Christmas Dinner Around the World

What makes Christmas special? Some would say it’s family, others would say the presents, and still others would say it’s the food.  Whether it’s a Christmas ham, wassail or candy canes, everyone has a favorite holiday delicacy. Like virtually everything else about the holidays, these delicacies vary depending on what part of the world you are in. Here, we’ve rounded up some of the most interesting traditional Christmas dinners from around the world.

Malta

After midnight Mass on Christmas, Maltese traditionally unwind with steaming cups of Imbuljuta tal-Qastan, a drink made with chestnuts,  chocolate, orange rind and spices. The tender, whole boiled chestnuts make this much more hearty than your average cup of hot cocoa. If you’re curious, try this recipe.

Slovakia

In Slovakia,  as in many parts of Eastern Europe, Christmas dinner is traditionally served on Christmas Eve and is called velija, which means “vigil.” Traditional fare consists of unleavened bread spread with honey or sometimes garlic (oplatky).  soup, fried fish, sweet or savory baked dough balls known as boblaki, dumplings and sometimes potato pancakes.

Mexico/Latin America

In Mexico and some other Latin American countries, families typically gather for dinner on Christmas Eve.  The menu varies according to region and family, but often includes a red-and-green “Christmas Eve” salad that takes its colors from lettuce, beets, pomegranate and other seasonal ingredients.

Homemade tamales are another seasonal specialty.  Most families have their own recipe. Though the centerpiece of the table is usually turkey with spicy molé sauce, it’s really all about the tamales. Other popular foods include salted cod, a green vegetable called romeritos, and a pork and hominy stew called posole.

Hmmm, I think I may spend Christmas in Mexico next year…

Portugal

In Portugal, too, Christmas dinner happens on Christmas Eve.  The star of the show here is codfish, usually boiled with cabbage and potatoes. For dessert, there’s “king cake,” a brioche-like pastry filled with candied fruits and nuts. Traditionally, a small gift is baked into the cake, as well as a single broad bean. Whoever gets the bean gets to buy the ingredients for next year’s cake! Here’s a recipe.

Spain

Christmas Eve dinner in Spain is an epic meal that often extends into the wee hours of the morning. It starts with tapas, of course, followed by a variety of soups and salads. The main course is usually roast lamb or roast pig, accompanied by various other vegetables, seafood dishes, cured hams and cheeses.

The Netherlands

In the Netherlands, most families gather on Christmas Day. The morning often starts out with a rich brunch, often including a fruit-studded bread called kerststol. Christmas dinner is also a lavish affair. It is often served “gourmetten” style, using a special grill that allows everyone at the table to grill their own meats and veggies to taste.

We here at K International hope you enjoyed your Christmas holidays! What was your favorite part of Christmas dinner? Share your favorite holiday foods in the comments!

 

Ancient Mayan Prophecies Don't Translate Well

It’s December 20th. Tomorrow, according to an ancient Mayan prophecy, is Armageddon. Are you having an end-of-the-world party tonight? Well, don’t do anything you’re going to regret too much the next morning. As it turns out, ancient Mayan prophecies don’t translate all that well.

The ancient Maya never predicted that the world would end today, and their modern-day descendants don’t believe that it will, either.   Today simply marks the end of the 13th “baktun,” a Mayan unit of time that spans approximately 400 years. It doesn’t signify “the end of the world” any more than the year 2000 AD did.

As Professor Rusty Barrett, a Mayan linguist at the University of Kentucky, explained on the school’s website:

“Saying that the Mayan calendar ends is sort of like saying that when our calendar gets to 9999 that it ends. Well, all you do is add a 1. The Mayan calendar is the same, but their math is a base-20 system, so when you get to 20 you just move up a unit.”

Instead of foretelling an apocalypse, Maya today see the end of the 13th baktun as symbolic of a new beginning.  In fact, according to DW.de, many Mayans are hoping for an era of relative peace, improved prosperity and heightened environmental awareness. That sounds more like the “Age of Aquarius” than anything out of Revelations.

