Archive for the ‘Historic’ Category

10 Things You Must See When You Travel to Spain

Posted on December 2nd, 2013by Melanie
In Culture, Historic, Spanish | Leave a Comment »

You think of Spain and immediately the phrase ‘Sun, sand and sangria’ pops into your head; but that’s not all that Spain has to offer. Here are the top ten places for you to visit in this fascinating country:

1. Alhambra

You can’t visit Spain without going to the stunning Alhambra. You can tick both ‘culture’ and ‘history’ off of your checklist once you’ve seen the exquisite ‘Red Castle’ in all its splendour, and you’ll soon realize why it’s Spain’s top tourist destination.

2. Mezquita de Cordoba

You’ll get a crick in your neck from staring up at the shining columns of jasper, marble, onyx and granite as you wander through them; the Mezquita de Cordoba won’t fail to dazzle you.

El Escorial3. El Escorial

You’ve done the historical bit, the cultural bit, the scenic bit…how about something a bit morbid and gross? In the mausoleum of El Escorial, near the capital of Madrid, you visit the crypt and see all of the marble coffins that hold the bones of the kings and queens of Spain. If that’s not creepy enough for you, knowing that you’re only a few steps away from the ‘rotting room’ might be!

4. Sagrada Família

It’s hard to miss this sight! You’ll love the cosmopolitan city of Barcelona but you’ll be awestruck at the Sagrada Família. The bizarre and dramatic neo-Gothic style Roman Catholic church is like no other building you will have ever seen…no, really! It’s not actually finished, so take some pics now and then come back to Spain again later to see how they’re getting along.

5. Ibiza

If you like to party, Ibiza is the place to be! As the clubbing capital of the world, it has an unmatched party scene and you’ll want to be a part of it. Loud music, thronging crowds and the top clubs; kick back and party!

6. Cuenca

Visit the medieval city of Cuenca to see the bizarre ‘hanging houses’. Situated between Madrid and Valencia, the houses have been precariously built right on the edges of the steep cliffs, appearing to hang on to them. If you’re brave enough, you can even stand on the balcony of one!

7. Aqueduct of Segovia

It’s hard to imagine how this was built in the first place, let alone how it’s still standing, but the ancient Aqueduct of Segovia was made from 24,000 massive granite blocks without using any mortar! You can take some great photos of this awesome ‘balancing’ monument to show your friends when you get back home…but maybe don’t stand underneath it, just in case.

8. La Concha

For beach-lovers, La Concha in San Sebastian is the place to go! If you’re planning on sunbathing in Spain then the best city beach in Europe has to be top of your list. So get your sun cream, shades and sunbed ready for a day of chilled out tanning.

9. Palacio Real de Madrid

For some family snaps of the royals, try the Palacio Real of Madrid. You´ll be gobsmacked at the luxury in the palace. Although it’s their official residence, the Spanish Royal Family only really use it for state ceremonies, so you might have to make do with a postcard of them instead.

10. Guggenheim Museum

For a spectacular sight in Bilbao, make sure you see the Guggenheim Museum. This bizarre looking building has an extraordinary style that you won’t want to miss.


Spain has customs steeped in tradition yet it caters for a tourist market, allowing you to explore the culture and history of Spain while having fun in the sun. Spaniards are very hospitable people and you’ll be made to feel very welcome in this country of contrasts; but if you want to experience the country like a true local, give the language a go – brush up on your Spanish skills, pack your suitcase, hop on a plane and head straight for Spain!

Have you ever visited any of these Spanish must-sees? Would you add anything to our list?

Hidden Meanings

Posted on September 29th, 2013by Melanie
In Historic, Invented languages, Language acquisition | Leave a Comment »

Double DutchSecret languages have been used for centuries, both verbally and non-verbally, as an essential way of communication where normal vocalization has been restricted or prohibited. Travellers used secret languages amongst themselves to retain their identity when they travelled through and worked in other communities; Polari was used by gay men in Britain when homosexual activity was illegal, to protect themselves from conspirators and undercover policemen, and was used considerably in the British Merchant Navy; American POWs in Vietnam developed a tapping code with their fingers when they were prevented from speaking to each other.

