April 26, 2017

Travelling Corner: A Weekend in Lisbon

a alfama 1

What was my weekend in Lisbon like? Warm, sunny and intense! Keep reading to find out how I spent my time in the Portuguese capital.


I arrived in the afternoon and was welcomed by warmth and sunshine. What a treat! I took a tube to my place in Alfama: the old, beautiful, quite hilly (!) district of Lisbon, and the only area that wasn’t affected by the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755. The apartment I stayed in was on the third floor and had a magical view on the river Tagus and houses covered in azulejos (traditional ceramic tiles). After freshening up, I went to see the surrounding area and to find the best way to get to the tram stop, local shops and museums. But first, coffee! I adore Portuguese coffee and its variety: bica, carioca, galão… so I went to the nearby Portas do Sol (Sun’s doors) to admire the view and relax to the live music. Feeling relaxed and in a very good mood, I did some shopping in the local grocery stores and decided to go back to the apartment to do some cooking, eating, reading and sleeping.

a coffee 1

a tram 1


Early wake up, as I’m heading to the beach. Yes, just 40 minutes from Lisbon you can have a very pleasant stroll on a beach or even go for a swim. I first took the famous tram no 28 and went to Graça where I did some shopping, had a very tasty pastel de nata (Portuguese custard tartlet) and a cup of meia de leite coffee. Feeling ready for the day’s adventures, I walked to the nearest tube stop to reach the Cais do Sodré train station. From there I took a train to the seaside town of Estoril. It was amazing to be able to walk bare-foot on the beach and observe the repetitions of the waves. I sat on the beach to have some quiet time and read. I then went on the promenade linking Estoril with Cascais. It started raining in Cascais so I decided to go back to Lisbon and visit the Museu do Fado (Portuguese melancholic song). This is a real treat for fado lovers, as the museum has a large collection of videos, concert and audio recordings. Feeling inspired, I went wondering around Alfama, the birthplace of fado, to admire the local architecture and listen to the singing coming from many of the tiny restaurants and bars there.

a museu do fado 1

a tiles 1


Another early start, as today I want to visit the oceanarium: Oceanário de Lisboa. From my apartment I travel the steep path down to Santa Apolónia tube station and within half an hour I’m at the aquarium (the largest in Europe, by the way!). The visit is amazing, everything is so well-organised and the oceanarium has an impressive collection of different species of sea creatures. I give myself time to embrace this magical place and after observing the fish slowly swimming around, I feel peaceful and calm. The weather is warm and sunny, so I decided to walk back to Alfama which turned out to be quite an ambitious walk, as it took me more than one hour and a half to walk the whole distance! I had a quick lunch in Alfama and decided to climb up to see the cathedral, Sé de Lisboa, and to go even higher to the castle, Castelo de São Jorge to see the spectacular views of the capital and yes, it was worth all the effort! I spent long time just sitting and watching the sun setting, people talking & walking. Beautiful.

a aquarium 1

a old town 1


It’s time to say farewell Lisbon and go home… Till next time.

Written by Kinga Macalla

April 19, 2017

Book Review: Essential Motivation in the Classroom by Ian Gilbert

book review-essential motivation 1

This book is AMAZING! It’s fascinating, thought-provoking, funny and practical. If you want to read one book on motivation, this is the one! It’s a must-read for teachers and students, but I also recommend it for parents, business people, coaches and trainers. It is a guidebook of almost 200 pages into the world of motivation written from many different perspectives. Ian Gilbert talks about topics such as the reasons for being motivated, enthusiasm, IQ, emotional intelligence, MindMaps, learning strategies, lesson planning, delayed gratification, hope, learning through failure, the power of the smile and many more. I love the way this book is written and I know I’m going to read it again and refer to it for quotations and advice.


