Salamanca – the medieval city in Spain and the best place for students

salamanca_570Salamanca is a city located in northwestern Spain, in the autonomous community of Castile and León. It is famous for its university, which is the oldest and most important in Spain, and the fourth oldest in the Western world. The historical center of Salamanca was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988.

History

Its impressive array of Romanesque, Gothic, Moorish, Renaissance and Baroque architecture gives evidence of the city’s historical past. It was occupied by the Carthaginians in the 3rd century B.C before becoming a Roman settlement. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the area was invaded by the Alans, and later the Visitgoths. As with much of the rest of Spain, Salamanca was taken over the Moors in 712 AD, and remained this way until the 11th Century. The university was granted a royal charter in 1218 by King Alfonso IX, and since then has become one of the most prestigious and popular universities in Europe. Originally, most of the classes were taught in churches and other buildings, until the majority of the university was built in the 15th and 16th centuries.

Student life

University

Salamanca is one of the top universities in Spain. As it is such a famous university, as well as attracting Spaniards, Salamanca draws international students from all over the world, as a popular Erasmus destination. It was also the first university to offer Spanish courses, so it now has the most prestigious language courses on offer, which attracts a great number of foreign students. Salamanca has over 30,000 students.

This gives the city an international and vibrant feel. It is quite a small city, with a small town feel, so it is easy to get to grips with the city straight away. It is possible to walk pretty much everywhere, which is an enjoyable experience in itself, as the city is extremely pretty with all its cobbled streets and beautiful buildings; there’s always something new to see. The biggest bonus of Salamanca is that it’s cheap, which is ideal for students; not only for accommodation, but for nights out as well! You could spend just 150 euros a month on renting a room in a shared flat!

Nights out

Salamanca is a great night out for students. You can expect to be surrounded by other students, and to have a good time without spending a fortune. It has a lot of bars that you can go to first, to enjoy a few drinks and some tapas; “ir de pinchos” as it’s known here. The best places for this are around Gran Via, or around Plaza Mayor, which would be a bit more expensive. Plaza Mayor is a common meeting place for students, located in the center of the town, with a good atmosphere. Calle Van Dyck in the north of the city also offers tapas bars, with very good prices and good sized pinchos!

If you’re looking for a night out clubbing, Salamanca can also give you what you’re after. Going out is possible every night of the week, although the students normally go out Thursday- Saturday. Nightclubs don’t get started until about 1am and can go on well into the early hours, which takes a bit of getting used to! There are many clubs you can choose from depending on the sort of music you’re looking for. The majority of the nightclubs are in the old town, and music can be divided between these zones.

You can find live music haunts around the Bordadores disctrict, often with medieval style décor. The area around Gran Via is full of places popular among foreign students with a range of bars and nightclubs of different music styles. More alternative music can be found around Plaza de San Justo. Most places offer some sort of special offer, such as a free second drink, but there are some other places you can look out for it you’re on a tight budget like most students. Liter bars are popular, and you pay a lot less than you would if you were in a club; around €3.50 for a liter of beer! There is also a bar dedicated solely to the one and only Michael Jackson, called “Jacko’s”, which has reasonably cheap prices too! Other popular places among foreign students involve “The Irish Rover” (a nightclub), and the “Chupitería” (a shot bar!).

LATIN AMERICA: Mountain, Beach or City?

Destinations in Latinamerica

A world of possibilities…

How to choose your Latin American destination? Perhaps a place where you can relax on the warm sand under sunny skies while surrounded by stunning beach scenery, or maybe within chilly Andean mountain landscapes, or how about in a big cosmopolitan city such as Buenos Aires? Here are three general categories you may want to think about to help you choose the perfect school in Latin America:  coastal, mountain, and big city.

Coastal destinations

The advantages of choosing a coastal destination are as clear as the sunny blue skies that hang over beach paradises along many Latin American coastlines. Schools in these destinations often offer the luxury of being able to walk to the beach after class, where you can spend the afternoon doing little more than listening to the soft sea breeze and the waves gently breaking on golden sands. Some schools even offer exciting coastal extracurricular activities such as kite surfing and scuba diving.

