jeudi 28 juin 2012

Mogadishu: Don't diss the mogul

For a very long time Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, was unofficially marked as the most dangerous city in the world.  Known for the drought, famine, muddy roads and many attacks and civil war, it was far from a place to be. For 20 years the civil war had ruined this once beautiful city and was ruled by Al Shabab islamitic group. It was known as a lawless city where the government hardly had a say. And although you mostly will read warnings on the internet when wanting to go to Mogadishu, the city is slowly changing. Mogadishu is losing it's label for most dangerous city in the world and is trying to built up something we could call at least more sustainable.

lundi 11 juin 2012

Lemme take y'all down South!

Ozark National Forest, Arkansas. Photograph by Peter Essick, National Geographic

I can hear you thinking: what a beautiful picture... Such a breathtaking panorama, yet so unknown by the majority of people. Arkansas is one of the southern states in the US, surrounded by Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Tennessee and Mississippi.

While most people choose to visit the famous East and West (New York or Los Angeles), the southern states of the US have more to offer than you think.

The southern area is known for its distinct American culture that we often see in Wild Western movies. This regional subculture is one of the most written about and studied in the US. While most people think of these states as conservative, religious or rural, it has a rich and vibrant culture which makes the states absolutely worth a visit.

For many years the Southern culture was the only one known in the US. Soul, gospel, rock-and-roll, country and jazz are all products of these states (let's not forget to mention that Elvis himself was born in Mississippi), and still have an impact on the country these days.

But back to what you can do in the Southern states. Below you will find a quick overview of what to do when you're heading down South:

Arkansas - Experience live music during spring and go to the Wakarusa Music and Camping Festival at Mulberry Mountain in northwest Arkansas, Toad Suck Daze in Conway or Riverfest in Little Rock.

Louisiana - Avery Island: Home to the wildlife sanctuary. This island is an 8 mile deep salt-dome where visitors are able to walk or drive through 250 acres of subtropical flora and fauna.

Texas - Texmex, the famous food from this state, is definitely worth a try! Filled tortillas with sauces, meat and cheeses. Nachos,  chili con queso, fajitas and hot salsas are many of the dishes Texas offers. Food in Texas is mainly influenced by the Mexican kitchen.

Oklahoma - The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum is located in Oklahoma city, can it get any more Southern than this? This museum includes the American Rodeo Gallery and the American Cowboy collection. 

Mississippi - Fancy some good ol' blues? The city of Indianola organizes the B.B. King homecoming festival every year in June. A big Southern bbq is also offered at the festival.

Tennessee - Nashville is of course the country music capital of the world, but Tennessee also offers the Great Smokey Mountains, Dollywood (Dolly Parton's amusement park) and Graceland (Elvis' mansion in Memphis).

So buy your plane ticket, rent a camper van, some cowboy boots and a hat, and head off for an amazing road trip in America's Southern states!

And for those of you interested in going to an American High School in one of these beautiful states (or any other state across the US), check it out here, here and here!

vendredi 25 mai 2012

Good bee, see you loter!

" One time when I was Spain I went to a kiosk to buy stamps and an envelope (...)
I knew the word for stamp was 'sello' and that an envelope was a 'sobre', so I thought nothing could go wrong. However, the shopkeeper gave me a desperate look after I have placed my order and started to look for a cigarette brand behind him, which he almost knew didn't exist. Later, when everything was solved, I wondered what the conversation must have sounded like if it would have been in my native language.

I suppose it would have gone as followed:

'Good afternuffle' (the shopkeeper already got a skittish look on his face)
'Two stampers of bla peezzetas and an enveloke, please'.
'Which brand did you say exactly?' (...)
'No, no, I don't want cigarittties. I would have to like stoomps and an enveclock. Please.'
Fortunately another customer just walked in and says he would like to buy stamps himself. I start nodding excitedly at the stamps. The shopkeeper understands me and a moment later I finally have my stampies and my enveloke. With a well-meant 'Good bee!' I left the store."

Freely translated from Remco Campert -'Tot Zoens'.

This phrase is just one of the many language incidents that happen while being abroad. You think you know the language, until you actually have to use it. It might seem more difficult than it looked on paper, and you were so sure you pronounced it correctly...

Maybe it wouldn't be such a bad idea to take a language course in Spanish, Italian or French, to make sure you are able to talk with the locals, to know what jokes they are making during dinner, or to just buy some stamps to send a postcard back home. Languages enrich your life, and you will benefit from them for a life time. They come in handy, even at moments you didn't expect them to.