Below, I’ve included some interesting activities for language teachers (see p. 115-9):

  1. ‘See the learning’ strategies: use visuals such as highlighter pens, posters, pictures, videos; ask your students to use cameras on their phones, etc.
  2. ‘Hear the learning’ strategies: ask your students to record their learning on their phone and listen to the recording before going to sleep and after waking up; use music in the classroom, etc.
  3. ‘Do the learning’ strategies: use physical activities in your lessons, ask your students to walk or stand while they’re learning or act out their learning, etc.

Do you have a favourite book on motivation? Please share your recommendations in the comments below.

Written by Kinga Macalla

April 12, 2017



Dear Readers,

We would like to wish you all a lovely Easter break. Whether you’re going travelling, visiting family or simply stuffing your face with chocolate (we approve of your choice), we hope you have a great time and we’re looking forward to seeing you soon!

If you’d like to find out how some countries celebrate Easter, read our article on the most interesting Easter traditions from around the globe.


April 5, 2017

On Languages: The Languages of Belgium

With around 11 million inhabitants over an area of 30,528 square kilometres (11,787 square miles), Belgium is a small, densely-populated country in Western Europe.  It may be small but Belgium has a diverse population and three official languages, Dutch, French, and German.  Its inhabitants also speak a number of non-official, minority languages and dialects as well.  A lot of people in Belgium speak English and it is used as an unofficial language of communication in the Belgian capital, which also happens to be the European capital, Brussels.


The Belgian Constitution guarantees language freedom in the private sphere. This implies that people can decide themselves which language they wish to use in their household, among friends, in the media, and for cultural, economic, commercial and religious activities. Before the federal (linguistically-defined states) structure and language legislation introduced in the 20th century, French was the only language used by the authorities. Now there is a lot of legislation around Dutch, French and German, although the constitution does not explicitly mention which languages enjoy official status.  Article 4 of the constitution does divide the country into linguistic areas: “The French-speaking area, the Dutch-speaking area, the bilingual area of Brussels Capital and the German-speaking area.”

6.25 million people live in the Flemish Region (Dutch language area), 3.5 million in the Walloon Region (French and German language area) and 1.09 million in the Brussels-Capital Region (bilingual area).  This means that 59% of Belgians belong to the Flemish (Dutch-speaking) Community (Flanders) in the north, 40% to the French-speaking Community (Wallonia in the South and part of Brussels) and 1% to the German-speaking Community (in the Ardennes area).  Alongside these official figures, there are migrants and their children living in the country who speak other languages (as well as one or more of the official languages), and speakers of other Belgian dialects. The capital, Brussels, is located in Flanders but 80% of its inhabitants speak French as their first language.  French is also used as a lingua franca in Brussels, as is English.  All public services and information in Brussels are available in both French and Dutch.  Many road signs and other notices around the rest of Belgium are written in both French and Dutch too.  Like many capital cities, Brussels is actually multilingual, especially as it is the home of many European institutions and there are a lot of foreign officials and diplomats living there.

Belgian Waffels 2

The standard form of Dutch used in Belgium is very similar to that spoken in the Netherlands but is often referred to as Flemish.  There are a lot of dialects in Flanders too.  The main ones are Brabantian, West Flemish, East Flemish, Antwerp and Limburgish.  Walloon, a dialect closer to French and mostly spoken by older people in rural areas, is used by 33% of population. Walloon has no official status in Belgium and is not used in education, though there are many evening classes in it.  The majority of the population of Wallonia can understand the language, about a quarter can speak it and a few can write it.  Luxembourgish is spoken by around 0.5% of the population, but the language has no official status, like Picard, Low Dietsch, Lorrain (also called Gaumais locally) and Champenois that are also spoken there.  About 10% of the Belgian population are non-native, and languages spoken include Italian, Spanish, Greek, Arabic and Turkish.  Antwerp, the capital of Flanders, also has one of the few Jewish communities worldwide that still speaks Yiddish as its dominant language.

Words which are unique to Belgian Dutch and Belgian French (i.e. not found in the varieties of Dutch and French spoken in other countries) are called belgicisms.

More information on the languages of Belgium can be found at

Written by Suzannah Young