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Watch Your Tongue: Language Issues

Alexandra Goman

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Latvia Russian language victory day

A flag in Russian language celebrating Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany. Latvian flags in the background. flickr/payorivero

Now it is possible to name our modern world as the era of bilingualism. It is assumed that a qualified graduate should know at least one foreign language. That is because in the XXI century not a single country can develop in isolation. Those times have passed. The growing role of mass media, technological advance, a global network of the Internet, international companies that operate across the world, expansion of scientific ties, business connections and cultural contacts – all of this have lead to the fact that knowledge of the foreign language is a necessity. However, among new benefits there are new challenges, primarily connected to language and cultural divide.

Today it is not obligatory to live and work at one place, in one country. Geopolitical conflicts have caused unprecedented migration and a medley of races. The number of refugees, migrants and just employees, who are going to another country to earn more money, is constantly increasing. That is why the notion of language and cultural conflict is spreading and becoming more significant. Now it is an important part of our information society.

According to A. Genes, bilingualism is the first lesson of democracy. Indeed, any shop sign in two languages gives an example of tolerance. There are more than seven thousands of languages in the world, which is why it is impossible to say that English language is more logical than French, and French is more beautiful than German. Meanwhile, both logic and beauty are expressed differently in language; correspondingly people’s attitude towards these notions varies.

The main aim of language is communication, its efficiency. Therefore, we use mother tongue and/or foreign language to speak to each other. Aside from that, both of them store cultural patterns behind the letters, attitude towards different objects of real world (such as time, distance, velocity etc.). This is the reason why cultural and political challenges are being associated with a language conflict.

Learning of a foreign language helps us to view a culture from a different perspective. It gives us new information regarding “alien” culture; moreover, it gives us understanding of it. In other words, to learn a language means to learn its culture.

For instance, Ter-Minasova defines “time” as a notion that is culturally and linguistically different. This distinction becomes obvious when comparing attitudes towards time and measures of time. Although almost every nation recognizes a day as a period of 24 hours, an hour as 60 minutes and so on; length of morning, afternoon, evening and night differs.

Consequently, time greetings will be very distinctive among languages. In English language parts of the day are strictly defined. A starting point is “morning”, which is according to the dictionary “the part of the day from 12 o’clock at night until 12 o’clock in the middle of the day”. That is why at 11.59 a.m. it will be “good morning” but at 12.03 p.m. – “good afternoon”. This accuracy reflects British or American precision.

In comparison, in Russian language parts of the day have blurry borders, because it depends on light and dark. Moreover, daylight in Russia fluctuates according to a geographical position and the season of the year. To this extent it is different from Europe, which is geographically smaller. So, as David Wansbrough, (an Australian poet and writer) once said: “When are you going home late at night [in Russia], in the West it would be early in the morning”. In Russian language a person says “добрый день” (literally good day) at 7 p.m. in summer (because it’s not dark) or “добрый вечер” (good evening) at the same time in winter (because it’s already dark). This distinction is clearly shown in attitude towards time. Russian people are never in hurry and they are usually late. Thus, bilingualism helps us to view the same concept from different sides.

However, as appealing as it is, linguistic diversity is not always encouraged within one country. Sometimes a situation escalates when one of the languages is dominant: it is more widespread, it is used more often etc. Europe regularly faces this problem. In Italy, for instance, apart from Italian language there are plenty of dialects and independent languages (like Venetian language). In Spain there is not only well-known Spanish language, but also Catalan, Basque and others.

Likewise, it can happen with absolutely different languages that belong to different nations. There are many examples in history when after the war a language of a conqueror was imposed on conquered people. In this way a conquered language was being pushed out from all the spheres of life. The conquest of England by William the Conqueror in 1066 brought French language. It soon became a language of the noble class. English was considered as the language of peasants. Thus, those who used English or did not use the official were easily identified among others and were treated differently because of it. That is why a dominating language usually has negative connotations.

There are other examples of language conflicts that are lasting for years. The collapse of the USSR left nearly no monolingual countries; consequently, it became more difficult to accommodate the minorities. In Latvia, according to statistics, around 61% of the population is Latvians; the Belarusians, Ukrainians and Russian make approximately 32%. Since Latvia gained independence, Russian language is still common. Moreover, still many people do not know Latvian language and feel comfortable in the country. Obviously, it is understandable that the Latvian government wants to strengthen national language. By doing so, they are stabilizing the society. But the language conflict became even more intense after events in Ukraine in the beginning of 2014.