Consequently, most Maya are just a wee bit irritated at the existence of a such a widespread cultural misunderstanding. According to Professor Barrett,

“The Maya that I work with in Guatemala have been extremely irritated with how this moment in their calendar is being represented, particularly in the U.S. and Europe. It’s something they see as entirely positive and that would only really have significance within their culture, and after seeing people outside saying that it’s this horrible, negative thing and movies like 2012 about the end of the world, they find it extremely frustrating.”

So go ahead and have that extra beer tonight…but you’d better have a good excuse for calling in to work tomorrow!

Swedish Woman Protests "Hobbit" Translation

It’s a dangerous business, walking out your front door…and the same can be said of translating movie subtitles into another language. A word-for-word translation is almost never good enough, as idioms, jokes and slang often don’t translate well.

Then, after the translation is released, sometimes issues pop up that even a skilled translator wouldn’t expect. For example, a Swedish woman named Yvonne Ekenskjöld is threatening legal action against the Swedish Film Institute because of their translation of “The Hobbit.” The problem? Torin Ekenskölde, the Swedish translation of Thorin Oakenshield’s name, is apparently too close to her own last name for comfort. Since she carries the last name of an ancient noble family, her complaints may actually have the potential to cause problems for the institute.

While many of us would be beyond thrilled if our names showed up in “The Hobbit”, Ms. Ekenskjöld is apparently not a Tolkien fan. Swedish news site The Local quotes her as saying.

“It’s like a slap in the face. I don’t think our name should be associated with fairy-tale figures. I actually feel violated, and it’s offensive that they didn’t even bother to call and ask if it was alright…I want them to take away the name from the subtitles but I can’t afford to go up against the big guys. But even if you’re small and insignificant, you still have your rights.”

Since 1982, Sweden’s Naming Law has prohibited non-noble families from giving “noble” names to their children, and businesses from using noble names as trademarks. But does it prohibit a similar name from being used in a movie? And does Ms. Ekenskjöld have any basis for her threats of legal action? The answers are unclear.

Stefan Klockby, the information head of the Institute, told the Local that Ms. Ekenskjöld was “suggesting that we have used a Swedish noble name in our translation. It’s not a noble family name anymore though; that family died out 200 years ago. We’re not really sure what she’s talking about – she’s claiming that her name is special and it’s only her family that can use it.”

Even more galling, according to the Local, Ms. Ekenskjöld apparently only adopted the name for herself about ten years ago.

 

A Language Law for Dogs in Montreal?

Language laws in Quebec have always been a somewhat contentious subject, but a recent news story had some people believing that the Montreal city government was “barking mad.”

The story, a radio interview from the show This is That with Montreal politician Benoit LaDouce, concerned a proposed new law in the city, which would require dog owners using city dog parks to train their dogs to respond to commands in both French and English.

In the interview, LaDouce defends his proposal, saying

“The current situation in Montreal dog parks in untenable chaos. Half the dogs are getting their commands in French, the others are getting their commands in English. And the various dog commands are incomprehensible to each other.”

LaDouce claimed came up with the law after an English-speaking dog got a little too friendly with him at a dog park, and refused to back off when ordered to do so in French.

As reported on The Province.com, the story was quickly picked up by other websites, including Yahoo! News, New York Magazine and Raw Story. There’s only one problem: it simply wasn’t true. This is That is the Canadian radio equivalent of The Onion, and Benoit LaDouce is not a real politician. New York Magazine and Raw Story updated to indicate that the story was satire, while Yahoo took their version down completely. Meanwhile, the story spread like wildfire across Facebook and Twitter.

In the aftermath, This is That released another interview with “LaDouce,” in which he claimed to have updated his proposal to instead make the dog parks “language free.”

“Thanks to the internet I have learned that dogs don’t respond to any language, rather tones and hand signals. My new bylaw will reflect that.”

The moral of this story? Just because it’s on the Internet, that doesn’t mean it’s true.

