9 Feb 2015

Carnaval de Portugal

Carnival usually takes place in late February, this year it is held between the 11th and 18th of February. It is celebrated all over the country with slight variances in the celebrations from region to region. The most famous celebrations are in: Ovar, Sesimbra, Madeira, Loulé, Torres Vedras, Estarreja, Loures, Podence, Sines and Elvas. Some carnivals incorporate the pagan traditions such as the Careto and others are slightly more modern and incorporate the samba and lavish parades that are more linked with the Rio de Janeiro carnival.

Source: pinterest.com

Lazarim (Lamego)

The carnival in Lazarim celebrates with the pagan tradition of Roman Saturnalias. Main events include burning colourful effigies and dressing up in home-made costumes. The region is known for its wood craftsmanship so the locals wear heavy, handmade wooden masks. The masks are effigies for both men and women but both of the roles are played only by men. The Lazarim carnival cycle includes two periods: the 1st begins of the fifth Sunday before 'fat Sunday'. Masked figures walk through the town and people feast on various meats, mostly pork. The 2nd begins on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday and incorporates the tradition of 'Compadres and Comadres' with men and women showing light-hearted  authority over the other. 

This is a carnival tradition unique to Portugal. During the bonfire, a girl reads the compadre's will and a boy reads the comadre's will. A donkey is then symbolically given to both the male and female 'heirs' and then there is the final reckoning when the 'Entrudo' (carnival doll) is burnt. 


This carnival is in the central region of Portugal and dates back to the 14th century where flower battles took place or decorated floats paraded through the streets. At the start of the twentieth century the carnival ended following the death of its promoters. However, it was brought back in the 60's and is now one of the most important carnivals in Portugal.

Source: carnavaleshoy.com


Ovar, located near Porto, has been celebrating its carnival since 1952 and it is one of the main festivities in the region. The carnival is known for its creative designs, people prepare all year creating costumes, masks, decorations and floats. The parade features themed music and costumes, ranging from the traditional to popular culture.

Source: radioeste.pt

Torres Vedras

This carnival is often referred to as the "most Portuguese in Portugal". It is one of the less touristy options across the country and the locals are the stars. The highlight of the carnival is the parade of decorated streetcars which satirize society and politics.  

If you are interested in spending some time in Portugal to get to know the culture and the language, contact us to find out more about our language courses in Portugal.

6 Feb 2015

Our schools in Portugal

This month we are all about Portugal, and what could be better than learning Portuguese in its native land, where it first emerged. Portugal had one of Europe's longest empires leaving behind it more than 250 million Portuguese speakers. Portuguese is often in the shadow of Spanish or French in terms of second languages, however it is considered to be the fifth most spoken language in the world, and according to UNESCO is the fastest growing European language. So, whatever you do don't get left behind and read on to find out where you can start learning Portuguese.

Portuguese in Porto

Porto is the second largest city in the country with a warm climate and lots of things for students to do and see. Our partner school, Fast Forward, was founded in 1991 and is dedicated to teaching Portuguese as a foreign language to students aged 17+. The school is located on one of the city's main streets, near to tourist attractions, public transport and a 15 minute walk from the River Douro. It offers students 5 large classrooms, a reception area, a cafeteria and an IT suite with free WiFi. An activity and excursion programme is also available to make for a well rounded experience. 

Accommodation is offered with local host families, who host a maximum of 2 international students (always different nationalities to encourage speaking in Portuguese). Students have single rooms with breakfast included. Double rooms are available for students who are travelling together and half-board is available as an option for a supplementary fee. 

Course Options:
  • Intensive: 20 lessons per week (4 lessons per day), taking place every morning Monday to Friday.
  • Super-Intensive: 30 lessons per week (6 lessons per day), taking place every day (morning & afternoon) Monday to Friday. 

