It’s time for a change: We are approaching 2010 and PONSblog will be taking some time off to develop a new creative concept for this website. PONS therefore hopes to introduce new ideas to you soon and surprise you with lots of new functions!
I really enjoyed writing this blog for the last year and a half – telling you about my thoughts, points of view and travel experiences. Hopefully you liked reading some of my posts and either learnt some new English words, gained a new insight into a specific thematic focus; or maybe I inspired some of you to read a specific English book, watch a film or travel and go abroad.
Personally, I will unfortunately not be doing many of those things in the next few months. I will be committing my time and energy to finishing my Ph.D. next year … but may be I will be back some time after that.
I thank you all for your reading this blog, and a big thanks also goes out to all those of you who’ve been enthusiastic comment writers!
Have an enjoyable Christmas time and a great new year!
24. December 2009
“The more languages you know, the more of a person you are.”
The European Commission uses this slogan to express its committment to multilingualism in our society today. I guess most of you would agree with the fact that people who speak many languages are “more of a person”. But what exactly does that mean? Surely people who speak only one language are not “less of a person”!?
An issue that is bothering me at the moment is the following: A friend of mine is having a baby soon and is unsure about which language to use when bringing up her child. She is Japanese but lives in Germany with her husband, who is Hungarian. Therefore, they evidently consist of three languages: Japanese, Hungarian, and German. When they have their baby, the question is which language or languages they should use when communicating with it.
Some studies have shown that some babies who grow up bilingual start speaking later on and their language competence develops more slowly. However, studies have also shown that the human brain is indeed capable of more than we think, and learning a couple or more languages is definetly possible. But how about babies growing up trilingual? What if the mother decides to speak Japanese and the father Hungarian? The kid will then have to understand (and possibly speak) both of these languages at home, and at school with friends, it will have to speak German. Quite a challenge!
Well, me being a fan of languages (I wish I had had a Japanese mum and a Hungarian dad!;), my advice to her was to give it a try. Since they met in Japan, he understands Japanese and she is learning a bit of Hungarian, they would understand each other when using their mother tongue to speak to their baby.
Speaking many languages has lots of advantages, as we all know: finding a job may be easier, you can go abroad and communicate with people, get to know a different culture through speaking the language, etc.
A further reason for teaching the child three languages is that it will be able to speak to its relatives. My friend’s parents are both Japanese and don’t speak any other language fluently. The same applies to her husband’s parents and relatives: The young ones speak a bit of German but some uncles and aunts don’t. Therefore, in order to be able to speak to or understand his or her close relatives in the future, it’s important for the child to at least learn to understand (and preferably also speak) a bit of Japanese and Hungarian. I think that although it probably will take the child much longer to learn to speak and be ‘good’ at German at school, it’s worth it in the long run.
But I also believe that the it’s important for the parents to be very strict and stick to one language each so that the child doesn’t get confused.
I think bilingualism, or even multilingualism, is a really interesting phenomenon in our globalising world. Speaking more than one language does, I think, enrich people’s lives in many ways – not only cognitively, but also culturally and socially. So when switching from your “English” button for instance to your “German” (or “French” – as in the picture) button, you become a different person, to some extent.
What’s your view on this issue? What advice would you give to my Japanese/Hungarian – couple/friends?
10. December 2009
… read this text if you’re interested in learning some words you won’t be able to find in a normal dictionary:
Let me tell you something about my best friend’s boyfriend:
She loves him 24/7. “You make my day!” is what she tells him practically every day of the year.
When people see them together, they would say (at first instance): “What a lovely jubbly couple!” Especially my friend, who is very attractive, would have guys coming up to her saying “She’s well fit!” Yes, she is “fit” but most importantly, she’s a great person.
But let me tell you a bit about her boyfriend: First of all, he’s a toy boy. Most weekends he goes out with his mates and cheats on her. Also, he’s addicted to the internet. He would facebook loads of other girls and show off about it to his friends. And then, apart from being unfaithful, he’s arrogant and selfish. He gets his girlfriend to cook for him but then disses her food and goes out to buy something manky (like fatty chips). In short, she does everything for him but he takes her for granted.
What surprises me is that despite all this, if you tried to talk to my friend, she would reply: “Stop dissing him! I love him!” – with a kind of “Talk to the hand ’cause the face ain’t listening!” – attitude. She would ignore everything people criticised about him and just carry on, pretending to be the happiest woman on earth. I think she doesn’t understand what a wannabe and what a selfish guy he is.
