Category: Advice

Pimsleur Is The Best Way To Quickly Learn A Language Before Your Next Trip

conor mcgregor candle

The answer I can give without hesitation to the question, “what’s the best way to learn a new language before a trip,” is use Pimsleur. People ask me a lot about language learning, with two important caveats. The first being they’re traveling soon (short time to learn) and they need to be able to communicate with people (not necessarily translate names of random objects).

After booking flights, hotels, planning what to pack, language learning is usually a last that-would-be-nice-touch most never get around to. Pimsleur is the fastest way to learn another language at a conversational level if you’ve got 30 minutes a day and a few weeks to practice.

Quickly Conversational

The majority of language courses are designed to teach you a language with the aim to become fluent – an undertaking that often takes years. You’ll learn a lot of words that won’t be immediately useful which is why most travelers bounce around language tutorials and courses so broadly, you end up with nothing once you arrive at your destination. (English it will have to be then!)

pimsleurPimsleur Spanish Conversational Course – Level 1 Lessons 1-16

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The Pimsleur Language Program works differently. Basically, the 30 minute audio-only courses piece together seemingly random sounds with oddly specific visualizations over 10-20 lessons. At the end you’ll be surprisingly able to hold a conversation in that language.

How Pimsleur Works

Pimsleur is incredibly efficient. For example, you listen to one lesson on your commute. Pimsleur notes two important things: you’ll need to repeat what it tells you to repeat out loud and not do more than one lesson a day. A typical lesson is you saying some random sounds, then imaging e.g. a red bird on top of a house. Pimsleur is designed like Pulp Fiction, it’s all out of order at first, but as you go on the lessons start connecting.

gmc jeep interior

The main drawback of Pimsleur is it won’t help you read or write in another language. Pimsleur is audio only, designed to get you talking with people at soon as possible. Pimsleur gives you the mechanics of a given language making you usefully conversational – and if you want to expand beyond that – a solid structure upon which you can add vocabulary and more advanced grammar.

Target For Travelers

Pimsleur has been used by aid and relief organizations to linguistically prepare their staff and volunteers in a short amount of time. (The company donated their Haitian Creole courses after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, for instance). The United States military has also distributed Pimsleur for troops in Afghanistan.

The efficiency of Pimsleur is what makes it so beneficial for travelers interested in learning usable parts of a language in a short time. I’ve found 2-6 weeks and 30 minutes a day (4-5 days a week) is enough to be able to hold a respectable conversation in a foreign language. All you have to do is listen to the audio file (or CD) and repeat as it instructs.

Somehow Pimsleur hacks your memory to install a new language. I wasn’t paid to write this (I legally have to disclose paid reviews) but I can’t say enough good things about Pimsleur. The lessons you learn are also extremely durable – I recall lessons from nearly 10 years ago. You’ll just have to give yourself the time to finish the lessons. Since Pimsleur courses aren’t structured in a conventional way, the more dots it will connect the longer you continue. And it’s not a long or expensive journey. The first entire lesson of Turkish is a total of 8 hours, costing just $40, for example.

Obviously, the more time you have the more of a language you can learn, using these other tools, adding some colorful curses to your vocabulary as well.

Why Travel To Paraguay?

Paraguayan flag

Prior to visiting, Paraguay was a grey area in my mind. Landlocked and the third-least visited country in South America, I probably wouldn’t have visited if it weren’t part of my goal to visit every country. Paraguay is a country that doesn’t have a big tourist draw like the Taj Mahal, one reason enough for travelers to visit an entire nation.

Paraguay isn’t the most connected country, flights to the capital Asuncion are only reasonably priced from Buenos Aires, Santiago, and a few smaller Brazilian cities. Americans, Canadians, and Australians need a visa (you can get on arrival at Asuncion Silvio Pettirossi International Airport) but it’s $160 US dollars. In cash. And there’s no ATM in the airport.

You have to want to visit Paraguay, because of the hurdles it presents and here’s why you might want to.

