Language taster classes: try a lesson for free!

If you’re unsure whether language learning is for you, a language taster class is just what you need.

Cactus language taster classes are available in a variety of languages and locations across the country. Our next taster classes take place in September, prior to our October 2015 courses.

Why come to a taster class?

  • Taster classes are free, quick and fun!
  • They are a great opportunity to sample a 30-minute lesson before committing to a full 10-week evening course
  • You will meet like-minded people in a social environment
  • After your class you will have the chance to chat to Cactus about your language learning plans and dreams, and receive expert advice
  • Languages available include: Spanish, French, Italian, German, Portuguese, Arabic, Dutch, Japanese and Russian
  • Learning a language will boost your career, make holidays and travel more enjoyable and enable you to meet so many more people!

If you are interested in attending a taster class, please sign up here.

If you are unable to join us, please call us on 01273 830 960 and we will be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Check out for a full list of evening courses and fill in your details to be in with a chance to win a FREE evening course!


My week in Marrakech: learning Arabic in Morocco

Marrakech – the first city that comes to everyone’s mind when you think of Morocco. The red city as it’s also known, the noise, the busy and narrow streets, the souks where you cannot walk without being noticed, the lovely, chatty people, the smells of cinnamon, cumin and mint tea…

I had the chance to spend a whole week here, not only as a tourist, but as a student of Arabic. I have been learning Arabic for a little over a year now. I first started studying in England, through Arabic evening courses, once a week. These courses taught me the basics, to be able to understand basic conversations and to read and write Arabic.

I then decided to go to an Arabic-speaking country to improve my language skills and put them into practice with local people. To my surprise, people could understand me, better than I had anticipated, and I was able to have daily interactions with the locals.

I choose Morocco because I fell in love with the country and its people from the first time I visited. It’s in their nature to make you feel welcome and to make you want to stay there FOREVER.

The week in Marrakech and the Marrakech school exceeded my expectations completely. The staff was so nice and welcoming that I wish I could have stayed longer. The school is in a very nice area in the new part of the city – very easy to reach from the accommodation options they offer. I chose to stay in an apartment, but with hindsight I think the option of staying with a host family would have made my experience even better. Maybe next time – as there will definitely be a next time!

My teacher was always very well prepared for the lessons and the method he used was a very communicative. I have never before spoken so much during classes. His English was really good, but we mainly spoke in Arabic. The classrooms are equipped with screens and other interactive materials, used to introduce the topics. This made the lessons fun and effective. I much preferred it to following a book.

The 2 hours of lessons a day went so fast through learning new vocabulary, putting it into practice, playing games to practice, and creating my own texts with my own experiences. We also worked with short videos that were used as prompts for us to speak and use the language we were learning. The lessons were complemented with other activities such as Henna seminars and cooking classes, which are an amazing way of getting to know the culture during the course.

The progress made by going to the country where the language is spoken cannot be measured. It’s something absolutely necessary if you really want to make quick progress and it’s not only about the language, but also about immersing yourself in the culture and customs.

As a female travelling on my own in Morocco, I felt completely safe. It is true that men approach you and try to speak to you, as they can tell you are not local. It can happen quite a lot, to the point that it can get annoying. This happens especially in the tourist hot spots such as Marrakech, Fez, and Tangier. If you travel to cities like Rabat or go to the dessert, it is not so bad.

There is no reason to be scared though, this sort of behaviour is very common in the Mediterranean. In Morocco you have to add the fact that local women will not talk to men they don’t know on the streets, so they target foreign women.

If you are in the souks, most of the men just want you to buy their tea pots, spices, souvenirs, etc. To avoid being bothered, you just keep on walking and don’t respond, same as Moroccan women do.

On the other hand, the souks are a good place to practice Arabic, and when people see you speak the local language, you always get better prices! People are generally very nice and welcoming, and as long as you treat them with respect, you should have no problems at all. Just be aware and, as in any other place in the world, it’s always best to go exploring accompanied by other people, especially at night.

Follow in Lety’s footsteps and learn Arabic in Marrakech

How to Choose Your Study Abroad Program

When choosing to study abroad there are many things that go through your head – is it worth it? Will I really learn the language? Can I get enough course credit? All these questions and anxieties are completely normal and ultimately important to your decision making.

