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.
While some of the most popular dishes associated with the Italian culture include a tempting slice of cheesy, flavour filled pizza and a heaped plate of spaghetti bolognaise, there is much more to the world of Italian cuisine. Throughout the many regions in Italy, distinctive Italian cuisine shines through in a wide range of eating habits, styles of cooking, and selection of local ingredients. according to www.sbs.com.au "Ever since Italians migrated to Australia and introduced us to spaghetti bolognese and pizza, Australians have embraced this wonderful, satisfying cuisine and it is now firmly woven into our national culinary culture. We’re not alone in our love of Italian food, though – it’s one of the most popular and widely adopted cuisines the world over. "
As for one of Italy's most famous foods, pasta, it was said that this was a product of the Chinese brought back by Marco Polo, but it was actually a food item eaten during Etruscan and Roman times, rediscovered. It is believed that the first pasta in Italy was made similarly to the noodles of today, from the same durum wheat, which was cooked in ovens instead of boiled.
Spaghetti Bolognese is now so popular that it could almost be classed as our adopted national dish, although an authentic Italian version would, in fact, be fettuccine al ragu. Italians were among the first to show us how to appreciate good coffee, use olive oil for cooking rather than as a medicine, embrace garlic, and understand the joys of fresh pasta and antipasto.
For Italians, cooking and sharing food is no less than a way of life, whether it is at home with friends, in a humble trattoria or a fine-dining restaurant. Wherever it’s eaten, it’s always based around fresh, seasonal produce, which is the main reason that it is hard to talk about “Italian food” as a single entity. In fact, Italian food varies widely by region – and even village to village – and according to the time of year. Italians can be fiercely parochial when it comes to food and invariably think of their version of a dish as the best.
Many ingredients are used across the country with some more so in certain regions than others. Broadly speaking, northern Italian food centres around butter, meat, potatoes, pork, Parmigiano and other types of cheeses, while southern cooking is more focused on olive oil, tomatoes, eggplant, capers and fresh fish. Some key Ligurian ingredients include fish and seafood, basil (as featured in the popular pesto alla Genovese, prosciutto, sausage, salami, and truffles. Above all, Italians believe in simplicity and respect for good produce, so some of the most beloved dishes of Italians comprise just a few simple ingredients, carefully selected and served at their prime. Cheese and wine are a major part of the cuisine, as is coffee, particularly espresso.
If you would like to learn more about Italian food, wine, culture and language contact us at VLLC to start your language journey.
Coffee is so much a part of the Italian culture that the idea of not drinking it is very foreign.
As Italians and Australians share a true passion for coffee I thought that I could offer some information on the most popular coffee drinks available in Italy, including some tips for foreigners keen to drink like the locals do. Prendiamo un caffè?
Please take a look:
Caffè = Espresso. Caffè is a general term for coffee. However if you are in Italy and you ask for “un caffè” at the bar, what you get is a single shot of espresso... in fact Italians don’t order “un espresso,” they just order “un caffè”.
Caffè lungo - If a shot of espresso seems too strong for you, try a caffè lungo. This literally means “long coffee” and is slightly weaker than a regular caffè as it has got more water in it.
Caffè ristretto - A “restricted coffee” is essentially a single shot of espresso made with less water. The results is a richer, more concentrated flavour ideal for the bravest coffee lovers and those who struggle to wake up in the morning.
Cappuccino - Cappuccino is strictly considered a breakfast drink. From an Italian point of view, milk is a meal itself so having a cappuccino after lunch / dinner would be unthinkable. If you really fancy a cappuccino after 11am - 12pm, go ahead... but don't be surprised if you get suspicious looks from people! To fully embrace Italian food culture, only stick with an espresso after lunch.
Latte - In Italy this just means “milk”, so if you order a latte you’ll simply get some cold milk. Enjoying a tall glass of steamed milk with a shot of espresso in it would be much better, so next time ask for a caffè latte.
