Today—May 1, 2015—marks the opening of Expo Milano 2015, the six-month world’s fair focused on sustaining the planet and feeding its growing population.
Yes, world’s fairs do still exist—they’re now called “Universal Expositions” and in fact, they’re bigger than ever. The Expo 2015 grounds in Milan, Italy, feature over one million square meters of exhibition space for the 144 participating countries, and the Expo will welcome 20 million visitors over its half-year run. Last night’s opening ceremonies boasted pomp and circumstance on a level comparable to that of the Expo’s better-known athletic big sister, the Olympics, featuring a speech by Italian Premier Matteo Renzi, a parade of participating nations, and a live performance by Italian tenor Andrea Boccelli in front of Milan’s famous Duomo.
If Italy’s most cosmopolitan city has been on your travel bucket list for a while now, there’s no better time to consider visiting Milan than during the Expo. With its pressing themes of food security, cultural culinary tradition, and new production technologies, Expo 2015 will be a fascinating look—and taste—into the future of food around the world. It’s the perfect time to indulge your fantasy of booking a flight and traveling to Milan… and to learn a new language!
By nature the World Expo is an intensely international experience, and that’s great news for global politics and for language learners. Though English is one of the official languages of the Expo, with millions of visitors from over a hundred countries, visitors to the site will have built-in speaking practice in nearly any languages they’re learning.
Over 9 million Italians are expected to attend the Expo in their home country, so learning Italian is a great place to start. Plus, it’s one of the world’s most popular languages, so local Italian classes, tutors, and group lessons won’t be hard to find. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that Italians are known for being particularly warm and welcoming to Italian language learners!
Beyond Italy, neighboring European nations will have a large presence at Expo Milano: learning German, studying French, or brushing up on your Spanish would likewise prove very useful. But with 144 countries participating, the Expo offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to use any language you’re learning on the ground, in practical and meaningful daily conversation.
It’s also a safe bet that there will be extensive coverage of the Expo and its exhibits in publications around the world. Not only will it be a compelling subject to read up on, but readily available foreign news pieces will provide a unique and consistent flow of reading material you can use to hone your language skills, even if you can’t make it across the pond between now and October 31.
From what it looks like, there are three things that any visitor to the Expo will be doing during their time in Milan: eating a lot, learning a lot, and meeting a lot of new people. Learning a new language—or honing your skills in one you’ve previously studied—will help in all of those areas, allowing you to confidently order delicious food from over one-hundred nations, read promotional materials and related news pieces, and converse with the multitude of fascinating people you may meet at Expo 2015.