This visit to Edinburgh will certainly improve our English

Iryna Mateychenko Iryna Mateychenko (pictured here with Duncan Fitzhowie, Director of Studies at Global School) is the Group Leader for a small number of young teenagers from Kharkiv, the second largest city in Ukraine. Although Iryna has been to Scotland twice before, none of the students have, although one girl has been to England.   They are here for one week only, but she kindly spared a little bit of her time to chat about Edinburgh, the School, the food and (or course!) the Scottish weather.

The first thing I’ve got to say is that the School has been very welcoming.  We have a mixed-ability group in terms of their level of English – some are intermediate and some pre-intermediate – but location of the School in the heart of the city centre is excellent and the staff are friendly and professional. While it’s obviously not possible to master a language in just one week, this visit will certainly improve the kids’ English and they learn so much more just by being here.  As well as improving our English, we have done lots of cultural things, been to Edinburgh Castle and Stirling Castle, and discovered just how interesting a place this is and how much variety there is here. Edinburgh is very different from Kharkiv, but then it’s also different from Newcastle, London, Brighton and the other English cities I’ve been to in the past. 

“The students have also noted how friendly all the people are in Edinburgh.  In my opinion, this is one of the city’s (and the School’s) biggest strengths and it sets Edinburgh apart from most big cities in England. I had noticed this during my previous visits to Scotland – whatever you ask, someone will help – and the kids have been similarly impressed by how nice everyone is to them.

“The food it not the same as we have in Ukraine and that’s taken a bit of getting used to and although they don’t complain they also say that we have more salads at home, there is no cheese for breakfast in Scotland and they would prefer more mashed potatoes than chips. However, they haven’t tried your famous fish and chips– perhaps that will change their minds!

“The weather is also different from at home.  I think we have had what you call “four seasons in one day” for a few days in a row!  We don’t normally have snow, rain and sunshine all within 24 hours.  

“Overall though, this is a great city for a group looking to improve their English.

Everything is fine, well organised and I wish we could be here for longer – perhaps in the summer.  The kids have definitely had a good time and will leave with a positive impression.  I think we’ll be back!

Interview by Alastair Blair

My language learning resolutions for 2019

A few weeks ago, in our Advanced class, we looked at a blog post detailing the writer’s language learning goals for the coming year. Here, Noëmi writes her own goals as she prepares to leave Global School after spending a month here…

My name is Noëmi and I am a C1 Swiss student here at the global school of English in Edinburgh. My main goal during my four weeks stay at the school was to get more confident when using English, because I have always been really insecure about it. I don’t really know why, maybe I was afraid of potential judgment. Personally, I think that the lessons here in GSE helped me to get over this fear by helping me to realise that errors aren’t a bad thing and you can learn a lot out of them.

Where am I now:

Most of my knowledge of English language such as grammar and vocabulary, I know from my school back in Switzerland, but I would also say that watching English YouTube videos and Netflix series and also reading a lot of English books contributed a lot to my English, mostly to my vocabulary.

In the past I mainly used my spoken English during my English lessons in high school or during the holidays, so I am glad I got the opportunity to travel to Edinburgh and use the language I had studied for such a long time.

Due to my level of English, understanding everyday language and conversation is quite easy for me, although accents are sometimes a bit of a problem, but I think I will get used to that. Meanwhile, I am also quite comfortable discussing a more complex topic after I have done a bit of research on it.

But I often struggle with my English when I get “surprised” by a topic I don’t know a lot about, because then I get to the limits of my vocabulary and I get quite insecure about it. This also includes giving my opinion about something we discuss in class. I also don’t know a lot about how to use the formal written language, for example in a formal letter.

In summary, I’m quite happy with my level of English and I don’t struggle too much in most situations but there is always something I can improve and so this year I set a few language learning goals for myself:

What I want to achieve:

  • I want to improve my vocabulary, both my sophisticated and my everyday vocabulary
  • I want to keep up with English in my everyday life
  • Although we studied a bit about it in school, I want to become more secure when writing formal letters using both formal and polite language and a formal style of writing.
  • I also want to get more confident speaking in class and giving my opinion because I think these are really important traits.

