Monthly Archives: July 2015

Welsh (Cymraeg): Some survival phrases and Welsh cakes

Author: Wikityke via Wikipedia Commons Caernarfon Castle

Author: Wikityke via Wikipedia Commons
Caernarfon Castle

Today’s blog post will take us to the United Kingdom and more precisely to Wales Cymru and the Welsh language, which is called Cymraeg in Welsh. The word Cymru is derived from the Brythonic word combrogi, meaning “fellow-countrymen”. Welsh is a language of the Brittonic branch of the Celtic languages. Apart from being spoken in Wales and by people in England near the Welsh border, there is a Welsh colony in Chubut Province in Argentina, called Y Wladfa.

Here are a few survival phrases in Welsh:

Sut mae = hello

Hwyl = goodbye

Beth ydy’ch enw chi? = What’s your name?

.… ydw i = I am ….

Diolch yn fawr = thank you very much

diolch = thank you

croeso = you are welcome

Os gwelwch yn dda = please

Esgusodwch fi = excuse me

Mae’n ddrwg gyda fi = sorry

Iawn = OK

Dych chi’n siarad Cymraeg? = Do you speak Welsh?

Dw i ddim yn deall = I don’t understand

Author: zingyyellow via Wikipedia Commons Welsh cakes picau ar y maen

Author: zingyyellow via Wikipedia Commons
Welsh cakes picau ar y maen

Welsh cakes picau ar y maen are a traditional dessert in Wales. They are baked on a bakestone (maen) or cast-iron griddle and are made from flour, fat, baking powder, sultanas, raisins, and/or currants, and may also contain spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg. They are round and usually measure about 7–8 cm (3 inches) in diameter and are 1–1.5 cm (0.5 inch) thick. Welsh cakes are served hot or cold dusted with caster sugar and are sometimes split and spread with jam.


An interesting article on the meaning of Welsh place names:

Author: Herbert Ortner via Wikipedia Commons Caernarfon Castle

Author: Herbert Ortner via Wikipedia Commons
Caernarfon Castle

Author: Blisco via Wikipedia Commons Llyn y Fan Fawr

Author: Blisco via Wikipedia Commons
Llyn y Fan Fawr

How to boost your fluency by learning vocabulary more effectively

The Tower of Babel, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1563

The Tower of Babel, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 156

Today’s blog post is about some tips and tricks to learn vocabulary more effectively to boost your fluency in your target language. While there is no shortcut to learning your vocabulary, there are some ways how you can make your learning more organized and effective to yield better results.
1. Instead of just learning words individually, learn them also as collocations (a collocation is a combination of words that frequently occur together, e.g. ‘to read a book’, ‘to go by train’, etc.). This is especially useful for languages which are governed by cases, like Russian, Polish or German, because when you memorize collocations, you won’t always have to think about the correct declination or case the words must be in in frequent expressions. Knowing frequent collocations by heart will therefore boost your fluency when speaking or writing your target language.
2. Learn frequent phrases and expressions by heart from a phrasebook. While a phrasebook alone will never suffice to learn a complete language, learning frequent phrases or ‘building blocks’ of expressions by heart is a good way to develop some conversational fluency especially at the beginning when you start learning a new language.
3. Use thematic vocabulary lists to learn words around a given topic. This is very useful when you want to speak or write about a given topic or theme, e.g. a hobby, because a good list will teach you not only expressions that you are likely to need in this context and words which are likely to occur together and which you will encounter, but also synonyms and antonyms for this context, collocations or groups of related words based on a word stem, and useful verbs, adjectives and nouns to talk about the topic of your choice.

4. Subscribe to a Word of the Day for your target language(s). While this will not help you directly to be able to speak about a topic, a ‘Word of the Day’-subscription is nevertheless highly useful both for regular repetition of random words and for seeing and hearing the words used in the context of a sentence which will help you gain more fluency in the long term. Since fluency depends on being instinctively familiar with words that occur and are expected in a certain context and situation, the more often you see and hear and come across words, the more familiar you will be with them and the more easily they will pop into your mind when you need them in a conversation or when writing a text. The ‘Word of the Day’-function is therefore not only an excellent means for repetition but also to keep up the languages you already speak.

