The Language Show Live & The Expat Show – Autumn 2015

Whether you want to learn a language for relocation, work, love or brain power, come and talk to Cactus at two fantastic shows this year – and make the most of our special show offers and spectacular course giveaways!

1. The Expat Show


11th-12th September 2015 – Olympia, London

Moving abroad is a big decision, especially if you are moving to a country where a different language is spoken. Cactus can help you make the process smooth and enjoyable by designing a bespoke language course to suit you and your family – be it through lessons before you go (evening language course or private tuition) or once you are in your new location (language course at a local school or private tuition). Speaking the language will help you integrate into the local community and feel at home much more quickly; it will also help you to make friends, give you confidence and make daily routine much easier.

Visit us on Stand A12 in the Relocation & Lifestyle Centre for a FREE language needs analysis and to claim your £50 voucher to put towards any language course! We will talk you through the best language learning solution for you and make sure you are fully prepared to follow your dream. You can also enter a competition to WIN one of 11 free language courses abroad!

2. Language Show LIVE


16th-18th October 2015 – Olympia, London

For anyone with any language interest, the Language Show is a brilliant source of inspiration, ideas, advice and offers – all of which will be brought to you by Cactus this year! We are passionate about languages and we would love to speak to you about your language learning goals – whether you are a teacher looking to go away with a school group, a parent, a student or someone who just loves languages. With our range of school group trips, evening language courses in the UK, language courses abroad and TEFL courses worldwide, we really do have something for everyone and are always happy to advise on the best language course for you.

Visit us on Stand 532 to enter a competition to WIN one of 11 free language courses abroad, or a free evening course in the UK!

And come along to our FREE language taster classes – a fun-packed half-hour session for beginners, available on a first-come, first-served basis. A great opportunity to try something new!

  • Friday 16 October            12:45 – 13:15      Dutch
  • Friday 16 October            16:30 – 17:00     Norwegian
  • Saturday 17 October       16:30 – 17:00      Hindi
  • Sunday 18 October          12:00 – 12:30     Portuguese
  • Sunday 18 October          15:45 – 16:15     German

We look forward to seeing you and, if you are signed up to receive our newsletters, we’ll drop you a friendly email nearer the time with full details of our special show offers.

See you there!

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.


Top 10 Christmas gifts for language & travel enthusiasts

If you’re buying Christmas gifts for anyone interested in travel and/or foreign languages, here are some ideas to help in your quest for the perfect present!

1. A language course

A language course makes a useful and highly original present for any friend/relative/partner who is interested in learning or brushing up a foreign language, or who has got their sights set on foreign travel in the new year. There are hundreds of languages to choose from, and lots of ways to learn – evening courses in the UK or US, general, intensive and activity-related courses abroad, or even tailor-made tuition. If you’d prefer to leave the choice of language and location to your loved one, Cactus gift vouchers are available to buy. Give us a call on 0845 1304775 (UK local rate) or 1-888-577-8451 (US toll-free) for more information.

2. Lonely Planet’s ‘Best in Travel 2014’

A great book for any keen traveller, this guide presents the best destinations, journeys and experiences for the upcoming year. Full of inspiration and the perfect antidote to any winter blues!

3. French lessons combined with cookery classes

Anyone who has visited foreign shores will have tasted new and exciting flavours. Present your partner or flatmate with the opportunity to learn French in Aix-en-Provence and study the art of cookery at the same time! The lucky recipient will learn about Provence’s delicious cuisine, including cheeses, pastries and wines, take cooking classes and visit both an olive oil mill and a local vineyard. Bon appétit!

4. Contribution to air travel

If you know someone with impending travel plans, why not help them out with the cost of their flight or even buy the flight for them? This is one present sure to provide memories of a lifetime.

5. A pocket translator

Anyone who is travelling to countries where foreign languages are spoken could find a pocket translator very useful in a whole range of situations…

6. An iTunes voucher for downloading language learning tools for your iPad/iPhone

If free time is in short supply, a flexible and convenient way to learn a language is to download learning materials on to your iPod or Phone. With iTunes vouchers, your friend or relative can download as much material as they like.

