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How to Make a Linguist? One woman’s’ path.

maj 20

I grew up in America knowing that I had Polish roots but having no exposure to the language. It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I began asking more questions and trying to learn more about my family history. By becoming a genealogist and studying my family origins, I was led to learn new skills and topics such as research, analysis, language and history. A high school project started me down the path of collecting documents about my ancestors. But very quickly I ran into the language barrier. Many of the documents I sought were in foreign archives and written in foreign languages (mostly Polish, Russian or German). But I was determined to make progress anyway.

After graduation, I joined the U.S. military as a linguist and I chose to study the only Slavic language available to me at that time, Russian. The courses were extremely intense and my sole responsibility for the first 18 months. That career decision has led to a lifetime of studying language, culture and history. My work life has supported my hobby for many years and between the two I have amassed large amounts of context in which to study my roots.

At the age of 35, I was finally able to move to Poland to work on a Master’s degree in European Studies and attempt to learn Polish. I have found it to be more difficult to learn than even Russian. In part, because so many young people that I have met in Kraków speak English now. Studying difficult Slavic languages has made me appreciate that I am a native speaker of English especially since English has become more and more prevalent throughout the world. At the same time, Polish both delights and frustrates me on a daily basis. As an analyst, I see patterns in language and therefore prefer to learn visually with documents and reading. But to truly become fluent in a foreign language, you must converse. That is even more difficult for introverted people but it can be done. I hope. I am still trying. The Polish ladies at the deli counter still ask me to repeat myself and I know I do not always use the correct grammar, but I’m hungry and the kiełbasa is so tasty!

Recently, I was given the wonderful opportunity to be a translation intern at Atominium. Here, my past experiences and personal abilities converge to make translating from Polish to English everyday a joy and a challenge. The challenge of translating ever new topics keeps things interesting and contributes to language learning. After all, as I believe Aristotle once said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is not an act, but a habit”. That’s how you make a linguist, or any professional really, with tons of tiny habits throughout a lifetime that add up to a powerful skill set. Both people and languages are constantly evolving, so it is convenient that now language learning is both my hobby and my job. Where are your habits taking you?

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„Pole and Hungarian brothers be…”.

maj 06

Lengyel, magyar – két jó barát this is one of the best known proverbs in Polish and Hungarian. See the most interesting Hungarian curiosities!

Hungarians came to Europe probably from the Southern Ural Mountain region around the years 895-896. After centuries of migration, they crossed the Carpathian Mountains and entered the Danube areas populated by the Slav peoples.

What is the Hungarian name of Poland?

Lengyelország – this is the Hungarian name of Poland. It comes from the Lędzian tribe. It is pronounced Lendzielorsaag.

The Hungarian Parliament unanimously established the 23rd of March as the Day of Polish-Hungarian Friendship, and Poland adopted the same resolution shortly thereafter.

The pen comes from Hungary!

The inventor of the pen was the Hungarian artist and journalist László Bíró. He was frustrated with how much time he had to waste by filling his fountain pens and cleaning dirty cartridges. After the outbreak of World War II, he fled to Argentina and there, together with his brother George, perfected the invention. Since then, in English, the word biro is synonymous with a pen.

The Hungarian language, belonging to the Finno-Ugric family, is considered one of the hardest to learn in the world. It has as many as 35 cases through which words change their sound. The closest language it is related to is Finnish, although interestingly, some words are very similar to Japanese.

Tapping beer glasses with beer is unkind!

When the Hungarian Uprising was suppressed in 1848, 13 Hungarian generals were shot. Austrians knocked beer mugs after each of the executions. After these events, the Hungarians vowed that they would not tap beer mugs for 150 years. Although this time has already passed, this tradition is still strong in the nation.

(KB)

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Interesting Facts About Spanish

kwi 23

Spanish is the most widely spoken language in the world – by about 500 million people in 135 countries. Let’s discuss some quirks of the Spanish language.

The names of Spaniards are very long. Pablo Picasso’s real name, for example, was Pablo Diego Jose Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno Maria de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santisma Trinidad Ruiz Picasso. A person who speaks Spanish speaks an average of 7.82 syllables per second. Lollpops Chupa Chups also came from Spain (from the Spanish verb chupar, which means to suck).

Have you ever „thrown the house out the window”? According to Spaniards, it is possible. The phrase „tirar la casa por la ventana„, which loosely translates to „spending much more money than you expected”. The phrase comes from the 18th century, when King Carlos III introduced a lottery to Spain! People who had won a lot of money were getting rid of household goods – furniture, clothes and various items, by throwing them out the window. So when we go shopping and happen to spend a lot of money „we throw the house out the window”.

