Tomorrow is Thanksgiving in the United States and we wanted to wish everyone a safe and Happy Thanksgiving from the Mango family to yours! There are many traditions we have to celebrate this holiday…what do you do to celebrate?
Can you feel it in the air? Your imminent turkey coma, last minute gift buying at a jam-packed mall, and best of all, over-crowded, bustling airports. Yes, my friends, the holidays are here again! It seems like just yesterday we finished the last of the Thanksgiving leftovers with one final turkey sandwich topped with a dollop of cranberry sauce. Yet, here we are again, two days away from an American holiday based entirely around eating. How very American, indeed! In all seriousness, though, Thanksgiving is one of my most favorite holidays for that very reason. Unlike Christmas, Hannukah, Valentine’s Day, or even birthdays, there is no pressure to find the perfect gift or plan something for someone to top the previous year. No, Thanksgiving sticks to the basics. Family, friends, and food. Being Middle Eastern, gathering over meals is a large part of our culture. In fact, my entire family even gets together each Sunday at my grandparents’ home to have dinner. We’ve been doing this for over 30 years (though hard to imagine, they actually had a life even before I was born) and it is something we look forward to each week. Thanksgiving provides us with yet another day to break bread together and count our blessings, this time with members of our extended family.
Because Thanksgiving is a holiday so based around gatherings with family and friends, you can imagine that travel is at an all time high. In fact, according to the Bureau of Transportation, the average Thanksgiving long-distance trip length is 214 miles. This is still less than the average of 261 miles for other trips throughout the year, while Christmas/New Year’s takes the cake with an average of 275 miles. With the influx of travelers, be sure to allow extra time at the airport to make sure you don’t spend Thanksgiving in the food court. Doesn’t quite compare to grandma’s homemade stuffing, huh?
The average age of the Thanksgiving traveler is just under 34 years old, and 99% of these people are traveling within the United States. This seems obvious, considering it is an American holiday, but I am all about starting new traditions. Thanksgiving in Turkey (it’s fitting, right?) for 2012! Who’s with me!?
One of the best parts about Thanksgiving is tradition, both remembering old ones and creating new ones. Some of my friends from my program when I studied in France told me about their American Thanksgiving they tried to recreate with a hot plate and not much else in an attempt to satiate their craving for mashed potatoes and gravy. And this year, rather than the traditional turkey, my family will be switching things up with a pig roast. Should be interesting.. I will report back next week. Just goes to show, no matter where in the world we are or how we choose to celebrate, the sentiment of togetherness stays the same! Happy Thanksgiving to all of you, and don’t be afraid to go for that second (or third, or fourth) piece of pumpkin pie.
Have you ever celebrated Thanksgiving somewhere other than the US? Do you have any unique traditions?
Obviously, as the crazed Mango fans that you all are, one of the most exciting parts of traveling to far off lands is the opportunity to utilize all that you have learned and practiced (from the comfort of your own home, using your MP3 player, or even on your iPhone). As someone who has lived abroad, the prospect of conversing with native speakers is just as terrifying as it is exhilarating. What if my accent is horrible? Do I use the formal or informal? Which verb tense do I use? These fears can prevent us from making the most of our travels and speaking the language of the land. It seems so easy to slip back into our English comfort zone. If there is one piece of advice I can give you, it’s DON’T DO IT!!! Some of my best travel experiences have occurred in countries where I only knew a few words (hello, thank you, goodbye, etc.). You don’t have to speak a language fluently to earn the respect of the locals. Merely making an effort with these simple greetings and gratitudes (no matter how horrible the accent) is enough to create a connection with someone.
Take it from Benny Lewis, a world traveler originally from Ireland who has a self-proclaimed “love affair with other countries and speaking foreign languages.” At the age of 21, Benny only spoke English. A mere 8 years later, he speaks English, French, Italian, Esperanto, Irish, Spanish, Portuguese and German fluently, and his newest venture is American Sign Language. His website chronicles his language learning and his travels, and he even has an awesome video where he uses all of the languages he speaks to give a tour of his apartment in Berlin. Impressionant, non?!