So think about it, maybe you want to go to Argentina, or to China and you could use some extra lessons in the language they use over there.

Just have a look at our website and see if there is anything that you'd like, we are happy to help you.

mardi 8 mai 2012

The living dead

"Jippus in horto ambulabat. Omnium taedebat. Ecce autem! foramen in saepe factum conspexit, non ita magnum. Mirabatur Jippus quid rerum trans saepem appareret. Regia domus? Murus? An heros? Humi subsidens per foramen spectavit. Quidnam conspexit? Nasum pusillum, osculum, ocellos duos caesios. Ecce puellam, non maiorem Jippo. ‘Quid est tibi nomen?’ rogavit Jippus. ‘Jannica sum,’ puella dixit."

*Translation: Jip was walking in the garden. He was tired of everything. But look, what did he see there? A small whole in the hedge. What can be at the other side of the hedge? Jip thought. A palace? A fence? A hero? He sat on the ground and looked through the whole. What did he see? A small nose. A small mouth. And two grey eyes. There was a girl, not taller than Jip. "What is your name?"  asked Jip. "Janneke", said the girl.

This is a phrase in Latin, one of the 'dead' languages we know in the world. Jippus et Jannica is a parody on the Dutch book: 'Jip en Janneke', which has been a popular book by children for many years. The Dutch book is written by Annie M.G. Schmidt, the Latin version is a translation.

Is Latin a dead language?

Latin is not spoken any more, but many of us still learn this language in High School. Many languages in Europe are a derivative of Latin, and it is still widely used in biomedics and the creation of new words. Even though English derives from a Germanic Language, around sixty per cent of the language comes from Latin. The roman languages like Italian, Spanish and French derive directly from Latin, and therefore they are easier to learn when studying Latin first. Latin is intensively grammatical, so looking at grammar in your native language is therefore highly recommended. The largest institution that is still writing and even speaking in Latin is the catholic church. You often still see motto's in Latin, and Wikipedia even has 70,000 articles written on the Latin page

Cicero, Plato, Shakespeare and many other 'fathers' of the past have written their books and plays in Latin. Even though they are dead, we are still learning the wise ideas and words they wrote. More and more students are taking the Latin exam, and seem interested in this language. They learn about the history of Rome and the understanding of Western civilization, sociology, culture and philosophy. Learning Latin helps them also to expand their vocabulary and has a positive result on their test results in general.

Having this all said: what do you think? Is Latin dead or alive?

Source: Athenaeum-Polak & v Gennep

jeudi 26 avril 2012

Stuff Dutch people like

Being a native Dutchie myself, I do sometimes feel proud of our little country, of our soccer team, our cheese, windmills and bikes. Occasionally I feel the connection with my country while living abroad, and am reminded of my background. We are quite down to earth, and often use the slogan: "Doe normaal!" which means: "Be normal!". However, no other website makes me confront myself with my habits and other customs more than the website stuffdutchpeoplelike.com.

For example, I found out that not every nation puts a birthday calender up their toilet so if you have guests over they can check out everyone's birthday while doing their thing. Isn't it just very convenient? What else do you do while being in there, sitting and waiting?

Other than that, we congratulate each other with someone's birthday. If it's Piet's birthday, you congratulate Piet's mother, father, sisters, brothers, neighbors, friends and other family with his birthday. Myself, I just find it very nice that you think of everyone, and share the joy of Piet's birthday together. However, if I do this while being abroad, I always get incredibly weird glares my way..

Apparently, we also tend to say certain sentences a lot in public. Two examples are "dat mag niet", which means: you are not allowed to do that, and "dat kan niet", which means: that is not possible. Often when you call any customer service you will get to hear the latter unfriendly sentence. A lot of things are not possible to them, because of the many many strict rules we seem to follow in my homeland. The sentence "dat mag niet" is often said to children, when they are behaving in a bad way. Children are taught on a very young age that they should do what is right, and not behave badly. This goes of course perfectly with our very organized, strict and bureaucratic lifestyle. Okay, so that does sound boring, but in a way I believe everything is so well taken care of because of it, that I don't mind those little rules.

Another (seemingly very weird) habit is that we swear with diseases. Not so much normal diseases, but the ones that are not so common anymore. We swear with the plague, the smallpox, cholera, tuberculosis and typhus. It's not like we use these commonly, you will probably just hear them when people are in a fight, or get extremely angry with the weather (something else we Dutchies love to talk about).

