1. Obvious, but easy, getting to Paris by Eurostar is a breeze, and the connections to the rest of France are fantastic. You can travel direct to Paris, Brussels, Lille, Disneyland Paris, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, the South of France, and Calais from London, and online booking makes the whole process incredibly easy. At just over 2 hours for a journey from London to Paris, if you include check in and security times, it’s just as quick as flying from any of the big London airports, and a lot more comfortable.Train stations in Europe are usually in the heart of big cities, so there’s no need to spend hours on an airport transfer bus to get from an airport in the middle of nowhere. Above all, the advance fares are incredibly cheap, frequently taking you across huge distances for less than the price of a day return ticket from London to Oxford. Once you arrive in Paris, you can take a direct connecting train to many cities on the continent such as Nice, Toulouse, Barcelona, Milan, Turin, Geneva, Munich or Zurich (for Eastern Europe), Hamburg and Kiel (for links to Scandinavia). Remember that The Language Gap can organise language learning experiences in any of these locations. Here are links to Eurostar, an online train booking platform called Loco 2, and a recommended train only travel agent in the UK, Railbookers.
2. Ferries to France and Spain from the UK to destinations other than Calais are a great way to munch up the miles without flying, and giving you the option to bring your car or take a train once you reach the destination port. With onboard entertainment and a real flavour of Europe from the moment you step on board, if you have children, they will be entertained, and you can have a meal or a drink at the bar. We are reliably informed that dolphins can frequently be seen surfing the bow waves of the ferries to Spain. What a wonderful way to start a trip abroad!
You can also go by ferry from the East coast of the UK (Harwich or Hull) to Holland and take a fast train into Germany and beyond.
3. Put your car on the train in Germany with the Autozug to cut out the tedium of driving. Only 3h 45 drive from Calais is Düsseldorf, where you drive onto the train and relax in your own sleeping car all the way to Innsbruck, only a short drive from Vienna, and the most beautiful parts of Italy such as Venice and Verona It is a stunning way to arrive in the heart of Europe in comfort, and certainly lower impact than flying. You’ll feel more part of the landscape and immerse yourself much more in the culture this way too.
4. Jump on board the Adirondack express in New York City and find yourself immersed in the French speaking city of Montreal only 10 hours later. The scenery is stunning, and it’s much more beautiful than fighting your way through the airports at JFK and Montreal. After seeing the sights and practising your québecois, you can then take a connecting 4 hour train to Québec city, and all for under USD$200. The Language Gap has partner language schools in all of these destinations, and will find you a friendly local family who will welcome you..
5. Stay at home and find your local language school. There are fantastic language learning possibilities offered in most big cities by organisations such as L’Alliance Francaise, the Goethe Institut, the Instituto Cervantes and the Japan Foundation who are responsible for cultural and linguistic promotion of their respective countries. They provide cultural and language exchange in the host country, provide top quality language teaching, and frequently hold events such as film screenings and presentations. In the UK, you will find these organisations in London, Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Leeds, Exeter, Cambridge to name a few. They all follow the Common European Framework for Languages levels which are internationally recognised and will lead you to lifelong qualifications in the relevant languages. Ask The Language Gap to put you in touch with your local centre.
6. Join a language café or online language exchange. You will find language cafés listed on platforms such as Meetup or through community hubs and student unions. You can meet other people who speak the language you want to practise and you can practise in a friendly, informal environment and make new friends. Online, there are excellent language exchange options such as the brilliant Tandem app and Conversation Exchange. These are great ways to boost your learning before a language exam or to prepare for a trip abroad. You can also make contact with local cultural associations where your chosen language is spoken, and ask to pay a visit.
7. Above all, wherever you travel, please consider offsetting your carbon emissions through The World Land Trust to reduce your impact on the environment. At The Language Gap we believe that communication is key to the future and that we must try to tread lightly on the planet while we learn a new language.