For more information about learning French with VLLC contact us.
Whether you are a city lover, beach lover, skier or lover of the countryside France has it all, from arts and culture to fantastic food. France hits the jackpot! From the beaches of the South in Nice and Saint-Tropez to the vineyards and hop growing areas of Alsace in the North, France has something that appeals to everyone. While France has it all for many visitors, France is barely touched, let alone uncovered, because of one simple thing: French.
Fans of the hugely popular Only Fools and Horses will all know how the main character Del Boy used misplaced French phrases to make him sound impressive or to just get a point across, common phrases that really are not phrases such as “It’s Boeuf Bourguignon, as the French would say”. While people around the world, including the French, have laughed till they hurt at Del Boy’s use of French. It does nonetheless, speak volumes about the importance and even respect that the language has in getting to know France and the French people. Speaking French raises a person up in French society and shows considerable respect in a nation where respect is important.
Having more than a smattering of French makes a massive difference to any visit to the rich and diverse country. With language, a weekend in Paris becomes more than just a quick trip up the Eiffel Tower, a visit to Euro Disney and a brisk walk around Pompidou Centre or the Louvre following in the footsteps of each and every tourist. Language lifts the lid of, not just Paris, but the whole of France where small, family run restaurants can be happily visited without the worry of not being able to understand what is on the menu, or morning coffee can be shared in a pavement café, watching the world go by whilst deep in conversation with a true Parisian.
Knowing how to communicate in the French language opens up the French Culture and allows you to blend in to experience, not just a country, but a way of life. Iconic tourist attractions are seen with different eyes when you can converse in French and you can begin to understand why the people of France are so proud of what they have. Historic castles such as Le Puy-en-Velay in the South of France and the Chateau de Chenonceau, open up in a whole new way of being able to talk about and discuss the stories behind the walls in French. In their native language. Stories become more alive and you will, of course, discover little things that those without the ability to speak French would miss out on.
Even a walk in the Wine lands of France comes to life with French. Being able to discuss Red wine in Bordeaux with a local farmer and uncovering smaller wine estates that may be off the grid because you cannot speak French, turns wine tasting into a real French adventure. France has so much more to offer than just the Champs Elysees, Eiffel Tower, and Euro Disney and it can only truly be uncovered by being able to communicate in French.
For more information about learning French with VLLC contact us.
As I witnessed it for the first time as a young teenager, I remember thinking:" I wonder how it all started and why are they doing it?" If you travel in France and happen to visit the south, or the "Midi" as we call it, take the time to make a stop in Sète, a charming little port city 30 km west of Montpellier in Languedoc-Roussillon.
Like many French cities, Sète has a rich and ancient history. I won't do here a presentation about the long cultural journey and origin of this city, but rather tell you about one of the numerous original local customs you can stumble upon while visiting the different regions of France. From the middle of June to early September you can witness, on the main canal of Sète, the sport of "water jousting". These "Joutes de Sète" are pretty much part of the city life during the summer and culminate on the 25th of August for the "Joutes de la Saint Louis", this is the unofficial world championship of this original sport. Probably introduced by the ancient Greeks a few centuries BC, or even by the Egyptians before that, this activity is part of the identity not only of the town, but also all of the Mediterranean coastal cities, and was officially started as a competition in 1666 to mark the birth of the port of Sète.
People from Sète take these tournaments very seriously and the banks of the canal and the terraces of cafés and restaurants are packed with locals and tourists cheering for their champions. While sipping a local rosé, and enjoying the deliciously fresh seafood or the "tielle Sètoise" (spicy octopus pie) to the sound of local fanfares, it is a very fun and unique experience to witness and be part of this noisy, festive and truly original cultural event.
And most of all, it represents what I truly love about France: Each region, city, village has their own traditions, food, local history and dialects, making France an incredible mosaic of cultures and creating this very rich and ever surprising experience whenever you travel across the country. From Marseille to Brest, from Agen to Strasbourg, from Sète to Lille, a succession of historical, cultural, and culinary delights await, so, outside the mainstream touristic attractions for a true French experience, it is always necessary to take your time, do what the locals do, and enjoy the hidden regional treasures.
Nicolas Poisson, VLLC Tutor extraordinaire!
It’s going to be 11 years this November since I left France and have lived in Australia, yet every year around that same time I feel a little down… Whilst daylight is diminishing a bit more every day and the mercury is dropping to 4°c down here, the long summer days are reaching their peaks on the French shores… June, July and August are the best months to enjoy outdoor France.
On June 21st, the date of the northern hemisphere summer solstice, France celebrates, every year since 1982, ‘la fête de la musique’. June 21st is a music orgy! From the little village lost in the mountains to the fashion capital city we all know about, June 21st is massive in France. Anyone, young or less, who can play an instrument, is invited in the streets to play and perform. While cafés and restaurants will organize small local groups to play for their customers, the councils will arrange music venues for bigger bands to perform on stage. And in every corner of the city, any square, any path or alley, the sounds of drums, djembes and guitars will fill the air. Meanwhile, the rest of the amateur crowds drink to the tunes on café terraces and dance in the streets. People will party all night, enjoying the ambiance, until the last string of a guitarist disappears in the morning mist. And with that amazing feeling, summer is now officially open!
When July comes, the kids summer holidays get switched on too. Not far is ‘le 14 Juillet’, better known as Bastille day, which is the equivalent to January 26th, Australia day. A national holiday where armies will display marches in the city avenues, commemorative speeches will be spoken, and fireworks will light the night skies. Though no one wishes anyone a ‘joyeux 14 Juillet’, the French will enjoy the festivities of this national day, and go out as usual, to restaurants and cafés, very casually, waiting for the night light shows.