It is undeniable that a language factor may influence the political situation in the country. It can be even supported by the parties to provoke further conflicts.

In the beginning of 2015 the Centre of the National Language urged their citizens to speak only Latvian language at the workplaces and even at breaks. Obviously, they are trying to limit the usage of Russian language, yet it would influence other languages as well. In the perspective people might even get fined for it. By pressing a particular language on everyone, by limiting the ability to speak mother tongue, all of it might inflame and provoke serious conflicts, like it happened in Kosovo.

That is why language conflicts are usually parallel to political ones. More often they are the results of the political issues, as the language clashes are based on the cultural clashes. One can say that a language controversy is a so-called tinderbox. Attempts to banish one language may result in ethnocentricity.

Yet, Latvia has been tightening national language policy for a long time. They did not use careful approach by providing people with facilities or means to learn Latvian language, as it was the case in England when they were teaching English language immigrants for free. However, now it seems too late for that. Many Russian-speaking people simply do not want to learn the official language anymore; they are satisfied with basic knowledge of it.

Such concern over the national language is understandable and there is nothing wrong with it, but this also reflects the unwillingness of the government to accept bilingualism of the country. Considering that Russian is a world language, would not it be only a benefit to make it official? On the one hand, it would definitely improve economics by attracting more companies and clients. On the other hand, it might endanger the national language, as it is not so widespread as Russian. Moreover, due to the current political situation in the world, Latvia is trying to ensure its safety, and making Russian language official would attract many Russian-speaking people.

It is also important to note that a negative attitude towards a particular language causes dislike of the people who speak it and its culture. It is common that judging by language one would presume people’s nationality. However, in the framework of globalizing world even these notions are shifting.

To sum up, it is important to say that since each language contains unique ethnic and national representation, it is a significant characteristic of every nation. On the other hand, the main goal of language, that is communication, makes language conflicts pointless. Yet, it arises many disputes. Currently language is used in all kinds of way: for political purposes, for self-identification etc.

Although the principle of “one country – one nation – one language” is common and popular, it is rather controversial. In some cases it contradicts with the complex reality. As in Austria people speak German language, but most of the people do not consider themselves German. Why it is not an issue there?

Language issues prove to be the hardest and the most sensitive in modern politics. Pursuing the right to speak one’s mother tongue may be a way of expressing cultural and social grievances.

Specialist in global security and nuclear disarmament. Excited about international relations, curious about cognitive, psycho- & neuro-linguistics. A complete traveller.

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The Best Handmade Souvenirs from Spain are Just a Click Away

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Artisan decorative figurines are one of the most common purchases among the tourists who visit Spain and want to get something special as a souvenir to remember their stay. Spain’s craftsmanship is known throughout the world for the enormous talent behind it, and for years it has prompted tourists to visit the country and purchase ceramic figurines as souvenirs or to complete a previous larger collection of antiques.

But the people fond of arts and decoration who want to get pieces for their collections can’t always come to Spain to buy them. Indeed, lot of tourist can’t bring craft souvenirs back home because they do not have enough room in their suitcases, or because they want to keep traveling before returning to their countries and they can’t carry them around safely. Luckily, shopping is easier now thanks to the Internet, and customers can get products made in other countries from anywhere in the world. What used to require to go to a specific place, look around and ask for prices, and then proceed with the purchase, now is as simple and convenient as entering a website, click here and there and waiting at home for the product to arrive.

The craftmanship field is not foreign to this new concept of shopping. Some companies, especially in the souvenirs’ field, have noticed the needs of the modern public and have wisely approached a niche as specific as this one. For  this reason, there are online companies such as Toledogifts which are dedicated to the sale and distribution of these decorative figurines through the Internet. The e-commerce technology offers numerous facilities for the sale and distribution of handcrafts online, which makes posible several websites such may offer plenty of options and fair prices.

Toledogifts has brought internet solutions to a sector as traditional as ceramic and porcelain figures, craftsmanship in general. It is no longer necessary to travel to buy collectibles or anything like that, now all you have to do is go to their website and proceed through the catalog to choose what you like. Their online store stands out for its variety and professionalism. They sell high quality handmade products crafted by Spanish manufacturers, and they ship to any part of the world, allowing the customer to confortably receive the products at home, forgeting plane incoveniences.