So having shared some of my country's habits, I would like to know: What do you think? Are they weird? Did you burst into tears because you had to laugh out loud? Or can you actually relate to some of them?
Leave a comment below and tell us about your country's habits :)

For more funny Dutch habits, check out this website: http://stuffdutchpeoplelike.com/

lundi 23 avril 2012

Man vs. Wild : The new adventure travel

In todays society people want more, better, cooler and newer. This also goes for the travel industry. If you have some money and you want to be 'cool' you don't go to the Greek islands for a holiday anymore. For this new and wealthy generation it's just not done to go camping in France or stay on the seaside of Spain. They want something outrageous and adventurous, they need something spectacular. Or, do they maybe just want to escape from the fast pacing lives they live and discover the unknown gems of nature?

Forbes has made a list of the most remote and adventurous travel destinations in the world. It includes the Galapagos islands, Antarctica and even outer space. Most of these destinations are quite expensive and difficult to reach. On the other hand, they offer a travel that you will probably never forget. Something you will not easily do or see again and will give you lifelong memories.
Check out a few of these remote travel destination below.

The Galapagos islands
Known as the island archipelago of Darwin's theory of natural selection, the Galapagos islands offer an amazing selection of unique animal species. The archipelago is listed as a World Heritage site and strict controls and tourist access make sure the islands protects its flora and fauna. Therefore there are only flights from Guayaquil and Quito, in Ecuador. Once arrived in the Galapagos, you need to stay with a trained guide and walk on the marked paths. This destination can offer you the most amazing snorkel and diving tours, as the islands are listed in the best diving spots in the world.

As the most southern, coldest ad driest continent on Earth, Antarctica is definitely a challenge of adventure. As it is hardly touched by people, and has some permanent scientists, the continent is only populated by unique wildlife. However, traveling there is anything but easy. You have to travel to the southern tip of Argentina and pass the Drake Passage in about two days by boat. If you won't sleep on your boat, it is possible to sleep in tents during land expeditions. Temperatures can fall to -40 C at tourists destinations, but fall even to -80 further down to the South. Antarctica has an extreme climate and therefore many accidents happen every year. In case you didn't think of this yourself yet: This trip is only for die-hards and thrill-seekers.

Easter island
Considered as one of the remotest islands on earth (around 3500 km from Chile) and known for the Moai, the stone sculptures, Easter Island is on the list of remote destinations. The island offers great volcanoes, caves and white beaches. Most other sides, including the Moai, are for free and located on the coastline. The island is only accessible by taking a flight from Santiago in Chile.

Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
If you feel like some real adventure, it is possible to climb the Kilimanjaro. There are different routes to the top and there is lodging available. It is also possible to camp on the mountain, but make sure you have all necessary gear with you. You need to have a licensed guide to go with you, to make sure the journey is safe. The mountain offers amazing views and has rich flora and fauna. Flights are operated daily from Amsterdam to Kilimanjaro (JRO).

Rafting in the Grand Canyon
Many tourists go see the amazing view of the Grand Canyon every year in the United States. But only a few decide to go rafting and experience the inner beauty of the Grand Canyon. You will raft on the Colorado river and camp at night under the blue skies. Trips can be from 3 days up to a 15 day journey in which you will see the entire 225 mile Canyon.

Adventure travel might be the traveling of the future! The good thing about it though, is that in case you are still planning on laying on the Spanish beaches, it won't be busy, cause everyone will be on Antarctica or the Galapagos islands this summer ;)

mardi 17 avril 2012

Parents nightmare of a gap year...

It might seems like a nightmare to many parents: A gap year...

Many students nowadays choose to take a ' year off ' between high school and university. To parents it's usually not the best decision their teenager can make as they are afraid their kid will never attend university anymore. But before parents should freak out about this hype called gap year, let us look at some reasons why or why not take this year off.

So really, do students who choose to take a gap year after high school only think about partying and being extremely lazy? Not quite. It's not their plan to stay degree-less forever, it is their plan to get different experiences in other countries, learn another language or even attend high school in a foreign country. In fact, in many cases it makes students even more focused and they are more sure on what they want with their life. Cause face it, if you're young and not so experienced, how should you know what you want?

If we look at most facts and figures, many students change their degree because they didn't know what to study. Or, it takes them one or even two more years extra to graduate as they can not seem to find motivation for their studies. Sending a child to university who is not ready, may even result in a real nightmare. Better prepared students, means high completion rates in university.
Even prestigious universities like Harvard and Princeton are talking about students taking a gap year before attending their studies, to be more focused, experienced and sure of their academic journey.

