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Our top 5 locations for winter sunshine

If you want to escape the cold, the rain and the January blues, this one’s for you…

Check out our five great places for winter sun where you can swap boots for flip flops and duffle coat for swimsuit. Just make sure you send a postcard to make your friends envious back home…they won’t believe it’s all in the name of education!

1. Buenos Aires

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If there’s one place sure to lift your winter mood it’s Buenos Aires. You just can’t help but be swept up in the colour and vibrance of this thrilling capital city of Argentina. Whether it’s the food (thick, succulent steaks like you’ve never tasted), wine (rich Malbecs are Argentina’s forte), dance (from impromptu tango in the streets to extravagant evening shows), shopping (boutiques, galleries, antique shops and more), nightlife (don’t even think of going out before midnight, and be prepared for daylight when you emerge) or architecture (old-world cafes alongside magnificent colonial buildings), there is something here for everyone. Add to this the summer sunshine between December and February and the relative good value of the Argentine peso, compared to western currencies, and you’re in for a real treat at little expense. Choose a regular Spanish course or up the ante by adding some dancing, polo, horse riding or volunteering to your adventure.

Spanish courses in Buenos Aires

2. Cape Town

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If you want to get away for more than the usual week or two, or are even considering a job or lifestyle change, then head to South Africa for a TEFL course. A fantastic destination from mid-October to mid-February, when it basks in temperatures in the high twenties, this is the ideal place to spend 4 weeks learning how to teach English as a foreign language. When your head isn’t buried in a textbook, the treats that await you make it all worthwhile; the fascinating cultural melting pot that is Cape Town, delicious African and international cuisine, world-class locally-produced wines, pristine coastline, magnificent countryside and diverse flora and fauna. And once this is all over you have a passport to travel the world with your prestigious CELTA qualification – no need, then, to ever winter in the cold again!

TEFL courses in South Africa

3. Martinique

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Our latest must-visit location is the Caribbean island of Martinique. Ok, we’re kind of biased as two of our team have recently taken a French course in Martinique, and come back with infectious enthusiasm for this palm-fringed island just north of St Lucia. They were overwhelmed by the friendliness and hospitality of the locals, the delicious local food, the clear turquoise waters, the beautiful climate, the excellent French tuition, beautiful accommodation, and activities such as diving and dancing. As a place to learn French in the winter, it doesn’t get much better than this – we’re hooked!

French course in Martinique – a first-hand review

Sun, sea, sand and French…in exotic Martinique

French courses in Martinique

4. Galapagos

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New year, new you – change your life with a 4-week CELTA course in Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands. You can obtain the most prestigious English language teaching qualification whilst interacting with the unique flora and fauna of these beautiful islands and participating in sustainable development and environmental protection projects. The aim of this course is for you to of course gain your teaching qualification, but also to educate the local community and make a difference. It’s a once in a lifetime experience! Next start dates 11th January, 8th February, 21st March 2016.

CELTA course in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

5. Rio de Janeiro

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With verdant rainforests on one side, stunning mountains on the other and endless stretches of white sand beaches, Rio boasts one of the most spectacular urban settings in the world. There’s more to this spectacular city than Carnival, although if you can catch this week-long haze of samba, fiesta and hedonism it’s probably quite an appropriate introduction. And if you visit in winter this is exactly what you can do, as Carnival takes place February 5th-10th 2016 – the perfect antidote to winter back home and a great excuse to let your hair down. Solve the problem of finding accommodation at this popular time by staying with a local family whilst taking a language course – you don’t get better immersion in the language and culture than this!

Portuguese courses in Rio de Janeiro

Cactus offers language courses in more than 20 languages and 120 destinations worldwide. We also run adult evening and junior afternoon courses in the UK, which are the ideal way to learn the basics or brush up on existing language knowledge in advance of a holiday or business trip abroad.

10 ways to help your children learn a language

Our top tips for encouraging language learning at home

It’s well known that learning something when you’re young is the secret to learning it well, and for life. No more so is this relevant than in learning a foreign language, which – as any adult learner will testify – is more difficult later in life.

A child, on the other hand, their brain growing and eager to absorb new things, will soak up new language quickly. Expose them to a second language at an early age (before 10 is good; before 5 is great) and they show an innate ability to learn new words and develop natural pronunciation, without the inhibition that hinders us later in life.

Whether you have a toddler or a teen, there is plenty you can do, and you don’t even have to be good at languages yourself – take this as an opportunity to learn a language alongside your child!