… well that was the situation a few months ago. Suddenly one day, when he used his laptop to check her emails, she found out about his affairs. Finally she realised what a nuisance he was! “Get a life!” is what she said to him and left.
When she told me that she’d dumped him, I felt really relieved and screamed out “W00t!!??” – Wicked, cool, is what I thought. Thank got she realised that he had by no means deserved her. We had a big party, went clubbing and danced to phat beats! Then suddenly, a guy came up to my friend. He was wearing a hoodie so you could hardly see his face. When he took off his hoodie I noticed – it was her ex-boyfriend, trying to get closer and dance with her. “In your dreams mate!” is what my friend said and walked off. Yes, I thought: “A big-up to my friend! She’s learnt her lesson!” So we both ignored him and went on partying.
Right then, thanks for reading this! Laters my blog friends!
* I just introduced you to some of the trendiest words used in English today! May be you can guess (out of the context) what they mean? I’ve explained some below, or otherwise check out the “Read more” section below!
Read more (sources):
- The BBC Learning English website provides a list with explanations of all the new English words and expressions – so click on: www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/language/uptodate/
Some “trendy” English words:
- 24/7 = 24 hours, 7 days a week (= all the time)
- lovely jubbly = brilliant, great
- “WOOt?” = “What” expressing joy/being happy and surprised (the two numbers “00″ in the middle appeared because the word was invented by gamers on the internet who use many numbers to communicate)
- “Laters” = see you later
26. November 2009
“Totalitarian regimes originate from denying individuals the value of their lives, avoiding reality, and refusing responsibility. This is tantamount to saying that life is petty and low, as worthless as it is hopeless.”
It is China Ai Weiwei is talking about here. The Chinese artist is attacking the totalitarian regime in his country and has the courage to speak out with the hope of contributing to change. Life, as Weiwei argues, is not deemed worthwhile by the Chinese government. Disasters are tried to be kept secret and individuals are ignored – yes diminished in their rights to be human, live a life and be treated fairly.
Weiwei expresses his frustration with the Chinese totalitarian regime through art. His work is displayed in Munich at the moment at the Haus der Kunst. The name of the”exhibition is “So Sorry” and the gallery displays a wide range of Weiwei’s works such as vases, wood works and photographs. I went to this exhibition at the weekend but rather than the art itself (which does consist of quite impressive wood works and photographs) what impressed me the most is what he seeks to express through the work of art.
“So Sorry, refers to the thousands of apologies expressed recently by governments, industries and financial corporations worldwide, in an effort to make up for tragedies and wrong doings – though often without shouldering the consequences or the desire to acknowledge let alone repair. Saying sorry – or not saying it – is in the headlines everywhere and thus also in China.”
“So sorry” is what the Chinese government should have said after the Sichuan earthquake in 2008 killed – we do not know how many – thousands of people. Especially school children were victims of this earthquake. That is why, when you approach the Haus der Kunst in Munich you get to see 9,000 backpacks hung up outside the museum – an attempt to remember the thousands of school kids that were buried under the shattered buildings – quite an impressive work of art I think. The Chinese government tried to cover up these deaths, not taking responsibility or providing aid.
I strongly recommend this exhibition, or if you live too far away from Munich, visit his blog. Weiwei speaks up for human rights and criticises the Chinese government. Although Chinese officials try to shut down his blog again and again, this merely results in Weiwei opening up a new blog on a different website. It’s amazing I think what Weiwei has achieved so far. Outspoken critique on the Chinese government and the current president Hu Jintao, especially in the form of art and by spreading his opinion on the internet, is a powerful vehicle for promoting change.
I tried to do my part in this by posting this article. Have you been to the art exhibition in Munich? What’s your impression?
Do you think Weiwei’s work will succeed in promoting change in China?
- Art exhibition magazine: Ai Weiwei: So Sorry (by Mark Siemons and Ai Weiwei)
- Haus der Kunst Ai Weiwei Blog: http://aiweiwei.blog.hausderkunst.de/
- Weiwei’s blog (if you speak Chinese): http://blog.sina.com.cn/aiweiwei
12. November 2009
“Vegetarian diet is better for the planet!” was the title of an article in the Guardian this week. Being a vegetarian, this made me feel great I must admit! It is argued that not eating meat helps reduce global carbon emissions (I discussed this environmental issue in a previous article: “Cows: the cause of global warming?”) So I’m saving the planet – what a nice thought!
