Cactus Worldwide Monthly Blog: January 2014


Hello, and welcome to the first 2014 edition of the Cactus Worldwide blog! My name is Ollie, and I am the Product Manager for our agency – Cactus Worldwide. Our team of experienced course advisors are here every day to discuss options with you and help set up a varied range of unique language-learning experiences, all over the globe, throughout the year, for all of our wonderful students.

This month’s blog is aimed at letting you know about some of the best special offers and early bird discounts that are available to you this January, including some big birthdays and the birthday deals available to help celebrate them! If you have any questions about anything you read here, please feel free to contact me directly via and I’d be happy to help.

1.       Thinking about taking a German course in beautiful Vienna this summer? Call or e-mail us to book any adult course for between June 1st and August 31st this year, and we’ll give you a discount of £100! Valid until the end of January.

German Courses in Vienna with Actilingua and Cactus Language


For anybody out there thinking about taking some time out to learn German abroad this summer, this is a deal well worth checking out! Our partners in Vienna, Actilingua, are offering a discount of £100 off any adult course booked during January for the summer months of June, July and August – and all you have to do is call or e-mail Cactus quoting ‘Early Bird’ and we can apply the discount to your enrolment straight away.


The must-visit city of Vienna has a historic cultural tradition and the Actilingua Academy can help you learn not only the local language, but also find out much more about Viennese literature, famous Austrian painters, the local film scene, and the fascinating architecture of what is perhaps also the safest and cleanest city in Europe.


To make things easier, the school also own and operate their very own clean and modern student residence, which consists of 20 tidy en-suite apartments in a renovated Art Nouveau building just 10 minutes away from the school on foot (photo above and below). The residence fills up quickly, so it’s worth book early to avoid disappointment. Click here for more info.


2.       Happy 25th Birthday to IH Lacunza in San Sebastian, Spain! Call or e-mail us and say ‘Happy Birthday Lacunza!’ before booking, and we’ll discount £30 off the total price – on all bookings until the end of April.

Spanish in San Sebastian, Spain, with IH Lacunza and Cactus Language


Perhaps one of the most significant birthdays being celebrated amongst our colleagues in Europe this year is that of IH Lacunza in San Sebastian on the northern coast of Spain, who are celebrating the 25th anniversary of their inception in 1989! To celebrate, they themselves are giving away the presents, by offering Cactus students an immediate discount of £30 off the course price just for wishing them a ‘Happy Birthday’ – and then a further surprise birthday present on arrival at the school, which could be a free dinner, tour, excursion, or ticket for a local activity! The offer is valid on all courses starting in 2014, and is valid on all bookings until the end of April – so plenty of time to get organised.


Lacunza is just 5 minutes’ walk from the centre of San Sebastian, a town less well-known than some of its bigger counterparts, but growing in popularity for its sandy beaches, surf, nightlife and a generally cool, laid-back and authentically Spanish atmosphere. The school itself offers everything expected of a large and successful language school, including 10 bright air-conditioned classrooms and an excellent range of study facilities. All Spanish teachers are native speakers and work alongside school staff to help students get the most out of their stay in San Sebastian via the social programme, and encouraging students to join their intercambio programme, to meet other students and local people! Lacunza’s success is in their experience, and they are well worth joining for a party this year if you find a spare week or two. More info here!

3.       And finally, Happy 20th Birthday to Intercultura in Heredia, Costa Rica! To celebrate, we can offer our students a discount of $50USD per week – again, just call or e-mail us to say ‘Happy Birthday Intercultura!’ and we can discount your booking for you (Heredia only, not valid for courses on Samara Beach).

Spanish in Heredia, Costa Rica, with Intercultura and Cactus Language


Throughout 2014, our partners in Costa Rica are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the establishment of their school in Heredia, in the capital area, close to San Jose. To share the celebrations with their students, they are offering a discount on all adult group courses of $50USD (approx. £32/37EUR) per week regardless of how long you stay in the town. Better still, this offer is valid all year long! You can call or e-mail us anytime, and as long as your course starts in 2014, the discount is all yours.


Why visit Intercultura in Heredia? From the second floor roof terrace of the school you can see the mountains to the north and the valley to the south; from the balcony you can see the colonial church spires and the palm trees of the central park, 4 blocks away, where bright green parakeets gather at sunset, singing so loud you can sometimes hear them all the way from the school! Nearby you also have Barva volcano, the Ojo de Agua natural spring pools, and the La Paz waterfall gardens, where you can hike down a path right next to 6 giant waterfalls. Enough said? Click here for more info.

We hope this selection has been of interest, and may have given you some ideas for some bargain study options for the year ahead. Any Qs at all, please feel free to contact me directly and I’d be happy to help.

