Mărțișor

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Mărțișor is a celebration of spring that begins on 1st March each year. It is a tradition belonging to Moldova as well as Romania, and has variations in places such as Bulgaria and Macedonia and Albania. The term Mărțișor is a diminutive that which literally translates as ‘Little March’.

According to legend, on the first day of March, Spring came out into the forest to find a small snowdrop flower blossoming. In appreciation of its beauty and to protect and enable it to grow, Spring decided to remove the snowdrop of surrounding thorns.

In witnessing this act, Winter became angry and decided to try and obliterate the flower by creating a violent, wintery storm. However, in order to protect the snowdrop, Spring covers it with her hands, and in the process is cut by the thorns on the flower. As a result, her blood is shed and drops onto the snowdrop, turning the once white flower, partially red.

This act of bravery resulted in Spring defeating Winter. As a result, from March 1st, the coming of spring is celebrated as a passing from the winter months.

It is tradition to wear small red and white threads that are customarily tied together with contrasting red and white fringed ends. The colours are said to represent the blood that was shed onto the snowdrop. These small decorative trinkets are often worn simply tied in a bow, or are tied to various small charms such as those depicting flowers, ladybirds or love hearts.

The trinkets are worn throughout the first nine days of the month and are often given as gifts between friends and family members to celebrate the turn of spring and to symbolize love, friendship and hope for the rest of the year.

In Moldova, Mărțișor is also celebrated with the annual arrival of a ten day music festival in the capital city. The music performed is largely folk or classical but other genres and styles are of music are also incorporated.

How do you celebrate the coming of spring in your own countries? We would love to hear from you.

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St. Valentine’s Day Traditions around the World

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Wales

According to old Welsh folklore, instead of what is known as St. Valentine, St. Dwynwen is instead celebrated. St Dwynwen is believed to have been a woman who, for reasons which vary through story to story, was not allowed to be with the man she loved. As a result, when an angel appeared to her in her dreams she wished for her love from him to cool. Instead, he was turned into a block of ice. In order to undo the curse on him, she wished firstly to unfreeze him, secondly for future couples to find each other and finally to remain unmarried. As a result, she later devoted herself to the church as a nun. Since then she has been known as the romantic Saint. For this occasion, love spoons which are engraved and carved of wood are given by couples to each other.

Denmark

Valentine’s Day in Denmark is not as much a fanfare as it is in other countries, but still the Danes have managed to invent a few traditions of their own for the event. Typically, on Valentine’s Day, men send little love poems or notes to women. However, instead of simply signing the note or poem with his name, the man instead signs off with a number of dots – a dot for each letter of his name. If the woman manages to figure out the name of her admirer, she is rewarded with an egg at Easter. However, if she is unsuccessful, she has to buy her admirer an egg instead.

South Korea

Although Valentine’s Day is celebrated to a similar extent to that of Japan (below), the single population is also given an opportunity to celebrate, or even mourn, their single status. This opportunity is known as ‘Black Day’. The reason for the name is to do with the custom on this day – for single people to meet up and eat black noodles together. The white noodles are black in colour as they are covered in a black bean sauce. Depending on different viewpoints, Black Day can either be viewed as a day of celebration, one in which to get together with friends and have fun, it can also be viewed as a sad reminder of each own’ s lack of romantic partner. Although to brighten the mood, South Koreans have plenty of other days to celebrate – on the 14th of each month in fact, with events such as ‘Kiss Day’, ‘Hug Day’ and ‘Music Day’.

England

According to tradition, in the 18th century, unmarried women in England used to pin bay leaves to the corners of their pillows. In doing so, it was thought that they would have dreams of their future husbands.

According to other English traditions dating back to the late 16th century, gloves were a traditional Valentine’s Day gift for women from male suitors. In fact, women were said to utter the phrase “Good-morrow Valentine, I go today; to wear for you, what you must pay; A pair of gloves next Easter Day’’ to men of their choosing. It was then, the chosen male’s customary obligation to buy the woman a pair of gloves in time for Easter.

These days, England tends to adopt the overall Americanised custom of exchanging Valentine’s cards, chocolates, flowers and other varieties of gifts.

Japan

As is a typically American custom, the Japanese gift their romantic partners chocolate on Valentine’s Day, but to the Japanese, the gift of chocolate has much more significant and expressive sentiment than the usual box of American chocolate hearts. However, unlike the usual custom of men providing women with chocolate, on Valentine’s Day, it is the women who buy chocolate for the men. Furthermore, it is not just reserved for romantic partners, but women are often expected to give chocolate to platonic males in their lives such as family members and friends or even colleagues.

