How to gain authentic travel experiences

Came across this interesting article on stuff.co.nz today, entitled “Authentic? Tourists, you’re kidding yourselves”

Mexico

It’s beautiful in Oaxaca City. The Mexican town so easily charms you with its colonial architecture, its paved streets and brightly coloured buildings.

I’d been having a ball there, drinking in the bars, hanging out in the town square by the church, wandering the narrow streets, drinking in the flavour of the place. I’d never felt threatened or unsafe. I’d actually been wondering what all the fuss was about.

Gang warfare? Drugs and guns? Not in my Mexico. Definitely not in peaceful Oaxaca.

So it was kind of a shock when I found out about the shootings. I’d been chatting to a local woman, talking about the happenings in the town, when she mentioned the two teenage boys who’d been shot and killed – basically executed – in the town square a few nights ago.

When we’re in a foreign country, most of the time we have no clue what’s happening just outside. It’s in the interests of the host nation to keep it this way for the sake of their

That’s the thing about travel: you’re in a bubble. You can convince yourself that you’re getting the authentic experiences, that you’re mixing with the locals and taking in the culture and learning about a society, but if you’re only doing the normal tourist thing, coming in for a week or two and checking out the sights, then you know nothing.

A bit harsh, but that’s exactly what happens with people who endure the long flight from Auckland to Santiago, only to spend days lazing by the pool at the Ritz Carlton.

You’re barely scraping the surface. You’re floating along in the ideal world, sampling great food and chatting to friendly people and experiencing the absolute best that a country has to offer.

Nothing wrong with all that of course. However, if you wish to really enhance your travel experience, especially when you’re going to a non-English speaking country, I suggest you learn a bit of the local language. You don’t need to be able to talk politics in the local lingo, but being able to say hi and order a beer goes a long way towards building relationships. In turn this increases the likelihood of you finding a local friend who will take you further down the rabbit hole.

For those of you fortunate enough to escape the NZ winter, enjoy yourselves and hope you enjoy some “authentic travel experiences”.

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7 Language Learning Myths Holding Us Back

Found an interesting article on Forbes debunking the myths of language learning holding us back in the social, economic and political marketplace. Although the writer is American, it’s still relevant in a Kiwi context. Essentially the author provides a great response to the commonly held belief: Why learn a foreign language, if everyone else is learning English?

Myth 1: Everybody already speaks English (or they’re learning it).

Yes, about one quarter of the world population speaks English to some degree. What about the remaining 5.4 billion people sharing our planet?

Myth 2: Spanish, French and German are the most spoken languages in the world (besides English, of course).

At last count, about 77 percent of American college students in language courses were studying Spanish, French or German. Those languages and English are spoken natively by less than 13 percent of the global population. To put that into context, Javanese and Bengali claim more native speakers than German and French, but they are scarcely studied by American students.  If we exclusively learn European languages, we will continue to leave billions of people out of the global conversation.

Myth 3: China speaks Chinese. India speaks Hindi. America speaks English.

You may rush to learn Mandarin Chinese because you will be working in China, only to find that you should have studied Cantonese. You may find yourself in a region of Paraguay where Guaraní is more helpful than Spanish, or in an Indian state where Tamil is spoken more widely than Hindi.

Our world is not two-dimensional—state lines do not determine cultural practices or mediums of communication. As language learners, we need to do our research on which communities we are hoping to connect with, and what we can do to best facilitate exchange.

Myth 4: It is impossible to learn a language after my sixteenth birthday.

Yes, learning a language becomes less natural as we grow older, but it is absolutely possible regardless of age. In fact, most language software is built with adult or college-aged learners in mind. It is never too late.
Myth 5: It is too expensive to learn anything other than Spanish.

Resources are more available in some languages than in others. More universities offer Italian than Vietnamese— that is the reality. Even so there are so many affordable or free resources online. Many libraries, for example, partner with Mango Languages, thereby offering seventy different languages to patrons for free! A few Google searches may uncover the wealth of opportunities to learn languages online or in-person near you.

Myth 6: Urdu won’t help me get a job. Turkish is useless. I will never find a place to use Vietnamese.

In a rapidly globalizing world, it is tough to make a resume stand out.  Sometimes “out-of-the-ordinary” is just what you need. Some federal departments, for example, are giving scholarships to students to learn Azerbaijani, Indonesian, Punjabi, and more. Furthermore, many of these underrepresented languages are spoken in major emerging markets. To do work in these up-and-coming economies, we might be better off learning Hungarian, Polish or Thai.