The first thing you should do if you are looking to study abroad outside of your home University program is to meet with your school advisor about what you want to do and what you want to achieve. The most important part of your education abroad is that you are rewarded not only in the experience but for the work you did while you were there.

Every University has a different list of criteria for issuing US credit for the courses you take abroad, so before booking a course you should always consult with your advisor on how many hours you’ll need to complete and what type of courses you’ll need to take to not only get the experience you want but the course credit you need.

By confirming the amount of hours you need to complete and having a detailed list of the documents you need from the institution aboard to submit to your home University, you will be well on your way to making your study abroad experience happen. Having this information at the beginning of your search will help you determine which program in which location is the best for you and allow you to make the best decision more efficiently.

Once you have that information, it comes down to how much time you can commit to studying abroad and how many credits you ultimately want to receive. Do you have a week, a summer, or a whole semester? Do you need 12 credits or just 3? Here’s a breakdown of types of study abroad programs and what will work best according to your goals:

Winter and Spring Break

If you want to make the most of the few weeks you have off for winter or spring break there are plenty of options around the globe. The best option for this short period of time would be an Intensive Language Course or a Combined Language Course. These courses are 30 lessons (25-30 hours) per week and focus on advancing your language skills as quickly as possible in the short amount of time that you are there. The standard rule is that 45 contact hours equals 3 credits, so take 2 weeks of the Intensive or Combined course and there’s a solid chance your University will issue you the credits for your time abroad


Doing a study abroad program in the summer is a great way to make sure you take enough hours of a course to gain the credit you need while still allowing you a varied amount of programs to choose from. You can take a Spanish and Mayan History Course in Merida, a Language and Culture course in Paris or Aix, a German and Music course in Vienna, or a Japanese and Traditional Culture course in Fukuoka, Japan. These courses will not only advance your language skills in a short time period but give you extra elements to the course to provide your home university with good reason for issuing you more course credits.


If you’re going abroad for an entire semester, it’s most important that you focus on a program that offers you variety to allow you to get the most credits for your time abroad. The reality is that if you’re looking for a whole semester of credit, taking just a language course won’t be enough. Focus on the programs that offer language courses as well as cultural courses so you can get a well rounded academic semester. A good example of this is the semester program in Malaga, which offers a Spanish course as well as courses on Spanish history, literature, economy, and media. Taking this type of program will not only make your time more enjoyable, but will make it much easier to transfer credit upon your return when you are able to present varied course syllabi and assignments for approval.

Ultimately, the options are endless, but the more organized you are about your goals with study abroad, the more likely you are to gain the credit you need and make the most out of the experience.

Still need advice? Feel free to contact us for information on possibilities and programs.

Why it pays to learn basic grammatical terms before you learn a new language

Often, this can stem from disappointing language learning experiences at school, when the grammar may have been an aspect that seemed particularly complex. It’s a widely acknowledged fact, though, that in Britain, we are not taught in depth about the grammar of our own language, which goes some way to explaining why learning the grammar of another language might prove hard!

Whilst a French or German student would most likely be familiar with terms like ‘verb’, ‘noun’ and ‘tenses’ from lessons in their own language, there are still a fair amount of British people who aren’t exactly sure what these mean.

Whilst on a day to day level this may not pose too much of a problem (profession permitting!), when it comes to learning foreign languages, not knowing the basic terminology associated with grammar can cause confusion and dejectedness, which can so easily be avoided.

Before learning a language therefore, it’s advisable to get to grips with the meaning of terms such as ‘verb’, ‘noun’, ‘adjective’ and ‘adverb’, just so you know what the teacher is referring to when they ask, for example, that you conjugate the verb ‘to be’.

There are lots of online glossaries that you can use to read up on these, including one on the Cactus site, but if you want to do some more in depth study there’s also an online English Language Awareness course that you consider. Originally developed for people who are interested in training to teach English as a Foreign Language, it’s a great way to learn all the grammatical terms and what they mean.

