Happy Chinese New Year 2015!

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Happy Chinese New Year 2015!

2015 marks the Year of the Goat or Sheep (the direct translation from Chinese is ‘homed animal’), with 2014 being the Year of the Horse and 2016 the Year of the Monkey. The Chinese New Year is on 19 February 2015 and is China’s most important holiday which lasts for 15 days. The Lunar New Year or Spring Festival is the most prestigious occasion in the Chinese calendar, with public holidays in Taiwan, Singapore & Malaysia, in addition to China.

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Happy Chinese New Year 2014!

night-life-new-york-chinatownHappy Chinese New Year to all of our readers!

Chinese New Year took place on 31st January this year, but the biggest day for celebrations in the UK is today, 2nd February. London’s Chinatown is set to hold the best New Year event in the country, with other big cities such as Birmingham and Manchester to follow suit.

2014 marks the Year of the Horse, with 2013 being the Year of the Snake and 2015 the Year of the Goat. This represents the animals of the Chinese zodiac, and the years cycle on a 12 year rotation.

Chinese New Year is typically celebrated in China with large family meals. It is also traditional to clean the entire house to make way for the good luck that will come with the New Year. Some people also give gifts of money in red paper envelopes to signify wealth, prosperity and good fortune.

In countries with a significant Chinese population, it is normal for Chinese New Year to be a public holiday to allow families to get together and celebrate.

Each of the days of the New Year celebrations is dedicated to a particular activity. For example, the first day is about welcoming the deities and scaring away the bad spirits with fireworks and firecrackers. On the 13th day, people eat a vegetarian diet to cleanse their bodies from the preceding days of festivities, while the 15th day, or the Lantern Festival, marks the end of the New Year celebrations.

Food is traditionally meat, fish and a series of vegetarian dishes eaten on different days of the New Year festivities. A hot pot often forms part of the reunion family meal to represent the coming together of the family, and dumplings are eaten as it is thought that the preparation represents packaging luck inside the dumplings.

If you have been celebrating Chinese New Year, we would love to hear all about it.

Find out more about cultural celebrations around the world>>

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Celebrate Chinese New Year 2014!

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31st January 2014 is the start of the Chinese New Year.   This year is the Year of the Horse.   Start afresh and learn to speak one of the most important languages in the world – Mandarin Chinese. We introduce our top 5 ways to learn Mandarin, featuring some of the best and most innovative language providers in the world. [Read more…]

‘La Grande Belleza’ wins Best Foreign Film at the Golden Globes

This Sunday saw the Hollywood Foreign Press Associations annual celebration of excellence in film and TV – the Golden Globes. Glam celebrities lined the red carpet before collecting their awards. And of course Language Advantage was keeping a keen eye on the Best Foreign Film category.

‘La Gerande Belleza’ from Italian director Paolo Sorrentino beat off competition from ‘La Vie d’Adéle, Chapitres 1 et 2′ (Blue Is the Warmest Color) from France, the Danish film ‘Jagten’ (The Hunt), ‘Le Passé’ (The Past) from Iran and from Japan, ‘Kaze Tachinu’ (The Wind Rises) .

After thanking the Hollywood Foreign Press and his friends and family, the director concluded his acceptance speech by saying: “Thank you to Italy. That’s a crazy country, but beautiful. Thank you very much.”

An exploration of the contradictions and beauty of Rome, ‘La Grande Bellezza’ was the big winner of last year’s European Film Awards, taking home four gongs – for best European director, actor, editor and best film.

Learn to speak Italian with Language Advantage>>

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Could Russian language teaching end in Latvia?

Latvian schoolchildren may no longer be required to learn Russian, the language of neighbouring Russia, in changes proposed by the children’s ombudsman of Latvia.

In measures to create ‘a more homogenous society’, Juris Jansons suggested that learning Russian may be causing problems for children who are already struggling to grasp their native language.

