Interesting things about Edinburgh

As well as being an ancient city, Edinburgh is home to lots of fascinating places, people and things. We’d like to tell you about some of these, beginning with what is probably the only penguin in the world that has been knighted (given the rank “Sir”) by a king.

This penguin lives at Edinburgh Zoo. The zoo is a really interesting place and well worth a visit while you are staying in Edinburgh. Their penguin enclosure is amazing, with a huge glass wall where you can see the penguins swimming under the water.

One of these penguins is the Colonel-in-chief and mascot of the Norwegian Royal Guard. When he was knighted in 2008, he was also given the name Sir Nils Olav. After the ceremony when he was knighted he then “inspected” the guard of soldiers who attended the ceremony. When the Norwegian Royal Guard soldiers visit Edinburgh, as they sometimes do for the Edinburgh International Festival, they always pay Sir Nils a visit!

A statue with a traffic cone on its head!

Although Global School is based in Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital city, many of our students take a trip to Glasgow, fifty miles to the west.

Edinburgh, as you’ll see when you come here, is an ancient, historic city, with lots of statues. Glasgow is another very old city and it has quite a few statues in its public squares and other places too. However, while most people in Edinburgh probably don’t know who all the statutes in the city represent, in Glasgow just about everyone knows the statue of the Duke of Wellington (the famous British soldier, politician and Prime Minister) seated on his horse, in Royal Exchange Square.

The statue of the Duke is in front of the Gallery of Modern Art. When you come to study at Global School of English, if you go to Glasgow you will have the opportunity to go to see the modern art in this Gallery and when you do make sure you have a look at this statue.

The reason why everyone in Glasgow knows this statue is because it has, for many years, had a traffic cone on the head of the Duke. Originally put there as a joke, it’s now regarded as an essential part of the statue and if it’s ever removed then it’s soon replaced.

A few years ago, the Council (local government) decided that they would raise the plinth (the block on which the statue sits) a few feet so that no-one would be able to get the cone back on the Duke’s head. The Glaswegians were not pleased and the Council changed its mind. However, as this video shows, it’s not easy to get the cone up there!

“Going to the pictures”

Whether it’s Star Wars, James Bond or a romantic love story, everyone loves a good film. While you have to have a reasonable level of English to watch most of them, there is no doubt that “going to the pictures” (as we say in Scotland) is a good way to improve your English.

We know that many of our students like going to the movies and there are lots to choose from in Edinburgh. The main ones are listed below, with a link to each website so you can see what films are being shown.

Cineworld, Fountain Park, close to the city centre.

Vue, also close to the city centre, in Leith Street.

The Dominion, in Morningside, also close to the city centre.

Cameo is just on the edge of the city centre.

The Odeon, Edinburgh, is in Lothian Road, just a few minutes walk from Princes Street (the main street in Edinburgh city centre.

Edinburgh Filmhouse is also in Lothian Road.

There are other cinemas too, so if you like films then you’ll be spoiled for choice when you come to study with Global School of English in Edinburgh.



Наш первый визит в Шотландию (Our first visit to Scotland)

Visiting a new country for the first time is always an exciting experience. For us, as two English language academics from Novosibirsk in Russia, it was particularly interesting as we were in Scotland to meet Andrew Lennox, the President of three schools of English, based in Glasgow and Edinburgh.

We arrived in Glasgow on 28th of January and stayed there for nearly a week, with various excursions to Edinburgh and other Scottish cities and also had time to travel around the beautiful countryside (it really is a very beautiful place). During our time in the city we were really taken by the warm welcome we received: everyone is very friendly and helpful.

On the 29th, we went with Andrew to Stirling University, to see the purpose-built campus (see picture below) where Hamilton School of English holds its summer programme for young learners.

Close by Stirling University is the Wallace Monument, an impressive tower that celebrates William Wallace, the Scottish patriot who led the war of independence in the 13th century (he is the central figure in the movie Braveheart). We climbed the steps and from the top (see next photo) there is an amazing view of the surrounding countryside, including Stirling Castle (in the background on the lower ridge behind Andrew), which is also well worth a visit.

The next day we visited Glasgow School of English and then on the 31st we went to Edinburgh to view Global School of English (see next photo) where we met Duncan Fitzhowie, the Director of Studies.