Paraguay Is (Affectionately) Weird

Paraguay has often been a battlefield between larger powers in its history. The Paraguayan War from 1864-1870 reduced its population by up to 70% in some estimates and a series of dictatorships endured through 1989. Even just last year, rioters burned the Congress building in Asuncion after a controversial Senate vote. The news, Paraguay’s past, plus not knowing much about the country can make it even more intimidating.

asuncion downtown

Paraguay though isn’t what you might expect. There’s no ATM at Asuncion’s main airport (bring cash if you need a visa) but plenty of cashless people were allowed past passport control to get to the bank in the airport. There aren’t many capital city airports where you’re allowed beyond passport control to get some money because you didn’t read the entry requirements.

You’re On Your Own

Better brush up on your Spanish because you won’t find many who speaks English. (Some of these apps can help and Pimsleur is basically language magic if you have 6 weeks to practice.) Remember though, be inconspicuous with your phone on the streets of the larger cities, robbery isn’t uncommon. Some basic tourist phrases will help; you’ll want to know, especially after dark, areas to avoid.

asuncion paraguay barbecue

Nobody will care whether you speak Spanish or not, Paraguayans try their best to understand you. People are warm and welcoming, perhaps it’s because a tourist is a rare sighting around here.

Local Lunch

Around noon, workers, all seemingly in button down shirts with thin, black Beatles’ ties or dark blue skirts, file into countless corner diners. The coffee is great and in case your language skills aren’t developed enough, point to what looks most appetizing. Alternatively, or additionally in Asuncion, Lido Bar around half past one in the afternoon is just calm enough to enjoy a bowl of fish soup and multiple empanadas.

paraguay graffiti

Around the capital city, there’s the Loma San Jeronimo neighborhood. It’s colorful but practically deserted and if you use Google Maps to find it, you’ll end up in the sketchiest part of town. Rather, ask one of the cafe staff. Same thing with the bus system, ask the routes from your accommodation. Getting confused is easy because the numbered lines aren’t clear but once you get it, easily managed.

Accommodating For The Curious

Finding an inexpensive Airbnb with a pool in Asuncion isn’t hard. The weather is warm to hot throughout the year. Parque de la Salud is a green oasis in the middle of a slightly smoggy capital, perfect for a calm jog. Having been to Paraguay, the answer to why you would want to go is the question itself. Little traveled, bizarrely welcoming, edgy but accommodating, Paraguay is for travelers who want to get off the beaten path, but not with too much effort.

How To Fly With An Emotional Support Animal (ESA)

You probably read recently about United Airlines barring a woman and her emotional support peacock from boarding a flight. Those reports made me wonder what it might take to book a flight with an emotional support animal – a koala bear in this case – in the video above you can see what happened.

During the process I came to learn a lot about emotional support animals (ESAs), the process for booking a flight with one, and why the airlines have started to enforce more restrictions on passengers with ESAs. Here’s how to book a flight with an emotional support animal.

What Is An Emotional Support Animal?

An emotional support animal (ESA) is one that provides therapeutic benefits without being trained to perform a specific task for a human with a disability. Essentially, ESAs benefit their owners with affection, attention, and companionship – making them different than services animals (e.g. seeing-eye dog). In the United States service animals fall under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), ESAs do not.

emotional support animal

The major difference being, for example, a person with a service dog can’t be denied entry into a restaurant that doesn’t allow dogs. Seeing eye dogs aren’t considering in-cabin pets either. Laws vary around the world but often some legal distinction is made for service animals.

ESAs on the other hand have no such legal protections. You can however, still fly with an ESA, under some circumstances.

ESA Registration

In general, most airlines will let you fly with an ESA. As I learned trying to book a flight with a fictional koala, a lot of them have, or are putting, restrictions into the type of animal. Dogs, cats, and “household” birds are the norm, but people have flown with more exotic ESAs such as hedgehogs.

tabby cat sleeping

What turns a dog (on paper) into an ESA is a letter from a licensed medical therapist stating so. There are also a number of websites that let you get an evaluation letter from a therapist for $130-250 dollars, with packages allowing for turnaround as short as 48 hours. I can’t vouch for any of the popular websites that provide this service but many people use them. Evaluations are done over the phone but there are no refunds – approved ESA or not. ESA therapy letters are generally valid for one year.

