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At Cactus we're serious about languages, and keen to pass on our language learning knowledge.
With this in mind we've created our very own Language Learning Zone, where you can pick up expert tips, advice and inspiration to help you get the most out of your language learning.
The advantages of a longer language course abroad
First-hand feedback from Cactus staff who have visited and taken courses at our schools
Interviews from you, our clients, about the places you've been...or dream of visiting!
Cactus is the leading provider of language courses and language holidays in the UK and abroad. Since 1998 we have helped more than 15,000 people every year learn a language. We're still as passionate as ever about languages and committed to making learning enjoyable and easy for everyone.
Over the years we have become experts in delivering high quality language training solutions, both off-the-shelf and tailor-made, to individuals and businesses in over 30 languages, 60 countries and 500 destinations worldwide.
We also run a variety of foreign language evening and tailormade courses in locations across North America Find out more about our Evening Courses >>
Alternatively, if you are living in New York and would like to take an English Course during the day, why not book into one of the schools we offer in Manhattan? Find out more about our New York English Courses >>
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When you book a language course package with Cactus, you are fully protected.
We are fully bonded with ATOL (number 9314).
This means that when you book a course and flight combination (both parts via Cactus), you are automatically ATOL protected.
Please note that Cactus can only book flights for UK customers.
For your added protection, Cactus is also bonded with TOPP, the Total Payment Protection Policy. This means that even if you do not book a flight through Cactus, but book any other type of package, you are ALSO PROTECTED.
In compliance with the UK Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992 and the Civil Aviation (Air Travel Organiser's Licensing) Regulations 1995 an insurance policy has been arranged with Travel & General Insurance Company plc, authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority, to protect customers' prepayments in the unlikely event of our financial failure and paid in respect of:
» flight inclusive packages commencing and returning to the UK
» non-flight inclusive packages commencing and returning to the UK
» the ground handling aspects of packages where the customer is responsible for arranging travel to the destination
» inbound business to the UK
offered in this document on this website (subject to the terms of the insurance policy), for:
» a refund of such prepayments if customers have not yet travelled, or
» making arrangements to enable the holiday to continue if customers have already travelled, or
» repatriation of customers to the UK
Customers' prepayments are protected by a topp policy. In the unlikely event of financial failure please contact the claims helpline on 0870 0137 965. A copy of the policy is available on request.
Cactus is a member of ATOL (Air Travel Organisers' Licensing) which provides our clients with total financial protection for any flights and air holidays booked through us. ATOL protects you from losing money or being stranded abroad should your tour operator go out of business, and is managed by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
Let us take the hassle out of booking your holiday!
As an ATOL-bonded company, Cactus can book travel extras in addition to your language programme, including: (hotel) accommodation, flights, airport transfers, care hire, coach/train services, airport parking/ hotels/ lounges, US passport and visa services.
What to do if you need to get a visa to take a course abroad:
Book your course with Cactus and pay a deposit of GBP £200.00 / EUR €220.00 / USD $300.00
We will send your enrolment to the school, and a few days later will send the invitation letter, stating that you are enrolled on a course in the chosen location. We usually send this letter by email. If you need the original copy to be sent by post, we do charge for secure postal delivery. Please ask us for details.
You need to take the letter to the appropriate Consulate, who should grant the visa. If your visa application is rejected, we will refund your deposit less an administration fee. You need to send us a stamped letter from the consulate explaining why your application was rejected. Please refer to our Terms and Conditions for more details. Below is the relevant section of these terms:
“Where a client has made a reasonable attempt to obtain a visa for the destination country within a reasonable timescale but is unable to obtain the visa, all money will be returned minus the £200 deposit on receipt of written confirmation from the relevant consulate detailing the visa rejection (only original documents will be accepted), In cases where an original invitation letter has been sent out by post, this will need to be returned too. No refunds will be given for flights or other travel products. Notification of visa rejection must be made to the company in writing (or e-mail) at least 2 weeks before the start date of the course or accommodation booking.
Please note that there are some exceptions and that some schools charge higher fees for cancellations, please refer to our full Terms and Conditions for a list of these exceptions.
In the case of cancellation or visa problems, the client will also be subject to the following charges, depending on the method of payment/refund: GBP £25.00 for a bank transfer, GBP £7.50 for an international cheque or 2.5% of the total amount for a credit card.”
Once you have your visa, you need to pay the remaining balance of your course.
After we have received full payment, we will send you an online Travel Pack with all the relevant information.