Caffè corretto - This is not a morning drink, it’s an after-dinner treat. It's basically a shot of espresso “corrected” by adding a shot of liquor like grappa, Baileys or Sambuca.
Have you ever heard about the Napolitan tradition of the “ caffè sospeso”?
A caffè sospeso (suspended coffee or pending coffee) is a cup of coffee paid for in advance as an anonymous act of generosity, a gift for people too poor to afford it... because everyone deserves the pleasure of a good coffee and should be allowed to participate in this social ritual. It seems that the tradition began around 100 years ago in the working-class cafes of Naples, where someone who had experienced good luck would order a sospeso, paying for two coffees but drinking only one. The unconsumed coffee would stay available for any poor person enquiring later, as a gift. This practice boomed during World War II and has found a revival since the global financial crisis of 2007/2008.
Many bars across Italy have joined an international network called Rete del caffè sospeso and proudly display the suspended coffee label — a black and brown sticker with a white espresso cup — at their windows.
Do you have any other coffee favourites that you'd like to share?
The three P’s of Italy are Pizza, Pisa and Pasta but there is so much more to Italy than just food and history. Italy, once the heart of the Roman Empire, is a country with a culture, history and economy all of its own, that once explored, gets under ones skin and a return visit is always on the cards.
Italy is an easily accessible country, and like many European countries, one would expect English to be widely spoken. English is widely spoken, especially in the main hubs for tourism, but like nearly all countries for the leisure and business tourist alike, to get the most out of Italy, being able to converse in Italian is more than just a little useful.
The Italian language is a colourful language, often with a dash of exuberance with some hand actions and body movement, I mean, what is an Italian without a little flare? The language to the Italians is something personal that is treasured, that is part of who and what they are. To really understand Italy and to really explore the country, being able to speak the language takes you away from the leaning tower of Pisa and enables you to order a great deal more than a Neapolitan Pizza or a bowl of spaghetti. Speaking Italian creates freedom and opens up a country and her people to you.
Whether you are visiting the North of the country in the mountains near Milan, or spending some time in Naples, Italy is a country where speaking the language means feeling at home. With language you are welcomed into an office, a bar or even just a small shop. You can converse with fishermen, as well as top executives, and of course you can find the absolute best stores for shopping in Milan – the ones the Italians shop at. Communicating in Italian really helps you to understand what makes Italians Italian.
With an understanding of Italian you can get deeper under the covers of the culture and history of the country, you can ask questions and get a personal answer. Sitting in a bar in Rome you can very easily strike up a conversation and discover something you never knew, or hear a story that without the language you would have been told.
Italians are friendly people and in speaking to them in their home language you will be showing respect and with respect comes trust.
A simple journey from North to South will see you stop in places normal tourists will never go, having the language opens up a host of opportunities. Rural Italy is beautiful, yet with only English or perhaps just another language, your travels are restricted, and you may not get to see the village square where something important happened for example. You may not be able to sample a wine made only in the village and you will then find yourself stuck with Pizza and Pasta having not ventured much further than Pisa.
To make the most of Italy, on business or for pleasure, the language opens up a whole new country. One visit to Italy, once you can speak Italian, will never be enough, and you will return time and again to visit the friends you have made because you can simply converse.
We were given some very wise advice before we left Australia by someone who travels to Thailand regularly. Don’t change your Australian dollars to Baht at the airport or at the hotels in Thailand. You will get a much better conversion rate from one of the many currency conversion stalls on the side of the road in town. Although we changed a bit of money at the airport to make sure we had enough Baht to get a taxi to our hotel plus a little extra, we saved most of our cash to be changed on the street in Phuket. It made a huge difference.