English Language Awareness: why TEFL teachers still need help with grammar

John Hughes, author of Cactus TEFL’s online courses, looks back at three years of raising English Language awareness and explains why prospective TEFL teachers still request help with their grammar.

About twenty years ago I was being interviewed for an intensive four-week course in teaching English as a Foreign Language. It felt like a real make or break situation. I’d given up my day job and saved enough money to live on for a month. Then I was going to head to the first country with a language school that would take me. The Training Course Director asked what most worried me about taking the course? I had no doubts about the answer: “Teaching grammar”.

Years later, having taught EFL in many different countries, I also found myself interviewing and training would-be teachers for intensive TEFL courses. And, in most cases, people’s concerns still echoed my own: their lack of knowledge and confidence with grammar. Like me, they’d never had much formal education at school into how the English language works, so wondered how they would be able to teach it.

Three years ago, Cactus TEFL set about changing this situation by offering a grammar course either to help people before taking a TEFL course or for existing teachers who wanted to brush up their skills. Perhaps one reason why no one had really offered this kind of quality language awareness training before was because there had never been the opportunities suddenly provided by the internet and online training. In terms of course content, the online format allowed us to present aspects of language in conjunction with video extracts of how a teacher might present the language to students. We were also determined that – unlike many other online courses at the time – our course would have a ‘real’ tutor who could help participants with questions and queries as well as facilitate and moderate discussion in the forums.

Now, Cactus TEFL’s first ever online course is three years old. The course has evolved and grown over time which is what we’d hoped for. As a writer of courses both in book-form and online, the key advantage for me of online courses is that they are much more organic than a book-based course. Course participants can post feedback and suggest improvements which help with the process of writing and developing the course. Over time the Cactus course has expanded from being an introduction to the English language into also covering areas of methodology and classroom skills.

Having said all that, what surprises me most is that the basic format of the course remains more or less the same as it was three years ago. There are thirty lessons in each course and we use a combination of readings, video and audio to present language items. Then there are exercises which follow to help consolidate what has been learned.  The tutor support has always been a key feature of the course and it’s the area which receives more regular praise.

The best part about being involved with these Cactus courses is that you know so many of the people taking them will go on to take TEFL courses (such as CELTA or the Cert TESOL) and then go off to teach in every corner of the world. Raising your language awareness and then teaching English as a Foreign Language really will change your life. Take me, for example. When I completed my first TEFL course I expected to travel and teach for a few years and then do something else. Now, I find myself still heavily involved in TEFL – and as for my concerns about grammar? Well, my third grammar textbook for language learners comes out later this year, so at least I’ve finally laid that fear to rest!

Cactus TEFL is the only international admissions and jobs service for TEFL. It works with over 125 TEFL course providers in 35 different countries. Its English Language Awareness course has been nominated for a British Council Innovation Award.

Great value Italian courses abroad

Here, we bring you our top three cheapest General Italian Courses of 20 lessons per week, so you can get out there and enjoy la dolce vita for less…

1. Venice

Afternoon Summer Budget Course (20 lessons per week) – £149 / $227

Italy’s northern city of Venice is one of life’s must-sees. A unique and beautiful network of canals weave their way through the city, a maze of narrow cobblestone streets leading off them, and the overall feeling is one of great history and romance. Come here off-season and the crowds have gone, leaving you to enjoy the city as the locals do, dipping in and out of iconic landmarks such as St Mark’s Square and the Basilica and stopping for a coffee as and when you please. The great thing about this Afternoon Budget Course, available for start dates until 26th September, is not only the price; you’ll be able to enjoy all that the city has to offer during the day (and even lie in if you want to…shh) and then take classes from 4.30-8.30pm. 

* After 26th September, students can take the Italian General Course of 20 lessons per week for £209 in Venice, with classes usually taking place in the morning.