Mexico: Playa Del Carmen, Puerto Vallarta; Costa Rica: Tamarindo, Jaco Beach; Dominican Republic: Sosua;

Mountain destinations

Hot temperatures are not for everyone, so you may prefer a cool weather destination. Consider tossing on a new handmade, traditional, brightly colored wooly sweater that you just picked up from a local open air market high in the Andes. Visit nearby villages huddled between the summits of the vast Andean mountain range, places where the Inca Empire once flourished and continues to influence the region’s rich culture.  Mountain destinations are often decidedly less touristic than coastal ones, a factor many students looking forward to immersing themselves in a new language and culture find appealing.

Ecuador: Quito; Bolivia: Sucre; Peru: Cusco ;

Big city destinations

Want an exciting study destination where there is always something happening? A big city may be what you are looking for and there are many Spanish schools located right in the heart of all the action where after class you can step outside and explore vibrant urban landscapes. Big cities often offer an exciting and modern variety of restaurants, art galleries, museums and shopping possibilities.

Argentina: Buenos Aires, Córdoba; Chile: Santiago; Colombia: Bogotá; Dominican Republic: Santo Domingo;

A Taste of Christmas in Germany

Christmas in GermanyChristmas is celebrated differently in every country, and this time we’re in Germany…

Advent is a very important part of Christmas in Germany; typical celebrations start on the 6th December with Nikolaustag (St Nicholas’ Day). The night before, children leave their freshly shined boots outside their doors to wake up to them filled with candy and other small gifts. Indeed if they have been “bad”, they will instead be greeted with a boot filled with twigs, provided by St Nicholas’ evil sidekick, Knecht Ruprecht. Other traditions that take place during advent undoubtedly include advent calendars. The tradition of advent calendars in Germany goes back to the 19th Century, where children would draw Christmas themed pictures on the 24 days leading up to Christmas and hang them around the house. The first chocolate-filled advent calendars appeared as early as 1958 and have since been a very important part of Christmas, for children in particular. Another similar tradition is that of the Adventskranz (Advent Wreath), which is widespread in German-speaking Europe. It composes of a decorative wreath where a new candle is lit and placed in the wreath each Sunday on the lead up to Christmas.

Christmas markets pop up all over Germany as early as the last week of November, where you can enjoy the lively festive atmosphere, as well as buy all sorts of German Christmas foods, such as Lebkuchen (gingerbread), stollen and marzipan, as well as sample the German’s version of mulled wine, glühwein. The towns are filled with decorative Christmas lights and trees; trees being an extremely important tradition in Germany as this is where the concept of bring Christmas trees into your home originated, in what we date back as far as the 16th Century. Christmas trees are traditionally decorated by families in Germany on Christmas Eve; some families even prepare a room for Christmas and keep it locked, to then ring a bell and surprise the children with the presents under the decorated tree.  Children will leave their Christmas lists out on the windowsill during advent for the Christkind, a blonde “Christ Child” angel with a white robe and wings. Presents are normally opened that evening, as well as a feast of what often consists of karp and kartoffelsalat (potato salad); avoiding meat for religious purposes, the religious people also attend midnight mass. On Christmas Day a typical meal would involve roast goose, potatoes and vegetables, with a selection of sweet German breads flavored with cinnamon, and marzipan for dessert.

The celebrations don’t just stop there. After Christmas day, between the 27th December and the 6th January, Sternsingers, or “star singers”, a group of four children dressed up as the three wise men and the star of Bethlehem, visit houses to sing carols and then sign the door of the house when they have finished, which is bad luck to rub off, but it usually fades before the 6th January. The 6th January, epiphany, or Heilige Drei Könige, the Day of the Three Kings, celebrates the arrival of the Three Wise Men in Bethlehem. Families spend the day attending church services, or the children dress up in the Three Kings’ costumes, singing hymns or acting out the Christmas story. Some people gather the night before to toast good health to friends and family and drink bockbier, a beer specifically brewed for this season. Epiphany marks the end of the Christmas season for Germany and Europe.