We paired up, paid our money, stripped off our sandals, rolled up our pants and put our feet into big tanks filled with tiny fish. It wasn’t long before they all migrated to our feet and started to nibble. It’s a real experience, probably something I wouldn’t do again but definitely something different and one of those things you should try if you are going to Thailand. It was not long before this strapping 6 foot something man’s man, let out a high pitched squeal, then spent the next 10 minutes giggling, screaming and squirming like a little girl being tickled. It was so funny that people were stopping in the streets to see what all the commotion was about.
What travel experiences have you faced that had you squealing like a two year old on Christmas morning or squirming like a worm? We would love to hear your stories.
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.
According to Wikipedia, the traditional cuisine of Japan (和食, washoku?) is based on rice with miso soup and other dishes; there is an emphasis on seasonal ingredients. Side dishes often consist of fish, pickled vegetables, and vegetables cooked in broth. Seafood is common, often grilled, but also served raw as sashimi or in sushi. Seafood and vegetables are also deep-fried in a light batter, as tempura. Apart from rice, staples include noodles, such as soba and udon. Japan also has many simmered dishes such as fish products in broth called oden, or beef in sukiyaki and nikujaga. Foreign food—in particular Chinese food like ramen, fried dumplings, and gyoza—as well as foods like curry and hamburgers are commonly found in Japan. Historically, the Japanese shunned meat, but with the modernization of Japan in the 1880s, meat-based dishes such as tonkatsu became common. Japanese cuisine, particularly sushi, has become popular throughout the world. As of 2011, Japan overtook France in number of Michelin-starred restaurants and has maintained the title since.
The most important holiday in Japan is the New Year, OShogatsu. Special holiday foods, called osechi , are prepared in beautifully decorated stackable boxes called jubako. Each layer of the box has compartments for several different foods. Glazed sardines, bamboo shoots, sweet black beans, and chestnuts in sweet potato paste are just a few of the many holiday foods. New Year foods are also eaten because they are believed to represent good fortune or long life. At New Year's, children are especially fond of hot rice cakes dipped in sweet soybean powder.
The Girls' Festival (or Doll Festival) is held in March. Dolls are dressed in traditional Japanese dresses called kimonos and are offered rice crackers, coloured rice cakes, and a sweet rice drink called amazake . Everyone in the family eats the foods. Festive foods for Children's Day (May 5) include rice dumplings stuffed with sweet bean paste.
The tea ceremony (cha-no-yu) is an important Japanese ritual that can be held on a holiday or other special occasion. Developed over several centuries, it plays an important role in Japanese life and culture.
Read more: http://www.foodbycountry.com/Germany-to-Japan/Japan.html#ixzz4bSUN2Jiq
Japanese is one of those languages that just seems impossible to learn. Many people are put off right away just by the different alphabet and then they are further misled by myths around culture and tradition. Just a quick Google will give countless ways to visit Japan without a smattering of the language. A further look will find a number of pages explaining why not to learn to speak Japanese. BUT, it is all total madness, the language is not impossible to learn, the traditions and culture are not difficult to understand and there are countless reasons why speaking Japanese makes a vacation to Japan so special.
Think of Japan and most people what comes to mind are atomic bombs, Honda and Mount Fuji all surrounded by cherry blossoms. Sure, these are all aspects that are a part of Japan, and for the narrow minded non-Japanese-speaking tourist, this very much all they will see. However, Japan is a country, a group of islands well worth exploring, and language opens up a rich tapestry full of colourful culture and people who are proud of their country.
Geographically, Japan may not be a large country, but true to everything Japanese, the country sure packs in a lot. From natural wonders to high tech entertainment, Japan has it all, and by speaking the language, as a tourist you can head off the beaten track with confidence.
One of the first things language opens up in Japan is travel, and more importantly, conversation while traveling. The Japanese Bullet Train is known worldwide for its speed and the amazing natural beauty is races through. With an understanding of Japanese, conversation with fellow passengers becomes easier, and locals will soon start to tell you more about the places you are shooting through. Gentle and friendly conversation will soon demonstrate just how proud the Japanese are of their country.
