May 30, 2018

A Summer Getaway With a Difference

The holidays are calling – it’s time to get away, or at least get booking, and dream of adventure.  For language learners, holidays can be a great time to practise what they have learned in term-time.  But have you ever thought of going on a holiday where language learning is the main event?  A language holiday, where you live and breathe your chosen language whilst having an amazing holiday.  These types of courses – language learning combined with another activity such as sports or cookery – are the fastest-growing trend in language learning.  You can learn a language from scratch or improve on your existing language whilst enjoying the local culture and landscapes.  In this blog post, we look at what you can expect from language holidays and give you a couple of ideas for holidays to try.  What better way to spend the summer months?

So, what’s it all about?

Language holidays are not just about being in a classroom, they give learners to experience the country and culture first hand.  On a language holiday, you have the opportunity to combine language learning in a formal setting with cultural or sporting activities and practise what you have learnt in the lessons in an authentic environment.  The idea is that you have lessons in the country of your choice and then use your newly-acquired skills with locals or your classmates after the class, not least because you will be surrounded by the language you are learning.  The lessons can be combined with activities so you can use your language skills and soak up a bit of culture, such as cookery lessons in Italian or a football masterclass in Brazilian Portuguese.  This way you also learn about the way of life and traditions in the place where you are staying.  You can even go for on full immersion holiday and stay with a family who will help you practise their language.

Why is it different?

Language holidays are not just about being in the classroom and they are not just about being on holiday – they are a unique opportunity to learn whilst having fun.  Doing fun activities, spending time with fellow language learners and visiting new places whilst learning at the same time makes language holidays a unique experience.  The holiday can have a theme, such as wine growing, working on a farm, cooking lessons, dance lessons, photography, yoga, football, opera singing, horse riding, DJ-ing, surfing – the list is endless.  This means that most people’s interests are covered and they can combine their interests with their desire to learn a language.

What’s good about language holidays?

Because you are surrounded by the language, putting it into practice and engaging with activities, you will find that you learn faster than you do going to lessons once a week.  Learning the language in the classroom combined with another activity outside the classroom help embed the knowledge you have gained.  Familiarising yourself with a country’s culture will also help your language learning as you are learning it in context.

Language holidays can be tailored to suit your learning style, your budget or your schedule.  You can choose the level you want, the location you want and the length of course you want; there are even one-week courses if you haven’t got much time off.  The school you book through can sometimes also offer accommodation – homestay with a family or in a student residence or shared flat, for example.  They may also be able to give advice on short-term lets if you prefer to look for your own accommodation.

Language holidays can – if you want them to – be like package holidays, where the school you attend arranges activities such as tours and sports contests.  You can also be independent and find a school and accommodation yourself – you are not obliged to take part in organised activities.  You will probably find that your fellow students also want to spend time doing their own activities that the school hasn’t arranged, like going to the pub or to the park or the museum, for example.

One advantage of learning abroad is that your fellow students may be from all over the world and speak all different languages, so this means you will have to use the language you are all learning to communicate – instant practice!  When all your fellow students speak the same language as you, the temptation to speak it is often too great to resist, whereas you will want to use the language you are learning on a language holiday so you can socialise and make friends.

Where can I find out more?

If you think all that sounds great and would like to have a look at what’s on offer, try these sites to start off with.  You can of course search for other holiday providers too or search for language schools and book independently.

Go Learn To has a wide selection of languages, destinations and activities, and they don’t just do language holidays.  Responsible Travel also offers tailored language holiday packages. Flavours offers Italian language holidays in Italy and Spanish Study Holidays offer Spanish language holidays in Europe and Latin America.

If you needs some more inspiration, The Guardian newspaper recommends a selection of providers for several different languages, including Arabic, Portuguese and Welsh ; The Independent looks at other possibilities.

What if I want more study time?

If you are looking for a more intensive course with set lesson times and access to study material, as well as the opportunity to take an exam and gain a qualification, you might prefer to sign up for a language course at a university abroad.  Their courses can be longer and you can choose what time of year to go and what level to study.  Sometimes sector-specific lessons are available, such as Italian for Medicine at Milan University.  There can also be lessons on culture.  If you would like to, you can study the language before the academic year starts and then study for a degree in that language at the same university.  Here is a selection of what is available: you can learn Spanish in Barcelona, Oviedo, Salamanca or elsewhere; you can learn Italian in Milan, Pavia, Siena, Turin; French in Bordeaux, Nancy; German in Berlin, Bonn, Graz, Vienna; Polish in Gdansk, Warsaw – the list is endless!