7. A travel journal

Lots of people like to write a journal whilst they travel, and it’s a great way to ensure that once-in-a-lifetime experiences abroad are never forgotten. A nicely bound journal to write in will make a great present for anyone about to embark on world travels.

8. A charity donation in their name

Donating money to a charity is something that a lot of people would like to do, but is not something that everyone can feasibly afford. Making a donation on their behalf therefore might make a fantastic present. Donations to charities such as World Vision and UNICEF can be made via the Donation4Charity website.

9. A dictionary/book of verb tables

They may not be as exciting as downloadable podcasts and other online resources, but dictionaries and verb tables are an essential tool for anyone hoping to learn a language.

10. A TEFL course

Gaining a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) qualification is a great idea for anyone wanting to get out there and see the world. Teaching opportunities exist worldwide, and working in this type of capacity means that you can truly experience the culture of the country in which you are teaching. If this is something that your friend/partner/relative is interested in, why not book them on an introductory TEFL course?

Time flies in Morocco which clashes with the idea that Moroccan people take things easy………….

Four and a half weeks ago I travelled to Rabat, Morocco for my third time in the last two years. It does feel as if I have just stepped off the plane and I can not believe four and a half weeks have already past. It does feel as if I never left Morocco and I am not sure if that is due to Morocco being so close to the Canary Islands, where I am from, my passion for the Arabic language or a little bit of everything, but I feel so at home here. 

I guess it is normal to feel as if time flies by when you are enjoying every minute of what you are doing: learning a language.

We all know the best way to learn a language is in the country where it is spoken. That is why we encourage language students to take their courses abroad. The pace at which you learn is incomparable and what you experience – the direct contact with the local people and language – is priceless.

To increase my Arabic vocabulary and improve my grammar in Fusha (or al-fuṣḥā الفصحى), also known as Modern Standard Arabic, I have two hours a day of language tuition. My classes do not end there, they continue with everything I do. If I go shopping, I have to practise Arabic, if I take a taxi, I have to practise Arabic, if I go for a walk, I hear Arabic, if I turn on the radio, then I hear Arabic. The Arabic language I learnt in England and the Arabic I learn here in the classroom is very different to the Arabic I hear on the streets of Rabat. What I hear on the streets is called Darija and it´s the dialect spoken in Morocco, an amazing combination of languages (Fusha, French, Spanish, Berber).

A friend described Darija (الدارجة‎) as the Arabic for everyday tasks here in Morocco, but if you need to become more serious you will need to speak in either French or Fusha which is the modern standard Arabic, “like the BBC’s English”. So that’s what I’m trying to do, learn words and phrases to communicate with people in everyday life situations.

So it is like I am learning another language, Darija (الدارجة‎), from the beginning while continuing to learn Fusha in the classroom.

I can already greet people in Darija, introduce myself and go to the souq to buy fruit and vegetables which I think is not too bad…

Every time I speak with the local people or exchange conversation in either Darija or Fusha it brings me great joy and motivates me to continue learning the fascinating language of Arabic.

Another thing that really makes me want to continue with my learning adventure is the look of fascination on the local people’s faces when they hear me speaking Arabic. Many Moroccans can’t believe that I want to learn their language and I am interested in their culture!

Many Moroccan people speak at least 2 or 3 languages (Fusha, Darija, French, Berber) and they learn other languages impressively quickly. You just need to go for a walk to Jamaa el Fna Square (ساحة جامع الفناء) in Marrakech, to get a taste for how many languages are spoken in Morocco.

I am really looking forward to learning more about Morocco, the culture, the customs and the Arabic language so I can communicate more with the local people.

No rush though, I have plenty of time………………

Cactus Language Training offers a variety of Arabic language courses in the UK, US, Rabat and Morocco.

10 great contemporary French films to watch

The following films, all successful on the international stage, showcase some of France’s best known actors and directors of this era. Included amongst them are Vincent Cassel, Marion Cotillard, Audrey Tatou, Mathieu Amalric and even British actress Kristin Scott-Thomas. All are well worth a watch and will really help your pronunciation, your vocabulary and, of course, your listening skills.