Men are given the chance to return the favour a month later on ‘White Day’ (so called as white is a symbol of purity and love) in which men often give women chocolates, flowers or jewellery as gifts, amongst other things. The whole custom of giving chocolate on these two occasions in Japan stems from a chocolate manufacturer’s idea to increase sales by running an advert in a local paper. As a result, other companies caught on to the idea, and started promoting their chocolates as a romantic gesture, and since then it has become an important annual tradition.

These are just a few examples of how St. Valentine’s Day is celebrated around the world. Here at Express Language Solutions, we would love to hear your views and stories of how St. Valentine’s Day is celebrated in your country.

Happy St. Valentine’s Day!

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ELS Gives Talk on Importance of Exporting at Event Organised by Liverpool Chamber of Commerce

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Express Language Solutions’ CEO Dina Railean will give a talk tomorrow 7 February 2013 on the role of exporting to overseas companies as a panelist at the Exporting Works event organised by the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce.

The talk will focus on how Express Language Solutions operates in the export industry both directly, – through exportation of interpreting and translation services to overseas markets, as well as how it offers its services to businesses wishing to export their goods and services abroad.

The talk will follow on somewhat from the previous presentation given by Dina at the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce in October, which discussed online sales for export, including website translation.

As always, Express Language Solutions is pleased to be able to contribute to discussions organised by Liverpool Chamber of Commerce, which as members ourselves, gives fellow members an insight into how to export to their chosen markets.

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New Year Traditions all over the world

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New Year is a time for resolutions and celebrations all over the world. In ancient times, noise making and fireworks was meant to ward off evil spirits and bring good luck, the perfect start to a New Year. It is believed that the Babylonians were the first to make New Year’s Resolutions, and people of all countries have been breaking them ever since. However, in modern times, many countries and cultures have developed their own particular ways of celebrating.

United States of America

 New Year celebrations in the USA

On New Years Eve, at 11:59pm, millions of Americans tune in to watch the dropping of the giant ball in Times Square in New York City. The ball, which is made of Waterford Crystal, weighs 1,070 pounds, and is six feet in diameter, reaches the bottom exactly at midnight. What most people don’t know is that this ritual is carried out five times, as local news stations replay the event at midnight in each time zone.

On New Year’s Day, the Rose bowl and the Tournament of Roses Parade, which is a parade with elaborate and beautiful floats, is the highlight of most American’s day. The event has taken place in Pasadena, California since 1886.

 Spain 

At midnight, Spaniards eat twelve grapes, each one brining luck for one month of the year. The actual countdown is primarily followed from the clock on top of the Casa de Correos building in Puerta del Sol Square in Madrid. It is traditional to eat twelve grapes, one on each chime of the clock. This tradition has its origins in 1909, when grape growers in Alicante thought of it as a way to cut down on the large production surplus they had had that year.

Belarus

In Belarus, unmarried women compete at games of skill to determine who will get married first in the New Year. One game involves setting piles of corn and a rooster before each of the single ladies. Whichever pile the bird approaches first, is believed to be the one who is to be married first.

Ecuador

A New Year’s Eve tradition in Ecuador is for men to dress as women representing the “widow” of the year that has passed. There are traditional family events and meals and modern celebrations such as hosting parties and going to nightclubs. The main event takes place at midnight where fireworks are lit and thousands of life-size dummies, representing misfortunes of the past year, are burned in the streets.

 Japan

In Japan, New Year’s Eve is used to prepare for and welcome Toshigami (年神), the New Year’s god. People clean their home and prepare Kadomatsu or Shimenawa to welcome the god before New Year’s Eve. Buddhist temples ring their bells 108 times at midnight in the tradition Joya no Kane (除夜の鐘). The rings represent the 108 elements of bonō (煩悩), mental states that lead people to take unwholesome actions.

In most cities and urban areas across Japan, New Year’s Eve celebrations are usually accompanied by concerts, countdowns, fireworks, and other events to mark the beginning of the New Year. People gather around the Zojoji Temple to release helium balloons up in the sky containing New Year’s wishes and watch the lighting of Tokyo Tower with a year number displayed on the observatory at the stroke of midnight.

Resources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Year’s_Eve

http://ryanseacrest.com/2010/12/28/9-strange-new-years-traditions-from-around-the-world/

http://www.infoplease.com/spot/newyearcelebrations.html

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Christmas Celebrations around the World

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Following on from last year’s blog on Christmas Traditions around the World, here at Express Language Solutions, we thought it would be only fitting to look at those of some other countries that were not previously mentioned.