Here are our top 10 ways to help your kids learn a language:

1. Nursery rhymes and songs

Younger children react positively to the repetition and melody of nursery rhymes and songs. Even if they don’t understand the words at first, this is a fun and effective way to absorb a foreign language. Go beyond Frère Jacques by buying a CD of French songs such as French Playground or 60 Comptines pour Crèche; alternatively, the BBC website offers fun, basic songs for primary school-aged children. Grab a few instruments and have a morning of music and fun!

2. Story tapes

Search for your child’s favourite story in another language. Bob the Builder becomes Bob le Bricoleur, Little Red Riding Hood becomes Le Petit Chaperon Rouge, and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs becomes Blancanieve y los 7 enanitos. Even Sesame Street and Dora the Explorer have been translated. Read the foreign language version along with your child, or play the CD that narrates the story for you both.

3. Word & picture cards

A basic idea, but a great way to learn and remember vocabulary, as it’s much easier to remember a word when associated with a colourful image. Simply write the name of an object, in the target language, next to a picture of that object. Then stick these cards around the house, for constant exposure, or bring them out as a game to name objects in the house and garden.

4. Indulge in the local culture!
french-croissantIf it takes a chocolat chaud and a croissant, then so be it. Pretend that you are living in France for the day and surround yourselves at home with French-related goodies. Play some French music or French radio in the background, draw a French flag, make a necklace with red, white and blue beads, serve baguette and French cheeses for lunch, play boules in the garden, and end the day with a trip to the local crêperie. It’s the next best thing to being in France.

 

5. Find a pen pal

children-learning-languages-smallOnce you child is a bit older and knows the basics in a foreign language, a pen pal is a great way to practise the language and exert some independence. There’s nothing like the excitement of an air mail letter dropping on the doormat (who receives hand-written letters these days?), or an email into the Inbox, to encourage a flurry of letter-writing back. Having a pen pal abroad is also a great way to learn about culture in another country and appreciate the differences in lifestyle, eg. school, food, holidays, hobbies, etc. – proving how language exposure can help your child to increase perspective.

6. Interactive learning

Like it or not, your child is growing up in a technically advanced world. Put aside Minecraft and use the tablet to hook up to some excellent interactive and educational programmes online. For younger children, the BBC’s Muzzy series is a fun language course led by a cuddly, green character and comprising DVDs, audio, songs and written work. Older children familiar with Wii and Nintendo will like their My French Coach (and My Spanish Coach) language software. An easy compromise if they like computer games, these games are fun and interactive whilst providing the basics of grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation.

7. Podcasts

Older children will love the technology and independence of downloading their own free language podcasts from iTunes. Le Journal en Français Facile is a daily and easily-understood podcast delivering the nightly news from Radio France Internationale, and likewise Langsam gesprochene Nachrichten does so in German. Follow with the transcript to catch those words you’re not sure of.

8. Talk about them in another language

A cunning ploy if you and your partner both speak another language. A colleague at work revealed that the most successful way to get his girls to learn French was to chat to his wife, about them, in French. Frustrated at not understanding the conversation, the girls had immediate impetus to up their game and catch their parents out. Sure enough, as dad told mum one night that he thought “Elle est fatiguée”, the oldest daughter responded quite indignantly, “Je ne suis PAS fatiguée!”.

9. Speak the language yourself

Practise what you preach! If your kids hear you speaking a language at home they will be more likely to speak it themselves. Drop in key words around the house, such as when you want them to pass you something, at meal times or bathtime. Even if at first they don’t understand, repetition will help their little brains to absorb the language and one day say it back to you.

10. Go abroad

barcelona_parc_guellMoney permitting, a trip to the country of the language your child is learning can really boost motivation and progress. In the exciting run-up to your holiday you can all practise the language together, and once there your child will absorb all the sights and sounds, be able to practise the basics, and get a real feel for another culture. Being able to travel and speak to people of other nationalities and cultures is, after all, what learning a language is all about.

 


Cactus runs after-school language courses for juniors aged 7-15 years in London and in Brighton. Courses start in September 2015 and run for 10 weeks. Available in French, Spanish or Mandarin Chinese, the emphasis is on learning through games, songs and other fun age-appropriate activities to make language learning educational and enjoyable.

Parents wishing to send their children abroad to learn a language can book one of our popular summer language camps for 5-18 year olds.