Now you know that Germany has its own unique way of celebrating Christmas, it might be worth a visit to appreciate their traditions for yourself. You can roam the Christmas markets, the decorated streets, and enjoy the food, drink and unique atmosphere that this country which is full of surprises has to offer.

Where is the best place to take a Spanish language course in Mexico?

mexico
This is a virtually impossible question to answer due to personal preferences about city size, levels of population, location etc. However, if you know you are the type of person who enjoys a buzzing nightlife then Mexico City may be a good choice for you. Additionally, there are plenty of beautifully designed buildings such as the Blue House where Mexican Painter, Frida Kahlo, once worked and lived. Alternatively, if you love the beach, then Mexico’s postcard worthy Playa del Carmen offers an idyllic setting complete with bright turquoise waters and glittering white sands. Once you’ve chosen a destination, the next thing to consider are the language schools themselves and the type of accommodation that suits you best. When selecting a language school, you may like to consider price, the types of activities offered by each individual institution and the variety of age-groups and nationalities of your future classmates. However, if you’re still thinking about the destination, then read on to find out more about three of Mexico’s most significant cities…

Guanajuato, the childhood home of Diego Rivera, is a charmingly unique colonial city, located in central Mexico. A mid-sized university town brimming with history and art, copious plazas filled with cafés and restaurants and narrow, pedestrianized streets lined with colorful houses – a perfect city for strolling. La Bohemia is a small restaurant in Jardín De La Unión, Guanajuato’s main plaza. It is open seven days a week from eight in the morning till eleven at night. For fifty-five pesos (that’s just over 3 euros) the restaurant offers a meal of the day which includes a bowl of homemade soup, a starter, freshly prepared rice and salad, a round piece of bread known as a bolillo and a refillable glass of agua fresca (a Mexican fruit drink). The restaurant owner has about 50 dishes that he rotates for the meal of the day. It appears that the prices at the restaurant are about the same, if not a bit lower, than other eateries in downtown Guanajuato.

Oaxaca is one of the best places in Mexico to enjoy cultural holidays. Around Day of the Dead (on the 1st and 2nd November) families descend upon the local cemeteries to clean the grave stones of their deceased ancestors and have a picnic in their honor. In the city center, street vendor’s spring up selling marigolds and coxcombs (a velvety red flower typical of this season) and market stall owners attract customers with wonderful displays of candy skulls and special bread known as Pan de Muerto. The cuisine in Oaxaca is very rich and varied: from the chocolate-infused meat sauce known as mole to the crunchy fried grasshoppers not for the faint-hearted! As well as a selection of exotic dishes, Oaxaca is also famous for its alcoholic beverages: tequila always took center stage in the past; but over the years, it has risen considerably in price so its “brother drink” mescal has become the tipple of choice for all those who appreciate fine liquor.

Mexico City, the fifteenth most populous city in the world, might seem a bit daunting at first, but it doesn’t have to be. The most popular tourist attractions are mainly concentrated in the heart of the historic city center, for example, the main plaza (known as the Zócalo), the Alameda Park and the Palace of Fine Arts. The Plaza Garibaldi, located a few meters away from the Palace is the best place in Mexico City to listen to live Mariachi musicians. The Rosa, Roma and San Angel zones, home to some lovely parks, shops and cafés are considered to be the “artsy” areas in town. The affluent neighborhood of Polanco is the place to be if you’re looking for a good night out. Further south, the UNAM campus (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México) is renowned for its famous work created by some of Mexico’s most well-known artists.

