An Englishman’s struggles with language abroad


I started travelling late in 2009 and like a lot of Englishmen I had had very little experience with foreign languages, especially when compared to other Europeans. There isn’t an emphasis on learning languages in the UK like in other countries. Also, I would be lying if I said I didn´t have a slightly bullish attitude to foreign languages, in that I expected everyone else to speak enough English for me to get by. Travelling throughout India I found communication to be a mixed bag. Most people spoke good English in the southern states (it is the official language) but up north it was either very broken or nonexistent. Getting about wasn’t too hard but it was a shame that due to my lack of Hindi I couldn’t form proper friendships with a lot of the great Indians I met. taj

Last March my wife and I holidayed in Japan and it was the first time I came across such a definitive language barrier. The Japanese were wonderfully polite and you could see that they wanted to help when we asked or enquired, but such distinct and different cultures and languages really did stop any true connection through speaking to one another. As you can imagine there was plenty of body language and pointing from our end and plenty of awkward, polite smiles and bowing from theirs!

taj 2 An impression I got from experiencing India and Japan, to some degree, was that they didn’t expect foreign travelers to understand their languages. That didn’t make it any easier getting around, but there was an: “Ok, so I can’t understand you, you can’t understand me, let’s work this out the best we can” attitude that helped.

Coming to Argentina has been by far the biggest eye opener in the language stakes. My wife is Argentine but we never talk in Spanish and so I came to Argentina with very little Spanish vocabulary. I have been fortunate because my wife’s family all speak English well enough, but of course tend to talk Spanish when we are together socially. My bullish attitude of expecting everyone to speak English around me has been well and truly shot down!

I have so far struggled to pick up Spanish which has made it difficult at times. I get the impression that there is an expectation to know Spanish when you want to engage with Argentines (and rightly so!) and so understanding conversational Spanish is all the more important.taj 3

What I’ve learnt when on the road is that if you want to travel and just do the tourist traps then a limited understanding of that country’s language will get you by, just barely. But, just doing the tourist traps means that you are missing a big part of travelling. Going off the beaten track is how to experience a country’s true culture and people, and this requires you to put effort into learning their language.

Adam

How to Avoid the Dreaded Comma Splice



semicolonPirates have nasty attitudes, this is frequently the result of wearing their pants too tight.

What’s wrong with this sentence? Most style manuals agree that there is a problem here. When two independent clauses are connected with a comma without a conjunction, a comma splice is the result. An independent clause is a clause that can stand alone as a sentence. There are several ways to resolve this situation. The easiest way to fix the problem is to separate the two clauses into two sentences.

Pirates have nasty attitudes. This is frequently the result of wearing their pants too tight.

Another way to resolve this problem would be to combine the two clauses with a conjunction such as or, but, or and. The addition of the conjunction makes one of the clauses dependent on the other.

Pirates have nasty attitudes, but this is frequently the result of wearing their pants too tight.

A third way to fix the problem is to use a semicolon. This is only possible if the clauses are independent. Semicolons are frequently misused so be careful with them.

Pirates have nasty attitudes; this is frequently the result of wearing their pants too tight.

For a clear and succinct description of how to use a semicolon, visit The Oatmeal

 

 

The Passive Voice


Which facts about Seattle do you think are true and which are false?

  1. The basketball team “The Lakers” are from Seattle
  2. It often rains in Seattleseattle
  3. Silicon Valley is near Seattle
  4. Bill Gates and Microsoft are located in Seattle
  5. Chrysler cars are manufactured in Seattle
  6. Bruce Springsteen was born in Seattle
  7. “Grunge” music comes from Seattle
  8. Seattle is in the Southwest of the United States

My Hometown

Many years ago, I was born in Seattle, Washington USA. Seattle is located in the  northwest corner of the USA. Recently, Seattle has become the focus of much international attention. Many films have been made there, probably the most famous of which is Sleepless in Seattle starring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks. Seattle is also known as the birthplace of “Grunge” music; both Pearl Jam and Nirvana are from Seattle. For older people like me, it should be noted that Jimi Hendrix was born in Seattle! NBA fans know Seattle for the “Seattle Supersonics”, a team that has played basketball in Seattle for more than 30 years. Unfortunately, Seattle is also famous for its bad weather.

Seattle has also become one of the fastest-growing business areas in the United States. Two of the most important names in the booming business scene in Seattle are Microsoft and Boeing. Microsoft was founded and is owned by the world-famous Bill Gates (how much of his software is on your computer?). Boeing has always been essential to the economic situation in Seattle. It is located to the north of Seattle and famous jets such as the “Jumbo” have been manufactured there for more than 50 years!