Photo Credit: Attribution Some rights reserved by wanderingone

A "Unicorn Lair" in North Korea?

Last week, the Internet was on fire with the news that North Korean archaeologists had discovered an ancient “unicorn’s lair” near Pyongyang.  Of course, very few people ( I hesitate to type “none”) actually believed that a unicorn’s lair had been discovered. Reactions ranged from outright scorn to, as Hemingway might have put it, “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”

Of course it is. Unfortunately for unicorn enthusiasts the world over, it turns out that the North Korean archaeologists never claimed to have found a “unicorn’s lair” at all. That was merely a translation error.

While the state-operated Korean Central News Agency has been known to tell some fantastic tales, the discovery of a “unicorn’s lair” was a bridge too far even for them. As I09 reported, in the original Korean text of the story, the archaeologists merely claim to have discovered a cave that, in local mythology, was reputed to be the home of an ancient Korean ruler’s unicorn companion.

As Seoul National University history professor Noh Tae-Don explained to AFP:

“An ancient poem says that is the place where King Tongmyong’s unicorn lived and where the king is said to have ascended to the heaven on the unicorn’s back. What they are saying is that they have found a site associated with this legend.”

Additionally, the mythological beast in question was actually not a unicorn at all. Rather, it was a kirin, an antlered , dragon-like creature from Asian mythology. Basically, the kirin is a hodgepodge of different animals, with the body of a deer, the hooves of a horse and the tail of an ox. Since the kirin is sometimes referred to as “the Chinese unicorn,” the confusion is perhaps understandable.

However, as I09 reports, even this much more reasonable version of the story may be stretching the truth a bit:

“The North Korean press release is unclear on exactly what was discovered, whether it was an older inscription marking the location of Kiringul or the cave itself—or whether it is referencing the already documented Kiringul. And if North Korean archaeologists did discover an older inscription in Pyongyang (and, Wang notes, there is always the possibility that their supposed discovery was fabricated), it may be far newer than the press release would suggest.”

Basically, North Korea would desperately like to prove that the ancient Korean kingdom of  Koguryŏ was located on their land, not South Korea’s, and the discovery of a cave that was significant in the mythology of that kingdom would certainly help their case. But as with all the propaganda that comes out of the North, it’s best to take even the toned-down version of this story with a grain of salt. Or perhaps even a handful.

Hawaiian Language

The Hawaiian Language

When the Americans annexed Hawaii in 1898, English became the official language of the Hawaiian Islands.

Unfortunately, the beautiful native Hawaiian language had been threatened since American and European businessmen developed an interest in the islands in the early 19th century. When Captain Cook first discovered the islands in 1778, there were 500,000 native Hawaiian speakers. However, American and British influence grew in the following century, making English the language of choice.

 

Close Relatives

Native Hawaiian is related to Polynesian languages such as Tahitian and Maori.

In fact, the first settlers on Hawaii were probably Polynesians from the southern Marquesa Islands and from Tahiti. Like other Polynesian languages, native Hawaiian has a soft, melodious sound to it, with many vowels and relatively few consonants. This may have been what led Captain Cook and his crew to describe the natives as childlike an impression that probably lost currency with the crew after Captain Cook was killed in a confrontation with them.

At first, the discovery of Hawaii by the west seemed to enhance the growth of the Hawaiian language. The warrior-king Kamehameha the Great used western manpower and weapons to consolidate all of the Hawaiian Islands under his rule. Western missionaries created a Hawaiian alphabet to assist them in proselytising and translating the Bible into Hawaiian. Kamehameha the Great set up a constitutional monarchy modelled after the British system of Government, with a Hawaiian-language constitution.

Also, Hawaiian-language newspapers were printed and flourished, as most of the native population had learned to read. The monarchy was a time of major cultural upheaval for the native Hawaiian population. In addition to an influx of outsiders and a change in Government, King Kamehameha II also overturned the kapu system, an ancient taboo-based religious caste system, wiping out thousands of years worth of traditional beliefs in a single act and freeing lower-class Hawaiians and Hawaiian women from a repressive social structure.