Nowadays, there’s little need for them and secret languages are usually no more than language games. We´ve all tried speaking in secret languages as kids, getting a kick out of no-one else being able to understand what we´re saying. Some classic secret languages are described below, using ‘Mary had a little lamb’ as an example for each.

Pig Latin

This is the most widely known secret language and is constructed by taking the first letter of a word and placing it at the end of the word, then adding ‘ay’:

Arymay adhay aay ittlelay amblay.

Double Dutch (see picture)

All consonants are replaced with a syllable, while vowels remain the same:

Mumarugyub hutchadud a lulituttutlule lulamumbub.


‘Egg’ is added before each vowel:

Meggary heggad egga leggittlegge leggamb.

Eggy-Peggy is the English equivalent of the US spoken Ubbi Dubbi which adds ‘ub’ before each vowel sound.

Have you ever been intrigued by secret languages? Which ones did you try speaking when you were younger?

Confusing Conversation

Posted on September 28th, 2013by Melanie
In dialects, English, Historic | Leave a Comment »

Double Dutch 2You have absolutely no idea what that person just said to you and your blank look says it all. They might as well be speaking to you in double Dutch!

The term ‘double Dutch’ originated after the Anglo-Dutch wars, a time when all things Dutch were spoken of in an unflattering light by the English. For example:


  • Dutch courage – a brash form of bravery induced by alcohol.
  • Dutch comfort – a cold comfort which is only a comfort at all because things could have been worse.
  • Dutch treat – this doesn’t constitute a treat in the general sense as each person actually pays for their own expenses.
  • Dutch defence – a term used for a legal defence whereby the defendant seeks clemency at the expense of those they deceitfully betray.

‘Dutch’ was also the original generic name for Germans, with High Dutch being spoken in southern Germany and Low Dutch being spoken in The Netherlands. As the dialect was so hard for the English to understand, they came to reference all incomprehensible phrases as ‘double Dutch’.

Nowadays, the phrase is still used, although with a much lighter note now that those bad relations between the countries have disappeared.

Do you find it hard to understand other dialects? When was the last time you used the phrase ‘double Dutch’, and can you think of any similar phrases?

Viva La Vuelta!

Posted on September 5th, 2013by Melanie
In Events, Historic, Spanish | Leave a Comment »

The VueltaSteve was a huge fan of the Vuelta. When he used to live in Spain, he would join hundreds of Spaniards and fellow Brits in lining the streets along the cyclists’ route each year. Every year, the race took a different route, so sometimes he´d find himself down on the coast while other times he´d be inland and occasionally in the mountainous regions.

He was a keen cyclist himself and loved the adrenalin of competitive cycling although he was far from the riding standards of the Vuelta cyclists. The strength and discipline that those cyclists possessed was incredible, and he admired their stamina and level of fitness which carried them through the three week long race.

Steve and his friends would usually make a day of it, grabbing a bite to eat in a chiringuito before finding a good vantage point from which to see the riders approaching. The crowds would gradually increase in size as the local police strung security tape between the gated sections. The cars and trucks advertising their wares with loud music would let everyone know that there wasn´t much longer to wait. The Guardias on their motorbikes would lead the sponsors’ and teams’ cars, while the helicopters circled above. Then, the distant cheering would signal the cyclists’ approach and the crowds would push forward to get a good look and take some action shots with their cameras. The rush of speed and force of power as the cyclists passed them was immense…and then, just as quickly as they´d appeared, they were gone, vying for their positions within the Vuelta a España.

Despite no longer living in Spain, this annual event wasn´t something that Steve was prepared to miss; it just wasn´t the same on TV! He´d kept up with his Spanish lessons and every year he looked forward to his summer holiday when he could go back to Spain and catch up with his friends, chat with the locals and get caught up in the excitement of the awe-inspiring Vuelta!

Going Back to Our Roots

Posted on August 7th, 2013by Melanie
In English, German, Historic | Leave a Comment »

Germanic languageHave you ever considered the origins of languages? How did they start, where did they begin, how have they changed and been influenced over the years?

Our modern day European languages belong to the Germanic family of languages which originated in Europe and include about 60 languages and dialects all originating from Proto-Germanic, which was spoken in Iron Age northern Europe. As the Germanic tribes moved southwards from northern Europe, different variations of Germanic sprang up.