Seattle is positioned between Puget Sound and the Cascade Mountains. The combination of its scenic location, thriving business conditions and exciting cultural scene makes Seattle one of America’s most interesting cities.

Chrysler cars are manufactured in Seattle          Chrysler manufactures cars in Seattle

Which sentence is ACTIVE and which sentence is PASSIVE?

The passive

The passive voice is used when focusing on the person or thing affected by an action.

  • The Passive is formed: Passive Subject + To Be + Past Particple

They built the house in 1989         The house was built in 1989.

  • It is often used in business when the object of the action is more important than those who perform the action.

Over 20 different models have been produced in the past two years.

The passive uses the same patterns for the other tenses:

  • PRESENT CONTINUOUS: is/are + being + past participle

Susan is cooking dinner                 Dinner is being cooked by Susan

  • PAST: was/were + past participle

      James Joyce wrote “Dubliners”      “Dubliners” was written by James Joyce.

  • FUTURE: will/going to + be + past participle

I will finish it tomorrow.                 It will be finished tomorrow.

 

 Practice using the passive

1. They make shoes in that factory.

Shoes      —             are made in that factory.

2. People must not leave bicycles in the driveway.

Bicycles      —             must not be left in the driveway.

3. They built that skyscraper in 1934.

That skyscraper      —             was built in 1934.

4. The students will finish the course by July.

The course      —             will be finished by July.

5. They are repairing the streets this month.

The streets     —             are being repaired this month.

Change these sentences into the passive voice

1. They had finished the preparations by the time the guests arrived.

2. You should take care when working on electrical equipment.

3. They are going to perform Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony next weekend.

4. Someone will speak Japanese at the meeting.

5. Karen is going to prepare the refreshments.

 

 

Crowdsourcing New Language Skills with Memrise


Looking for a unique and fun way to learn new vocabulary? Memrise is an online learning tool that uses flashcards augmented with mnemonics partly gathered through crowdsourcing and the spacing effect to boost the speed and ease of learning.   memrise

It was founded by Ed Cooke, a Grand Master of Memory, and Greg Detre, a Princeton neuroscientist specializing in the science of memory and forgetting. It works like planting a seed and watering the plant until it has grown into a plant with flowers. After certain periods of time (working alongside the science of how our short, medium and long term memories work) you must water and harvest new seeds to keep learning new vocabulary. You can follow friends and see how they are getting on with their flowers and you gain points which puts you onto a leader board.

It is a great and fun way of learning a new language as well as learning
other things too!

 

 

 

Fileteado Porteño


fileteado   As iconic as the face of Carlos Gardel, the stylized artistic style of fileteado can be seen throughout Buenos Aires adorning storefronts, buses, taxis and just about anything else that porteños care about. The curled flowers, loops and hand painted swirls that began as a simple decoration for produce carts developed over the years into a way of distinguishing the myriad of buses (colectivos) from their competitors. Now the style is recognized as a unique and disctinctive art form of the city. From plumber’s shops to Milongas, the characteristic flowers, cornucopias, and vivid colors are  more than just a means of filling the free space on signs; they are an art form as distinctive as Buenos Aires itself.

Excellent examples of fileteado can be found when walking around La Boca or outside the Carlos Gardel museum in Abasto. It is not necessary, however, to make a special trip. Just about everywhere you go in the city, you can see hand painted fileteado signs and walls used for advertisements or simply for decoration.  fileteado 2

There are even tours that  will take you around the city to see the best  examples of this unique  art form. Or, if you are  feeling creative, you can  even take a class from a master of fileteado.  Wherever you are in the city, there is a good chance that you can find a beautiful example of this distinctive art within walking distance.

 

 

 