Amerispan Actfl Fair in Philadephia

ACTFL is an acronym that stands for American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. The aim of this organization is to provide a way of testing the ability of foreign language speakers. The language levels are broken down into four sections: Novice, Intermediate, Advanced and Superior. In turn, these four sections are subdivided into three smaller segments: Low, Mid and High. Students are tested on four different areas of study: Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking. Thus, some students may reach the advanced level in reading and writing while staying at a lower level in listening and speaking.
The latest ACTFL Annual Convention took place in Philadelphia, the largest city of Pennsylvania, between the 16th and the 18th November 2012. ACTFL has partnered with numerous foreign language schools in order to be able to offer a selection of study abroad scholarships to its members. For example, the IMAC Spanish Language Programs Scholarship consists of four weeks worth of Spanish language tuition in Guadalajara, Mexico while the Cemanhuac Educational Community Scholarship comprises two weeks worth of Spanish language tuition, housing, meals and one educational field trip.
STARTALK is part of the National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) as declared by former president of the United States, George W. Bush. The NSLI-Y provides scholarships for eligible high school students to learn less commonly taught languages in overseas immersion programs. STARTALK’s mission is to increase the number of Americans learning, speaking, and teaching foreign languages by offering teachers and students a partial scholarship to study one of the three languages listed below:
1. Russian – 5th most spoken language in the world with 277 million speakers
2. Arabic – 6th most spoken language in the world with 246 million speakers
3. Chinese – 1st most spoken language in the world with 1 billion + speakers
The upcoming ACTFL Annual Convention is taking place between the 22nd and the 24th November 2013 in Orlando, Florida. More than 250 companies will be displaying their most recent products and services for students and teachers of foreign languages. Harvard University graduate, Dr Wagner, will deliver the keynote speech to set the underlying tone of the convention and summarize the core message of the event. In the past, Dr Wagner has worked as a university professor and a high school teacher. Nowadays, he is a highly sought after educational advisor in the United States and beyond. Dr Wagner has written numerous articles and five books. He will be signing copies of his latest published works: “Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World” following his keynote speech.
Since its 2004 convention in Chicago, Illinois, ACTFL have declared its reason for existing is to provide “vision, leadership and support” for “quality teaching and learning of languages”.

Why trust Amerispan as an agency

Amerispan co-founders, John Slocum and Dorioara Pinku, started out as a pair of Spanish students in Latin America. During their travels, they realised that the region was full of Spanish language schools offering affordable tuition to people of all ages. Slocum and Pinku found it intriguing that the majority of the students learning Spanish were trained professionals like doctors and lawyers; this led the pair to believe that the USA was seriously lacking in Spanish language schools and they set about trying to change this. What started out as a business plan on a scrap of paper on a beach in Rio Janeiro is now a multi-award winning company that has been “building bridges between cultures” for the last two decades. Presently, Amerispan offers 15 languages in 45 different countries.

Amerispan has 25 years worth of experience in helping students to travel to different countries to learn Spanish. Staff members have personally experienced the destinations on offer by Amerispan so they can give first hand advice on what to expect and how to prepare for your trip. Amerispan is in constant contact with the schools and the host families so all parties are kept informed at all times. There is no risk involved in booking a course through Amerispan because you can cancel at any time and get a full refund. You must give three weeks notice if you wish to cancel your course to give Amerispan the opportunity to offer you place to somebody else.

If at the end of your course you are not fully satisfied, Amerispan will pay for an extra week’s worth of tuition on a Spanish course of your choice. In order to claim one week free, you must send an email to the following address admin@amerispan.com explaining why you are dissatisfied with your program. Amerispan uses this information to improve the learning experience of future students. Finally, in the unlikely circumstance that you find another company offering an equivalent course for a lower price, Amerispan not only matches their price, but offers a price that is 10% lower than the competitor. For a course to be considered “equivalent”, it must meet certain criteria:

a)      The course must be in the same city

b)      The number of students in the class must be the same or fewer.

c)      The amount of Spanish teaching time and the quality of instruction must be comparable.

d)     The accommodation must be of a similar quality.

To sum up, if you buy a course from Amerispan, you can be sure of three things:

  1. A full refund if you change your mind
  2. One week free if you’re not fully satisfied
  3. The best possible price

Amerispan’s principal goal is to serve their customers. The Philadelphia office is open 8 hours a day; 5 days a week so there will almost always be a member of staff available to help you whether it be over the phone or via email. Amerispan understand that there is a lot of information available and they are here to help you sort through it and to make an informed decision.

