Travelling the world for many is all about exploring. For some it is for fun, others travel or business, but whatever way you look at it, you want to get something from it. Anyone can travel and see places, hop on a plane and you can go pretty much anywhere and be on the other side of the world in a matter of hours. But to really get the most out of any trip, a traveller needs to engage with people. People are the real way to open your eyes to what is going on around you, why something is, or just to understand more about a place. You may be lucky to find someone that speaks your language, but in many countries, especially when a little off the beaten track, the chances of finding that person are slim.
It makes sense then, if you want to get more out of a country that you visit, that you learn the language. For so long, many people have just expected people to speak English primarily, but for a real travel experience, a person who wants to experience that little bit more from where they are visiting, speaking the native language is a must. Speaking Japanese on a business trip to Japan shows respect and courtesy, two things that mean a lot in Japanese culture. This would transform your business trip to Japan and you will stand a greater chance of success if you speak their language.
Exploring the vineyards of France or Italy can become so much more rewarding when you speak even a little French or Italian. True, the guides and the wine makers may speak a little broken English and some will speak very good English, but this is their second or maybe third language and the little nuances that bring the real colour of the vineyards or other places get lost in translation. By speaking the language, you also get that little bit extra, and the very fact you have chosen to learn the language brings a smile to the face of a local and shows respect.
Learning the language becomes part of the journey, and leading up to the moment you disembark at that airport in Thailand or Germany you have already experienced part of the country through its language. Learning the language will leave you feeling confident, knowing that you will be able to ask for directions or have a conversation with a local while waiting for a bus perhaps, and as eager as you are to explore or get to your business meeting you are just as eager to put your new language to the test.
Learning a language allows you to become part of the country you are visiting and because you blend in a little better, the country and its people will open up to you, showing you more than you expect. With a language to use, your horizon has been broadened and all it takes to receive this benefit is a little time invested in language.
On one of our holidays a few years ago, we went to St Petersburg for 2 weeks and then Cinque Terre. I had completed my Certificate II in Russian and decided to really immerse myself in my language while we were in St Petersburg so organised one to one tutorials for 3 hours a day for one week straight with a tutor who spoke very little English. It was an amazing experience and really forced me to ‘think’ in Russian.
On the day we were due to leave for Italy, we got to the airport in St Petersburg (the old one!!! Imagine USSR utilitarian - no comfort and you may get close to ‘feeling what I felt’) (BTW The new airport which was finished about 4 years ago is great – very modern) and checked in. We waited and waited and waited……
After a 6 -8 hour delay we finally boarded and therefore arrived in Milan a lot later than we had planned. Despite being late, we decided to try and find a train to take us to Cinque Terre that night. The only way possible was to take one interstate train and then change to a local train. The local train was an experience for another blog, but it was worth it - as the train got closer to the coast, we could smell the sea air – it was intoxicating.
We arrived in Cinque Terre around midnight and met our hostess, who was a lovely Italian senora who didn’t speak much English. Obviously, my head was full of Russian and I was exhausted, but endeavored to speak Italian to work out the details of where we were staying. It was really funny - every time I wanted to say ‘si’ I said “da”; non became niet…non capisco was не понимаю and I could only speak Russitalian - My sentence structure was Italian but the words were Russian. I couldn’t swap languages in my head!!!
The next day, after a good night’s sleep we looked out of our window and saw the beautiful sea and the unique Cinque Terre landscape and KNEW we were in Italy. The Italian came easier then…….
Cinque Terre is amazing. It means five lands and is a UNESCO world heritage site. It is in the region of Linguria and comprises 5 old seaside villages on the Italian coastline. In each of the 5 villages, colourful houses and ancient vineyards cling to steep terraces. The villages are called: Monteresso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. We stayed in Riomaggiore which I think was the best, but we walked along the coastline one day to Monterrosso – pretty big walk…..but well worth the effort.
One of the attractions of Cinque Terre is that there are no cars allowed – there are no skyscrapers or corporate development. Paths, trains and boats connect the villages. The only requirement to being there is that you like walking and walking to your apartment becomes a fitness training session. It was a fabulous holiday………. Jo
Yeia Sou! For more than 6000 years, Greece has been the celebrated birthplace for the legacy of Western civilization. Ancient Greece is thought to be the origin of democracy. Western philosophy, the Olympic Games, Western literature, mathematics, drama and much more. From Greece's heart and capital, Athens, to the rugged islands of Patmos, Crete and Santorini and the vibrant modernity of Mykonos, you can see every aspect of the intriguing history and beauty of Greece. There is no better way to get the most out of your Greek adventure than learning to speak a bit of the language.