Shopping in Buenos Aires


calleflorida   Whether you just came to Buenos Aires for a short vacation or whether your visit to Buenos Aires is part of a longer journey, it is definitely a good place to go shopping and get your money’s worth. If you just arrived in Buenos Aires, you are probably spending some time in the neighborhood of Palermo. Just walking around this neighborhood you are likely to encounter loads of stores that offer everything from jewelry to jeans. If you happen to be there during the weekend, make sure to check out Plaza Serrano where every weekend the streets turn into a small, open air shopping mall. Moreover, all the bars that at night allow you to enjoy nicely chilled Quilmes convert  into small markets during the day. You can find clothes and jewelry here that will definitely be cheaper than in a normal brand store. If you are in Buenos Aires a bit longer, this is perhaps not the place you want to go. So now you are asking yourself, “Where then should I go shopping?” Ask in any hotel or hostel and most likely they will tell you to try your luck on Florida Street. Which is very nice to see and is the closest that you will find to a “European” style shopping street. The street is closed for traffic and so you can easily shop at your own pace and enjoy looking at whatever it is you are looking for. However, that being said, it is worth considering just sticking to looking at things and not buying it there. It won’t be a surprise that to find the best possible shopping for the best price, go where the locals go. In this category there are  two options that you might want to consider, depending on how much you want to buy and  how long you are staying in Buenos Aires. The easiest option would be to go to Avenida Cabildo. This street is easily accessible from Subte linea D and takes you right from Plaza Italia or Palermo to the heart of the Porteno’s shopping street. Leave the Subte at station Juramento and you will find yourself surrounded by stores and the more familiar food chains. You will also notice that there won’t be as many tourists hanging around  there, although that’s definitely not the only reason to go.
In case you are staying for a bit longer, maybe to learn some Spanish before starting your travels throughout South America, there is one other place that might be worth visiting. The name is La Avellaneda and that is where you will find good quality clothes for an incredibly low price. It is easily accessible since you can take the Metrobus that leaves from Palermo station and which will take you just a couple of blocks away from where you’ll need to be. The only catch is that to get a cheap price in general you will have to buy at least a couple of items in the same store. But no worries, in general you just have to buy 3 articles of clothing in the same store, which is often still cheaper then buying just 1 article on Florida Street.
So if you are not afraid to explore a little bit and are looking to buy good quality clothing for traveling, or if you are just looking for something to take back home, Buenos Aires will definitely serve you well.

Lunfardo


A los habitantes de Buenos Aires se le conoce mayormente como porteños, por la influencia del puerto en el desarrollo de esta cuidad. Ellos utilizan con frecuencia una jerga peculiar conocida como “lunfardo”, la cual surge de la fusión de lenguas, conocimientos y costumbres, traídas por los inmigrantes. Esta forma de hablar consiste en deformar el propio castellano, tomando palabras de algunos dialectos italianos y de otras lenguas, para luego adaptarlas en un nuevo idioma.

Es un leguaje dinámico y lleno de vida ya que se nutre constantemente de expresiones circunstanciales o improvisadas, renovándose constantemente. Al igual que el tango , nace en el ambiente marginal de los barrios pobres, debido a la convivencia forzada entre el gran caudal de inmigrantes que llegaron durantes las primeras décadas del siglo XX y la población local. Hoy se ha expandido a todos los niveles sociales y es cotidianamente utilizado en diversos ámbitos y situaciones. Lo podemos escuchar frecuentemente en los tangos, en los medios de comunicación y en los escritores más importantes de este país. Hay que mantener completa atención a la hora de escuchar hablar a un porteño, pues su español podría ser bastante complicado. He aquí varios ejemplos…

Algunas expresiones características del español rioplatense:
Opiniones favorables sobre una persona
• “Tiene onda”
• “Es re lindo/a”
• “Es copado/a”

Opiniones negativas sobre una persona
• “Es re mala onda”
• “No me cabe”
• “No me lo/a banco”

¡Ojo con los gestos! – Dictionary of Porteños’ Gestures


Cuando nos comunicamos, no sólo usamos las palabras; también hacemos gestos que pueden tener tanto significado como lo que decimos. Algunos son universales (como por ejemplo el pulgar para arriba), otros significan diferentes cosas en diferentes lugares. Acá, te enseñamos algunos gestos muy útiles para entender a los porteños.

When we talk, we use more than just words. We also do gestures that can be as meaningful as the words we say. Some of them are universal (such us “thumbs up”), some others mean different things in different places.
People from Buenos Aires are known for “speaking with their hands”. You might feel that we are making senseless chaotic movements but many of them are very meaningful and clear among locals.
Here, some of them.

 

 

¡Ojo! – Be careful!/Watch out!
[Pull down your lower eyelid with your index finger.]

 

 

¡Ni la más pálida idea! – I don’t know./I have no clue.[The chin flick: tilt your head back a bit and sweep the back of your fingers forward from under your chin.]

 


¡Ma sí, andá (a cagar)! – Get outta here!
[Throw your arm back toward your head.]

 

 

Montoncito – What the hell are you talking about?!/Just who do you think you are? [Bring all of your fingers and your thumb together with your hand pointing upward. Move your hand up and down at the wrist.]