What I’m going to do:

  • I want to start watching more documentaries on different topics which interest me, because I think they are a good introduction into the formal and sophisticated language I want to learn. I also want to read more articles from different newspapers and magazines (for example Science Today or the New Yorker) both intensively and extensively to learn to understand the content and the style of writing and language. So I will start to read at least one article or watch at least one documentary a week.
  • For my general vocabulary, I want to start using a notebook in which I can write down new words so I can revise them over time.
  • I want to keep in touch with the people I have met here in Edinburgh and in the school to use my English more often and also to use it in other environments than my school offers.
  • I will ask my teacher again about how to write formal letters or emails, do research about it on the Internet and also start to reread my old emails to see how the language is really used.
  • To develop my personal and emotional security in my English class, I want to ask at least 2 questions and say at least 3 comments per lesson.

Noemi Behner


The original blog post can be found here:


From the Arctic Circle to Edinburgh…we both like soup!

Oksana Sokolenko and Irina Buglak are from Gubkinsky, near the Arctic Circle, four hours west of Moscow. They have never visited Scotland before, but have recently spent two weeks with their students, studying at Global School of English in Edinburgh.  They kindly agreed to spend half an hour being interviewed about their experience of the school and the city.

“This visit has surpassed my expectations,” said Oksana.   “The pace of life is not very different from our part of Russia, but the people here are so friendly and the beauty of the city – the architecture and the parks – has made a big impression on me.”

“I’ve been to London before, but it’s totally different from Scotland.  It’s more expensive and seems like a different country.”

Irina has also been to England before and she agreed with Oksana, telling me, “I really enjoy the heritage and history of Edinburgh and, as Oksana says, the people really are extremely welcoming. It’s also a safe place to bring teenage students, which is very important for us as teachers.”

As regards the School itself, both ladies agreed that, “the teachers are friendly and very competent. All the Russian students tell us they find the teaching to be good and well-structured for the different levels of study. In Russia, English is compulsory from age 8 and more people nowadays are interested in travelling around Europe and the rest of the world, so English is especially useful for them to be understood across the globe.”

I then asked what had surprised them about Edinburgh.

Irina said that she knew before she came about the famous Edinburgh sites – the Castle, the Royal Mile, Arthur’s Seat, etc. but what she didn’t know about was the people and the lifestyle.

Oskana added that when she had been in some other countries, like most visitors, she felt “foreign,” but here, after a couple of days “I didn’t feel like a foreigner because everyone was so friendly.  It’s particular striking that people say thank you and even the bus drivers say good morning to everyone who gets on their bus.”

As regards Scottish food, Irina admitted that although she had tried haggis, “it’s not my cup of tea!” while Oksana said that the students generally liked Scottish cuisine.  One thing both Russia and Scotland have in common is that we both like soup!  In contrast, on a trip the USA, Oksana said it was very difficult to get a nice bowl of soup.

Finally, both agreed that, as they had stressed throughout our chat, the one really big thing for them and their students was the friendliness of Scotland and the Scots. They also agreed that “we’ll be back soon, with more students!”

Interview, Alastair Blair  


The teachers are very good, especially the way they engage with the students

Uzbek students

Dostonbek Nuraliev and his sister, Shokhsanam Nuralieva (pictured above) live in Uzbekistan, where they run a small but growing education centre and agency.  They are keen to expand their markets and recently spent a week with us at Global School of English in Edinburgh.  I met up with them on the second day of their visit and spent a very enjoyable half an hour listening to their views about Edinburgh and the School.

They have both been to Scotland before (Dostonbek studied at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh), and their other sister has actually studied with us at Global School last year. It was her recommendation that made them want to come and see for themselves.

Shokhsanam told me that she thinks “the teachers are very good, especially the way they engage with the students,” and she particularly liked the fact that the teachers, “as well as helping us improve our vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation, also tell us lots of interesting things about Scotland and its culture.”

