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.
Once you have decided you want to travel there are many things to consider. Should you travel alone, or go with someone else? What is it about travel that makes you happy? How much do you want to spend? Where do you want to go? How can you protect your identity whilst on the road? What should you pack? What type of accommodation should you book?
The benefits of travelling alone are that you get to do what you want, when you want. You can enjoy being with others or avoid them, and enjoying being completely alone. A part of travelling and visiting a foreign country is experiencing the local culture. The best way to do this is to know some language before you go. If you don't manage to do that, at least learn some important phrases to help you on your way. Below is a list I found on the wandersafe site (ref below).
Wandersafe states the following: "Before articulating the list, I preface that humans are humans no matter what they speak. A smile and sincere greeting is the first thing that you should do before every asking anyone for anything. It sets the scene for cooperation and engaging with someone. Consider your smile a five dollar note, everyone wants one and wishes more people were giving them away freely."
1. Know how to greet someone in their language including hello, good morning, good bye etc.
2. Use polite expressions such as please, thank you, excuse me
3. Learn how to say "I don't speak _________" or "how do you say ________ in ________________"
4. Directional phrases such as "Where is the _____________" or words for water and toilet and I'm lost.
5. "how can I get there?" Is there a dress code?"
6. Food and health related phrases such as "I am gluten free" or "Do you serve _________?" or "What is the expectation for tip giving?"
7. Safety questions such as "Is it safe for me to go?"
There are many safety precaution apps which can help keep you safe and family aware of your location. There are online communities and trust zones in most countries of the world. Having a travel plan and sticking to it is the best way to stay safe! While you are waiting until we can all travel again why not consider learning a language before you go? Contact us and we can help you get started on your language journey.
English is spoken as a first language by approximately three hundred fifty million people out of a global population of close to seven billion. Many English speakers seem to believe that wherever you go on holiday you can get by speaking English, so there’s no point in learning any other languages. If people don’t understand you all you have to do is speak slowly and turn up the volume. You can more or less get away with this, as long as you stick to popular tourist resorts and hotels where you can usually find someone who speaks English. However, Ludwig Wittgenstein said, “The limits of my language are the limits of my universe”. Who wouldn't want to be exposed to an unlimited universe?
However, if you want prepare for when we the international borders are reopened and to venture beyond such places, do more than just take photos and post them on social media, to get to know the locals, to read signs, menus, etc., knowing the local language is necessary and will make your travel experiences so much better. A basic ability in a foreign language will help you:
At Chinese New Year, you will often hear the phrase "nián nián yŏu yú", meaning "may you have abundance every year". You will also see it written in Chinese calligraphy on scrolls which hang on walls and by doorways, accompanied by a picture of a golden carp. What is the connection? The word for "fish" is pronounced in the same way as the word for abundance: Both are yú. SO, if you were to hear someone say "nián nián yŏu yú", it could mean "May you have fish every year!!
For another example, wǒ xiǎng wèn nǐ, means I want to ask you - Simple enough. But, if you were to say wǒ xiǎng wěn nǐ, it would mean I want to kiss you! The only difference is the tone over the e in wen! That could be a bit scary LOL.
Altogether there are over 50,000 characters in Mandarin Chinese, however, a modern dictionary will only list about 20,000, and you only need to know approximately 2000 to be able to read a newspaper.
千里之行，始于足下 Qiān lǐ zhī xíng, shǐ yú zú xià
A journey of a thousand miles starts with one step. Laozi, Daoist philosopher (6th Century BC)
One to bear in mind as you take your first steps in the Chinese language! Contact VLLC if you would like to take the Chinese language journey with us.
Growing up, I had a friend whose father worked for an oil company in Jakarta. I knew little about the city or the country of Indonesia, I was at school and still in my early teens, but one thing I grasped very clearly was that to get ahead in Indonesia, being able to speak Indonesian was the key to everything. My friend spoke some Indonesian, I loved it when she did, but even the little she had, opened the wonderful country up to her and to this day she still has friends there because of being able to communicate.
Indonesia is an archipelago, and for the business or leisure traveller alike, is an amazing place to visit. Over the years the country has had its ups and downs, but it still maintains a strong economy and a vibrant tourist industry. In modern-day Indonesia, a growing number of people speak English, but like many Asian countries, a great deal of respect is found when someone of non-Indonesian origin speaks Indonesian.
With language, Indonesia, like any other country and its language, opens up in a manner that only those who have made an effort to learn a language will understand. Business opportunities increase, business transactions become more successful as the vital human connection, the so-called “click” comes through language. Being able to speak Indonesian allows a person to get down to the nitty-gritty of a project, contract or simple job. Like any language, there are innuendos and humour, and when speaking the language, these translate into confidence when doing business.
Language, in a strange way, can open our eyes to the way that Indonesians do business, and shows us many of the challenges that non Indonesian speaking business people may face. When you have the language, these challenges are either overcome, or simply disappear. Language, and being able to converse, is one of the most powerful business tools, far better than Google Translate that often loses the intrinsic meaning of the conversation.