It seems to me that the media nowadays mainly provide environmental reasons for why we should stop eating meat. And may be this part of the reason why vegetarians are by some seen to be people from another planet, who either belong to the green party or are wanna-be monks and do yoga all day, love animals and would cry if a person killed a fly.
But we mustn’t see vegetarians as some weirdos who are trying to make the world a better place. Let’s move away from this image! Vegetarians aren’t people who are animal fanatics, don’t fly or have cars to reduce their carbon emission rate, wear home-knitted jumpers and eat raw carrots. They also don’t just eat the side dishes of a meat lover person’s plate. Instead, they eat lots of delicious food!
To get you into the mood of veggie food, I’ve printed two delicious recipes below: one for a main dish and one for dessert. They are both relatively easy to make and they’re great for dinner parties!
- Spinach and ricotta cannelloni:
Chop two garlic cloves and fry them in a pan with olive oil. Then add 500g of spinach, salt and pepper. Let the spinach cool and then add 250g of ricotta cheese. Spoon the mixture into the cannelloni tubes and place them in a baking tray. To make the béchamel sauce carefully heat up 500ml of milk, add salt and pepper, two tablespoons of butter and of flour. Stir and mix well. Pour the mixture over the cannelloni and sprinkle cheddar cheese or mozzarella and parmesan on top. Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes at 180 degrees.
- Raspberry tiramisu:
Make thick vanilla custard (by using 1,5 packets of vanilla custard powder and 500ml milk). In a separate bowl whip 500ml of cream with 3 teaspoons of sugar. Add approx. 300g (fresh or frozen) raspberries and stir the mixture with a spoon. Place a layer of plain biscuits (e.g. sponge fingers) into a dessert tray and pour fresh orange juice over the biscuits until they are soaked. Then pour the custard over the biscuits until they are fully covered, add a layer of raspberry cream. Repeat this process (layers of biscuits, custard, raspberry cream) until you’ve run out of ingredients. On top, sprinkle roasted almond slivers.
So why not just eat less meat because there is plenty of other food that’s delicious?
I think from now on when people ask me why I’m vegetarian I’ll just say because veggie food is delicious and I simply don’t have the urge to eat meat!
What do you think?
… Feel free to post your veggie recipes here!
29. October 2009
A Coffee, latté, cappuccino, hot chocolate with cream, or rather a frappé?
Why not have some green tea instead?
Because it tastes bitter and I simply don’t like it. That’s what most people answer to this question. The funny thing is however that it’s just bitter because they killed the tea leaves by pouring boiling water over them. If you make green tea according to the rules however and use water that is about 80 to 90 degrees, it’s delicious. In case you then still don’t like it, here are some reasons for why you should really give it a go:
To protect yourself from cancer. Many studies have been conducted throughout the last decades from which it was concluded that green tea can guard against this threatening disease. The medical reason for this is that green tea contains different antioxidant properties. One of these is called EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate). This antioxidant does not only decrease the risk of getting cancer but it also lowers cholesterol levels. This last point is very significant especially because heart attacks can thus be prevented.
If you look at a country like Japan where green tea is part of everyday life as much as beer is at the Oktoberfest, it comes as no surprise that the cancer rate of the Japanese is much lower than that of Europeans. And keep in mind that the Japanese don’t drink green tea as a one-off, e.g. on special occasions in a tea ceremony, but actually drink it like people in the US drink coke. It is sold in cooled bottles with different flavours at all the vending machines in Japan.
Considering the incredible health benefits I think it is no surprise that green tea has been used in China for over 4,000 years to treat many different kinds of diseases. May be Europeans should adapt this trend and live more healthily by drinking green tea.
What do you think? Have you noticed a little revolution starting in your country with more green tea being sold in supermarkets each day?
- book: Nadine Taylor, Green Tea: The Natural Secrets for a Healthier Life
15. October 2009
Happy like a bee she must be! “Angie, Angie, Angie!” is what people, or her supporters rather, were joyfully shouting when the final results of Sunday’s general election in Germany were released: 33.8% for the CDU/CSU (i.e. the Christian Democrats) in combination with 14,6% for the FDP (the Free Democrats) – their coalition partner.