However, increasing numbers of immigrants to Hawaii brought waves of diseases such as measles and leprosy, to which Native Hawaiians had no resistance.

This led to many deaths among native Hawaiian speakers. The lost Hawaiians were then replaced by immigrants from America, Europe and Asia. As the number of immigrants grew and American and British businessmen gained increasing political and financial power in the islands, many parents stopped speaking Hawaiian with their children because they saw English as the language of opportunity.

Also, although Hawaii was never banned once the islands became part of the US a law was passed specifying English as the primary language of instruction in schools. This law served to encourage the loss of language that was already occurring among the native population.

Due to this combination of factors, the number of Hawaiian speakers plummeted to about 1,000 native speakers. Many of these people are quite elderly and almost all of them live on the isolated island of Ni’ihau.

Modern Day Hawaiian

However, starting in the 1970, native Hawaiians began to embrace their cultural heritage, including the Hawaiian language. In 1978, Hawaiian was restored as one of the official state languages, along with English.

That same year, it became a required course in Hawaiian schools, so that every student in the school system is at least exposed to the language. There has also been an increase in Hawaiian-language schools, with some students being taught in Hawaiian and many more learning it as a second language. So, in addition to the 1,000 native speakers, there are now about 8,000 people that can speak and understand the language.

Hawaiian Translation

Hawaiian is a rich language, with many words having both a literal and a symbolic meaning. This is important to take into consideration when you are trying to translate material from English into native Hawaiian. Many words and phrases that sound perfectly innocent in English have two meanings in Hawaiian: innocent and not-so-innocent. In Hawaiian, these double meanings are referred to as kaona.

If you are planning to translate material into the Hawaiian language, make sure you have a skilled translator to help you-otherwise you may end up saying more than you intended to!

Indo-European Languages

Indo-European Languages

The Tie that Binds East and West

Anyone who has studied languages knows that different languages can be surprisingly similar.

For example, Spanish and Italian look very much alike on paper-if you know one of the languages, you can almost intuit the meaning of a sentence written in the other language. It’s not surprising to be able to see relationships between the languages of two countries that are close together geographically, but did you know that Spanish and Italian are also related to some of the languages spoken in India?

Strange but true-although we tend to think of European culture as being totally unrelated to Indian culture, there actually is strong connection.

Proto-Indo-European

 

Sanskrit, a language spoken in ancient India, is part of the Indo-European language family. As the name suggests, this family includes Sanskrit and its descendants along with most languages spoken in Europe, Southwest Asia and central Asia. All in all, the Indo-European language family includes approximately 3 billion people speaking several hundred different languages. Each of these languages stems from a common, long-vanished ancestor called Proto-Indo-European.

How can we show that such a diverse group of languages and cultures are related? The first written evidence connecting them is from 1585, when Italian Filippo Sassetti wrote a letter home describing some of the similarities between Sanskrit and Italian.

The first public, scholarly mention of a common source for both European languages and Sanskrit was made during a speech by Sir William Jones in 1796, who advised the Asiatick Society:

“ Sanskrit language, whatever be its antiquity, is of a wonderful structure; more perfect than the Greek, more copious than the Latin, and more exquisitely refined than either, yet bearing to both of them a stronger affinity, both in the roots of verbs and in the forms of grammar, than could possibly have been produced by accident; so strong, indeed, that no philologer could examine them all three, without believing them to have sprung from some common source, which, perhaps, no longer exists. ”

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. 2000.

Common Roots

Over time, linguists have uncovered many words in different Indo-European languages that share common roots. For example, numbers are similar in most Indo-European languages:

  • English: one, two, three
  • Latin: unus, duo, tres
  • Hindi: ek, do, tin

Do you see the similarities?

Words that relate to families are also similar in most Indo-European languages. For example:

English: father, mother, sister, brother

French: père, mère, sœur, frère

Sanskrit: pitar, matar, svasar, bhratar

Although there is no way to be sure exactly what Proto-Indo-European sounded like, scholars have been able to put together a partial dictionary of the long-dead language.

