With any country, a visitor can get by with a phrase book, some broken language and plenty of hand gestures, and for some, just speaking in their own language louder and slower hoping the person they speak to understands is the norm. But to get under the skin of a country, to see life as a native and to get a greater understanding of what is around you and what makes a country what it is, nothing beats speaking the language.
When in Rome, so they say, do as the Romans do and when visiting Italy on vacation or for business nothing could be closer to the truth. Italy is a wonderful country that comes alive by speaking the language and not just in Rome but any city, small town or rural village. Language lifts a layer off a country, a whole new country opens up and with Italian you really can do as the Romans do.
There are countless tourist attractions to see and visit in Italy and it is easy for anyone to simply visit, look and then check off the bucket list. But what would it be like visiting these attractions knowing you can converse, understand the signs, feel the emotion?
There is a place in the middle of Venice called Isola di Burano that is famous for its colourfully painted houses. It is a popular tourist attraction and many people just book their tickets, have a look around, snap a selfie and consider it as seen. But if you spoke Italian you would suddenly be able to go beyond the colourful houses and strike up a conversation with a local. Going a little beyond just good morning and very much passing the time of day, you will be a tourist who is able to experience the life and culture of one of Italian’s own.
It’s the little things that bring Italy to life when you speak Italian. Theatre trips can be taken because you understand what is being said, a small local village play can be as marvellous as a performance at La Scala in Milan. Simply because you speak Italian, you understand and what would normally be reserved for the Italians, can be enjoyed by you.
All the many works of art that Italy is famous for can be visited with a whole new confidence when you speak Italian. Leonardo Da Vinci’s painting of The Last Supper can be talked about with Italians as you gaze at the masterpiece, you might even get better ticket prices just because you speak Italian. But you can absorb works of art and question if you must in the local language, conversation can be struck up with an Italian art student and suddenly a whole new perspective on a painting or sculpture is found and appreciated.
But it is not just the leisure tourist who wants to get close to the arts of Italy who is a winner by speaking the language. As a business visitor, your host, customer or supplier will feel confident in inviting you to real Italian events and places when you can converse, this will allow you to get closer to the people and the Italian way of life that may very well be the difference between you winning your company the business.
Each and every attraction has a whole new appeal when visited with a speaking knowledge of Italian, the leaning tower of Pisa, the Sistine chapel, the Colosseum in Rome or just a stroll through the vineyards of Tuscany become places with deeper meaning and greater understanding that create a better memory allowing you to really say “L’Italia e Bella” – Italy is Beautiful as the sun sets on your visit.
Love is a curious thing and both France and Italy must be very close to if not at the top of the list for love and romance. But, how do you open the conversation with a stranger in Paris, Venice, Nice or Rome?
Chat up lines around the world can be humorous, perfectly charming, completely misunderstood or unintentionally rude and insulting if spoken by someone in a language other than their mother tongue. What may work in one language may not work in another, and very often a joke about a country, city or icon in spoken in English is never going to work.
One of the worst English chat up lines to use in a French bar for example, would be “Are you sure you are not a tower? Because Eiffel for you….” it may get a smile, if the person understands English, but if they don’t, it will mean nothing.
Having a grasp of a second language when in Italy, France or any other country, will always open up doors that would otherwise remain closed. When it comes to meeting, or just chatting up a potential Miss or Mister Right, language can open up the door to romance and maybe even marriage.
Pick up lines make great content for any stand up comedian, and some when literally translated could make you feel a little unwell. In France, one French chat up line that is so bad it is actually good goes “J’ai un problème avec mon portable, il manque ton numéro!” and quite literally means “I have a problem with my phone. It doesn’t have your phone number!”. This chat up line could be spoken in any language but somehow it sounds a little less corny and more romantic in French. Even the classic “is it hot in here, or is it just you?” sounds much less corny in French “Il fait chaud ici, ou c'est juste toi?” Speaking another language gives you the tools to use the language to your advantage and opens up a completely new dating pool.