Gap years can exist of many different programs and destinations. So in case your parents are persuaded by you taking a gap year, it is still necessary to have a look at the possibilities and make sure you go as prepared as possible. The planning of the gap year is almost as important as the gap year itself, as you will learn how to take care of things on your own.

Money matters
Taking a gap year costs money. Language courses, high schools years, internships or volunteering programs all cost money. Of course you can save up money or earn money during a summer job before leaving the country. In most cases a financial hand from the parents is still needed. Make sure you go prepared financially, especially in case unexpected expenses occur.

Choose the dream
Gap years can be a journey of a lifetime. It can teach you who you are and what you want in life. To be able to make this happen, it is important to choose the right program. As there are so many different websites about gap years and tons of programs, it's not so easy to make that decision. Inform yourself well before you go and make sure you go for something you think fits best with you, or, is the biggest challenge..

Planning is the key
It sounds a bit cheesy, but you do need to plan this whole thing. Make sure you know the deadlines, take care of insurances, get your malaria pills and think of an option for plan B in case your choice doesn't work out. And oh yeah, don't forget the application deadlines of universities for the year after.

And while you might start planning your maybe-expensive gap year abroad, consider the following quote:

' Travel is the only thing you'll buy that makes you richer '.

I rest my case.

jeudi 12 avril 2012

How shocking can culture be?

Imagine, you planned your first long-term trip abroad, have packed your heavy over weighted suitcase, pictures of mom and dad peeking out of your agenda and some magazines in your bag in case you'll forget your mother-tongue.

While reading this, you might think: Ready to go! But much less is true. Many people are not well prepared for a so-called culture shock. Or even less expected: a reverse culture shock!
If you think of most countries, they all have food, families eating dinner at night, a t.v., a bathroom and children going to school. So how can having dinner with your family at home, be so different from having dinner with your family abroad?

About a year ago, I planned my own backpacking trip to Thailand and Malaysia. With only 8 kilos in my backpack, I felt the king of the world and ready to go for this amazing adventure. While having never been in an Asian country before, I thought I'd knew enough looking at brochures, pictures and stories on the internet and a few Lonely Planets. The media nowadays is able to portray much more of a country than it did years ago. Everyone can see commercials on ' Malaysia truly Asia' and get a quick preview of what the country must be like. Travel agencies inform you about the beautiful temples you'll see and the good value for your money. In a way it is great that we are able to gather so much information before our departure, but on the other hand it can in no way describe what you will experience in your journey..

Arriving in Asia, I immediately felt the heat and moisture of the climate, something I'm definitely not used to. Just a few seconds later the assistant of the hotel came to greet me with the widest smile and right away it became clear to me that Asian people are one of the most welcoming people I ever met. They love showing their culture, their country, their food and everything else they have to offer. Not a moment during my travelling through Thailand and Malaysia I had doubts in my mind about their willingness of making my stay as pleasant as possible. Of course you have to get used to the bugs, the not always hygiene in public bathrooms and the not always fast pace working style.

The best way to deal with the culture shock you will experience is to not cling too much to your own culture and embrace the culture you are about to see and feel. The key word is to be open minded and to let yourself be overwhelmed by the beauty of other people, culture and food. Try something new, dare to do something you never thought you'd do before and try not be afraid of what might happen.

The world has so much richness to discover, and it's not all gold that glitters. It's in the little things that you'll learn while being abroad, that make you realize how important it is to travel. After I had returned in my own country, I tried to implement these things I've learned while being in Asia. The hospitality of the people, the try-not-to-worry-so-much attitude and the respect they show to nature and animals. Cause even though you can have either bad or good experiences abroad with different cultures, it will always change your life and will teach you that going abroad is the best choice you ever made.

mercredi 28 mars 2012

Brand new interns!

Howdy guys and gals!
I would like to introduce you to some of our new interns here at Langues Vivantes - Easy Languages!
We are very excited to be able to add some new members to the Brussels team, who are willing to work for our different language teams. Being an intern at Easy Languages means not only work for our office in Brussels, but also being able to travel around Europe, how cool is that?
Since our employees come from all different countries and regions, many languages in the office are spoken, like French, Dutch, Spanish, Italian, Polish and Portuguese. Definitely a good opportunity for the interns to work on their language skills and get to know other cultures. Enough with the small talk, let me introduce you to our brand new interns!

