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The Insider’s Guide: 5 Ways to Get to Know the Real Morocco

If Morocco represents the kind of exotic travel you’ve always dreamed of, your dilemma may be deciding on how best to spend limited time in a country that is so diverse. Morocco is vast and distinctive, from the Atlas Mountains to the Sahara Desert, from the magical blue town of Chefchaouen to the fishing village of Essaouira, which has become a modern surfing destination. What is the “real” Morocco? Here are five suggestions.

Dine with a Berber Family

Some Berber mountain villages welcome visitors and it’s possible to visit a family for mint tea, a simple meal, or even an overnight homestay. An ideal way to experience the unique culture of indigenous Moroccans, such visits are included in some tours. If you plan to be near Tagounite Village at the edge of the Sahara desert, inquire about visiting a Berber home at Draa Oasis.  

Visit the tanneries in Fez

Take your pick from three major tanneries in the city — all of them manually strip the hair from animal hides and dye them with color created from natural pigments, the way it’s been done for centuries. It’s “pungent,” done with natural ammonia (from pigeon poo), but tannery visitors are supplied with sprigs of mint to help temper the stench. Mint is used to produce green dye as well. The red comes from poppies, the blue from indigo, and saffron creates the rich yellow. Marvel at the colorful array from your vantage point on nearby rooftops. 

Experience a Hammam

This is a cultural experience, not simply an invigorating soak and massage for tired muscles. The cleansing and rejuvenating ritual has its roots in an era when private plumbing was unavailable, and both men and women went to public baths. It’s a pampering experience that no visitor should miss, whether you go solo, with a partner, or with a group of friends. Enjoy a steam bath, hot and cold plunges, skin exfoliation, therapeutic argan oil massage, or a rejuvenating full-body clay treatment, and emerge relaxed and refreshed. 

Top 5 Off-The-Beaten-Path Travel De...
Top 5 Off-The-Beaten-Path Travel Destinations

Roses — in Morocco?

You bet, the Kelaat M’Gouna Rose Festival is unique to Morocco, held for two days on the second weekend in May. At other times of the year, the valley is worth a visit to see its palm trees, clay homes, and traditional mosques, all with the backdrop of the Atlas Mountains. The scenery is breathtaking and, if you’re lucky enough to visit when the roses are in bloom, you’ll never forget the scent — or the sight — of the spectacular pink flowers that are used both in Moroccan cuisine and for world-renowned lotions and cosmetics.

Make Time for a Prayer

The Hassan II Mosque, on the Atlantic seawall in Casablanca, the largest in Africa, has a striking minaret stands 690 feet tall, and is fitted with a laser beam directed toward Mecca. Remnants of other mosques, including the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalen, the Grand Mosque of Damascus and the Koutoubia Mosque in Marrakesh were used in its construction.

Finally, try to spend at least part of a night stargazing, whether from a peak in the Atlas range, or from the desert dunes. The stars above Morocco just seem to be closer and brighter than most other places on earth. Study the constellations beforehand so that you can recognize them! It’s an experience you won’t soon forget, and it’s worth missing out on sleep!

The Culture Guide: 5 Things You Should Not Do When Visiting Italy

Oh, beautiful Italy, home to magnificent Florence, Rome, and the Tyrolean Alps. It’s a sight to behold and the home of beautiful villages, lakes, islands, and Mediterranean beaches. Italy also has some of the craziest drivers you’ve ever seen that take pride in their Ferraris and Turbo Fiats.

Italians are proud of their culture, which is often very dysfunctional, engaging, and sometimes challenging. A few things shouldn’t be done when visiting Italy, and we’re here to clue you in.

Never Commit the Ultimate Sin; Cheese on Pasta with Fish

Throughout history, numerous Italian leaders have been exiled from the country. Italians may change their governments as frequently as most of us change our pants, but they’ll want to exile you too if you put cheese on top of pasta that includes seafood. This is a culture that touts the wonderful flavor of its food and takes the greatest of pains to ensure every bite is an experience. The chef wants to know that you found the food amazing, not committed something tantamount to the ultimate food sin of covering the flavor of the fish with cheese.