The Italians are stereotypically famous for their chatting up of the ladies and any chat up line, no matter how bad, corny or even crude sounds wonderful in the flowing Italian. The most basic and simple “would you like to go out for a cup of coffee?” has no real charm or lustre in English but when spoken in Italian it becomes something almost operatic “Ti va di andare a prendere un caffè?”. Even just asking if someone would like to go out sometime with you oozes romance and beauty “Ti va di uscire qualche volta”
Italy and France are the most romantic countries in the world, partly because their language is so colourful and so full of radiance. Everyday conversations become lessons in love, being upset or angry in French or Italian is full of expression, and the emotion can often be lost in translation. Such is the power of the language.
Visiting France or Italy, whether for business or pleasure is made easier, more interesting and wonderful when you can speak the language. You may not intend for romance to happen, or it may be intentional, but in truth, it never will be unless you Parlez Francais or Habla Italiano. Learn the language today to avoid corny chat up lines tomorrow!
Italy is a popular tourist destination and a country that has many hidden gems. For the vast majority of visitors the main hubs are the only places they get to. It is often because firstly they do not know about these places, and secondly, because they cannot speak Italian and ask about them to know about them. Here are five places that the Italian language can unlock in Italy.
Montefalco in Italy’s Umbria region, is a sleepy Italian town famous for Sagrantino wine and magnificent scenery. Montefalco is a little off the beaten track, and its peace and tranquillity makes it worth a visit alone. The San Francesco Museum houses some of the best works of art in Italy. Speaking Italian will open up this amazing, less travelled place.
If you are flying on a budget airline to Venice, there is a good chance you will land in Treviso. Treviso is a picturesque walled city, 20 miles outside of Venice. Seemingly untouched over the centuries ,once you enter through the medieval gates, you will twist and turn your way around the city through a maze of narrow cobbled streets. Many of the streets were once water courses, and it is not difficult to picture the town in days gone by. Peaceful, intriguing and somewhere where speaking Italian will open up a whole new world. Treviso is a must.
Lake Como is very much a tourist Mecca, but it has a smaller, less familiar, but equally beautiful smaller sister. Lake Iseo is popular with hikers and Monte Iseo is the smallest lake island in Europe. With no cars and fewer than 2000 residents, Monte Iseo is a place that can only truly be experienced when one speaks Italian. The calm and the quiet make this a truly hidden place in Italy, where the real Italy can be experienced.
Gargano is an Italian national park with the perfect balance of sun soaked, sandy beaches and tranquil pine forests. This is one of the top places for Italians to take a vacation in their own country. In peak season, virtually the only language heard spoken is Italian. If you visit here, speaking Italian is very much essential, but speaking Italian will ensure that you vacation as Italians do. This region is barely known by tourists and is one of the best kept Italian secrets.
The best way to describe Portovenere is the sixth Cinque Terre village, officially, there are five but Portovenere has no railway station. Portovenere is peaceful, not full of tourists and a wonderfully friendly little town by the sea. A number of other, equally tranquil villages are found nearby and when you speak Italian the whole Liguria region opens up in a friendly, colourful bouquet of places to visit and stay.
Speaking a language will always open up a country and allow you to see it, and experience it, in a completely new way.
Speaking Italian will open your eyes to one of the most wonderful countries on earth.
Learn Italian at VLLC before you go and open your eyes to a whole new world!
One of the biggest reasons to speak Thai is to build friendships and relationships. There is no denying the fact that many men are fascinated by Thai women, and to get to know them language is the key. Even returning for a vacation year after year will encourage people to learn Thai. That awkward feeling of being guilty or insecure as you converse with locals who speak in broken English soon goes when you speak their language.
The Thai people are renowned for their hospitality and friendliness, and this will become ever more apparent upon speaking Thai. Barriers drop quickly when a language is spoken and doors to new experiences are flung open in a new and exciting way. For some strange reason, speaking Thai draws you even further in to a country that pulled you in when you only had a handful of words in your pocket.
