The reason why New York is a super popular touristic destination is because it’s such a diverse city and it has something for everyone. More than one person told me before I went “Oh, you’ll love it! It’s my favourite city!”
So what makes it so loved? New York is definitely impressive. All the famous places you’ve seen in movies, the skyscrapers, rushed people, Central Park, they all make you feel the strong impact of this powerful city.
If you really want to “feel” the city and get that really local feeling, I’d suggest saving up and finding a place to stay on the Manhattan island, either a hotel or an airbnb – it’s close to everything and you’ll earn more time to look around than spend on transportation.
I’m not usually the type of tourist to go on the beaten path but some of the popular places have really fascinated me, like Top of The Rock, which is a three level observation deck at the 67th, 69th, and 70th floors of 30 Rockefeller Plaza. The Empire State Building is another place you can get 360° views of the city, however if you have to choose between the two, I’d go with Top of The Rock; it has windows instead of a fence and the highest level doesn’t have any restrictions. It’s totally safe though, I promise. Timing of the people going up is more organised and you actually have enough space to take photos and enjoy the view.
Take a day for Central Park, it’s a fantastic place. If you’re working your way up North, on the West side of the Park you’ll find the Guggenheim Museum, which is a real masterpiece of architecture and a great art museum.
West Village and Greenwich Village are definitely the cutest districts. If you’re a fan of Friends, that’s where their famous building is! Sadly, it’s just a normal residential building, as the show was all filmed in studios in California.
Another interesting place that I loved was The High Line. It’s an old elevated section of a railway in Chelsea district transformed into a 1.45-mile-long (2.33 km) linear park. While you’re there make sure to see Chelsea Market – an old factory now transformed into an indoor food hall. They have amazing food from all over the world. It’s very hard to resist eating everything in sight, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
There are many great places in New York that are waiting to be discovered. Just get lost on the streets of different districts and wander around, they all have their own unique character.
Travelling to New York? Be prepared with uTalk – you can use it from over 100 languages!
Today marks the start of the holy month of Ramadan, where millions of Muslims around the world will spend the month fasting and praying. It is believed that 1400 years ago the Quran was shown to the Prophet Muhammad in this month. The start of Ramadan varies around 11 days each year, as it is all to do with the lunar cycle; this year the new lunar moon was seen on Sunday evening in the Middle East.
Potentially the most well known part of Ramadan is the fasting that happens. Muslims are not allowed to eat or drink during daylight. For those who miss a day of fasting they have to make up for this on another day, for example those who are travelling a long distance are allowed to eat and drink; but must make up for this another time. During Ramadan, breakfast or ‘Suhoor’ as it’s known, must be eaten half an hour before sunrise, this is also where people have the chance to drink water to be hydrated for the day ahead.
At the end of the day after sundown a communal meal is made, called ‘Iftar’, which literally translates into ‘break fast’. This is where people come together and they can eat until the next morning’s Suhoor. At both meals, fresh fruit and vegetables are served, along with halal meat, cheeses, breads and sweets. The meal caters for all of the food groups needed for a healthy body. Following the main meal different snacks can be prepared such as dates.
As well as having to follow strict eating and drinking guidelines, during the month of Ramadan, Muslims will visit the Mosque regularly. The month is used as a way to improve morality and work on themselves. Last year 14 million Muslims visited the city of Mecca within the first 2 weeks of the holy month. Mecca is the holiest city in the Islamic religion, and is the place where Muhammad first saw the Quran.
At the end of Ramadan, Muslims celebrate ‘Eid al-Fitr’ which translates as the ‘festival or breaking the fast’; here they gather at the Mosque for a prayer and spend all day with family and friends. The celebration goes on for three days and marks a new beginning for each individual.
Valentine’s Day is a moment we should all pause our busy lives to celebrate love and the important people in our lives with whom we share special moments – not only lovers but also friends or family.
Obviously a popular holiday on the American continent, followed by Western Europe and in the last years Eastern Europe, the world’s interest towards the popular celebration of love has been rising.
Although Valentine’s Day is internationally celebrated on 14th February, some cultures have their own version of it around the year.
1. Dragobete – Romania
Romanians celebrate Dragobete on the 24th of February, a day that not only celebrates love but also the fact that spring is getting close. In old times it was an occasion for the young girls and boys to get together and play different games, dance and confess their love for each other.
2. Dia dos Namorados – Brazil
Brazilians celebrate Dia dos Namorados on 12th June, which is the day before Saint Anthony’s day (the marriage saint). One of the reasons Brazilians choose to celebrate love on this day is that traditional Valentine’s Day on February 14th would coincide with the Carnival celebration, which takes place in February and some of March. Dia dos Namorados is a day when people exchange little gifts, like sweets and flowers and lovers enjoy a romantic dinner or night out.
3. Qi xi – China
The Chinese version of Valentine’s Day is celebrated on the seventh night of the seventh month (also called Double Seven festival) of the Chinese lunar calendar – that is sometime in August. Qi xi (pronounced chee – she) is nowadays celebrated similarly to other cultures by offering flowers and chocolates to the loved ones as well as couples spending a romantic day together.