Don’t Wear Shorts to a Church

The artwork in Italian churches is legendary. Walking into the Duomo in Florence, you see some of Michaelangelos’ most marvelous masterpieces. As the origination country of the church, Italians truly value their Catholic tradition, and it is important to respect it.

Jeans are acceptable but don’t wear shorts, tank tops, or flip-flops into these hallowed places if your wish to be respectful.

Don’t Plan on the Trains Being on Time

In northern European countries, trains always run on time; that is rarely the case in southern Europe. A more relaxed approach to life results in trains that can be epically late. In fact, don’t expect punctuality at all. Many shops and restaurants will close at lunchtime when Italians slowly savor their flavorful food.

Do Not Expect English to be Spoken

Almost everyone is fluent in English in Germany, as it is a compulsory subject in German schools. This is not the case in Italy, English is not widely spoken, and Italians don’t really have no desire to do so. Thankfully modern smartphone apps are available to help.

Whatever you do, please don’t yell English words. Yelling doesn’t make them any more effective or translatable.

Don’t Cut Your Spaghetti, Ever

Yes, there is pasta etiquette, and an Italian never wants to see their famous noodles end up in pieces. You will see looks of pure terror. The proper method is to roll your spaghetti around your fork with the assistance of the plate. By doing so, the essence of this dish is fully respected.

Don’t let these tips scare you away from Italy, though. It is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, filled with incredible, iconic art, amazing views, fashion, historical places, and tasty food. It’s magical and a little crazy all at once, making for a once-in-a-lifetime experience, which is also why you’ll find yourself returning again and again.

A Beginner’s Guide to Breaking into Backpacking

Do you enjoy the outdoors? Are you looking for a new great adventure? Or, are you looking for a way to convince yourself to spend more time in nature? Backpacking might be just what the doctor ordered.

Backpacking is a super fun sport that allows you to really escape and enjoy nature at a different level. It can be a fantastic mix of relaxing, invigorating, and adventurous. But before you strap on a pack and hit the wilderness, there are some things you’ll want to know — especially if you’ve never gone backpacking before.

1. Start Short and Comfortable 

Backpacking is an extremely rewarding outdoor experience, but there is a level of risk involved that needs to be taken seriously. 

You are about to carry everything you need to basically survive in nature for a few days on your back, and you’re walking away from society. You’re also walking away from your car, from restaurants, from emergency services, from reliable cell phone service, and from the protective structure that is a house. 

For beginners, we recommend choosing a destination that is close to your home and that is short — just an overnight trip or two to get started. You’ll learn a lot about your comfort level, your gear, and your level of preparation during these few days. 

2. Do Your Research and Invest in Your Gear

There are a ton of backpackers in the world, and there are thousands upon thousands of how-to guides, blogs, gear reviews, and entire stores like REI that have experts available to help beginners. Don’t be afraid to ASK QUESTIONS!

Backpacking involves hiking for miles upon miles each day in all sorts of weather and across different types of terrain, so you want clothing and gear that’s appropriate for your hiking trip.

Two essential gear investments are going to be the backpack you want to carry and your shoes. 

You’re also going to want to think about the level of shape you’re in and how much weight makes sense. When you’re carrying food, water, overnight gear, etc. that adds up quickly and you’re going to feel those pounds as you’re hiking. 

A general rule of thumb for beginner backpackers is that a loaded backpack should not be more than 20% of your body weight.  

3. Plan Your Trip and Create Checklists

If you’re a beginner, one of the most important aspects of backpacking is actually making a plan. Making a plan though is not just figuring out where you want to go, where you’re going to park, how long you’re going to be gone, and how far you’re going to hike.

