Cactus Portuguese Teacher Book Success

Cactus has always been proud of the teachers who work for us, as they are all carefully selected for their skills, experience and personality.

Tres historias diferentes para aprender portugues - Ian Costabile - Cactus Portuguese teacher

This month we are delighted that our Brazilian Portuguese teacher Ian Costabile, based in Liverpool, has published an excellent book to help students learn Portuguese.

Três Histórias Diferentes para Aprender Português, or ‘Three Different Stories to Learn Portuguese’, is a collection of three stories cleverly designed to help Portuguese language students learn new vocabulary and sentence construction.

For anyone learning Portuguese – either Brazilian Portuguese or European Portuguese – this book uses different vocabulary, tenses, verbs and sentence structures in each of the three stories to maintain interest and cater to different abilities and interests. Above all, the stories are fun, making language learning fun!

Find out more about Ian’s book on his blog Português Azul – where you will also find plenty more inspiration and tips for learning Portuguese.

Cactus Portuguese Teacher

Ian moved from Brazil to the UK in 2009 and it was then that he started to teach Portuguese. A keen musician, he found that many of the people he performed to were interested in the Brazilian language and culture. Members of a local capoeira (Brazilian martial arts) group also came to him for Portuguese lessons. Since then, Ian has qualified as an interpreter and now teaches Portuguese at GCSE and A Level in an Academy in Liverpool.

It was in 2014 that Ian became a Cactus Portuguese teacher on our Portuguese evening courses in Liverpool. When asked how he found working for Cactus, Ian replied, “I find teaching for Cactus a great experience. It’s a very organised and competent company. All the groups of students that I taught through Cactus so far were very committed to learning and enjoyed every single lesson. Through Cactus I have met people from different backgrounds who showed a huge interest in Brazil, Portugal and Mozambique. I also became friends with other Cactus teachers and staff.”

We wish Ian the best of luck with his book! Anyone wishing to purchase his book can do so on Amazon.

If you have a language learning or language teaching query that you can’t find the answer to, please get in contact with us either by Facebook or by Twitter, or contact us here.



School trips abroad: make language learning real

School trips abroad allow students to see the useful of the language they are learning for themselves.

If there is one subject that gets a hard time in the UK, it’s modern languages. As the world becomes better at English, and British students opt for other subjects that are portrayed as more useful and appealing, once popular subjects such as French, Spanish and German are in worrying decline. Yet if there is one subject that equips students for the future, preparing them for life on the global platform and increasing their employability and earning potential, it’s – yes – languages.

With the country “producing too few young professionals with good language skills to meet the country’s needs” (Language Survey Trends 2013/2014 – British Council), the real and pressing issue today is to encourage more of our younger learners to embrace languages. Comparing Britain’s struggle to equip students with a basic level in one foreign language to the European Commission’s impressive achievement of 61% of secondary school pupils across Europe studying two foreign languages (forecast to increase to 75% by 2020) shows there is clear potential to improve second language ability in the UK.

The situation at secondary education level obviously has an impact on language learning in higher education: in 2014, not one language featured in the top 10 courses studied at university. Instead, subjects related to medicine, business studies and the fashionable creative arts hold far greater appeal to the students of today.

So what can we do to reignite the interest in second languages?

As experts in modern languages and empowered with the task of educating the next generation, we have the responsibility to show our younger learners the true value of learning a foreign language and how it can change their lives.

segovia_childrenOne way to do this is to make language learning real. If we can take foreign language students out of the classroom and transport them to a country where the language is spoken – encouraging them to soak up the culture, explore the history and indulge in the food – it can make all the difference to their linguistic and all-round education. Indeed, in its report titled ‘Learning outside the classroom’, Ofsted identified that primary and secondary schools who take learning outside the classroom “make subjects more vivid and interesting for pupils and enhance their understanding”.

In the case of learning a language, the benefits are manifold. Speaking the language in a real-life situation is the quickest way for any student to improve their spoken language, even if (and especially if) mistakes are made. From ordering a Fanta Limón in a café to telling your host family about your family back home, being abroad gives the impetus, need and desire to speak the target language. It’s no longer role play in class back home: these conversations have a purpose and generate a real sense of achievement.

The same Ofsted report alludes to further advantages, stating that learning outside the classroom “can also contribute significantly to pupils’ personal social and emotional development”. 

And this is arguably as important as any linguistic growth. Giving young people the chance to spend time in another country, learning about another culture and customs, is giving them the gift of global knowledge. They are likely to become tolerant citizens and more accepting of other cultures in their future social and professional lives. They will also learn more about themselves, and in rising to new challenges they will gain confidence that can be transferred to many aspects of life and learning.

seville_clic_courtyardA high quality language study trip will include language lessons geared to your students’ level at a local language school, to give them a solid foundation in the language, and allow them to spend the afternoons enjoying fun social, sporting and cultural activities. Safe and comfortable accommodation with carefully selected host families provides a relaxed environment in which to further practise the language and experience the culture first-hand. If your students are preparing for their GCSE Spanish or A Level German, for example, a language trip abroad will help them to progress their skills at a criticial time in their development.

