Thursday, December 20, 2012

Music: A Bridge in Crossing the Language Barrier

Globalization brings people from different cultures closer together. While the language barrier still exists, there are several things that make communication among people speaking different languages possible. Travelers would say that one must learn at least a few basic words and phrases to get by and the easiest way to do this is to buy a phrase book. Others might find the language interesting enough to enroll in language class before embarking on a trip to a foreign land. People wishing to settle, do business or study in another country where the language is different from what is normally spoken at home must engage the services of a document translation service provider to have their documents translated accurately.

How else can you make yourself understood when you do not speak the language of the country you are visiting.? Aside from the handy phrase book, you can use sign and body language; you can draw, use facial expressions, or ask the help of someone who is willing to translate for you. However, there is one universal thing that does not need to be translated in a language you are familiar with to be understood. It’s called music.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Value of Keeping Silent (At Times)

Freedom of speech is a basic human right. People around the world are exercising this right. The availability of modern communication tools allows people to express their ideas and thoughts freely to more people than ever. Today’s generation specifically seems to have already forgotten that at times, being silent is important too. When too many people are expressing their opinion at the same time, it is hard to listen and sometimes, the best way to be heard is by keeping silent.

Silence is golden

This is a very old proverb, and yet its value is still immeasurable. Yes, it is fine to speak our minds out. However, we do not have to do it all the time, especially when we are hurt or angry. You know why? Because we have to remember that words are very powerful. Words are used to educate, bless, help and express one’s expertise. They can also harm, curse, reveal a person’s foolishness or cause damage.

It is all right to speak about things and ideas that arouse our passions. However, it cannot be stressed enough that at times, especially when we are hurt or angry that we should stop and hold our tongue, to avoid causing more hurt, damage or irreparable consequences. When we are in such a situation, we should refrain from using our mobile phones or visiting a social networking site and curb our tongues until our heads are clear.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Top 10 Ten Fantastic Man-made and Natural Mushroom Cloud Formations

There are times when you look up in the sky, you will see large cumulus clouds. At times you might be lucky enough to see a natural cloud formation in the shape of a mushroom cloud, just like the unusual, glowing and multicolored one seen over Beijing, China’s capital, last June 2012. However, there are other types of mushrooms clouds, some created during volcanic eruptions, while some were caused by the explosion of fabricated materials. Here are some of them (according to the year they happened):

Mount Pinatubo 

The Philippine volcano Mount Pinatubo located in the island of Luzon in the Philippines was almost obscure and covered with dense forest. Its history of eruptions is basically unknown. However, on June 15, 1991, before its eruption, it released a giant mushroom cloud of thick volcanic ash resembling a massive cauliflower; its effect was felt almost worldwide. It spread huge amounts of aerosols into the stratosphere that is more than what Krakatoa eruption did when it erupted in 1883. Mount Pinatubo ejected more than 20 million tons of sulfur dioxide and nearly 10 million metric tons of magma.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Top 10 Amazing Mountainside Structures Around the World

When touring we are bound to see many astounding structures that make you go wow. Nevertheless, there are several more that are truly amazing that they are worth more than a second look.

Paro Taktsang Monastery, Bhutan

Seeming to hang precariously on the almost vertical rock slopes of a cliff in upper Paro Valley is Paro Taktsang, which is also known as the Tiger’s Nest. The multi-level monastery, initially built in 1692 is a sacred site for Himalayan Buddhists. It is located 3,120 meters above sea level. Wispy clouds that shroud the temple for many days give it an eerie and mystical look.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Fantastic Christmas Lights of Medellín

Turning the city into a colorful, magical, twinkling fairyland

Alumbrados Navideños sobre el Río Medellí
Turning the city into a colorful, magical, twinkling fairyland
Christmas time is truly a magical time. In almost every corner of the world, different types of celebrations for the Christmas season are held annually. In most cities and towns, holiday decorations include giant Christmas trees decorated in different themes. Trees and shrubs are wrapped and covered in tiny Christmas lights, lampposts, houses and building display Christmas lanterns, wreaths and other holiday decorations. Big shopping malls hire decorators to create colorful themed store displays.

