Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Listening to Ethiopia through Ejigayehu Shibabaw (Gigi)

Many people have never heard of Gigi, much less of Ejigayehu Shibabaw. If you enjoy music that’s different from what you constantly hear on the airwaves or are simply looking for something new, then you should look for Gigi’s music online or in your local record bar.

Gigi, whose birthname is Ejigayehu Shibabaw, was born in Chagni, located in the northwestern portion of Ethiopia, some 36+ years ago. In 1998, after living in Kenya for a few years, Gigi moved to the United States. San Francisco is her home away from home.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Singlish – Transcends Singapore’s Cultures, Races and Social Classes

In Singapore, there are four official languages. At the top of the list is English serving as the lingua franca, followed by Malay, Mandarin and Tamil. Singapore is not only multiracial and multicultural it is also a multilingual country. So apart from the four official languages above, there are quite a few more languages and dialects spoken in Singapore today.

Probably the most interesting language is not actually a language in the truest sense. It is more a hodgepodge of words and phrases from different languages all rolled into one. What is this “language” called? Singlish! It’s no different from Spanglish (Spanish-English), Chinglish (Chinese-English) and Taglish (Tagalog-English spoken in the Philippines).

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Lebanon, Truly the Paris of the Middle East

The Republic of Lebanon is located in the Middle East, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, Syria and Israel. It is a small country of approximately 10,400 sq km with a Mediterranean climate characterized by wet winters and hot dry summers. Mostly remembered by its geo-political issues with its Syrian neighbors and tensions with Iraq, Palestine and Libya, Lebanon is a cultural and linguistically rich country with an important tourism industry and vast economic enterprises.

The official language of the country is Arabic, however due to France’s mandate of the country after World War I, close to half of the population speaks French. A dialect called Lebanese-Arabic is spoken by most of its people and other languages such as Greek, Armenian and Assyrian are used mainly by immigrants of these nationalities.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Language and Dialect - The Differences

What is the difference between a language and a dialect? That’s not an easy question to answer as there is no consensus in the linguistic community. However, we can say that a language as defined by the Merriam Webster Dictionary is the words, their pronunciation, and the methods of combining them used and understood by a community. For example we all know of languages such as English, French, Spanish, Mandarin, Arabic, etc. Dialect on the other hand is a subset of a defined language, a variety created by a group and affected by social class, contact with other languages, and geography.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Belgium, a Country Divided by Different Languages

The Kingdom of Belgium, located in Western Europe, is a federal state. There are two main regions in Belgium – Flanders which is located in the north and Wallonia in the south. The capital is the city of Brussels. Belgium has three official languages representing the three linguistic communities. One is Dutch, which is colloquially called by the Belgians as Flemish, and the other two are French and German. Then there are three principal regions in Belgium. One is the northern region of Flanders which is known as the Flemish Region. Next is the Walloon Region in the south. Then there is the Brussels-Capital Region.

The Flemish Region’s official language is Dutch. Roughly 59% of the Belgian population speaks Flemish. The Walloon Region is the French-speaking region of the country. French-speakers account for approximately 40% of the total population. The German-speakers, which only account for about 1% of the total population, are mostly in the eastern part of the Walloon Region. The only bilingual region is the Brussels-Capital Region.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

VCAT Afghanistan and the Pashto App

Afghanistan is a country that comprises many ethnic groups. There are roughly 200 different dialects and over 40 languages spoken in Afghanistan. Pashto and Persian Dari are the country’s two official languages. Soldiers from the U.S. and NATO stationed in Afghanistan as well as in neighboring areas of Pakistan often find themselves at a disadvantage because they are not well versed with the language. The United States Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM) has a solution: The Virtual Cultural Awareness Trainer (VCAT) Afghanistan.

The Joint Knowledge Online of the USJFCOM unveiled a training program that aims to promote improved language as well as cultural understanding between US/NATO and Afghan military troops as well as with the local population. This online training program will enhance the knowledge of both military and government officials and personnel of Dari and Pashto languages and of Afghan culture. The program uses “advanced learning and gaming technologies” to help students develop language familiarity and cultural knowledge via storytelling, intelligent tutoring, simulated missions, and remediation.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Mapuche – Struggling to Keep their Culture and Language Alive

The Mapuche is a group of indigenous people living in the southern as well as some central parts of Chile. Considered the biggest ethnic group in the country today, the Mapuche is said to make up around 4% of Chile’s population. The Mapuche can also be found in the southwestern areas of Argentina. The name Mapuche is a combination of two words: “Mapu” meaning land or earth and “che” meaning people. The language of Mapuche is called Mapudungun (also referred to as Mapudungu, Mapuzugun or Araucanian). “Mapu” means land and “dungun,” speech.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Using Technology to Learn Lithuanian

Learning a new language is never easy. Studies have shown that kids have the ability to learn a new language quicker than adults. A child’s brain is able to create a different speech center in their brain for every language that he learns. The adult learner, unfortunately, does not have this linguistic talent. What came naturally once is now a bit of a challenge for the adult learner.