Happy planning 😉

Best Wishes,



Oliver Donovan

Agency Product Manager


Cactus Worldwide Monthly Blog: December 2013

In our last blog of the year we’re bringing you some exciting new locations to look forward to in 2014. A very Happy Christmas from us all at Cactus and we look forward to sending you on more language learning adventures in the new year!


Hello, and welcome to December’s edition of the Cactus Worldwide blog! My name is Ollie, and I am the Product Manager for our agency – Cactus Worldwide. Our team of experienced course advisors are here every day to discuss options with you and help set up a varied range of unique language-learning experiences, all over the globe, throughout the year, for all of our wonderful students.

This month’s blog is aimed at letting you know about what’s brand new at Cactus Worldwide for the year ahead, and if you have any questions about anything you read here, please feel free to contact me via and I’d be happy to answer any questions.

1. Olinda Portuguese Language School – Olinda, Brazil


For all of our students of Brazilian Portuguese we are very happy to announce a new partnership with the Olinda Language School, located in Olinda, Pernambuco, one of the most beautiful cities in Brazil! From 2014 (and just in time for the World Cup) we are pleased to be able to offer an alternative destination to the more frequently visited cities of Rio and Sao Paulo, and offer our students the opportunity to spend some time at this exceptional independent school and not only be immersed in authentic Brazilian Portuguese, but also have the opportunity to combine language classes with a variety of social programmes –including activities such as photography, percussion and football coaching with a local expert.


The school is run by directors Justin McPherson and Norman Monteiro (as an Australian & Brazilian partnership) and all the teachers in Olinda are local native speakers and experts in teaching Portuguese to foreign students. The classrooms are comfortable and climate-controlled, and a reading room and break room are available to the students, as well as a large auditorium and a kitchen. Walking distance homestays are also readily available. If you need any more reasons, please feel free to get in touch, or visit the link below for more info!

Brazilian Portuguese Courses in Olinda, Brazil

2. France Langue Opéra – Paris, France


France Langue are a small chain of quality language schools who have been teaching French to thousands of students from over 80 countries since their inception in 1976 and they still welcome students all year round at each of their centres: Paris, Biarritz, Bordeaux & Nice. Cactus and France Langue have worked together for many years, but new to us for 2014 is the offer of French courses at their elegant school in Opéra, Paris, in a lively neighbourhood between the department stores along Boulevard Haussmann and the fabulous jewellery shops in Place Vendôme. All in all, this is a perfect choice for the student looking at visiting Paris to study French, but seeking a comfortable and quiet school in a classy neighborhood. Class sizes here are limited to only 10 students as a maximum, and the average age is 32, so it’s ideal for the focused student for whom individual attention is of the highest importance.


The school itself is in a calm setting, in a typically Parisian building on the Boulevard des Italiens, away from the bustle of the street. With several bus and metro stations close by, access to the school is very simple wherever you are staying in Paris.

You can visit the link below to see much more about what’s on offer:

French Courses in Paris Opéra with Cactus Language & France Langue

3. London Weekend IELTS – Kilburn, London, United Kingdom

Finally, new for 2014 is an intensive 2-day IELTS programme in Kilburn, London, designed for any students of English who are looking to rapidly improve their writing skills in preparation for the exam date.

The course is always scheduled to run 2 weeks before the official IELTS exam dates, and is delivered by our partner, Robin Ashenden, who has nearly twenty years of teaching experience and is a DELTA qualified English language teacher. He has taught IELTS regularly over the past five years and has specifically taught writing and creative writing for non-native speakers at the annual University of Westminster summer school, a course he has now delivered for four years running. Robin has an MA in travel literature, and has been a travel journalist for publications like Sunday Times Travel, Wanderlust and the Guardian.


Nisrine Zaaraoui, from France, writes: “I really enjoyed my English lessons with Robin. He is a very good teacher – I can even say he is one of the best I ever had. His classes are very dynamic and interactive. He has very good communication and pedagogical skills. He is very open-minded and interested in others’ cultures, and he always brings new interesting topics to debate in class. You never get bored in class and he teaches you expressions used in the “real world”. So if you want to improve your English quickly, Robin will be able to make this happen. I guarantee you that you will really enjoy your English class.

To find out more about the weekend programme, please visit the link below:

London Weekend IELTS – Intensive Weekend Writing Course with Robin Ashenden

We hope this selection has been of interest, and may have even given you some ideas for study options for the year ahead. Any Qs, please feel free to contact me directly and I’d be happy to help.