Myth 7: Language learning is unnecessary with modern translation technologies.

Think about the last time you misinterpreted sarcasm or could not connect a cultural reference. In her recently released book, Erin Meyer asserts that the English spoken in the United States is the lowest context language in the world, meaning it requires minimal cultural context in order to understand. In other parts of the world, communication is not as simple. Language instruction introduces us to the nuances of cultures, allowing us to build productive personal and professional relationships with people from unfamiliar cultures.

[Check out my article on language learning technologies for Kiwis].

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Using technology to enhance language learning

I’m often asked which are the best apps and websites one can use to learn a language quickly and conveniently. The landscape is rapidly changing, so this is my answer as at July 2014, keeping in mind my answers may change in a few months.

Duolingo – probably number 1 right now. incorporates gamification features, making it fun and addictive. Social media integration adds motivation.  Web-based, iOS and Android apps available.

Memrise – flashcard based. not as fun as Duolingo, but helpful in picking up vocabulary. Web-based, iOS and Android apps available.

Social-based language learning platforms like Livemocha, Fluentify, italki and various others.

Many of the apps on the Apple App Store or Android Marketplace are well-designed and useful for beginner language learners.

However, language learning is inherently a social exercise. Unless you’re learning a language purely as an academic exercise, surely the purpose is to communicate with others. Apps like Duolingo and Memrise are great, but in playing around with them, I quickly realise the most important, and best, part of language learning is missing: talking to real people.

Social-based learning platforms address this issue to some extent. But the quality of tutors are highly variable, and the nature of language exchange is such that everyone wants to speak the language they are learning.

Ultimately, all these technology applications are great, and some people do acquire a basic level of fluency by solely using these applications.

Sometimes people ask me if Euroasia has been affected by the advent of such technologies.

Yes and No.

Yes, because people have come to expect instant results. Often apps and websites promise the world, without having to put much work.  This creates unrealistic expectations.

No, because these applications give people a taste of the language and leaves them wanting more.

Euroasia has started offering  live online language classes, and will be introducing audio clips etc to supplement traditional classes. If you wish to join us for our language courses at our physical locations in Auckland and Wellington, our July intake starts next week.

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Amazing story of Tim Donner – hyperpolyglot

In the Anglo-Saxon world, it’s unusual to find people fluent in more than one language. It’s even more unusual to find people who can speak more than 2 or 3 languages. So there’s no way to describe Tim Donner except to say he’s incredibly talented. Tim is from New York, and started learning Hebrew at 13. He has since managed to learn 20+ languages. His secret to language language learning? Watch more TV shows in the language you’re learning.

If your 2014 resolution is to learn a new language, you may wish to consider our summer intensives (15 hours over 2 weeks – 4 weeknights plus a Saturday morning) starting on 21 Jan. Courses available in Spanish, French, German, Italian, Russian and Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. In Auckland and Wellington. Enrol now!

From the Economist:

Mr Doner hardly fits the profile (except for being a left-handed male). He has the will to sit and memorise verb tables, as one must do to come as far as he has. But he is a sociable and confident teen with a ready smile. He loves memorising pop lyrics and watching movies. He virtually inhabits the languages he speaks; as a colleague said on seeing his video, “he shrugs like a Frenchman and frowns like a Russian.” Most of all, it is obvious how much he enjoys speaking his languages with other people, not just learning them for the purpose of translation or reading (or boasting).

What else is he good at? He gets good grades in maths, but finds it frustrating, and struggles with physics and chemistry. He loves history, a big motivator in his language-learning. His father was once a professional pianist, and the young Mr Doner says that after a few years of lessons, he could “sight-read and accurately play pieces in one go”, though he is out of practice now. He can also quickly learn things by ear. This is perhaps the most intriguing clue to his ability—not just a “systemising” brain, but one highly adept at processing and producing in a given compositional system (musical or linguistic) on the fly, plus a world-beating auditory ability.

What’s next for a 17-year-old hyperpolyglot? He still has a year of high school, and then university, where he plans to study linguistics. He has already taken an interest in language science alongside all of the languages themselves. In an e-mail to me, he recommended Mark Baker’s “The Atoms of Language”, a fairly difficult work of Chomskyan theory (though written for lay readers). In our video, he mentions skipping over easy languages like Spanish, instead choosing new languages like Ojibwe, because they pose novel challenges like agglutination or ergativity.

