our favourite French words & expressions

As much fun as learning a language can be, it can also be really frustrating. Throughout my seven years of learning French at school, I must admit I had more than one of those moments where I wanted to hit the roof… although that may have been due to my French teachers.

Although I disliked French lessons and homework at school, I have to confess that I do actually really like the language. Not only because it’s supposedly the language of love and because it sounds lovely, but also because it’s incredibly funny. Don’t believe me? Here are some examples:


One of the great things about the French language is that words can look very exciting, thus tricking you into thinking they are referring to something exceptional and spectacular.

Funiculaire unfortunately only refers to a cable car, which is not that exciting at all.

quatre-vingt-dix-neuf = ninety nine

To this day I have always struggled with the way the French count. Literally translated quatre-ving-dix-neuf means 4 times 20 + 10 + 9. So if you are bad at maths, don’t even try counting in French!

Oeuf [œf]

Step 1: Take something as simple as an egg, add an incredibly strange spelling and an even funnier pronunciation and you get oeuf.


Step 2: Take the word for egg, add a “b” and trick people into thinking the two things are related.

I’m sparing you the possible embarrassment on your next trip to France by telling you that there is no actual connection between oeuf and boeuf (=beef).


Despite its spectacular spelling – which I always got wrong in school  – ennuyex has a rather boring meaning – which is boring. (That’s the actual translation!).

Doigts des pied

Apparently there are no French words for toes but because there are moments in everyone’s life where it’s inevitable you will talk about them (e.g. whilst getting a pedicure or after breaking one of them and explaining to the doctor where it hurts) the French invented this very cute expression that literally translated means “Feet fingers”.

Talkie-Walkie instead of Walkie-Talkie

I tried to find a logical explanation for this. Then I realized: there isn’t one. So I came up with two possible reasons: a) this was originally a typing error which found its way into everyday-French b) it is just the French trying to be different.

Lunettes & Verre

I already stated that there are no French words for toes but that doesn’t mean that there is a shortage of words in the French language. Did you know that the French differentiate between glasses as in eyeglasses (lunettes) and glasses as in glasses of water (verre)? No? Well, now you know.

Parler le francais comme une vache espagnole

I’m not really sure why the French dislike the Spanish but literally translated this sentence means: speaking French like a Spanish cow. It is used when someone hardly speaks any French… or has a Spanish accent?

Test your French by reading this fantastic guide to Toulouse (en français / in English)

Read what Cactus’ Cecile Sargueux has to say about her home town…and if you get stuck see the English version below.

La Ville Rose de France – ce qui fait de Toulouse une formidable destination d’études

Toulouse, capitale de la région Midi-Pyrénées, est une ville des plus pittoresques du sud de la France, où il fait bon vivre en toutes saisons.

C’est une ville universitaire attractive et historique, mais qui est aussi renommée en technologie de pointe – une des principales attractions est la Cité de L’espace, un parc à thème scientifique et éducatif basé sur l’astronomie.

Culture et Gastronomie

Les 440 000 habitants de Toulouse sont pour la plupart fiers de la culture unique de l’Occitanie, appelée aussi le Pays d’Oc (Occitan: lo País d’Òc). Cette culture commune s’étend sur tout le sud de la France, et tire ses origines de la culture espagnole, italienne et française combinées. L’Occitanie révèle toute sa beauté à travers la population, la langue, les édifices, et évidemment la nourriture!

C’est une ville hautement culturelle avec de nombreux musées exposant par exemple son héritage Cathare. De plus, des expositions d’art, des festivals et des concerts ont lieu toute l’année dans la métropole. Par ailleurs, des marchés sont organisés chaque semaine, offrant un large choix de nourriture typique de la région, tels que pain, saucisses, fruits et légumes frais etc.

Quant à la gastronomie, Toulouse regorge de plats typiques. Il faut mentionner le cassoulet, le confit de canard, les saucisses de Toulouse, les champignons, les produits issus de la fleur de Violette (bonbons, confiture…) etc. Le dessert traditionnel est le Fenêtra, un gâteau à base de pâte d’amandes, d’abricot et de citron. La boisson typique est l’Armagnac, la plus ancienne eau de vie du Sud Ouest.