Why trust Amerispan as an agency

Amerispan co-founders, John Slocum and Dorioara Pinku, started out as a pair of Spanish students in Latin America. During their travels, they realised that the region was full of Spanish language schools offering affordable tuition to people of all ages. Slocum and Pinku found it intriguing that the majority of the students learning Spanish were trained professionals like doctors and lawyers; this led the pair to believe that the USA was seriously lacking in Spanish language schools and they set about trying to change this. What started out as a business plan on a scrap of paper on a beach in Rio Janeiro is now a multi-award winning company that has been “building bridges between cultures” for the last two decades. Presently, Amerispan offers 15 languages in 45 different countries.

Amerispan has 25 years worth of experience in helping students to travel to different countries to learn Spanish. Staff members have personally experienced the destinations on offer by Amerispan so they can give first hand advice on what to expect and how to prepare for your trip. Amerispan is in constant contact with the schools and the host families so all parties are kept informed at all times. There is no risk involved in booking a course through Amerispan because you can cancel at any time and get a full refund. You must give three weeks notice if you wish to cancel your course to give Amerispan the opportunity to offer you place to somebody else.

If at the end of your course you are not fully satisfied, Amerispan will pay for an extra week’s worth of tuition on a Spanish course of your choice. In order to claim one week free, you must send an email to the following address admin@amerispan.com explaining why you are dissatisfied with your program. Amerispan uses this information to improve the learning experience of future students. Finally, in the unlikely circumstance that you find another company offering an equivalent course for a lower price, Amerispan not only matches their price, but offers a price that is 10% lower than the competitor. For a course to be considered “equivalent”, it must meet certain criteria:

a)      The course must be in the same city

b)      The number of students in the class must be the same or fewer.

c)      The amount of Spanish teaching time and the quality of instruction must be comparable.

d)     The accommodation must be of a similar quality.

To sum up, if you buy a course from Amerispan, you can be sure of three things:

  1. A full refund if you change your mind
  2. One week free if you’re not fully satisfied
  3. The best possible price

Amerispan’s principal goal is to serve their customers. The Philadelphia office is open 8 hours a day; 5 days a week so there will almost always be a member of staff available to help you whether it be over the phone or via email. Amerispan understand that there is a lot of information available and they are here to help you sort through it and to make an informed decision.

3 Best destinations to learn Spanish

Mexico-colombia-peru

If you’re serious about learning Spanish, then the best thing you can do is to spend some time in a Spanish-speaking country. Immersing yourself in the Spanish language and culture is arguably the only way to achieve fluency and confidence in the foreign language. There are 21 Spanish-speaking countries in the world so it’s impossible to say which three are the best. Listed below are some countries that may be more recommended than others. Of course you will want to research all of your options before you make a decision, but here is some food for thought to get you started…

1.    Colombia, South America
After many years of violent conflict, Colombia has become a safe holiday destination once again. Millions of people go to Colombia on holiday every year. Colombia is an ideal place to learn Spanish at a beginner’s level. This is because Colombian people speak slowly with a neutral accent. There is plenty to do outside the classroom as well, from trekking through the jungle to lying on a tropical beach. Interestingly, Latin American writer, Gabriel Garcia Marquez was born in Colombia. Gabriel Garcia’s writing style (Magical Realism) could be seen as a true reflection of the Colombian way of life where every person is good and kind and every view takes your breath away. Imported by the coffee-loving Italians, Columbian coffee has been recognized as the best in the world. Despite being quite small, Colombia is the second most biologically diverse place on earth with almost 2000 species of birds. This biodiversity results from Colombia’s varied ecosystems, from flat grassland to cloud forests characterized by low-level cloud cover. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984, Cartagena, often referred to as a jewel in South America’s crown, is a popular tourist destination. The city is characterized by colonial architecture, cultural festivals, exotic scenery, superb beaches and wonderful food.