Eating out can often be a challenge, especially when exploring the less frequented areas of cities such as Tokyo or Kawasaki. Very often fast food cooked up in front of you seems very tempting but knowing how to order it, and not just order, but how you want it cooked sends people back to KFC. Language opens up the real Japan, and new tastes, smells and experiences become part of your visit where others may miss out. Eating and conversation go hand in hand and mealtimes becomes very enjoyable.
However, there are some quirky places to visit, and these will of course come up in conversation. Places that do not feature on the conventional 7-day bus tour of Japan or the 3-night stopover in Tokyo make Japan a place you must visit. Crazy places like the Bunny Café, not far from Tokyo, where you are invited to befriend a rabbit is a must. Stroking rabbits is considered therapeutic and for a small extra cost, you can even dress up your chosen bunny to help you relax more. Where else in the world would this be normal? Only by speaking Japanese is there any real chance you will ever discover it.
Japan is full of strange, quirky or just extremely beautiful attractions. One of the weirdest and a disconcerting and growing trend is what are called Maid Cafes. These are peculiar eateries where speaking Japanese can be very useful with girls dressed in maid outfits serve smiley faces, hello kitty and teddy bear shaped ice creams and treats. Almost unexplainable to an outsider it soon becomes clear why speaking Japanese is useful.
Only by speaking Japanese can anyone truly appreciate Japan and its people. The strange and often outrageous attractions are the ying to the yang of the peaceful lakes, caves, mountains and natural beauty Japan has to offer. To get the balance of everything in Japan, learning to speak Japanese is a must and heartily recommended. Contact VLLC for information on how they can help you start on your Japanese language journey.
China is massive, it is a country that in many ways is just opening to the world and for a tourist, especially the more adventurous tourist this is a good and wonderful thing. China has new air routes and improved intercity rail links that are opening up the country more and more each day. But transport and technology aside, there is one thing that opens China more than anything else, and that is language.
Many people would be forgiven for believing that in China people speak Chinese but there are in fact 56 different Chinese Dialects broken down into their respective ethnic groups. According to Ethnologue there are 297 Living Chinese languages and this begins to demonstrate the vastness and diversity that make China what it is.
Mandarin Chinese is the most common language to learn and is broadly spoken on the Chinese mainland and on the mainland, once a grasp of the language is gained things really do open up. With 9.6 Million square kilometres to explore, China is vast, and getting off the beaten track, away from the pollution clogged cities, is what many adventurous tourists want to do. Urban sprawl has happened in China. Cities and industrial landscapes are as much a Chinese scene today as are the Bamboo and tea gardens one tends to imagine. Getting around the country, especially for those who cherish their independence, is challenging and thus language is important.
The growing airline network plays into the hands of tourists, and the number of domestic airlines in China has increased rapidly in the last few years as the country begins to expand its tourism reach. For Boeing, China has become big business. But again, travelling throughout China through the growing number of domestic airports is not easy without Chinese being spoken. Although there are a growing number of locals who speak a second language, most likely English, there is no guarantee that getting directions in your native language will be possible. China has opened up but it is still a challenge to find your around, especially in smaller towns.
Exploring the heritage of China, going beyond the Great Wall and Terracotta army is what many travellers want. The world has become smaller thanks to improved transport but still finding the unique parts, your own little piece of China if you like, is what travellers yearn for and being able to converse with the locals in their language creates this opportunity. Parking off in a small side street café with a cup of tea and chatting with locals gives a whole new perspective on China and its people, and by talking to locals, China expands as places to see and explore are unearthed through casual conversation.
China will get under your skin, the culture is diverse, the people have a unique take on life and the world beyond the Yellow River. This experience can only be truly appreciated and understood through language. A word or two helps but being able to converse makes things vastly better and friendships will be formed when in the past it was perhaps someone you saw in the distance or on a bicycle. If you want to explore China in its fullest, gain an understanding of the language and you will possess the keys to doors that few will dare to open.
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.