All cat lovers probably know what to do when a cat suddenly and unexpectedly attacks you. Spaniards say: „here is a hidden cat” („aquí hay gato encerrado”). This idiom came from the 16th century custom of carrying money in purses made of feline leather. Purses were most often hidden under layers of clothes or in an attic.

And one last question: have you ever ironed your ear? This is also one of the more interesting phrases. Spaniards are known for their afternoon siesta. Spaniards will describe this activity by the phrase: „planchar la oreja” („iron the ear”) because by laying your ears on the pillow, you „iron” them a little while you sleep.

(KB)

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Spring in Krakow

kwi 01

Spring is in the air. Recently, Krakow experienced a spike in temperature and it seemed that everyone noticed and spent the day outside. Seasonal Affective Disorder[1] is a real medical condition where people can become depressed due to a variety of reasons such as lower levels of Vitamin D from less sunshine exposure during the winter. Or they can feel a sense of hypermania, usually during the summer, instead.

Even for people who do not have such a disorder, changes in weather can affect how you feel. Yesterday provided a glimpse into the future and the knowledge that soon the city will bloom again. The flowers, bushes and trees already have tiny green buds on them which will soon burst open, painting the city in a variety of colors. The long gray winter will give way to the next cycle of life.

Krakow offers plenty of opportunities to get outside and enjoy the Spring season. Anyone who visits the city center must cross through The Planty, the beautiful park that encircles the old town. You can follow the walking/biking path along the Wisła River. There are also a few forests within a short distance where you can get lost among the trees for a few hours taking in the flora and fauna and the fresh air.

A fun thing to do when the weather is nice is to pick a random spot in town that you have never been to. Grab a friend and take public transportation to a distant spot. Then try to find your way back to something familiar exploring new areas along the way. Take some snacks or just eat at a new cafe that you pass by. If you ever get a little too lost, use the Jakdojade app to get back. You can find some new favorite spots this way.

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[1] https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20364651

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Malta – the Island of wonders

mar 12

My husband and I recently met a man from the island nation of Malta. Having never been there before, he described such a beautiful and friendly place that we decided to do a little more research. A cursory review of Malta’s more than 7,000 year history was enough to convince us to book a trip. Over that time, Malta has experienced a clash of cultures that has resulted in a wonderful mix of people, food and architecture. Their strategic location just south of Italy made them a perfect stop on past and present trade routes. Our goals for our 4-day trip were to taste some local specialties, learn about the history firsthand and explore some of the picturesque natural wonders of both the island of Malta and its smaller companion island, Gozo. We were not disappointed.

We were able to taste a couple of local Maltese dishes, one of which was pastizzi. They are little, fist-sized flaky pastry balls filled with a ricotta cheese blend or with a mashed pea mixture. They are sold at small walk-up stands that also sell pizza by the slice and two pastizzi can be had for about 1 euro. They are filling and delicious! The pea-filled pastizzi did not sound appetizing to me but it turned out to be my favorite. We have a phrase in English, “Don’t knock it until you try it!” and I am so glad I gave it a chance. Other than eating fresh seafood at every opportunity (we were on an island after all), we also tried the local specialty of Rabbit Stew. At Il-Tokk restaurant in Victoria, Gozo, they offer a huge bowl of steaming stew for under 15 euro. The rabbit was falling-off-the-bone tender surrounded by chunks of potatoes and carrots and steeped in a variety of unknown to me seasonings. The portion was big enough to share, so we did.

After stuffing ourselves with delicious cuisine, we signed up for the free walking tour of the capital city of Malta called Valletta. We were led by a Maltese-Australian named Jennifer who was extremely knowledgeable about the history and architecture of the city. She told us interesting stories about how The Order of Saint John, a Christian Order founded in a hospice in 11th Century Jerusalem, came to inhabit the island in 1530. Their representative symbol is what we now know as the Maltese Cross. They were tasked with defending Christianity and after successfully blocking the Ottoman Empire from invading Europe during the Great Siege of 1565, they were showered with riches which they used to continue fortifying their harbors. These fortifications still stand today and many of them can be toured to learn more about this tumultuous time in history.

Although it is well-known by now that the famous Azure Window collapsed in 2017, we found so many other spectacular vistas that we believe deserve just as much attention. My favorite day in Malta was the day we rented a scooter and explored some of the islands hidden vistas. There are so many to choose from but nothing was better than watching the sun set at a random unnamed location along the Western cliffs. It was the perfect end to a wonderful trip.

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