Architecture et sites historiques

La particularité de la ville est que chaque bâtiment est construit à partir de briques rouges/ roses, dont le teint varie avec le soleil!  De plus, la Ville Rose, comme elle est communément appelée, détient de nombreux monuments répertoriés par l’UNESCO, tels que le Canal du Midi ou l’église St Sernin. La place principale est la place du Capitole où le symbole de l’Occitanie, une croix à douze pointes, est gravé au sol avec un signe astrologique à chacune des pointes.

Population et mode de vie

Il y a plus de 100 000 étudiants à Toulouse, qui représente ainsi la 3ème plus importante ville universitaire de France. Le soir, la ville reste dynamique et chaleureuse, et les bars et rues sont souvent bondés toute la nuit durant, surtout lorsque le climat est doux. La journée, les Toulousains aiment déambuler dans les rues du centre ville, ou bien le long de la Garonne. Ils apprécient aussi le fait de s’asseoir à la terrasse d’un café, ou dans une des nombreuses places de la ville.

Peut-être est-ce dû au climat tempéré de la région, mais l’art de vivre de Toulouse est résolument différent du reste de la France. L’accent chantant va de pair avec la nature joyeuse des Toulousains, qui sont réputés en France pour être des gens amicaux, francs et souvent à sang chaud.

Ceux qui sont nés à Toulouse la considèrent souvent comme leur « ville de cœur », et par conséquent ne voudraient jamais la quitter. Le célèbre chanteur français Claude Nougaro en est un exemple, lui qui fut né à Toulouse, et qui avait l’habitude de chanter pour sa ville bien-aimée…


France’s ‘pink city’ – what makes Toulouse a great study destination

Toulouse, the capital of the French region of “Midi-Pyrénées”, is one of the most colourful cities in the south of France, where the weather is nice all year round.

It’s an attractive, historical university town but is actually also well-know for state-of-the-art technology – one of the city’s main attractions is La Cité de L’espace, a technological and educative theme park based on astronautics.

Culture and gastronomy

Toulouse’s 440 000 inhabitants are proud of the unique culture of the “Occitanie” territory, also called the Oc Country (Occitan: lo País d’Òc). The common culture of Occitanie is found throughout the whole of southern France, and is made up of Spanish, Italian and French influences. L’Occitanie reveals all its beauty through the people, the language, the monuments and obviously, the food!

It is a highly cultural city, with lots of museums exhibiting, for instance, the Cathare heritage of Toulouse. And many art exhibitions, festivals and concerts take place throughout the year in the city. In addition, big markets are organised every week, offering a wide range of typical food of the region, including bread, sausages, fresh fruits or vegetables.

When it comes to gastronomy, Toulouse offers lots of delicious specialities. Included amongst these are Cassoulet, confit of duck, Toulouse sausages, mushrooms, and products made from the violet flower (candies, jam…) etc. The typical dessert is the Fenetra, a marzipan, apricot and lemon cake. The typical beverage is Armagnac, the oldest ‘eau de vie’ of the South west.

Architecture and historical sites

The particularity of the town is that every building is built with pink/red bricks, whose shade varies with the sun! Moreover “La Ville Rose”, as it is commonly known, has plenty of monuments which are classified by UNESCO, such as the Canal du Midi or the St Sernin Church. The main square is La Place du Capitole where the symbol of Occitanie, a twelve point cross, is engraved on the floor with a birth sign at each corner.

People and lifestyle

There are more than 100 000 students in Toulouse, which makes it the 3rd largest university town in France. It is a very lively and warm city by night, where bars and streets are often busy all night long, mainly when the weather is mild. During the day the “Toulousains” like to saunter around the town centre streets, or along the beautiful river – La Garonne. They also love sitting at a table outside a café, or in one of the many squares.

Perhaps due to the balmy climate of the region, the way of life in Toulouse is different from all other cities in France. The melodic accent goes hand to hand with the happy nature of the Toulousains, who are well-known in France to be friendly, frank and warm-blooded people.

Those who are native to Toulouse often consider it a town that belongs to their heart, and as a result they would never want to leave. An example is famous French singer Claude Nougaro, who was born in Toulouse and who used to sing for his beloved city…

Cactus Language offer French language courses in the UK, New York, France and Canada!