Happy planning 😉

Best Wishes,


Oliver Donovan
Agency Product Manager

Cactus Worldwide Monthly Blog: November 2013

Welcome to the November edition of the Cactus Worldwide blog! This month we’re bringing you ideas and inspiration for the fast-approaching festive season…

Hello, and welcome to November’s edition of the Cactus Worldwide blog! My name is Ollie, and I am the Product Manager for our agency, Cactus Worldwide. Our team of experienced course advisors are here every day to discuss options with you and help set up a varied range of unique language-learning experiences, all over the globe, throughout the year, for all of our wonderful students.


This month’s blog is aimed at letting you know about some of the best options that we have available for language study over the fast-approaching Christmas period! As the vast majority of the private language schools out there close for a few weeks around this time, it can be difficult to find the right option for a special seasonal getaway – so here are our recommendations.

If you have any questions about anything you read here, please feel free to contact me directly via and I’d be happy to answer any questions.

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English in Brighton with Cactus Language – Christmas 2013

Regent Language Training, one of our partners here in Brighton on the south coast of the U.K., are keeping their doors open during the festive period (closing only for the Bank Holidays on the 25th and 26th of December, and January 1st) – and they are offering a very special package of classes, host family accommodation and activities for any students who would like to spend the festive season in England, and enjoy a unique cultural experience! You can click on the link here for more details, and please feel free to contact us via to check availability, or if you have any questions.


Regent is an academically-focussed language school, which places emphasis on helping students to achieve their goals in terms of English language. As a medium-sized school, students here benefit from a family-feel environment, excellent facilities and large, bright classrooms, and also receive a personalised learning experience where all teachers really get to know each student and are happy to help with any issue.

Also, why not come to Brighton a day or two early, so you can see the traditional ‘Burning The Clocks’ ceremony on December 21st! The event is a winter solstice festival unique to Brighton, created in 1993, and known for its alternative carnival atmosphere. (Image at top of page)

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German in Berlin with Cactus Language – Christmas 2013

Alternatively, why not spend the holiday period in the second-biggest European city, and arguably the must-visit destination of the decade? Everybody seems to be talking about Berlin at the moment – so why not take the opportunity to visit our partners, GLS, for a very special ‘Christmas Culture Special’, and take the time out to experience the best that this incredible city has to offer.

The full seasonal course is priced at a reasonable 950EUR (£819) all inclusive, or 650EUR (£560) without residential accommodation, and the site opens on December 22nd and closes on January 4th 2014. The course attracts students of all shapes and sizes from across the world – between 40 and 80 students each Christmas, made up of solo travellers, couples and small groups – so you can be assured of plenty of company from friendly, like-minded people!


Image: the ‘unofficial logo’ of GLS Berlin, who are based on Kastanienallee.

Here’s the full schedule:

22nd:  Arrival, check-in, plus a traditional 3-course German Christmas dinner at the school
23rd: 4 German lessons, plus a Pergamon Museum visit
24th: A guided walk along the famous Under den Linden boulevard, plus movie night at the school
25th: Christmas market shopping at Gendarmenmarkt, plus an evening organ concert at Konzerthaus Berlin
26th: Day trip to Potsdam, a visit of Park Sans Souci, Neues Palais, plus coffee in town
27th: 4 German lessons, free afternoon, plus ballet (Der Nusskracker) in the evening
28th: Guided day trip to Dresden
29th: Visit to Berlinische Galerie, plus a traditional dinner at Max und Moritz
30th: 4 German lessons, shopping, plus a visit to the Johanna Keimeyer art studio
31st: Guided walk in Treptower Park, plus Opera del Futuro & a NYE party at Radialsystem
1st: Ice-skating, plus an evening concert at Berliner Dom
2nd: 4 German lessons, plus a guided visit to the Topographie des Terrors museum
3rd: 4 German lessons, a guided visit of the Jewish Museum, plus farewell drinks and tapas
4th: Departure


Image: a panoramic view of one of the high-quality studio rooms in the on-site student residence at GLS.

If you like what you see, you can book online here – or feel free to contact us if you have any questions, via!

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European Portuguese with Cactus Language – Christmas 2013

Finally, how about a Christmas trip to Lisbon? Our partners, CIAL, also stay open throughout the festive period, closing only to observe the Bank Holiday on December 25th, and what they offer here isn’t a full package of activities and excursions, but an affordable closed group course for a maximum of 12 people, either at Beginner level or Intermediate (two groups). This makes it much more suitable to the independent traveller, and the cost is very reasonable at £401 for the fortnight, so great value in comparison with the high season.