In the beautiful city of Medellín, in the South American country of Colombia, the Los Alumbrados de Medellín or the Medellín Christmas Lights in Spanish is hosted from the 7th of December until the 15th of January. Eighteen million LED lights. A myriad of colors. Giant 3D structures. These are what you will see in Medellín in December.
The event is world-renown and brings in hordes of tourists to the city. It is an event that marks the unofficial start of the Christmas season in Colombia. It is a spectacular event that turns the whole city of Medellín into a varicolored nighttime jewel.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Top 10 Dynasties in the World That Ruled the Longest

The world over, many dynasties ruled for hundreds and thousands of years, and most of them laid the foundations for modern forms of government. While most have ceased to exist, there are still a few that still continue their reign.

History is an interesting subject to explore because it gives you a clearer understanding of the past, its effects and repercussions as the case may be and the contributions past dynasties brought forth. There were many significant events, discoveries and births during these periods that contributed to and shaped the histories of these nations. Their reign also made a lasting impact to the rest of the world, ancient and modern.
  1. Bulgaria. The House of Dulo or Dulo Clan reigned from 2137 BC until 753 AD, ruling the early Bulgars for 2,890 years. The Kubrat clan founded the dynasty, which brought about the unification of the Bulgar tribes. 
  2. Japan. The Imperial House of Japan has been ruling the country from 660 BCE until today. Known as the Chrysanthemum Throne or Yamato Dynasty, it has continuously reigned for more than 2,669 years. Current monarch is Emperor Akihito.
  3. Vietnam. The Hồng Bàng Dynasty is also known as the Lạc Dynasty. It was the 1st dynasty that ruled Vietnam from 2897 to 258 BC, a total of 2,639 years. Legend had it that its founder was Kinh Dương Vương, whose title was Hùng Vương.
  4. Korea. From 2333 BCE until 108 BCE, Korea was under th Gojoseon Dynasty. The ancient kingdom remained in power for 2,225 years and laid the foundation for the first proper nation in the peninsula. Dangun Wanggeom was its founder, according to legend.
  5. Vietnam. Another dynasty, the Champa Dynasty ruled Vietnam for 1,640 years from 192 BC to 1832 AD. The oldest known written Malay language from the 4th century AD came from this dynasty. It was created 300 years earlier than the Sumatran texts.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Thinker – A symbol of reflection and deep thought

The Thinker at the Musée Rodin in Paris

The Thinker, Auguste Rodin’s most famous work is undoubtedly the most recognized sculpture the world over. Full size bronze casts of the original sculpture displayed in front of the Musée Rodin in Paris, France are found in more than 30 locations around the world, including Asia, Europe and the United States. The one that is at the University of Louisville in Kentucky is special since this is the first bronze cast made from the original. Various plaster casts and study-size casts of The Thinker are seen in global locations as well.

The massive sculpture stands, or should we say sits at a height of six feet and six inches. With the intentionally massive arms and shoulders given to the sculpture piece, when fully erect, The Thinker would be a colossal figure that would tower over men.

The story behind its creation

The sculpture was originally part of a commissioned work by the Musée des Arts Décoratifs of Paris in 1880. The plan was to create the museum’s door that would depict The Gates of Hell from Dante Alighieri’s   Divine Comedy. Its original piece only measured 71.5 centimeters or 28.1 inches and named The Poet. The now-famous sculpture sat on the tympanum of the portal, contemplating the Inferno with 180 individual figures below. The sculpture of The Thinker was envisioned to represent poetry and intellect as well as Dante himself.

The Thinker was first cast in 1904, although Rodin worked on the whole Gates of Hell portal for 37 years.

Friday, December 7, 2012

A tongue-in-cheek look at some of the world's unusual city names

Have you just gone by Accident or passed Hell on your way to somewhere? You might have seen Five Forks while looking for Burnt Corn. Did you turn to Eek when you drove through Beaver, Chicken and King Salmon?