Three main groups occurred: the West Germanic languages, North Germanic and East Germanic languages. The North Germanic branch consists of Danish, Swedish and Norwegian, amongst others. The East Germanic languages are now extinct. The West Germanic languages, however, are the most widely spoken of the Germanic family of languages and include the two most popular ones of English and German as well as other major languages, including Dutch and Afrikaans.

The English and German languages of today occurred due to shifts in speech patterns resulting from influences such as the Vikings and Anglo-Saxons which led to the demise of Old English grammar and the start of Middle English in the 12th century, and to the High German consonant shift which resulted in Upper German, Low Saxon and Central German strains.

Our languages are still evolving today with the integration of popular foreign words and phrases from other languages. Languages are intriguing, from their concept, to their development, their usage and their ever-changing form. So be intrigued: get back to your linguistic roots and learn a new language from the Germanic family tree!

The Dawning of a New Era

Posted on July 28th, 2013by Melanie
In Events, Historic, Language acquisition | Leave a Comment »

Prince GeorgeThis week welcomed the arrival of the baby Prince George, the future king of Britain! Born on Monday 22nd July in the same private wing of St Mary´s Hospital as his dad, Prince William, and his uncle, Prince Harry, baby George Alexander Louis has emerged as the third in line to the throne.

Proud parents, Kate and William, looked happy and relaxed as they introduced their son to the eagerly awaiting media and crowds. These young royals, a modern day couple, took a break from tradition and announced their son´s name just a day after the duchess left the hospital. Historically, the naming process has always been much longer with Prince William´s name being announced after a week, and his father´s name, Prince Charles, taking a whole month to be announced. The Queen´s visit to see her great-grandson was also the first time in over a century that a reigning monarch has met a grand-grandchild who has been born in succession to the throne.

So what does the future hold for Prince George and for the people? A new era for the Royal Family has begun and with it a new era has dawned for the next generation of the general population. Times have changed and, like his parents, Prince George will need to show that he can keep up with them and build good relations with both British people and people throughout the world. One way to do this would be to learn the languages of neighbouring countries just as his great-grandparents have done – the Queen and Duke of Windsor speak fluent French – and in the same way that royals from other countries learn foreign languages.

We live in a cosmopolitan world and the key to a successful future is communication. Be a part of that success and open the doors to endless possibilities by learning new languages!

Unravelling the Secrets of a Society

Posted on July 24th, 2013by Melanie
In Demotic, Hieroglyphics, Historic | Leave a Comment »

Rosetta StoneSpoken by those who constructed the magnificent pyramids, the craftsmen who carved and decorated the tombs in the Valley of the Kings, and the creators of the monumental temples we can still see in Egypt today, Ancient Egyptian is one of the oldest spoken languages which survives today in Coptic, the language spoken by Christian Egyptians.

This ancient language was beautifully written using hieroglyphs which are pictures of animals, people and objects. There are over 700 hieroglyphs (meaning ‘sacred carving’) and they all represent consonants, there are no vowels! They can be written across the page or from top to bottom and the secret to reading them is to follow the direction that the animals, people or objects are facing.

But how did we come to understand the meaning of hieroglyphic writing? It was thanks to the discovery of a special rock in the town of Rosetta, Egypt, by a soldier in 1799. This black basalt slab, now known as the Rosetta Stone, had the same piece of writing carved in it three times in different languages: hieroglyphics, demotic and Greek. A determined French Egyptologist, Jean Francois Champollion, finally translated it in 1822 by discovering that the hieroglyphs spelling ‘Ptolemy’ (Ptolemy V was a ruler of Egypt) were enclosed in a cartouche which he then compared with the Greek writing on the Rosetta Stone, and was eventually able to translate the rest of the writing. This amazing translation has given us the ability to read an ancient language and subsequently understand how an ancient civilisation lived.

Do you have an interest in ancient languages? Or perhaps you´re curious about the history of our more modern day languages? As with the French Egyptologist who had knowledge of the Greek language, you too could open up new opportunities and possibilities by speaking another language. If the modern era of communication is higher on your agenda, then why not improve your linguistic capabilities by learning a new language today!

Is Anybody Out There?