The overall result is that school trips can lay strong foundations for building a positive attitude during the highly impressionable teenage years; this in turn leads to positive aspirations, enhanced relationships (with teachers, parents, the community) and improved well-being. Increased career prospects down the line are an added and significant bonus.

Learning languages through inspiring trips abroad is more relevant and necessary for our students than ever before – and the good news is, it’s easy to make this happen. Seek out a good language training company and they will be able to design a bespoke trip to match your group’s age, level and interests; organise a familiarisation trip; and visit your school to chat to teachers and parents in advance of the trip.

Let’s get our teenagers speaking more languages, both inside and outside the classroom!

happy positive teenagersCactus is a leading provider of language courses and specialises in arranging high quality language trips for school groups abroad. Language tuition, comfortable accommodation, stimulating activities and safety are at the heart of every trip we organise, and every trip is tailored to the needs of the group.

We regularly visit schools to talk to teachers, parents and students about the benefits and logistics of school group travel.

10 great reasons to kick-start the year with an evening language course

Whether you’re determined to start the new year with a ‘new you’, need to prepare for a holiday overseas or want to improve your job prospects, now is the ideal time to take a language course!

1. Cactus is welcoming in 2015 with fun, engaging language courses in London and cities across the UK. We offer the five mainstream languages of French, Spanish, Italian, German and Brazilian Portuguese in most centres, plus rarer languages in our main centres. New evening courses start w/c 19th January 2015.

2. Learning a language is an excellent resolution as it will give you a skill that will last way longer than the average resolution – and one that might come in handy on holiday later this year!


3. If you’ve had a hectic festive season, then it’s proven that giving your brain a workout is the perfect way to de-stress. Learning a language stimulates your mind, stretches your imagination and, ultimately, helps your brain to relax…in fact it is more effective at reducing stress than opening a bar of chocolate.


4. If you’ve decided to de-tox in January then going to an evening language class – and doing homework in the week, if you’re diligent – will take your mind off the pub (that is, until your last night when you’ll probably all end up in the local tapas bar – but by then it will be March and it won’t matter!).

couple and bar sign

5. You can be sure of a consistent teaching framework that falls in line with other internationally-recognised language level systems – meaning that what you learn on our courses will be easily recognised outside of Cactus. Unlike many other providers, with Cactus you also receive a certificate of attendance on completion of your course.


6. When times are tight employers will be looking for that little extra in job applicants. Knowledge of a foreign language is an asset in itself, but it also shows initiative and an appreciation of other cultures, which is valuable in today’s global society.


7. Language learning makes you clever! If you feel like you need a kick-start after the Christmas break, learning a language will boost cognitive development in areas such as mental flexibility, creativity, problem-solving and reasoning.


8. 2015 promises a stellar list of foreign language film nominations in the upcoming Oscars, and there’s no better way to appreciate these films than with an understanding of the language and culture. Watch out for Ida (Poland), Mommy (Canada), Leviathan (Russian), Winter Sleep (Turkey), Wild Tales (Argentina) and Saint Laurent (France).


9. With a reduced number of children learning a language at school, let’s lead by example and show that learning a language is a passport to other cultures and a huge asset when you travel. Don’t forget we have new after-school language courses for kids aged 7-15 in London starting in January too!


10. Let’s face it, January can be a bit depressing. The excitement of Christmas is over, the days are still short and the weather can be miserable. If there was ever a time to take an evening course it’s now. Having a goal such as learning a language will make the weeks pass quickly and make you feel that you’re using the dark evenings productively!


Cactus runs adult evening language courses and junior afternoon language courses in schools across London and in cities nationwide. Courses are available at many levels and on regular start dates throughout the year, starting in January.

Cactus Gift Vouchers – The Perfect Present

Stuck for present ideas? For a gift that’s original, lasting and memorable, Cactus gift vouchers are the answer – and it’s perfect for a male or female of any age!

You can purchase gift vouchers for family and friends for use towards any Cactus product, such as an evening language course, a language holiday overseas, a TEFL course or private tuition.

Cactus gift vouchers are valid for one year from the date of issue and you will be sent a receipt along with an e-voucher (PDF). You may also request a paper voucher by post. Please let us know if your voucher is a surprise gift and we’ll send the confirmation to you rather than the lucky recipient! You can order your Cactus gift vouchers online, along with a personalised message card which will be delivered by email to the recipient of your gift. These gift vouchers are an original present for anyone who loves to travel and learn more about new cultures and new places.


