Monthly Archives: March 2015

Slavonic names of the months

Author: luc viatour, wikipedia commons

Author: luc viatour, wikipedia commons

Today´s blog post will be about the names of the months in various Slavonic languages, which are not based on the Latin names and often have quite poetic names that have their origin in the seasonal changes and in agricultural activities typical for a specific time of the year. Many of these meanings are obvious, while others have been forgotten and their original meanings can only be guessed.

Here are the months in Ukrainian:

January січень – the slicing month (because of the ‘slicing’ cold)

February лютень – the angry month (angry frosts and blizzards)

March березень – the month of birches

April квітень – the month of flowers

May травень – the grass month

June червень – the red month (because fruits begin to ripen)

July липень – the month of linden trees

August серпень – the sickle month

September вересень – the heather month

October жовтень – the yellow month

November листопад – the month of falling leaves

December грудень – the month of the frozen soil


And here are the Croatian months:

January siječanj – the month of timber-cutting

February veljača – the huge month, with prolonged coldness

March ožujak

April travanj – the grass month

May svibanj – the month of vigorous growth and flowering shrubs

June lipanj – the month of linden blossoms

July srpanj – the month of the sickle (harvest month)

August kolovoz – the harvest month when wheat is harvested and threshed

September rujan – the reddish month (when the trees turn red)

October listopad – month of the falling leaves

November studeni – the cold month

December prosinac – the month when good weather and sunshine first appears after the autumn fogs

Author: Aplaster, wikipedia commons

Author: Aplaster, wikipedia commons

The Czech names for the months:

January leden – the month of ice

February únor – the month of renewal

March březen – the month of birches

April duben – the month of oaks

May květen – the blooming month

June červen – the red month (fruits are ripening)

July červenec – the red month where fruits are ripening

August srpen – the sickle month (harvest)

September září

October říjen – the rutting month (of deer)

November listopad – the month of falling leaves

December prosinec – the month when good weather appears after the autumn fogs

Author: poco a poco, wikipedia commons

Author: poco a poco, wikipedia commons

And finally the months in Polish:

January styczeń

February luty – the month of angry frosts

March marzec

April kwiecień – the flowering and blooming month

May maj

June czerwiec – the red month when fruits are ripening

July lipiec – the month of linden trees

August sierpień – the month of the sickle (harvest)

September wrzesień – the heather month

October październik

November listopad – the month of falling leaves

December grudzień – the month where lumps form on roads and fields

Nowruz, the Persian New Year


Today’s blog post is about the Persian New Year’s festival, called نوروز Nowruz or Nooruz, which literally means “new day”. Nowruz is celebrated on the spring equinox, which usually falls on 21 March and marks the beginning of the Persian calendar. The time for the equinox is calculated exactly each year and has a different time in different locations. Nowruz has been celebrated for over 3,000 years and partly has its roots in Zoroastrianism. It is a public holiday in many countries of Central Asia, and it is an occasion for family and friends to gather and celebrate together.

A central feature of this celebration is the so-called Haft Seen table (هفت‌سین ) or the Seven S’s. These are 7 items that are placed on the table and which all start with the letter ‘S’:

  1. sabzeh ( سبزه‎)- wheat, barley, mung bean or lentil sprouts growing in a dish, often from seven different kinds of seeds – symbolizing rebirth
  2. samanu  (سمنو‎)- sweet pudding made from wheat germ – symbolizing affluence
  3. senjed  ( سنجد‎)- dried oleaster Wild Olive fruit – symbolizing love
  4. sir  (سیر‎)- garlic – symbolizing medicine
  5. sib  ( سیب‎)- apples – symbolizing beauty and health
  6. somaaq (سماق‎)- sumac fruit – symbolizing (the color of) sunrise
  7. serkeh  ( سرکه‎) – vinegar – symbolizing old age and patience

Other items on the table may include:

sekkeh (سکه) coins – symbolizing wealth

sonbol (سنبل) hyacinth – symbolizing fertility

– a mirror (ايبه) – symbolizing honesty and cleanness

– painted eggs – symbolizing fertility

– lit candles – symbolizing happiness and enlightenment

– a bowl of water with goldfish (ماهی قرمز )- “life within life”

– pomegranates (ابار)

– sprays of cypress or pine

– rosewater golab (گلاب ) – believed to have magical cleansing powers

– a holy book or a poetry book (very often the Divan of Hafiz or the Shahnameh)

aajeel ( اجیل)- dried nuts, berries, dates or raisins

– clay figurines of animals

The Haft Seen were originally called ‘Haft Chin’, the  word Chin (چین) meaning “to place” and Haft (هفت) the number seven. In this context the Haft Seen were associated with Zoroastrians deities or divinities and the elements represented by them:
– the mirror symbolized the Sky
– the apple symbolized the Earth
– the candles symbolized Fire
– the rosewater (golab) symbolized Water
– the sabzeh sprouts symbolized Plants
– the goldfish symbolized Animals
– the painted eggs symbolized humans and fertility
Fire is the symbol of Nowruz and people usually build a fire around which they celebrate and dance, often jumping over the flames. Another custom associated with this festival is to clean one’s home thoroughly before the holiday and to buy new clothes to wear.


