French evening course in Brighton: Cactus staff review

Language Course Advisor Jennifer Maynard tells us how she immersed herself in culture and cuisine during her 10-week French course…

I’ve been taking language courses for years now, many of which concentrate around the basic GCSE criteria, i.e. what pets do you have? How many brothers and sisters do you have? Do you live in a house or an apartment? Of course, all of this is helpful to know, however it is much more exciting and useful to have real life conversations with the teacher and with other people in the class. A class in which you can learn to express yourself, just as you’d need to when abroad and using the language in question, is just what I was looking for.

I was extremely lucky to find that this is exactly what Cactus was offering. To begin with, Helène is French, which helped with perfecting the authentic French accent. She’s a lovely lady with a wonderful personality and very excited about teaching us French and sharing her culture with us.

The tasks and conversations revolved around our true interests and daily activities. Helene is really passionate about food and her opinions really shine through. By witnessing Helene in action it has been possible for me to express myself with new phrases and learn about many of the culinary delights France has to offer. I especially enjoyed the homemade Choux bread with fromage! I even learnt how to make a Swedish desert thanks to the multicultural array of students in the class.

Above all, I am relieved I now know how to warn people that we don’t have enough vin rouge for our camping trip!

All in all a thoroughly enjoyable course with some very lovely people that are hungry for la langue française.

Cactus runs evening and part-time language courses in schools across London and in cities nationwide. Courses are available in over 20 languages and on regular start dates throughout the year.

The advantages of using a language training company for your language learning needs

Here are some of the reasons why:

Flexibility and convenience

Language training companies can provide a huge variety of options when it comes to the format, frequency and focus of your lessons. They will discuss with you what you hope to achieve from the lessons, the time available, the levels of the potential students, and most importantly, your budget. Before the lessons begin, the language level and needs of the students will be assessed to ensure that the lessons are suitable and relevant to them.

The lessons might be delivered in your offices, online, over the phone, at the language training company, or even in the homes of individual members of your staff – whichever is most convenient. Some language training companies also have centres in other countries where students can be immersed in the language they’re studying, which is the most effective way to learn a language.

Specialist focus

The lessons can focus on teaching the language for particular areas relevant to your business, or can aim to raise general language proficiency. They are often asked to do this in a short space of time and do their best to fit as much into the lessons as possible. The lessons may also incorporate advice on business etiquette and other aspects of culture, or they may focus specifically on cultural training, which is very useful for staff who will be making regular visits to another country, or who are planning to relocate there.

Some language training companies create tailor-made language learning materials for individual companies in the form of textbooks, CDs, CD-ROMs and/or DVD. These might be designed for use in the lessons or for self-study. Detailed reports on the students’ progress are usually provided, and students can also be prepared for language proficiency exams.

Diverse range of languages and native-speaker teachers

Language training companies can usually arrange lessons in a wide range of languages, and with sufficient notice may be able to find tutors for just about any language. At training companies like Cactus, you can be sure that all tutors are native-speakers of the language they teach, and also that they are experienced and proficient at what they do. In fact, Cactus has a dedicated Academic Department to deal with teacher recruitment – expressly to ensure that this is the case.

Good return on investment

As this type of language training is very focused and designed to meet specific needs and abilities, it is often more effective than conventional lessons in language schools. It can also work out less expensive – particularly if tuition is provided for small groups of employees.

More about tailor-made language training with Cactus

German evening course in Brighton: Client review

Cactus client Dan Broadley tells us how he hopes his evening course in German will help him retrace his roots…

You would have thought, having German-speaking heritage, that I would have shown an interest earlier. You would have thought that, when faced with the option of studying either French or German at school for my GCSE’s, I would have thrown myself into some serious Deutsch! I didn’t! Not only did I shun my German speaking lineage, but to add insult to injury I went on to achieve a truly awful F grade in French! “Sacre-bleu!”.