The first thing that stands out in this company is its catalogue. Scrolling down the webpage, the user can find a wide range of the most popular craft products from every Spanish region. Thanks to the number of filters and options available -essential tools to speed up the search and, of course, the purchase-, you can easily find what you are looking for.

Toledogifts complies with the standards of online stores to ensure consumer satisfaction. Besides high quality products, they also offer the best delivery service. They take care of shipping in the shortest possible time and ensuring, above all, the proper protection of the pieces so that they are not damage during in the journey. Also, they always guarantee that the price is as close as possible to their real value.

Amog the different great products that can be found on this website, the unique damascenes from Toledo stand out. Damascene is defined as the art of inlaying gold on a soft iron base. Damascenes take their name from the city of Damascus, because it is craft technique which originated in the Syrian capital. Their origins are remote -there are vestiges of more than 1500 years old, and pieces have been found in different civilization, but the Imperial City of Toledo became the world’s largest producer of damascenes.

There are three different styles of damascenes: the traditional and genuine Arabic modeling, where the gold or silver thread is highlighted with chisels; the Renaissance style introduced in the 16th century and which represents floral, animal or landscape motifs; and also the new model called “vistas”, in which the city of Toledo is represented often centred on motifs of Don Quixote, so logically rooted in these Castilian-La Mancha lands. The pieces are beautiful and not so easy to find outside Spain, which makes them perfect for picky art collectors.

Other best-sellers of the webpage are artisan ceramic plates and porcelaine figures. Porcelain is considered a luxury material and is widely worked by artisans in Spain given its moldability property. Porcelain’s composition is kaolin, which provides the distinctive with pigmentation after it’s baked, feldspar and quartz. An artisan creates a clay figures inspired in the given design, providing it with the details that will be seen in the final figure. Afterwards, the artisan takes molds of and pours liquid porcelain in them. When the consistency is adecuate, molds are retired and the artisan will paste, polish, sculpt and bake the final figure.


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Top 10 reasons to visit Iceland by car

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For a long time Iceland was a well kept travellers secret. It was not the typical choice of holiday, but now this wonderful country is becoming more and more well known for that holiday of a lifetime and a chance to see and do things that you can’t do anywhere else in the world.

And there really is only one way to really experience this wild country properly and that is using car rental in Iceland to explore it for yourself. It is far better, and far cheaper, than trying to take day excursions with the other tourists and so many great adventures can be had this way. Here are the top reasons why touring Iceland’s roads absolutely should be your next holiday without delay.

1.The people are really, really nice

This is absolutely true. Icelandic people are very proud of their beautiful country and very keen to show it at its best to visitors. Other places in the world are known for quite a surly reception, but this is absolutely not the case here. You’ll notice it the second you head of to the car rental in Keflavik Airport. The conversation is easy, and english quite widely spoken which can make travel easier. Of course once you are out on the road exploring for yourself you should absolutely get chatting to the locals as you explore, they often know the best places to visit or eat that simply aren’t available on google or tripadvisor. Local knowledge is key for getting off the beaten track.

2.Iceland is really easy to navigate by road

Iceland is not a huge country, and there is one huge road that traverses most of it for about 190 miles. It is known as the Golden Circle. So this means that you have a great point of reference for when you are exploring. You can easily slip away from the main road to explore into the countryside, and then hop back on the Golden Circle to get to your next location. The roads are pretty well kept here – even the gravel ones, so you don’t need to worry too much about the terrain when choosing a hire car. Unless you are planning to get really off road that is.

3. The night sky is a thing of beauty

The night time is truly beautiful, especially in winter when the nights are much longer. With so little light pollution and the chance to see the aurora borealis this is a sight few people actually get to experience for themselves. Of course to really get the best of this opportunity there is really only one way to do it, instead of a car look at camper rental in Iceland instead and stay out all night. This is especially useful in the summer when the nights are very very short. This way you have all night to enjoy it while snuggled up warm in your sleeping bag.

4. The unspoiled beauty of Iceland

Of course the other great thing about Iceland camper rental is that by getting out of the towns and into the beautiful countryside you can see Iceland how it should be seen as a beautiful, scenic natural landscape. Imagine being able to camp somewhere so inspiring and free from the intervention of man and waking up to the freshest air and sounds of nature.

