Today’s guest post is by Ed, who’s taking part in our uTalk Challenge. After successfully completing uTalk Japanese in January, Ed’s turned his attention to Welsh for February. Here he explains why learning a language is important for everyone, regardless of age.
I am a retired IT Manager aged 66 years. I am married with two grown up sons, one married with two children. My wife still works so I am one of these modern ‘house husbands’, which is fine with me. Other than gardening, ironing, shopping, cooking and cleaning (I don’t do much of the latter), I play golf, help with a local amateur dramatic society (treasurer and occasional performer), sing in our church choir, and keep fit.
Since grammar school I have always been interested in languages and linguistics. I put this down to having had a very good French teacher and an inclination towards role play, hence the amateur dramatics. I also did German at Grammar School, and did Latin ‘O’ level in one year, which I really enjoyed.
In 1970 I travelled overland to India and learn some Turkish and Farsi to help me along the way. Many years later I worked in Dubai for a while and learnt some Arabic. Over the years I have picked up some Italian and Spanish in relation to holidays.
When the opportunity to join the uTalk Challenge came along it seemed the perfect way to indulge my linguistic interests and to “stimulate the little grey cells” and slow down the aging process.
Four years ago my wife and I visited Japan for the Cherry Blossom Festival and I learnt some Japanese. That came in very handy as English wasn’t as widely spoken as I had thought it would be. We loved the country and the people and I found the language interesting, hence my choice of Japanese for my first month.
I think the uTalk Challenge offers a unique opportunity to try out a number of languages that are completely different from English and Indo-European languages in general. It’s a great mental exercise for any one, not just for someone my age. It also means that you can learn something of the language of a country when going on holiday, something I believe shows respect for the people and their culture, and enhances your experience. Better than just buying a phrase book, it allows you to hear the pronunciation by native speakers. You can, as I have done, download the extra topics and choose which one you want to study. You have nothing to lose and a great deal to gain.
Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, is known for being a global business hub and home to some of the world’s most incredible buildings. Amy visited the city over the Easter holiday and loved it; here are her top ten reasons to visit…
1. Burj Khalifa
The tallest building in the world – at least for another few months, anyway – is a sight you definitely won’t be able to miss. Designed to look like the Hymenocallis flower, it is beautiful from the outside and surprisingly not out of place or invasive to its surroundings. If you’re able to go up to the viewing platforms, I would recommend going at sunset because the view is spectacular, and to be able to view Dubai from such a height is really special. However, if you aren’t able to go up the Khalifa, you have to go to the fountains at the bottom, where you can see them dancing to different types of music.
2. The Dubai Mall
The Dubai Mall is the world’s largest shopping, leisure and entertainment destination. Anything and everything you can think of is there; it’s where the locals go to shop and even people from Abu Dhabi come at the weekend. They have a waterfall with bronze statues diving from the waterfall – this is where I found it rather peaceful and zoned out of the crowds behind me. It is definitely somewhere to go and have a look around, especially as it is attached to the Khalifa, but be prepared for the crowds.
3. The architecture
Dubai has grown considerably in the last 25 years. You can find pictures of Dubai in 1991, when there were only a handful of tall buildings, compared to now where it has become an architectural paradise. My personal favourite was the Cayan Tower, as it seemed to constantly glisten in the sun from every angle. I have also never seen a twisted building before.
This hotel on the man-made island Palm Jumeirah is simply incredible; it’s huge, and there are so many things that you can do. There is the aquarium, water park, swimming with dolphins and now swimming with sea lions. We had a lovely day here; firstly swimming with dolphins, and the look on my little brothers’ and sister’s face when they got to stroke the dolphins was magical. Then we went to the water park where they have awesome rides. It is definitely worth spending a day here.
5. The beaches
The beaches on the Palm felt a little too fake to me. However, the beaches off the Palm were beautiful. The sea was crystal clear, so you could see where you were walking, and rock-free so you didn’t have to worry about stubbing your toe. We got to see the sea when it was perfectly still, which was lovely for swimming in. Then we got to see it when the waves were huge; this was great fun to jump the waves. You felt safe the whole time, as there were lifeguards in kayaks out at sea as well as several on the beach.
6. The weather
We were in Dubai for eight days and the weather was glorious the whole time; if anything it became too hot on one day, when it reached 42°C. There aren’t many places where you can escape to at Easter for a week and be guaranteed good weather the whole time you are there, but Dubai is definitely a safe bet.
7. Sky Dive Dubai
I think it is on quite a lot of people’s bucket list to do a sky dive, and I finally gained the courage to sign up to do one. The experience is one that is tricky to put into words, as you going through several different stages. In the plane there are nerves, but they’re very good at keeping you talking so you don’t notice how high you are. Next, walking up to the door I felt complete terror and it finally sunk in that I was about to jump out of a plane!!! Then just pure adrenaline throughout the free fall; this was definitely my favourite stage. Once the parachute releases, there’s relief at first and then you get to enjoy Dubai from the sky, admiring the view from different angles. Once the landing is over, there is the ‘thank goodness I made it down safely’ feeling, followed by ‘I want to do it all over again’!
8. Hotel Al Qasr
We had a little disaster with our first hotel; however when we moved to our second hotel the Al Qasr, I have never seen anything like it. It’s an oasis in paradise. You have to get boats to different parts of the hotel, which is a great experience and a good way to see different parts of the hotel. There’s even a traditional souk, where you can go and practise your haggling skills.
9. The unexpected
Wherever you go in Dubai you never really know what you are going to get, which makes it all the more exciting. You never know if you are going to find something modern or something more traditional; around each corner lies something different. That is one of the things I love about Dubai, the architecture and landscape varies so dramatically. I can’t wait to go back and explore even more.
10. Desert Adventures
This is a great excursion to do; I admit it’s a little cheesy but it’s great fun, and definitely an experience you won’t forget. You get picked up in a big 4×4 and before long you have left the concrete jungle and are into the desert. You skid down sand dunes and attempt to get back up them; I have full respect for the drivers as I have no idea how we didn’t end up rolling down the dunes. Next you get to watch the sunset over the desert, which is stunning, followed by dinner in the desert at a makeshift fort. You are serenaded by belly dancers and can enjoy a camel ride.
Have you ever been to Dubai? What are you favourites bits about this diverse city?