Name: Marlène Hamon
What do you study? I study economics
What is your position? I work for the french market
Which country and city are you from? I am French and I come from Vannes (Brittany)
Why did you choose for Easy Languages / Langues Vivantes? Because it is a young, dynamic and international firm
Which language would you still like to learn and why: Spanish because it sounds good and there are so many spanish speakers
What's your favourite holiday? That would be backpacking in Marocco

Name: Damien Eck
What do you study? I study Tourism and Recreation Management in The Netherlands
What is your position? I work for the Dutch market
Which country and city are you from? I am from The Netherlands, from the city of Leiden
Why did you choose for Easy Languages / Langues Vivantes? I chose for the company because working in a small and ambitious company in the tourism sector attracts me a lot. 
Which language would you still like to learn and why: Improve my Spanish, because it is one of the most important languages in the world. 
What's your favourite holiday? Any country that offers a perfect mix of culture, nature, sun and sea. 

Name: Bernardo Starita
What do you study? I study International Relations and political science in Bologna
What is your position? I am an intern for the Italian market
Which country and city are you from? From Livorno - Italy
Why did you choose for Easy Languages / Langues Vivantes? I think it's a great opportunity to put in practice the tools I gained during my studies
Which language would you still like to learn and why: I'm currently learning French, as soon as I can I want to move to Brasil to learn Portuguese and discover the dynamic life of a developing country
What's your favourite holiday? The best holiday I can think of is a tour around the Mediterranean on a sailing boat

Name: Sophie Faniel
What do you study? I am studying International Business
What is your position? I work on the French market
Which country and city are you from? Liège, Belgium
Why did you choose for Easy Languages / Langues Vivantes? Because I love travelling and learning foreign languages so I’m more than happy to promote all the linguistic programs of the company. I also really like the international team I’m working with.
 Which language would you still like to learn and why: I really need to improve my Dutch because that’s one of the official languages here in Belgium.

What's your favourite holiday? City trips with friends all around Europe.

Name: Yashira Groenendijk
What do you study? Cultural Economics / Management
What is your position? I am an intern for the English market
Which country and city are you from? I'm from the harbour city of Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Why did you choose for Easy Languages / Langues Vivantes? The reason I chose for Easy Languages is because I am interested in working in an international environment where I can work with one of my greatest passions: travelling!
Which language would you still like to learn and why: I would like to learn Italian, because I love the way the language sounds. Also, I want to enhance my language skills in French and Spanish, because these languages are spoken worldwide.
What's your favourite holiday? Either backpacking in South East Asia or a safari in deep down Africa.

Name: Ellen Vanbaelen 

What do you study? Master degree in Marketing and Business 

What is your position? Administrative assistant for the French market

Which country and city are you from? Montpellier in the South of France 

Why did you choose for Easy Languages / Langues Vivantes? I choose Easy Languages because for me it is the perfect link between languages, business and marketing.  

Which language would you still like to learn and why? I would like to learn German or Italian as they are languages of countries I like and would like to spend some time in 

What's your favourite holiday? My favourite holidays are holidays with my boyfriend or family. I like  European trips so that I can  easely visit many places 

jeudi 22 mars 2012

Get ready for Bournemouth!

Just a little more than a week to go, and our first students will head off to Bournemouth to study English ! In both Easter and summer holidays we offer students the opportunity to go on an accompanied group travel from Belgium to the sunniest city of Southern England! As for now, the weather prospects for Easter in Bournemouth are quite good. It looks like we have some sunny days ahead of us!

Bournemouth is said to be one of the finest student cities in Southern England, and has long beaches to relax on. It has a yearly mild climate which invites many people to come and visit for their holidays.  Besides beaches, Bournemouth has other things to offer: many shops, restaurants, parks and gardens, water sports and theatres. It is also known for its pier at the beach, where people can walk from the Boscombe pier to the Bournemouth pier. It seems like our students won’t have any time to be bored.

Our two language partner schools, ETC and Westbourne, are carefully chosen and both have a long history of providing English language courses. Most of our students will take the vacation course load, where they get 20 hours of lessons per week, and can combine this with the activities that are organized in the afternoon. They will receive five half-days a week of activities, such as cultural outings to Swanage, Poole and Christchurch, go bowling or have a lovely barbeque at night.

Overall, we think Bournemouth is a great place to mix studying with pleasure and we hope that this Easter trip will be a good start of the season. We hope our students will enjoy the trip and learn to love the beauty that the United Kingdom has to offer!

For more information on our Easter and Summer courses in Bournemouth, click here