Planning also includes the following aspects:

  • Weather predictions
  • Water access throughout the hike (and the gear you need to ensure clean drinking water)
  • Meal planning (this is not just how many calories you’re going to consume during your backpacking trip, but ensuring you have the cooking gear, including a heat source)
  • Touching base with a service like the National Park, for example, to see if your hike needs a permit for being in the backcountry (for example, parks like Yellowstone have limited backcountry permits for safety reasons and tracking, so you just cannot show up)
  • Purchase a physical trail map if needed because things like cell phone batteries are not always reliable 

This is just a set to get you started thinking through things. 

4. Find Someone to Go With You and Always, Always Let Someone Know Where You’re Going and When You’ll Be Back 

We’re not trying to intimidate anyone, but backpacking is one of those things that you should communicate to your friends or loved ones. Shoot them a text or an email or even leave a physical note explaining what you’re doing, where you’re going, what your timeline is, and text them when you get to the trailhead and when you’re back to your car. Simple as that. 

The Insider’s Guide: 5 Ways to Get to Know the Real Egypt

Egypt today is unique and endlessly fascinating, and you’ll want to spend some time getting to know the 21st-Century personality of this ancient land. Yes, the pyramids and Sphinx are larger than life and certainly worth a visit. So, too, is the Temple of Karnak, near the site of ancient Thebes. But, forgive us — that’s ancient history.

Here’s how to achieve some balance — and breathe in the true spirit of this modern nation that once represented the center of civilization. Egypt’s modern face is at least as interesting as its past. 

Take a ‘Revolution’ Tour in Cairo

Imagine the passionate clashes between millions of protestors and Egyptian security forces during the 2011 protests that resulted in the overthrow of then-President Hosni Mubarak. Start your walking tour at Tarik Square. Imagine it being filled with thousands of “non-violent” protestors before the scene turned ugly. Dramatic street art on nearby buildings tells the story. The “25 January Revolution” that started here lasted only two weeks and three days, and spread quickly throughout the country before nearly 850 people were killed and 6,000 injured. It’s a sobering experience.

Visit a Koshari Restaurant

These eateries serve only Koshari, a traditional mix of brown lentils with rice and macaroni, topped with a spicy tomato sauce and fried onions. It may be an “acquired taste treat,” but once you’ve had it, you’ll want to have more. That’s almost a guarantee! Also, don’t hesitate to try Egyptian “street food” whenever you can — and sample traditional desserts like Umm Ali, basbousa, or baklava. 

Enjoy a Traditional Cairo Coffee Shop

Strong, sweet and foamy, Egyptian coffee is an experience you won’t want to miss. Even if coffee is not your drink, this thick blend of fine sugar and fragrant coffee beans is a palate-pleaser. Sip it and just watch the throngs of people from a sidewalk table. If you need an energy boost after a day of sightseeing, it’s traditionally served with a side of sugar cubes.

Catch the Sunset at Siwa Oasis

It can be a long drive through the desert, but once you reach Siwa Oasis, it’s a bit like entering heaven. With groves of palm and olive trees, mineral springs, and salt lakes, this is a place to refresh both mind and body. Plan your visit during fall or winter months — summer heat can be brutal. But it is said that Alexander the Great visited here and Cleopatra herself swam in the pool that bears her name. Book a guided safari, but return to your lodgings in time to watch the sunset over the western desert. It’s magical.

Go to the Beach

Sharm El Sheikh is where you’ll find young, modern Egyptians, along with coral reefs, kite surfing, sky-diving, and any number of other active sports adventures. You can also easily book a Sinai safari or a visit to the magnificent St. Catherine’s Monastery from this resort on the Gulf of Aqaba. 

When you visit Egypt, make an effort to talk to the people wherever you go. You’ll find them friendly and willing to tell you about their country’s historic past as well as its future. 