Eirill Søiland, from Norway, spent 4 weeks with CIAL back in August, and she has been kind enough to provide us with some great photos and a brief personal review of the school, her course, and the surrounding area:


“I did a 4-week Intensive Course at CIAL in Lisbon. I originally wanted to live with a host family, but applied too late for this so did my whole stay in a hostel close to the school, Unreal Hostel. This turned out for the best, as other people from the school also stayed here.

I do not have any Latin language background at all, so found it a bit frustrating to be placed in a Beginners’ class where 5-8 students spoke (almost) fluent Spanish. I felt a bit uncomfortable in this class, so I asked to move, and was placed in a new class which was much better for me.


Together with the language school I had signed up for 10 surfing classes, which were well organised and really fun! The whole experience was really good, and the only thing I would have done differently would be to change my class a bit sooner, as I think I would have learned even more this way. Lisbon is an amazing city and I would love to go back.”

Again, I hope this has been of interest, and may have given you some ideas for a great way to end the year! Although availability tends to be good on seasonal courses until late on, I would still suggest early booking, before those holiday flight prices shoot up.

Any questions, please feel free to contact me directly and I’d be happy to help.

Happy planning! 😉

Best Wishes,


Oliver Donovan
Agency Product Manager

Cactus Worldwide Monthly Blog: September 2013

Welcome to the September edition of the Cactus Worldwide blog! This month we’re taking you behind the scenes to meet the people behind two of our most popular partner schools…


Hello, and welcome to September’s edition of the Cactus Worldwide blog! My name is Ollie, and I am Product Manager for our agency, Cactus Worldwide. Our team of experienced course advisors are here every day to discuss options with you and help set up a varied range of unique language-learning experiences, all over the globe, throughout the year, for all of our wonderful students.

This month’s blog is aimed at letting you take a look at some of the people behind two of our most popular partner schools in Europe – The Language Centre in Denia, on the east coast of Spain; and Centro Fiorenza on Via di Santo Spirito in the heart of Florence, Italy.

If you have any questions about anything you read here, please feel free to contact me directly via and I’d be happy to answer any questions.

1. Spanish in Denia with Cactus Worldwide & The Language Centre

Firstly, please meet Mari Carmen Timor, the Principal of The Language Centre, situated in the historic part of Denia on Carrer de la Barbacana! TLC is a comfortable, modern and spacious school, fully equipped with wi-fi, audio-visual equipment, air-conditioning and drinks machines. It is an ideal location for families, individual adults or juniors all year-round, with a range of course and accommodation options to suit students of all shapes and sizes.

Denia is located half-way between Alicante and Valencia on the east coast of Spain. Still not sure? Click here to see its exact location on Google Maps.

Here is what Mari Carmen has to say about her school, and why it’s worth considering a visit to Denia this autumn/winter:

Who are you?

My name is Mari Carmen Timor and I am currently the FEDELE president for the Valencian region of Spain, as well as school principal at TLC Dénia Spanish school (Dénia, Valencia). My personal philosophy is that it is important that students experience everything there is about a language, its people and their culture, as well as a receiving a high quality education.

How long has TLC Denia been in operation?

TLC Dénia first opened its doors in 1994 and since then I have strived to continuously stay at the forefront of teaching methods, along with keeping our accommodation satisfactory and our range of activities interesting. We specialise in offering families travelling with children the opportunity to learn the language together. For those students who want to experience a relaxed and friendly city, where they can integrate with the local people and their culture, TLC Dénia is the ideal place for studying Spanish.

What’s happening at TLC Denia this autumn, and why should students come to Denia and take a Spanish course?

As autumn falls I think many of us consider taking on new challenges in our lives, and for those who wish to learn or improve a language it is a fantastic time to start. The summer heat wanes making way for that magical change of light that autumn brings. The streets that were before filled with tourists now have a nostalgic calm about them.

Far from looking like a shadow of summer, Dénia thrives with the sound of its kitchens. Its wide range of restaurants makes the low season months absolutely perfect for those of our students who wish to enrich their stay with the best quality food.

For students who are nature lovers, Dénia and the surrounding area in the autumn offers wonderful mountain scenery with extensive trails of varying difficulties through breathtaking terrain, suitable for hiking or cycling. 
Not forgetting, of course, that Dénia is dominated by the ‘Montgó’, a 750-metre mountain remarkably similar to ‘Table Mountain’ in Cape Town, South Africa. It is a truly spectacular sight.

Due to all of this and much, much more, studying in the autumn months is a fascinating experience both inside and outside the classroom. And thanks to a select set of activities, our students always have a broad view of authentic life and customs here in Dénia.

2. Italian in Florence with Cactus Worldwide & Centro Fiorenza

And now, please meet Augusto Merlini, the owner and Director of Centro Fiorenza in Florence! Centro Fiorenza is a medium-sized school that hosts 120+ students during the high season, and a few more even at their sister school on the Isle of Elba (2014 dates and prices will be up soon!). The school prides itself on providing a welcoming, family atmosphere in an international environment, and attracts consistently excellent feedback from our students.

