“Celebrating linguistic diversity, plurilingualism, lifelong language learning” – European Day of Languages

European Day of LanguagesOn 26 September the European Day of Languages is held for the seventeenth time: its origins go back to 2001 when the first ever European Day of Languages concluded a yearlong celebration of “linguistic diversity, plurilingualism and lifelong language learning”.

We couldn’t agree more with the event’s official statement, which says that “[e]verybody deserves the chance to benefit from the cultural and economic advantages language skills can bring. Learning languages also helps to develop tolerance and understanding between people from different linguistic and cultural backgrounds.”

No matter where you are based in Europe, there are several interesting programmes you can choose from if you’d like to join the celebrations. You can browse the events near you on the European Day of Languages website here.

Translation Musings: Happy Easter!

bunnyI hope you are all enjoying a well deserved rest this Easter. Has the Easter Bunny visited with lots of chocolate treats? Where does the Easter Bunny even come from?!!

Well, like so many things in this blog, Germany! The Lutherans, to be exact, for whom the Easter Bunny was a spring-time St Nick – judging the children’s behaviour. According to legend, in the bunny would hop, bearing gifts of coloured eggs, sweets and toys. The bringing of eggs gets its first mention way back in 1682.

Rabbits and hares have long since been associated with fertility, giving birth to large litters in spring.  Long, long ago they were thought to be able to produce without the loss of virginity, leading to an association with the Virgin Mary and are sometimes represented in manuscripts and paintings showing the mother and child. They have also been associated with the Holy Trinity, such as in the three hares motive.

In Sweden, however, the hare or bunny thing never really did catch on. Although German immigrants brought it with them, the Swedish word for the Easter Hare, Påskharen, sounds rather similar to that for the Easter Man or Wizard, Påskkarlen, and it is this symbol which has become more suitable for the Pagan Swedish traditions with children still dressing up as witches at Easter to this day.

One last Easter factoid – in Bermuda kites are flown on Good Friday, as a symbol of Christ’s resurrection. I like that one!

Happy Easter all!


image credit: tiger311 at www.freeimages.com

Translation Musings: Chinese New Year – what not to buy

chinese lanternAs we reach another Chinese New Year, maybe you are thinking of buying someone a new year gift? Here are a few hints for Chinese New Year pressies!

DON’T buy any sharp objects. Now, I can’t really imagine a scenario where you would want to buy a sharp object for someone (maybe the ‘cut anything’ knives? But no, really, no). But particularly for this occasion – it signifies that you want to cut off your relationship with the gift receiver. Ah, so now I can see a scenario… Pears also fall into this category – although fruit is generally good, the word for pear  (梨 lí/lee) is very similar sounding to the word for parting (离 lí).

DO buy tea! Who doesn’t like a nice cup of tea? Put it in a nice box and wrap it beautifully – a perfect gift.

DON’T buy cut flowers. Now this is a bit of a present failsafe for most occasions, in the UK anyway,  but, in China, cut flowers are generally reserved for funerals so best avoided at New Year.

DO buy alcohol. Apart from the obvious, the word for alcohol (酒 jiu/lee) is very similar sounding to the word for long lasting (久 jiu).

DON’T buy black or white objects. Again, these are important for funerals so to be avoided, even in the wrapping paper.

DO, however, buy red objects. Red is a very festive and lucky colour so a great option.

Wishing you a happy and prosperous Year of the Sheep!

Thanks to China Highlights
image credit: image credit: dcubillas @ www.freeimages.com

Translation musings: Happy Hallowe’en!

PumpkinsDid you know that, although we maybe think of Halloween as being one of those annoying American imports, with the trick or treating and increasingly elaborate costumes, the word at least comes from the Scots. The Scottish word, even, contracted to e’en or een and, over time, (All) Hallow(s) E(v)en evolved into Halloween.

Traditions here in the UK do tend towards the horrible fun! From watching horror movie marathons, to donning scary costumes and marauding through the streets in search of sweets. And don’t forget the pumpkins!

However, Halloween’s origins are a little more serious and sacred. Also known as All Hallow’s Eve, this annual celebration is observed in a number of countries across the world. It is the eve of All Hallow’s Day, the beginning of the three day religious observance, Hallowmas or the Triduum of All Hallows (or All Saints) and is a time to remember the dead, with the dates being established in the 8th century.

There are a couple of trains of thought on the origins of All Hallow’s Eve with many believing it to have been influenced by the Celtic or Pagan harvest festivals and festivals of the dead, before being Christianized. However,  other scholars maintain that it has solely Christian roots.

Apart from applying liberal amounts of fake blood and bobbing for apples, there are many other traditions. In Poland, for example, that includes praying out loud while walking through the forest, in order to comfort the lost souls of the dead. And, although Trick or Treating is considered a US import, the Scots, as well as providing us with the name Halloween, have long had their own tradition of ‘guising’; children in disguise going from door to door for gifts of food or coins. However, instead of the threat of a trick, the children are expected to perform for their treats.

Enjoy your night!


 Image credit: Sandra Cunningham @ www.123rf.com