Chances are we have all been in situations where the only way we could get our message across is using our hands. Even if you are not Italian, you know that gesticulation is a very useful tool of communication, but did you know that it helps develop language, learning and cognitive skills for children? Many parents swear by using sign-language to communicate with their babies, before they are able to utter words and teaching signs is no common across US daycare centers. But even if you do not know the official signs, using gestures, or creating your own “language”, will be a helpful tool for you to understand your child but even more importantly, it will boost the early childhood cognitive development thus enabling the child to learn, understand and speak their first or even second language. If you are interested in learning more about these findings, please read this interesting article.
Everyone knows about the famous carnivals around the world but have you ever been to a flower festival?
I was fortunate enough to grow up in Debrecen, Hungary, a town that organizes a flower festival “Virágkarnevál” every year on August 20th, to celebrate the new bread and the foundation of the state in 1001. It is lively parade with many international dance and music performances and an array of themed flower carts. Crowds from around the world gather here for a week of celebration, cultural events and performances around town.
But if you prefer to escape from the winter instead, you can join the Festival of Fruits and Flowers in Ambato, Ecuador, a popular celebration, which takes place in February each year. Unlike most carnivals though, the origin of this event is bittersweet as it was started as a commemoration of the loss suffered by the city after the earthquake of August 5, 1949. Its purpose was to lift the spirits of the inhabitants and help them accept nature’s forces and appreciate its beauty and abundance throughout the year.
These are just two great examples of these beautiful carnivals but there are many other places around the world where you can enjoy the festivities, and celebrate with the locals. Visit this site.
- Kornelia Lasluisa
Today, with the unexpected passing of the beloved actor and funny-man, Robin Williams, I was once again reminded of the important role of humor in language and culture.
I have friends from every corner of the world and it seems that he was not “just” an American actor but he was a world-comedian. The reason why Robin Williams was so popular everywhere was because his jokes were universal, his characters were relatable and his humor (for the most part) was acceptable and understandable for all ages, religions and ethnic backgrounds. And this is rare as most jokes are very culture-specific and comedy is full of idiomatic expressions in any language!
Once I had a student, a really high-level executive at a multinational company, who already spoke several languages fluently, including English, but wanted to improve his language skills. “Fantastic”, I thought, as I believe that there is always room for improvement but when I met him, assessed his level, I almost panicked not knowing how I, the “half-of-his-age, non-native, no business background girl” could possibly help him. Then, a light bulb went off… jokes! As it turned out, he had absolutely no understanding of American jokes, he was clueless about why Americans find certain lines funny, and refused to watch primetime comedy shows, simply because he did not understand them. Needless to say, a good part of our training was about watching, analyzing and learning to understand “Everybody loves Raymond”, “Seinfeld” and other popular shows that were perfect depictions of the current daily life of American families and friends in all kinds of situations.
Ever since, we have had hundreds of students like this gentleman, who did not need Business English, did not need grammar drills but simply wanted to understand and properly use idiomatic expressions, jokes, Americanism – all that they would encounter daily at the office or with friends they acquired in the US.
Comedy and jokes are an integral part of any language and if we want to elevate our language skills and integrate in our new culture, we must embrace the local humor and make an effort to incorporate it in our language as well. You will feel much more comfortable with your new peers, and they will also take you as “one of their own”, which can certainly make the adjustment much smoother and your foreign experience more successful.
I always say that an important stage in second language learning is when you start dreaming in the new language but when you are more advanced, you know the new language is now part of you when you can understand and tell jokes too! If you would like some help with this process, you may find this page useful for your studies:
R.I.P Robin Williams
- Kornelia Lasluisa
Team of Hansa One Directors, Trainers and Instructors sharing experiences and interests on all things cultures and languages.