My Grandfather, Erich Bauch, a German speaking Czech from the town of Teplice in the Bohemian region of Czech Republic, would be most aggrieved to learn that the extent of my German is currently limited to the very, very basics…and by basics I mean that I can say “guten tag”, “auf wiedersehen” and I do a mean “eins, zwei, drei”…and that’s pretty much it! A terrible state of affairs!

I’m sure that he tried to impart some basic German phrases on me – he even used to sing to me in German – but it seems that none of it sank in. So when faced with the opportunity of learning German with Cactus, I saw it as the chance to right a terrible wrong! My first lesson is in Brighton later this month and I can’t wait!

This year has already been one for reconnecting with my roots. In the Spring I travelled to the Czech Republic for the very first time and went to the town where my family once lived. We even found the old house that they, being Jewish, had to abandon when the Nazi’s invaded Czechoslovakia in 1939, forcing them to flee to England.

My Grandfather, only 15 at the time, was one of 669 mostly Jewish children rescued by Nicholas Winton (now Sir Nicholas), an English stockbroker who saw the plight of the Jews while on a trip to Prague. Winton arranged trains to take the children to England and found sponsors for them in the UK so that they had a place to live once they were here.

Winton kept his humanitarian exploits secret for many years and it was only when his wife found a scrapbook (complete with a list of all of the childrens’ names that he had saved), in their loft at their home in 1988, that his heroics were bought to light. My Grandfather was one of the extremely lucky ones who were not only saved, but who were actually reunited with their families once in the UK. He never really spoke of exactly how he came to England; I think looking back to that time was too upsetting for him. It wasn’t until after his death in 1998 that we found his name on Winton’s list.

Visiting my homeland this year for the first time was a truly amazing and emotional experience, one that I will never forget. It bought home exactly what my family went through and the terrible upheaval that they endured. The next step on my personal pilgrimage is to finally learn a language that I should have learnt a long time ago. I only hope that I can do my old Grandad proud! With the help of Cactus I’m sure that I can!

Dan has just started his 10-week German course, and will report back on his progress once it has finished…

Cactus runs evening and part-time language courses in schools across London and in cities nationwide. Courses are available in over 20 languages and on regular start dates throughout the year.

Weekend ‘crash’ courses in a foreign language: who are these suitable for?

1. People with impending travel plans who can’t do an evening course

Many people going abroad on vacation or business opt to do some language training before they go, even if it’s just to learn the basics. For some people, however, evening courses that involve a two-hour session every week simply aren’t a viable option, whether it’s for work, family or social reasons. Equally, if travel plans are last-minute, it may be that you simply don’t have time to complete a 10 or 5 week course prior to your departure. In each of these cases, a weekend ‘crash’ course is ideal.

2. Anyone going overseas on a one–off trip to a foreign country

There are many instances when people find themselves heading to a country that they are unlikely to visit again, and in which they are perhaps even not too interested. Rather than committing to a 10-week course learning some of the local language, a weekend course offers a great way to pick up the basics without having to devote too much time to it.

3. People who have learnt some of the language before, but are looking for a short revision course

Weekend courses are currently held at beginners Level 1, and as such make a good refresher course for someone who has previously learned the basics of the language but since forgotten.

4. People on a tight budget who need a basic course with face-to-face tutoring

Everyone has a different style of learning, and whilst some people are more than happy to invest in a phrasebook or CD course to get to grips with the basics of a language, this isn’t an effective method for all. Some people need to learn in a classroom environment for it to sink in, but one obvious drawback with this is that it can be more expensive. Weekend courses, however, start from just $149 and can offer a much more affordable option than a longer course aimed at beginners.

5. People who are looking to learn useful language for real-life situations

The great thing about weekend crash courses is that they focus on language that you can use in real-life situations, not language that is reserved for academic forums. The concise nature of weekend courses means that they are expressly designed to cover the most important language aspects for those traveling and on vacation, and not to dwell on anything that won’t be of particular use.