 

 

¡Hambre! – You’re totally in the dark, out of it. You don’t know what time it is. [Bite your lower lip with your upper teeth and say: “mmmh!”]

 

 

Fuente: http://www.eniedespaniol.com.ar/blog/44/ojo-con-los-gestos-dictionary-of-portenos-gestures

Do you like photography ? ¿Conocés a Sebastião Salgado?


UNICEF Special Representative Sebastião Salgado

Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado is one of the most respected photojournalists working today. Appointed a UNICEF Special Representative on 3 April 2001, he has dedicated himself to chronicling the lives of the world’s dispossessed, a work that has filled ten books and many exhibitions and for which he has won numerous awards in Europe and in the Americas.

“I hope that the person who visits my exhibitions, and the person who comes out, are not quite the same,” says Mr. Salgado. “I believe that the average person can help a lot, not by giving material goods but by participating, by being part of the discussion, by being truly concerned about what is going on in the world.”

Sebastião Salgado

¿Por qué aprender portugués?


Las lenguas no sólo funcionan como medio de comunicación

Tradicionalmente nuestro país se ha caracterizado por la inclusión de la enseñanza de idiomas en el currículo de la Enseñanza Media. El francés, como idioma clásico y herencia de nuestra marcada francofilia, el italiano incluido en la orientación derecho como heredero del latín, el inglés posteriormente como lengua universal. Curiosamente, y por razones que serían un interesante tema de investigación para sociólogos e historiadores, el portugués no estuvo nunca dentro de las opciones. ¿Causas históricas, rivalidad tradicional, consideración de que no existía necesidad? Algunas de estas razones o todas parecen señalarnos una explicación.

Esto se modificó a partir de la formación del Mercosur. En el Tratado de Asunción (1990) se establece, claramente, que entre las políticas culturales y educativas, la implementación de la enseñanza de las lenguas de los países miembros, debía ser una prioridad. Por lo tanto, después de casi 5 siglos de desinterés por la lengua de nuestros vecinos, la necesidad de aprenderla surge como algo imprescindible.

¿Por qué es importante la enseñanza de lenguas extranjeras en general y del portugués en particular? Porque el aprendizaje de lenguas extranjeras no sólo tiene un valor instrumental, que los alumnos podrán apreciar casi inmediatamente en su vida cotidiana, sino que también lleva consigo el observar el mundo desde otro punto de vista. Este aspecto es básico para el desarrollo de la tolerancia y para la toma de conciencia de que todo es relativo. La lengua está acompañada por una cultura cuyo conocimiento promueve la comprensión de las diferencias y estimula esa tolerancia. La lengua no sólo funciona como medio de comunicación, sino que investigaciones han mostrado que tiene estrecha relación con temas tan diversos como el desarrollo neurológico, la xenofobia o la memoria.

¿Pero por qué estudiar portugués? ¿Simplemente porque fue impuesto por un tratado? La respuesta es bastante lógica si consideramos que es una de las lenguas más habladas en el continente. Es evidente, también, que las relaciones políticas, culturales y comerciales con el Brasil se han multiplicado desde la creación del MERCOSUR, y esto se ha visto reflejado en la demanda cada vez mayor de personas con conocimiento de portugués para llenar las vacantes pedidas por diferentes empresas e instituciones. Esto se traduce en una nueva visión del aprendizaje de la lengua portuguesa, visión que alcanza a los padres preocupados por el futuro laboral de sus hijos, que lo ven como una ventaja más en nuestro mundo ya tan competitivo. Las razones instrumentales de la lengua están claras para todos.

Pero como ya vimos también existió, durante muchos años, el curioso fenómeno de ignorar la lengua de nuestros vecinos y entre las ideas que las personas tienen sobre el portugués y sus hablantes, se observa un cierto prejuicio cuando se afirma que es una lengua que no precisa ser aprendida, que se trata de una deformación del español. Cómo dice el profesor Paes de Almeida, de la Universidad de Campinas en San Pablo, Brasil, hay entre los aprendices hispano-hablantes del portugués, una sensación de que están hablando o escribiendo mal su propia lengua y en su comentario suaviza esta percepción diciendo que de ahí surge, en tono de broma, la afirmación de que el portugués es un español mal hablado. En nuestra experiencia diaria como docente escuchamos esos comentarios frecuentemente y muchas veces no precisamente en tono de broma. No hay nada mejor para combatir estos prejuicios que el aprendizaje sistemático de la lengua, el conocimiento del pueblo que la habla y de su cultura; todo esto redunda en tolerancia, valor importante en general y más aún cuando se trata de nuestros vecinos.