moving abroad checklist

Succeeding in International Markets: Weekend Events

In a world where international clients are ten times more likely to do business with someone who speaks their language, taking the time to understand the language and culture of your business clients has never been more important.

Indeed, it has been estimated that the UK economy loses around £48 billion each year, or 3.5% of GDP, due to poor language skills, a lack of cultural understanding, and the assumption that everybody speaks English [source: Language skills deficit costs the UK £48bn a year, The Guardian].

With our expertise in delivering high quality language tuition combined with cross-cultural training, Cactus has designed a series of intensive weekend events entitled ‘Succeeding in International Markets’. These courses will equip you with the skills and confidence you need to establish and develop successful business relationships in specific markets, and gain a competitive edge in the global marketplace.

The Key Components to Success – Course Features:

  • Acquire valuable insights into B2B and B2C cultural behaviours and norms that will enhance your negotiation techniques and marketing strategies
  • Understand management and communication styles, values and attitudes, to help win business in your target market
  • Adopt correct body language, gestures and etiquette that will leave a favourable impression on your partners and clients
  • Learn essential phrases and expressions in the target language that will help you to establish positive relationships with colleagues, partners, clients and suppliers
  • Gain practical strategies for overcoming the challenges of conducting business in specific markets (see list below)
  • Network with like-minded professionals

Succeeding in International Markets – Available Courses:

Register your interest in Cactus’ business weekend courses now.

Succeeding in International Markets courses run throughout November 2015 in Holborn, Central London.

“If I want to sell you something, we speak English. If you want to sell me something, dann sprechen wir Deutsch.” Willy Brandt, Former Chancellor of Germany

Cactus Language Training specialises in organising language courses for individuals and groups, having done so since 1999 for clients all over the globe and for diverse needs and budgets. We are able to tailor a language course to suit your specific learning needs, anywhere in the world and whenever is convenient to you. In addition to language training we also offer cross-cultural training, translation services, HR language assessment and elocution and pronunciation.

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.

10 Reasons Why Website Translation Is Crucial

There can be no underestimating the importance of a good business website in a day when internet usage is at an all-time high – and growing. With huge numbers of people searching for products and services via the internet all over the world, a major competitive advantage can be achieved through the relatively simple act of website translation: presenting the information to people in their own language.

10 reasons why you should consider website translation:

  1. Increase your search engine ranking

It’s all very well having great website content, but you need to make sure the right people can find it! Search engines lead people to your website, and in many countries where internet usage is high (France, China and Japan) the default search engines are not necessarily in the English language. In fact, more than half of all Google searches are NOT conducted in English. Translating your website is key in making your company appear on search engines in the countries you are targeting and drive traffic to your website.

  1. Less English-speaking internet users

Seoul, South Korea skyline with Namsan Mountain and Seoul Tower.It used to be that English was the primary language of the internet, and English speakers were the main users of the internet. This is all changing as countries across the world show substantial increases in internet usage, consequently opening up the worldwide web to huge numbers of non-English speakers. Almost 70% of internet users are non-native English speakers, yet 57% of websites are available only in English: translate your website while the imbalance is evident and you will catch these new markets at the vitally important growth stage where opportunity is wide open.

  1. Increase your customers

Website translation will make your website available to thousands more people from all corners of the globe, and this in turn will bring you new and relevant customers.

  1. Gain trust

Offering your website in another language will earn you trust from speakers of that language, which in many cultures carries high importance. We cannot always assume that people across the world will feel confident enough in their English ability to use English-language websites – especially when they are located a long way away. Let them know that you speak their language and they are more likely to purchase from you.

  1. Understand cultural sensitivity

On a similar vein to trust, a multilingual website will help to overcome cultural barriers and portray the information in a way that is sensitive and relevant to the target culture. This will help the user to feel comfortable navigating your site and trusting your product.

  1. Portray a positive image

Before you even start reading a website, seeing that it is multilingual sends out an immediate and positive message that you are international.

  1. Beat your competitors

Give any non-native speaker the option of using a company whose website is in their language, compared with a company whose website is available only in English, and it is not hard to guess who they will choose. By translating your website you will be putting yourself a step ahead of your competitors and establishing yourself as the market leader.