And after college? Everyone, naturally, asks him if he will be a spy, which he laughs off. In any case, he is by now too well-known to disappear into the shadows. Diplomacy interests him, though. And America’s foreign service would be lucky to have him.

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Three Ways Multilingualism Opens Doors In An Interconnected World

In the past, meeting a person who spoke more than one language was a rarity; before the advent of modern transportation and communication technology, contact with other nations was limited, so knowing more than your native tongue was not, for most people, a necessity.

However, today we live in a very different world. Cell phones, the Internet, and air travel have significantly increased our connectedness to people in other countries, and as the world becomes more globalized, those connections will continue to intensify.

Much has been made about the benefits of being multilingual on the scale of the individual; after all, people who know more than one language have been shown to have greater mental agility, better job prospects, and a sharper understanding of the world around them. But increasing multilingualism around the world also confers distinct advantages on our macro-level, global society.

Take a look at the following ways that greater multilingualism provides opportunities for increased understanding between (seemingly) disparate groups:

More Clear and Open Communication Between Governments

Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, most national governments have recognized the importance of remaining in close contact with those of other countries around the world. Forging good relationships with other nations is a key to maintaining international stability, which is, of course, to our mutual benefit.

Multilingualism among world leaders allows governments to communicate clearly and openly with one another, and serves to break down barriers where they may exist. For example, it’s hard to forget President Kennedy’s powerful “Ich Bin Ein Berliner” (“I Am a Berliner”) speech, delivered in West Germany1963; he gave large portions of the address in German, thereby conveying his camaraderie with the citizens of the divided nation. Despite his famous mistake, in which he accidentally referred to himself as a jelly doughnut, the speech went far in establishing a relationship between the U.S. and West Germany.

It’s important for officials to be able to convey their wants and needs as directly and accurately as possible, especially in a tense situation. Multilingualism allows this, and it helps create a more tangible bond between leaders who are looking for common ground.

Easier Business Dealings and Negotiations

It’s true that the world is becoming more interconnected overall, but more specifically, business has reached international heights more rapidly than most other spheres. For the first time in world history, it’s fast and easy to conduct business transactions between distant nations, and multilingualism is the key making those deals happen.

Although it’s true that English is often the lingua franca, and thus the dominant language when it comes to business deals and negotiations, as countries in the developing world become bigger players in the world economy, multilingualism will be critical in high-stakes negotiations. This is because the nuanced nature of the back-and-forth involved in a business deal requires more than just a basic understanding of one another. Multilingualism among business professionals will allow both parties to convey their interests clearly and maintain a good working relationship. This is why major companies such as Apple, BMW, and Coca-Cola are actively recruiting leaders with the ability to speak more than one language.

Deeper Understanding of Other Cultures

It goes without saying that being multilingual will allow international travelers to interact with other cultures much more easily. For example, having an intimate understanding of Italian will make your trip to Rome a much more satisfying experience.

But the need for cultural sensitivity runs much deeper than a one-week summer vacation; as the expectation that we all become good citizens of the world increases, it’s critical to understand the ins and outs of other societies in more than just a superficial way. Increasing multilingualism provides us with the ability to understand the complexities other cultures in a genuine way. Language is complicated, and word choice means a lot in explanation and descriptions – multilingualism means that none of these fine distinctions will pass us by.

Multilingualism has the power to transform our world – consider learning a language to be a part of the movement!

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This blog article was contributed by Sara Collins, writer for NerdWallet, a site that helps users stay informed about the best ways to save money on travel.

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Language learning tip: No fear

Often people think they have “failed” if they haven't mastered the language they are learning. There is no such thing as failure in language learning. After all, what is the purpose of language?

Language is a tool to get a message across. Don't get caught up with being absolutely perfect. You're not in school anymore. The locals in Mexico or China don't care if you make a few mistakes. By any yardstick, you've succeeded if you can order dinner in the target language. Be proud.

If all you're interested in doing is scoring an “A “, then by all means go do a technical language course at university.

If however you're keen to just chat with locals and don't mind laughing at yourself once in a while, just embrace the language learning journey. You'll discover far more than a new language along the way.

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Summer school – Learn a language in January 2012

Language learning is an aspirational goal that ranks highly on many New Year resolution lists. It’s an especially worthy endeavour for avid travellers wanting to maximise their travel experience. You've probably heard stories from Kiwis who have returned from their “Overseas Experience” lamenting the fact that they would’ve enjoyed themselves more if they could speak the local lingo.