We were able to spend some time in a class in each School and were very impressed by the classrooms and the quality of teaching on offer. In both cities we went on “hop-on/off” tourist busses, which gave us a good idea of the range of buildings, museums, parks and other sites that are available for students to enjoy.

Finally, on our last day in Scotland we went to Oban, north of Glasgow on the west coast and also visited Loch Lomond and the countryside around it. It really is very scenic and it’s no surprise that Scotland was last year voted the most beautiful country in the world.

Throughout our stay we were very well looked after and had some lovely meals (see photo above!), with Andrew and a few of his colleagues. We took away an impression of a very safe and secure place where our students would feel at home and where they will be able to improve their English to a high standard.

Ekaterina Kostina,
Dean of the Faculty of Foreign Languages,
PhD, professor of the English Language Chair,
Novosibirsk State Pedagogical University.

St Valentine comes to Scotland

Although obviously a Christian Saint, St Valentine’s Day is celebrated in many non-Christian countries around the world and tonight many couples will have romantic dinners and quite a few people will propose marriage to their partner.

However, did you know that the actual St Valentine’s relics (bones/mortal remains) are – probably – in Glasgow? Glasgow is only about 50 minutes away from Edinburgh by train and it is a very big city with a lot of things to see, including the box containing St Valentine!

Saint Valentine was an early Christian martyr (someone who is killed for his or her faith) from northern Italy. A French family is said to have given his bones to the Franciscan monks who had established a church in Cumberland Street in Glasgow in 1868.

Now we have to be honest and say that churches in Terni, near Rome, and in Dublin also claim to hold the remains of Saint Valentine, and it’s also said that the bones were divided between the three locations.

Most people in Scotland had no idea about St Valentine’s remains and it was only when the Franciscans moved with the relics to the Blessed John Duns Scotus Church in Ballater Street in 1999 that the existence of the Saint’s remains became well known. Nowadays, anyone can go and see the small wooden casket in which St Valentine’s remains are kept. If you want to know more about this, or to go and see them, you can find out more at this link.

What do (French) students think of Global School of English?

It’s very important to language schools like ours to make sure that every aspect of our service – the teaching, naturally, but also accommodation, food, course materials, etc. – is of a very high standard.

We do surveys every three months, but we don’t have many opportunities to get feedback from a number of individuals sent from the same partner agency such as Nacel our partner in France, so when we received a report from the Nacel agency we were interested to see what they said.

They marked us against a number of different categories: rooms, comfort, food, the course, the teaching methods, the course materials and organisation plus the information provided by the School. We were scored out of a maximum of five for each category and the results were as follows:

  • Accommodation – 4.64
  • Room – 4.55
  • Comfort – 5.00
  • Food – 4.91
  • Course – 4.73
  • Method – 4.91
  • Materials – 4.55
  • Organisation – 4.73
  • Information – 4.64

In addition, some of the individual comments were particularly pleasing. Some representative comments from the students are shown below:

“A big thank you to my host family who were really great.”

“My host family gave me an extremely friendly welcome and the organisation of the school and the family was perfect. It was difficult to leave.”

“I had a good stay.”

“everything runs perfectly well.”

Finally, Aurélie Boudon from Nacel told us in an email, “The mark is really excellent, congratulations!!  Please thank all your team!! Very good job regarding homestays too!”

Duncan Fitzhowie, Director of Studies, Global School of English

Tongue twisters

Tongue twisters are fun because they difficult to say and you often get the words and letters all mixed up! However, they are a good way to improve your pronunciation. Often they are hard to say because they feature alliteration, which just means using a lot of words together that have the same letter or sound at the beginning of each word, such as in the tongue-twister “Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers.”

Tongue twisters exist in many different languages. Here are some examples.


Toni tagħna tani tina talli tajtu tuta tajba
Our Tony gave a fig because I gave him a good berry.


Buta wa buta no uta o utau.
The pig sings the pig’s song.


Hrvoje sa Hvara hrani hrčka
Hrvoje from Hvar island is feeding a hamster


Quantum materiae materietur marmota monax si marmota monax materiam possit materiarii?
How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

This last one, in Latin, is also a tongue twister in English. Here are a few more in English.