Call The Airline

Given how quickly the rules are changing on ESAs (likely due to peacock lady), you may need some additional documentation. ESAs are being required to have proof of standard vaccination, as well as a letter from a vet saying the animal has had behavioral training or is otherwise well-behaved.

Since airlines typically restrict the total number of animals that can be brought in cabin on a given flight, the more advance notice you give, the better chance you’ll have with your ESA. Give the airline a call, let them know about your ESA, and once you send them your documentation, you should be good to fly.

Advantages And Abuses

Putting aside the cost of the documentation and vet visits for an ESA, most airlines don’t charge a pet fee for an ESA. Larger breeds might also be allowed on board too (above the regular pet weight limit). Since it’s relatively easy to get an ESA certificate, many people are probably abusing the system for these advantages as well as pushing the limits of what species an ESA can be.

The latest rule changes shouldn’t negatively affect people who genuinely need, and want to travel with, an ESA. Everyone else, you might want to brush up with the ultimate guide to traveling with pets and how to fly with your dog to make sure you both have a great flight.

Don’t Miss This Site In Granada, Spain That Most Visitors Do

cartuja monastery granada spain

Many of the most popular sites to visit in Granada, Spain, are concentrated over a small area. Since there’s a lot to see all within walking distance, the 20 minute bus ride to the Cartuja Monastery is neglected by most tourists. Combined with the fact that photos of the interior aren’t allowed, it’s hard to see what you might be missing.

The Cartuja Monastery is one of my favorite sites in Granada, the city you voted best to visit in 2017. The interior of the Cartuja Monastery is peaceful, hardly crowded, and has incredibly intricate artwork. I’m not sure if there’s been a general change to the rule or if exceptions were made for me, but I was given permission to take pictures and video inside. (Basically I asked and the guy said no problem.)

cartuja monastery interior

Entry to the Monastery of La Cartuja is included if you purchase a Granada Card, well worth the price for all it gets you. Additionally the Granada Card (there are two varieties, basic and plus) have 5 and 9 bus rides, respectively, included. Both the N7 and U3 lines will take you to the Cartuja Monastery.

cartuja monastery

Construction on the Cartuja Monastery began in 1506 and lasted three centuries.

cartuja monastery

One thing I noticed at many of the most popular sites of Granada, including Monastery of La Cartuja, is they generally provide complimentary informational headphones in a number of languages. They’re not something I generally use but it is a nice touch, I’d say around 60-70% of the visitors had them on.

cartuja monastery

Monastery of La Cartuja, like the rest of Granada, is one of the most photogenic places I’ve visited.

Monastery of La Cartuja

Much like the Livraria Lello in Porto, where pictures are not allowed, seeing it beforehand online can take away the surprise of discovering something completely new – a sensation we’re often robbed of because of the Internet. At the same time, catching a glimpse of a few pictures might entice you to visit a place you didn’t know too much about beforehand, something I hope I’ve done here.

The Best Place To Travel Right Now: Answering My Inbox Q&Av2

I’m sent a lot of travel and tech questions by email and although I reply to them all, I want to share some of those responses publicly to help more of you travel smarter. In the video above, I answer your questions about the best places to travel right now, good VPN choices, and more.

I’ll have an occasional Q&A video for you on my YouTube channel so feel free to let me know any travel questions you might have in the comments below.

This Is What Happens When You Say “Yes” To Every Scam In India

There are a number of scams and tricks you’ll likely be faced with when visiting India, typically beginning with someone coming up to you on the street. It’s a country that can be overwhelming, especially during your first 48 hours in India. Saying “no” to everything can be an effective method to avoid being hustled but this broad approach might have you missing out on genuine offers.

Not everyone is trying to trick and scam you – having been to India 7 times myself – I’ve come to learn how to spot the common scams quickly. To help you avoid going through your own trial and error, I decided to say “yes” to every scam I was approached with. I tricked friend and fellow blogger Wandering Earl, who was in India leading one of his Wandering Earl Tours, to join me on this project.

You can see all of the scams we “yes” to, the consequences, and the tricks to avoid when traveling to India in the video above.


About Anil Polat

foxnomad aboutI'm the blogger and computer security engineer who writes foXnoMad while on a journey to visit every country in the world. I'll show you the tips, tricks, and tech you can use to travel smarter. Read More

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