It is the beginning of a new era. Angela Merkel is once again chancellor of the welfare state Germany. Negotiations on a coalition between her party, the CDU, and the FDP are currently taking place and then the two parties, with strong opposition, i.e. the Social Democrats (SPD), the Green Party, and the Left Party, will shape Germany’s future, in the next four years anyway.
In the media Germans like to use the symbol of the bee or the “Tigerente” as a symbol for the “black” and “yellow” coalition between the CDU/CSU (the Bavarian sister party Christian Social Union) and the FDP. Using the lovely Tigerente to refer to this coalition is shameful I think! The author Janosch, who invented this lovely duck for his children’s books I imagine is surely not in favour of such a coalition (although Mr Janosch: correct me if I’m wrong?!)! Anyway, so let us stick to the bee.
Bees can sting: Will the new government sting us?
Bees feed on nectar and pollen: Will the new government feed on us? Will they cut taxes but reduce social benefits and introduce student fees?
We will see what this coalition will bring. I’m a bit sceptical to be honest – it’s not my favourite parties who have won this year.
In May next year in 2010 it’s time for the British. Just like in Germany, it will be an exciting election there. Current headlines such as “Voter’s reject Gordon Brown’s handling of economic crisis” in The Times online indicate that the Labour Party is not as popular as it once was – may be the same will happen to them as it did this year to the SPD which has experienced the biggest loss in its history achieving a mere 23%!
So what do you think of the bee project in Germany? Are you in favour of Angie being the queen bee? What do you think will change in Germany?
Let me know what you think – I’m curious !
- The situation in Britain: “Voters reject Gordon Brown’shandling of economic crisis”: www.timesonline.co.uk
1. October 2009
I am writing this after my short trip to Thailand. It was my second trip and I found that it had changed quite a bit in comparison to what it was like eight years ago. But many things are still: same same …
Arrival at Bangkok airport:
Taxi driver: Where you go?
Me: New Siam Guesthouse Number 3. How much is it?
Taxi driver: 500 Baht ok?
Me (knowing that that is the usual price): Fine.
… Taxi ride … Arrival at New Siam Guesthouse Number 2:
Me: Oh? This is not number 3!
Taxi driver: Same, same.
Me (knowing that it’s not the same as there are about a thousand different New Siam Guesthouses in Bangkok; showing him the map in the travel guide Lonely Planet): No, it’s different. See…
Taxi driver (annoyed that he didn’t manage to check us into the hotel where he gets commission, drives on … and arrives at final destination): Ok.
Me (happy, giving him a 500 Baht note): Here you go.
Taxi driver (seeing the notes popping out of my wallet): You gimme more!
Me (not wanting to get ripped off): No, we said 500!
Taxi driver: Ok, same same.
Yes well. Why not try? Thais, extremely friendly and usually very reserved, can be quite brave. Especially Tuk-Tuk (a three wheel type of motorised rickshaw) drivers, taxi drivers and market vendors like to make money. And if that is the case, everything is same same but different, as long as they make some profit.
So what is it with the expression “same same but different”?
If you’ve ever been to Bangkok you’ll know the famous Khaosan Road and you will have seen the t-shirts they sell there with the slogan “same same” on the front and “but different” on the back. And you will have probably also heard many Thais say it – mostly half joking as they know that it has become somewhat of a joke between locals and foreigners.
The type of English spoken in the example above is called Tinglish (= Thai + English). Instead of “Where are you going?” a Tinglish-speaking Thai would say “Where you go?”, leaving out the grammatical structures required to produce “correct” English. But in practice it’s no problem. (It’s not as though they’re doing a grammar test!). They make themselves understood.
The expression “same same but different” simply means “similar, in a way” or “seems similar but in different ways”. Reasons for this are that the local’s mother tongue Thai interfers with English – which is why people whose profession the study of languages is all it interference.
How about your “same same but different” experiences in case you’ve ever been there?
And what about “your interferences”: Do you know any interferences in German (e.g. I can’t afford me that?) or any other language?
P.s. If you would like to know more about my travel experiences in Thailand (e.g. island hopping on Phi Phi, Ko Phangan, a cobra in the bungalow… let me know and I will commit my next blog article to your favourite!)
Or would you prefer an article on interference to help the German speakers among you avoid typical mistakes?
