Spain is a tremendously popular tourist destination with a host of diverse attractions from city breaks to sun, sea and sand on the beach. The country has a superb climate nearly all year round and is easily accessible by many forms of transport. Package deals make Spain easy to explore for anyone of any age but with English speaking guides who know a great deal about the more popular sights in the country. But what if you don’t want to be park of the flock and visit places that are not so touristy?
English is spoken by many younger Spaniards, but to go beyond Flamenco and Castanets’ one firstly needs to have some ability to speak Spanish. Spain is a country that Spaniards are proud of and when exploring, the true passion and love for the country really emerges through the use of language. Being able to speak to the locals, beyond just getting directions, opens up so much more about any country and Spain is one of those countries that, just when you think you have seen it all, you discover something new.
Take the Wamba Ossuary. “An Ossuary?” I hear you say. In simple terms, an Ossuary is the resting place of human remains, and the Wamba Ossuary is one of the best in the world, and yet not too many people know about it. The collection of bones goes back to the 12th or 13th Century and the bones were transported to Wamba in the 1800’s and the place became a national historic site in the early 1930’s. Speaking Spanish at this unique attraction will allow you to hear the stories and tales that many may not get to hear making the visit that much more memorable.
Speaking Spanish opens up the country and its people to you. If dead bodies are not your thing, then a visit to a Spanish wine estate to sample some of the best wines in the world takes on a whole new meaning because you can ask questions to the people, farm workers who may have some interesting tales to tell. Wine and conversation go hand in hand and being able to converse in Spanish makes a wine tasting experience something memorable.
Having some control of the Spanish language allows a tourist to see the real Spain, whether you choose to spend some time in Madrid or Barcelona or even a small town in an area away from tourists and other travellers, language opens up a special adventure. Exploring how Spaniards live and work, visiting different suburbs, exploring by public transport and striking up a conversation with a stranger can lead to some fun and memorable times that without the language could never before be imagined. If you would like to learn Spanish before you go on your adventure, give VLLC a call!
Arabic is a language that is often overlooked by language learners and travelers alike. It’s difficult to see why once you learn a thing or two about this historic and beautiful language. With 300 million speakers worldwide and spanning across 22 countries as their official language – Arabic is a key player on the global stage. This fact is not lost on the UN who have fittingly made it one of their 6 official languages.
The importance of Arabic will be even harder to ignore in the future with growing economies across North African and the Arabian Peninsula. Recent research has even singled out Egypt as one of the fastest-growing tourist destinations in the world. It’s clear that any reasons for learning Arabic are becoming more convincing by the day.
Makes travel significantly easier. Arabic comes in many shapes and sizes. Modern Standard Arabic is the general starting point for any learners and serves them well on their travels. However, if you’re looking for a more in-depth experience also focusing on the specific dialect of the area you’re traveling to is a worthwhile endeavor. Either way, even learning the very basics of Arabic will help you on your travels. From asking for directions to the common courtesy of a simple ‘thank you’ or ‘excuse me’ – learning the local language will gain you favor with the locals while providing you with safety and understanding. Don’t make the mistake of thinking there’ll always be someone who speaks English, there won’t be.
Experience the full beauty. From my experience of Arabic-speaking countries from Morocco to Egypt, I couldn’t help noticing that my basic Arabic opened up new experiences to me. Experiences from being gifted a delightful cup of tea (a traditional sign of welcome) from a Tunisian woman who was very kindly impressed by my beginner phrases, to being ushered into houses only to be treated to delicious spreads of traditional and local food. Displaying enough interest in the people and culture to learn their language shows them that you’d like to know even more. And from my experience, Arabian people are always happy to share more culture.
Create Connections. “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart” – Nelson Mandela.
This poignant quote stands particularly true for Arabic nations. Arabic people have a deep and unfailing connection to their language. With the language often forming part of their identity, learning Arabic can be seen as a sign of respect and friendliness. You’ll meet a variety of new and interesting people along your travels who may, be sure not to miss out on getting to know them by learning their language. What’s more, is that there are at least 11 words for 'love' in the Arabic language. Only an incredibly welcoming, social, and compassionate people could think of so many words to express a cherished connection – Arabic is certainly worth the time.
Understand culture & history. The Arabic language is rich in idioms and sayings that are the product of millennia of history and growth. Every language is interwoven with the history of the people who speak it and their countries. To fully understand the Arabic people, it is necessary to speak their language. This is particularly true while traveling where you’ll come across historical monuments, sculptures, art, and architecture.
How to get started? After learning all of that, why wouldn’t you want to learn Arabic? VLLC has an online course so that we can learn on the go or in whatever environment we wish. By starting an online Arabic language course, you give yourself many advantages that a solo learner will not have. These advantages include being able to converse with a native speaker and ask questions as you learn. So, why not get started today and open up a whole new world for yourself?
Ask anyone who has travelled to the Middle East to describe the region and they will struggle to create a picture that comes anywhere close to their experience. Spices dominate the Middle East, their fragrance, colours and in food, their taste. One cannot really define the Middle East unless one is familiar with the spices of the region and this is also true with food.
Middle Eastern food can be sophisticated, and with a barrage of exotic tastes hitting the tongue, or simple, with something special about them. Food in the Middle East is something every tourist has to try and here are a few dishes and items worth looking out for.
Iraqi Masgouf. Let’s start with something unusual, Carp. This freshwater fish is something most people would very easily turn their noses up to, and quite rightly so, carp is not the most appealing of foods. However, when carp has been slow-cooked for three or four hours leaving none of the fishy fat carp is known for, and then served with lemon, pickles and maybe a salad carp takes on a whole new meaning.
Baklava. Okay, let’s go to another extreme far away from carp. Baklava is a Middle Eastern sweet dish that is known and loved worldwide. Chopped nuts, lashings of sweet syrup and honey with filo pastry mad with plenty of butter make a dish that is so amazing that it is little wonder it is one of the most popular in the world but it is best eaten in the Middle East.
Mansaf. This has been described by many as the Middle Eastern Pizza, but is quite a bit different from the average piece of pie found on a New York street. This Jordanian and Palestinian dish is a culinary delight made from lamb or mutton, sprinkled with pine nuts and almonds, that float in a layer of rich creamy yoghurt. Mansaf can be served on a plate, but for a real experience it is eaten at a celebration, and the table becomes the plate. It is a simple dish but the slow cooked tender mutton is something fit for a king.
Moutabal. The Middle East is famous for Hummus but there is a dip that surpasses Hummus hands down. Moutabal is a spiced up dip made from Eggplant, a little tahini and yoghurt. It is smokier and more flavoursome than Hummus and will become your new favourite dip very quickly.
The Middle East is well known for its different foods and many tourists never get to try them simply because they don’t know what something is and don’t know how to ask for it. Speaking Arabic can open up the culinary delights of the Middle East allowing you to explore new tastes with ease. Even a few words help, but a full control of the language gets you more experiences than you could ever dream of.
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.
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.
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!
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?
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!
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. Helen Dorling CFO VLLC Aust
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.