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.

The best of Europe: our top locations for 2014

There are few places that outshine Europe when it comes to the sheer variety of culture, languages and food on offer in such a compact space.

And for those looking for a break in the early months of the year, this is exactly what you need – warm, welcoming cafés, museums chock-full of treasures and galleries brimming with cutting edge art, all ready to work their charm regardless of the weather outside. Then as we creep towards spring these same European cities come into their own, offering up delightful mazes of cobbled streets, large green spaces and riverside or beachside walks to help us make the most of the longer days.

Look no further if you need inspiration for a European break over the coming months: here are our top 4 recommendations for the best language learning destinations in Europe.

1. Valencia, Spain


Spain’s third largest city sits on the Mediterranean coast and is blessed with a glorious climate, fun-loving inhabitants, delicious food (being the birthplace of paella) and an innate ability to throw a good party. Time your Spanish language holiday in March and you’ll be utterly mesmerised by the explosive Las Fallas festival, one of the world’s most impressive pyrotechnic displays accompanied in all its glory by sculptures, traditions, music and satire. This year’s dates are March 15th-19th. Outside Las Fallas, make sure you don’t miss a walk through the labyrinthine cobbled streets of El Barrio del Carmen, not just to admire the imposing medieval buildings of this charming district, but because by night this becomes one of the liveliest places in the city to go out. Frequented by tourists and students alike, this is the perfect place to practise your Spanish over a plate of tapas! Valencia also boasts a long list of must-sees (including Veles i Vents by the port and the Cuidad de las Artes y las Ciencias), a flourishing restaurant scene, lively nightlife, great shops and, of course, miles of golden beach. Little wonder this is fast becoming our hot new place to learn Spanish.

Spanish courses in Valencia

2. Berlin, Germany


It’s over twenty years already since the fall of the Wall, and although Berlin will always have huge historical and political significance, this is a city that has unreservedly thrown itself into its future with barely a backwards glance. What we have now is an energetic, modern and edgy capital city that is the epitome of ‘cool’. Whatever you want, you have it. An open-air museum with famous landmarks at every turn, world class museums and galleries, striking street art, insatiable nightlife, hip flea markets, food of all ethnicities…in Berlin you can do what you want and, above all, be who you want. The great thing is you can take a German course in Berlin for as little as a week and this will give you a brilliant insight into this fascinating city – even more so if you stay with a local family. This is our most popular place to learn German and you’d be hard pushed to find somewhere more exciting to learn a language.

German courses in Berlin

3. Aix-en-Provence, France


Ohh, we sigh, as we think of Aix. As the days start to stretch out, thoughts of a languid provençal lifestyle trigger something deep in our psyche, the part that yearns to pluck sun-warmed fruit from a local market, sip steaming coffee from an umbrella-decked ‘terrasse’ and wander carefree down cobbled streets and leafy boulevards. Artists such as Cézanne have long been known to settle in Aix for its stunning landscapes and light. Linguists have long been attracted here as you cannot help but want to learn French in Aix’s inspiring surroundings. Find out what all the fuss is about with our French & Discover Provence Course, the perfect opportunity to learn the language and meet like-minded people whilst enjoying all that the city has to offer. Or why not indulge your passion for French cuisine with a French & Provençal Cooking course (next start date 17th March) or enjoy the finer things in life with our French & Wine Tasting course. Santé!

French courses in Aix-en-Provence

4. Paris, France


Paris has, and always will be, a magical city. It’s a chic European capital often chosen as a weekend escape, but scratch the surface and you’ll find it’s so much more than the picture-postcard Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe we all know and love. Bohemian Montmartre, avant-garde Montparnasse, the high-brow Latin Quarter…each arrondissement tells a different story, local bistros and hidden bookshops as essential to Paris’ personality as the high heels and short skirts of the Moulin Rouge. Year after year Paris is one of our most popular locations to learn French, partly thanks to our vast range of French courses across three schools which ensures we have the right course for you. From intensive mini-group courses to Saturday courses and A Level Revision courses (next start date February half term), studying French in its iconic capital city has never been so easy.