- Tinglish: www.wikipedia.org
- … and the first comment written by Pang – a Thai friend of mine who will tell us more about “same same but different”… Thank you Pang
17. September 2009
Are you into TV serials?
If yes, how about watching a six-part English thriller to have fun and improve your English?
The first part begins with two seemingly unrelated killings. A teenage boy gets shot by a hit man, and young lady falls to death on the London tube. Was the boy involved in drug dealing? Did the lady commit suicide, or was she pushed off the track?
What seems to be suicide at first soon turns out to be cold-blooded murder. And the drug dealer soon turns out to be quite innocent. Relating these two events is now the job of the press and the police both of which play a big part in this thriller. A team of journalists are on their way to making a big story out of the murders and are (most of the time) ahead of the police in their investigations.
The two murders are all embedded within stories of love affairs and political intrigues. The main character Stephen Collins (David Morrissey you may know from Basic Instinct 2) is a British MP and he plays a key role in the story as he soon admits that he had a secret love affair with the victim of the tube attack Sonia, who was his research assistant. His wife and two kids are clearly not impressed by his rash move and his wife kicks him out.
Putting family issues and love affairs aside, this serial is a political conspiracy thriller with many surprises sure to entertain you for a few evenings. Each of the six parts of the drama lasts about one hour and stars many famous actors such as Bill Nighy and Kelly MacDonald.
So in case you live in Germany and are one of the many Germans who like to watch Tatort on a Sunday night, why not watch State of Play instead?
I wonder whether you’ve heard of State of Play. May be you’ve seen the film with the same title with Russell Crowe and Ben Affleck which is based on the BBC series and was released this year?
Let me know what you think of it (especially the ending – which I wasn’t very impressed by!)
You can watch State of Play with English subtitles. That will help you understand the actors better – especially journalist Della’s Irish accent
My rating for this film: ****
* = waste of time!
** = ok but not thrilling!
*** = a good film!
**** = worth watching!
***** = a must see!
- State of Play film review: www.guardian.co.uk/film/2009
3. September 2009
Today, before women get married, it is common for girls to have a fun day out with the bride-to-be to celebrate her last day and night of freedom. I think it used to be mainly men having stag parties before committing themselves to the woman of their dreams for life. But that has long changed. Women go out to party just like their male counterparts and do all kinds of crazy things. But what is it about hen and stag nights? Why do people do it and what’s so fun about it?
A few weeks ago I was confronted with this question for the first time. A very close childhood friend of mine was getting married and I was going to be her bridesmaid. This being a very honourable job also meant that I had to organise the hen party. Blimey, I thought. I had no idea what this meant as I had never been to a hen party myself. So, as you do, I searched the web, asked friends about what they did and came up with a few fun ideas and planned her day.
The bride-to-be got given a white veil and a top with photos of her and her future husband, and a funny slogan. She was also given a basket with lots of funny goodies she had to sell: chewing gum cigarettes, ice cube trays in the shape of naked men and women, condoms, little schnapps bottles, thongs, and chocolate bars. In addition, she was given duties she had to perform: dance a waltz with a stranger on the street, cut off ten men’s boxer short labels, and collect ten mobile phone numbers of single guys.
The best task was this: The bachelorette (as the Americans would call her) was given a little empty notepad and had to find older and married couples who would be willing to write down tips for a happy and successful marriage. This was great fun because many wise couples were very eager to pass on useful advice. Among the tips were: don’t ever forget your wedding day and buy your wife flowers, be patient with each other, make time for the two of you, hang in there, talk about your problems, … and what cropped up many times was “work on your relationship.”
We spent the day in the pedestrian area in Munich where the tasks had to be fulfilled and stopped all men and couples we could find to help the bachelorette sell her things. What was amazing was that there were so many other groups celebrating hen or stag nights out in town that day. It was incredible!
In the evening we had a delicious meal at a Thai restaurant, sang karaoke and went clubbing in the night time. We had a fun day and it sure was a memorable experience! Whether I would like to have a hen night myself however, I’m not so sure.
What do you think of hen and stag nights? Is it your cup of tea? Would you want to have one yourself?
I wonder what hen nights are like in other countries. I think in Germany and Britain it is all more or less American-style.
- Planning a hen night: http://www.girl.com.au/hens_parties
- What wikipedia writes about hen nights: www.wikipedia.org
20. August 2009