We recommend booking at least 2 months before the start of your chosen course. It is essential that you book your course and apply for a visa early, as the process can take time to complete.
Specific Country Visa Information
Cactus has teamed up with Longreach Travel, a dedicated travel agent, to supply our customers with a range of travel services including:
There are many advantages to booking through our chosen agent, instead of booking direct/online, which include:
This service is available to UK residents only. For non-UK residents, we will forward your request to one of our Overseas Partners to handle, as they may be able to access better local rates for you.
Maybe language holidays are new to you...in which case it's normal to have a few questions! We hope the following Frequently Asked Questions will help you out and, if there's more, feel free to pick up the phone and ask...
Why is a language holiday so beneficial?
When we consider how our own mother-tongue language was learnt, it was very much about complete immersion. If you have been involved in bringing up young children, you’ll have witnessed how children acquire language through constant contact and interaction with fluent speakers.
When it comes to learning a second language later in life, this ability to apparently absorb new languages is not so strong, given that our neural pathways are already developed. New language will therefore get processed according to however our brains have been ‘configured’.
It is widely held that the best way to learn a language is to visit the country, but this is not categorically so.
Even if we did have the time to live abroad indefinitely and be surrounded only by native language speakers, this would not necessarily be effective, as many expatriates can sadly testify.
In order to learn new language in an optimal way, our mature brains need to operate in an environment where the language can be fed to us in a more controlled way, where we can develop some confidence, get to know the rules of the language, have some explanations and go at our own speed.
This opens the way to the myriad language learning methods available that do just that – from cassettes to CD-ROMs, self-study course books and magazines, and the latest, language podcasts.
But we shouldn’t aim to break the language down so much that we lose all sight of our goals, that we forget what hearing fluent language sounds like, that we stop soaking up the sensory excitement that living ‘inside’ the language can bring.
The best hope then is to get as close as possible to the original childhood experience, by being in the country – but this time, combine it with structured lessons provided by qualified and experienced teaching professionals and delivered in ways which correspond to the learning preferences we have developed over the years.
The advantages of language holidays also go beyond pure language acquisition. True you learn language in the morning, and then, in free time or optional excursions and appropriate activities, you get to go out and about and have a go at using what you’ve learnt. But you also get an uplifting, culturally stimulating experience from which you’ll return informed, awake, enlightened and invigorated. You’ll also be much more fluent and confident to speak than when you arrived.
Do the teachers speak English during foreign language (non-English) lessons?
Generally - no. Not all the learners are English-speaking and many teachers do not speak English. However, at the lower levels some teachers may offer some explanations in English. NB. Please note that this applies to foreign language (non-English) courses only: teachers will speak English in English language courses.
Do I get a certificate after the course?
Yes. Nearly all courses come with a certificate of attendance.
Can I just book a course and arrange my own flights and accommodation?
Yes. We offer tailor-made holidays which means that you can book as little or as much with Cactus, and the rest by yourself or with other companies.
How long are your courses?
Courses run throughout the year from Monday to Friday (unless otherwise stated). The duration of courses are from 1 or 2 weeks minimum up to a year.
When can I start the course?
You can choose! For all non-beginners courses generally start each Monday of every month. There are restricted start dates for beginners, please check these on the website.
Will everyone in my class be starting on the same day?
Beginner courses will always commence on a certain day, so that all students are there from the very start. Normally though, when non-beginner students start a course, most of their classmates will already have been there for a few weeks. This is simply because most language schools have continuous enrolment, and students can choose their length of study. For this reason, courses are not designed to lead on from one week to the next, and each week will comprise a variety of skills that are taught around a few topics. This is common practice amongst schools, and teachers and the administrative staff will be used to integrating new students into existing classes.
Can I choose when I have the lessons?
With our group courses classes are either scheduled in the mornings or afternoons depending on your level and the season. In high season during the summer periods some schools alternate lessons; having mornings one week and afternoons the following week. The school will determine when the lessons are held. For individual courses we can accommodate your needs and requirements in terms of timetables, providing we have the teachers available. Please indicate your preferences at the time of booking.
What are the size of the classes?
Group classes can range in size from 4 to up to 25 students per class, depending on the location.
Is there a deadline for booking courses?
We recommend booking up to 2 months in advance in order to secure your course and accommodation preferences. We can organise courses last minute, up to a week beforehand but cannot in this case guarantee all courses/accommodation options will be available.