When you visit Thailand without speaking Thai, the people of Thailand can tell you are a tourist and will treat you as a tourist. Once you show that you speak Thai, you are seen differently and you will be elevated among the locals you meet when on vacation or when starting a new life. Conversation will open up and natural curiosity will spark what can easily become lifelong friendships.
Two words define the change when you speak Thai. The first is Trust. Trust is gained when you speak Thai as people can see that you have taken time and made the effort to learn their language. Sure, many speak English, as English has long been seen as the only way to get ahead or get out of Thailand. Returning the favour triggers a special emotion that you will only understand when you communicate with the locals in their native tongue.
The second word is Independence. Speaking any language automatically gives a level of freedom and independence that nothing else can provide. Without speaking Thai, your movement and choices of places to visit is somewhat limited. With speaking Thai, you can venture beyond the hotel bars and tourist attractions and discover the real Thailand. Speaking Thai can instantly make any local the perfect tour guide who will take you places and introduce you to people that you would never visit or meet without the language.
Thailand is constantly calling tourists; tourism is the mainstay of the economy, and if you want to heed that call and get more out of Thailand for pleasure or on business, learning to speak Thai will pay off. Thailand is more than just hotels and shrines; it is a country full of amazing places open to you and people who cannot wait to tell you more because you speak their language.
Have you ever thought of retiring in another country? Some older Australians do so very successfully, and are enjoying their last years in the place of their dreams, living life the way they always imagined.
Many Australian are attracted to spending all or part of their retirement overseas - perhaps for family reasons or because it is more cost effective so that you can potentially have a much more relaxed and enjoyable lifestyle. Retiring overseas is not for everyone as there are many things you should consider such as the impact of prolonged absences from family and lifelong friends. Another significant factor when considering relocating is whether the Australian Age pension would be payable to them offshore. The Australian Age Pension can be paid overseas, but there are conditions. The rules in this area are both complicated and unclear in certain areas, particularly for current expatriates, and it would be prudent to seek advice from both Centrelink and financial advisors regarding your entitlements. Much would depend upon the details of your individual situation.
Apparently after you have not resided in Australia for more than 2 years you will be removed from the Medicare system. You cannot just assume that your health or concession cards will remain valid either. Another suggestion is to obtain international health insurance which would possibly cover you in the event of ill health or accidents (check these policies carefully to ensure you have the right level of cover for you).
Before considering this mammoth move it would be wise to ensure you have all your health, financial and legal affairs in order and recorded with an independent associate. Your will could be stored with your accountant and ensure you have considered all the issues and ramifications of who gets what, in the case of your death.
Once you have decided to retire overseas you will be beginning a wonderful adventure of new people, culture, experiences and new foods (your stomach may need a little transitioning time!). If you are considering retiring to Thailand, come to VLLC and learn Thai first to ensure you are at your most comfortable when starting your new life!
Thai food is an amazing cuisine and I love eating it. Thai food is not only delicious, but nutritious, and is a major contributor to the Thai culture. Thai food is full of balanced flavours which excite and tantalise the tastebuds. If you enjoy Thai restaurants in Australia, you will love the authenticity of restaurants in Thailand!
When eating in Thailand there are a few table manners which will save you some embarrassment if you are aware of them before you start. This list is by no means conclusive, but definitely a starting point:
Thai food is the balance of sweet, sour, salty and spicy. Here are some famous Thai dishes.
Tom Yum Goong. Tom yum is characterized by its distinct hot and sour flavours, with fragrant herbs generously used. The basic broth is made of stock and fresh ingredients such as lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves, galangal, shallots, lime juice, fish sauce, tamarind, and crushed chilies.
Pad Thai A stir fried rice noodle dish commonly served as a street food and at casual local eateries in Thailand.
Som Tum is a spicy salad made from shredded unripe Papaya.