French courses in Paris

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

Las Fallas: not your average fireworks display

If you’ve not heard of Las Fallas, let its meaning of ‘the fires’ in Valencian give you a clue. True to its name, Las Fallas is a spectacular pyrotechnic festival like none you have seen before; it is one of Spain’s most famous and certainly one of the world’s most unique. Taking place in the usually calm city of Valencia each March, be warned that this is a fiesta for those who like noise and little sleep.

Dates to note for this year are 15th – 19th March 2014, which mark five wild days of fireworks, fires, explosions, parades and, in true Spanish style, partying long into the night. All this is held in honour of St Joseph, which marks Father’s Day in Spain, and in celebration of the arrival of Spring as the long days of Winter draw to a close. Paella contests and beauty pageants even find their way into the celebrations.

Centre stage at Las Fallas, however, are the ninots, giant papier-mâché figures that are paraded through the streets and left to tower up to 20 feet over the crowds for the duration of the festival. Often exaggerated and ranging from playful to grotesque, these figures satirise political figures, bullfighters and all kinds of tv, sports and film personalities, who appear in colourful caricature across the city for all to see – at least, that is, until the final night.

Having been pain-stakingly created in the months leading up to the festival, the climax of Las Fallas is the burning of these monumental effigies in one fell swoop at the very end. Known as the cremà, this ritual sees some 300 firemen on standby and ambulances ready to whisk the faint-hearted off to hospital – a dramatic but necessary precaution, given the extent and exuberance of the fires.

It is a similar situation with the mascleta, which takes place in the Plaza del Ayuntamiento at 2pm each day of the festival. In this event different neighbourhoods of Valencia compete for the most impressive display of fireworks, firecrackers and rockets, culminating in the terremoto (literally, earthquake), as everything explodes simultaneously. It may come as no surprise that pregnant women are unable to attend the mascleta, for even regular healthy people have been known to succumb to the ‘heat’ of it all.

Valencians wouldn’t have it any other way though. This is their festival and they are rightly proud of it. Each year they channel energy, life and extravagance into Las Fallas, resulting in a 5-day-long fireworks party matched by no other. You could take your ear plugs, but then that would ruin half the fun…

Cactus offers Spanish courses in Valencia and in other locations across Spain.

Gary Hogarth tells us his story of how he met his wife and how learning Spanish was for love

There are many reasons to start learning a new language – work, personal development, even just simple curiosity – but for me, a self confessed language phobic, there was only one thing that could get me learning again…love.

I come from a typical English family. We have visited the same resort on the Costa Del Sol many times, each time spending a sunny week in “England on Sea” with its Irish bars, English breakfasts and expats. The only Spanish I ever knew (and rarely used) was a few choice phrases enabling me to find the bathroom or order a beer.

Then, three and a half years ago, I met Thais through a mutual friend and was instantly smitten with this girl from Barcelona. At first I was lazy on the language front, relying solely on her amazing level of English, but after my first trip to visit her family it became clear that if I wanted to communicate with her family and friends, I would need to learn Spanish.

Decision made, I now had to figure out how best to go about studying. A quick Google search for Spanish classes in London brings up many different schools trying to get your business. However, time and time again I saw Cactus’ name popping up. When I investigated further, I was pleased that Cactus offered classes at times, levels and prices that suited me perfectly. I booked my first course starting in January 2011, a set of ten weekly two hour lessons at a London Bridge school.