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These days travel is not the only driver of foreign language learning. Increasingly Kiwis realise that knowing a foreign language gives them a distinct edge in dealing with clients and suppliers from other cultures. Job seekers also realise that employers value people who speak more than one language. Language learners also demonstrate to potential employers that they are proactive enough to make the effort to learn a foreign language.

In expectation of a surge in interest from people wanting to learn a language to kick off 2012, we are offering a range of summer intensives.

Courses for beginners are available in Spanish, French, Chinese, Japanese, German, Italian, Korean and Russian. 

No previous knowledge of the language is

required. By the end of this course, you will already know enough to “get by”: you will be able to cope with the most common everyday situations by asking and answering simple questions. and you will be able to understand people when they speak to you about the situations covered.

Kickstart 2012 with a language boost. Sign up online now.

January 2012 language intensive – 10 sessions over 4 weeks

5-26 Jan 2012

Duration: 4 weeks, 10 sessions; Tue & Thu 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM, Sat 9:30 AM-12:30 PM

Session 1, Thu 5-Jan-2012 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM

Session 2, Sat 7-Jan-2012 9:30 AM – 12:30 PM

Session 3, Tue 10-Jan-2012 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM

Session 4, Thu 12-Jan-2012 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM

Session 5, Sat 14-Jan-2012 9:30 AM – 12:30 PM

Session 6, Tue 17-Jan-2012 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM

Session 7, Thu 19-Jan-2012 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM

Session 8, Sat 21-Jan-2012 9:30 AM – 12:30 PM

Session 9, Tue 24-Jan-2012 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM

Session 10, Thu 26-Jan-2012 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM

Cost is $649 (inclusive of all materials, no hidden costs).

Beginners language course (2 weeks)

5-14 Jan-2012 OR 18-28 Jan 2012

Duration 2 weeks, 5 sessions (Tue & Thurs 6:00-9:00pm, Sat 9:30am-12:30pm)

Session 1, Thu 5-Jan-2012 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM

Session 2, Sat 7-Jan-2012 9:30 AM – 12:30

PM

Session 3, Tue 10-Jan-2012 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM

Session 4, Thu 12-Jan-2012 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM

Session 5, Sat 14-Jan-2012 9:30 AM – 12:30 PM

Cost is $368 (inclusive of all materials, no hidden costs).

Posted via email from Euroasia

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What is it like to learn English?

If by some strange chance you think it’s hard to learn a language which is foreign to you… what’s it like for those who learn English when it’s foreign to them?

Most native speakers of English now deal at some point with people who are not native speakers of English, but how many of us ever

think about what these learners might have struggled with in order to communicate with us?  Very often learning a new language gives us a greater appreciation of the kind of issues that people who’ve learnt English must have had to go through!

If you’ve been learning your new language for some time now, you will no doubt have acquired a feel for what is easy and what is difficult about it.  Of course, different people may react differently to the same situation, so your perceptions may not be quite the same as those of others learning the same language.  Generally, though, people tend to agree about what is difficult and what isn’t.

So what is difficult about learning English?

We should just mention that the perceived difficulty of a foreign language is usually linked quite closely to a learner’s previous linguistic experiences.  If you’ve learnt Spanish, either as your first language or as a second language, you shouldn’t find Italian too hard, because the two languages are closely related.   If you’re a monolingual speaker of Chinese, however, any European language is going to be quite a challenge, because they work in a very different way from your own.  Things which are unfamiliar tend to be harder to grasp.  When it comes to learning English, then, some people will be confronted with points which for them are really challenging, whereas for others they are quite straightforward.

Interestingly, though, English has certain characteristics which are tricky for pretty much everyone, and this is what we’re going to touch upon here.

Most of us are aware that our spelling system can be a minefield: surely any “system” in which “ough” is pronounced differently in “cough”, “rough”, “thorough”, “bough”, “ought” and “through” is going to fox any learner of the language!  Yes, our  insistence on spelling words the way they were pronounced in Chaucer’s day is a bit tedious.  And yet, oddly enough, spelling doesn’t seem to be the biggest problem that learners face.  First of all, it’s not totally erratic: if you suddenly saw the (non-existent) words “moggle” or “vebbit”, you’d know exactly how to pronounce them, and the reason is that we do have certain rules – lots of them –  which are pretty much inviolable.   Secondly, people tend just to learn the spelling of the words when they learn the meaning (much as people learning European languages try to remember the genders of nouns).  And thirdly, spelling is not crucial to communication anyway: it clearly doesn’t matter when we speak, and we do have spellcheckers on our computers when we write!