Gang Keaw Wan Gai (Green chicken curry) is a coconut milk base curry with chicken, eggplant, basil leaf and green curry paste.
Gang Massaman (Massaman curry) is mild curry with chicken or beef and potatoes.
Tom Kha Gai is chicken in coconut soup with galangal, kaffir lime leaf, chilli and lime juice.
I found this poster from takemetour.com which I thought was a great summary.
If you are visiting Thailand or just wishing to experience an alternative food culture, try some Thai recipes or visit a Thai restaurant and enjoy!!
I was reading about the Japanese cherry blossom festival as I know it is usually about this time of year and found this article on a website which I have referenced below. It was really well written so I have just included their information:
Anyone traveling to Japan in the springtime is sure to experience one of the more exceptional natural events in the seasonal calendar. Hanami, or flower viewing, is the annual Japanese custom of enjoying the blooming foliage after the winter weather subsides. While Hanami specifically refers to the blooming of cherry blossoms, many plan events around the one to two week period where nature flourishes with colour and fragrances.
Said to have begun in the late 8th century, the flower viewing tradition is widely believed to have started in the Nara Period. The seasonal event was used to welcome in the new year's harvest while marking the beginning of the rice planting season. In the Heian Period , Emperor Saga would welcome this time with celebratory feasts and parties under the Sakura trees in Kyoto's Imperial Court. While originally limited to Japanese royalty and the elite upper class, Hanami spread to all citizens by the Edo Period in the early 1600's. The custom still lives to this day as visitors from around the globe partake in this traditional event. Since then, the annual custom has drawn visitors to witness the beautiful seasonal changes while pinpointing and celebrating the beginning of the fiscal and scholastic year with friends and family. A typical Hanami usually consists of holding an outdoor party under cherry blossom trees during the day or night. Food, beer and sake are brought to a picnic as visitors bask in the cherry blossoms that fall from the tree. These parties last well into the night as the moon illuminates the pink blossoms.
While cherry blossoms bloom throughout the country, there are a few cities and regions famous for their Hanami festivals. The castle town of Hirosaki, which holds the Sakura-matsuri festival, is one notable Japanese city famous for its bountiful cherry blossoms that draw people from both near and far. Also, travel to the centre of the Nara Prefecture to find Yoshino-yama a mountain with over 30,000 cherry trees that is considered to be the best viewing spot in all of Japan. Or make a trip to the cherry blossom viewing tunnel at the Japan Mint in Osaka, where every April the grounds are open to the public for one week so that visitors may enjoy a prime view of their cherry blossom trees. Over 100 varieties of trees bloom at the Japan Mint tunnel, giving visitors the opportunity to distinguish between the various sizes and shapes of the flowers. Finally, if your trip leads you to Tokyo in the spring time, explore Ueno Park where 1,200 blossoming cherry trees burst to life. Don't forget to make a stop at one of Ueno Park's many museums, including the Tokyo National Museum, National Science Museum, and Japan's first zoological garden.No matter where your travel arrangements lead you, a visit to any number of cherry blossom festivals in Japan is guaranteed to be a joyful occasion that pinpoints the cleansing of the mind and new beginnings.
To find a list of Japanese cities famous for their cherry blossoms, please visit: http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/location/interests/cherry.html
The world has become so much smaller with cheap and convenient air travel – so if you want the option of retiring overseas, you don’t need to say goodbye to your family forever and you provide a great holiday destination for them. Retiring overseas part time may also be an option – you can follow the summer or the winter and you don’t need to establish full-time residency anywhere. Or if one spouse wants to live near a beach and the other wants a city — you can live six months of the year in each! You can have the best of both worlds - retirement is about living your dreams...
I’ve compared lists from a few different sites to give you the following information. (Factors taken into account included house prices, health care costs, average temperature, rainfall and hours of sunshine – as well as grocery bills, crime rates and taxation).