By August, summer has definitely set its marks. Most people are relaxed, employees are on leave, it's the annual companies shut down. The days are nice and warm, and so can be the late evenings. It is by far the best time of year to be in the French countryside, lay in the grass, and do nothing but stare at the sky, waiting to witness shooting stars and hopefully make wishes. France is a multi facial place, which varies from season to season, from region to region, and can naturally be enjoyed all year round. Let yourself be delighted by its possible exuberance but yet so elegant art de vivre in its full simplicity!
Emilie Ostler, VLLC French Tutor
The Middle Eastern Arabic speaking countries are fast becoming tourist hubs. In the past, destinations such as Doha in Qatar and Dubai in the UAE have been seen as places for business, but they are now attracting fun lovers. Speaking Arabic can make your vacation to Arabic speaking countries special, and achieve the feeling as if you have just been upgraded.
Tourists, whether entering Arabic speaking countries purely for pleasure, or on the back of an extended business trip, are made to feel very welcome by Arabs. Hospitality comes naturally to an Arab and is extended liberally, generously and lovingly, even more so when Arabic is spoken.
One of the biggest tourist attractions, particularly in Qatar and the UAE, must surely be the markets. The markets come to life when the scorching Middle Eastern sun goes down, and every human sense is nudged and woken up like never before. Spices and the smell of coffee often fill the air and locals sit and relax as the hustle and bustle flows around them.
Sitting down and taking in the atmosphere with locals, feels almost rude if you cannot speak Arabic. A few words here and there will help, but a full grasp of the language will open up a world of stories, fascinating people and a culture steeped in history. Blending in with language is something many tourists do not understand, but for those who take their travel seriously, language and speaking it is what makes the vacation a true vacation.
In the markets, haggling is a way of life. Locals haggle over bales of hay, next to feeding donkeys and maybe camels next door, to a market stall selling tourist trinkets and gifts. Nothing it seems has an actual price tag; everything is negotiable. Haggling in English is ok, but if you want to take it seriously, speaking the native Arabic will quite likely get you a better deal.
Many Arab nations are proud of their heritage, culture, and Muslim faith. These elements of the Arab world are perhaps what create the great mystery that seems to flow like smoke around the Arab world. Arab countries may well be small, but there is a lot of magical mystery that many tourists are hungry to discover, language opens up the possibilities.
Getting beyond the tourist hub is challenging. The hotels and amenities are designed to attract tourists and release an abundance of enjoyment and relaxation. However, there is more to an Arab country than luxury hotels. In true Lawrence of Arabia style, with language, you can begin to explore, and dare to go further. Camel rides in the desert are touristy, but getting to know those who own and keep the Camels, is something few tourists are able to do. Speaking Arabic changes the whole experience, respect is shown and your touristy thing again feels upgraded.
The Arab world beckons the tourists from all over the planet. Speaking Arabic opens up a host of opportunities and possibilities that will turn an average vacation into something magical… who knows, if you speak Arabic you make be able to make a carpet fly!
The Arab world has become one of the top tourist destinations in recent years. Known for its great transport connections, the airlines have really opened up this part of the world, and with high-quality hotels having outstanding service, there is a lot to see and do. There is even more to do when you speak Arabic.
Swim with the Dolphins in Dubai. A top attraction for many in Dubai is to get up close with one of the most majestic and mesmerising animals on earth. Swimming with the Dolphins in Dolphin Bay in Dubai has to be a bucket list item for many people, and this is surely one of the best places in the world to achieve this dream.
The Burj Khalifa Dubai. This is not just a top ten of the Arab world but a top ten of the entire world. At 828m tall, The Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world. There are 160 stories in this outrageously tall building and tours to the very top are a popular tourist attraction. From the top one get perhaps the best view anywhere in the Middle East but if you suffer from vertigo it is perhaps not the place to visit.
Museum of Islamic Art, Doha. There are multiple reasons to visit this spectacular and unique museum. The museum is an immaculately collated collection of Islamic art and History. With impressive Georgian rugs, restored and preserved remnants of Damascan palaces as well as relics and porcelain relics from across the ancient Islamic world there is a lot to take in. By learning to speak Arabic your tour of the museum will become more impressive as the Arabic language will enable you to understand what you are seeing better. However, there is another reason for visiting this outstanding museum and that reason is a few steps away in a courtyard. Here in the left-hand courtyard is arguably the best view oh Doha possible.
Dune Riding in a Buggy or on a quad bike. For those who seek a little more thrills and spills from their visit to Dubai, Doha or any one of the cities in the Arab world escaping to dunes is where to find it. Many Arab countries have turned their biggest natural resource, sand, into the ultimate adventure playground. Groups can be taken on dune tours in a large, luxury 4 x 4 but to experience the sand dunes up close one needs to bash through them in a buggy or on a quad bike. The sand dunes and it, of course, camels are iconic symbols of the middle east but hitting the dunes by buggy or bike has to be the top thing to do for anyone with a sense of adventure.
Speaking Arabic can open up many more places in the Arab world. Small coffee shops where local sit and while away the morning sun can open up an opportunity for conversation that lifts the cotton sheets on the almost mystical society. If there is one top thing to do in the Arab word then surely it must be to speak to an Arab in his native language.
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!
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.
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.