Maybe Santa Claus actually lives in Paradise to easily go to Surprise although found Nothing but Love and Inspiration before asking Why there is Chloride and Mocassin on the way to Bitter Springs.

Laugh if you may, but these are actual names of cities. Accident is a city in Maryland while Hell is in Michigan. Five Forks and Burnt Corn are in Alabama. Alaska is the location of Eek, Beaver, Chicken and King Salmon. Arizona has cities named Santa Claus, Paradise, Surprise, Nothing, Love, Inspiration, Why, Chloride, Mocassin and Bitter Springs.

Some of the longest names

Since you are not a local, you'd really be awed by the length of these city names. In Southern New Zealand, you'll find a place with this formidable name: Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

What is Plautdietsch?

The closest count of living languages today across the globe is 7,358. Various languages with less than 100,000 speakers account for 90% of the world's languages, while less than 2,000 languages are spoken by 1,000 people, more or less. It is fascinating to know that more than a million people only speak 150 to 200 languages while 46 languages could each have only one speaker.

Plautdietsch is an exclusive language spoken by a select few. Plautdietsch, a variety of East Low German, is a Mennonite language. It is the exclusive language of the Mennonites, a religious group originally from Belgium and Holland. They fled these two countries in the 16th century to avoid persecution. Eventually they settled in Canada, the United States and in some Latin American countries.

Today, 80,000 Mennonites living in Canada and those who have settled in Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Costa Rica, Germany, Kazakhstan, Mexico and Paraguay speak Plautdietsch. In the United States, they are mainly in the city of Hillsboro in Kansas, in Reedley, California and the town of Corn in Oklahoma. Overall, about 300,000 Mennonites speak the language.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Have Fun, Be Healthy and Give to Charity with Hula Hoops

It’s been 54 years since the hula hoop was introduced in the United States. It’s a simple toy that gives hours of joy. The hula hoop craze reached its peak in the 1950s. It became a National Toy Hall of Fame inductee in 1999. And the humble toy indeed has come a long way. It has entered other modalities – exercise, art and dance. The hula hooping has taken movements from rhythmic gymnastics, fire dance, twirling, freestyle dance and hip hop to develop its own style.

Folsom Hula Hoop
But rather than being a new invention, hula hoops had been existent in Greece since the 5th century and used for play and exercise. It has long been used by patients with back problems and those who had suffered heart attacks in 13th century Scotland. Thank the American sailors who saw the hip movements of the hula dancers in Hawaii for attaching the word “hula” to the hoop.


Individual and group hula hoopers have emerged, delighting spectators with the grace, flow, daring and creativity of their hooping performances. Cirque de Soleil has featured spectaculars using hula hoops. Fire dancers have incorporated specially-constructed hula hoops in their routines. Expert hoopers use not just one but multiple hoops, twirling them around their necks, legs, arms and waists. The current record is 132 hoops twirled simultaneously, set in 2009 by Paul “Dizzy Hips” Blair.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

10 Most Translated Literary Works Aside from the Bible and the Qu’ran

Books are great to have around. They keep us company. They take us to places. They make us have a clear understanding of things, concepts, ideas and beliefs. They could even make our fantasies come alive, and join us on some adventurous journeys.

Books are written in a language that may be different from ours. The good thing is that most popular books are translated into other languages, to increase their readership and make more readers appreciate them across continents. Aside from the Bible, with 475 translations for the whole Bible and 112 translations for the Qu’ran, the most translated literary works are the well-known classics, old and new.


This well-loved children’s classic about a wooden puppet that dreamed of being a boy had been translated into 260 languages from its original Italian text. It was written by Carlo Collodi and first published in 1883.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Unraveling the Messages the Eyes Convey

Eye Contact
People communicate with acts and words. However, only 7% of what you want to communicate is delivered through words. Ninety-three percent of communication is  expressed by non-verbal language, and 55% of it are from facial expressions. The tone and rhythm of your voice covers the balance of 38%. You could learn so much just by keenly observing a person’s eye movements.

When speaking in public, the way you use our eyes has a tremendous impact on the listeners. The eyes can command attention. Eyes are very eloquent. They could show boredom, anger, surprise and a horde of other emotions. They could convey the subtlest to the strongest of meanings without you uttering a word.