Ecuador is the best country in the world to retire to, according to International Living’s Annual Global Retirement Index 2015. Low cost of living, perfect climate, beautiful and diverse landscapes as well as favorable retiree benefits. International Living calls the South American developing country on the Equator, “the perfect location for someone in search of a happy and fulfilling life overseas.” You can pick your climate and lifestyle — from being a Pacific beach bum to an Andes mountaineer.
What an ADVENTURE!!!
Portugal has a rich history, good health care and wonderful weather. It also has the third largest European expat community after Spain and France.
Residency has been made easier for expats and Portugal now lets those who qualify, receive pension and foreign income in Portugal tax-free for 10 years. It’s also around three times cheaper to buy property in Portugal than in France.
For those seeking sun and affordable living in Europe, Spain is a good option; although not as cheap as in most of Latin America, property in Spain is often of a high standard and far better value than in many other European countries. Spain’s cost of living is lower than what you find in much of Europe.
Spain also has the largest expat community in Europe as well as the lowest crime rate of all countries surveyed. With beautiful cities such as Madrid and Barcelona, the rolling countryside of Catalonia, historic Unesco-protected areas like Toledo and islands including Tenerife, Ibiza and Menorca, there's plenty of choice.
And Spanish is the third most-spoken language in the world – you’ll have lots of opportunity to practice and make new friends.
This island member of the Commonwealth has all you would expect from the Caribbean: sun, sea, sand and friendliness. The English language is a huge bonus, although its main selling points include virtually free health care, low property tax, an average temperature of 26C and a big expats community.
It looks amazing…
Retirees seeking a new way of life may find it in Thailand, whether it's from the bustling cities, grand temples, stunning cuisine or friendly locals. Cheap property and petrol costs are enjoyed by the 41,000 expats currently living there, which is just one of the bonuses of living in this beautiful, culture-rich nation in south-east Asia.
One advantage is that Asia is closer to Australia but you’ll have to practice your Thai….
Given all that this diverse country has to offer, it’s not difficult to see why this country is a great choice. Second only to Ecuador among South American nations in the International Living rankings this year, Colombia has an incredibly low cost of living. According to International Living Colombia correspondent Michael Evans, a couple can live comfortably on just over $1,200-a-month here. Look at all the wonderful countries surrounding it.
Asia’s highest-ranking country, exotic Malaysia, got high marks as a place for “fitting in” —English is widely spoken. The economy of Malaysia is also one of the most robust in Asia, according to International Living, and the living is pretty cheap (a 1,600-square-foot apartment with a pool rents for roughly $850 a month). But Malaysia scored only 76 for climate in the rankings, due to rain and tropical heat.
The fifth-largest country in the Caribbean is an island paradise that includes many jaw-dropping landscapes, friendly communities, and stunning flora and fauna. The English-speaking nation is also remarkably warm, averaging 27 degrees Celsius
a year, while offering some of the lowest property prices out of the countries surveyed. However, poverty and crime in some areas could be a problem. Research your area well before making the move.
No other country in the Index does more for retirees, both local and foreign, than Panama offering a host of discounts with its Pensionado visa program, so it’s a great option.
Spanish is the official language spoken here.
Other countries that may interest you include:
In The Americas: Ambergris Caye, Belize; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Cayo, Belize; City Beaches; Granada, Nicaragua; La Serena, Chile; Mendoza, Argentina; Puerto Vallarta, Mexico; and Samana, Dominican Republic
In Europe: Abruzzo, Italy; Barcelona and Istria, Croatia
In Asia: Istanbul, Turkey and Nha Trang, Vietnam
Jo Ammerlaan is the National Business Manager at Vocational Language Learning Centre. “I’m heading to St Petersburg again this year so I’ll check out some retirement options while I’m there, although I think the weather in winter may be a deterrent…..” In summer however, the white nights are fantastic….