Alternatively, call us on 01273 830 960 and we will process your order over the phone.

Learning a language is a gift that will last a lifetime; it inspires, boosts confidence and above all feels good.


Exam revision courses at Easter: the best way to prepare

For some students, the upcoming Easter holiday is the last break before their GCSE and A-Level examinations. Those wanting to consolidate their language skills and gain real confidence in the language might want to consider an exam revision course abroad.

GCSE and A-Level revision courses are available both in France and Spain, and offer a unique opportunity to study the language and prepare for the exam whilst mixing with others of the same age and enjoying the local culture too. There’s nothing like being surrounded by the language to tune your ear and practise speaking it when out and about; even simple activities like ordering a drink, going to the cinema or taking part in social events organised by the school provide a valuable chance to practise the language outside class, in a fun environment, with others of the same age.

Whether you need a little boost before the final hurdle or simply want to make sure you’re on top form when exam time comes, these exam revision courses will make sure you’re as ready as can be and, in many cases, ensure better results! 


Course: French GCSE revision course in Chambery

Start dates: 11th & 18th April 2011

Includes: 16 lessons of general French + 6 lessons of specific GCSE preparation

Course: French A Level revision course in Chambery

Start dates: 11th & 18th April 2011

Includes: 16 lessons of general French + 6 lessons of specific A-Level preparation

Course: French A Level revision course in Bordeaux

Start date: 28th March 2011

Includes: 24 French lessons + 3 cultural activities

Course: French A-Level revision course in Montpellier

Start date: 11th April 2011

Includes: 26 French lessons per week


Course: Spanish A-Level revision course in Madrid (Premium School))

Start date: any Monday

Includes: 30 Spanish lessons

Course: Spanish A-Level revision course in Madrid (Premium School)

Start date: any Monday

Includes: 25 Spanish lessons

Course: Spanish A-Level revision course in Madrid (Premium School)

Start date: any Monday

Includes: 20 Spanish lessons

Course: Spanish A-Level revision course in Madrid (Premium School)

Start date: any Monday

Includes: 15 Spanish lessons

All that remains to say is good luck – or bonne chance / ¡buena suerte! – in your exams this summer.

Cactus offers language courses in over 30 languages, in 60 countries and 500 destinations worldwide, including specialist courses such as exam preparation, academic year, language & activity and volunteering programmes.

German evening course: a first-hand account

At long last, after a long wait, I got to do my first German class. After years of picking up German from friends, family and students, I finally took the plunge to immerse myself in a class.

First class – typical – I arrived a little late for the first lesson, only because I happen to work for the place and could see they needed help at the entrance as there were so many students coming for their different language courses! In class we got down to doing what turned out to be the standard structure. The first part speaking only German – getting to know the other students and introducing ourselves – and then various exercises to sort out the more able from the less, like irregular verbs, listening practice, and so on, and then finishing up with structured conversation development. And it really sorted out the good from the bad – and was I relieved I got through!

First homework: learn 5 irregular verbs and prepare for a role play for next week (buying tickets for travel). It was really good to see it, because it really helped us focus in on what we were to do next week and prepare ahead for it. None of us wanted to feel left behind … The following weeks’ homework was on the same vein, though being different topics was really useful and helped immensely in the classes.

For the following classes we settled into a routine with variations on themes. Always 15 to 20 minutes with each person talking – in German – about what they had done over the week (others asking questions also), then some grammar points, irregular verbs, and so on, followed up by one person each week giving a semi-prepared presentation on a subject like your most memorable holiday. And there were some really interesting tales. The German family reunion, the tour of Aztec-Mayan Mexico, the 5 month beach holiday in Sardinia, camping with Druids at the White Horse…where else could you do this but in a German class?

Unfortunately, not everyone could come every week – I had to miss one week when I went to London on business. However, I found it very easy to catch up. The students were all of somewhat different levels, from one who found it difficult to put two words together to one who spoke almost without thinking, but we all felt included and Regina kept us all together and involved, overtly making sure that noone felt held back either because they were too low or too high.

After the last class we went off to a pub and had a drink to wind down – we all had our homework for the next course next term, we all exchanged email addresses – and are all secretly reading up as much as possible to impress each other (the teacher’s not important – it’s the other students you have to worry about!).

Rod learnt German on a 10-week evening course in Brighton. Cactus runs daytime and evening courses in German and other languages in Brighton, London and other cities across the UK.

Those wanting to practise their new language skills abroad can take a German course in Germany, Switzerland or Austria. Available from one week upwards and at all ages and levels, these courses are the perfect way to really immerse yourself in the language and culture!