August 31, 2016

Language learning: Which language to choose? With helpful videos in six languages

Estimates say that there are up to 7,000 languages spoken in the world today (in around 200 states!).  Some languages have millions of speakers and some have just a few thousand speakers.  But with so many languages to choose from, how do you decide which one to learn?  This blog post gives you a few ideas on how to make the decision.

Does it match your interests?

Have you heard a song that you like in another language and you want to know what it says?  Do you enjoy books by Sándor Márai or Milan Kundera?  Do you like Italian food?  Do you like going on holiday in a particular location?  If you learn a language that is linked to something you enjoy, you are likely to get more out of it and remember it better. If the language has relevance to your life, what you learn will stay with you.

Do you know people who speak it?

Some people are inspired to learn a language because they have friends or partners who speak it.  If you have a partner whose first language is different from your own, think about whether you need to learn it to speak to their family, their parents and siblings, or their friends.  If you go and visit their family, do you want to be able to speak to the people they grew up with? Do you want to be able to go out and interact with local people?  It is also a way to get to know a person better if you understand the language they think in, the language they spent their childhood years speaking.  You can show how much you care about them by learning the language that is dear to them and learning about their culture.  Your partner is also a good person to practice your new-found skills with – they can teach you and correct you and will want to help.

Will it be useful for your work?

Has the company you work for just signed a deal with a German business?  Have you just started importing products from Japan?  Is it going to give you the opportunity to work with your new colleagues if you learn their language?  Could you get new tasks and responsibilitites or even a promotion if you learn it?  Or do you want to look for a new, exciting job? What about one that gives you the opportunity to travel?  If you are looking for a change or a challenge in your career, learning a new language could be the perfect thing for you.

Do you want to move to a new country?

In today’s world, more and more people are emigrating and making a new life in a new country – for work or to have a new experience.  If you want to integrate in the country you wish to move to it is a good idea to learn the language spoken there, and you can give yourself a head start by learning some of it before you leave.  Learning the language will also help you get to know the country, understand the way things work, its politics and its culture.  The transition to life there will be smoother if you already understand some of the language when you get there.

Will it be useful in the future?

Some countries, like India, Bolivia, Morocco or Brazil, have economies that are developing fast and countries that are likely to become politically important on the global stage in the not-too-distant future, like Turkey.  It can be beneficial to learn the languages of those countries to be able to find employment working in or with them in the future.

Do you want to have fun?

Some people just enjoy learning languages, out of intellectual interest or as a challenge.  If you are one of these people, you can pick any language you like – because you like the way it sounds, because you like the look of the alphabet, because you like how logical it is…you name it!
BLS wishes you good luck in your learning, whichever language you choose!

Written by Suzannah Young

August 24, 2016

Travelling Corner: A Frenchman in America (Part 2)

Salut! I’m Nicolas, a French teacher and new recruit at Bristol Language School. I love to travel, as I’m very keen on discovering new cultures, but I had never left Europe… until I went to the U.S. a few weeks ago! Here is my report about this experience.

Day 2:

After a looong night, I wake up in great shape at 7am, before everyone. The sun is already shining! I decide to go running, and I head for Venice Beach which is not far. What a  fantastic view! And it’s the very first time I’ve seen the Pacific Ocean in my life. It is very quiet: a few runners and surfers of course, but the weather is perfect, and so is the moment.


As I knew I would only stay in LA for one day, I booked a tour on a sightseeing bus (I know… lazy, but easy!). I struggle a little to find the bus stop, and I have to walk for 30 minutes (btw, I am used to walking in Europe, but walking is a nightmare in the US, especially without GPS!). Once again, there is absolutely nobody in the street. This is clearly not a country for pedestrians. At last I reach the (almost empty) bus. Now with the audioguide in French, I am the perfect tourist! Ready for the day!

