Launch of London’s first French radio station - great news for French learners

French Radio London, or FRL as it’s also known, will be transmitted entirely in French, and will consist of the usual radio offerings – music, weather, news round-ups etc. With the studios and offices in central London, French Radio London also benefits from a network of Paris-based correspondents who will be bringing regular news updates, interviews and press reviews from the French capital.

The station was launched by Pascal Grierson, and is aimed at the sizeable French community in London (estimated to be over 400,000) and, of course, Francophiles who enjoy listening to French in their free time.

The station will provide a great tool for anyone learning French, who can listen in and familiarise themselves with the language, and learn more about French culture. The easiest way to tune in is via the French Radio London website.


Cactus offers part-time and intensive French courses at a range of levels and destinations in London. Please visit the Language Courses UK website for full listings, and to book.

Dying languages of the world: where they exist and why they should be saved

This makes for quite a shocking statistic, especially as it gives an indication of just how many languages there are out there. It’s often assumed that there are only one or two main languages per country, but in fact, some countries are home to hundreds of languages – Papua New Guinea, for example, is now estimated to have over 800!

The article states that of the 7,000 –odd languages spoken around the world, somewhere between 60-80% are not yet documented. Unfortunately, it’s often the case with solely oral languages that when the people who speak it die, so too does the language.

Whilst there can be interesting structures within the language that it’s a shame not to have access to any longer, the main regret when languages die out is that the detailed cultural knowledge that these languages embody also disappears. Many of the cultures that use undocumented languages live in remote areas of the globe, which have not been extensively explored over the years, and which we therefore still know little about. These include places within Alaska, South America, India and the South Pacific, for example.

You may be forgiven for thinking that with access to remote areas much easier these days, the language and culture of these peoples might be easier to pass on than previously, but in fact the opposite seems to be true. As outside influences creep in to traditionally closed cultural peoples, and globalisation takes hold, they are being forced to learn global languages to be able to live in and communicate with the modern world. If it’s easier and more useful to learn the likes of English or Spanish, it’s natural that the usage of traditional, local languages will suffer.

The article on the Wall Street Journal website refers to a book compiled by K David Harrison and his team of linguists who traveled around the world to interview the few remaining speakers of languages all over the world.  Read the full article for details of places visited, and for a video to accompany the piece.

German-speaking cities top the list for Quality of Life in 2010

Traditionally, it has been France, Spain and Italy that have lured people in search of a better climate and more relaxed lifestyle, but it seems that times may be changing. Whereas once it was affordable living, fine food and sunny climates at the top of the wish list, perhaps in these uncertain financial times there are new priorities emerging.

Germany, Austria and Switzerland all enjoy a reputation as financially stable countries with solid infrastructures and good quality public services. Whilst this may be an initial attraction for many, anyone who decides to relocate there will soon realise how many other fantastic things these countries have to offer too.

The four cities listed in the top 20 were Munich (number 1), Zurich (number 3), Vienna (number 8) and Berlin (number 11). The judging was based on factors such as restaurants, green space per head of population, response time for emergency services, local entertainment, and how easy it is to start a local business, but there are countless other things that make these cities, in fact countries, superb places to live.

Germans, Austrians and Swiss people are, in my experience, some of the friendliest and most open people that you can meet within Europe. They are traditional and progressive in perfect measure, and, just as their Mediterranean counterparts, enjoy the finer things in life and make sure that ample time is dedicated to doing them.

One thing that may surprise anyone new to the cultures, is that they have a very healthy attitude towards work that encourages a good work-life balance, and lots of time for family and friends too. In fact, in Germany certainly, working longer hours than you’re contracted for is strongly discouraged – it’s not ingrained in the business culture, as is the case in so many other countries.

Another misconception is that everyone in these three countries speaks English. Of course, there are plenty who do, and generally this will be to a very high level, but it shouldn’t be assumed. If you are thinking of relocating to Germany, Austria or Switzerland you’d be well advised to learn at least some of the language to ensure that you can find work, make friends and integrate into the local community.

German courses are available in a range of lengths and formats, and at a variety of prices. Options include tailor-made, individual or small-group courses, part-time evening courses and general or intensive language programmes in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

Is Spanish the new French?

Over the last few years Spanish has certainly overtaken German in the popularity stakes when it comes to GCSE and A Level learning, but French has always remained constant in its take-up. Could this be changing, though?

French, in particular, has long featured in the curriculum of most secondary schools, and even some primary ones. Whilst learning the language has always enabled people to live and work with French people, the reasons for teaching it in decades gone by were arguably less professionally-orientated than today. Being able to speak French always had a certain amount of prestige attached to it, which is perhaps historically why it was taught. In addition, with foreign travel more limited, France, our closest continental neighbour, was a popular holiday destination and people were encouraged to learn the basics to get by.

In the globalised world of today, it’s much easier to live and work abroad, and there are far more large, international companies with a need for foreign language speakers. Whilst French still plays an important role on the world stage, possibly the most useful language on a global scale is Spanish. Spanish gives you access not only to Spain, but also to the scores of countries on the South American continent that have Spanish as a first language.

French, and German for that matter, are fantastic languages that will hopefully continue to be taught in schools, even if just for the close historical links that France and Germany have to Britain. Learning a language gives you a great insight into the culture of the people who speak it, which shouldn’t be overlooked.

Given the number of Spanish speakers in the world, and the emergence of Latin America on the global commercial stage, is it right that students should be encouraged to learn Spanish as a first option?

Please leave us your comments below!

Read the BBC’s full article on A Level take-up by subject

Cactus offers evening language courses in the UK and the US, language courses abroad, and tailor-made language training

UK language schools win High Court battle over visa restrictions

The new restrictions had been drawn up by the former Labour government, who thought that illegal immigrants and migrants seeking low-skilled work were abusing the system. 

The feeling amongst language schools and many other organisations however, was that it’s nonsensical to require students to know English before they come here expressly to study it.

The case was brought by English UK, a body that represents 440 language schools, whose main argument was that the Home Office should have brought the issue back to Parliament for proper debate.

Mr Justice Foskett said the fresh restrictions had been ‘achieved through altering guidelines when there should have been a formal change to the rules‘, with the matter referred back to Parliament.

Chief Executive of English UK Tony Millns said: “I am delighted and relieved.”

“We are pleased that Mr Justice Foskett saw the merits of our case and we believe that his decision is good for the UK economy, to which the English language sector contributes about £1.5 billion in foreign earnings each year.”

He said he hoped common sense would now prevail so that students could come into the UK to study English with a lower level in the language.

The current government says it is reviewing English language requirements across the visa system, and that it is committed to undertaking a review into the Student Tier of the Points Based System later in 2010 to ensure that all students coming to the UK are genuine.

Read the full story on the Guardian website

Visit the Cactus Language website for full listings of English courses in the UK

Cactus nominated for an LTM Star Award

The LTM Star Awards are unique, peer-voted awards in the international education industry that take place annually.  Education organisations vote for their preferred agent partners and vice versa, with the winners revealed in a glitzy ceremony in London every September.

This year, a record number of votes were cast, indicating that all those shortlisted are well thought of by their school partners. We pride ourselves on our high levels of customer service, and the great partnerships that we maintain with our partner schools not just in Western Europe, but all over the world. For this reason, it means a lot to us to be shortlisted again, and we are very hopeful that we’ll win the award.

The winners will be announced at the Language Travel Magazine Star Awards ceremony on 4th September 2010. Please wish us luck – we’ll keep you posted!

Find out more about Cactus’ language course locations around the world