The Insider’s Guide: 5 Ways to Get to Know the Real Greece

Most visitors arrive in Greece via Athens, and Athens has plenty to offer travelers, from the stunning Acropolis to its lively taverns. It is, after all, known as the birthplace of democracy, and one of the oldest cities on earth. You’ll find great street food and a modern high-speed Metro, with a line that runs directly from the airport to downtown. But it’s a big city with four million people! So, get out of town, and get to know the rest of Greece!

Visit a Quiet Island

The number of inhabited Greek islands is disputed — it’s somewhere between 119 and 227, but only 54 have more than 1,000 residents. To find the “real” Greece, limit your time on Crete, Mykonos, and Santorini, and head instead to a smaller, lesser-known island. Tinos is the third largest of 24 islands that comprise the Cyclades Group. It boasts more than a dozen picturesque mountain villages, along with beautiful beaches, hiking trails, scores of churches, shrines, and monasteries, a tradition of marble crafting, and distinctive dovecotes or pigeon houses. Other unique small islands are Iraklia, Schinoussa, and Andros.

Take a Sail

Greece is an island nation, and there’s no place better to experience it than from the sea. Embrace the symbolism of blue and white, the colors of its flag, as you take a day sail in a blue-hulled boat and watch billowing white sails and the clouds in a blue sky. Book your excursion from any seaside village, or charter a boat to visit the Cyclades Islands, where the law, since 1967, has mandated that whitewashed buildings be trimmed only in blue!=

Eat, Eat, Eat — and Drink

There’s more to Greek food than souvlaki, baklava, and gyros — much more. It’s simple and healthy, prepared with olive oil and loaded with fresh vegetables. Desserts tend to be sweet, honeyed, and delicious! Ouzo, flavored with anise and typically served with water and mezedes (appetizers or finger foods) is the “national drink” of Greece, but you’ll find distinctive wines and strong black coffee everywhere! Be sure to stroll an open market and sample street food!

Enroll in a Cooking Class

Take some of Greece home with you, in the form of new recipes and the confidence to prepare taste-tempting meals for friends and family. There’s a wealth of opportunity, from gourmet instruction and a rooftop dinner with a view of the Acropolis in Athens to a small-group class taught by a Greek “grandma” in a family kitchen on one of the Greek islands. It will be a lasting, usable memory with meaning. 

Celebrate!

Celebrations are part of everyday life in Greece. There are so many celebrations — religious and otherwise throughout the year — that you’re not likely to miss the fun. Party like a Greek during the celebration of Epiphany on January 6, at Carnival in February or March, Independence Day on March 25, Easter, World Heritage Day on April 18, the various panigiria — holy days that celebrate various patron saints, OXI Day on October 28, or during Christmas season. A bonus is free admission to museums and historical sites on many of the holidays.

5 Countries With Surprising Laws To Watch Out For When Travelling The Globe

No matter where you go, even if you’re in the town that you’ve lived your whole life in, you aren’t expected to know every law. Every place has their weird and intricate laws that might sound made up at first until you have a fine in your hand. Some of them might sound weird to us, but are taken very seriously where enforced. If you plan on traveling, here are some countries that have surprising laws that you should watch out for as a tourist.

5. Indonesia

If you’ve been holding it in while on a flight to Indonesia and make a beeline to the bathroom upon landing, make sure that you flush the public toilet. That’s because it’s illegal to not do so in the country. Certain members of the police in Indonesia make it their job to inspect public toilets, so don’t get caught being a flush-skipper.

4. Countries without Alcohol

Many of us partake in a few adult beverages when we travel, but there are certain countries where that’s not going to happen. In fact, you shouldn’t even try as the penalties are much more severe than you might think. Some of the larger countries that have alcohol bans include India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran, Sudan and Saudi Arabia. For some countries, non-Muslim tourists are still permitted to drink, so always check the laws before heading there.

3. France

One of the most common hobbies that people partake in while on vacation is hopping into the ocean or pool to go for a swim. If you’re heading to France, though, you may be a little more scantily clad than you anticipated. That’s because since 1903, France has had a law that says men must wear tight fitting swimwear, claiming that it’s more hygienic that way. You can still wear your larger Bermuda shorts when walking around, but get ready to show some skin when getting into the water.