How is that possible, when the only people to speak it have been dead for thousands of years? By studying the similarities between the same words in different languages, linguists have reconstructed many words from Proto-Indo-European. In the example above, the Indo-European root words are believed to be pater, mater, swesor and bhrater.

Even more amazing, the study of language can be tied together with archaeological and cultural evidence to tell us a surprising amount of information about the Indo-European people.

For example, we know that Proto-Indo-European language speakers were alive during the Bronze Age and before the Iron Age, since there is a common Indo-European word for bronze but not for iron.

From reconstructing the language, scholars also know that the Indo-Europeans had domestic animals such as cows and horses, and that they lived in a patriarchal society. No one is hundred percent sure which country they came from, but it appears to have been cold enough for snow, because the word for snow has a common root in almost all Indo-European languages.

Isn’t it amazing what language can tell us about a culture?

Welsh Translation Service

Welsh Translation Service

Leaders in Welsh Translation

K International, a leading UK based translation company, has over 25 years of success working with the Welsh language. We assist many UK Government departments and corporate entities with their Welsh translation requirements.

Why Translate into Welsh?

Due to an increase in the use of the English language, the numbers of Welsh speakers had been declining for decades. However, following a number of measures, including the introduction of the Welsh Language Act 1993, Welsh has experienced a strong revival in recent years and currently has an equal status with English in the public sector in Wales.

Translating documents into Welsh

Today Wales is officially bilingual, with over 20% of the population able to speak Welsh. Of these 611,000 Welsh speakers 62% use Welsh on a daily basis over English.

The Welsh Language Act obliges all organisations in the public sector providing services to the public in Wales to treat Welsh and English on an equal basis. It is incredibly important to provide Welsh and English so that customers can choose their preferred language.

A recent national survey (State of the Welsh Language 2000) found that nearly half of all Welsh speakers would be more likely to use a service or purchase a product if the effort had been made to use both Welsh and English.

To sell your product or service in Wales it must be translated into the Welsh Language.

K International’s experienced and dedicated team is always happy to discuss your Welsh translation requirements, offering advice on the implications of the Welsh Language Act 1993 and Welsh language schemes, ensuring your organisation is meeting all Welsh language regulations.

Experts in Welsh Translation

We have a network of highly skilled and practised Welsh translators ready to assist with your requirements.

Many of our Welsh translators are members of the Society of Welsh Translators and currently residing in Wales; all have been through our rigorous testing procedures to ensure they meet our high quality standards, and have at least 3 years translation experience in Welsh.

We understand that each project is different and as such requires different skill sets and knowledge. We take the time to understand your exact translation requirements, ensuring the right skills and resources are always assigned to you.

Dedicated Staff That Go That Extra Mile Every Time

All projects are managed by our professional Project Managers under our ISO 2001:2008 approved quality management procedures, ensuring you are consulted and kept up to date throughout, and your project is delivered on time, to specification and on budget. Our goal is to make it easy for you to connect with your Welsh-speaking customers and to comply with all Welsh language requirements.

Customer Feedback on Our Welsh Translations

“ Many, many thanks to your team and your translators, you delivered all that you had promised (and much more in terms of getting them all proofread) to a very tight schedule. An excellent job which is very much appreciated. Again, many thanks (or in Welsh, ‘Diolch yn fawr’). ”

Charity Commission

“ We found your service outstanding. Turnaround of work was well above expectation, communication was excellent. ”

The Welsh Assembly

“ Excellent service, very helpful. Communication was maintained throughout the project. Excellent work. We are looking forward to working with you again. ”

The Environment Agency

“ Great translation, completed within our tight schedule and we always use them for our translation requirements. ”

Sherry Design

Contact K International for a free quote and consultation on your next Welsh project. Please call 01908 557900, e-mail enquiries@k-international.com or use the contact us page on this website.

What Killed The Sumerian Language?