While Indonesia is a superb country to do business with and language makes a big difference to the way business is done, the country is also a wonderfully diverse place to visit. By speaking Indonesian, even a business trip can soon become a lot more pleasurable as the real country, and its people open up. However, for the leisure traveller speaking Indonesian is one of the most amazing pieces of luggage you can carry.
Although the capital city of Thailand is known to the world as Bangkok, local people refer to it as Krung Thep but this is just a shortened version of the actual name which consists of 169 characters and makes for a challenging tongue twister after a few drinks. The full name is: Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahinthara Yutthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udom Ratchaniwet Mahasathan Amonphiman Awatansathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukamprasit.
This roughly translates to:
City of angels, great city of immortals, magnificent city of the nine gems, seat of the king, city of royal palaces, home of gods incarnate, erected by Visvakarman at Indra's behest.
Just a little Thai trivia :)
With last year's pandemic ruling out international travel, when is it time to start looking to future travel? If you had to cancel or postpone a trip which was previously planned, you may start to consider when you will be able to travel again. It is the million-dollar question and the truth is, nobody knows. Where could you travel in 2021?
Travel will definitely look different once to pandemic is over, but this may not be such a bad thing. Cities that were once crowded will suddenly have a bit more room, though it is likely that many travellers will opt for more isolated escapes to avoid the crowds. Where should you travel in 2021?
Enjoy your own back yard. With borders opening up now is the time to see what Australia has to offer. There are plenty of adventures to be had in Australian towns and cities. Australia has a vast network of well-maintained roads and some of the most beautiful road trips in the world. There is beautiful coastlines such as the Great Ocean Road, driving across the desert to the Red Centre or just enjoying the lush towns and cities along the way. Train travel is also a convenient, affordable and scenic way to explore Australia.
An escape within the Southern Hemisphere is a trip to New Zealand. There appears to be a travel bubble with NZ so now may be the perfect time to finally explore Australia's neighbour. New Zealand holds plenty of appeal for its isolated escaped where crowds aren't an issue.
Travel to Botswana. Botswana is one of the African nations that has been least affected by Covid 19, thanks to a rapid response to close borders and enforce a nation-wide lockdown. Countries who have limited the spread and acted efficiently will be the popular first choice for travellers who are nervous crossing borders, but desperate for an escape. There are many great lodges in the Okavango Delta and Kalahari Desert that are isolated and offer full-board for travellers.
According to the worldofwonderlust.com, other popular places would include Montenegro, Santorini, Austria, Namidia, Alberta, Slovenia, Provence and Norfolk Island. No matter what you do or wherever you go, keep safe, wear masks if necessary and wash your hands often. COVID will be here for some time but you can mitigate any risk by taking adequate precautions and continue to enjoy your experiences.
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.
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.
One thing everyone who travels for any reasons will always worry about is money. Life would be easy if there was just a single currency worldwide but there is not. Here are 7 money tips for travel (when we are allowed to travel) that will always be helpful.
Tell your bank you are travelling: One of the most important things to do regarding money and travel is to tell your bank you are going overseas. With increased levels of fraud and tightened security, transactions you make with your bankcard overseas may be deemed suspicious. This is especially true with bank debit cards. To avoid this let your bank know.
Get the right credit card: Check how much it costs to use your credit card for foreign currency payments. Some credit cards charge high or hidden charges for making a purchase in any currency other than your home currency. There are cards that do not charge fees and just treat any purchase as normal. Read the fine print on your credit card or speaking to the bank or card company, it could save you a small fortune.
ATMs can sometimes be cheaper than exchange offices: Many people are not aware than drawing money on your bank or ATM card overseas may actually be a great deal cheaper than using a foreign exchange office. Using an ATM is definitely a lot more convenient but check with your bank about the fees charged and you may very well be surprised.
Use local currency and understand it. Local Currency does seem obvious but many travellers today try as hard as possible to stick to plastic. Sadly, it is not always possible. While more and more places take plastic there are still many places where cash is king. Post cards, flea markets and some smaller shops may not take plastic. Also, in countries where haggling is the norm, a credit card will not help you at all. Local currency is best for small transactions such as entrance fees or even a bus ticket.
Local currency can be confusing and it is easy to be fooled into giving 1000 of something when actually it is 100 or being given the wrong change. One of the wisest money tips of all is to take half an hour somewhere quiet and safe to get to know the new cash you have in your hand. Knowing how many pennies make a pound is fairly obvious but to a foreigner it may not be so. Having a vague idea of the exchange rate helps get an idea of what things cost and it also helps you budget.
Spend the remainder of your excess cash at the airport. You usually always end up with some excess cash after any trip. It often costs money to change your cash back into your home currency so why not keep the cash you have and spend it at the airport. You may have enough for a cup of coffee while waiting or enough to buy a bottle of water. Very often airports charge less for items if you pay in local currency and in the end you save.
Have an emergency stash! Perhaps the most versatile currency in the world is the US Dollar. A really amazing money tip that could get you out of a sticky patch is to carry a handful of loose dollar bills with you on your person. If your wallet is stolen, these dollars you keep on your person can become the most valuable things in the world.
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.