2. Italy

Italy has a lot of rules for tourists that can result in pesky fines, but one of the most interesting ones comes from the tourist destination city of Venice. Apparently, too many tourists were visiting the city without eating at local restaurants, instead opting to bring their own snacks and eat in the street. Because of this, Venice has banned outdoor eating during certain hours of the day. Now, there’s a fee of around $3 to $10 depending on the day just to wander the street.

1. Singapore

Chewing gum is one of those things that westerners just consider to be part of life and, for many, a daily ritual. In fact, about 50 percent of people in the United States chew gum, but don’t try bringing in too much of your own. While the country outright banned non-medical chewing gum over 30 years ago, they have loosened up on the rules, since. However, it remains that Singapore doesn’t like people spitting out their gum, and you can face a hefty fine if you don’t discard your used gum in a trash can. They like things very clean in Singapore, and you’ll pay a large sum if you don’t do your part.

5 Off-The-Beaten Path Travel Destinations

Off-the-beaten-track travel allows you to have unique experiences rather than simply following in the footsteps of millions of travelers before you. Whether you’re dreaming of a rustic tropical paradise or castes you thought only existed in storybooks, there’s a place for you to visit. Following are just five exceptional destinations. 

Greenland

Greenland is not typically thought of as a tourist destination. However, an increasing number of travelers are falling under its spell. Mesmerizing landscapes, pristine fjords full of mysterious icebergs, and a unique culture are waiting there to be discovered and enjoyed. Greenland’s largest city, Nuuk, has less than 20,000 citizens. Despite its small size, Nuuk has a vibrant cultural scene, with outstanding restaurants and nightlife. Nuuk even has an international airport.  

Chena Hot Springs

Situated approximately 50 miles east of Alaska’s second-largest city, Fairbanks, Chena Hot Springs offers an ethereal ambiance complete with a natural light show in the form of the aurora borealis. The geothermal hot springs keep guests toasty warm even when temperatures plunge to well below freezing. Accommodations in the area include modern lodges and restaurants. Those who would prefer to visit during summer won’t be able to view the aurora, but they may feel as if the midnight sun makes up for it. 

The Cook Islands

Visitors to the Cook Islands are treated to crystal clear waters, some of the most diverse marine life on the planet, and the charming hospitality of the Polynesian people. There are 15 islands here, each one with its own special charm. Whether you choose to go island hopping or remain in one place during your stay, you’ll enjoy an unspoiled tropical paradise. Snorkeling and scuba diving enthusiasts particularly love this location because of its stunning coral reefs and colorful fish. Because the weather is beautiful all year round, there is no bad time of year to visit the Cook Islands. 

Madagascar

Situated off the eastern coast of the African continent, Madagascar is the biggest island in the Indian Ocean. It offers incredible biodiversity, including its iconic lemurs, orchids, birds, and baobab trees. Because Madagascar was cut off from the African mainland millions of years ago, its animal and plant life evolved in isolation, leading to the island’s renowned diversity. Human civilization in Madagascar is also relatively undeveloped, and the lifestyle of the locals is relaxed and unhurried. 

Antarctica 

Antarctica is the farthest you can go off the beaten path without leaving Planet Earth. Accessible only by cruise ship, Antarctica offers amazing natural beauty. You’ll see iconic penguins, whales, seabirds, seals, and icebergs. The polar sunsets are magical to the point of being otherworldly. Their bright red, orange, and pink hues are reflected back in crystal clear waters near the Antarctic Peninsula, making a stunning spectacle among the icebergs. Traveling to Antarctica is also an incredible learning experience. The cruise ships have onboard scientists who provide presentations about the continent’s ecology and history. With no noise or light pollution, Antarctica offers immense peace and quiet.