Poland

Christmas in Poland is a major annual celebration. During advent a number of traditions are carried out. The Polish Piernik (gingerbread) is baked and often made into different shapes (hearts, stars etc.)

Christmas decorations are also crafted including baubles, garlands and ornaments. A special kind of wafer known as Opłatek is shared between people. It is very thin and has a religious image related to nativity embossed on it such as The Virgin Mary or Jesus or even the star of Bethlehem. The sharing of the wafer is important and symbolizes forgiveness and well-wishes between participants for the rest of the year.

Christmas Eve, known as Wigilia is of highest importance in Poland, in which a feast is consumed after fasting. Wigilia derives from the Latin vigilare meaning ‘to watch’. Typical dishes consumed during the meal include: mushroom soup, dumplings, known as uszka, and fish (namely carp).

Furthermore, it is customary to leave an empty seat at the dinner table for any passing visitor who may want to join in with the feast. This tradition derives from the story of Mary and Joseph looking for a place at the inn. Therefore, with an empty seat reserved for wanderers, nobody is left out in the cold at Christmas.

Afterwards people attend midnight mass (Pasterka) and sing carols.

Traditionally, the bringing of gifts from Father Christmas known as Swiety Mikolaj (St. Nicholas) occurs on 6 December .

Finland

It is believed that Finland is the homeland of Father Christmas. According to tradition, he lives in the North of Finland in Lapland. As a result, tens of thousands of letters are sent each year to Father Christmas, known in Finnish as Joulupukki by children all around the world.

Unlike other traditions, such as in the UK in which Father Christmas arrives in peoples’ homes through the chimney at night, in Finland he arrives on Christmas Eve and knocks on peoples’ doors before entering and asking if there are any good children in the house and giving out presents.

Once again, Christmas Eve is a much bigger celebration that Christmas day. It is customary to eat a certain type of Finnish porridge for breakfast in the morning followed in the evening by Christmas dinner which usually consists of dishes such as roast ham, different casseroles and breads.

Christmas day in itself is a relatively quiet affair in which people tend to stay at home and relax with their families.

Moldova

In Moldova, Christmas is celebrated on 7 January. However, Catholics still celebrate the day on 25 December. For the Orthodox majority, people attend church in the morning.

Afterwards, children go carol singing door to door. For their efforts they are rewarded with sweets and sometimes money as well.

After returning from church, the Christmas dinner is served and eaten. A special sweet dish that is served on Christmas day is comprised of boiled wheat with nuts. The wheat is seen to bring prosperity for the coming year.

Father Christmas is known in Moldovan/Romanian as Moș Crăciun who tends to give out presents to children in the New Year.

The Christmas dinner traditionally includes a selection of meats such as jellied pork or chicken, and cakes and biscuits are often served after the eating of the main meal.

France

In France, although in more recent times the Christmas tree (sapin de Noël) is used as a festive decoration, the Nativity crèche is more important and traditional to French culture. If a Christmas tree is used, it is decorated with red ribbons, candles and small toys.

The Christmas dinner varies from region to region in France. Commonly, in Paris it is comprised of a sea-food based platter including dishes such as foie gras and oysters, whilst in Burgundy Turkey is commonly consumed and in Alsace it is goose that is often feasted upon for dinner.

Children leave their shoes out for Father Christmas (Père Noël) to place small gifts into them.

As just a few examples of how Christmas is celebrated around the world, we would love to hear your views and stories of how Christmas is celebrated in your country.

Furthermore, is Father Christmas in your country known to just speak your language, or is he viewed as multilingual?

Here at Express Language Solutions we wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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The decline of foreign language learning and its impact on international trade

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All one needs to do is to take a look at recent news articles regarding foreign language learning in the UK to discover that the number of students currently studying a language other than English is dropping at a worrying rate.

In Wales alone, the take up of foreign language studies in secondary school is slow, in particular owing to the fact that modern foreign languages are not compulsory as modules to be taken, as opposed to England, for example.

Scotland is also facing the impact that the lack of foreign language learning is having. According to a report by the British Council, Scottish businesses are missing out on foreign investment as they are following a tendency to choose to deal with and export exclusively to English speaking countries, and incidentally those hit hardest by the economic recession, or to countries in which it is easier to find English speakers to do business with.

Arguably, this tendency can be viewed as short –sightedness to the potential that these businesses have to expand internationally.
Essentially, what we are seeing here is the result of an overall lack of foreign language learning.