It’s a puzzle that’s long vexed archaeologists, historians and linguists alike. What caused the decline the of the ancient Sumerian civilization and the language they spoke?

The ancient Sumerians were the first civilization to invent a system of writing. Cuneiform tablets that describe their laws, myths and stories still survive today. For centuries, the Sumerian language was spoken in the Mesopotamian region of Sumer, located in what is now Iraq. However, some time around 2000 BCE, people stopped speaking it in favor of the language of the nearby Akkadians. Eventually, they also stopped writing and studying it.

What caused the decline? A geologist named Matt Konfirst says that local climate change could be the culprit. But can a drought really kill off a language? Maybe…especially if it’s a drought that lasts centuries.

Konfirst’s findings, which were written up on LiveScience, were presented to colleagues on December 3rd at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union. In his presentation, he described what he believes happened:

“This was not a single summer or winter, this was 200 to 300 years of drought…As we go into the 4,200-year-ago climate anomaly, we actually see that estimated rainfall decreases substantially in this region and the number of sites that are populated at this time period reduce substantially.”

As the Sumerian city-states declined, the once-proud civilization made easy prey for invading nomads. The population of Sumer moved to the north, and according to Live Science, 74 percent of the ancient Mesopotamian settlements were abandoned. The Sumerian people had long maintained close ties to the Akkadians, and eventually Akkadian replaced Sumerian completely as a spoken language.

But did climate change really kill off the Sumerian language? Certainly not by itself. According to Wikipedia, rising soil salinity in the region provided another strong incentive for the Sumerians to leave. A centuries-long drought was doubtless a contributing factor in the decline of the civilization and its language, but even if they’d had rain, the high salt levels in the soil would have made it difficult to grow enough food.

Is English a Scandinavian Language?

A linguistics professor at the University of Oslo has been making headlines with a controversial claim. He believes that English is, in fact, a Scandinavian language, placing it in the North Germanic language family rather the West Germanic family, where it has traditionally been placed.

The professor, Jan Terje Faarlund, explained his hypothesis in an interview with Science Daily:

“Modern English is a direct descendant of the language of Scandinavians who settled in the British Isles in the course of many centuries, before the French-speaking Normans conquered the country in 1066,” says Faarlund.

This goes against the prevailing scholarly view, which is that Modern English is a direct descendant of the Old English dialects brought to England by the Angles and the Saxons, with a hefty dose of influence from Old Norse as well as from other languages like French.

Instead of merely influencing Old English as it transformed into Middle English, Faarlund believes that Old English was almost completely replaced by the Old Norse dialects carried over the sea by waves of Scandinavian invaders in the 9th and 10th centuries. According to Faarlund, the huge gulf between Old English and Middle English exists
“because Old English quite simply died out while Scandinavian survived, albeit strongly influenced of course by Old English.”

As proof, Faarlund points to changes in both vocabulary and grammar. English undoubtedly borrowed a tremendous amount of words from Scandinavian languages. In many cases, even if there was already an Old English word for the same concept, the Scandinavian word is what we use today.

English also borrowed a striking amount of grammar and syntax from Old Norse. According to Faarlund and his team, in almost every instance where English sentence structure differs from that of other West Germanic languages, it is because the structure is Scandinavian in origin. According to Faarlund,

“The only reasonable explanation then is that English is in fact a Scandinavian language, and a continuation of the Norwegian-Danish language which was used in England during the Middle Ages.”

But is that the “only reasonable explanation?”

According to Sally Thomason at Language Log, the answer is “no.” She points out there have been a number of documented cases of one language borrowing both vocabulary and grammar from another language. She also notes that while Norse may have had all of the prestige in the Danelaw (because the Scandinavians were the ruling class), Old English had the numbers. She writes,

“After the period of Norse rule, when the former Danelaw was once again under English control, the available evidence indicates that Norse ceased to be spoken after just a few generations, about sixty years.”

So, perhaps you’re not reading a Scandinavian language right now after all.

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