2. Bologna

Italian General Course (20 lessons per week) – £219 / $341

Bologna is a lively university city in Italy’s northeast, boasting a fascinating history that dates back to the 6th century BC. Nicknamed the ‘Red City’ for the warm colour of its rooftops and porticoes, it is elegant and embracing in a way that the larger hubs of Rome and Florence can perhaps never be. imageCome here to learn Italian and you’ll not only be immersed in incredible culture and history, but you’ll also be treated to some of the best food in Italy. Claiming to be Italy’s culinary capital, Bologna is the true home of Italian staples such as lasagna, tortellini, spaghetti bolognese (or ‘tagliatelle al ragú’ as the Italians call it), balsamic vinegar and mortadella. You might save money on your language course, but this could easily be spent on satisfying your taste buds instead!

3 (joint). Milan, Turin & Taormina

Joint third in our list of cheapest Italian courses come our General Courses of 20 lessons in the sophisticated fashion capital of Milan, the academic centre of Turin and the Sicilian town of Taormina. Each priced at £229 / $354, they offer fabulous value on learning Italian in wonderful surroundings.

Italian General Course (20 lessons per week) in Milan – £229 / $354

Italian General Course (20 lessons per week) in Turin – £229 / $354

Italian General Course (20 lessons per week) in Taormina – £229 / $354

NB. The courses listed above include 20 lessons per week which is the standard General Course. Students wanting less tuition at a lower price may like to consider the Italian Conversation Course (10 lessons per week) in Genoa for £189 / $299, the Italian General Course (15 lessons per week) in Siena for £189 / $299, the Italian General Course (15 lessons per week) in Turin for £189 / $299, or the Italian General Course (15 lessons per week) in Rome for £199 / $312.

Foreign language courses – what to expect from your classes

1. Language learning activities

The teacher will ask you at times to take part in role plays, dialogues, and similar activities so that you have practice in communicating in the language. Practising ‘real life situations’ in class is one way of making the language as real as possible. It is also important in such situations to vary who you talk to in the class. This way, you have experience with a variety of different people with different speaking abilities … and you get to know everybody!

2. Correcting mistakes

Many learners are reluctant to speak for fear of making mistakes.  It is far better to speak a lot, mistakes and all, than to utter the odd, grammatically correct sentence – in other words, develop a ‘have-a-go’ attitude and try not to get embarrassed about making mistakes – it’s part of the process!

You want your teacher to make sure that your production (spoken or written) is correct, and so correction is important. However, in speaking activities, it is not possible for the teacher to address every single mistake made by every single student, and so therefore he/she will probably choose to correct mainly the most serious mistakes (those that hinder communication) – sometimes straight away, and sometimes soon after.

If your teacher has not corrected you, ask him or her to do so.  They might not be able to do so there and then, but it is important for you to make sure that what you have written or said is right.

3. Homework

The homework is a very important part of your language learning experience, as it enables you to review and practise what you’re learning, helping to keep it fresh from lesson to lesson.  Different teachers give different types of homework – sometimes written homework that you do at home to cover aspects that would otherwise take out valuable communication practice time in class, or sometimes to expand on what you have done in class. By and large, the homework covers the ‘individual learning’ aspects of the course, and you should do as much as you can every week – and even be proactive in doing extra work.

4. The pace of the class

The pace depends on the balance of two things – firstly, the presentation of new material, and secondly, the time spent practising and perfecting this.  The teacher will spend the time they believe is necessary on each new piece of language – but – it is important to remember that it is not necessary to be absolutely perfect in one area before moving on to another.

On the other hand, going at a good, fast rate does not necessarily mean that the learning is efficient.  You risk not having enough time to internalise the lesson, which means you will forget a lot.

The aim is to become competent in communication without slowing down the process by focusing on minute detail, nor by going too fast and therefore not being able to remember anything.

5. The balance of activities

There needs to be a good balance between teacher input and student practice.  Some sessions require more teacher input, others opportunities for greater practice.  We ask the teachers to consider the balance between listening, speaking, reading, writing and grammar skills – BUT to concentrate more on listening/speaking skills during class time and leave more complicated grammar exercises, reading and writing for homework.

6. The use of English in the classroom

Sometimes it can be difficult to convince new students of the need to resist speaking English in class, and to accept the fact that the teacher will mainly – or only – speak in the language you are learning.

There are some important points to keep in mind here:

• With practice, your ears will become attuned to hearing the language (and without practice, they won’t).