1. La Haine

Released in 1995, this globally acclaimed film depicts the racial tensions and riots that occurred in many Parisien ‘banlieues’ around this time. Shot in black and white, La Haine follows the movements of three young men over a period of twenty-four hours. All three, of different ethnic origins, have grown up in these French suburbs and have experienced the clashes with police first-hand. One of the group, Vinz (payed by Vincent Cassel), comes into possession of a missing police firearm and vows to use it and get the respect he ‘deserves’…

2. Amélie (originally Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain)

Released in 2001, Amélie is a unique, upbeat film that launched the international film career of actress Audrey Tatou and was nominated for five Oscars. Amélie is a fantastical story about a girl of the same name who missed out on a normal childhood due to her father’s mistaken concern that she had a heart defect. As a result, Amélie was starved of any real life social contact and retreated to her own make-believe world with dreams of love and beauty. Later, when Amelie moves to Paris, she decides to help those ill-fated lovers around her and along the way, falls into a love story of her own…

3. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

‘Le Scaphandre et le Papillion’ as it’s called in French was released in 2007 and soon became a global hit. It was based on the amazing book by Jean- Dominique Bauby (former editor-in-chief of Elle magazine), who, out of the blue, fell victim to ‘locked in syndrome’, which brings about almost total paralysis of the body. Despite being unable to speak or move, Jean- Dominique succeeded in painstakingly committing his story to paper using only blinking movements, a specially devised alphabet, and the aid of a companion to transcribe. Despite its theme, the film is very funny in parts, and although a very sad and moving story, it serves as a great reminder for how easy it is to take life for granted.

4. La Vie en Rose

Another film from 2007 is the fantastic ‘La Vie en Rose’, a biography of adored French singer Edith Piaf. It’s renowned French actress Marion Cotillard who plays Piaf in the film, and in fact it was this role for which she won an Oscar – it was the first time the award had been given for a French language role. Gerard Depardieu also stars in the film, which spans the whole of Piaf’s life, from her humble beginnings in the slums of Paris to the international success but personal tragedies that she experienced prior to her death in 1963.

5. Il y a Longtemps Que Je T’aime

‘I’ve loved you so long’ as it translates in English was released in 2008 and won a BAFTA for ‘best film not in the English language’. It was also nominated for scores of other awards, including a Golden Globe and a Critics Choice Award. In the lead role is fluent French speaker Kristin Scott Thomas, who plays a woman reunited with her sister after a 15-year jail term. The film explores family relationships and social stigmas, but there is more to the story than we are first led to believe…

6. Entre les Murs (The Class)

This Paris-set film was also released in 2008. It is based on an autobiographical novel by François Bégaudeau and is another film that explores life in the Parisien banlieues. This time, the story follows the lives of a class of school children as they approach their final years at school, and the teachers who attempt to educate and inspire in a tough inner city environment that does the opposite.

7. Coco Before Chanel

Another fantastic biopic of a French icon is Coco Before Chanel, a film released in 2009 that tells the life story of world-famous fashion designer Coco Chanel. In the lead role once again is Audrey Tatou, who superbly depicts Coco’s rise from poor, provincial seamstress and performer to the personification of Parisien chic that she became.

8. Un Prophète

‘A prophet’ as it translates in English, is a hard-hitting film about a young Arab man who is sent to a French prison. Although an unwilling subject initially, he soon finds himself tasked by the Corsican mafia who rule the roost, and works his way up the ranks to become prison ’kingpin’. Released in 2009, it received critical acclaim on a global level and was nominated in the following year for best foreign language film at the Oscars.

9. Gainsbourg

Released in 2010, this is the story of French singer/songwriter Serge Gainsbourg. The film spans his eventful life, from his formative years in 1940 occupied Paris to his success as a song-writer in the 1960s and the complicated relationships that came alongside it.

10. Mésrine

Another film starring Vincent Cassel is Mésrine, the story of notorious French gangster of the 60s and 70s, Jacques Mésrine. Infamous for his bravado and numerous prison escapes, he carried out numerous robberies and murders in a criminal career that spanned continents until he was shot dead in 1979 by France’s equally as notorious anti-gang unit. Completed in 2008, the film was made in two parts, and although lengthy is well worth a watch.