Portuguese in Lisbon

Lisbon is the capital city of Portugal and one of the oldest in Western Europe. The school is located in Alfornelos, near to Pontinha  and Benfica, close to the university. The school has 20 years experience and as such has established an effective and reliable teaching method. It is well connected to the city via public transport and offers students access to its IT suite with free internet. The school offers an activity and excursion programme to give students the full experience of Portugal as a complement to their language lessons. Classes are made up of a maximum of 8 students and are available for all levels and ages 18+.

Students are offered accommodation with local host families who live around 20 minutes from the school, giving students an extra opportunity to practise their Portuguese skills in real life situations. They offer either single or shared rooms with half-board included. 

Course Options:
  • Standard: 15 lessons per week (3 lessons per day)
  • Intensive: 25 lessons per week (standard programme + 2 supplementary lessons) 
  • Individual: 5-40 lessons per week (individual lessons can be added to the standard or intensive programme as a supplement to the group lessons). 

Other Portuguese courses

We also offer the following Portuguese courses:

Want more info about these courses? Contact us, we'd be happy to help!

3 Feb 2015

Bem-vindo a Portugal

Hello to our latest destination of the month. For the cold and wintry month of February, lets think about somewhere where there's sun, sea, fantastic food and beaches. Of all the Mediterranean destinations, this month we have chosen Portugal!

Source: lastminuteportugal.nl

Portugal, officially known as the Portuguese Republic is located in southwest Europe on the Iberian peninsular. The republic also includes the Atlantic islands of Azores and Medeira. It is thought that the country is named after its second largest city, Porto. During the 15th and 16th centuries, Portugal became one of the world's major economic, political and military powers after expanding western influence during the Age of Discovery.

The Portuguese empire was the longest lived in Europe, spanning almost 600 years. The empire spread throughout many territories that are now part of 53 sovereign states, thus having left a legacy of more than 250 million Portuguese speakers. Today Portugal is one of the world's most globalised, peaceful and responsive nations.  


Source: livinginthesun.info

Lisbon, also known as Lisboa, is Portugal's largest and capital city. It is the westernmost largest city in continental Europe and the only one of the Atlantic coast. Lisbon's urban area has a population of 2.7 million making it the 11th most populous urban area in the European Union. It is considered a global city and is one of the major economic centers on the continent with one of the largest container ports on Europe's Atlantic coast.

Lisbon is one of the oldest cities in the world and is the oldest in western Europe, predating other cities such as London, Paris and Rome by centuries. The city has a Mediterranean climate with the warmest winters among all European cities with an average of 15°C from December to February. The average summer temperatures are around 27-30°C.


Source: ladepeche.fr
Also know as Oporto, this is the second largest city in the country and one of the major urban areas in southwestern Europe. It is home to 1.4 million people and is 1 of 5 global cities on the Iberian peninsular (along with Madrid, Lisbon, Barcelona and Valencia). It is located on the Douro river estuary in Northern Portugal. It is one of Europe's oldest centres and the city's historic centre has been listed as a UNESCO world heritage site.

One of the city's major exports is port wine, which is both produced and exported here. In 2014 Porto was voted as the best European destination. It has a Mediterranean climate with summers around 27°C, but it has been known to have heat waves reaching 40°C. 


Portuguese is a romance language and the official language in Brazil, Portugal, Mozambique, Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, São Tomé & Príncipe. It is also the co-official language in Macau, Equatorial guinea and East Timor. 

There is a total of 260 million speakers of Portuguese and is often listed as the 5th most spoken language in the world, the 3rd most spoken language in Europe and the major language of South America. UNESCO states that it is the fastest growing European language. The Brazilian writer Olavo Bilac says "A última flor do lácio, inculta e bela" (the last flower of latium, rustic and sweet). 

Source: one-europe.info

If you are interested in visiting Portugal and trying your hand at some Portuguese, have a look at what we have on offer here! Questions? Don't hesitate to contact us.

28 Jan 2015

Students' Stories: Martin, in Florida for the holidays, celebrates his 5 months of studying abroad!

Hi everyone! 