What if I want to stay at home?

If you have commitments that mean you need to stay in Bristol, or you are looking for something more affordable, look no further than Bristol Language School: we offer summer courses in many different languages in August and in September (twice a week).

Bon voyage!      Prettige reis!     Buon viaggio!    Buen viaje!        Gute Reise!       Miłej podróży!            Boa viagem!                ! رحلة سعيدة      一路順風 !       Šťastnou cestu!          Счастливого пути !

Suzannah Young

May 23, 2018

On teaching: How to improve the language learning experience using the flipped learning model

Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself. William Faulkner

In the post-method era, the role of language teachers changed, as did the learners’, who do not receive their knowledge passively, but are instead expected to actively participate in learning. There are many pedagogical innovations that support this notion of student-centred teaching, one of which is flipped learning. The flipped learning method can improve the foreign language learning experience of adult language learners and, in turn, equip students with the right skills to become life-long learners.

Flipped learning means that students are first exposed to material outside of class in the form of homework and then use class time to utilise this in a meaningful way using different forms such as group activities and project-based language learning. In flipped learning approach, students are expected to be active and responsible learners who take care over their home study before becoming actively involved in the lesson by asking questions, critiquing ideas, analysing concepts, giving presentations and taking part in debates. For teachers, the idea of flipped classes is based on designing active, hands-on, creative activities for in-class learning and for students to prepare for such activities at home by reading articles, watching videos or analysing info-graph instructions.

When implementing the flipped learning model and consequently the culture of life-long learning, we may also increase the mastery of our students in the intended subject matter. In his TED talk Let’s teach for mastery – not test scores, Salman Khan, accidental founder of the Khan Academy; an educational site regularly visited by seven million people, presents teaching from a different perspective, in which we as teachers help students to achieve mastery and guide them to develop the right mindset muscle and perseverance. We can achieve this through various factors which are part of flipped learning, for example, individual feedback and support from the teachers, specifically designed activities and the adaptable pace of the lessons. Here, the aim is not to get a good mark, but to truly and authentically learn the subject matter and deeply and meaningfully engage with the topic.

You can learn more about flipped learning, e.g. here.

Have you ever heard about flipped learning? What do you think about this approach? Please let me know in the comments below.

Kinga Macalla

May 16, 2018

New videos on bilingualism! (1)

We’d like to introduce a new series of video interviews and online interviews which will be devoted to the subject of bilingualism. We find the topic of bilingualism fascinating and we want to discuss some of the issues and benefits linked with being bilingual, as well as many other bilingualism-related topics. If you have any ideas or questions related to bilingualism, let us know in the comments below.

Today, in our first YT video, we attempt to answer  the question “What is bilingualism?”.  Our special guest is Łucja Miniewska, an expert on bilingualism both academically (she holds an MSc in Bilingualism) and practically (she’s a mum of two bilingual children). Please click the link to watch our YT video.

Kinga Macalla

May 9, 2018

Top 5 tourist places in Saint-Petersburg (part 1)

The Venice of the North, The Northern Palmyra. Leningrad, Petrograd… This city has so many names but it is indeed unique in its beauty and atmosphere. This city is Saint-Petersburg.  What is unique about Saint-Petersburg? Saint-Petersburg is living history. It combines the atmosphere of the Tsar’s Russia and Soviet times. Famous writers and musicians made their masterpieces here.

In this city you can never get bored: it has everything one needs. If you are a Russian history fan you can easily get lost in the numerous historic museums. Fans of the arts will be impressed by both the famous classic art collections and the contemporary art galleries and museums.

In this article I have collected the top places and things to do, which, in my opinion, you have to experience whilst in Saint-Petersburg.


The Hermitage

The Hermitage is considered to be the main museum of art in Saint-Petersburg. One cannot go to Saint-Petersburg without visiting the Hermitage.  This pearl of Baroque style is located on the main square in Saint-Petersburg – Palace Square – and was created by the Italian architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli, a favourite of Catherine the Great. Being already a piece of art from the outside, the Hermitage includes one of the biggest collections of art in the world. Here you can enjoy the paintings of such famous artist as Leonardo da Vinci and Rembrandt. Moreover, for those who are interested in modern art, it will be a pleasant surprise to explore the rich collection of XX and XXI century art in the contemporary art block.