Weekend crash courses are currently available in French, Spanish and German at our New York Tribeca center. Courses take place from 10am – 2.30pm, with a 30 minute break in the middle. Please visit the Cactus Language Courses North America website for further information on prices and start dates, and to test your level.

Why not take a GCSE or A Level revision course in the sun this October?

As the popularity of Spanish as a foreign language within UK schools grows, there are more students taking the subject at GCSE and A Level. Although tuition in British schools is often very good, there are endless benefits to be gained by spending some time in Spanish environments with native Spanish teachers – particularly in the final year of GCSE or A Level courses.

The promise of foreign shores, new classmates and a bit of sun can do wonders for even the most disenchanted student’s enthusiasm. And the more dedicated and diligent linguists will no doubt also recognise the huge benefits of learning with native speaker teachers whilst being immersed in the foreign language and culture that they’re studying.

The revision courses are available in Alicante, Barcelona, Madrid, Marbella and Salamanca, and are specifically designed for UK students to attend in their school holidays.

The programme

Comprising 20 group lessons and 5 individual lessons, the week-long courses are designed to help students improve their:

• Core grammar, vocabulary, and level of communication.

• Oral communication, reading, and writing

• Communicative flexibility in different situations.

• Level of inter-cultural awareness; understanding the relation between the Hispanic community and the rest of the world.

The programme is open to all students in Years 10-13, and individual students will be assigned to a group of no more than 10 people for the morning classes which will focus on the four skills – reading, writing, speaking and listening – as well as relevant vocabulary and grammar. In addition, students are given 1 hour of one to one tuition a day to focus on skills specific to their exam.

Group bookings to this programme can form their own closed groups, or participate in open groups. If teachers wish to bring a group from their school, it is usually possible to organise discounts and free places for accompanying teachers.

Transport and accommodation

The schools that offer the courses are very aware of the extra responsibilities and requirements that come with offering juniors programmes, and as such are very careful to ensure their students safety, well-being, and happiness at all times. Host families are thoroughly checked, as are staff that meet and return students to the airport, and every effort is made to ensure that students feel as safe and comfortable as possible.

Accommodation is always with a host family, and meals are all included in the price. For GCSE revision courses, students will usually be staying with the same family as another student on the same course.

Please note that GCSE revision courses are also available in Valencia – they consist of 20 lessons per week and also include airport transfers and host family accommodation with another student.

IELTS preparation courses in London – a new evening course option for Cactus students

Comprising two 2-hour classes each week, the 20-hour course is designed to help students achieve a good score in the IELTS exam. The classes are tailored to students’ specific needs, and offer a dynamic and enjoyable learning environment.

The course covers key topic areas, develops students’ exam techniques, and improves their overall command of English for study and work.  It is offered at two levels – level 5 caters for students who want to achieve up to 5.5 in the exam, and level 6 for those who need 6.0 or above.

Courses are continuous, so when you have finished your first course, you can carry on studying until you are fully ready for the test.

Please note that the course is practise only, and does not include the test itself.

Visit the Language Courses UK website to test your level, find course outlines and to book your place.

Academic year courses: real immersion in a language & culture

Surrounded by the sights and sounds of your new environment, you can’t help but soak up the language; as you naturally speak it in daily life, you will pick up vast amounts of vocabulary, and your comprehension and pronunciation will improve dramatically as your ear tunes into the sound of the language constantly around you.

On top of all this, taking a longer-term course such as an academic year programme will introduce you to people from across the globe – your common language being the one that you are all learning – and give you the unique opportunity to live in a lively, multicultural environment.

If you are serious about spending time abroad and want something to show for it, an academic year course in your language of choice is an excellent choice. Improved language skills marry with an increase of confidence and enhanced study and career prospects on your return.

With this in mind, we have listed our recommendations of locations which offer good long-term courses and which are fantastic places to stop and spend a while:


Please visit the Cactus Language website for details of all academic year courses worldwide.