  1. Make it easy for your customers

website translation laptopThe harder it is for visitors to read your website, the more likely they are to give up and leave your site. Make the journey for your customers as easy as possible by offering the information in their own language, and they are more likely to stay on your site and ultimately become consumers. A report by the Common Sense Advisory discovered that, even in our globalised world, 85% of consumers will not make a purchase if information is not available in their native language.


  1. Gain a valuable marketing tool

Website translation will not only enhance your sales potential, it is also a brilliant marketing tool. Having your website available in multiple languages is an easy and cost effective way of capturing new users, giving your brand a global outlook and marketing your company to a whole new international audience.

  1. It’s about them, not you

Finally, everybody likes to think they are important, and by translating your website you are telling your customers that you think they are important. Their opinion matters and their business matters. The simple act of presenting information in their own language is a great way to demonstrate that you value them, and this will make them want to do business with you.

Cactus Language Training is a leading provider of language training, translation services and cross-cultural training. Please contact us here or call 00 44 (0) 1273 830 960 for a competitive quote for professional translation. You can be sure of high quality and accuracy as well as prompt service and fair prices.


Expat Show Free Tickets: London Olympia

Are you considering moving abroad? Whether you are thinking about relocating for work or emigrating for an improved lifestyle, the Expat Show in London promises to be an excellent source of information and advice from the experts.

As leaders in language training for relocation, Cactus is exhibiting at the Expat Show and we have FREE tickets for anyone wishing to visit – available until 6th September!

Expat Show Free Tickets

Expat Show free ticketsOrder your Expat Show free tickets here








Why visit Cactus at the Expat Show?

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.

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.

Business travel: why it pays to prepare yourself both culturally and linguistically

Business Travel: there are lots of good reasons why you should try to pick up some of the local language before you go on a business trip.  First of all, it will help massively with the practicalities of foreign travel – like getting from A to B, whether you’re asking for directions, for tickets or for maps for public transport. It can also be imperative when it comes to getting receipts – not something that many people think of prior to their arrival, but given that the accounts departments in many companies won’t reimburse the cost of anything that you don’t have a receipt for, it’s very important!

Secondly, being able to speak some of the language will go down well with your potential business partners. Being able to order your own food at a business lunch without relying on them will not only impress them in the sense that you’ve been committed enough to learn some of the language, but will also indicate that you are an independent, respectful and intelligent person…all good attributes when it comes to doing business.

Culturally-speaking, doing some degree of training, or reading up on, the culture of the country you are going to can be priceless. Not knowing the cultural norms of your foreign counterparts can lead to embarrassing situations, and sometimes even offence. Not a great start to any potential business partnership…

Some business associates that you meet may be accustomed to western ways, and may be more understanding when it comes to cultural faux-pas, but this cannot be said for all. Often people don’t realise the extent of the cultural differences that can exist between nationalities, or the importance that is placed on certain norms by people from other countries.

To highlight some examples, did you know that….

1. In Japan, the exchanging of business cards involves a degree of ceremony. The card is viewed as a representation of the individual, so should be treated with due respect. Before travelling to Japan, you should make sure that you have plenty of cards, and have one side translated into Japanese.

When exchanging, you should offer your card with both hands, and make sure that you hand it over with the Japanese side up. When accepting a card, always use two hands too.

2. In the Middle East, handshakes are the usual way to greet business associates, and they can last a long time! It should always be the right hand that is used. You may also find that your hand is held while you are led somewhere – this is common in the Middle East and doesn’t have the same connotations as in western cultures.

3. In China, physical contact is not something that is widely accepted – especially when doing business. Be sure not to slap, pat or put your arm around any associate’s shoulders.

Body language and movement are both areas you should be aware of when doing business in China. You should always be calm and controlled. Body posture should always be formal and attentive – this shows you have self-control and are worthy of respect.

4. In India, when negotiating, you should try to avoid high pressure, or aggressive tactics. Criticisms and disagreements should be expressed with diplomatic language as it is considered very impolite to say “no” in Indian society. Listen carefully to Indians’ responses to your questions – if terms such as “maybe” are used then they might be disagreeing.