Centro Fiorenza is located on Via di Santo Spirito, slightly set back from the Arno in the centre of Florence. Still not sure? Click here to see its exact location on Google Maps.

Here is what Augusto has to say about his school, and why it’s worth considering taking a trip to Florence this autumn/winter:

Who are you?

I am Augusto Merlini, the owner and director of Centro Fiorenza – International House Florence. I have been running Centro Fiorenza since 1982, first as a teacher in Florence and then when we opened our summer school on Elba in 1984 I spent whole summers there teaching and entertaining our students. Now I am in charge of our marketing and promotion.

What’s happening in Florence this autumn/winter?

florence duomo

Are you an art lover? If so, then don’t miss this exhibition! Forte Belvedere, the most beautiful exhibition space in Florence, has reopened after 5 years, with works by Zhang Huan. You can admire sculptures of enormous Buddhas and paintings with Huan’s particular technique in ashes. To finish the show enjoy an “Aperol Spritz” or “Hugo” at sunset on the terrace overlooking the city on one side, then turn round and take in the breathtaking view of the Tuscan countryside on the other side.

Also don’t miss a string of events in Florence and the Chianti region in September and October such as tasting Chianti Gallo Nero, Chianti Classico and Super Tuscans along with food of the region (Tagliatelle ai Funghi, Pappardelle al Cinghiale, the famous Peposo from Impruneta and many other specialties!).

And of course, you should also come and enjoy an Italian language course at Centro Fiorenza!


I hope this has been of interest, and may have given you some ideas for the colder months which are on their way! I’ve just had a peek at a few budget airline websites, and you can certainly still steal a return flight to Alicante, Valencia or Pisa in November or December for less than £100 – so it really is a great time to go. Happy planning 😉

Any questions, please feel free to contact me directly and I’d be happy to help.

Best wishes,


Oliver Donovan
Agency Product Manager

Cactus Worldwide Monthly Blog: August 2013

In this first of our monthly blogs dedicated to language holidays abroad, we’re sharing with you what’s new, what’s on offer and where our students are going. We hope that you’ll be informed and inspired!


Hello, and welcome to a new monthly blog here at Cactus! My name is Ollie, and I am the Product Manager for our agency – Cactus Worldwide. Our team of experienced course advisors are here every day to discuss options with you and help set up a varied range of unique language-learning experiences, all over the globe, throughout the year, for all of our wonderful students.

This short blog is designed purely to keep you informed about what we’re up to at the moment: what’s new, what’s on offer, and where our students are going. I hope this will be of interest, and may even provide you with inspiration for your next language-learning experience with Cactus. This month’s topic is Focus on: Spanish and if you have any questions about anything you read here, please feel free to contact me directly and I’d be happy to help.


1. Green season in Costa Rica – why go now?
2. La Tomatina in Spain – not to be missed!
3. 2 weeks for £200 in Granada, Spain
4. 20% off in Sosua, Dominican Republic
5. Spotlight on Karoline Lamb – learning Spanish in Cartagena, Colombia

1. Green Season in Costa Rica @ Intercultura – Colonial Heredia & Playa Samara


We are still accepting enrolments for students looking to study Spanish in Colonial Heredia & Playa Samara during Costa Rica’s ‘green season’ which runs up until November. There is traditionally more rain during this time, but you certainly shouldn’t let it put you off! It’s definitely worth enduring a bit of drizzle for the great value flights that are available and opportunities to visit incredible sites such as Arenal volcano, La Paz Waterfall and Monteverde Cloud Forest during the low season.

This season in Heredia and Samara is very popular with individual students in their 30s, 40s and 50s, and we can also arrange set programmes of classes, accommodation, activities and all-inclusive excursions for groups of 3 or more from £720 per person, per week. Highlights this season are performances by the National Symphonic Orchestra on October 31st and November 25th – so try and make those dates if you can! The school has two centres – one in Heredia, close to San Jose, and another on Samara beach, so students can split their time between the two.

2. La Tomatina 2013! @ Taronja – Valencia

August 28th 2013 is the date set for this year’s ‘La Tomatina’ – an epic food fight (mostly involving tomatoes) which happens in Buñol, close to Valencia, on the last Wednesday of August every year. In 2012, 50,000 people turned up to pelt one another with over one hundred metric tonnes of over-ripe fruit. Giant trucks deliver the fruit to Plaza del Pueblo at 11am on the day, and then the fight ensues…

The week-long festival also includes live music, parades, dancing and firework displays, and our partners in Valencia still have good availability for all course + accommodation options for the week if you are looking for a late last-minute summer break! They will be arranging a school trip to La Tomatina, so that would all be arranged for you. Just don’t forget your goggles…


The great ‘Chef Nando’ in Valencia, preparing pre-Tomatina paella.