The Hermitage from the Palace Square

The Palace Square in winter


Church of the Saviour on Blood.

While walking down Nevskiy prospect, it is impossible to miss the breathtaking view of the Church of the Saviour on Blood from Naberezhnaia Kanala Griboedova. Without doubt, this church is considered to be a masterpiece of mosaic art.

The word «blood» included in the name of the church refers to Emperor Alexander II, who was mortally wounded in March 1881. After the tragedy the decision was taken to build a church as a memorial right on the spot where the Emperor was killed. Funding of the church was provided by the Royal family and private donors.

It is fantastic how one building can combine so many types of materials and techniques and look so harmonious at the same time! During the construction, marble, granite, enamel and copper were used, but what really astonishes every visitor is the fact that the church contains over 7 500 square metres of mosaics.

Mosaic top of the Church of the Saviour on Blood


St. Isaac`s Cathedral

Located in the heart of Saint-Petersburg, St. Isaac`s Cathedral is the biggest Russian Orthodox cathedral in the city. It took approximately 40 years for the cathedral to be constructed under the French-born architect Auguste de Montferrand’s direction and, in 1858, the church opened its doors for the public. Now it is a museum and impresses visitors with its monumental decoration. The interior combines all types of materials and techniques: you can see mosaic icons, paintings, and sculptures made of malachite and lapis lazuli.  Even the locals passing by the Cathedral are still amazed by the massive red granite columns which weigh 114 tons  each.

Do not miss the opportunity to enjoy the city from the top of St. Isaac’s Cathedral! It is definitely worth climbing the 300 steps up to the Cathedral’s colonnade to be impressed by  the breathtaking views of the city.

St. Isaac’s Cathedral in winter

View from St. Isaac’s Cathedral’s Colonnade



If you are in Saint-Petersburg in summer, one of the greatest activities for you will be visiting Peterhof. To the south west of the city, Peterhof is mostly famous for its Imperial Residence, also known as the “Russian Versailles”. Peter the Great, while visiting Europe, was so inspired with Versailles that he decided to found the residence outside the city as well. Now Peterhof is a fabulous ensemble including palaces and a world-famous fountain system. It will take you a while to recover after your first look at the amazing and luxurious Great Cascade. You will see more and more wonderful things:  designed fountains like Chess Mountain and Golden Mountain, statues of Adam and Eve, and even a special invention of Peter the Great; hidden fountains which can suddenly turn-on (making you both surprised and wet!).  With this in mind, you should be careful, or at least have a change of clothes with you!

Now Peterhof is considered to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Peterhof Grand Cascade Fountain


Pushkin ( Tsarskoye selo)

If you want to experience the atmosphere of Imperial Russia, Tsarskoye Selo is the right place for you! Tsarskoye Selo is the amazing residence of the Romanov Family, with a great park and palace complex.  Currently, there are two imperial palaces; the baroque Catherine Palace and the neoclassical Alexander Palace.

In the Catherine Palace, designed by Bartolomeo Rastrelli, you will find the mysterious and famous Amber room which was destroyed by Nazis during World War II. After the War, reconstruction began on Tsarskoye Selo and now it has been renovated and opened for the public.

Moreover, here you can follow the steps of Alexander Pushkin – the world-renowned and, arguably, greatest Russian poet – by visiting the museum in the former Imperial Lycee, where he was schooled.

Catherine Palace in Pushkin

Marble Bridge in Pushkin


A little bit about transport.

Transport in Saint-Petersburg is quite cheap and fast. We have a very convenient underground and it is better to buy a card called “Podorozhnik” and put money on it.  You will save some money this way because every trip will be cheaper.   However, the metro also operates on one-use-only coins called ‘zhetons’.  Buses are cheap as well and go every   5-10 minutes. Another very convenient way of getting around is by “Marshrutka” (mini bus) which is much faster than the bus but can be more expensive.



If you enjoy walking, and want to see all the most famous attractions in one day, you can take a free tour:

If you have a limited amount of time or don’t have the energy to walk from one attraction to another, you can use the hop-on hop-off red bus.


Boat Trip.