Cactus Language offer French courses in the UK, New York, France 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.

Winner of the Cactus 2011, Suzanne Furstner Foundation Scholarship, talks about her CELTA course.

Suzanne Furstner Scholarship 2011 – Winner’s Review

It was a Friday evening when I was sitting in the library with some of my colleagues, after having worked non-stop all week. We were researching for an assignment, furiously reading and taking notes, when from behind a tall stack of books a voice calmly stated that at that moment, the rest of the world was probably enjoying a cold beer and some well-deserved R & R. We barely entertained the idea, concluding that whilst it was attractive we had our work cut out for us, and so we dropped our eyes back to the books, saving our cervesas for another day. Such is the life of a CELTA trainee.

barcelonaIn February 2012, I attended the Cambridge CELTA course at International House Barcelona, one of the most reputable teacher training centres in the world. Made possible by the generosity of Cactus TEFL’s Suzanne Furstner Scholarship, the course was a rich and rewarding experience for me. Four-weeks of full-time training was made up of input sessions (a sort-of mix of workshops and lectures) and teaching practice, with the evening hours dedicated to lesson planning and completing written assignments. I received continuous support and direction from the course tutors, each of whom brought to the training room their years of teaching experience.

My class of 18 CELTA candidates was made up of individuals from the UK, the EU, the USA and Ireland, with me, the Australian, being the furthest from home. Some of my classmates were preparing to enter the workforce for the first time, whilst others were looking for a change in career and lifestyle. The training room was a fun learning environment from Day One, when an ongoing impromptu comedy routine was birthed due to an unusually high number of witty personalities in our group.

My expectations of the course had been set-up by a friend in London who had earlier completed his CELTA, and whose forewarning of long days and an intense transformation period proved to be true. I had experienced teaching English for a short stint before the course and was acutely aware of my need for quality training. I found the CELTA methodology to be both stretching and awakening, and unlike other candidates without prior experience I had to unlearn a few bad habits and replace them with ‘new and improved’ techniques.

An example of an area of learning for me was with regards to developing flexibility in the role of teacher. I devoted a lot of time to preparing my lessons, and sometimes the lessons didn’t go according to plan, either because of an aspect I had overlooked in my planning or because of a class dynamic which effected a change in direction. This experience taught me to ‘let go’ a bit as a teacher, to be guided by the students and to allow and encourage organic developments to occur. It taught me that being prepared for a lesson is equally as important as being ready to respond to its natural flow and momentum.

At the completion of the course, our group enjoyed dinner together at a restaurant to celebrate our success and hard work. A few of my classmates shared how they questioned if teaching English was the job for them, because in a course of such intensity you really have to work relentlessly from woe to go. However to live the CELTA as your every day life would be impossible; it’s an intensive training period crammed with all the content and practice you need to start working. The course is challenging but the end result is worthwhile; teaching is a rewarding and fun job that helps others, and having a CELTA opens up doors to employment in many countries around the world. As for me, I came to Barcelona exclusively to attain the CELTA, and five months later, I’m still here, nurturing my love of coffee and drinking in the beauty of this city. And when I’m not riding my bike or trying to improve my Spanish, I’m in the classroom, teaching English.

Cactus TEFL is an admissions and advice service for quality teacher training courses worldwide. Cactus works with well-known course providers to offer CELTA, TESOL, equivalent and online courses in over 90 locations across 36 countries. Cactus TEFL also offers free post-course careers advice and support, as well as access to our very own TEFL jobs board and job alerts. The next Suzanne Furstner Scholarship will be in 2016.


Show some love this Valentine’s Day with our special date and gift ideas

Why not treat your Valentine to an experience they won’t forget this February?  Instead of the usual clichéd hearts and flowers, surprise your loved one with Cactus lessons in the language of love!