The answer lies in the people, and in the people and their language. China is a rich country with a great deal of history and is a country that is more than just Beijing and Shanghai. China is a massive country of almost 10 million square kilometres with a population estimated at 1,376,049,000 in 2015, making it the country with the largest population on Earth. People associate a visit to China, whether it is for business or pleasure, with the main cities of Shanghai or Beijing, the Great wall of China and the terracotta army in the Shaanxi province. Other than this, and the fact that country is home to Pandas, Rice and Tea, many people get little further and assume, with great short-sightedness, that this is all China has to offer.
Why is this?
As with any country, the greatest barrier to discovery, is language, and without communication we are actually limiting ourselves. If you can’t speak Italian or French when you are in Italy or France, you may find your options limited to the places where your native speaking tour guides go or where you see the very welcome sign informing you that your language is spoken here. The lack of language is a restricting force and prevents anyone venturing much further than the familiar, where their native language can be or has a chance of being spoken and China is among the toughest of countries to really explore without speaking the Chinese language.
Yes, you could use a phrase book but that is aimed at tourists and getting by. To explore you need to converse. When you want to leave the tourist routes, and venture deeper into China, and get a feel for the real country and people, you need to be able to communicate in their language.
Being able to speak and converse in Chinese, with Chinese people, in China opens up a whole new country to you. Areas that are naturally beautiful, areas where Coco-Cola perhaps has not infiltrated society and areas where real Chinese life is lived, with traditions and ways of life, become open to you. Instead of following the Great Wall of China from one end to the other, you could duck off to the left or right, if you see somewhere that interests you, and you won’t be afraid because you can speak with the locals.
You will soon discover that with the ability to speak Chinese that Pandas, Tea and Rice are not all that China has to offer. You will discover a country with a rich heritage, some wonderful stories and some truly amazing people. China is open for business and it is open for tourists who want to explore and have a vacation in a country that is beyond any vacation ever taken before and an amazing experience all made possible because of the ability to communicate in another language.
As January is Greek month at VLLC I thought I would give you some interesting random facts about Greece that I found on a website called www.randomhistory.com. Here we go!
a. Thousands of English words come from the Greek language, sometimes via the Roman adaptation into Latin and then to English. Common English words from Greek include “academy,” “apology,” “marathon,” “siren,” “alphabet,” and “typhoon. If you have watched My Big Greek Wedding you will know that the father can prove how all works stemmed from Greece.
b. With an area of 131,958 square kilometres, Greece is roughly the size of Alabama. The population of Greece is just under 11 million people (at 2016) and comparatively, the population of Alabama is around 4.8 million (2011)
c. Approximately 18.5 million tourists visit Greece each year, more than the country’s entire population. Tourism constitutes nearly 16% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
d. About 7% of all the marble produced in the world comes from Greece
e. About 12 million people around the world speak Greek. They live mostly in Greece, Cyprus, Italy, Albania, Turkey, the United States, among other countries.
f. Ancient Greece was not a single country like modern Greece. Rather, it was made up of about 1,500 different city-states or poleis (singular, polis). Each had its own laws and army, and they often quarrelled. Athens was the largest city-state
g. Feta, which is made from goat’s milk, is the Greece’s national cheese. It dates back to the Homeric ages, and the average per-capita consumption of feta cheese in Greece is the highest in the world
h. The first Olympic Games took place in 776 B.C. The first Olympic champion was a Greek cook named Coroebus who won the sprint race
I. The first historian is considered to be the Greek writer Herodotus (c. 484-425 B.C.), the author of the first great book of history on the Greco-Persian Wars. Herodotus’ book is a major symbol in the novel The English Patient.
j. A Spartan specialty was a black soup made from salt, vinegar, and blood. No one in the rest of Greece would drink it
k. Spartan warriors were known for their long, flowing hair. Before a battle, they would carefully comb it. Cowardly soldiers would have half their hair and half their beards shaved off
If you would like to learn more about Greece, its language or culture, contact VLLC for more information.
Travelling is an exciting opportunity which can be enhanced by learning the language before you go. This blog contains some interesting articles about language and travel.