What makes learning a new language for an adult more difficult is if the language he is attempting to learn is not spoken by a majority of the people in the world. Why? Because the resources for learning a language that is spoken only in one small section of the globe is sometimes not at par (or even not as accessible) with the resources for languages that are more ‘popular.’

Monday, July 11, 2011

Dinka of The Republic of South Sudan – The Voice of the New Nation

The memorable day of July 9, 2011 did not just mark the end of a violent fight of the millions who died just to attain South Sudan’s independence. It also loudly echoes to the world the rich culture and languages in this newly-recognized Republic. It did not just end the longest standing civil war in Africa, but it also serves to highlight the cluster of languages that will now be increasingly opened for interpretation and translation to the world.

Situated in East Africa, South Sudan differs starkly in contrast to its Muslim nearby neighbor, North Sudan. They are more inclined to practice their traditional religions with a few converts to Christianity. However, Sudan in its entirety initially had Literary Arabic and English for its official language on paper. But in practice, they have been engaging in speaking their own preferred dialect prior to the peace treaty for their freedom, which was signed in 2005. It was like their lifestyle for the last 22 years before their declared independence – South Sudan had been known for its most autonomous management of affairs and equally autonomous system of culture, society, and language preferences.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Complete Sovereignty or Globalization, a Language Issue

There are many different languages spoken in Malaysia. However, Article 152 of Malaysia’s Constitution states that Malay or Bahasa Malaysia is the country’s official language. This is the general medium of instruction employed by Malaysia’s educational system. Mandarin and Tamil are also taught in national-type schools because of the large population of Chinese and Indians in the country. English, on the other hand, is taught only in international schools.

However, in 2003, the PPSMI policy was implemented. It was initiated by Run Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the prime minister at that time. According to this policy, science and math subjects were to be taught in English. This was to ensure that future citizens of Malaysia will not be at a disadvantage compared to citizens of other countries in this era of intense globalization. The internet then was fast becoming an important tool for education, business, politics, etc. Therefore, English proficiency seemed essential.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Nepal, Close to the Heavens and Close to the Stars

Nepal. This South Asian country is landlocked by China in the north and India in the east, south and west. Found in the Himalayas, Nepal boasts of the highest point in the world, the Mount Everest. Eight of the tallest mountains on Earth are located in Nepal. The geography is diverse as it is breathtaking. With such rich geography, one can only expect a rich culture as well. The country is home to different races, tribes and ethnic groups, a veritable melting pot of cultures, traditions and language. Although Nepali is the official language, there are many other languages spoken in the country.

In the past many years, Nepal has been visited by a number of Hollywood stars for a variety of reasons and causes. The most popular visitor to Nepal is Richard Gere, the star of such films as Officer and A Gentleman, American Gigolo and Pretty Woman. When he first visited Nepal in 1978, Gere’s interest in Buddhism started. He has since made several other visits to Nepal raising awareness and lending his voice and popularity to causes close to both Nepal and Tibet. His latest visit was in 2010, the year before the country was set to kick off Nepal Tourism Year 2011. The Prime Minister of Nepal seriously took into consideration Gere’s tips on how to get more tourists into Nepal and even offered Gere to become the tourism ambassador of the country. True to his beliefs, Gere declined and said that he was there “to seek out people and their warmth, since in the west, men had turned into machines.” Today, he continues to practice Buddhism and remains an avid supporter and friend of the Dalai Lama as well as the Nepalese people.

Friday, July 8, 2011

A Gift from the Greek Gods, et al

... the far-reaching influence of the myths of ancient Greece

There are many mythologies in the world. Each culture has its own brand of mythology which helped explain the world around them.

Mythologies serve an important purpose. Apart from explaining why there’s rain, snow, thunder, volcanic eruptions and other occurrences, mythologies influenced how the people once lived. Of all the mythologies in the world, it is the Greek mythology that is probably closest to the people today. Why? Because Greek mythology is prominently felt in one of the most used and spoken language in the world – English.

Yes, Greek mythology is present in the English language. When you try to discover the origins of some English words, you might be surprised to find that they originated from the names of gods, goddesses, demi-gods and other characters in Greek mythology.