The first part of the tour is from Venice Beach to Pacific Avenue. Venice was founded by a rich man who wanted to recreate the Italian city of Venice. Next on the tour we reach Brentwood and see the house where Marilyn Monroe died, and a bit later Westwood Graveyard where she was buried, which became the “stars” graveyard.


We go through Beverly Hills, of course, and the bus stops for a few seconds so we can photograph the famous sign (there are only 5 of them, and you must pay a lot of royalties to use it in a film or a show). Finally, we reach Hollywood. It’s easy to recognise it, of course, because it is written on the hill! I want to take a closer picture, but the closer you get, the more buildings and adverts there are and you can’t see it anymore.


I leave the bus for a lunch break on the Walk of Fame. There are so many stars on the pavement! There are hundreds, and most of the names are not very famous (well, not to me!). The shops are only for tourists (fake Oscars, caps, postcards, etc.). I have another Burger + Fries but in an Irish pub, near a couple of Banksy stencils and it starts to rain (I feel at home for a while!). It’s $15 for a simple meal (burger+fries+beer), because of the taxes and the tips that are not included on the menu… I’ll get used to it, I guess!

USA 11

On our way back to Venice, we see Sunset Boulevard and many other famous places: we see the Château Marmont, then the club from the Blues Brothers film (made out of corrugated metal structures), then the Viper Room club where River Phoenix died in 1993…

Finally, one last turn on Pacific Avenue, and the sun is back…


That was a long day, and now my mission is to reach downtown to get the coach to San Francisco. And when you’re a foreigner, on your own at night, that’s quite a challenge! This is a completely different atmosphere. One guy kindly explains to me how to reach downtown, and when I say I want to reach the coach station on foot, he litterally says “please, don’t do that.” Very reassuring! So I take the bus again, and finally get on the coach to San Francisco…

Written by Nicolas Salmon

August 17, 2016

Travelling Corner: The Sub-Tropical Archipelago of the Isles of Scilly (Part 2)

I decided to fulfil my dream of visiting the British sub-tropical archipelago, the Isles of Scilly, located around 30 miles off the coast of Cornwall. You can read more about my travelling experience here, whilst today I will focus on practicalities.

St Mary 7

All the necessary information regarding visiting the Isles of Scilly can be found on this website and I also followed the essential guidebook: Isles of Scilly Guidebook.

St Mary 6

I travelled from Penzance to St. Mary’s Island by ferry, the Scillonian III. It takes around 2.45hrs to reach the destination and it is a rather pleasant (and a little bit wobbly) time to relax and read some guidebooks. Cars are not permitted on the ferry, so I left my car in a car park just outside Penzance and then took a minibus to the harbour in Penzance (these parking options were recommended when I booked the ferry tickets).


I was camping on Garrison Campsite on St. Mary’s Island which was relatively cheap and conveniently located, very close to the harbour and Hugh Town. There is, however, a steep walk up the campsite, as it is on a hill. The campsite is surrounded by trees and you can go on a very pleasant walk around the hill. Worth noting, the shower runs only on coins. There are plenty of other accommodation options available on St. Mary’s and other isles.

St Mary 5

I decided to mostly cook my meals or pre-prepare my own lunch boxes. The prices in the restaurants were quite high, as there is very little competition, but everything tastes exceptionally good. I particularly enjoyed my visit to the Abbey Garden’s café where you can eat alfresco.

St Mary 4

Local modes of transport
Legs, bus, bike, cart, taxi, boat. Considering the size of the isles, you might feel truly spoiled!

St Mary 9

Now, do you have any questions about my travelling to the Scilly Isles? Please share your questions in the comments below.
Written by Kinga Macalla

August 10, 2016

Book Review: Reading Companions to the Isles of Scilly

I decided to fulfil my dream of visiting the British sub-tropical archipelago, the Isles of Scilly, located around 30 miles off the coast of Cornwall. You can read more about my travelling experience here and today I want to share with you what inspired me to visit the Isles and what reading souvenirs I brought back home.

