Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Italian – Music to the Ears!

Meraviglioso! Bello! Interessante!

Marvelous, beautiful and interesting!

These are just some of the words that can be used to describe the experience of hearing the Italian language spoken.

Italian is one of the many Romance languages and to hear it spoken is quite literally music to the ears. It is also the Romance language that has the most similarity to the vocabulary words used in Latin. Although its sentence construction, conjugation and use of male and female genders in the language are similar to French and the other Romance languages, Italian simply has a way of sounding poetic. Even when a cab driver is yelling at an errant pedestrian, or a seller is arguing with a buyer when he is unwilling to give his wares for a bargain, Italian can sound like a lullaby of a mother to her child or a love song between lovers. 

Andrea Bocelli

Whether it’s hearing an opera performance, listening to Italian football fans vigorously cheer on their teams or simply listening to the ingredients list on a menu, Italian is undoubtedly a language with a cadence that falls quite pleasurably on the ears. There’s a softness yet almost lyrical quality to it. Sometimes, it almost seems like a song is being sung to you as you hear the words.

Not just for the Italians

Friday, May 25, 2012

Remembering Memorial Day

The colors red, white and blue, as well as the stars and stripes are all over the nation with the approach of Memorial Day. It is right around the corner and many people are excitedly looking forward to one of the most anticipated holidays of the year. Memorial Day is typically thought of as the start of the summer season. However, there is a more meaningful reason behind this day.
Memorial Day: (From left) Ambassador Craig Stapleton, U.S. Ambassador to France, Brig. Gen. (Ret.) Steve Hawkins, Director of the European Region of the American Battle Monuments Commission, Jeffrey Aarnio, Superintendent of Oise-Aisne American Cemetery, and Brig. Gen. Jeffrey G. Smith Jr., commanding general, 5th Signal Command, prepare to lay wreaths at the war memorial in Fere-en-Tardenois, France, during a Memorial Day ceremony May 25. (photo by LeAnne MacAllister, 5th Signal Command)
The last Monday in the month of May is Memorial Day, although in the past, this was held on various dates, including May 30 of each year. This is thanks to an act of Congress called the National Holiday Act of 1971, thereby creating a three-day weekend to end the month of May. It is a federal holiday in America, which means it is a non-working holiday.

Memorial Day is truly about the bravery of American soldiers throughout history and all over the world. The holiday traces its roots to the American Civil War. In the 19th century, it was recognized as a day of remembrance of the fallen soldiers during the civil war. However, over the years, it has evolved to include all American soldiers in any part of the world.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Two Linguist Brothers – Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm and their Fairy Tales

The Walt Disney Company has entertained children and adults all over the world with their timeless animated fairy tales featuring lovely princesses overcoming odds and challenges without ever losing their grace, beauty and poise in the process. Other film and television companies have also succeeded in giving audiences their own entertaining take on fairy tales. But viewers and even readers of today's fairy tales never really question where these stories originated.

Doppelporträt der Brüder Jacob und Wilhelm Grimm / Die Brüder Grimm (right: Jacob Grimm; left: Wilhelm Grimm)

Fairy tales come from folk tales that have been passed on, often times orally, from one generation to another. These folk tales or folk stories often center around humble heroes or heroines, princes and princesses, or peasant girls and young lads. Mythical and magical creatures such as fairies, giants, dwarves, fairy godmothers, and witches, talking animals and other magical beings sometimes are part of these folk tales.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Benefits of Being Bilingual

It is estimated that there are over 6,500 living languages around the world. The exact figure is difficult to determine because language and dialect are not so easy to distinguish from one another. Since there are literally thousands of languages in the world, it is natural to assume that there would be many advantages for someone who can speak than more than one language.

Most commonly spoken languages

The top three languages spoken around the world are Mandarin, Spanish and English. These are three of the six official languages used by the United Nations (the other are Arabic, French and Russian). There are over 1.2 billion Mandarin speakers all over the world, half a billion Castilian Spanish speakers and about 1.5 billion English speakers around the world.

Other most commonly spoken languages around the world are Bengali, Hindi, Portuguese, Russian and Japanese. Arabic is one of the world’s most commonly spoken languages and is spoken by 175 million people around the globe, with ten variants within spoken Arabic.

Friday, May 18, 2012

What is the Official Language of the United States of America?

If English is your answer, sorry, you are wrong. If your answer is American English, you are still wrong! English is not the official language of the United States of America. In fact, the US has no official language, at least on the federal level. One would think that English, which is undoubtedly the lingua franca of business and global politics today, is by default the most powerful nation's official language. But it is not. There has never been one, and will probably never will be, at least in the near foreseeable future.

Why is this so? One theory is because it goes against the spirit on which the US was founded on. America is a country of immigrants of different races, religions, political beliefs, customs, traditions, and of course, languages. The Constitution of the US protects the freedoms of its citizens on many levels including their individuality and diversity. And language forms a big part of every citizen.

If Columbus discovered America, why isn't Spanish the official language?

The first Europeans who set foot on the Americas (North and South American continents) were not the Spaniards or the Portuguese. Vikings already found themselves in Canada even before the Spanish explorers sent their vast ships to find more lands and riches to conquer. But it was the voyages of the Spanish backed Christopher Columbus and his crew that were credited with the discovery of the Americas.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Mother's Day: Mothers Speak the Language of Love Around the World

Mothers play a multitude of roles in their children's lives. Aside from the care and love they provide, they can also function as breadwinners, personal doctors, nurses, counselors, chefs, tailors, housekeepers, financial advisers, drivers, coaches, security guards, hairdressers, fashion consultants, life coaches, and social secretaries.

One important role of mothers is that they are the primary teachers of their children. One of the first things that children learn from mothers is language. In fact, the primary language of a person is called his "mother tongue" or "mother language." It is the language that a child learns usually from his mother. Because the young child is often closer to his mother, he naturally picks up the language his mother speaks. Traditionally, mothers are the first caretakers of their children; they teach the young how to speak, read and write. The first songs they hear are the lullabies sung by their mothers.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Change Your Life – Learn a New Language

One of the best things you can do is to learn a new language. It's a challenge that can be fun, rewarding and best of all, life changing. For most adults, learning a new language is quite difficult. In fact, research has shown that as a person ages, his ability to learn a new language becomes more difficult. But don't listen to research! There are other factors that contribute to the ease or difficulty in learning a new language aside from one's age. In this age of globalization, it is easier to reach out to peoples of different cultures, races and creeds. One way to connect with them is by learning their mother tongues.

There is a Czech proverb that describes what it is like to learn a new language. It goes like this - Kolik jazyků znáš, tolikrát jsi člověkem. This translates to this:

“You live a new life for every new language you speak.
If you know only one language, you live only once.”

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Viva la Mexico! Celebrating Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo is a celebration held every fifth of May. Contrary to popular belief, it is not the celebration of Mexican Independence Day. This day – Grito de Dolores, is celebrated by Mexicans on September 16th of every year.

Dancers at the annual Cinco de Mayo Festival in Washington, D.C.

Instead, Cinco de Mayo commemorates the victory of some Mexican troops against the French army. Today, however, it has become a celebration of Mexican pride and heritage.

More American than Mexican

Cinco de Mayo is a day to celebrate Mexican pride and the unique  Mexican-American culture. It marks the Mexican army’s victory against French military troops in The 1862 Battle of Puebla