For all Francophiles, Cactus is offering special “French Tuesdays” in partnership with Cafe Rouge.  It’s a chance to learn the basics or brush-up old skills, while enjoying delicious contemporary French cuisine.  The sessions are available every Tuesday from 6.30pm-8.30pm at locations in Hampstead, Knightsbridge, Leicester Square, Wimbledon and Brighton, until 21 February 2012.  To book your place, simply visit

Or Cactus’ language gift vouchers make the perfect gift for all language lovers.  Available in multiples of £10, they can be redeemed against any Cactus products.  So if you want to whisk away your partner to romantic Rome for a language holiday to learn Italian, or simply fancy learning together with one of our many evening courses, there’s sure to be an option to spark your passion.  Visit

Learning Turkish in London - why I decided to take a course

Although Hilary began her first Turkish course with us in April 2010, she has long had an interest in Turkey and the Turkish culture and had been searching for an intermediate-level Turkish course in London for some time, to no avail. It was whilst Hilary was taking a French course at our Piccadilly school in London that she discovered that we offer exactly the Turkish course that she was looking for! Since then she has continued to learn with us and has just begun a level 6 Turkish course.

Hilary’s interest in Turkey first began in the 1980s, when London saw a large influx of Turkish people. Her work for a local authority meant that she began working with some of the Turkish people who were new to London, and she started to develop a real interest in the Turkish language and the culture. Her fascination inspired her both to study for a GCSE in the language, and to begin making regular trips to Turkey. Such was her love of the country and the people, that for a period of eight years she spent half of the year in Turkey and half in Britain!

The many years that she spent going back and forth from Turkey have given her a really good grasp of the language, but now that she is back in the UK full time and working with many Turkish families in her role as an educational psychologist, she feels that she needs to continue to improve her proficiency. Currently, there are very few Turkish speaking psychologists in private practice, and with such a large number of Turkish families in London, she is likely to be in huge demand. For her, it’s essential that she has an in-depth understanding of the Turkish culture, particularly in relation to family life, and she thinks that it would be hugely beneficial to be able to work without the requirement of an interpreter, which, conversely, can sometimes impede communication.

Hilary is really enjoying her learning, and hopes to take the level 7 course with Cactus next year if possible. Turkish is a fascinating language, which although very different to European languages like French and Spanish, is not necessarily more difficult, she feels. For a start, she says that it’s quite easy to read Turkish once you have learnt the few letters that are different to the British alphabet, and the pronunciation can also be less tricky.

That said, Turkish is an agglutinative language, which means that you quite often have words that are six, even seven syllables long. These can be a little bit tricky to get used to, so you shouldn’t be surprised if your Turkish friends end up finishing your words off for you! As Hilary will confirm though, Turkish people are hugely friendly and welcoming and will delight in teaching you about their language and culture, which, relatively speaking, is still learned by so few internationally.

Life after the CELTA - an update from our 2010 Suzanne Furstner Foundation Scholarship winner

It’s been a hectic summer, after finishing work in Italy in July, I travelled to Girona, Catalonia with the intention of helping a friend out with a summer course – however things didn’t go as planned, so I was in Girona with some time to kill, ten days to be exact, and time to consider my options for the Autumn.

After contacting a few school’s in Catalonia and northern Spain I decided to try my luck elsewhere, eventually finding work in Lisbon. I’ve been here for just over two months now, and with the sun glaring through the window behind me and bouncing off my screen, in what is the end of November, I can’t help but think there are certainly less attractive locations to be earning a living.

The city itself is a charming one, not huge in terms of capital cities which helps it maintain a good level intimacy and provinciality while still being a functioning capital. Presently, I’m living in Santa Apolonia, part of the Moorish old quarter directly overlooking the Rio Tejo. First impressions and generalisations are facile as we all know and they are the only things I have to offer thus far; so I won’t bore you with insights that are probably redundant or will be by the time this blog is posted. However, as obvious as it may sound this is not Spain and natives share less in common with their Iberian neighbours than you might think, or at least than I thought.

The people and especially students are a lot more reserved and reticent than their Spanish or Italian counterparts – which admittedly, has taken some adjusting to. It’s cheap here though, for Europe especially. My stay in Lisbon isn’t for a full nine-month term, and will be over by Christmas. But in the meantime I’m living like a king, well, a grammatical, one wide-eyed, slightly Italian-missing, grass is always greener, earning an English wage in a european economic quagmire, Giginha sipping, king.

Cactus offers CELTA courses in destinations all around the world.For more information please visit