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


Five more interesting things about Edinburgh

The QueenThe Queen’s husband, Prince Philip, is the Duke of Edinburgh.  This title was created in 1726, for Prince Frederick, the son of George I.

The famous Royal Mile in Edinburgh runs from the Castle down the hill to Holyrood Palace.  It is actually one mile and 107 yards!

Edinburgh Castle  is built on a volcano.  Don’t worry though, it’s extinct and has not erupted for 350 million years!

Edinburgh was the first city in the world to have its own Fire Brigade, in 1703.

Many people nowadays like body piercings. However, not many have as many as Edinburgh’s Elaine Davidson who is the world’s most pierced woman, with more than 9,000 piercings!

Some interesting things about Glasgow

Lots of students at Global School travel the short distance to the west to see Glasgow, Scotland’s biggest city. It’s very different from Edinburgh.  Here are some interesting facts about Glasgow that you might not know.

The Horseshoe Bar in Glasgow city centre was established in 1884 by John Scouller who was a captain in the cavalry. The Horseshoe  has the longest bar in the UK, measuring 104ft 4in in length.

The film star Roy Rogers and his horse, Trigger, rode all the way round the Horseshoe Bar in 1954.

Glasgow also has the tallest cinema in the world, the Cineworld in Renfrew Street. It is 62 metres high, has 18 screens spread across six floors and up to 633 people at a time can attend.

Unlike Edinburgh, Glasgow no longer has a castle. However, it does have Castle Street, near the Cathedral. That’s where the castle used to be, but all traces were finally demolished in 1792.

People from Glasgow are called Glaswegians (or ‘weegies’ if you are from Edinburgh!). However, the term is relatively new, being first used by Sir Walter Scott in 1817.


Architecture, Loch Ness, Donald Trump (the Musical) and Swimming in Portobello

Loch NessTancredi Merlo is the leader of a group of 20 students from Veintimiglia in Italy, a town in the Liguria region near the border with France.

Most of the students have never been to Scotland before, but they have enjoyed the two weeks in our country, travelling extensively to the Highlands and going on a boat trip on Loch Ness (although I am assured they did not see the Loch Ness Monster!).

For some of them, it’s their first time away from home without their parents, so the emphasis has been on having fun and visiting as many different places as possible. Tancredi believes that the trip to the Highlands was a highlight and they have also visited Glasgow (“very busy!”), had a Harry Potter tour, been to Edinburgh Castle and lots of museums, and also had a trip to a distillery to learn how Scotch whisky is made.  Before they leave they are going to Rosslyn Chapel where they will learn about its connection to the best-selling novel, The Da Vinci Code; and they also hope to go swimming at Portobello Baths.

The biggest surprise for the students was the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.  They had been to a show almost every night. The show, “Trump, the Musical,” was the best one they had seen, very funny and very different from what they are used when they go to the theatre in Italy!

As regards the School, Tancredi told me that the teachers are good and have looked after the students well.  He also praised the style of the teaching and the fact that there are small classes. One particular advantage is that Global School is self-contained so all the students are taught in the same building. He has had experience of other schools where they have hired premises spread across a city, which is not good for the group leaders who, naturally, want to keep an eye on their students.  Tancredi also felt that the students have gained in confidence in speaking English, although ideally he thinks that they would have benefited from being here for more than two weeks.

Finally, I asked what would be the one thing that the students would remember most about their trip to Scotland. The answer might be a surprise to many, as he said that it would be the architecture.  “Edinburgh is a city with a lot of character,” he told me, “and it’s different from other places they have been and, of course, very different from their home town. However, we have all enjoyed ourselves here and would recommend Global School and Scotland to any other groups thinking of making a trip to improve their English skills and learn about a new country.

Interview, Alastair Blair