Did you know that Greece has approximately 1400 islands, but a favourite with the tourists is Greece's largest island Crete. Here you will be drawn to Heraklion to enjoy that classic Greek architecture, hospitality and great food along rustic harbours and busy beaches. Crete was the centre of the Minoan civilization - the oldest known inhabitants of Greece - so of course, there are plenty of ancient relics to see here.
Have a try - in Greece, Carnival is called "Apokries", it consists of two weeks of feast, beginning from the Sunday of Meat Fare and ends with the start of Lent, called "Clean Monday" (Kathari Deftera). Everyone is costumed and partied in the streets and bars, throwing coloured confetti to each other. the most famous Carnival Parade takes place in the city of Patra where everybody dances and drinks all night and day. This custom is believed to come from the old festivities worshiping Dionysus, the god of wine and feast.
Find out how easy it is to be able to chat to the locals at www.vllc.com.au. Learn the Language during the pandemic so that you are fully prepared to travel and enhance your travel experience.
Germany is a country best known for its forests, rivers and mountain ranges. The country is one of the largest in Europe and has a thriving tourist industry. With its castles, large houses and the mountainous countryside being major attractions, and many within only a short drive or train journey from major cities such as Frankfurt and Berlin.
For the average tourist, equipped with a map, or accompanied by a guide with the ever-handy German phrase book and the fact many Germans speak very good English, a vacation is easy to undertake. But for the tourist who wants to head off the beaten track, and explore some of the hidden gems of Germany, having more than a phrase book is important. There is a great deal more to see in Germany than one could well imagine, and by having a better grasp of the language, these places and more can soon be opened up, making a German leisure visit something special.
With language, the weird and wonderful can be found and explored, and the conventional, seen how Germans see them. Take for example one of the strangest museums in the world, the German Food Additives Museum just outside Hamburg. For the non-German speaker this museum would be impossible to visit, as everything in the museum and about the museum, is in German. It is a fascinating small museum, and a real one of a kind, but only by speaking German can you really visit and understand this amazing place.
It is not just specialist museums that are “off limits” to those who cannot speak German, some historical sites make little sense, and again because of the predominant use of German make then seem pointless to visit. One such place is the ruined airport not far from Berlin, where Claus von Stauffenberg could have ended World War II, but didn’t, when his assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler failed. Not only is the airport a fascinating part of fairly recent history, but it is truly a unique place that tantalises curiosity to visit.
Without an understanding of the German language, so many small but interesting places to visit automatically fail to make a tourist agenda. Germany has many hidden gems. Even foods become more interesting, and what was once a seemingly bland and uninviting menu, becomes something you want to at least try. Being able to converse with the owner of a small back street café or restaurant can lead to some wonderful culinary adventures, coffee becomes more than black stuff in a cup and becomes a discussion about life with a local, and the meal becomes something enjoyable as you discuss specialties of the house with the host or chef.
An understanding of the German language turns a German vacation, or day away from a German business trip, into something quite special and creates some amazing memories that without language could never even begin to form.
Indonesia is an incredibly beautiful and downright amazing country that you will enjoy exploring. However, visiting Indonesia does require a bit of preparation. This is why we created a list with some of the best things you can do to prepare for your upcoming trip. Follow these great ideas, and you will be ready to visit one of the most interesting and downright beautiful places on our planet.
Get a VISA. In order to visit Indonesia, you will have to acquire a VISA on arrival. This costs around $35 and it will be valid for 30 days, and it will cover only a single entry. This is why you have to calculate your stay adequately so that you can avoid any extra costs. Also, if you fly out of an airport in Indonesia, you will also have to pay an airport tax, and that’s not included in the ticket prices.
Vaccines. While there are no specifics vaccine requirements, you may want to take a few just in case. Typhoid, Hepatitis as well as diphtheria vaccines are recommended. The reason why vaccines are helpful is because you will be around wildlife such as monkeys. You may even want to add the Rabies vaccine into the mix, just in case.
What about safety? Indonesia is a reasonably safe place for tourists. But just like any other region in the world, it does have its fair share of thieves. So, don’t withdraw a large amount of money. Make sure that you stay away from credit card frauds and avoid taking too many valuable items with you during your travels. Of course, you should avoid withdrawing large amounts of money, as this can grab the attention of prying eyes. You should always check with www.smartraveller.gov.au.