 

10 top locations to learn Spanish this summer

If you want a little more from your holiday this summer, a language course is the perfect option. Not only can it be booked last minute, but you can get all the sand, sea, culture and history that you’d expect from a regular holiday. Spanish is our most popular language and with Spanish courses in Spain and across Latin America, there is a language course for every taste!

We’ve asked our language holiday advisors for their recommendations as to the best places to go this summer in Spain and Latin America. And who better to ask – they are the ones who have visited and taken courses in our many destinations.

It’s not too late to book – just take your pick, and get it in the diary!

Location Why Go?
1. Bocas del Toro, Panama Caribbean beaches and islands; excellent diving and surfing; laid-back, rustic vibe; close to the Costa Rican border; on the backpacker trail but still relatively unknown
2. Cartagena, Colombia Magnificent colonial city; Caribbean charm; friendly, warm locals; Colombian Spanish has a reputation for being particularly clear
3. Ibiza, Spain Exhilarating nightlife; spectacular natural scenery and beaches; ancient hill towns; mild climate year-round
4. Jaco Beach, Costa Rica Laid-back surfing and beach culture; relaxed but lively nightlife; courses include Spanish & surfing
5. Playa del Carmen, Mexico Beautiful beach; choice of watersports; lively nightlife; proximity to ancient Maya & Aztec sites
6. San Sebastián, Spain Golden beaches & excellent surfing; famous for its delicious pintxos (tapas); popular summer teen & children’s programmes
7. Santiago de Chile, Chile Southern Hemisphere skiing; vineyards and wine tasting; European in feel; leafy parks
8. Santiago de Compostela, Spain Off the beaten track; classic walking trails; history & culture; traditional bars and excellent tapas
9. Sosúa, Dominican Republic Watersports, especially diving & kitesurfing; attractive climate; cheap destination once there; whale watching in winter
10. Valencia, Spain Vibrant summer location; beaches and watersports including Spanish & kite surfing, impressive City of Arts and Sciences; the place to eat paella

More about Spanish courses in Spain

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Cactus offers Spanish courses in 12 countries worldwide. Courses are available from one week upwards, for all ages and levels, and can be combined with a range of activities from sport and cookery to music and art.

The 10 best places to learn English in the UK

The UK is a consistently popular destination when it comes to learning English. With a wide variety of landscapes, people, cultures and accents within a relatively small area, you get a lot for your money when you book an English course in the UK.

With so much on offer, it can be hard to know which is the right location for you. With this in mind we’re bringing you our 10 best places to learn English in the UK, to help you compare, choose and plan your trip. These are also the locations where you will find the best IELTS exam preparation and business English courses, which you will see links to below.

1. London

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An English course in London or an IELTS exam course in London is an experience you will never forget. England’s vibrant, historic and multi-cultural capital has so much to offer students of all nationalities that it is unsurprisingly our most popular location to learn English in the UK. The large number of schools in London means that there is a course for everyone, no matter your age, level or budget, and the activities on offer outside class are infinite, ranging from cultural and sporting to entertainment, shopping, nightlife and more. Your London English course is the perfect way to experience one of the world’s most exciting cities. And for those wanting to take the reputable IELTS test, we offer a choice of long, short and part-time IELTS preparation courses in London.

English course London

IELTS exam preparation course London

Business courses in London for executives and professionals

2. Brighton

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“London by the sea” is what they call Brighton, and if you take an English course in Brighton or an IELTS exam course in Brighton you will certainly be getting the best of both worlds. Buzzing city life accompanied by fresh air and great views – the sea in one direction and the picturesque hills of the Downs in the other – is a unique and enviable combination. On top of this you can expect a laid-back atmosphere, an emphasis on an outdoors, sporty lifestyle and top notch arts and cultural events. Come to learn English or take your IELTS preparation course in Brighton and you’ll realise that it’s a city unlike any other, and one that year after year attracts British and foreign students for courses and holidays.

English courses Brighton

IELTS exam preparation courses Brighton

Business courses in Brighton for executives and professionals

3. Oxford

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Oxford has earned itself a reputation as an academic centre of excellence, as much for students attending its prestigious university as for foreign students wanting to learn English or take an IELTS exam course at one of its many language schools. Wherever you come from you will have doubtless seen images of the city’s historic architecture, rising spires and attractive cobbled streets, and in real life it is every bit as beautiful. Take an English course in Oxford or an IELTS preparation course in Oxford and you can proudly be part of the city’s flourishing student life, with plenty of opportunity to practise your English outside class, be it to rent a bike or have a pint in one of the city’s traditional pubs.