5. In Italy, hospitality plays a key role in business culture. Invitations to lunch and dinner should be expected when doing business there. Normally, the most ‘important’ guest will sit at the middle of the table or on the right of the host; the host always pays; it is not considered acceptable to take any phone calls at the table.

Cultural training courses are a great way to learn about the cultural etiquette and norms of the country that you’re going to. Programmes can be tailor-made to suit your specific needs, and offer great value for money. To find out more, or enquire about prices please visit the Cactus Language Training website.

Language opens the door to new markets: the increase in Brazilian Portuguese, Turkish and Korean

Diversifying into new markets is a smart way for businesses to survive in hard times; having the appropriate language skills is key to tapping into these markets and forming long-term partnerships.

A few years ago we spoke about the increasing importance of Arabic, Russian and Mandarin as languages that were opening the door to valuable, developing markets – markets that were less affected by the latest global recession and which had the ability to maximise the earning potential of traditional western economies. These languages have indeed proved to be key in establishing successful business relationships with Russia, China and the Arab world, investments that will reap long-term reward.

It is now time to turn our head towards new markets that may for the same reason represent a smart business move in the current economic climate.

Brazil: Brazilian Portuguese

A prime contender here is Brazil, home to Brazilian Portuguese, and host country to major worldwide sporting events including next year’s FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Olympics. This vast South American country may have experienced a slight decrease in growth over the last year, but with the world’s eyes set on Brazil for a good few years to come and its status as one of the advancing BRICS economies, it is unlikely to lose its place in the spotlight. Brazilian Portuguese is certainly a popular language at Cactus, with students taking evening courses mostly for work reasons – a positive sign of commercial investment in the country and recognition of the need to communicate in the local language rather than relying on our own. With Brazilian Portuguese being spoken by nearly all of Brazil’s 200 million inhabitants, and the language rated as Category 1 difficulty for English speakers to learn (Category 1 being the easiest, Category 3 the most difficult*), that makes a lot of extra people you can do business with, relatively easily.

Turkey: Turkish

Second on our list of markets to watch is Turkey. A rich historical land sitting on the European-Asian divide, it is Turkey’s imminent accession to the EU that promises a significant leap in business potential. As has been witnessed with other member states, the country can expect increased overseas investment and access to economic development aid, both of which should drive economic growth.

It’s fair to say, however, that Turkey has been enjoying something of a transformation even before their EU membership comes into effect. Slowly appearing amongst Istanbul’s extravagant Ottoman mosques and exotic bazaars are ultra-modern shopping malls, fashionable bars and sleek art galleries, all frequented by a young and culturally diverse crowd who have money and time to spend it; in turn, this makes Istanbul an attractive city break for foreigners, bringing in additional foreign currency.

Turkish is a language with over 63 million native speakers and is generally classified as a language of Category 2* difficulty for English speakers. For a country such as Turkey with strong cultural traditions and deeply rooted beliefs, the ability to communicate on a personal level through knowledge of Turkish gives anyone considering doing business here a distinct advantage.

South Korea: Korean

Finally, our look at emerging markets turns to Asia. While China’s growth shows signs of slowing, its trading partner South Korea last month (July 2013) boasted its fastest growth rate in over two years. This is partly thanks to the country being home to some of the world’s most successful hi-tech and manufacturing corporations – Samsung and Hyundai Motors among them – which contribute to South Korea’s buoyant export figures. As a language to invest in, Korean is rated at Category 3* difficulty for English speakers so more time and money is required to achieve a proficient working knowledge of the language. That said, the effort to speak the local language is rarely more appreciated than it is in Asia, especially in the business environment. Add to this the fact that linguistic training invariably includes an appreciation of the relevant social and cultural contexts and building bridges with a new market such as South Korea becomes far more feasible.

The British Foreign Office has recently re-opened its language centre and is dedicating more funding to linguistic training, believing that senior diplomats working abroad command much greater respect and credibility when they can speak the language of the country where they work. The same goes for businesses wishing to expand into new markets; having a workforce who can communicate with the locals in an overseas posting puts them streets ahead, not only in terms of business success but also on a more personal level of settling into a new territory should they be relocating.