4. Valentine’s Day and White Day – Japan
Japanese culture celebrates love on the same day as Valentine’s Day but instead of men offering gifts to women, it’s the other way around. Then one month later, on 14th March on White Day, it’s the men’s turn to reciprocate the gifts. The difference is that Valentine’s Day chocolates are a symbol of a man’s popularity, but the ones on White Day are only for couples or romantically involved people. Black Day (on April 14th) however is a day when the singles, or the people that haven’t received any gifts on any of the holidays, gather to “commiserate”, often wearing black, eating black coloured food and complaining about their love life.
No matter how you choose to celebrate Valentine’s Day – or maybe you don’t celebrate at all – we believe love is a great feeling that we should hold onto every day and show our loved ones how much they mean to us.
Download our app uTalk – Learn a Language to find out how to say “I love you” in 130 languages.
I don’t know about you, but I love New Year’s Eve. Not because of all the parties (twelve months ago I saw in the new year at home with a cup of tea, because I’m that cool), but because it’s a great time to set some new goals.
Of course, you can set goals any time, but there’s something special about the fresh start that comes with a new year. It’s like the first page of a brand new notebook; any previous failed attempts or mistakes are erased and you can start over with a clear target in mind.
Yesterday the British Council, supported by actor Larry Lamb, launched a #LearnALanguage campaign, which aims to get Brits learning a language in 2016.
And over 200 people will be doing just that with our free uTalk challenge, which starts tomorrow – learning everything from French to Wolof (there’s still time to join, by the way…).
But why should you learn a language this new year? Here are my top 4 reasons:
Everyone likes making new friends, and it’s a lot easier to do that if you speak the same language. Sometimes all it can take is one word to break the ice, so even if all you know is ‘hello’, ‘thank you’ or ‘where is the toilet?’ – hey, it’s a start. (And if you can speak a bit of Xhosa or Korean, it’s a great way to show off at parties and instantly become the coolest person in the room.)
The New Year is a time for new opportunities… and learning a language brings you so many. Travel the world. Get a new job. Meet the love of your life. As Larry Lamb says in this video, his enjoyment of languages directly led to his 40-year career as an actor – who knows where it could take you?
It’s good for your brain
A not so nice side effect of the New Year celebrations is the reminder that we’re a year older and time is passing far too terrifyingly quickly. So let’s grab the chance to help out our poor ageing brains; research has shown that bilingual people have better memories and are more successful at multitasking, and speaking a second language can delay the onset of dementia.
And sometimes, that’s the only reason you need. Discovering a new language and culture is one of the most fascinating and rewarding things you can do, and there really is nothing like the buzz you get the first time you have a conversation with someone – however basic – and the two of you understand each other.
So, which language will you learn in 2016?
Happy New Year everyone!
Nancy Reynolds is a freelance writer from the USA, who’s currently working on a novel. In her spare time she studies Persian and has vocabulary contests with her teenaged daughter who has studied Latin, German, Mandarin and Ancient Greek. Here’s her language story…
For some people, learning a foreign language is good for business, a school requirement or a necessity because of a move. For me, it started in eighth grade with French, but more recently, it was to understand some Iranian friends I made on the Internet. Although my friends all know English, when they wrote posts in Persian, I felt left out. Although the different alphabet seemed daunting, I had studied Cyrillic for Russian and had done well, so I figured I could learn another alphabet. One reason I keep at it is to be able to read more and understand more of the Persian in movies.
A rewarding aspect of learning any foreign language is to understand another person. Values and concepts can be a direct result of the kind of language a person uses. Persian past tenses can distinguish between whether the life of a person in the past is still relevant today or not. We don’t have that in English. The term for a double bed in Italian is “letto matrimoniale,” implying that a person shouldn’t be sleeping in such a bed if not married. Which verb for “to be” you use in Spanish to tell someone she looks good will reveal whether you mean all the time or just today.
One of my greatest challenges in learning Persian is having to do it outside of a classroom. My friends are very busy or want me to help them with English, so I get little practice with spoken Persian. EuroTalk has made a difference because it is fun and I can use it whenever I want. The promotional assertion that it is good for five minutes or for hours of learning is quite true.
Ioana at EuroTalk asked me what my favorite word in my favorite language is, but I don’t think she was expecting the answer I have. It is “love” in English. To choose my favorite word in Persian is a challenge! I guess it would have to be “salam”, which means “hello”. Why? I have learned hello in many languages.
It is a thrill to greet someone in his or her language, get a stunned expression and then a broad smile. Such a simple word says I care about communication enough to step outside of my comfort zone.
Sometimes a funny, weird or awkward situation has occurred when I used a foreign language with a native or another speaker. In French I unintentionally propositioned a friend! Fortunately, he knew what I meant. Two delightful moments speaking Persian with natives were when I asked “Khoobi?” It is the casual way to say “How are you?” They were quite impressed.
A fun triumph, though, was reading the Persian on a soda can in a friend’s photo. Even though some of the letters were obscured, I still could read the well-known brand name: Fanta. I’ll drink to that.