Marhaba, my name is Yasmin and I am the Arabic tutor at VLLC Melbourne. After five years of celebrating Ramadan on my own in Australia, I was so excited to spend it this year with my family in Egypt.
Every year millions of Muslims around the world refrain from eating and drinking from dawn to sunset during the month of Ramadan. Fasting brings Muslims closer to God and reminds them of those who are less fortunate. It makes us very grateful for what we do have. By refraining from the worldly desires such as food and drink, Muslims develop and strengthen their powers of self-control and self-restraint so that they can then apply it to their everyday life to bring about self-improvement.
Although Ramadan may seem to be a hard and difficult month, it is, in fact, a very enjoyable time. Families come together and enjoy the delicious food for the breaking the fast and the pre-dawn meals. The shared experience of not eating or drinking all day unites Muslims both as a family and community in the Mosques where Muslims gather together to break their fast with other people also observing the fast that day.
Celebrating Ramadan in Egypt is a very special and unique event. Egypt has one of the oldest and richest Ramadan heritage in the whole Arab world, ranging from lights to cannons to night callers. Egyptians welcome Ramadan with the Fanoos or Ramadan lanterns. They decorate their homes with the colourful lanterns and children swing with their new glowing lanterns while singing Ramadan songs. Using the Fanoos as decorations is believed to have originated during the Fatimid Caliphate. Egyptians welcomed the arrival of Caliph Moezz Eddin Allah to Cairo in 969 during the month of Ramadan by lighting hundreds of lanterns.
Another interesting tradition of Ramadan in Egypt is the firing of the cannon. The firing of the cannon marks sunrise and sunset therefore signalling the time for beginning and ending the fast. This tradition started during the time of Khedive Mohamed Ali (1805-1848) when he ordered a number of cannons for the Egyptian army, and so it happened that one cannon was accidentally fired during sunset in Ramadan and people then thought that this was a new tradition ordered by the Khedive.
Finally, one of Ramadan’s special traditions is the Mesarahaty or drummer. Each morning during the month of Ramadan, an hour or two before dawn, drummers tour the streets, hammering out a repetitive beat to wake people up to have their pre-dawn meal. This tradition dates back to the Ottoman era when people didn’t have alarm clocks to wake them for their pre-dawn meals, drummers would walk through the streets beating their drums.
If you are planning to visit Egypt in the future make sure you come during the month of Ramadan so you can enjoy the special atmosphere it has in the country. Shukran, Yasmin.
One of our recent graduates, Meredith, came to VLLC because she wanted to become fluent in French to improve her experience when she travelled there. When Meredith first came to see us looking for a language solution, she had some very specific goals.
1) to benefit from the experience by being different to when she started;
2) to meet individuals and discuss ideas she had never heard of before
3) to try new things and create memories that she will remember for the rest of her life.
Meredith completed VLLC's Certificate in Social Proficiency and is waiting for COVID-19 to end so she can continue her dream. Her comments on completion of the course with VLLC were very touching as she said she had already attained her goals without actually getting to France. These were her words about her experience with VLLC: "I have already changed from when I started, I have already met individuals and discovered ideas I have never heard of before; I have tried new things and created memories that I will remember for the rest of my life." Meredith realised that life isn't only about the destination but also the journey to get there..
VLLC: The image is not of Meredith as she requested no online image.
Considering we are unable to travel at the moment, I started reminiscing on a past holiday to Spain. Other than completing a few lessons in Spanish 15 years ago, and attempting to learn Latin dancing, I have had zero experience with the Hispanic culture. While I was learning Italian, my tutors kept telling me I was sounding like an Italian person speaking Spanish and I must admit that if I didn’t know a word, I tried an Italian one to keep the conversation going. It worked 50% of the time.
But in this holiday, we went to the beautiful city of Madrid and were wowed by the history and grandeur of this wonderful European city. We were amazed at how ‘alive’ the city was and as well as the small cobblestone streets, there were wide, broad boulevards with lots of greenery and parks. We also couldn’t believe how late people (including small children) ate!!
The Royal Palace was larger than any I have seen in Russia (would you believe it) and we went into the oldest restaurant in the world which was founded in 1725. The history of the place (Botin Restaurant) is amazing and its specialty is whole suckling pigs (I have a photo but didn’t want to offend anyone!!). But what amazed me the most was all the shops with jambon – Jamón Ibérico is considered the finest ham in the world.
Every second shop was filled with this delicacy and priced accordingly. Yes I did try a few varieties and it was best on fresh bread with butter (a bit like caviar!!) I’ve only seen a little part of Spain and nothing of South America – I’d love to hear some of your stories…
I love what I do! I work with wonderful people from around the globe, and I get to travel regularly. Ok, not physically, but through my students. The only people I know who get to travel to so many different places without having to live out of a suitcase, are my colleagues.