Direct eye contact
Eye Contact
When a person is gazing directly into your eyes when you are having a conversion, it shows that the other person is interested in you and paying attention to what you are saying. You should learn to balance how long to maintain eye contact. When prolonged, it could be interpreted as being aggressive and threatening. On the other hand when a person frequently breaks eye contact, looks away frequently, it is an indication of being distracted, nervous or being uncomfortable. It could also mean that the person is trying to hide what he truly feels.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Momentous Archeological Finds, Tremendous Benefits to Mankind

Archeologists, together with anthropologists and paleontologists continuously work to unearth significant fossils, relics and remnants of past civilizations. It is their untiring work that provides the world a glimpse of the rich histories of nations, how civilizations and peoples started and make people understand the past better.

From their numerous findings, there stands out some archeological finds that created a great impact and gave huge benefits to humankind.

Rosetta Stone
Rosetta Stone in the British Museum
The Rosetta Stone is an ancient Egyptian stele, which was displayed at a temple, probably during the early Christian or the Medieval period. It was inscribed with a decree from King Ptolemy V that was issued in Memphis (currently a place south of Cairo, Egypt) in 196 BC. It was discovered by a French soldier named Pierre-François Bouchard in 1799 in the town of Rosetta, now known as Rashid.

It was inscribed in two languages, Egyptian and Greek. The text used three types of scripts: demotic, ancient Greek and hieroglyphic. Its discovery and eventual translation became the key to understanding the formerly undecipherable hieroglyphs created by the Egyptians.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Silent Language of Gestures

What is okay with you might not be all right in other countries

The world is getting smaller as travel to other countries becomes easier and faster. People from different nations find common grounds through social networking and cultural exchanges. Communication in almost all forms is available in most countries. And however miniscule the help of free online language translators give, these are oftentimes enough for simple conversations among people who speak different languages. 

But there is still a language that people cannot hear, a language that is more powerful, the silent language of gestures that could be common to most people of one culture but may be interpreted differently by people from another culture. Just be aware that some commonplace gestures in your country could be misinterpreted by people from another country and it will do you good to learn of a few of these.

The Okay Sign
Okay sign

The okay sign is quite commonly used and accepted. However, when you are in Germany, Brazil, Turkey and Greece, beware because this sign for them is quite vulgar. Giving them that okay sign tells them that they resemble the hole in your bottom and as such is a homosexual. In Kuwait, that simple sign is interpreted as you giving them the evil eye.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Burdock – a vegetable that inspired the invention of Velcro

The Metal Zipper
Velcro, a hook and loop fastener has rivaled the zipper in its ability to fasten two pieces of an item together. Where zippers cannot be used, strips of Velcro fasteners are used instead. Velcro fasteners are used everywhere, as fasteners for clothing, shoes, bags, toys, and school and office supplies. Its application seems endless. It’s even used in space shuttles. Such is the wide range of applications for this innocuous invention that was inspired by the seeds of a vegetable, the burdock. The vegetable is a native in the Old World, composed of Asia, Europe and Africa. 

What is a burdock?

Burdock is a biennial root vegetable that is related to the artichoke. It has large, heart-shaped dark green leaves with wooly undersides. Seeds of the burdock are covered with burrs, which adhere to fabric and fur, facilitating the seed dispersal.  The long and slender taproot, which could grow to about one meter in length, is edible and figures in many Japanese, Chinese and Korean cuisines. It is crisp and has a mild sweet taste. In Japan, burdock is called gobō  while the Taiwanese and Koreans call it u-eong (u-ong). It is also popular in Portugal, Italy and Brazil, where it’s called garduna or bardana.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Folding Hand Fan and its Secret Language

The folding hand fan might not be too common in the United States, but this small and handy fan, which provides cooling air during summer, is used by men and women in the East, particularly those living in Japan, China, South Korea, the Philippines and other Asian countries. Unknown to many, the hand fan has such a rich history. And to top it all, it was once used as a communication tool; with a secret language only users of the hand fan knew about.