* International bodies including the British Foreign Office and the US Foreign Service Institute grade languages according to their difficulty, assuming that students are native speakers of English: Category 1 (most similarity to English; mostly Western European languages); Category 2 (siginificant linguistic and/or cultural differences from English); Category 3 (exceptionally difficult, primarily due to the complex writing system).

Cactus specialises in organising language courses for individuals and groups, having done so since 1999 for clients all over the globe and for diverse needs and budgets. Our expertise in the field of face-to-face tuition is second-to-none. With an extensive network of approved teachers and a strong in-house academic team, we are able to tailor a language course to suit your specific learning needs, anywhere in the world and whenever is convenient to you.

Corporate Training Experience: Italian tuition in Costa Rica

The Republic of Costa Rica is a small country located in Central America. It is bordered to the north by Nicaragua, to the south by Panama, and it is bathed by the Atlantic and Pacific oceans to the East and West respectively. Costa Rica is widely known for its pacifist tradition and democracy, along with its rich and exotic landscapes of mountains and beaches, that make tourism one of the most important industries in the country.

Its Spanish speaking population of 4.615.518 inhabitants is quite diverse. Especially in San José, the capital city, it is common to encounter people from all over the country. This diversity, along with the country´s level of education and good international relations, have made English and other languages very common in Costa Rica´s business world.

As a result of expanding their services in Europe, a large corporate Costa Rica-based company was faced with the challenge of providing their services to thousands of Italian customers in a rapidly-growing new market. Therefore, I and my colleague were asked to jump on a flight to San José, to train 20 customer service specialists to work directly with Italian speaking customers.

The challenge was to take this group of eager learners from a beginner to an intermediate level in 3 weeks of intensive training – a daunting task, considering that it normally takes months for a class to advance this much. This definitely required skilful time management and a lot of strategic and tailored planning.

As Cactus teachers, we approached this very ambitious goal with a carefully designed program that focused on their specific needs. We immediately recognized the need for a very strong language foundation, in terms of speaking, writing, reading and listening. Moreover, we constantly applied the relevant vocabulary used daily in their industry and in subjects they could relate to.

The students definitely stepped up to the challenge and did their part. Although it was really demanding to meet such a challenging target in a such a short time, students attended the course with enthusiasm and they thoroughly enjoyed it. After an intensive 8-hour daily training program, they were successfully tested and certified at Intermediate level. As a teacher, I found this experience amazing and incredibly rewarding, and I am really glad to have taken part in this exciting opportunity made possible by Cactus. Nowadays, constantly evolving business environments require adaptability, efficiency and accuracy: our own success story proves that Cactus incorporates all these skills into its language training.

Cactus is one of the world’s leading providers of tailor-made language training, providing general, business and industry-specific language courses in over 50 countries and in over 30 languages worldwide. All forms are training are provided, including 1:1, in-company, public group courses, immersion courses abroad and online courses.

Cactus uses a so-called ‘full immersion’ method of teaching. What are the benefits of this?

What is Full Immersion?

Full immersion in language learning refers to the foreign language (the ‘target’ language) being taught in that language, with no other language being used during the teaching. It is the preferred method for Cactus’ teachers, and is also used amongst Cactus’ partner schools abroad.

We could say that it is learning a foreign language the same way we learned our native language: by ‘living’ it. The student doesn’t only study the language – they live it, in an exclusively target-language speaking environment: the classroom. A well designed, full immersion course can surround students in the language, giving them opportunities to speak and hear it and, most importantly, teach them not to depend on translation for understanding.

Where did Full Immersion originate?

Full Immersion is originally a teaching method where non-language curriculum subjects, such as history, art or science, are taught in a foreign language. The foreign language is learnt alongside the non-language subjects. The first full immersion programmes, in French, began in the USA and Canada in the 1950s and 1960s.

The approach has been found to be successful in language teaching, with students showing better progress, learning more, and more quickly.

How do teachers use the Full Immersion approach?