 

5 Top Cheap Travel Destinations

Budget travel has vastly different meanings for different people. Whether your idea of cheap is a $100 hotel room for a night or an $8 hostel, there are destinations around the globe where food, lodging, and local sightseeing are so reasonable that you almost can’t afford to stay home. Shop diligently for airfare deals, and you can indeed see the world without spending a fortune.

Here are some top options:

Costa Rica

There are many good reasons why Costa Rica has become a popular destination. First, it’s quick and easy to fly to this peaceful Central American country from major airports in the southern United States. Most travelers fly to San Jose or Liberia and then rent a car to see the country. Friendly people will welcome you wherever you go, but public transportation is not the best. Costa Rica has great beaches on both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts. And in between are some of the most beautiful mist-covered volcanic mountains you’ll find anywhere in the world. You’ll also find rain forests and caverns, waterfalls and banana plantations. Did we mention cheap and delicious local food, and howler monkeys? 

Washington, D.C.

If you believe it’s impossible to see the nation’s capital on a budget, you’re mistaken. Even though major hotels are pricey, you can stay just outside the city core and ride the Metro to see the city’s major monuments and museums. Admission is free to almost all of them, and you’ll rub shoulders with government employees on safe, reliable public transportation. Plan to walk as much as possible. Visit neighborhoods where the rich and famous live as well as the Smithsonian, the capitol and the National Cathedral. Book a tour of the White House or Mount Vernon, and imagine what it must be like to be president. You’ll find plenty of great eateries here as well.

Singapore

It may not be the cheapest city in Asia, but it’s certainly one of the best. Food, transportation and lodging are a real bargain compared to prices in most other world-class cities. Singapore has an exotic vibe that’s hard to beat. You’ll find budget hotels right in the heart of downtown, and the public transportation network is fast, extensive and reliable. Check out the hawker center stalls in various districts to sample local food specialties. Then be sure to visit free attractions like the light show at Marina Bay and the Treetop Walk at MacRitchie Reservoir. Singapore’s Botanic Gardens and Fort Canning Park are definitely worth a visit.

Macedonia

The entire country of Macedonia is a treasure chest for the budget traveler. Check these prices: A meal in a good restaurant might set you back about 4 Euro, and a night in a hotel room for two will be only about 30 Euro. Macedonia is beautiful, but definitely off the radar for most tourists. If that appeals to you, it’s a great choice for cheap travel, and this little Balkan country is filled with history, culture and beauty.

Beijing, China

If your bucket list adventures include a trip to the Great Wall and the Forbidden City of ancient emperors, head for Beijing. With a population of almost 22 million people, it’s only the third largest city in China, but it’s the capital and it’s an experience! It’s also one of the cheapest cities in the world to visit, and it boasts some of the best food. And who doesn’t love Chinese food? A five-star hotel may cost $100, but you’ll get great street food for mere pennies and taxis for about a buck. Plan to spend at least three days in the city.

 

 

5 Amazing Travel Experiences To Have Before You Die

There are unique vacations, and there are beautiful destinations. But if you’re looking for adventure and mind-blowing experiences, what are your best options?

Head to the far reaches of the earth! Here are 5 extraordinary suggestions:

Head to the Arctic Circle. You’ll be awed by the Aurora Borealis in winter. But it’s cold! The best viewing months are September and March, due to clear skies, increased solar activity, and extremely dark nights. And the best places? Take your pick — but Iceland, Greenland, Norway, Finland, Sweden, and Alaska top most lists. During summer’s Polar Day in the far north, you won’t see a sunset for four months, and you won’t see the northern lights, but you’ll enjoy the midnight sun! 

Visit Antarctica. There are no permanent settlements, and it’s still relatively hard to book excursions to a place that’s strictly devoted to scientific study. But some expeditions allow visitors to set foot on the frozen continent. Marvel at the glaciers, photograph penguin colonies, and walk the barren landscape. Book a cruise that includes a trip around the legendary Cape Horn at the tip of South America. Go ashore in Ushuaia, Argentina, the southernmost city on earth, and gaze toward the Antarctic. 