Transportation. Thankfully, transportation is inexpensive in Indonesia. You have public transportation, and then you also have becacks, ojeks and scooters. Trains are safe, but they can be a tad expensive, depending on the route you want to opt for.
Be patient. Indonesia is a country where you may encounter situations that require you to stay patient. It can take a bit of time to visit some important tourist attractions. But things always work out in the end. You just have to remember that exchanges and many services are not as faster as those in the US. Then again, the life as a whole is not as rampant as the one in the US, so it’s easy to see why you need patience.
Bargaining. Whenever you visit an Indonesian market, make sure that you try to bargain with the seller. Prices are flexible just about everywhere. There are locations like gas stations, shopping malls and convenience stores where prices are fixed. But aside from these and a few other locations, you are bound to get a good deal if you bargain for a better price.
Get some sunscreen, as sometimes the sun can be very hot in Indonesia. So, it’s crucial to take proper clothes and some protection against the sun. Sunscreen isn’t expensive here, and it can help save your skin!
These are some of the best trips that you can keep in mind during your trip to Indonesia. Visiting Indonesia can be an extraordinary experience, all you have to do is just to go ahead and enjoy it! But, of course, do keep in mind these great tips, as they will help take your travel experience to new heights!
The Angklung is a traditional musical instrument made out of from two bamboo tubes attached to a bamboo frame. The tubes are carved so that they have a resonant pitch when struck. The two bamboo tubes are tuned to octaves. To play this instrument, the base of the frame is held with one hand while the other hand shakes the instrument rapidly from side to side. This causes a rapidly repeating note of sound. The Angklung is originally from West Java in Indonesia and it has been used and played by the Sundanese since the ancient times.
In the Hindu period, and the era of the Kingdom of Sunda, the Angklung played an important part in ritual ceremonies. The ceremonies were inherent to Sundanese communities; in country and everyday living. As time has passed, the Angklung has received more International attention. Since then, Angklung has been used for educational 9 and entertainment purposes, such as Traditional music festivals and also are able to accompany Western music instruments in an orchestra.
In November year 2010, UNESCO designated Angklung as a Masterpiece of oral and intangable heritage of humanity. As part of this acknowledgement, UNESCO insisted that Indonesia preserve their heritage.
Actually in 2011, The Adelindo Angklung founders, Bapak Ferry and Ibu Yenny Chandra, established the Adelindo Angklung in Adelaide. They have been very busy entertaining in Adelaide and I had the opportunity of joining the Adelindo Angklung group. The group of angklung musicians which is made up of members from Adelaide Indonesian Senior citizens group (Lansia Group).
Our weekly schedule consists of rehearsal every Friday evening from 6 PM to 10PM at Bapak Ferry & Ibu Yenny Chandra’s home (Saung Angklung Golden Grove) and we are able to perform at schools; churches; Nursing homes and Multi Cultural Festivals around Adelaide. Our group the Adelindo Angklung, played for the first International performance with an invitation to play angklung at the 6th Auckland Indonesian Festival in Auckland, New Zealand.
Our mission is to introduce and share one of Indonesia’s traditional musical instruments through the sound of the bamboo and we can inspire, share joy and create Harmony with the Nations.
Ratna has been an Indonesian Tutor with VLLC for many years.
We hit Phuket with a group of business colleagues on a convention week. We stayed at one of the more up market resorts which was a little out of town but only a 10 minute trip in a tuk tuk. The ladies hit the markets pretty well straight away and believe me there was plenty to see and buy. We went from stall to stall, trying our hand at bartering and some of us got quite good at it. Converting Aussie dollars to Baht and vice a versa, took a bit of getting used to but one smart cookie had a little conversion table in her purse. It wasn’t totally accurate but it gave you a pretty good idea of what you were really paying.
A group of the men headed to the shopping area to get fitted for suits. Can you imagine 8 men in a tailor shop all picking out suit and shirt material and being fitted for their suits? I got a glimpse of this scene when we were passing by and believe me it’s quite a sight. It’s worse than a gaggle of girls on a shopping frenzy. Over the next few days the men went back to try on their new suits, have adjustments made and add extra requests to their orders. In an amazingly short space of time these wonderful tailors had quality suits, shirts and ties made to order all for less than a cheap suit in Australia. It was incredible to see how much fun these men had with this experience.
In an earlier blog I shared some of the tips, tricks and good advice we received for our trip to Thailand but over the next few weeks I would like to share some of our experiences too. In the meantime we would love to hear from you; what went right, what went wrong, trip highlights, funny or even disturbing stories.
Join the VLLC community and share your stories. Helen Dorling VLLC Aust
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.
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.