• Do not expect to understand everything, but it is important to develop the skills of understanding the gist of a conversation.

• It is very important to develop some self-discipline – if English is allowed, you, the student, will use it as soon as you experience a problem.  By contrast, if you forbid English, you will learn how to communicate to the maximum with the language you do have – and will learn more language while doing so. You will end up speaking a lot more of the language quicker, and will be surprised at how well you get on!

• Of course, if you are a beginner, you won’t have much to play with.  Even so, make sure that you accept that the teacher is going to speak in the language, and that you are expected to do so as well.

• Make sure you learn survival phrases in the language such as : ‘How do you say that in X’, ‘What does this mean?’, ‘Please speak more slowly’, ‘I didn’t understand’, ‘Sorry I’m late’. Never say them in English!

• And – last but not least – if you are lost – tell the teacher.  Sometimes the teacher will just have to take time out to explain in English.

7. Coursebooks and other materials

You receive a textbook with your course, and the teacher supplements this with other worksheets, or brings in real-life materials (you also can bring in things of interest to the class).  Though few off-the-shelf textbooks are ideally suited to 20 to 30 hour courses, it remains useful to have a key coursebook as the backbone for the course.

But – remember – the classes should be driven by the needs of the students, not the course book, which can be used as a flexible resource.  After all, it can become boring and predictable working your way through a book, even though some people find this comforting.

8. Learning and teaching styles : Feeling Comfortable Versus Feeling Challenged

There are quite a few different theories on the best way to teach and learn a language, and different people do it in different ways. More often than not they do not have any particular theory in mind.  Different learning styles depend on your personality and how you have learnt – or mis-learnt – languages in the past – or even if you have learnt another language before. What you do in class may or may not fit in with your expectations.

It is good to have your learning preferences challenged and to get used to different approaches to the learning process, but it is also fair to expect a certain amount of adaptation to you.

Cactus offers a range of part-time language courses in locations around the UK, the US and Canada.

Language courses abroad – how to choose your accommodation

Linguistic considerations

As with anything, the key to learning as much as possible when you’re doing a course is to practise as much as you can. For this reason, staying with a host family whilst you study is generally considered to be of most benefit linguistically. Eating and socialising with your local hosts will mean not only that you have to speak the language, but also that you will pick up more vocabulary from them.

Living in an authentic local environment also means that you are likely to learn more about the cultural norms and traditions of the country that you are studying in. You will probably be introduced to the host family’s friends and acquaintances, and taken along to any local events or festivals that take place whilst you’re there.

People who take students in to their houses are usually very friendly and hospitable, and as a result, many students end up staying in contact long-term with their hosts. These days it’s easy to stay in touch via email, telephone, Skype and continued contact gives you a great way to keep your language skills up to scratch as well.

Some schools offer residence accommodation, especially throughout the summer, and this too can be a good option for anyone keen to make the optimum progress during their stay. Normally there will be other foreign students studying at the school staying there too, and any communication will usually be conducted in the language you’re studying.

Social factors

When it comes to choosing what type of accommodation you’d like, there are some ‘social’ type factors, largely relating to the kind of person you are, that you should consider.

If you are a very independent person, for example, you might perhaps be better suited to staying in a private apartment or a residence so that you can come and go as you please and can eat wherever and whenever you like.

Similarly, if you value your privacy and don’t always feel like being sociable you may be better off in private, self-catering accommodation. That said, host families are used to accommodating lots of students and are usually very willing to give you space and to respect your privacy if it’s obvious that’s what you prefer.

Normally schools will do their best to match you to a host family that they think will suit you well, and it’s always wise to specify at the outset if you have any specific requirements or wishes.

Language schools attract students from all countries and ages, and it’s worth also bearing in mind that (during the summer especially), specific school residences can sometimes be lively! Students are always asked to respect their surroundings and fellow students, but residences with lots of young students in particular can sometimes be a little noisy during the busy periods. For this reason, we don’t tend to recommend student residence accommodation for anyone older than late-twenties, although obviously the option is open to everyone.

Financial considerations

There’s not really any hard and fast rule in terms of how host family accommodation compares to self-catering accommodation options. It can depend on the popularity of the place you have gone to, the time of year, and whether you’re willing to share a room, to name but a few factors.

