Poetry and music: a Portuguese liaison

Portuguese, also called A Língua de Camões in honour of our greatest poet Luiz Vaz de Camões -author of the famous epic Os Lusíadas (The Lusiads) about the great Portuguese discoveries in the 16th century-, is a language of poets celebrated through music since medieval times.

Modern Portuguese
dates from the 16th century and has its origins in Galaico-Português, or Old Portuguese, a West Iberian Romance language spoken in the northwest area of the Iberian Peninsula. Our strong connection between poetry and music dates from the final years of the 12th century until the middle of the 14th century, when Galaico- Português was used for literary purposes in the cantigas d’ amor (male-voiced love lyric), the cantigas d’ amigo (female-voiced love lyric), and the cantigas d’ escarnho e de mal dizer (including a variety of genres from personal invective to social satire, poetic parody and literary debate). The video below is an example of a cantiga d’amigo.


August 10, 2011 2 comments

Always evolving: some languages of the world and where they come from

This month’s collaborative post was inspired by a conversation between some of our contributors about languages and how much they ‘borrow’ words from one another. Malay has words from English, Turkish has words from French, English has words from Hindi, Spanish has words from Arabic. Not to mention the massive way in which European languages have influenced each other.

So here’s a look at the history and foreign influences of some of the languages spoken by PocketCultures contributors around the world.

It’s a long article, so if you’re interested in a particular country use these links: India, UK, France, Canada, Turkey, Spain, Argentina, Costa Rica, Portugal, Malaysia.

India: Hindi, English, Tamil, Marathi and many more!

Languages in India are as varied and complex as the country itself. The 2001 census estimated that there were 29 languages spoken by more than a million native speakers, 122 by more than 10,000!

We have 22 ‘official’ regional languages spoken across the country, but no ‘national language’. Hindi is often mistakenly referred to as the ‘national language’, but the constitution lists it as our ‘principal official language’. Where does Hindi come from? Well, it’s a language which evolved from a dialect spoken in northern India during the Mughal period, was influenced by Persian, and is closest to Urdu – the language today identified with Islam!


July 15, 2011 9 comments

Naming children: traditions in 13 different countries

How are children’s names chosen in your country? Do you follow ancient naming traditions or are modern names more popular? Do you pass names down through family generations or invent new ones?

We’ve had a lot of fun writing this post and the subject of how children are named in our various countries has inspired a lot of discussion within our team of contributors. So, read on to find out how children’s names are chosen in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Turkey and the USA.

Have something to add? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.


By Ana, regional contributor from Argentina.

There aren’t many clear-cut naming traditions in Argentina nowadays. In the past, first-born babies were named after their parents but now the focus is on distinctiveness. Parents choose names they like or that are fashionable. For example, when Argentinean-born Maxima Zorriegueta married Crown Prince Wilhelm-Alexander of the Netherlands, the name Maxima became very popular.


April 13, 2011 29 comments

Canada’s Cultural Mosaic

Canada is, without a doubt, a country of immigrants. The first groups of people, in the 1800’s, were citizens of France and England hoping to create a better life in the New World. Not much has changed, other than now we have citizens who originated from all over Europe, Asia, the Americas, Australia, and Africa. They, though, did not just originate there; they brought a piece of their home to their new country.

Immigrants moving to Canada often keep their religion- attending neighbourhood churches, mosques, synagogues, and temples. When religious customs may interfere with typical Canadian rules or traditions, we vote for religious freedoms.

Canada is officially a bilingual country. English and French are both taught in school and on most signs and on all of our packaging. But, the language diversity does not stop there. One can go to any park on a sunny day, or ride a bus, or walk through a crowded food court and hear families speaking multiple languages. My favourite was listening to two teenage girls switch back and forth between English and their first language- sometimes mid-sentence, sometimes just for a word. Or listening to the radio in the North- where I might hear three different aboriginal languages mixed in with the word “Whitehorse”. I always expect to hear different languages, and I never assume my English will be perfectly understood.


April 8, 2011 5 comments

My English is not your English

Is ‘disorientated’ a word? Ask someone from the USA, and they are likely to say no. But it’s absolutely correct in British English.

Languages change constantly and English is no exception. That causes confusion sometimes, and not just if you’re learning English as a foreign language. The variations of English which have developed in the USA, Canada and Australia have been around for some time. But other world regions have also developed their own brand of English. There are regional variations of English within the UK itself. Singlish, Hinglish, Chinglish and others are all becoming more commonly heard. When two non-native speakers communicate in English, they are likely to use a kind of ‘International’ or ‘Global’ English.

English is sometimes described as ‘the world’s second language’, and the ability of people in many different parts of the world to communicate using (International) English undoubtedly helps global trade and communications. And as global interaction increases, so does the use of English as lingua franca.


April 6, 2011 10 comments

Thailand: work is play?

The cultural expertise quiz is back, after a break last week to make room for our weddings around the word series.

This week, we’re talking about Thailand. Here’s the question:

Thailand is one place in the world where you can truly say that “work is play.”

True or False?


March 10, 2011 Comments disabled