If you are in Saint-Petersburg in mid-spring, summer or mid-autumn, it’s absolutely worth taking a boat trip where you can see the city from the water. You can find boats everywhere in the city centre and the price is usually the same for all of them. I would recommend to take a boat on a sunny day or, even better, during the legendary White Nights where you can see open bridges from the water. It is an absolutely fantastic view! Overall, summer is the best time to go to Saint-Petersburg because you can get the chance to see the legendary, captivating White Night, and the city that never sleeps. At the same time, summer is the busiest time for tourists, and the prices can rise dramatically so plan your trip carefully.

View on St. Petersburg from Griboedov canal

View on St. Petersburg from Neva River

To be honest, it is impossible to count all the good places in Saint-Petersburg, there are so many of them! I hope you will have the chance to visit this beautiful city one day, and will fall in love with Saint-Petersburg from the first minute because this city simply cannot leave you half-hearted. It charms with its romantic canals, open bridges and legendary White Nights.

St. Petersburg White Nights

Anna Petrova

May 2, 2018

Translation tips: How to improve your own translation

As well as language lessons, BLS offers a translation service.  We also encourage our students who are interested in translation as a career to have a go at it.  In this blog post, Suzannah, one of our translators, shares tips from her experience on how to translate texts effectively.  Suzannah translates into English from French, Italian, Dutch and Spanish and has been working as a freelance translator since 2015.  She has a DipTrans IoLET and is currently studying public service interpreting too.  We hope her tips will help our readers who want to try their hand at translation to find their feet and improve as translators.  Please let us know what you think and if you have any other tips you would like to share!

Know Your Text Type

When you study translation, you are advised to read any text you have received all the way through before translating it.  This can be useful when you are starting out because it gives you a feel for the types of texts you will be translating but becomes impractical when you are working as a translator and have deadlines to meet – imagine reading a whole report or even a whole book, cover to cover, before you start to translate it.  You just wouldn’t have time.  You would also be itching to translate what you are reading and most likely won’t be able to resist the urge to do so before reaching the end.  Some jobs also require a sight translation to be done so you would definitely not have the opportunity to read all the way to the end without starting the translation in those cases.

Don’t worry though, because there are ways to prepare yourself for translating a text even without knowing its full content before you begin.  For example, clients asking you to do a translation for them may tell you the field the text covers in the translation brief they send you – or, failing that, you can usually tell what field you are dealing with by casting your eye over the first few lines of the text.  You will also likely know the type of publication that the text was published in and which the translation is going to be published.  These hints will alert you to the type of vocabulary, register, style and format that you will need to use in your translation.

Keep Glossaries

If you translate similar texts regularly (or even if you don’t), it is likely that you will come across the same words or turns of phrase with some frequency.  It is helpful to keep a record of how you have translated a particular word or expression previously so that you can remind yourself if you come across that word or phrase again (especially helpful when you find the perfect translation for a term or phrase you were stuck on before).  You will find that your lists will improve over time as you will have more time to think about a particular translation and come up with alternatives.  You can also keep glossaries of terms used in certain fields that you can prepare in your spare time between translations and go to them when you need that vocabulary.

Use the Internet

An internet search engine is an extremely useful tool for the translator.  If you are unsure of the translation of a term, you can look it up in online dictionaries that may also have example translations from existing texts where the term features.  You can also search your chosen translation to check if the way you have written it is correct (good for idiomatic expressions and cultural references).  You can even find whole texts written in the field you are translating in so you can check the types of vocabulary used – and, if you are lucky, you may find an existing bilingual glossary for that field.

Come Back to It

If you cannot decide which of a variety of possible translations you want to use, put them all down and then make the decision when you are rereading your translation – go with the one that works best in the target language.  If you are unsure of a translation, but don’t want to interrupt your flow, mark the unknown word and come back to it later.  When you have finished, go back to the beginning – you should always read through your translation to make sure it flows and reads well as a coherent text in the target language.

Get Plenty of Practice

As with all things, practice makes perfect – so the more texts of different types you translate, the better you will become.  You don’t have to wait to be asked to do a translation – you can practise for fun as well.  Experiment with different fields.  If you can, also read other people’s translations to get an idea of how they translate certain things.

Read Widely

Read all kinds of texts – whatever you can get your hands on – in your source language(s) (the language(s) you are translating from) and your target language(s) (the language(s) you are translating into).  You need to have a good understanding of source texts in all different genres but you also need to have a very good grasp of the target language and write well and accurately in it.

Enjoy What You Do

The best way to get better at something is to enjoy doing it – so, if you love translation, keep doing it because you clearly have a flair for it and will be interested enough to keep improving.  Have fun!

Suzannah Young