English course Oxford

IELTS exam preparation course Oxford

English mini-group executive course Oxford

4. Manchester

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One of our most popular UK cities, Manchester offers a good dose of British northern life mixed with first-class entertainment facilities, abundant sporting opportunities, excellent shopping and no end of places to eat and socialise. As a place to learn English, it is modern and exciting, with a rich historical and cultural heritage. Take your English course in Manchester and you will quickly get caught up in all that there is to do, yet should you ever want a slower pace of life, the scenic Pennine Hills are just on the doorstep waiting to be explored.

English course Manchester

Business English course Manchester

5. Cardiff

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Here’s a little secret: if you are looking for a place to learn English that is a little different, a place of stunning river valleys, pristine sandy beaches, rugged landscapes dotted with castles and supremely warm, friendly people, you must come to Wales. This small but magical country will steal a little piece of your heart before you know it. Take your English course in Cardiff and you can enjoy all that a thriving capital city offers, with the stunning Welsh countryside easily explored on weekends with friends that you make in class. The Welsh accent is often described as melodious, with a distinctive musical intonation – and although English is spoken everywhere, you may even find you pick up a few words of Welsh!

English course Cardiff

6. Cambridge

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Cambridge is famous the world over for its prestigious university, unique traditions and active student life, meaning you are just as likely to see a student with his or her nose in a book as you are punting down the river beneath bridges and willow trees. For a place so well known, Cambridge is surprisingly modest in size, making it easy to get around and lending a friendly, intimate feel to the city – ideal for practising your English with the locals. As well as learning English, taking your English course in Cambridge will give you a great insight into the British culture and, with its central location, easy access to the rest of the UK.

English course Cambridge

7. Liverpool

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It’s not just the innovative language school in the heart of the city that attracts students to learn English in Liverpool – although this could be reason enough if school and course are paramount to you. With contemporary learning facilities, quality teaching and outstanding value for money, you are in excellent hands if you take your English course in Liverpool. And this is without even mentioning all that Liverpool has to offer. Whether you’re after music, culture, legend or sport, you can’t help but be swept up in Beatles mania, football frenzy and cultural utopia, making this lively northern city an unforgettable place to learn English.

English course Liverpool

8.  Bristol

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Located in England’s picturesque south-west, Bristol is a wonderful – but often overlooked – location for students wanting to learn English. Known as the cultural centre of the West of England, it has struck the perfect balance between a buzzing student life, attractive surroundings (leafy Georgian streets, meandering waterways and a thriving waterfront) and a fantastic nightlife. As a student taking an English course in Bristol, you can expect to be treated as an individual at the supportive, family-run English language school, but not have to vie with hoards of foreign visitors as you might in other UK locations.

English course Bristol

9. Bath

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With picture-postcard views everywhere you turn, you can’t help but fall in love with Bath, a beautiful city in England’s south-west. Perfect sand-coloured rows of Georgian houses, wide tree-lined crescents and quaint boutiques line the cobbled streets and the sparkling River Avon winds gently through the centre. It has an upmarket, wealthy feel, but the large number of students at its university add a young and lively element. If you take an English course in Bath you will inevitably visit the famous Roman Baths, but there’s plenty more to do here and you’ll soon discover why it’s such a popular place to learn English.

English course Bath

10. Edinburgh

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Scotland has a distinct identity that shines through in its history, culture, traditions and accent, all of which combine to offer the most fascinating language learning experience. Take your English course in Edinburgh and you’ll soon see that it’s best discovered on foot, with attractive Georgian streets, impressive statues and countless cafes leading you to famous landmarks such as Edinburgh Castle, Princes Street and The Royal Mile. Time your trip in the summer to catch the dazzling Edinburgh Festival or join in the unmissable Hogmanay celebrations at new year. Whatever you do, life north of the border certainly won’t disappoint.

English course Edinburgh

Cactus offers a variety of English courses across the UK and in other countries worldwide. Courses include General English, Business English, Academic Year programmes, exam preparation courses and Under 18s summer camps.

Top 5 romantic places to learn a language

Love is certainly in the air around Valentine’s Day, but there are some places in the world that ooze charm every day of the year. With this in mind, here are our top 5 destinations for sharing a little romance whilst learning some of the local lingo.