Without the emphasis placed on foreign language acquisition from the earliest stages, i.e. secondary school module take up, or even primary school introduction, the number of foreign language speakers will continue to dwindle.
Although the basic English, Mathematics and Science skills should be, and continue to be of the highest importance in the education system, the need for foreign language skills in the UK is also greatly and increasingly manifested in Britain’s international trade relations with its overseas counterparts.

Essentially, if businesses wish to prosper, they should be looking towards foreign trade and investment. However, without the correct understanding of how to co-ordinate business with other countries, largely due to a language barrier, the needs of the targeted foreign business or consumer simply cannot be met.

Furthermore, in today’s increasingly technologically dependant world, according to data in the field, it has been found that visitors to websites that are not offered versions of pages in their own native languages do not pursue their interest in those websites. Therefore, whether those visitors are capable of understanding the language that the websites are written in or not, without a version to read in their own languages, the website can appear impersonal or even untrustworthy. On the other hand, translation of a website shows long-term business commitment to those foreign markets. Additionally, a translated website puts businesses ahead of the competition as it makes it easier for the buyer to engage with the seller.

Moreover, and as had been stated above, in the modern business world, one cannot afford to miss opportunities for business that largely stems from marketing efforts made online. The quickest and most far-reaching way for a business to market itself internationally is to do so through its website. If companies are not making efforts to provide translated web material for their targeted audiences/consumers, any other marketing efforts targeted at their foreign consumers will be wasted. In order to provide properly translated and culturally appropriate material, it is recommended that experts with foreign language skills and knowledge are consulted at all times to ensure a coherent and cohesive end result.

With the current global population standing at more than 7 billion people, the UK cannot afford to miss out on the great potential with overseas trade simply by trading internally.
Essentially then, efforts must be stepped up to increase numbers of foreign language learners which, as a result, increases the potential for globalization of UK industries and will lead to an eventual increase in international trade.

Here at Express Language Solutions, as part of our Corporate Social Responsibility and as a Business Language Champion, we have been promoting the importance of foreign language learning and the benefits that it has on UK business.

We would love to hear your thoughts on the issue.

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Medical Interpreters: Facilitating Communication between Doctor and Patient

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In a recent article in the Boston Globe, the importance of using medical interpreters to facilitate communication between doctor and patient is discussed by Dr. Kiran Gupta.

Gupta argues that the use of interpreters in the medical profession, instead of simply allowing family members to act as interpreters for patients, is essential as they lend meaning to interactions with non-English speaking patients.

The importance of using interpreters in order to facilitate communication between participants who do not share a common language is in itself evident in various sectors. However, the use of interpreters in the medical profession is of the utmost necessity, in order to achieve effective communication between patients and medical professionals, and as a result, in many cases, to save lives.

If a professional interpreter is not used to communicate the needs and responses of both the medical professional and the patient, this lack of understanding results in a number of complications which may arise, such as misdiagnosis of a condition, incorrect prescription of medication or miscommunication of the severity of an issue.

The benefits of using medical interpreters have been explored in one of our previous blogs.
Conversely though, Gupta continues the article to discuss the aid of family members of patients in the hospital examination scenarios. It is argued that, whilst interpreters certainly provide the linguistic gaps in communication, family members of non-English speaking patients are also important contributors.

This argument is illustrated with a few examples of Dr Gupta’s in which family members have provided background information regarding their family member’s hesitation in dealing with healthcare professionals or with certain personality traits that account for said hesitation.

However, the distinction between background information concerning the patient’s personality, and background information concerning the patient’s medical history must be highlighted.

Whilst there is no doubt that any extra information provided in an interpreting scenario can help facilitate the flow of communication, this type of aforementioned anecdotal information is not crucial to ensuring the correct interpretation of words and terms used by both patient and doctor.

Furthermore, in reference to a particular appointment with another non-English speaking patient in which the daughter of a family member was present, Dr. Gupta writes: ‘Although the interpreter was present, Mr. V’s daughter often interjected, talking to both her father and myself, switching back and forth from English to their native language. I could tell that Mr. V was engaged. Rather than smile and nod politely, he leaned forward and asked questions.’

In this instance, the positive effect of using Mr V.’s daughter as a mediator is manifested in the patient’s change of behavior. As a result it can be argued that having a family member present, whilst an interpreter is facilitating communication between the doctor and patient, can be of comfort to the patient and thus can make the patient more open to communicating than s/he might be without said family member.
On the other hand, if the family member accompanying the patient decides to interpret for the doctor and patient, instead of the interpreter, the balance of power could be somewhat compromised, and depending on the situation, the family member acting as interpreter could manipulate the exchanged information in order to appeal to his/her biases.

