Posts Tagged ‘Language’

Real Talk, Not Small Talk, in Finland


As with some other European nations, particularly in Scandinavia, the American tradition of small talk in passing is a source of scorn. While Americans offer phrases like “how are you?” as casual greetings, without allowing time or showing concern for an impending response, this type of communication simply doesn’t exist in Finnish culture.

A people much more renowned for listening than for talking (I think I may know a few women who would be interested in a guy with this quality), words are taken seriously here and people generally mean exactly what they say.

“Take a man by his words and a bull by its horns.”

This old Finnish proverb is still alive and well today. Finns will take seriously what you say, so be very careful about saying we “should” do this, or we “must” do that. In America, it is common for people to give a half-hearted indication of desire to meet sometime, without actually intending to follow up on it. In Finland, this practice will lose you many friends, for good reason. Think about the same next time you ask a Finnish friend how he or she is. If you don’t have time for a response, don’t ask.

They May be Introverted, but not Unfriendly

It should be noted that while Finns are very quiet in public, and will not likely speak to strangers, they are still hospitable and helpful. If you are visiting here and find yourself lost, confused, or somehow mixed up, do not hesitate to ask a local for help—you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the quality of response you are likely to receive.

Valentine’s Special: Some Tagalog Phrases to Help You Conquer the Philippines’ Romantic Culture


If you’ve ever watched foreign films, you know that certain countries are known for certain genres. The French have their charming comedies; the Americans their special effects and explosions. The Indians have everything (believe it or not, India is currently the largest producer of feature films in the world), and while most East Asian countries have plenty of romantic movies, you still have lots of variety with the popularity of Hong Kong’s action-comedy, Korea’s horror films and Japan’s dramatic tearjerkers. In the Philippines, though, it seems that it’s all about the romance, which isn’t surprising given the Filipinos love for…love!

To help you blend in on this Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d leave you with a list of romantic phrases you can say in Tagalog, so you won’t miss a beat next time you happen to be in this part of the world.

Happy practicing!

V Day Bear

Key Romantic Phrases in Tagalog

“I love you”                                “Mahal kita”

“I like you” (as in crush)            “May gusto ako sa iyo”

“May I date you?”                        “Puwede ba kitang ligawan?”

“I want to marry you”                 “Gusto na kitang pakasalan”

“Will you marry me?”                 “Tatanggapin mo ba ang alay kong pakasalan kita?”

Norwegian Nationalism: Healthy Pride or Borderline Bigotry?



Norway has one of the strongest senses of nationalistic pride that you’ll find anywhere in the world. It is a wealthy, educated society that typically enjoys a high quality of life (so long as you can stand sub-zero temperatures and only a few hours of daylight for months on end). On one hand, it is progressing, given that there are now 650,000 first- and second-generation immigrants living here—a figure that has more than doubled in just over a decade. On the other hand, as the 2011 Anders Breivik manifesto so clearly illustrates, this has been a source of widespread discomfort among Norwegians, half of which oppose the country allowing more immigrants in (it should be noted that Breivik, who committed the largest act of terrorism in Norway since World War 2, is Norwegian).

Norway already requires inbound immigrants to learn the local language, going so far as to investing significant resources into their language training and administering formal testing which the immigrant has to pass to stay. (Some would argue this is an unnecessary example of pride, given that nearly every Norwegian speaks English as well and that Norwegian isn’t spoken hardly anywhere outside these borders—so why pay for and require an immigrant who already speaks English to learn Norwegian?). While I personally don’t think this makes sense, I can see why it would be supported. However, I think it is to an extreme when a migrant worker can lose her job for speaking in her native tongue amongst friends during work breaks, as happened to a Polish cleaner at a hospital in 2012.

Later this year, Norway will have a national parliamentary election as it does every four years. One of the three parties on the ballot—the conservative Høyre—have made some interesting statements in regards to immigration issues, which have made me think more about the issue lately. The one that caught my attention was a comment by Bent Høie, a prominent figure in the party (and one who is, ironically, openly gay), who believes that Norway should have separate jails for foreign criminals.

While his argument isn’t as racist as it may seem initially, I am skeptical of the wider message such a belief sends out to people here. Indeed Norway’s prisons are among the more comfortable prison arrangements in the world and focus on rehabilitation and re-adaptation into society, so Høie’s argument questions why Norway’s resources should be spent on people who will be deported upon completion of their term anyway. But does that mean they should be segregated? The opposition Labour Party feels this is an irresponsible view, and it will be interesting to see how these issues of nationalism play a part in this year’s elections.

That’s Che to You, Amigo…


Next time you hear someone cry out “Che!” while you’re walking down the street in Argentina, no, you don’t need to start looking around for the guy you’ve seen on all of those t-shirts and posters in your college dorm. Che Guevara has not returned from the dead, and you can probably just ignore it, unless, of course, that cry is directed towards you.

See, “che” doesn’t only refer to the famous 20th-century Argentine revolutionary, and in Argentina, that association is made very rarely. Instead, “che” is used informally much in the same way native English speakers use “dude”, or ‘hey”, as an attention-grabber. Especially among friends or family, the phrase can refer to someone specifically or rhetorically, so while you don’t need to excitedly whip your head around looking for the real Che, make sure nobody is talking to you either before ignoring the call.

While the origins of the word to the Argentine culture (as well as neighboring Uruguay, where it is also very popular) is unclear—linguists often argue whether it stems from an indigenous language to the region or whether it was brought along with northern Italian immigrants—that it is hugely popular in Argentina today is not.

Che Guevara


America’s Fascination with British Accents…and Vice Versa


In the U.S., it seems like a must for any reality television show to have someone on the panel that boasts a heavy British accent. Whatever the reason, it catches our ear, women find it charming, and it creates memorability. Not to mention that just about everyone can reel off their rendition of a British accent on demand.

But while it makes enough sense intuitively that it would, I am still surprised every time the same effect occurs on the other side of the Atlantic. Despite that, it appears that British people have the same reaction to American accents as Americans do to theirs. Catchy, charming and memorable. And yes, the English do love to offer their renditions of American accents as much as we do theirs!

So if you’re in America and you want to be considered exotic, fear not…there still is a stage for you—in England.