Descend Deep Into Planet Earth. One of the most famous caves in the world is in Southern New Mexico. Carlsbad National Park has many attractions, but the cavern that is its showpiece is spectacular. The underground Big Room is 4,000 feet long, and a modern elevator whisks visitors down to the depths. Eat lunch at the cafeteria deep in the bowels of the earth. At sunset, watch thousands of bats depart from the main entrance. It’s truly awesome. Discoveries are still being made in the Cavern — the latest just three years ago. If you dream of becoming an explorer, this is your chance!

Embrace Morocco. Book a jeep and camel trek through Morocco to become immersed in its fascinating culture. Visit the vast Sahara Desert, cross the Atlas mountains, have dinner with a Bedouin family, explore the crowded souks of exotic cities, relax on beautiful beaches, and have a drink at Rick’s Cafe in Casablanca. Leave via Gibraltar, a quick ferry ride across the strait that separates the Mediterranean from the Atlantic. It’s a thoroughly British outpost that seems slightly out of place and time. Laugh at the Barbary Apes that have made their home at the top of the rock for centuries.

Explore Ancient Civilizations. There are many choices. Machu Pichu in Peru, Petra in Jordan, and the cities and ruins throughout Egypt. Visit Israel and the Greek Islands, Athens, Rome, and Beijing, China, as well as native American cliff dwellings of the American southwest, and the pyramids of Mexico. Art, architecture, and history buffs have a treasure trove of possibilities on every continent. Pack your camera and pick your pleasure. 

The best advice for any traveler? Step out of your comfort zone and follow your dreams, no matter where they take you! 

5 Common Errors of Non-Native English Speakers

English is tricky language. Even as you begin to master it, there are small errors that can make your conversation sound slightly awkward. Here are five examples.

1. Using Plurals on Words That Don’t Take Them

Some English words, such as mail or gum (as in “chewing gum”), are not countable. Therefore, it’s not correct to say, “Do you have any gums?” or “Did we get any mails today?” Nor should you refer to a single items with an article, as in “a gum” or “a mail.” Whether you have one piece of gum or many, you have gum. Whether you have one letter or several, you have mail.

2. Adding or Leaving Out an Article

English is inconsistent on which words require an article. The articles are “a,” “an,” and “the.”. Long-time English speakers do it properly without thinking about it. It’s correct to say, “Let’s go to the zoo,” but not “Let’s go to zoo.” On the other hand, “Let’s go to work” is correct, but “Let’s go to the work” is not. You introduce your profession by saying, “I am a lawyer,” not “I am lawyer.” Also, some countries require an article. It’s proper to say “We visited the United States” but “We visited Canada.”

3. Confusing the Forms of the Present Tense

“I go” and “I am going” are present tense expressions that mean close to the same thing. Their use in English, however, is slightly different. “I am going” is the present progressive tense and is used for something that I’m doing right now or will do in the near future. For example, “I am going to the store” could mean I’m on my way or I’m going sometime after I’m done talking to you. “I go” is the simple present and is used for a recurring event that isn’t happening right now. For instance, “I go to the store every Saturday.”

4. Adding or Leaving Out a Preposition

Different languages have different rules about when to use propositions. In English, there are verbs that require a preposition, especially when the object is a person. Therefore, it’s “Wait for me” and not “Wait me,” “Explain to me the situation” and not “Explain me the situation.” In other instances, the preposition is not used. It’s “Ask me a question,” not “Ask to me a question.” Sometimes the difference is subtle. For example, “Give to me the book” is not quite wrong, but “Give me the book” is better.

5. Agreeing with Negatives

If someone says, “I didn’t like that movie,” and you didn’t like it either, you might be tempted to say, “Me, too.” However, to agree with this kind of negative, “Me, neither,” is correct.

None of these mistakes are terrible. People will still understand what you mean. However, with attention and practice, you can clear up these issues and sound more like a native speaker.