Staying with a host family often gives you good value for money given that your meals are usually included in the price, but equally, if you’re willing to live frugally and cook cheap meals for yourself there are also some very cheap residence options available.

Generally speaking, private apartments tend to be the most expensive accommodation type, but do have the benefit of ultimate privacy if this is something that is very important to you.

Other points to remember

When you come to choose the type of accommodation you’d like, there are a couple of other points that it might be useful to remember.

Firstly, availability with all accommodation options is better the earlier you can book. Leaving your booking to the last minute, especially in peak season, can sometimes mean that you have to take whatever type of accommodation is left, which might not have been your initial choice. 

Secondly, you should make sure that the people at the school are fully aware of any special requirements that you might have when you make your booking. If they know about these from the outset they can normally organize your accommodation accordingly.

Whilst schools will always do their best to house you as close to the school as possible, it’s worth remembering with host family accommodation that you may be placed somewhere that is a bus or metro ride away from the school. Your host family will give you detailed instructions on how to get to school, and may even take you on your first day, though.

Although most host families will be very accommodating towards your needs and your culture, it’s important nevertheless that you respect their way of life, including their house rules and their routine for mealtimes. For example, if you can’t make dinner one night because you want to meet up with classmates it’s important that you remember to let them know so that they don’t cater for you when they’re preparing the meal. It’s true that the family will be ‘hosting’ you, but it’s important to build a good relationship with them, and of course this is a two-way thing. You should make sure that you’re polite and respectful, and that you don’t make a mess or help yourself to food and drink without asking first – unless they tell you otherwise.

Lastly, if you’re new to the place you’re going to, it might be worth organising an airport transfer via the school for when you arrive. Normally this is included as part of the ‘host family’ package (except with English courses), but you might have to pay extra if you’re staying in a residence or apartment.

Cactus offers language courses all over the world at a variety of levels, and for varying lengths of time. Please visit the Cactus Language website for further information on locations, prices and how to book.

How should I prepare for my language course abroad?

Generally speaking, the advice can be split into two categories: practical, travel-related advice, and advice on how to prepare for your learning experience.

General travel-related advice

As is the case with any foreign travel, it’s advisable before you go abroad for your course to:

1. Organise suitable travel insurance, and keep a copy of the policy.

2. Get any vaccinations that you need – this applies in particular to anyone going to South America, Africa, the Caribbean and Asia. Information on what vaccinations you require can be found via your doctor, or on a website such as the NHS Fit for Travel site (UK) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website (US).

3. Make sure that you have any visas required for your time abroad, or that you have registered your details online with the US government if you’re going to America. You won’t be allowed into the country if you haven’t done this.

4. Tell a relative or friend where you’re going and give them contact details for you if possible.

5. Tell your bank that you’re going abroad if you intend to use your debit or credit card whilst you’re away. Failing to do this might result in the bank assuming your card is being used fraudulently, and putting a stop on all transactions.

6. Get some currency to use in the country you’re going to – at least enough to last you for the first few days of your trip.

7. Make sure that your passport is valid and that there are at least another 6 months before it expires.

8. Learn some basic vocabulary in the language you’ll be learning – especially if you’re a beginner. Particularly useful are basic greetings, so that you know what to say to your host family, and transport-related words and phrases so that you can get where you need to be.



Course and accommodation-related advice

No language school will make any specific demands on you in terms of preparation for a language course, but you are likely to get more out of the experience if you heed the following advice:

1. Do some basic revision of what you already know if you are starting at any level other than beginner.

2. Buy or borrow a lightweight dictionary (and/or) grammar book that will come in useful when it comes to doing any homework.

3. Familiarise yourself with basic grammatical terminology that might be used in the classroom – even if it’s just revising the definition of a noun/verb/adjective etc.

4. Make sure you have details of where the school is, and what time you need to be there on the first day of your course.

5. If you’re going to a country that is quite culturally different to yours, it might be worth reading up on a little cultural etiquette before you go, especially if you are staying with a host family. The majority will be used to having foreigners stay with them, and will be aware of different cultural practices, but to save your own embarrassment or confusion it might be a good idea!