3. Special Offer: 2 weeks for £200 in Granada, until the end of 2013 – Granada, Andalusia

If you are looking for a great autumn/winter deal this year then look no further than our partners in Granada, who are kindly (and exclusively) offering Cactus students 2 weeks of classes for only £200, inclusive of course materials and registration fees. The course provides 20 lessons per week, Monday to Friday, usually occurring in the morning between 9am and 1.30pm, and there are activities and excursions available.

Centrally located, the school is medium-sized and provides a friendly, relaxed and international atmosphere in which to enjoy your studies; this option is highly recommended by Cactus for a great value late-season trip to brush up your Spanish.

4. September Special: 20% off course + accommodation in Sosua – Sosua, Dominican Republic

For those of you in the U.S. or those looking for something further afield, how about a course on the beach in Sosua this September? It’s a great month for learning Spanish in the Dominican Republic – especially for students interested in water sports and scuba diving. The conditions are superb, with very good visibility, warm water temperatures and very few other tourists around.

Cactus can currently offer 20% off all listed course and school accommodation prices on request (via and you can check out the listings online here. The school accommodation is basic, but on-campus and with breakfast included (and a pool!), so you can relax as much as possible between your classes.


The private apartment complex (in the school grounds) in Sosua, Dominican Republic.

5. Spotlight: Karoline Lamb – Cartagena, November 2013

One of my favourite students to have helped in the last month is Karoline Lamb, who has just booked a 4-week Intensive Spanish course with host family accommodation in Cartagena, Colombia, with Cactus, for this coming November, en route to visiting her daughter and family in Australia. The accompanying photograph, kindly provided by Karoline, is of her on her travels and trespassing in South America last year.


Karoline’s unquestionable passion for people, learning Spanish and exploring South America is admirable and infectious, and she also intends to contribute to the Juan Felipe Gómez Escobar Foundation as a volunteer during her time in Cartagena – an institution set up to offer assistance to under-privileged children and young parents. I hope she has a wonderful time, and we are all looking forward to receiving her feedback!

Thank you for reading, and I hope this blog has been of interest – please feel free to call us, or contact me directly by e-mail, if you have any questions about anything you have read here. Of course, if you are interested in arranging a trip for yourself later this year, I’d be happy to help!

Best wishes,


Oliver Donovan
Agency Product Manager

Why has learning the Brazilian Portuguese Language increased in popularity?

1) The Portuguese language has 236 million speakers, is the 6th most spoken language in the world and the 3rd most spoken language in the western hemisphere.

2) An attractive culture plays an important part in encouraging more people to learn the Portuguese language. There have recently been several popular films set in Brazil, such as ‘City of God’ which won worldwide recognition, and critically acclaimed authors including Paulo Coelho have gained an international reputation. Brazil also gave the world the Bossa Nova style of music, not to mention the largest carnival in the world.

3) Brazil’s media coverage has grown exponentially over the last ten years, not least because of former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. He improved the quality of life of the Brazilian people and virtually eradicated hunger. In so doing, he also received many awards for his work throughout the world giving him, and his country further global recognition.

4) Portuguese is relatively easy language to learn if you have already mastered a Latin-based language such as French, Spanish or Italian.

5) The Brazilian government is promoting the Portuguese language through “Project Leitorado” ’ where Brazilian academics are part funded by their government to lecture on the language and culture at universities around the world.

6) Many people wish to learn Portuguese simply because they have Brazilian partners, or may, one day, wish to emigrate there.

7) In recent years the Brazilian economy has grown rapidly, and the country is now recognised as an emerging world power, prompting multi-nationals to seek to invest in Brazil, so creating further opportunities and jobs. The discovery of oil in Santos Bay will attract inward investment from global energy corporates, with many companies believe that learning the language is another step towards gaining the trust of local companies, customers and clients.

8) Brazil is staging the FIFA World Cup in 2014, such an enormous international event , reported around the globe, that many people want to learn the language to ensure they fully understand the national culture and approach to the event.

9) Brazil will also host the Summer Olympics 2016 which, again, is a prestigious world sporting event prompting massive media coverage and placing the country firmly in the spotlight.

10) Brazil is now the perfect holiday destination with stunning beaches, wonderful climate and fascinating rainforest.

Cactus offers a variety of Brazilian Portuguese language courses throughout the UK, Brazil, USA and Canada.