I arrived for my first lesson far too early and a little nervous. The room was laid out like a classroom with desks in rows, so I chose mine and introduced myself to a few other early arrivals. A few minutes later, our teacher Conception (or Imma as we called her) arrived and immediately got us moving the desks into a much more relaxed semicircle. The group was a reasonable size which is normal for a Level 1 course and really good as you get to practise with many different people. Over the 10 week course I managed to become remarkably conversational in the areas/tenses I had learnt, helped by the excellent teaching, the reading materials and the podcasts provided. I also met lots of new and interesting people
(Nathan, Zoe, Will) and learnt a couple of important Spanish lessons that have stayed with me to today:

– Embarrassed in Spanish is not “embarazado” (that means pregnant)
– Coger doesn’t mean “to catch” in Argentina

I was so pleased with my level of Spanish after my first course I decided to go straight into Level 2 in March 2011. I was lucky enough to have the same teacher and many of the same people who were in my Level 1 class. The group was a lot smaller which was good as we had more one on one time with Imma and were able to ask more questions. The class, as with Level 1, was lively and conducted entirely in Spanish (English was only used to clarify if needed). I had a great time and again made lots of new friends, so much so that on the last evening we all went out for tapas (with the teacher as well).

I spent the summer using my new found Spanish skills on holiday in Florida after asking Thais to be my wife (¿Quieres casarte conmigo?). By September I was ready for a booster course before a Christmas/New Year holiday to Barcelona where I wanted to put my Spanish skills to the test with my future extended family. I registered for an intensive 5 week Level 3 course at the Picaddilly school with a new teacher Eduardo; this would be split into 2 evenings a week and the class was a lot smaller (4-5 people). I found that the intensiveness really suited me and helped me to focus on learning Spanish. Eduardo remains to this day one of the best Spanish teachers I have ever had.

I thought after these courses I would take a break from learning, as with a wedding in Spain to plan I wouldn’t have time for lessons, but it was early 2012 when I saw an interesting photo competition on Facebook from Cactus. I entered a photo and thought nothing of it, as I never win anything anyway. Much to my surprise I received an email a few months later telling me I had won a week’s intensive language course in Valencia. I was speechless and booked my flights the next day.

Cactus not only offers great courses here in the UK, but has partnered with some of the best language schools in other countries to offer residential intensive courses. Mine was in Valencia at the amazing Taronja school. I would be staying in a shared flat with eight other students (I got my own room) from around the globe, classes were either morning or afternoon and consisted of four hours a day with two different teachers. I had Ana and Maria Jose and really enjoyed the lively lessons and course content.

In addition to the classes, my study was supported by just being in Spain and speaking/hearing the Spanish language. So after a class, a new French friend and I went to Mercadona (a supermarket). It was really fun walking around a foreign supermarket speaking Spanish (and some English) and good practice for later.

What made the trip for me, though, was the total immersion of it all. Free afternoons and evenings were filled with activities and outings organised by the school (some at no extra cost). Activities included an “Intercambio” or language exchange, a Paella night, a Salsa night, a trip to a Bodega and a walking tour of Valencia. Throughout all these trips we were speaking as much Spanish as possible. This really made the trip feel like a holiday and not like going to school.

When I got back to the UK Thais was truly shocked at how fluent I had become, and I was ecstatic with my level of Spanish, so much so that I have returned for a further 2 week stay since then (I even got to see some of my old friends).

Now all of this was for a reason – love – more importantly, for my wedding speech. I got married on the 26th May 2013 on a beach south of Barcelona. I was so nervous – but not about getting married. I was nervous because I knew that both the guests at the wedding and the speech in my pocket were over 50% Spanish. I am pleased to say that I performed the speech without disaster and I think I rendered a few of my Spanish family speechless. My wedding was not only the happiest day of my life but the proudest as well. Thanks in part to Cactus.

Many thanks to Gary for taking the time to tell me about his experience and to hopefully inspiring others to learn a language.

If you would like to find out more about Gary Hogarth’s Spanish learning experiences, then check out his blog: or follow him on Twitter @garyhogarth

The photo at the beginning of this article was kindly contributed by Gary taken and taken at his wedding by Even Films

Cactus Language Training offers a variety of language courses in a range of languages throughout the UK, US and the world.