Just a few days ago it was exactly 5 months since I arrived in Wisconsin, half of the school year. I am back at school and have changed subjects after the holidays when I had a great new year in Florida.  

I had the chance to go thanks to Lucas’ (a French exchange student) host family, who let me stay for 10 days. On the agenda there was: relaxing, fishing, swimming, the beach…the best! The weather was fantastic and I was grateful to have a bit of sun, because in the north it's very white.  

We had a few very cold days two or three weeks ago, but the winter isn't really that bad.

Since Christmas I haven’t done much, just the daily routine… It’s still going really well with my host family, they really made me feel like a part of the family and I truly feel at home! 

Are you currently on a long term programme abroad with us? Contact us and write a short blog for us about your time abroad and you could be one of our lucky winners!

20 Jan 2015

Language apps

In today's fast paced, tech-savvy world where a new iPhone comes out every 6 months and Google is literally everywhere, even in your glasses, it is not hard to see why people have become reliant on this omnipresent technology. In fact, surveys have calculated that on average people spend 2 hours per day on their mobile device (smartphone, tablet etc.). This adds up to 30 days per year, that's right, we spend on average one whole month per year on our mobile devices.

Source: pcmag.com

Many people say they would like to learn a second language but 'don't have the time', 'think its too daunting' or some other excuse. Well, as we are spending 30 days a year on our phones, why not do something beneficial with that time! Smartphones are replacing many things that used to be commonplace (who has an alarm clock now!?) and can do just about anything. There are now a plethora of language learning apps that make it easy and fun to brush up on your linguistic skills. Whether you just want the basics for a holiday or actually want to make some real progress with your skills, there is definitely an app for that!

1: Duolingo 

Source: duolingo.com
Duolingo is a free language learning app. It splits lessons up into units via themes (work, education, home etc) and each unit goes up in difficulty. It is not a particularly grammar intensive app, apart from the units on tenses, adverbs, pronouns etc, although thanks to the Duolingo community you are able to discuss grammar points (among other language aspects) with other users. It uses a range of different exercises including: speaking (read a sentence out loud to your device), translation (both native language - second language and vice versa), matching words to photos, multiple choice and listening (type what you hear). It also gives users the chance to do real translations from the web (from blogs, websites etc). 

Languages offered: Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Italian, Dutch, Danish, Swedish and English.

2: Busuu

Source: busuu.com

Busuu requires a monthly subscription, but like Duolingo has a very active community of users. Thanks to this there is lots of speaking practice. The general format of lessons is the following: start with key vocabulary, writing practice on the particular topic (which other members can see and edit), speaking practice with native speakers in the community, record phrases (which busuu then turns into a conversation with pre-recorded sentences), and finally there is a lesson review. The app relies heavily on the community of users but is a great one for speaking skills. 

Languages offered: English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Polish, Turkish, Arabic, Japanese, Chinese.

3: Memrise

Source: balderton.com
This app is free and centres around memorizing foreign words. It offers different modules regarding your chosen language, for example "basic Mexican Spanish", "advanced Spanish" or "250 most commonly used Spanish words". Each lessons generally consists of a foreign word, its English meaning and an audio recording. Its main pulling factor is that it uses humour as an aid for memorizing the words, rather than just looking at a word on a page. 

Languages offered: Memrise has a vast, vast amount of languages available, here are (some) European languages available: English, Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Italian, Dutch, Finnish, Danish, Greek, Norwegian, Swedish.

4: Babbel

Source: amazefiles.com
This app requires either a monthly or yearly subscription. It offers a series of courses with various lessons within each course. The general lesson structure is: presentation of new vocabulary, a dialogue, grammar instruction, review and drilling. At the end of each lesson you receive a numerical grade. It more or less follows the standard structure of a language lesson with "explanation, exercises, quizzes". It also has a 'review manager' which offers quizzes on words and topics already studied.

Languages offered: Danish, Dutch, English, French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish and Turkish.