2.    Mexico, North America
Mexico has the largest Spanish-speaking population in the world. It has 31 UNESCO World Heritage Sites – that’s more than any other country. Mexican’s speak with a slightly stronger accent than Colombian’s, but they are still quite easy to understand. Also, Mexican people in general are very patient so they should be happy to slow down and repeat things to help you understand. One of the lovely things about learning Spanish in Mexico is that the people are full of praise. Even if you make lots of mistakes, they will still treat you with the utmost respect for trying, before politely correcting you so you can improve. Mexico is hot all year round, so it’s the perfect place to go to get a tan and learn Spanish at the same time. Additionally, it has some of the nicest beaches in the world: Playa del Carmen, Cancun and Acapulco each offer unique swimming experiences. Chichen Itza receives over a million visitors each year making it the most visited archaeological site in Mexico. It is one of the larger Maya cities in the world thought to have had a diverse population due to the wide variety of architectural styles. Besides Maya cities and lovely people, Mexico is famous for its food. Mole, for example, is a chili and chocolate sauce traditionally eaten with chicken and pork.

3.    Peru, South America
The main language spoken in Peru is Spanish, although many Peruvian’s still speak Quechua, the other official language of Peru. English is barely spoken in Peru, except in some of the major cities. Therefore, Spanish students will be thrown into the language. Peruvians, like Mexicans, are grateful to people who speak to them in their mother tongue. Additionally, they are renowned for speaking loudly and clearly; of course, this makes it easier for foreigners to understand them. If you go to Peru to study Spanish, you’ll have lots to do in your free time. Machu Picchu, the 15th century Inca site is famous the world over. Although there are other things to see, this is certainly an important tourist attraction. Machu Picchu was unknown to the world until 1911 when it was brought to international attention by an American archaeologist. Now nearly 2,500 tourists visit Machu Picchu every single day!

 

 

 

Best schools in Italy

Italian universities
Everyone knows that Italy has the tastiest pizza, the richest coffee and the creamiest gelato but not many people know that some Italian universities are among the world’s best ever. For example, the University of Bologna is the highest ranked university in Italy whilst Sapienza University of Rome ranks as the 190th best university in the world. The aforementioned universities specialize in the following subjects: health, humanities, sciences, social studies and technology. Students travel from far and wide to take advantage of Italy’s excellent education system.

Expats in Italy – how to choose the best school for your child…

When selecting an Italian school for your son or daughter, it is necessary to choose whether you want your child to attend an Italian state school or one of the few schools in Italy that uses English as their main teaching language. If you send your child to an Italian state school, he/she will be studying all of their subjects in Italian. It is noteworthy that after the age of 12, children tend to learn languages more slowly. Young children, on the other hand, adapt fairly easily.
While English is taught as a second language throughout state schools in Italy, the quality of the education your child is likely to receive is probably not going to allow your child to maintain a high level of reading and writing in English. Consequently, many parents pay for an English tutor to allow their child to hold onto their knowledge of the English language. This is especially important for parents planning on returning to the UK while their children are still of school-age to keep them from falling behind in their English studies.
You should also take into account the following five pieces of advice when selecting the best school for your child…

1.    Parents usually send their children to private school for religious reasons or to find support for children with special needs. Italian private schools do not offer a higher quality of education; state schools are perceived to be of an equal standard.

2.    If you are planning on living in Italy for a short period of time, it may not be worth enrolling your child in a Spanish speaking school. It may be said that the length of your stay needs to be at least one year to make becoming a student at an Italian school worth your child’s while. For example, two months in an all-Italian-speaking educational institution is not enough time to allow your son or daughter to progress and is likely to do more harm than good to your child’s confidence.

3.    Expat parents need to be aware that the majority of Italian students are required to attend school on a Saturday morning. Therefore, it may be necessary for the family to rearrange their leisure activities around Saturday classes.

4.    Undoubtedly, the younger your child is, the easier it will be for them to integrate into Italian school life.

5.    If you choose single-gender education for your child, you have no alternative but to send your child to private school.