5. Visiting the villages gives you a real taste of Icelandic life

Most of the population don’t live in the major cities of Reykjavik, Isafjordur and Akureyri. Most life in smaller communities dotted around the country, and bearing in mind how friendly the people are, it is a chance to really embrace a different culture and take part.

6. Get out there and try the amazing fresh food

The great thing about hopping from village to village on your tour is the chance to try real local food. It is not too dissimilar to Scandinavian food, and there is of course plenty of fresh fish available, as well as lamb. You have probably heard of Skyr, the Icelandic cheese a little like yoghurt. Well here it is made into all types of delicious dishes you absolutely have to try.

7. Iceland has so many different landscapes

It is almost magical the different landscapes you can see. From grassy fields with Icelandic horses, to snow covered tundra, from magnificent coastlines to moonscapes and lava fields it is really something quite special and like nowhere else on earth. With your car you can experience all this, jumping out to hike on foot and get close to nature, before driving to what might seem like a completely different world at your next location.

8. You can watch the landscape change before your very eyes

There are volcanoes in Iceland, and the geology is formed on an every moving tectonic plate that is actually causing the country to grow in size by 2 cm every year. Its impressive and by driving up to the Lake Myvatn area you can see where steam is being vented from the heat under the earth’s crust. The volcano fields are also very beautiful, and give a strange quality to the landscape, almost like you have landed on the moon.

9. Take your binoculars with you, the bird watching is fantastic

With very few predators on Iceland, bird populations are able to thrive here. There are so many varieties, and depending on the time of year there is a chance to see many migratory birds too. It is not just birds you have a chance to see, you can also opt to go whale watching too at certain location. Heading out by boat to cruise alongside the magnificent animals.

10. You will feel like you have had the most amazing adventure

There is nowhere in the world quite like Iceland. Heading out on your road trip with nothing but a map and an open heart will help you discover wonders only shown to the few brave enough to get off the well travelled path. You’ll create memories hear that will last a lifetime.

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Top tips for renting a car in Malaga

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The Costa del Sol is a great choice of holiday destination. With many great places to see, absolutely glorious weather and a chance to enjoy the famous Mediterranean lifestyle it is perfect whether you are travelling with friends, as a couple or with a family.

Whether you are heading to Torremolinos, Marbella, Nerja or the city of Malaga, where the international airport is, the best way to make the most of your stay and give you the freedom to really explore the region is to rent a car. There is a lot of choice for car hire in Malaga airport, so here are some tips for getting the deal that is right for you.

Choose the right car for your group

Thinking about your budget, you can aim for a smaller car, such as the Toyota Aygo or the Fiat 500. Absolutely perfect for solo travel or as a couple.

However if you are travelling as a family, these smaller cars might not be right, especially when you have a lot of luggage to carry. But there are still some very good deals to be had on medium size cars like the Ford Focus or Nissan Juke.

However, if comfort is your top priority, and you want to drive around in style, then consider models like the BMW X5 or Range Rover Evoque.

Don’t forget the extras

You will need to be sure to add on any additional items you might need for the length of your hire. For example, if you would like more than one driver you will need to let the rental company know so that they can be included in the hire and therefore included in the insurance cover.

You should also be sure that you ask for child car seats, and that those car seats meet safety standards. It is often possible to hire a GPS loaded with local maps as well, that can be very handy when driving in a new country.

You should also double check the insurance details. The basic insurance might be great value, but it will usually only cover injury to passengers or theft of the vehicle, and won’t cover any damage. Event the theft cover will likely mean a very large excess will need to be paid. However opt for a package with full cover and excess protection and you will have far great peace of mind.

Book online for better deals and guaranteed availability

There is nothing worse than finally reaching your destination, queuing at passport control, waiting at the baggage collection point and then having to spend ages in a queue for car hire , when all you want to do is go and enjoy your holiday.

If you book online in advance you will not have to worry about all of that. You can simply head to the car pick up point, usually via a free shuttle bus that online takes a few minutes, and then be on your way to enjoying yourself.

Choose a car hire company with good service and 24 hour availability

This can make all the difference to your holiday. There are over 100 car hire companies at Malaga airport, however not all of them are able to offer good prices, good quality vehicles and excellent service.

Also if you are travelling at night, or your flight ends up delayed you want to be sure that this will not cause any problems for your rental. So be sure to choose a company that has a helpline telephone number open 24 hours a day and seven days a week.

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