Russian Evening Course: Staff Review

“As I have not learnt a language since my school days, I was very apprehensive about entering back into a language learning environment; particularly as I had struggled with learning French and German at secondary school. I was up for a challenge though and quite excited about learning such a different language and new alphabet. I had also read about how being bilingual could delay Alzheimer’s and boost brain power (an added bonus); not to mention increase confidence and add to my current skill set.

I was extremely happy to learn that our Russian teacher was a native speaker, as we could learn so much more first-hand about Russian culture and customs. He had also learnt a repertoire of languages including Mandarin, so he was able to compare other languages to Russian and was aware of which sounds and letters we might struggle to pronounce.

Our lessons compromised of listening, reading and speaking, which was interactive and engaging and helped our teacher correct any words we weren’t pronouncing correctly. The majority of the writing exercises were given as homework.

One of my main concerns was speaking aloud in class and getting things wrong; a fear that also dates back to my school days. But I found that after the first lesson I felt quite comfortable speaking Russian in front of the other students. My confidence grew quickly and I was not worried about making mistakes anymore.

I also found that my lessons were nothing like they were back in school, because I was surrounded by adults who were enthusiastic about learning. We were actively encouraged by the teacher and our fellow students to just get on with speaking Russian and not worry about whether it was correct or not. Generally when one student found a particular word or sentence difficult, the rest of us did as well, so there was nothing to be embarrassed about. 

I really enjoyed being in a classroom environment again and interacting with other students who all had an interest in learning Russian. I especially enjoyed when I pronounced a sentence correctly or my homework was correct, as I felt a great sense of achievement.

My class was small, which created the perfect leaning environment, and the school was centrally located just a five-minute walk away from my work – no excuse not to go.

I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience of learning a language, and particularly one that was so different to my own. I was surprised at the progress I made in only 10 weeks. 

I would definitely recommend learning a language to anyone who wants to be able to interact with the locals of a particular country and wants to learn more about a country’s culture. “

Spasibo Lucy, for sharing your experience!

To follow in Lucy’s footsteps and get to grips with Russian, check out Cactus’ Russian Courses in London & nationwide.

My Visit to the Capuchin Crypt and Church in Brno, Czech Republic

I once visited Czech Republic’s second city, Brno. It is largely ignored next to big brother Prague, yet has some beautiful architecture and very friendly welcoming people who are not so fatigued by an endless onslaught of tourists as is the case in the capital.

Although I was there to visit a new school, I was told I simply had to visit the Capuchin Crypt on Capuchin Square near the Cabbage Market.

What I encountered there was not entirely what I had expected. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of architecture, and the Baroque churches across Czech Republic, as elsewhere, boast some of the finest examples. The issue was more with the very-much-on-display contents of the crypt.

Thanks to a rare permutation of natural ventilation and a particular soil type, it became apparent many years ago that when the dead were laid to rest there, their bodies did not turn to bone as usual, but rather were mummifying. All fine and good. A curious quirk of nature. And entertaining as Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom may be in the comfort of a warm cinema and good company, when you’re in a real crypt, with dim lighting and that cool mummifying air whispering down your neck, and all the other visitors leave so that you’re the only one there, suddenly the reality of being outnumbered about 80 to 1 by the desiccated dead with contorted faces screaming silently at you, becomes the stuff of horror films and your worst nightmares. Needless to say I paid my respects and scarpered.

If you, like Richard, are planning a visit to the Czech Republic, why not learn Czech with Cactus?

Amazing Chartres: Les temps des cathédrales

An American friend and fellow student took me once on a discovery tour of Chartres, a cathedral place in North-Central France, accessible from the Parisian Gare Montparnasse within one hour. I’m still grateful to her for taking me to a place where you can plunge into the layers of time and into civilisations that had shaped France from the Ancient Gaul till the Modern Times.

The most amazing fact about the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres is that it unites contradictions at one and the same space. Ancient pagan sanctuary with traces of labyrinthine maps to worship the solar cycle similar to Stonehenge transformed into one of the gems of Christian cathedral culture, it is the incarnation of the Sacred, par excellence, whatever the form. Located in the Loire Valley, Chartres Cathedral has been a Christian religious and architectural icon since the eleventh century. This Gothic cathedral has survived wars, revolutions and even fire. Towering church spires, stained multi-coloured glass and the labyrinth will be offered to visitors’ admiration.

The linguistic difference between mazes and labyrinths can be discussed. Most people consider them to be synonyms, but unlike mazes, labyrinths have a single path, no dead ends, and one way in and out. In many world’s religions it symbolizes the journey of the spiritual seeker, the path one must walk in order to grow towards clarity and wisdom.