1. Cologne, Germany

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If you want a romantic European city break but something a little different from much-lauded Paris, then the German city of Cologne may just hit the spot. This is a place that inspires couples to fix padlocks to the railings of a bridge and, to ensure everlasting love, throw the key into the river below – and not just on Valentine’s Day. As the river Rhine collects keys of all sizes, so its visitors fall in love with the city too. Oozing with history, magnificent architecture, a stunning Cathedral, cobbled streets, boutique shops and traditional bierkellers, this is an unforgettable and charming place that is likely to steal your heart.

German courses in Cologne

2. Cartagena, Colombia

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Some say that Cartagena is the most romantic city in South America, and it’s easy to see why. Sitting on Colombia’s northern Caribbean coast, you can’t help but fall in love as you walk through the Old Town’s narrow cobbled streets, tropical flowers spilling down from balconies above, the infectious beat of salsa on every street corner and warm days drawing to a close as the sun dips below the horizon each night. The natural warmth and affection of the locals, coupled with an inherent love for life, is nothing short of infectious.

Spanish courses in Cartagena

3. St Petersburg, Russia

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A city steeped in history, legend and intrigue, St Petersburg is an unexpected yet wonderful choice if you want to whisk away your loved one. It has no shortage of romantic spots, such as the spectacular Heritage, the fairytale-like Winter Palace and the elaborately decorated Mariinsky Theatre, home to the city’s best ballet and opera and a wonderful opportunity to dress in your finery. Special moments should be saved for a cruise along the Nevsky Prospect, which is equal if not better than a boat ride on the Seine in Paris. And when it comes to eating out, St Petersburg is a treasure trove of exquisite places to dine.

Russian courses in St Petersburg

4. Québec City, Canada

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Québec City is one of the oldest cities in North America and as such is full of history, character and charm. It is a perfect romantic winter getaway, celebrating its Winter Carnival just before Valentine’s Day – a perfect excuse to wrap up warm, play in the snow and dive into a friendly bistro for a chocolat chaud. Amongst the city’s many magical spots are the Quartier Petit Champlain, an enchanting European-style neighbourhood of boutiques and cobbled streets, the magnificent Château Frontenac and the UNESCO World Heritage treasure of Old Québec. This is a place that makes you feel warm on the inside even when it’s snowing outside.

French courses in Québec City

5. Florence, Italy

florence duomo

It would be impossible to talk of romance without including Italy. Although the whole country is synonymous with amour, Florence is a wonderful place to base yourself. In the heart of Tuscany, surrounded by rolling hills dotted with cypress trees and vineyards, its historic centre is a magnificent concentration of some of the world’s finest art and architecture. Head for one of the city’s magnificent squares, such as Piazza della Signoria and Piazza della Repubblica, which make perfect spots to sit down to a real Italian gelato and watch the world go by. Wander hand in hand through the city’s cobbled streets beneath magnificent Gothic and Renaissance architecture and indulge in delicious Tuscan food by night; for a romantic couple’s escape, it doesn’t get much better than this.

Italian courses in Florence

Cactus offers language courses in locations across the world, for all ages and levels.

Where are the Best Language Schools in the World?

Good value and quality tuition in the world’s best locations…these are the best language schools in the world

Cactus’ recent appearance on the Guardian website in an article entitled “Top language learning holidays – in pictures” coincides perfectly with our brand new Top 10 Schools page.

Designed to give inspiration for the best places to learn a language, these schools are not just our most popular; they also offer great value and quality teaching in some of the most exciting locations across the globe. Whether you fancy learning Portuguese in Brazil or French on the glittering Côte d’Azur, you can be sure that our Top 10 schools offer the best and cheapest ways to study a language.

Currently topping our Top 10 list is Babylon Idiomas Seville, a small and friendly school located in the heart of Seville’s flamenco neighbourhood of Macarena. This makes an excellent choice when it comes to learning Spanish in Spain, or perhaps you’d prefer to combine your lessons with sailing or kite surfing at Taronja Valencia (number 6)?

Whatever your preference, there is something for everyone in our Top 10 Schools…our clients are a savvy bunch, and if these are the places they book time after time, they must be on to something.

Cactus offers language courses in over 25 languages and 120 destinations worldwide for adults, juniors and professionals. We have over 15 years’ experience providing study abroad courses, and you can book in the knowledge that you will receive the highest levels of customer service as well as a price match guarantee.

Use our website to browse language courses by location or language, or feel free to call us to chat through the options on 0845 130 4775 (UK local rate).

* Above image is of Brooklyn which appears at number 2 of our top 10.