Japanese Fan Dancers
During the 19th century the fan was used as a communication tool to send out secret messages during the time when outright verbal communication between men and women were controlled. Ladies then usually have chaperones to monitor their every move. In Japan, it was used in warfare by the Samurais as well as in dances. In Korea, folding fans were used as a fighting tool and likewise in one of their beautiful dances.

While there are newer ways to keep cool, a folding hand fan is very much in use today as in ancient times. And there remains the old language of the folding fans that is still recognized in the modern day.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Professionalism in the Work Place, in Business, and in Everyday Life

The dictionary defines professionalism as the aim, qualities or conduct, which mark or characterize a profession. It was derived from the Old French term, profession, which was used circa 1200. It meant the vows that were taken by an individual entering a religious order, from the Latin word, professionem. In early 15th century, the meaning of profession became the “line of work someone is skilled in.” The word professionalism started being used around 1856.

A survey done by eWeek, a publication focused on decision makers in technology purchases, and which also provides corporate news, trends, reviews and analysis, revealed that 88% of the respondents relate professionalism not on the position a person holds but to the person itself. The survey also said that almost 30% of the modern workforce display poor attitude while 27% are inconsiderate and disrespectful. Poor grammar skills had been noted in about 40% of the workers of today, according to the same survey. These figures could pose a great dilemma to the management process in today’s business environment.

Professionalism is a word that is easy to say but difficult to accomplish. Professionalism translates into so many meanings. To be called a professional isn’t an easy task; it has rules to follow, be it in dressing up, in the manner of speaking or in conducting oneself. And while many of the modern workers may think that this is passé, it is in fact very much needed right now, more than ever.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

November 11, the day to give thanks to all veterans

Veterans Day Poster for 2010

The United States celebrates Veterans Day on November 11, which for 2012 falls on a Sunday. It is a day of thanksgiving and of honoring all the veterans, dead and living that served in the wars, in the service of the United States of America.

Veterans Day should not be confused with Memorial Day, for which some assume are one and the same. Memorial Day is the day when the country honors those that have given their lives for the country, and celebrated on the last Monday of the month of May annually.

But why is Veterans Day celebrated on November 11? The date is very significant, that is why. It was the day “The Armistice” that ended the First World War was signed. The number combination was 11-11-11. It was signed in November, the 11th month, on the 11th day, at the 11th hour in 1918. The location of the signing of the armistice was the forest in Compiègne, a city in France, which is about 60 kilometers or 37 miles from Paris.

Friday, November 9, 2012

James Bond at 50

Sean Connery as James Bond in "Dr. No"
We’ve all been thrilled by the swashbuckling and daring stunts, the beautiful ladies, the fantastic cars, beautiful international locations, flashy espionage gadgets, and the cool and handsome persona. The covert spy, the dashing and debonair Englishman, the ultimate secret of M16, the one and only Bond, James Bond. And it’s been 50 years since Dr. No, the first Bond film to grace the big screen, came out in 1962. Sean Connery was the first James Bond in the franchise, based on the novel of Ian Fleming. Connery was only 32 at that time.

The thrilling espionage movies caught almost everyone’s fancy. Men and women, young and old, got mesmerized by the charisma of the leading men who portrayed James Bond through the years. The series is a worldwide hit. The hit Bond movies have been translated into 11 languages including Spanish, German, French, Italian and Russian. The latest Bond film, Skyfall, will also be translated into Kazakh.

Daniel Craig From The Skyfall's cast and crew arrive on location in Istanbul.
Through the early years of the movie franchise, there were some criticisms that the movies strayed from the books by Ian Fleming. However, once James Bond has settled in as a stand-alone character free from his literary roots, the only thing that remained were the titles and the Bond girls which were either from the books or related to Ian Fleming in some way. The books have also gone on to have a life of their own. Ian Fleming's last book, Octopussy and The Living Daylights, a compilation of short stories, was published two years after his death, in 1966. Since then there have been 40 James Bond books written by a series of authors.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Krampus will come and get you, so check your manners and behave

Krampus “Morzger Pass” Salzburg 2008

Why would you want to frighten children around Christmas time? It doesn’t compute. But in the Alpine regions, such in Bavaria, Croatia, Germany and Finland, they do. And Krampus is one frightening fellow. According to legend he is the right hand man, the jury and judge of Saint Nicholas, who is set to find out if children have been naughty or nice.