Somewhat vicarious some might say – wouldn’t you rather go there yourself? Sometimes yes, but it is really special being able to share a student’s journey - from a little idea or dream, to starting their course and then going, it is lovely to be a part of it.
As many of you may know, one of our French students recently bought his one-way ticket to France. He is now settling in in the heart of Paris, and this week, resumes his French course via Skype.
In a few weeks another student will get married in Greece and for the first time, be able to have some simple conversations with her new extended family.
In addition, every day I get to hear my wonderful tutors share their language and culture with our students-helping the dream become a reality.
So keep dreaming, keep travelling-I’m there!
Melinda, VLLC Melbourne
Learning French gave me an international opportunity.
Travelling and working overseas is something that many Australians plan to do during their lifetime. However, few realise just how much easier their journey could be with no language barrier to overcome. Sydney dancer, Kirsty, is an example of an ambitious young Australian who learned a second language through the Vocational Language Learning Centre before heading overseas.
Kirsty equipped herself with a self assured fluency in French to back up her dancing talents before travelling to Paris for auditions with a ballet company in Bordeaux, France. "The positive and friendly atmosphere at VLLC helped me learn the language quickly and have fun doing it" she said. "They helped build my confidence and to absorb the French culture while learning the language. The VLLC fast track learning method was developed in Adelaide and is now considered one of the most effective in the world. It is based on neuro-linguistics and the ability of the subconscious mind to absorb a language in a relaxed atmosphere. "I have set myself up for an international career." Kirsty says.
April is Thai month at VLLC! You might wonder, why April? The answer is that April is the month of Songkran festival, which is the Thai New Year festival. The festival usually starts on 13rd of April every year. This usually continues for a week (or more!) depending on where you are; the middle parts of Thailand tend to finish later on around the 25th. Many people know of Songkran as a water festival, where people come out of their homes to have water fights on the streets. We use containers (e.g. a garbage can and a bowl), to hurl water at people. This helps us to stay cool in the middle of April, when the weather is hottest, and most humid. Water fights also provide a good opportunity for family members to have fun as a family. When I was a child, I remember sitting and waiting for my cousins to arrive on the first day of Songkran, and wishing Songkran could last forever! Those were the days…
There is another aspect, a spiritual aspect, to the Songkran festival. The Thai people are mostly Buddhists, and they usually take this opportunity to make merit (do good deeds) at their local Wat (temple) in the early morning on the first day of Songkran. We believe in karma, and that making merit at the beginning of the year will bring luck and happiness. After we finish at the temple, we return home to be with our family, especially our elders. Then, traditionally, they bless us, and splash a Thai perfume on us, as a symbol of good fortune. After that, it is time to enjoy food, drink, and especially water fights, in order to celebrate the rest of Songkran; the best holiday in Thailand.
This is going to be the third consecutive Songkran that I will miss. If you have a chance to visit Thailand, please consider joining in and getting wet during Songkran. You will have fun, learn about Thai culture, make many friends, and bring back many fun memories. I guarantee that you will not be disappointed. Thai month at VLLC always reminds me of the good times I had in Thailand in Songkran month.
Barramee, VLLC Thai Tutor.
Paul is a student at VLLC - learning Japanese so that he and his wife can return to Japan and renew their vows with meaning.
'My wife and I both love Japan, we love the beauty, culture and history of Japan. We organised a holiday to Japan and leading up to the trip we got engaged, we thought why not share this experience in this beautiful setting. We got married at the Kamigamo shrine in Kyoto. We got to wear traditional attire for the ceremony, My wife's kimono was so delicate and treasured that she had to have a personal assistant to constantly adjust the dress and help her with any actions that she couldn't perform being restrained in the outfit.
The ceremony itself was conducted in both Japanese and English by the Shinto priest, as per tradition both families drank sake together and my wife and I went up to the shrine and I spoke out our vows, in English and then we made the branch offering and asked for blessings for a happy family.
My vision is to learn Japanese with VLLC and go back to Japan, experience Japan with a new perspective and be able to interact on a whole new level, revisit the Kamigamo shrine and repeat the ceremony all in Japanese.
Hola¡ my name is Ben and I studied Spanish at VLLC. I decided to start learning a language for two reasons; firstly after spending some time in Spain, I returned thinking that I would have got more from the trip if I could have spoken the language. I want to go back to Spain, as well as travel to South America, hence my first reason to learn Spanish. The second reason is that my workplace now has an office in Chile and being able to speak Spanish may open up opportunities for me to work in this office or overseas. The VLLC program’s combination of online study and 1-1 tutorials is very enjoyable, the tutors are great teachers and I am finding that what I am learning is sticking, having studied a language at high school the approach of VLLC seems to work much better. I have tentatively tried out my new found Spanish skills in a few restaurants and with colleagues at work, to my surprise they have understood me! It has been very rewarding experience.
Here are some stories about VLLC' students and why they are learning a language