Spanish evening course in Brighton: Cactus staff experience

My Cactus colleagues who speak several languages fluently inspired me to learn another language, and due to my personal preferences I decided to learn Spanish. I was very excited after booking my first course and was thrilled at the thought of being able to speak another language.

Now, I have already completed 3 Spanish evening courses in Brighton and I’m looking forward to joining another course in October. My teachers at every level were very friendly and helpful, and the classes were fun and engaging – we played many games which were always a hit with the class.

As I progressed to higher levels, my vocabulary improved and I started feeling more comfortable with the language, but I should admit that I haven’t been very good at doing homework and practising outside the classroom. Even though just attending the classes has helped, it isn’t enough if you want to get most out of your course, which I realised just after completing two courses.

I think it’s important to explore the kind of learning you would personally prefer outside of class and follow it. I don’t really like just reading course books, so I wanted to do something different to just reading and writing in my free time.

I love movies so I watched two Spanish movies during my last course – Regresar and Apariencias, which are both South American movies. Watching these movies has been entertaining as well as a learning experience. I am also thinking about registering with Blockbuster as as they have several Spanish (and other world cinema) movies for rent. I also like online games, so I searched for websites which offer free online games and found Digital Dialects, which is a good website with lots of games to practise vocabulary and verbs.

I am sure if you identify what works best for you, learning a language would be more rewarding and enjoyable than you think.

Do you agree with me? Please post your comments and share your experiences.

Cactus runs Spanish evening courses in Brighton and other cities across the UK. Courses are also available in the US and Canada.

Those wishing to practise their newfound language skills abroad can take a Spanish course in locations across Spain and Latin America. Learning a language in the country where it’s spoken is the ideal way to immerse yourself in the language and culture.

What will I learn on a Weekend Crash Course?

Cactus Weekend Crash Courses comprise 10 hours of class time, spread over one weekend. The idea sounds nice – taking your knowledge further or picking up the basics of a language in a relatively short space of time. But how much can you actually learn during those 600 minutes if you are completely new to the language?

That was something I wanted to find out and so I decided to sign up for a crash course and try my hand at Italian. I had visited the country a few times and hoped I would have been able to chat to people in their mother tongue. I recall trying to communicate with the locals who didn’t speak English and think that even the sketchiest knowledge of Italian would have helped. But it is not just about speaking – it is also helpful to be able to read the menu in a restaurant or to catch the meaning of newspaper headlines, for instance.

A weekend crash course is clearly not going to make me fluent, but it certainly offers a flying start, getting to grips with the basics and initial feel of the language. After all, that’s what most people are after when learning a language for a trip abroad: the basics, being able to get by and getting an insight into the country, people and culture.

Cactus’ weekend crash courses offer just that, so I signed up. My class was small, only 4 people, which made the course feel quite intensive and is obviously good for progress. The classes are very interactive with a lot of active participation. It’s a relaxed atmosphere and the teacher is easy to approach, which makes it easy to get stuck in, have a go and ask questions, without feeling “silly”.

As the course is Level 1, designed for beginners, we start from scratch: alphabet, tricky parts of pronunciation and how to greet and introduce ourselves. We learn how to offer some basic personal information such as age, profession and nationality. Numbers and the most basic verbs are also covered. In terms of grammar we get to know about articles, gender of words and the declination of verbs. However, the syllabus of the course is not set in stone. On the contrary, our teacher asks us what we would like to cover in the latter part of the course.

At the end of day one I feel excited but a bit overwhelmed with all the new information. It takes some time to take it all in, so revision between classes is a great way to consolidate all the things covered. Homework given by our teacher helps us to revise the contents of the first day before we enter the classroom again.

On the second day of the course we focus on food and drink vocabulary. Going through these topics also gives us an introduction to the Italian culture – it is an undeniable fact that Italy is known for its cuisine especially. Ordering at a bar, café and restaurant is covered exhaustively, which is logical, as these situations are the ones a traveller to Italy is most likely to confront.