In a few weeks Christmas will again be upon us. And around the world, Christmas translates to merry making, wishes of good tidings and cheer, gift giving and a general sense of peace and prosperity. It is that time of year when children eagerly await the coming of Santa Claus bearing gifts.

Parents have always told their children to behave, to be nice, polite and good to others so that Santa will bring them the Christmas presents they wish for. Children are even told to write Santa a letter, telling him that they’ve been good the whole year round, except maybe for some erstwhile misbehavior here and there, minor at the most, and that they promise not to do it again. Young children eagerly await Santa’s coming on Christmas Eve, leaving him some cookies and a glass of milk to give him sustenance during his long journey to deliver presents.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Understanding the silent but dynamic language of hands

sign language interpreter

Most of us have been exposed to people who cannot speak and who are hard of hearing conducting conversions with the use of sign language. Sign language though, is learned and needs enrolment in a special school. And it is not just them that need to learn it but also people close to them so that they could conduct conversations normally, even if silently.

They belong to an exclusive clique, since not everyone knows sign language. Persons with speaking and hearing disabilities are still somewhat marginalized. On the other hand, they are fortunate since they are able to communicate and understand one another through sign language.

While people with hearing and speaking disabilities have their own language, there is another type of language that is more universal. It is not a unique language that is spoken by a specific country. It is not oral, nor is it written. It is more visual, but could be more forceful and impactful when you know how to read it. It is called body language, or rather; it is part of general body language. We are talking about something more pinpointed – the language of the hands.

Hand gestures could translate into so many meanings, whether positive, negative or in-betweens. It is believed that the hands are the second richest source of body expressions next to the face. As the hands also interact with other parts of the body such as the face, particularly the eyes, ears and nose, you would then realize just how extensive the symbols and meanings hand body language communicates.

Even the infinitesimal hand movement might show a subconscious thought, although at times some are done exaggeratedly or used when a point needs to be emphasized. While deemed universal, caution should still be exercised as some hand gestures that others think are innocent might have a different translation and interpretation in another culture.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Sign Language Interpreter Lydia Callis Brings Sign Language Interpreting to the Next Level

Everyone knew that the superstorm Sandy was coming to New York. It was Mayor Michael Bloomberg's job to make sure that the residents took all precautions against the storm. By his side during the Sandy briefings was a petite smartly dressed woman who blew up a storm. Lydia Callis, one of two official interpreters for the Mayor's briefings became an instant star with her passionate and very emotive interpretation of the briefings.

Her Background

Lydia Callis graduated from the Rochester Institute of Technologys National Technical Institute for the Deaf in 2010. The RIT is one of at least seven schools for American Sign Language in the New York City and Long Island area. Lydia worked at the RIT after graduation

Her instant rise to fame has been propagated by Twitter tweets and Tumblr posts. As it turns out she has been likened as the one good thing that came out of superstorm Sandy. Since the start of the Sandy briefings, she has been interpreting beside Mayor Bloomberg, and has headed off straight to become a viral phenom in her own right.

Even with the instant celebrity status Lydia has no plans on riding the bandwagon. She has declined requests for interviews, but did tell the New York Post, I'm here to serve the deaf and hard-of-hearing. I'm just glad, and I'm honored, that I was able to get the message out there... that's what it's all about.

She did not only put the Mayor's words into action, but she also interpreted Bloomberg's dry style into quite a graphic rendering. American sign language (ASL) interprets the words and the meaning of what is being spoken. It is different from Signing Exact English (SEE), which is not used as much. ASL interpreters use facial expressions, hand gestures and body movements for inflection to carry the message. This usually results in more expressive signing. Lydia told New York Post, American Sign Language is a very visual language, so sometimes you have to use pictures to describe what people are saying in English."