In conclusion, the article presents reasoned arguments for employing interpreters as well as working with family members to facilitate communication between patients and healthcare professionals who do not share a common language.

However, here at Express Language Solutions, it is our belief that in order to ensure the highest quality of interpreting as well as impartiality of the interpreter, it is essential for healthcare professionals to work with professional interpreters in order to ensure that all information is being interpreted without bias and also with the specialist knowledge that may be required in a medical setting.

What are your opinions on the article?

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Twitter Maps out Multilingual London

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Thanks to the work of PhD student Ed Manley and Advanced Spatial Analysis lecturer James Cheshire, both from the University College London, the ten most spoken languages in the city were detected through the medium of social networking site Twitter.

Aside from English, with 3.3 million users detected, the majority of tweets recorded are from Spanish speakers. The list of languages ranges from the second most spoken French to the tenth most spoken Russian, whose moderate number of users is in the region of 10,000. Overall the project detected a total of 66 languages in London between March and August 2012.

Data capture was carried out through the use of GPS devices. The collected data was then put through a language detector in order to track the variation of different languages being tweeted.

Unsurprisingly, Spatial Analyst James was the creator of the map which has a certain galactic aesthetic. The colours show the concentration of languages in particular areas of the city.

It is interesting to see such a representation of London’s diversity, which manifests the city’s ever growing appeal to inhabitants of a wide variety of nationalities. Owing to its size and recognition, London, without a doubt, has welcomed an increasing number of people from different countries to add to its cultural mix, similar to the diversity and multiculturalism of Manchester, as mentioned in one of our previous blogs.

For fellow twitter users out there, what languages do you tweet in?

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ELS Gives Talk on Importance of Website Translation in International Trade at Liverpool Chamber of Commerce

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Express Language Solution’s CEO Dina Railean will give a presentation tomorrow 31st of October 2012 at the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce on the Importance of Website Translation in international tradeThe presentation will offer its audience advice and strategies for businesses looking to expand their global presence.

The talk will focus on how businesses can target their desired international markets through the employment of their companies’ website translation. In doing so, Dina will also contribute to the discussion of the day’s events involving areas such as Search Engine Optimisation, the importance of cultural awareness in translation and in international marketing as well as a variety of other themes.

As proud members of the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce, Express Language Solutions is pleased to be given the opportunity to speak at tomorrow’s Online Sales for Export event, which promises to be an interesting look at the way online business is evolving both locally and overseas.

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Multilingual Manchester

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All one needs to do is take a walk around Manchester to discover that the city is bursting with speakers of different languages.

Furthermore, and according to research carried out by Manchester Metropolitan University lecturer Rob Drummond, this influx of people from diverse cultures and backgrounds has even had an impact of the use of the English language variants by Manchester residents.

Manchester, a city that brings together students from its three major universities: The University of Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan University and also the University of Salford is, no doubt, a hub of different cultures. Incidentally, the Greater Manchester universities’ campus is the largest outside London.

Each year the city is greeted by a high number of Erasmus and international students alike who contribute greatly to the local economy.

As well as in the field of academia, Manchester is also a welcoming place for overseas nationals wishing to find work in a variety of sectors or for international entrepreneurs keen to establish their own businesses in the city.

Migration gives people from other countries the opportunity to experience British culture. Additionally, migration results in a broadening of cultural perspectives. As the UN’s representative for migration, Peter Sutherland described migration as a “crucial dynamic for economic growth”.

A professor from the University of Manchester has worked on a study that found that over 100 languages are spoken in Manchester, including Romanian (Moldovan), Russian, Armenian, Yiddish, Yoruba, Urdu, Punjabi, Bengali, Somali, Kurdish, French, Arabic, Portuguese and Polish. Yaron Matras carried out his research by interviewing hundreds of community groups, businesses and local people.

Furthermore, it has been found that in Manchester’s schools around 65 different languages are spoken amongst pupils, whereby two thirds of which are bilingual. The benefits of bilingualism and multilingualism have already been documented in one of our earlier blogs.

Thanks to being a Business Language Champion and also as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility, Express Language Solutions has been actively promoting foreign language learning in schools. It is our belief at Express Language Solutions that multilingualism and multiculturalism contribute to the innovation and competitiveness of UK businesses in the marketplace, including International Trade.

How multicultural is your city? How many languages are spoken? We would be interested to hear your thoughts.

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