Both Dostonbek and Shokhsanam have also been to London, which they enjoyed, but they did say they found that Scotland was a much friendlier place – and also cheaper, especially when, like most students, you only have a little money.  However, it was really the friendliness that impressed Shokhsanam the most.  She said, “I think London is very, very busy, but Edinburgh people are very nice, very helpful and if you ask them anything they will help you.”  Dostonbek added that he thinks Scottish people are more friendly than those in many other countries he has visited, where, he said, “they don’t try to help, but here, in Edinburgh, even the bus drivers say ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’ to the passengers.’

In fact, the public transport generally was another thing they both commented upon, with Dostonbek saying, “The buses are very good, here, very frequent so you don’t have to wait very long, even if you are living on the outskirts of the city.   The public transport system works very well and the cost is good – much less expensive compared to London.”

Finally, I asked Shokhsanam what she would say to any student in Uzbekistan thinking of coming to study in Scotland – Why come to Scotland to learn English?  – She replied, “Everyone knows about the Scottish kilt – although we still think of it as men in skirts! – but you really need to come here to experience the unique culture. There is a lot of ancient history, some big and impressive castles and outstanding architecture.  But most of all, it’s the politeness and friendliness of the people that stand out.”

Interview by Alastair Blair

Learning English in Edinburgh – Process Writing

This week we have been working on process writing with our Beginner class. The subject was their time in Edinburgh. We started with ideas, then looked at organising those ideas into paragraphs before starting our first draft. We checked it together and made any changes that were needed before writing the final draft.

Below is Abdullah’s final text.

Abdullah – My time in Edinburgh

My name is Abdullah. I’m from Saudi Arabia. I don’t work at the moment. I like football and I play with my friends once every two weeks. My brother chose Edinburgh for me and the people are very nice.

My first week was difficult because I didn’t know people. I was very scared, but people helped me. I visited great places like the city centre. It was fun, but I didn’t know how to speak with people.

The last 8 weeks have been good. I have visited a gallery and the cinema with school. Also, I have been to the park near my school and the gym with my friends. I have learned new words and I have met new friends. I have started to speak a little English. I’m happy but I miss my family.

I want to be good at English because I want to go to university in Britain. I will stay here in Edinburgh for 6 more months and I want to join the gym. Also, I want to visit London.

Edinburgh is a very nice city but it’s very cold and the days are very short. I’m happy but sometimes Edinburgh is boring because I live alone and living here is very difficult. I hate living alone but I like the city because it is quiet.

You should visit Edinburgh, too.

Six more interesting things about Edinburgh

Before Edinburgh became Scotland’s capital, the tiny Perthshire village of Scone was the capital. Edinburgh became the capital in 1437.

The Stone of Scone, also known as the Stone of Destiny, is the ancient block of stone on which Scottish Kings sat to be crowned.  Since the union of the Scottish and English crowns in 1603, all British Kings and Queens have also been crowned on the Stone (it sits in a recess under the throne during the crowning ceremony).  It is now kept in Edinburgh Castle.

Margaret Dickson was hanged in Edinburgh’s Grassmarket in 1724 but later discovered to be alive.  Under Scots Law she was set free, but the words “until dead” were later added to the sentence of hanging.

Edinburgh has more heritage buildings than anywhere else in the world, some 16,000 from different periods in the city’s history.

bald manIn the 17thcentury, Edinburgh residents believed that rubbing burnt droppings from a dove would cure baldness (don’t try it, it doesn’t!).

Also in the 17thcentury, because people wanted to build their houses inside the city’s walls, Edinburgh became a pioneer in skyscrapers, with some houses having up to 11 stories.

Yet five more interesting things about Glasgow

Glasgow University moved to its current location in 1871.  Before that it was on the High Street.

The University’s famous Lion and Unicorn Staircase and the Pearce Lodge nearby were originally in the High Street but when the University moved they moved too – stone by stone to the west end, along with the original gatehouse.

The University’s Hunterian Museum dates from 1807 and is Scotland’s oldest public museum. it has a large collection of art and scientific relics including the world’s first-ever ultra sound machine.  Students at Glasgow School of English can go on a trip to the Hunterian.

Glasgow claims to have invented the Indian dish, Chicken Tikka Masala. We don’t actually know if this is true, but the story is that local curry house the Shish Mahal invented one of Britain’s favourite dishes in the 1970s, allegedly by throwing together spices and tinned tomato soup!

