What is the world’s most diverse country?

travel skills: old Indian man in yellow turbanDreamstime

Papua New Guinea is the world’s most diverse country, both ethnically and linguistically. We examine the rankings based on two academic studies

When Sadiq Khan was voted in as London Mayor, he announced his city ‘the most diverse and fantastic in the world’. This triggered interest from the BBC which ran a podcast examining his claim.

The podcast named the Canadian city of Toronto as the most diverse but in doing so, highlighted a number of methodological problems that also apply when measuring the world’s most diverse country.

How to improve your vocabulary: 6 tips for language learners

how to improve your vocabulary

After five months in South America followed by several months of self study, I’ve finally got a handle on Spanish grammar. I’ve now shifted focus onto vocabulary which is much more fun. As part of my efforts, I’ve put together six tips on how to improve your vocabulary, along with useful tools that will help at each juncture. If you’ve successfully improved your vocabulary in a foreign language, share your secrets in the comments below.

10 travel skills to learn in 2016

travel skills: balloon flying

We at Atlas & Boots are occasionally approached for our “expert advice” on travel. We find this in equal parts flattering and embarrassing. After all, what makes an “expert traveller” anyway? Is it just knowing how to pack well, where to buy insurance and how to collect air miles? Or does it run deeper than that?

We asked our readers what exactly constitutes an expert traveller. The resulting list of travel skills gives us – and our readers – something to aim for in the year ahead.

World’s most multilingual countries – ranked

World's most multilingual countries lead image

We take a look at the world’s most multilingual countries, from Papua New Guinea with over 800 languages to the one country with only a single language

As guardians of the world’s lingua franca, we English have little incentive for learning a second language. A few years of infrequent lessons from beleaguered GCSE teachers aren’t nearly enough to instil multilingualism on a personal level.

This is a shame because on a country level, the UK has a very healthy degree of multilingualism. There are 56 languages spoken across its lands meaning if we chose to, we could likely learn a new language from someone who speaks a different one.

What are the hardest languages to learn?

Foreign Service Institute Language Difficulty lead image

The 10 hardest languages to learn for native English speakers based on data from the Foreign Service Institute at the US Department of State

We’ve written before about the best language to learn based on a number of different criteria. The verdict was French which, as a Romance language, is relatively easy for English speakers. (We stress the word ‘relatively’ because all language learning takes effort.)

Some of the most interesting data in the article comes from the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) at the US Department of State. The FSI trains diplomats in language learning and maintains an internal ranking of language difficulty (specifically, how long it would take a native English speaker to reach proficiency).

Here, we examine 10 of the hardest languages to learn based on FSI rankings.

Beginners’ French: language hacks for word endings

Beginners' French: language hacks for word endings

Once our journey around the world officially ends, we’ll be heading to France for a few months before finally returning to London. With only a short-course French qualification to my name (from my school days nearly 17 years ago), I need to improve my French quick smart. So far, I have been tackling the task digitally with a combination of Duolingo and the Michel Thomas Method. I’ve been using Duolingo for Spanish throughout South America with mixed success, but the Michel Thomas Method is a promising new approach for me.

5 useful travel apps you probably don’t use – and 5 others you probably do

As travel writers, we’re often asked about our favourite travel apps. For a long time, we stuck to old and reliable apps that performed prosaic functions like looking up locations and searching for accommodation. In recent times, however, we’ve discovered a number of fresh apps that provide unique services perfect for travellers. If you’re looking to refresh your list of useful travel apps, have a look at our curated list below.

Hitting the language barrier

Hitting the language barrier

Why travelling in South America has given me a newfound respect for my parents

I check the clock for the third time in five minutes. It is now 11.40am, a good forty minutes past the time we were expecting our transfer to Cartagena’s bus station. I flex my shoulders and try to relax. Peter always tells me I worry too much; that I get too uptight about loose schedules and tardy transfers.

A few minutes later, our Airbnb host Nadia sticks her head in the door. She says some words. I catch enough to understand that she’s saying our bus leaves in 20 minutes. I know that already. She ushers us out the door and says she’ll call a taxi instead. Downstairs, we wait. Instead of hailing a taxi, she speaks to two lads on motorbikes and then gestures for us to get on.

What is the best language to learn?

What-is-the-best-language-to-learn

We rank the best language to learn based on fact-driven criteria to help you choose the right one for you

Over the last two years, I’ve spent some time learning Spanish. Progress has been slow but steady. I’ve taken a 10-week evening class at UCL’s Centre for Languages, completed levels 1-3 of Rosetta Stone and finished the Duolingo tree, meaning I can sort of carry a conversation, but always peppered with mistakes and pauses. If I can become more comfortable with making mistakes, I’ll hopefully improve vastly over the next six months as we travel through South America.

5 language learning myths

language-learning-myths

One of the things on my bucket list is to learn Spanish fluently. I learnt the basics during my GCSEs (16 years ago!), took an evening class at UCL in 2010, and have also dabbled with Rosetta Stone and Duolingo.

In the lead-up to our big trip, I decided to get serious and enrolled on a Rosetta Stone course online. I tested at intermediate level B1 and am currently working my way up. Meanwhile, Peter is brushing up on his basic French.