I actually discovered Benny’s site through a co-worker who thought it would be of interest to me, and she was right! One blog post I found particularly relevant is entitled “What will I talk about when my language level is so basic?” He brings up an awesome point that really makes you think about trying to use that foreign language you studied way back in high school: To be interesting, you have to be interested.
So what does this mean exactly? It means that to have a great conversation with someone, you don’t have to do all the talking. Crazy concept for us Americans, eh? Being able to ask questions and let someone else do the talking benefits you in two ways. Firstly, you really get to know the other person and discover the ways in which we, as humans, are all alike, despite our areas of origin. Also, it allows you to sit back and listen if you are not as comfortable with your speaking skills! He also addresses the common fear that locals will be upset if you speak the language incorrectly. While I can’t say this is 100% untrue, I can say that in my experience, it is almost NEVER the case. Definitely the exception and not the rule. Usually, they are thrilled that you are making an effort to preserve their language and culture.
I highly suggest checking out Benny’s site and taking a look around. He encompasses all that is Mango Languages and definitely lives out our core values. And next time you travel, I encourage you to use your language skills in any capacity that you can. I promise you will not be disappointed. If nothing else, at least be a little more understanding the next time someone from another country speaks to you in broken English. Pay it forward for the next time you are abroad and struggling while asking how to find the restroom.
Have you ever visited a country where you did not speak a word of the native language? How were you able to get around? Did you learn anything by the time you left?
As native speakers, there are so many nuances to the English language that we don’t even realize. Things like the graphic below give me an even greater respect for ESL learners.
What’s the weirdest thing you can think of about the English language? If you’re an ESL learner, what has been your biggest challenge?
Learning a new language can be exhilarating, but oftentimes the most challenging part of adopting a whole new vocabulary can be actually pronouncing the words. How on earth do you say “xie xie” ? Enter the International Phonetic Alphabet.
With the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), all of the world’s languages and accents – no matter how difficult – are at your disposal! First developed in 1888 by the Association Phonétique Internationale (International Phonetic Association), IPA is a standardized collection of symbols used to transcribe the sounds of all the world’s languages (otherwise known as those funky symbols you see next to dictionary definitions). Independent of the idiosyncrasies of individual languages, the IPA shows sounds in a way that spelling never could. For example, using the symbols of the International Phonetic Alphabet, you can represent the difference between “bow” (as in to respectfully lower your head) and “bow” (as in what you wear in your pigtails). So, homonyms – you’re on red alert!
Apart from academia, though, the IPA has a multitude of uses. Classical singers often use the alphabet to study and practice the sounds of other languages they sing but do not necessarily learn. Speech pathologists also use the IPA both when recording speech impediments and diagnosing disorders. And, perhaps most importantly, the Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network (SATERN) recommends using the IPA when communicating via text about international disasters. Basically, the IPA can save your life!
Of course, there are other phonetic alphabets as well, like the American Phonetic Alphabet (APA) and the Revista de Filología Española (RFE), however the IPA is the most widely used by linguists and civilians alike since it isn’t specific to any country or language. Overall, the IPA is the way to go if you want to understand more about the sounds and phonetics of any language!
Interested in the IPA? You’re in luck! Mango is excited to now be the exclusive licensed distributor of IPAflashcards. Pick up an IPAflashcards deck of your own and visit IPAflashcards.com for more information.
How have you used the International Phonetic Alphabet? Has the IPA helped you learn a new language?
Last week, I spent an amazing five days in Calgary, Canada, for the Netspeed Alberta Library Show. We are so excited that the entire Province of Alberta is now part of the Mango family. I was able to meet and train public and academic libraries on the Mango system, introduce the new iPhone app and share additional products like Little Pim.
We met some raving fans of Mango:
I encountered many interesting people and even cultural nuances and experiences. Growing up in Detroit, Canada doesn’t feel very foreign. I guess it is because we used to be able to drive across the border in about 20 minutes with our Michigan Drivers License. I remember as a kid buying candy there and getting double what I could get in the U.S. as the dollar was so strong.