Do you offer courses for children?
Yes. We offer a range of Junior Programmes that are specifically designed for 6-18 year olds. These are available in a range of destinations and formats, and in a variety of languages. Additionally, Cactus offers specialist trips for school groups who want to go abroad to improve their foreign language skills. We liaise with our private language school partners to prepare a trip that is perfectly tailored to your needs and provide on-going support throughout the process.
How do I know my language level?
Please check our Language Levels guide. But please don't worry if you are unsure! All non-beginners will take a placement (level) test on the first day of their course to assess their exact level, except for one or two schools which test students in advance. In this instance we will send you the placement test by email or post for you to complete.
Can I change my level once I have started my course?
This only occurs occasionally as the placement tests give the school a clear indication of which level/class is appropriate for each student. If you would like to change classes please discuss this directly with the Director of Studies and your teacher, the school will then do their best to accommodate your level, (subject to availability in the classes).
Do host families live close to the school?
This depends on your chosen destination. In our smaller locations families can be within walking distance, 5-20 minutes. In larger cities (such as Paris, London and Moscow) students may need to take public transport for up to an hour. Please indicate at the time of booking if you have a preference on this and we will do our best to accommodate your needs.
Do the families speak English as well as their native tongue?
The majority of families speak little or no English. They are used to hosting foreign students and speaking slowly and clearly. We recommend taking a bi-lingual dictionary just in case! But don't be afraid of making mistakes - try to keep the conversation flowing and thinking in the target language!
What does a typical host family comprise of?
Schools offer a range of families, single parents, retired couples, professional couples, all of which are carefully selected and vetted by the school.
If I am over 30 can I still stay with a host family?
There is no age limit for host families. They welcome students of all ages and nationalities.
Do I need to bring my own towels etc?
We always recommend that you bring your own towels, especially when visiting a beach location. Many of the families will provide these in European locations but generally, students staying in shared apartments/student residences must bring their own.
Will the accommodation have a laundry service?
For long stays host families may provide this on request. If you are staying in a residence or apartment there may be a shared washing machine. Please check this with your language course advisor before departing.
Can I use the kitchen in the host family?
Generally it is not possible to use the host family’s kitchen to prepare your own meals. However in some European locations in France and Italy we can organise this. Please check this first before making your booking.
Why book with Cactus?
Sometimes, clients are unsure of the benefits that they get from booking a language course with an agent as opposed to the language school itself. Naturally, the course and accommodation that you book is exactly the same, but with Cactus you will benefit from impartial advice about which school or location will best suit your needs. We have visited the vast majority of our partner schools and can give you extensive and unbiased information about what to expect. At Cactus, we pride ourselves on offering excellent customer service, and are also ATOL and TOPP bonded to assure our clients’ financial security.
Do you offer discounts for repeat clients?
Yes – we are more than happy to do this. Our booking system recognises repeat clients by their email address and will automatically apply a discount.
Do you offer discounts for groups?
Yes. For groups of 10 or more people learning in the same location at the same time, we offer a discount on the course fees OR a free course (and usually accommodation) for the teacher or group leader if there is one. Please see our school groups website for more information on school group programmes and locations, or for a quote.
How do I pay?
You can pay by credit card (Visa/Mastercard), for which there is a standard 2.75% booking fee, by UK debit card (Delta/Connect/Switch), cheque or bank transfer We also accept payment by cheques in USD and Euros.
When is full payment due?
Full payment of the holiday balance should be paid at least 8 weeks prior to departure, unless it is a late booking. We issue an email confirmation upon receipt of payment and travel packs (tickets, confirmation of courses and accommodation) will be sent out 2-3 weeks prior to the departure date. For late bookings, it will be necessary to pay by credit or debit card. You can send us your details online via our secure server or by telephone or fax. You should never send your credit card details in a normal e-mail. PLEASE USE OUR SECURE SERVER ONLY!
Can I just pay a deposit at this stage?
If you would like to reserve your course and accommodation (more than 8 weeks before the course), you can pay us a deposit - this is £200 for courses, £250 for Volunteer Programmes, and £250 for Teacher Training courses. All flights, car rental, insurance and visa services must be paid in full at the time of booking. You will then need to pay us the balance at least 8 weeks before the course or we may have to cancel your booking. If you pay a deposit and then cancel your course, we reserve the right to keep the deposit (since we usually have to pay this to the school). Please see the terms and conditions for course cancellations.
What credit cards do you accept?