Good teachers are able to make themselves understood without using the students’ language, even at Beginner level. They use gestures, pictures, objects, dialogues and other means of getting the message across. And they always teach ‘in context’. Students know from the context what is likely to be said – there are only so many variations on what people say to each other in a restaurant, in a shop, at a party and so on. So students already understand what would be said in that context in their own language and are then receptive to learning the target language forms. As the level advances, simple explanation is effective in helping to get meaning across, as long as it is within the range of what the students can comprehend.

Right from the beginning, target ‘classroom language’ is used, ‘open your books’, ‘I’ll write it on the board’, ‘what’s the word for x’, and so on, and students can then generalise their understanding of much useful language in this context over to new contexts.

Teachers will move from a more controlled method of teaching to free practice during the class, so that students feel supported when they start to learn new grammar and lexis. As they become more familiar with it the teacher will give less and less reinforcement, so that by the end they are able to ‘do it alone’. Rather like riding a bicycle and taking off the training wheels, improvement is smooth and progressive.

What is the student’s role?

Sometimes it’s difficult for people who are new to the method to understand how it works – particularly with beginner learners. It’s ideal if the students are aware beforehand of what to expect. However, even if students don’t know what to expect, a good teacher will make it easy for them by teaching from Day 1 through means that make the meaning clear. Students have to work hard. It is so easy to freeze and panic and think they will never understand. A good teacher knows this and helps by encouragement and demonstration and example. Importantly, students need to go over what was covered in class immediately after the class and again the evening before the next class: this revision is essential to make it stick. And students should always ask teachers if, after putting in some effort, they still don’t understand.

Students should be prepared to speak up and take risks and not be afraid to get it wrong; students should just say whatever seems ‘right’, and keep trying: they will learn from their own and their classmates’ mistakes, along with judicious correction from the teacher.

Is learning through Full Immersion similar to how we learnt our own language?

Although there are differences between the way we learn our own language as a child, and the way we learn a second or subsequent language as an adult, there are many similarities, and immersion learning exploits these similarities. Hearing and seeing language in context, simple listening and repeating, and trying things out and receiving feedback are features common to learning our first language and learning a second language in an immersion setting.

The secret is to ‘train’ yourself to ‘think’ in the target language, and to resort to translation as little as possible. Initially, students think in their own language, translating somewhere between the thought and the spoken word, until eventually there comes a point where suddenly the thinking is happening in the new language – (and even, some say, the dreaming! )

On the other hand, translation is in fact a natural resort for students when they are trying to fully understand a word or phrase in a foreign language. If used deliberately and appropriately and in moderation by the teacher, translation can be very useful in the language learning process. It’s a question of balance.

What about learning the culture of the target language country?

Ideally, full immersion would mean full contact with the culture too, such as may be experienced in the target language country. However, students don’t have to go abroad to experience the target language culture. In a good class, the student will learn much more than just grammar, sentence structure and vocabulary, also getting a good idea of the history, culture and sociological aspects of the target culture. At Cactus we take the view that the teacher is the student’s connection with the culture, and the classroom is the world of the target language for the learner. Class time is short, so this language world needs to make the most of all the time available to surround the student in the language: to fully immerse them.

What are the advantages of Full Immersion, in a nutshell?

There are many advantages to learning in this way, but the main benefits of the Full Immersion approach are:

1.  You learn faster! Once used to the method, you should pick up pieces of vocabulary more naturally and quickly.

2.  You learn to speak more naturally. This method trains you to think in the target language, not translate word for word.

3.  You’ll have the confidence to use what you have learned. Because you are ‘living’ the language in the classroom, you will be better prepared to use it in ‘real’ scenarios.

4.  You will understand the spoken language. Because you are used to hearing the language spoken, you will be able to understand it in real-life situations.

5.  You develop good pronunciation. You get maximum exposure to the language and are encouraged you to use it, helping you to develop speech patterns and pronunciation.

6. You gain a cultural insight into the language and the people who speak it.

7.  It’s fun! You will be using the new language straight away, which is a lot more motivating, engaging and fun than studying language theory.

Cactus offers a range of part-time language courses in locations around the UK and North America. We also work with language schools all over the world to provide language courses at a range of levels, lengths and formats. For anyone interested in a more bespoke type of training course, we also offer tailor-made and corporate language training options all over the world.