Flying to Calgary was different. Customs was much stricter and, as I travel often, it felt much more like going to Europe or South America to me. Once I arrived I found several things were different. Yes, they speak English but with a few differences. Lots of long vowels, but we have that in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, too. More importantly they say things like Parkade instead of parking garage and they ask for their bill instead of their check. And many words are spelled like the British, for example favour instead of favor.
What I can say is Calgary has some of the nicest and hospitable people around. I know I missed the Calgary Stampede but I did visit Fort Calgary and realized how much history Michigan and Calgary have in common. On top of all of that I visited Banff, and the Canadian Rockies are gorgeous! Go! You won’t regret it! Oh Canada, I already miss you!
I’d like to share a couple funny and cute linguistics stories in this blog. I will be talking about how bilinguals recognize and speak words in each of their languages. What? That doesn’t sound cute? Just hang in there. I promise that this will be a cute but informative linguistic blog.
I am the mother of four children who are all bilingual in English and Spanish. Some time ago I was sitting with my now nine-year old son (I think he was 7 or maybe 8 at the time) as he read to me “The Digging-est Dog” by Al Perkins. He was doing an excellent job, but when he got to the page that reads, “I dug up fences, I dug up gates” without realizing his mistake he very confidently read, “I dug up fences, I dug up cats.”
So why would my son read “cats” instead of “gates”? Obviously “cats” and “gates” don’t rhyme or even really look similar, at least not in English. However, as I mentioned at the beginning of this blog, my children are bilingual in English and Spanish. Well, the Spanish word for “cats” is “gatos.” Ahhh, you say! “Gatos” and “gates” look very much alike! It is easy to see how he could mistake “gates” for this other word “gatos.” What makes this case even more interesting is that while his brain apparently recognized the Spanish word “gatos” he produced the English translation for this word: “cats.” Although my son was reading in English and produced an English word, “cats,” it is evident that his Spanish lexicon (or mental dictionary or vocabulary list) was still very much active.
On another occasion, my older son asked me if he could fill and use a salt shaker I had brought back from Cuernavaca, Mexico. To which I replied, “No! You can’t use that! It’s a memory!” Does it seem strange that I referred to a salt shaker as a “memory”? Well, it may help to know that the word for souvenir in Spanish is “recuerdo” which literally translates to…you got it…“memory.”
Yet another time, I recall shopping for a digital video camera with my husband. We had picked out the camera, a bunch of editing software and additional accessories. My husband approached the salesman who was assisting us and asked, “So, how much for todo?” The salesman just smiled and continued to talk about the different features of the products we had chosen. My husband asked again, “How much for todo?” I was standing right beside my husband and could not figure out why the salesman was not answering him. Until of course it dawned on me that while I understood my husband’s question, the salesman who obviously did not speak Spanish, did not, because my husband was mixing the two languages: English and Spanish.
The focus of research in bilingualism for a long time was whether or not bilinguals have a single lexicon (mental dictionary) that comprises all of the words they know in both of their languages, or separate lexicons. And additionally, whether access to these is selective or not. Multiple theories to address these questions have been proposed.
One of these, the hierarchical model, proposes that the lexicons are combined at the conceptual level but separate at the word representational level. Basically bilinguals have separate “dictionaries” but that the entry for a particular word in each language links back to the same “meaning” or “concept.”
Another theory is the Bilingual Interactive Activation Model (BIA). This theory argues that letter strands activate possible lexical candidates (words) in both languages, which then compete for activation.
As with many questions in the field of Linguistics and specifically bilingualism, whether bilinguals have one or two “mental dictionaries” and how they access these is still not fully understood. However, for me as a Linguist it is exciting to be able to point to and analyze these everyday aspects of real life and apply it to my passion for languages.
Have you experienced a situation where you interchanged your “mental dictionaries”?
Today’s post comes from an avid Mango user, Betsy Talbot. Betsy and her husband Warren quit their jobs and sold everything they owned to travel the world in 2010. Their new digital guide Dream Save Do: The Step-by-Step Blueprint for Amassing the Cash to Live Your Dream does just what it says. You can learn more about living the good life at their blog, Married with Luggage.
When we first started planning our round-the-world adventure three years ago, we knew the key to saving the money and actually taking off was to act on our plan right away, even though we didn’t have all the answers. We made mistakes, but mostly we learned and moved closer to our goal, reaching it faster than we imagined possible.