Glasgow is often rated as the top place for concerts in the UK outside London. If you like music you’ll enjoy it here. There are eight venues in the Top 100 list of places to watch gigs.


Another five interesting things about Edinburgh

The company that created Grand Theft Auto (RockStar North) is based in Edinburgh and the Forth Railway Bridge appears in their 2004 game, Grand Theft San Andreas.

Rose’s Lime Juice  is a very famous British drink. It was invented by Lauchlan Rose in 1867 and the first factory to make it was in Leith in Edinburgh.

“You’ll have had your tea?” is said to be the traditional greeting of any Edinburgh householder to a visitor.  It means that the visitor will have already eaten and therefore the householder won’t need to put the kettle on! Like all good stories, this has a bit of truth behind it, but don’t worry, Edinburgh people are actually very generous!

The first King of the united Great Britain in 1603 was James VI of Scotland who then became James I of England as the English had not had any Kings called James before then.  James was born in Edinburgh Castle.

The Encyclopaedia Britannica, one of the most famous encyclopaedias in the world, was first produced in Edinburgh.   It was published in three volumes between 1768 and 1771 and the first edition caused controversy because the anatomy section contained “unvarnished portrayals of the unmentionable parts of the human body.”

Another five interesting things about Glasgow

Many of our students will take the train or bus to Glasgow, just an hour away from Edinburgh. Here are some interesting facts about Scotland’s biggest city.

Glasgow City Chambers, pictured above and a short walk from Glasgow School of English, is said to have more marble than the Vatican.  It was built in 1888 at a cost of £578,232 – the equivalent of £40 million today.

The City Chambers have been used as a stand in for the Vatican and the Kremlin in films.

Glasgow’s subway – the metro/underground railway system – is the only one in Scotland. It’s also the third oldest subway in the world. It is nicknamed the Clockwork Orange, because of the colour of the trains, and it’s an easy and cheap way to get round the city.

In the late 18thcentury, over half the tobacco imported into Britain came through Glasgow.

Although the one in Scotland is the original, there are more than 20 towns named Glasgow in the United States, with several more in Canada.

We found your school on the internet…the teaching, service and facilities are very good…

Anna Maria Aiazzi, Susanne Innocenti and Donatelle Bordati (pictured above) are teachers of English at Chinochini School in Florence in Tuscany in Italy (one of the most beautiful parts of that country, but that’s another story!).  Currently, they are here with 26 students from their city, on a study tour/holiday in Edinburgh.  They come to the British Isles every year, going to Scotland, Ireland and England consecutively.  They kindly agreed to meet to tell us their thoughts about Edinburgh, Scotland and Global School of English.

“We found your school on the internet.  We’ve only been here for a few days so far but the teaching, service and facilities are very good. Helen Marshall on reception in particular has been very helpful.

“The families our students are staying with are good too. It makes a big difference having good host families. We have to travel into Edinburgh every day so we get to see a lot of the city. The public transport is very good.

“For most of our students, this is their first time in Scotland. Some have been to Dublin and London.  The students are certainly enjoying being in Edinburgh, which we find very safe.

“We’ve been to Stirling Castle and we’re going on a trip to the Highlands and Loch Ness. The myth of the Loch Ness Monster is famous all over the world.  Back in Edinburgh, we’re also going to see the Elephant House Café, where JK Rowling began to write the Harry Potter books.

“Our school in Florence is a vocational school, where the students study technical subjects, food and drink management, electronics, etc. They all know that studying English is important because it’s the main world language for business and at some time in their working lives they’ll have to use it.

“However, as well as improving their English, we believe that one of the main benefits of coming to study abroad is that the students get to experience other cultures and peoples.  While the food in Scotland is different from our meals at home, and the weather is certainly very different, we find that these are some of the best memories our students take away from these trips.  They also learn about the history of these other countries.

“Overall, we are very satisfied with the way everything has gone and we would be happy to recommend Global School of English to anyone who wants to come to study English in the UK.”

Interview, Alastair Blair