Five best schools in France

It is a well known fact that France has one of the best schooling systems in the world. According to recent research, French students are more likely to face up to a challenge, pay close attention to the rules, produce high quality work and consequently achieve academic success. It is unsurprising then, that an increasing number of families are relocating to France to take advantage of their seemingly superior teaching methods. For many parents, their child’s ability to integrate is a huge cause for concern.

Besides the obvious advantages to be gleaned from relocating abroad such as language acquisition, there are the inevitable feelings of isolation and alienation that come from being an expatriate. Luckily, there are ways to avoid these unpleasant sensations such as employing a personal tutor. This is more important the older your child is given that younger children tend to be faster learners. Youngsters will almost certainly start to feel comfortable conversing in French before their parents and/or older siblings. There are three main reasons for this, each of which is discussed in moderate detail below:

1.    It may be argued that children have an advantage over their parents when learning a foreign language given that they focus on the most important parts of sentences only. They block out words and phrases that they consider confusing, instead focusing on what they understand. Adults, on the other hand, attempt to process everything they hear, often failing to interpret anything at all.

2.    A portion of the blame for slower language acquisition in adults can be attributed to “neural commitment”. A child learns his/her mother tongue through the strengthening and weakening connections between neurons in their brain. When that child becomes an adult, those connections become fixed and harder to change when learning a new language. If the second language is acquired while a person is still young, those connections are changeable and so language acquisition is less complicated.

3.    The simplest explanation is that, more often that not, young children are surrounded by people speaking the language they are trying to learn. Children are at school all day, every day and so they are immersed in the target language almost all of the time. Even if adults take evening classes, this will only occupy a small portion of their time. Moreover, if they are taking beginners French for example, they are bound to be surrounded by other non-native speakers. Finally, children are less inhibited about speaking in a group situation and less self-conscious about making mistakes. Therefore, a child will generally spend more time talking in the target language than an adult which speeds up the learning process.

French children start school at the age of six and leave at the age of sixteen. School days are generally longer in France than the UK however there is normally one day off a week in addition to the weekend. School holidays are structured a little differently too. Rather than a long summer break, French students have four lots of two week breaks spread throughout the year rather than one long six to twelve week holiday as enjoyed by British and American children. It has been proven that shorter holidays minimize summer learning loss (the loss in academic skills and knowledge over the course of summer vacation).

The structure of French state schools is as follows:

•    2-5 years  Ecole Maternelle
•    6-11 years  Ecole Primaire
•    12-16 years  Collège
•    16-18 years  Lycée
•    18+  University

The names of the top 5 French universities are listed below in English along with a brief description:
1.    The Pierre-and-Marie-Curie University (UPMC) situated in Paris is the 2nd best university in France and the 42nd best university in the world according to the Academic Ranking of World Universities.  Graduates of UPMC, the biggest medical complex in the country, have won (and continue to win) various awards in the field.

2.    The Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1 is one out of three public universities in Lyon. It specializes in science and medicine and was named after Claude Bernard, the French physiologist who suggested that blind experiments (where some of the participants are prevented from knowing certain information that might lead to bias) ensure the fairness of scientific experiments.

3.    The École normale supérieure (ENS) is a French grande école (a higher education institution that is not a public university) The idea to establish the ENS was first generated during the French Revolution and has since developed into an first-class establishment producing some the brightest young scholars that France has ever seen, including 12 Nobel prize winners.

4.    The University of Paris-Sud has its main campus in Orsay in the southwestern suburbs of Paris. The other campuses are distributed around other cities in France. Paris-Sud is the biggest university in France, famous in the fields of mathematics and science in particular. It has been ranked the 1st best university in France, the 6th best in Europe and 37th best in the world according to the Academic Ranking of World Universities.

5.    The Pantheon-Sorbonne University situated in Paris is one of the biggest universities in France with 40,000 students.  The university is divided up into 5 institutions offering degrees in economics, humanities, law, management and political science.