The Chartres Labyrinth measures 131 feet in diameter and its concentric circles to the center were used by monks and pilgrims for meditation. An amazing collection of stained glass offers depictions of the Bible scenes. The North Rose Window, West Rose Window, Blue Virgin Window and the Tree of Jesse are some of the most recognized stained glass windows in the world. Climb to the top of the tower stretching over 350 feet in height to admire its breathtaking panoramic view on wheat fields of l’Eure-et-Loir. You can also explore the Crypt. This eleventh century crypt is the largest in France offering an escape from the summer heat. By the way, guided tours of the Crypt are offered only in French.

During the Wars of Religion, it was attacked unsuccessfully by the Protestants in 1568. Chartres Cathedral marks the high point of French Gothic art. Its porches are adorned with fine sculptures from the middle of the 12th century making it truly a masterpiece.

The construction of the Cathedral started in 1205 following the destruction of the old cathedral of Chartres. Construction took 66 years.  It is considered one of the finest examples in all France of the Gothic style of architecture. Even before the early Gothic cathedral was built, Chartres was a place of Christian pilgrimage continuing the ancient spiritual tradition. For millennia Chartres was the main pilgrimage site in France with its ancient Pre-Christian roots, Druidic Black Madonna, relic of the Veil of the Virgin drawing pilgrims from all over Europe.

On the 24th of June the Catholic St John’s Day coincides with the ancient pagan Summer Solstice. Summer Solstice celebrations still present, for example, in the Baltics and Scandinavia as well as in France itself with its Fête de la musique inspired by carnival culture, is a special date in the Chartres Cathedral calendar. The maze located on the cathedral pavement floor represents a complex solar cycle scheme. Every year on the Summer Solstice, a beam of sunlight is focused through a lens in a stained-glass window dedicated to Saint Appollonaire, the Christianized version of the Roman Sun God Apollo. It illuminates a particular flagstone of the cathedral like in Saint Sulpice in Paris.

Don’t forget that Chartres is famous not only for its fascinating medieval sites. A small town with magical atmosphere like Cambridge and Salisbury in England remains at the same time a modern tourist place with a well developed infrastructure, fashionable shops and cosy cafés where you will enjoy every minute of it. 

For more information on the Our Lady of Chartres Cathedral and labyrinths a number of websites are available:

Cactus offers French courses at a variety of levels in nearby Paris, Rouen and Tours. For further information or to book please visit the Cactus Language website.

Charlotte Gainsbourg : Heaven Can Wait

Last Tuesday Londoners had the chance to appreciate a concert by a remarkable British-French artist, Charlotte Gainsbourg. Charlotte has legendary parents in Serge Gainsbourg, influential and eccentric French icon of the swinging 1960s, 1970s as well as 1980s, and Jane Birkin, an outstanding English singer, actress and model. Charlotte,38, has made her career as a singer, actress, songwriter. Mother of two children, she spends her time between France and Britain, and also does regular world tours. She is faithful to her parents’ heritage regularly presenting their songs during her concerts. Her half-sister is the stylish Lou Doillon, daughter of Birkin and the film director Jacques Doillon.

Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg remained in collective memory thanks to the controversial “ultimate love song” Je t’aime…moi non plus. Gainsbourg is famous also for the movie and soundtrack to Bonny and Clyde with Brigitte Bardot, a pure product of the sixties with their rebellion culture, youth revolution and the spirit of Mai 68.

Charlotte’s discography includes the albums Charlotte For Ever (1986), 5:55 (2006) in collaboration with the Parisian band Air, IRM (2009) released after her waterskiing accident in the US. At Shepherd’s Bush Empire, the singer presented her new and old songs in both French and English and her recent hit Heaven Can Wait. She thrilled the audience with a great performance in perfect harmony with her musicians, exquisite light and colour effects, masterly voice and poetic songs, including those by Bob Dylan. The spectators, who included a large contingent of French-speakers, appreciated her fidelity to her own impeccable style inspired by Anglo-Saxon rock, French pop music and her parents’ legendary heritage. The French-speaking audience got a nice surprise at the end when she concluded her performance with the popular French song by her celebrity father Couleur Café , emphasizing her belonging to the glorious tradition of la chanson française.

The films that she has made, such as Lemming and Antichrist (winner at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival) demonstrate her great acting skills and personality, and tend to explore the deepest twists and turns of human nature.

This remarkable artist, born in London and raised in Paris, belongs to both cultural traditions and continues to inspire millions of fans who have an interest in French culture.

Those who could not attend the concert are advised to check the availability of Charlotte Gainsbourg’s albums at HMV and visit her website as well as to follow online London’s French events with Ici Londres.