Isles of Scilly Guidebook
Essential. I walked everywhere with this guidebook. I had an older edition I had bought in a charity shop which was thinner than the more updated ones. If you want to purchase the latest publication, you can do so on the ferry Scillonian III or on the Isles.

Isles of Scilly Guidebook

OS Explorer Isles of Scilly (101)
Additional touch. To be honest, I did not use the OS map that much, the above guidebook was all I needed when visiting the Isles.

OS Explorer 101

Cereal Vol. 5
Inspiring. Tresco Abbey Garden, birds, photo essay. Beautiful.
The Rough Guide to Devon & Cornwall
Practical. There is a chapter devoted to the Isles of Scilly worth reading, but I would not carry it to the Isles.

Cereal vol 5

Drawings by Sue Lewington
Artistic. I bought two books of her drawings, A Week on Scilly and Sketches of Scilly. Sue lived on St. Martin’s for nearly 8 years. You can easily get her drawings on the Isles, too.

Drawing by Sue Lewington

Times Remembered. A Scillonian’s Story by Gladys Perkins
Local history. I bought a memorial written by a Scillonian, Gladys Perkins after visiting St. Martin’s Island. The book was advertised in the windows of most houses on St. Martin’s, since the author was born and is still living on this very Island!

Do you have any favourite guidebooks or fiction writing on the Scilly Isles? Please share your recommendations in the comments below.

Written by Kinga Macalla

August 3, 2016

Third Year Abroad: Study Placement in Budapest, Hungary

My Socrates-Erasmus year in Budapest was an amazing experience.

I arrived there in August 2012. It was extremely hot, around 40°c, and I had only left myself 2 weeks to find accommodation! I stayed at Marco Polo Hostel, a very cheap and warm hostel where you can meet a lot of people and that is located in the Jewish district, a well-known district – especially for the parties in ‘Ruins’ pub. Something to know about Budapest is that a real tradition there is to use old, traditional-style buildings and set up new bars inside them. The most famous of these is Szimpla Kert – you just have to see that pub!  There is also the Instant, Kuplung or the Corvin tetö (with an amazing roof-top view!)…

Budapest 3

The thermal baths
Budapest is a thermal bath city. You will find a lot of thermal baths there, the most famous ones being Szechenyi and Gellert.  Come along and see old people playing chess at the baths and the crowd relaxing there.  Something nice to do on a lazy day…

Budapest 2

The city’s heritage
There are many wonderful squares, bridges, statues and parks in Budapest. You will need a full week if you want to see everything.  The most beautiful building I have ever seen is the Hungarian Parliament by night.  The Green bridge, the Old covered market and the Heroes’ square are lovely too.
That was about the city, but what about the people there?

Budapest 1

The language
In Hungary, people speak Hungarian. You will not be able to guess what it sounds like if you haven’t heard it first! As this language is only spoken by 11 million people in the world, you can easily find people in Hungary who speak English, especially in Budapest as it is very touristy.

The university & accommodation
The University of Cornivus is amazing. It’s big and there are lots of students there (I think over 15,000), in an old building that looks like a museum, right in the city centre.

I found a shared flat for less than €250 a month in the city centre (near Vaci utca), with a Portuguese girl and a Moroccan boy as flatmates.  My Erasmus grant covered my rent! The currency is the Forint. You will be impressed to see bank notes with 3 zeros!

Budapest 4

The local travelling
That year I went on some student-organized trips but mostly I travelled on my own. From Budapest you can easily get to Bratislava (Slovakia) for €15 return for an hour’s journey.  Romania is only 2 hours away.  There is also a huge lake in the centre of the country called Balaton, which is very warm because it is only 2 to 5 metres deep!

I think it was the best choice I ever made to study abroad for a year. I came back more open-minded about culture, people’s habits and, of course, I came back being able to speak English fluently (with the bonus of being able to speak basic Hungarian)!

Written by Alexis Fillat