Posted on July 17th, 2013by Melanie
In Culture, Historic, Technology | Leave a Comment »

Golden RecordAre we alone in the universe? Who knows; but it would be naive of us to think so. And what would happen if we discovered we´re not alone? If we ever did encounter an alien species, the first stumbling block to overcome would be communication. We´d have to find a way to understand each other’s languages.

Two unmanned probes were launched by NASA over 30 years ago: Voyager 1 and Voyager 2. They were sent to investigate the larger planets of Jupiter, Neptune, Uranus and Saturn, beaming back images and data for us to analyse. They continued travelling further and Voyager 1 is now 10.5 billion miles away from Earth and Voyager 2 is 8.6 billion miles away. The mission has been successful so far…with one odd occurrence a few years ago.

Despite no previous disruptions, on 22nd April 2010, Voyage 2 suddenly started transmitting odd messages. The usual data streams which had been consistent for three decades were suddenly being transmitted in an unknown data format. The scientists at NASA´s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) were unable to fathom out their meaning or the reason for this unexplained change as all of the other systems on the probe seemed to be functioning correctly. Hartwig Hausdorf, a German academic, concluded that alien life forms had taken over the probe in an attempt to make contact with us. Seem too far-fetched? Maybe not…

The space probes were never just intended for exploration. Both of them were fitted with a Golden Record, a phonograph record containing sounds and images of life on Earth in 55 languages, intended as greetings for extraterrestrial life forms or for humans in the future. So maybe the possibility of making contact with alien life isn´t such a stretch of the imagination after all. Whether you´re hoping for a future exchange of dialogue with an extraterrestrial, planning on striking up a conversation with a resident alien of the human kind, or simply interested in the challenge of learning a new language that´s alien to you, get out of your comfort zone and take a leap into the unknown!

The Origins Of Language

Posted on February 9th, 2013by jake
In Historic | Leave a Comment »

The majority of us speak at least one language, and if you are visiting this blog you are probably interested in learning another, but where did language come from? The Week has posted an interesting article explaining some of the numerous theories that have been used to explain the great mystery. Of course all of the theories are purely hypothetical as empirical research cannot be undertaken in order to prove them. The secret of where language came from is lost within history but it is still, nevertheless, interesting to muse on the topic. Two of the theories can be found below, each with their own rather unscientific nickname.

The Pooh-Pooh Theory
The idea that speech comes from the automatic vocal responses to pain, fear, surprise, or other emotions: a laugh, a shriek, a gasp. But plenty of animals make these kinds of sounds too, and they didn’t end up with language.

The Ta-Ta Theory 
The idea that speech came from the use of tongue and mouth gestures to mimic manual gestures. For example, saying ta-ta is like waving goodbye with your tongue. But most of the things we talk about do not have characteristic gestures associated with them, much less gestures you can imitate with the tongue and mouth.

As you can see from the above examples, the theories are hardly exhaustive. According to the article, persistent speculation about the origins of language caused the Paris Linguistic Society to ban discussion of the topic when it was founded in 1866. It is highly improbable that we will ever truly know how language came into existence but this is true of many intriguing question and doesn’t make musing on the topic any less fascinating.

via: The Week


Posted on January 26th, 2013by jake
In Historic, Indigenous languages | Leave a Comment »

Manx, the Celtic native language of the Isle of Man is experiencing a revival. Much like Welsh in Wales, when visiting the Isle of Man you will notice Manx road signs, radio shows and mobile phone apps. This wasn’t always the case though.

“If you spoke Manx in a pub on the island in the 1960s, it was considered provocative and you were likely to find yourself in a brawl,” recalls Brian Stowell, a 76-year-old islander who has penned a Manx-language novel, The Vampire Murders, and presents a radio show on Manx Radio promoting the language every Sunday.

Amazingly in the 1860s there were people on the Isle of Man who couldn’t speak any English. Immigration to England for work purposes spread English across the island. Gradually the Manx language fell out of favor and people who still spoke Manx were seen as backwards and were even sometimes physically assaulted. Things became so dire for the language that ‘Unesco pronounced the language extinct in the 1990s.’

The current revival is down to lottery and government funding which have made a remarkable impact upon the languages status in the last 20 years.

Now there is even a Manx language primary school in which all subjects are taught in the language, with more than 60 bilingual pupils attending. Manx is taught in a less comprehensive way in other schools across the island.

via: BBC News