Synaesthesia and language learning


Today’s blog post is about synaesthesia and how it can be useful for language learning. Synaesthesia is basically the condition in which people, when being confronted with a sensory stimulus, e.g. a written text or when hearing sounds, automatically and involuntarily experience a sensory stimulus in a different sensory pathway. There are different forms of synaesthesia, the most common one being the grapheme-color synaesthesia, another common one the association of sounds with colors (chromesthesia). It is said that about 4% of the population experience synaesthesia. To give an example, when a synaesthete with grapheme-color synaesthesia sees a written word, they will involuntarily and automatically “see” or associate the individual letters of the word with a specific color, which is usually fixed and will always be the same. For example for me personally, the letter “A” is always dark blue, “R” is always black, “O” white and “S” salmon red, even though the shades of a letter can blend into the shade of the following or previous letter in a word, quite like a rainbow painted in watercolor. So each word will leave behind a sort of “rainbow trace”/color sensation in one’s memory. The color sensations each letter evokes are, however, specific to each person, so each synaesthete will have their own color associations for each letter or grapheme.  This is particularly useful when one wants to memorize long phone numbers for even if one doesn’t remember each single digit of the number in question, one is often able to ‘reconstruct’ the correct numbers with the aid of the color trace it left behind in your memory. For instance, if your association for the number 3 is always red and green for the number 2, when you don’t remember a particular sequence in your phone number, but still do remember that it was somehow reddish or greenish in the middle of your “rainbow sequence” you can make a good guess that the digits must be these two numbers. This also works for memorizing vocabulary when you learn a new language, even though to a lesser extent than with phone numbers.


Another form of synaesthesia is chromesthesia, the association of sounds with color sensations. So when hearing a particular language, this will trigger certain specific color sensations in me which I have for this particular language. For example, Spanish triggers strong reddish-orangeish-yellowish color sensations in me when hearing it, whereas Polish triggers shades of black, white, grays, ochres and browns, Greek shades of ochres, orange and greens, and Russian black, white and shades of blue. I therefore associate each language I speak with a particular color sensation or color feeling I get when I hear it and I also like and prefer, or even dislike, particular languages just because of these sensations they spark, because some languages trigger a pleasant “color harmony” whereas others really trigger a jarring, unpleasant “color sensation”.

For me as a language learner this means that my synaesthesia makes me a highly visual learner who needs colors and pictures to be able to memorize vocabulary. Each letter of a word has a specific fixed color for me, and each word as a whole leaves a certain “rainbow sequence” in my memory (the colors of the individual letters can blend into each other so that they get slightly modified from their “fixed” shade, e.g. a “black” letter can turn to dark brown or dark blue depending on the letters that surround it – just like in a watercolor painting 🙂 ), so that I can sometimes reconstruct a word I don’t remember precisely any more but of which I still vaguely remember its color or rainbow sequence. So I actively use and reinforce my synaesthesia when learning a new language. By contrast, language learning methods based on totally ‘abstract’ memorization techniques don’t work for me at all.

Author: Dan Brady, Wikimedia Commons

Author: Dan Brady, Wikimedia Commons

Vegetables in Finnish and Hungarian

veg 1 fin veg 2 fin

Today´s post is about the words for some vegetables in Finnish and Hungarian – a nice topic for spring and the upcoming gardening season 🙂 . Both Finnish and Hungarian are some of the languages I plan to focus more seriously on this year, so this is just the beginning of posts featuring these two languages.

Here are the words for some vegetables in Hungarian:

veg 1 magyveg 2 magy

Even though both languages belong to the same Finno-Ugric language family, they actually have virtually nothing in common as far as vocabulary is concerned and are mutually totally unintelligible. The only similarities that they do have is in the way the grammar is constructed and that both languages depend heavily on endings and case inflection.

Georgian – kartuli ena


Today´s post is about the Georgian language, which is called ქართული ენა kartuli ena in Georgian and belongs to the Kartvelian group of languages and is spoken by about 4.3 million people. In my opinion, the Georgian alphabet is one of the most beautiful scripts in the world. The alphabet has no capital letters and consists of 33 letters, of which 5 are vowels and 28 are consonants. The script is written from left to right. The Georgian language is an agglutinative language, which means that verbs and words are formed by adding prefixes and suffixes to a root. For example, the root kartv refers to ‘Georgia’, so Sakartvelo means ‘Georgia’, kartuli the ‘Georgian language’ and kartveli a ‘Georgian person’.

Here some basic phrases to give you an impression of this not so well-known language:

გამარჯობათ [gamarjobat]   Hello!

გმადლობთ [gmadlobt]  Thank you!

ნახვამდის [nakhvamdis]  Goodbye!

მაპატიეთ [mapatiet]  I’m sorry!

გეთაყვა [getaqva] please

ჩემი სახელია … [chemi sakhelia….]  My name is…


Focus on Indian architecture: jali screens

Today’s blog post is the first of many to come about culture, art, and architecture of countries worldwide.


A distinctive feature of many Indian Mughal palaces and buildings is the jali or jaali screen (जाल in Hindi). A jaali screen is a perforated wooden or stone latticed screen, usually featuring an intricate ornamental pattern based on geometry and calligraphy. It is equally a part of Indian Mughal art as well as Islamic art where it is called مشربية mashrabiya. Jaali screens can both be a part of architecture, screening window and balcony openings in buildings, but also a part of monuments, like the jaali surrounding the royal cenotaphs at the Taj Mahal in Agra:

. TajJoli1

The function of the jaali is to provide protection and shade from the summer sun while allowing a draught of air to enter and cool the building. An additional benefit is privacy, since the jaali screens permit the occupants of a building to look outside without being seen from the street.