We’ve now been traveling for one year, and we’ve discovered that learning a new language requires the same level of action and fearlessness about making mistakes.
Traveling can expand your knowledge, give you a different perspective, and allow you to appreciate the beauty and diversity in the world around you. It can make you feel really smart when you figure something out, engage with people very different from you, or test yourself in ways you never could back home.
Traveling can also make you feel like an idiot, cobbling together sentences like a toddler, and using your hands and facial expressions to get your meaning across. Worse yet, using the wrong word, or the wrong tone with the word, can change the meaning entirely, possibly insulting your new friend or making him laugh hysterically.
- You wanted an egg for breakfast, but you asked for a whole chicken (Thai).
- Instead of telling your new friend you are married, you instead say you are tired (Spanish).
- Not understanding measurements or numbers in the language might get you a full bottle of wine instead of the small carafe – and the bill that goes along with it (French).
Many people hesitate when trying out their new language skills on a trip, fearing they will make a mistake. We have made these and many more, and what we’ve found is that people are generally delighted when you try to speak their language, even if you do it poorly.
As we immerse ourselves in a new culture, we stumble along like 2-year-olds, receiving correction from the locals and repeating the words back to them until we get it right. It is embarrassing at first, but it often turns into a way to better know the people and customs of an area.
We use Mango Languages to help us prepare for arriving in a new country. We can’t always learn the language, but we can always learn the basic words to get by – please, thank you, may I have, where is, excuse me, hello, goodbye. If you make an effort to be part of the local culture, the local people will be much more inclined to interact with you, even if they speak English.
So don’t wait. Take your language lessons before you go, and then dive right in when you get there. Sure, you’ll mess up, but you’ll also learn a lot and possibly even make a new friend.
And don’t forget to learn to say “I’m sorry” in the local language, just in case you accidentally tell someone you are going to kill him. (Spanish)
Have you ever had an experience where something you or someone else said was completely lost in translation? Tell us about it!
I’m not sure which is funnier: hearing someone attempt a tough tongue twister or thinking about their actual meaning!
This Finnish one looks tough:
“Kokko! Kokookko kokoon koko kokon? Koko kokonko? Koko kokon.”
Kokko (a first name)! Would you gather up a bonfire? The entire bonfire? The entire bonfire.
In the video, Fred from Montreal (at 1:38) said this French one:
“Les chemises de l’archi-duchesse, sont-elles sèches ou archi-sèches?”
The shirts of the duchess, are they dry or extra-dry?
How about this Welsh one:
“Pesychwch fel y pesychasoch gynt.”
Cough like you coughed earlier.
Do you have a favorite foreign language tongue twister?
There are many classically “American” traditions, but Baseball is certainly one of the more important ones.
As far back as I can remember baseball was a staple in my home. My dad is definitely a fan. He taught me the game and even coached my softball team in middle school.
One of my favorite memories of baseball came in the fall of 1984…I remember it like it was yesterday. I was proudly wearing my signed Alan Trammel jersey and the old English D cap. My dad and I sat together on our comfy 70′s orange and brown couch watching the 19″ TV with no remote control–except me when I turned the knob and bunny ears to get the channel just right (benefit of being an only child…who says we are spoiled?). I sat there proudly with my papa and saw history being made as the Tigers won the World Series.
We jumped with pure joy when we clinched the title…”Champions.” We heard our neighbors screams of delight and all ran outside to celebrate together with the sounds of fireworks in the distance. My city was united, my father and I were bonding, and my neighbors became family that night.
Since then it has become a Father’s Day tradition to take my “old man” (who is only 59 years young) out to the ball game.
We spend about three hours in our beautiful Comerica Ballpark, shelling peanuts, eating stadium dogs, and taking in the sights of the D in the background. And just being…daddy and daughter! With an occasional wave and a joyous rendition of the classic 7th inning stretch…”Take me out to the ballgame.” These are special moments and I cherish them more each and every year!
Baseball is tied to my youth, my dad, and my city. Yes…Baseball is an American tradition but it is also a great analogy of the human spirit…and that belongs to everyone!