5: Rosetta Stone Travel app

Source: Rosettastone.com

Rosetta Stone is by far the best known and oldest language learning platform. However the full version tends to be rather expensive, but this is where the travel app comes in handy as it is free! This app is great for those of you who just want to know the basics while travelling. It has a built in phrase book and 3 free lessons to help you get to grips with the basics of your chosen language. It uses its own speech recognition technology to help with pronunciation. 

Languages offered: Spanish, French, German, Italian.

Why not try out what you've learnt on the locals on one of our programmes! Contact us for more info.

11 Dec 2014

Let the celebrations begin

We all know that this time of year is full of festivities and everyone looks to the new year and new things to come. However, everyone has their own little way of celebrating this holiday, with specific traditions and festivities, mostly linked to good luck. Here are just a few of the traditions that are seen across the world.


Source: www.dailymail.co.uk
In China, they follow the Lunar New Year, which means that their New Year celebrations usually take place a few weeks after western countries that follow the Gregorian calender. In 2015, New Year's celebrations will take place on February 19th and it will be the year of the Goat. There are various traditions, which differ in different regions, usually families make sure as to clean the house to 'sweep away' bad spirits and make way for good luck.

They also use various decorations including red paper lanterns, calligraphy posters and there is of course the Dragon and lion dance which evicts evil spirits. 


In Spain the evening usually begins with a family dinner and then the main countdown is followed from the clock on top of Casa de Correos in Puerta del Sol, Madrid. At midnight, people eat 12 grapes, one at each chime, and each grape signifies a month of prosperity and good luck, making in total a great new year, full of luck!

Source: www.babylon-idiomas.com

Usually after the countdown and the grapes, the parties will carry on late into the night either in small personal parties in bars or large celebrations with thousands of guests in hotels. The following morning, they traditionally eat a winter breakfast of Chocolate con churros. 


Source: www.globalpost.com
Berlin hosts one of Europe's largest celebrations with over 1 million people attending each year. The main fireworks display takes place at Brandenburg gate. As well as the typical celebration with the countdown and fireworks, there is also the tradition of Bleigießen, which involves telling fortunes by shapes made by molten lead dropped in cold water. They also eat tiny marzipan pigs for good luck.


The main celebration is in central London and focuses on Big Ben. When Ben chimes at midnight people traditionally join hands and sing Auld Lang Syne. The fireworks display usually takes place around the London Eye to a soundtrack of British music (usually the Beatles, Queen, Blur etc). The following sees the end of celebrations and the New year's day parade.

Source: www.ghiduri-turistice.info


The main celebration of course takes place in Times Square. At 11:59pm a 12foot ball is released from the roof of One Times Square and takes one minute to descend the 70foot drop. When it is fully descended this signifies midnight and the start of the real celebrations and fireworks. The 'ball drop' attracts around a million spectators every year.

Source: www.ibtimes.com

10 Dec 2014

Students' Stories: Noémie tells all about her last month in Antwerp

Hallo !!!!!

So here we are, December is already here and each week goes faster than the last! I only have five weeks left in Antwerp but I still remember my first day like it was yesterday! My experience is still just as great as in the beginning.

After having taken the CNaVT, a Dutch exam (which was actually quite hard!) which I hope I have passed, the month of November went very well! Still just as many outings, evenings with friends, laughing and unforgettable moments! Memories that will last forever!

Now that December has started it is already the time for ‘goodbye’ for some students – of course some leave earlier than others. The first few departures are hard to swallow, but after all it’s not really goodbye, more like ‘see you soon’!

The month of December is of course Christmas time and the streets are lit up by the Christmas market! I love this atmosphere and Antwerp is one of the most beautiful cities at this time of year! I just love this city!

I am nonetheless very excited to see my family soon for a couple of weeks! That’s everything so far!

Kussjessssss xx

If you want to go abroad like Noémie to Antwerp or elsewhere, just contact us and we will help you find the perfect programme!