6. If you’re staying in a private apartment, or renting a room from someone (even if this has been arranged on your behalf by the school), it might be wise to have money to hand when you arrive in case you need to pay a damage deposit for your accommodation to the landlord. This is probably something that you could check with the school before you leave.

Have you still got questions relating to your language course? If so please leave us a comment below and we’ll get back to you…

Cactus offers language courses of varying lengths and formats in countries all over the world. For full listings of locations and details of course types, please visit the Cactus Language website.

English courses in the UK – how to choose your destination

Whilst it’s great to have lots of different places on offer, it can sometimes make it hard to decide which one to choose.

Here’s our list of things to consider, which we hope will make your decision-making easier!

1. What kind of course do you want to do – General, Intensive, Individual, Combined, Business, Exam Preparation? Most schools offer ‘General’ courses, but not all offer Business English, or Exam Preparation courses, for example, so it’s best to narrow your choice down by establishing which offer the course that you’d most like to follow…this will eliminate some destinations for a start.

2. Do you have an accommodation preference? Again, not all schools offer all types of accommodation, so if you specifically want to stay in a shared apartment, or a student residence, for example, there will be some schools that wouldn’t be able to offer that. Most school offer homestay accommodation, so if this is the kind of thing you’d like, you’ll have a wider range of options.

3. How long do you want to study for? Whilst most schools are flexible when it comes to course length, some, for example, offer courses that are a minimum of 2 weeks in length, which wouldn’t be suitable for anyone hoping to do a short 1-week course. It’s certainly worth checking the minimum or maximum length of the courses available at each school.

4. How much money have you got to spend? As is the case in every country, some cities will be more expensive to live in than others. In the UK, cities like London, Brighton and Oxford will probably be more expensive than the likes of Nottingham, Sheffield and Glasgow. If you’re on a tight budget and want to get more for your money, it’s worth doing your research into the cost of living in different cities. Generally speaking (with the exception of Edinburgh and Chester), you can get more for your money in the northern UK cities.

5. Do you want to study in a big city or somewhere smaller? The UK has a huge mix of cities – some are large and industrial, others are smaller and more historic. If you’re not used to living somewhere large and ‘urban’ (like London, Liverpool, Bristol or Leeds) you might be better off somewhere smaller, and more compact, such as Canterbury, Exeter, Cheltenham or Cambridge.

6. Would you like to be somewhere with a thriving language school industry, or somewhere where there are likely to be fewer international students? English language schools are found all around the UK, but there are certain cities that have a very large number. These places obviously have lots of foreign students, which means that there are lots of activities specifically for you on offer, but that sometimes it’s harder to practise your English and immerse yourself in the culture. Some cities with a large number of language schools include Brighton, Cambridge, London, Oxford and Bournemouth.

7. Would you prefer to study somewhere with a ‘standard’ form of English, or somewhere with an interesting accent? When it comes to learning English, some students want to learn traditionally the most ‘prestigious’ form, which is usually considered to be spoken in London and the Home Counties. Regional accents are an important part of British culture though, and sometimes it can be more interesting to live in a community with a different accent. Aside from Belfast, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Cardiff, these could include the English cities of Newcastle, Liverpool and Leeds.

8. Do you mind studying in a place where it often rains, or where the weather can often be cold? It might sound like a minor point comparatively, but there can be quite a big difference in climate depending on whether you choose a destination in the south/north, east/west of the UK. Admittedly, the UK is not known for its tropical weather, but the north and west of the country often receive more rainfall than in the south and east. Cities in the very north of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland can also get much colder weather, with more snowfall and freezing temperatures in the winter. If you’re looking for the mildest climate, you’re probably best advised to choose a location on the south coast, such as Brighton, Bournemouth or Torquay (on the so-called ‘English Riviera’).

Currently, Cactus offers English courses in English courses in Bath, Belfast, Bournemouth, Brighton, Bristol, Cambridge, Canterbury, Cardiff, Cheltenham, Chester, Colchester, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Oxford, Sheffield, Torquay and Winchester.