Pronunciation is perhaps another matter:

it’s much more obvious.  Some of our sounds are found in pretty much every language, and shouldn’t be too hard; examples are “m” and “n”.  Overall, however, English pronunciation is quite distinct from that of all other languages, even those which are quite closely related, and any non-native speakers may have trouble with a good few unfamiliar sounds.   Some of the sounds which are not very common across the spectrum of languages are as follows:

Consonants

“r” – some sort of “r” is probably found in most languages, but both the British and American variants are quite rare

“h” – not a very unusual sound, but a lot of well-known languages don’t have it (e.g. French, Italian, Spanish, Russian…)

“v” – often absent from Asian languages

“th” – we have two sounds represented by these two letters (think “the” as opposed to “thing”), and neither of them is very common

Vowels

We have a big range of sounds, and many of them are quite unusual.  The vowel sounds we have in “and”, “up”, “caught”, “show” and “pure” are quite distinctive, and not often found in other languages.  Just to complicate things further, our own pronunciation of vowel sounds varies so much depending on where we come from: just think how people fromNew Zealand, southernEnglandand theUSAwould pronounce the word “car”.  Which model is the poor foreign learner to follow?

And yet, even if your pronunciation isn’t spot on, you can still make yourself understood very well.  If someone has a stereotypical French accent and says, “Eet’s quite ‘arhrd to speak weezout a Frhrench acceonn”, we can surely understand as well as sympathise…

When we look at English grammar, we can actually say that a lot of it is pretty straightforward.  It used to be more complicated, more like German or Russian today, but it has been greatly simplified over the centuries.  We don’t add many bits onto our words, and it’s not that hard to string a few of them together to make something which makes sense even if it’s not perfect.  But our grammar still presents its challenges!

The thing which nearly all learners have trouble getting to grips with is our excessive number of tenses.  Technically, a lot of what we tend to call “tenses” are not tenses at all, but rather a reflection of “aspect”, which deals with the way in which we look at an event rather than whether it’s set in the past, present or future.   Whatever we call these things, just sympathise for a moment with the poor learner who has to distinguish between “I went”, “I have gone”, “I have been going”, “I was going”, “I used to go”, “I did go”, “I had gone”, “I had been going” – all of them relating to some event in the past!  No other language has this pattern of tense forms.   Mandarin doesn’t have any tenses at all…  You can rest assured that learners of English will have spent many hours grappling with the tenses.  And yet, if they get them wrong, we still understand them, don’t we?  “I have seen him yesterday” may sound funny, but we know what is meant.

The last area to mention is vocabulary.  English is fortunate in that it has a lot of short words – hundreds just have one syllable, and you can go quite a long way with simple words which are not that hard to learn.  So what’s tricky about the vocabulary?

Well, take the word “get”.  In itself, it has quite a lot of meanings, but look what happens when it’s combined with other little words: “get on”, “get up”, “get in”, “get through”, “get by” – not to mention “get out of”, “get with it” and “get off with”, and (literally) dozens more.  Just to add to the complexity, sometimes there are literal and more figurative meanings – “get

on the bus” is not the same use of “get on” as in “get on in the world”.

These structures are called “phrasal verbs”, and they’re hard!  There’s no avoiding them if you want to master English, and the only thing you can really do is learn them when you come across them.  And don’t think it’s just “get” which has all these variants – most of our other common verbs can also be used with little words like “up” and “down” and turned into phrasal verbs.

The thing is, though, no one sits down and learns a list of hundreds of phrasal verbs.  You may start off with some really common examples like “stand up” and “sit down”, and actually before you know it you’ve learnt dozens of them.  Sometimes there are alternatives: you may feel that “I descended the mountain” sounds awkward compared to “I went down the mountain”, but when you think that in French this is “J’ai descendu la montagne”, you can see which of the English variants might have greater appeal!

A rather sweeping, but perhaps not unreasonable conclusion about learning English as a foreign language is perhaps this: it’s not that hard to make yourself understood, but if you want to speak it well, it still needs a fair bit of effort.  But then if you think about it, we could probably say something similar about most languages.  So don’t be put off if you get something wrong.  OK, you won’t sound like a native, but everyone knows you’re not a native anyway!

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Multilingual language expert Peter Chapple has spent many years studying English-speakers learning foreign languages, as well as non-English speakers learning English.

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