The names of the months in Lakota (Lakhotiyapi) and the Ojibwe legend of the origin of the dreamcatcher

Author: John C.H. Grabill, digital restoration by Michel Vuijlsteke via Wikipedia Commons Oglala girl in front of a tipi

Author: John C.H. Grabill, digital restoration by Michel Vuijlsteke via Wikipedia Commons
Oglala girl in front of a tipi

Today’s blog post will take us to two First Nations in the US and Canada, and will be about the names of the months in Lakota or Lakȟótiyapi (also known as Sioux), a Siouan language spoken by the Lakota nation (Lakȟóta) in North and South Dakota in the United States, and tell the Ojibwe (Anishinaabe) legend of the origin of the dreamcatcher.
The Lakȟótiyapi word ‘wi’ means ‘moon’ or ‘month’, and ‘wiyawapi’ means ‘a months count or calendar’.
January wiocokanyan (lit. ‘the middle moon’) or wiotehika (‘the hard moon’)
February cannapopa wi (‘the moon when trees crack because of the cold’) or tiyoheyunka wi (‘moon where the frost is settling on the inside wall of the house or tent’) or wicata wi (‘the raccoon moon’)
March ištawicayazan wi (‘the moon of prevailing sore eyes’) or ištawicaniyan wi (‘the moon of sore eyes’) or šiyo ištohcapi wi (šiyo ‘grouse, prairie hen’; ‘moon of the grouse and of sore eyes’)
April wihakakta cèpapi (‘wihakakta’ means ‘the fifth child’, so called because it was usually the last child or the youngest; ‘cepa’ means fat; the youngest wife had to crack the bones and people would get fat on the marrow)
May canwapto wi (‘moon in which the leaves are green’ from ‘canwape’ [from can ‘tree’ + ape ‘leaf’] meaning ‘leaves’ or ‘small branches’) or wójupi wi (‘the moon of planting’)
June tínpsinla itkahca wi (‘the moon when the seedpods of the wild turnip blossom’) or wípazuka wašte (‘wípazukan’, a red berry growing in small bunches in June; ‘wašte’ meaning ‘good, pretty’; therefore ‘moon of the good red wípazukan berries’)
July canpasapa wi (‘the moon when the choke-cherries are black’) or wiocokanyan (‘the middle moon’)
August wasuton wi (‘the harvest moon’)
September canwape gi wi (‘moon in which leaves turn brown’)
October canwape kasna wi (‘the moon in which the wind shakes off leaves’)
November takiyuha (‘the moon when deer copulate’) or waniyetu wi (‘the winter moon’)
December tahecapšun wi (‘the moon in which deer shed their horns) or wanicokan wi (‘the mid-winter moon’)
What is quite interesting is that the word ‘wiocokanyan’, meaning the ‘middle moon’, can refer to both January and July.

Author: Arturo de Frias Marques via Wikipedia Commons American bison 'Tatanka'

Author: Arturo de Frias Marques via Wikipedia Commons
American bison ‘Tatanka’

And some Lakhotiya words:
Tatanka the male buffalo

Wakȟáŋ Tȟáŋka – lit. ‘the sacred’ or ‘the divine’, usually translated as ‘the Great Mystery’; the term refers to the power or sacredness that resides in everything, resembling pantheistic or animistic beliefs. Every creature and object has some aspects that are considered wakȟáŋ (“holy”).

Author: Media123 via Wikipedia Commons

Author: Media123 via Wikipedia Commons

iháŋbla gmunka (iháŋbla ‘to dream, to have visions’, gmunka ‘to trap’) ‘dreamcatcher’, a handmade object made from a willow hoop and sinew or cordage made from plants, which is woven around the hoop to form a net or web. The dreamcatcher is decorated with sacred items such as beads and feathers which all have a symbolic meaning. Dreamcatchers actually have their origins in the Ojibwe nation, where they are called bawaajige nagwaagan meaning “dream snare” or asabikeshiinh (the inanimate form of the word for ‘spider’), but have been adopted by Native Americans of different nations in the Pan-Indian Movement of the 1960’s and 70’s as a symbol of unity and identification with the First Nations. However, other groups see dreamcatchers as offensively misappropriated and misused by non-Natives. The circular shape represents how giizis (Ojibwe, meaning ‘the sun, moon, month’) travels each day across the sky.

There is an ancient Ojibwe legend about the origin of the dreamcatcher: the Spider Woman, known as Asibikaashi, took care of the children and the people on the land. Eventually, when the Ojibwe Nation spread all over North America, it became difficult for Asibikaashi to reach all the children. So the mothers and grandmothers would weave magical webs for the children from willow hoops in the form of dreamcatchers which would filter out all bad dreams and only allow good thoughts to enter the mind, making the bad dreams disappear once the sun rises.


Finally a booktip for those of you who are interested in Native American spirituality and culture in general and the Lakota Nation in particular:

‘The Lakota Way – Stories and Lessons for Living’ by Joseph M. Marshall III

If you live in the UK:

If you live in the US:

Vocabulary: Clothes in Turkish and Azeri (Azerbaijani)

clothes Turkish clothes Azeri

Today’s blog post is about vocabulary again, this time the words for some items of clothing in Turkish and Azeri (Azerbaijani), two closely related Turkic languages. For those of you speaking Russian, note the Russian influence on Azeri vocabulary (e.g. Russian галстук and Azeri qalstuk).