We practise all the topics covered on the course through different means – role plays, exercises, listening etc. For instance, we get to write and perform a dialogue about having a dinner in a restaurant, including all the interaction between the waiter and the customers from the moment they enter the restaurant to the point they ask for the bill.

We also learn how to tell the time, seasons, months and days of the week, and practice all the topics covered on the course through different means – role plays, exercises, listening etc. We leave the last class armed with a stack of material for independent study and revision, and as I leave the classroom, I find myself walking through central London, day-dreaming of sipping espresso at a café in a cobbled square, eating delicious gelato flavours e naturalmente parlando italiano fluidamente…

I don’t know if my original purpose was just to pick up some basics or to try an experiment – now I just know I want to learn more of this beautiful language!

Cactus runs Weekend Crash Courses in Italian and other languages in London. We also run 10-week, 5-week and 1-week courses in many languages and in locations across the UK.

10 good reasons to choose one-to-one language training

The advantages of one to one training don’t stop there though, and other benefits include the following…

1. You can go at your pace. Because one-to-one training courses are tailored solely to your needs, it’s much easier for the tutor to go at exactly your pace. If you learn in a group there can be less flexibility when it comes to how much time you can dedicate to each topic or grammatical area.

2. You get the optimum chance to speak and practise the language you’re learning. Although all teachers in a group scenario will try to ensure that all students get equal opportunity to speak in class, sharing tuition with other people will always mean that you have slightly less ‘talking time’. Whilst this suits some people very well, others are keen to get as much time to speak as possible, which is best achieved with one-to-one tuition.

3. You get to dictate any specialist areas that you’d like to cover in your training. A real benefit of one-to-one training is that you can ask your tutor to include specialist topics or vocabulary in your lessons – something that it would be trickier to do in group lessons. This can be great for people who have a specific hobby or profession that requires them to know technical words or phrases.

4. You can choose the time and location that suits you best. People who live outside of big cities or towns can sometimes find it hard to get to schools and colleges for evening language courses. For people in this situation, private, individual tuition can be a great option. Tutors can come to your house, or a convenient location close-by can be found. Equally, for those who are unable to get out in the evenings, individual tuition can take place at any time of day.

5. You learn more intensively and therefore more quickly. When you learn ‘one on one’ with a tutor, the learning is always going to be more intensive. For this reason, it’s great for people who want, or need, to learn quickly as you can progress from level to level in a shorter space of time.

6. If you miss a lesson it’s easier to re-arrange it so that you don’t miss out on a week’s content. For some people, committing to be in a set time and place every week just isn’t feasible. It could be that they work shifts, or have a job that demands long, unpredictable hours, but in any case is very useful to have a more flexible set-up when it comes to foreign language lessons. As long as enough notice is given, it’s not normally a problem to re-arrange a lesson so that you don’t ‘lose’ a week.

7. You can focus on the skills that you need most help with. Normally out of the four skills in language learning – speaking, listening, reading and writing – you will find some easier than others. With one-to-one tuition you can spend more time working on those that you find more difficult – something that is not always possible in group classes.

8. You can learn more about your tutor and their cultural background. With one-to-one training, it’s inevitable that you’ll have more of an opportunity to get to know your tutor. For this reason, you’re likely to learn more about the culture of the countries where the foreign language is spoken than in other training scenarios.

9. It’s less intimidating for shy or beginner students. Generally speaking it has to be said that foreign language classes attract sociable and friendly people, but group-scenarios can nevertheless be daunting for particularly shy, or beginner students. If this is something that you think would impede your learning, one-to-one lessons are much less intimidating than being in a group and having to speak in front of other people.

10. It’s easier to pursue points that you haven’t understood. Most teachers in a class situation will always encourage students to speak up if a point covered in class hasn’t been fully understood, but in reality students can sometimes feel awkward and embarrassed to say so. For this reason, if you feel that you’re likely to need extra explanations, you might feel more comfortable learning one on one with a tutor.

Please visit the Cactus Language Training website to submit an initial enquiry or to test your language level.