More than a quarter of Latvia’s population is Russian, and Russian is the most widely spoken minority language with more than a third of people living in Latvia speaking Russian at home, including those who are not originally from Russia.

So, with Russian such a prevalent language in Latvia, why has this change to the Latvian curriculum been proposed?

Jansons’ main arguments for ending Russian language education in Latvian schools centre on a lack of proficiency in Latvian by Russian-speaking teachers in the existing bilingual teaching system, where up to 40% of lessons may be taught in Russian. There are also concerns that non-Latvian parents may struggle to help their children with homework, meaning these children lack the Latvian support they need to succeed in the country.

In 2012, a constitutional referendum was held in Latvia to decide whether or not Russian should be adopted as the country’s official second language. The matter was overwhelmingly voted against with almost three quarters of voters rejecting the prospect.

However, rejecting Russian as an official second language does not mean that it does not play a significant role in the lives of Latvian natives. With so many Russian speakers in Latvia, it is at the very least useful for children to learn this language to enable smooth integration of Russian communities.

Russian had previously been an official language of Latvia, which may explain the ombudsman’s reasoning. Language holds strong cultural significance for many people, and by having children focus on the country’s native language it could create a renewed cultural pride.

What do you think of the measures? Do you believe that this will benefit schoolchildren in Latvia in the long run, or will it be harmful to the relationship between Latvian and Russian communities?

Read more about the decision to end Russian teaching in Latvia>>

Learn to speak Russian with Language Advantage>>

Learn to speak Latvian with Language Advantage>>

We woz only talking slang, Sir, innit

A South London school recently pledged to ban the use of slang terms in order to improve linguistic standards amongst students. The Harris Academy in Upper Norwood, London is to ban students from using popular slang terms and phrases such as ‘ain’t’, ‘bare’ and ‘innit’, along with preventing the use of ‘basically’ to start a sentence.

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Could funny cats help you learn Spanish?

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Photo taken by Andrea Lainé

You can barely visit YouTube these days without stumbling upon a funny cat video, and their immense popularity has been recognised time and time again in the global media. Now, one company has found that these cute critters might have a purpose other than making us laugh which could even help us improve our language skills.

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Happy Hannukah!

Hannukah is an eight day Jewish festival celebrating the victory of the Maccabees over the Seleucid army, enabling the Jewish people to resist the challenges to their traditional beliefs and way of life. In 2013, Hannukah takes place from 27th November – 5th December, beginning on the 25th day of Kislev in the Hebrew calendar. The significance of the eight days stems from a miracle which allegedly took place around this time, whereby a single day’s worth of olive oil provided enough fuel for the menorah in the Temple in Jerusalem to remain lit for eight days.

The hanukiah is the Hannukah menorah which is lit each night of Hannukah to celebrate the festival. There are nine candles, with one candle held higher than the other eight. Each night, the higher candle is used to light one on the first night, then two on the second night and so on, starting from the rightmost candle.

Hymns, prayer services and blessings are added to the schedule in the Jewish community during Hannukah, and blessings may be spoken before meals. In addition to this, there has been a lot of music written specifically for Hannukah. There is a strong focus on family activities throughout the Hannukah period, and Jewish families may gather to eat foods which have been cooked in olive oil to signify the miracle of the menorah in the Temple. Jam-filled doughnuts, fritters and latkes are just some of the foods eaten, and cheese is another food which features heavily throughout the festival.

Find out more about world festivals on the world events calendar>>

Thanksgiving Day USA

Today is Thanksgiving Day in the USA. It is celebrated every year on the fourth Thursday in November and traditionally began as a celebration to give thanks for the harvest for the year. It is one of the major holidays in the United States along with Christmas and the New Year holidays.

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3rd UK Portuguese Film Festival

The 3rd UK Portuguese Film Festival brings together acclaimed films as well as up and coming visual artists and directors. The festival aims to promote Portuguese culture as well as showcase Portuguese cinema on an international platform.

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