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream! 

Seven slick slimey snakes slowly sliding southward.

What noise annoys an oyster most?
A noisy noise annoys an oyster most.

And finally, our favourite, and, we believe, the most difficult. Try saying this three times, quickly!

“The Leith Police dismisseth us.”


Burns Night and the “Address to a Haggis”

Today, the 25th of January, many Scots will celebrate “Burns Night” in honour of our national Bard (poet), Robert Burns, who lived in Ayrshire and Dumfries. He was born on this day in 1759.

All over the world, Scots will meet to enjoy a “Burns Supper,” at which the main dish is haggis (see picture below – and nowadays vegetarian haggis is available), accompanied by a glass (or two) of whisky, bagpipe music and often dancing as well. The one of Burns’ poems that is always read out is called “Address to a Haggis.” You can find out more about Burns Night here.

Address to a Haggis is quite a long poem and written in the Scots’ dialect of the time, so it is quite hard even for advanced students of English to understand. However, we’ll have a go! Here is the first verse, followed by a “translation” into modern English.

Original words

Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o the puddin’-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye worthy o’ a grace
As lang’s my arm.


Good luck to you and your honest, plump face,
Great chieftain of the sausage race!
Above them all you take your place,
Stomach, tripe, or intestines:
Well are you worthy of a grace
As long as my arm.


The quick brown fox

When you learn English, or any other language, the first thing you do is learn the alphabet. In English we have 26 letters in our alphabet, from A to Z.

Nowadays, lots of people type on a keyboard rather than write words out in longhand (longhand just means writing by hand using a pen or pencil). Did you know that there is one sentence that is often used when people are learning to type?  It is, “the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.”

Do you know why this sentence is important for those who are learning to type?

The answer is simple. The sentence “the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” contains all 26 letters in the English alphabet and each letter is only used once!

New Year means different things to different countries and cultures

Well, we trust that, if you celebrated it, you have had a very enjoyable New Year. In our country, there are lots of traditions associated with Hogmanay, as we call the 31st of December, and the New Year. Perhaps the best known is “first-footing,” when neighbours and friends call round to each other’s houses to be the “first foot” – the first person that their neighbour sees on New Year’s Day. Traditionally, lumps of coal were brought, along with (as you might expect in Scotland) a bottle of whisky!

However, as a major language school, we are well aware that there are many different ways of celebrating the arrival of the New Year and, of course, different countries and cultures celebrate it in different ways and at different dates. We believe that in Poland there is a legend that Pope Sylvester captured a dragon which would have eaten everyone on earth and set fire to the skies. For the Polish people, New Year’s Eve is “St Sylvester’s Eve,” when they celebrate this story that the world did not end at the end of the year.

In Russia, it’s good luck to start the New Year without any debts, so people try to pay off their bills and other debts. In the last 12 seconds of the old year, Russians make secret wishes for the coming year.

The Chinese New Year is, as you probably know, not at the same time as ours. Instead, they celebrate between January 21st and February 20th, depending on the Chinese calendar. Some Chinese paint their front doors red, because red symbolises good luck and happiness. They also put all knives away for 24 hours, because if someone cuts themselves that would cut the family’s good luck for the New Year.

In Denmark, people like to smash plates at New Year. This is said to bring good luck for the next 12 months, so if you are in Denmark don’t be surprised to find a broken plate on your doorstep on January 1st!

In Brazil, lentils are associated with money, so don’t be surprised if  you see someone eating lots of lentils at New Year!


In Korea, the first day of the lunar New Year is called Sol-nal and it’s the day to renew family ties. You might also see rakes and sieves on the
outside doors and walls of homes: they are put there to protect the families inside from evil spirits. On New Year’s Day people wear new clothes made with five colours (red, white, blue, yellow and green), symbolising a new start.

Finally, New Year is also a time when people make resolutions which they try to keep in the months ahead (most people break them, but that’s sometimes part of the fun!). However, no matter what country you are from, this is a time for looking forward and thinking about all the good things you can do in 2018. And if you thinking of coming to the UK to study English why not make a resolution to come to Global School of English – we’d be delighted to see you and it could be one of the best decisions you’ve ever made!