“People travel to wonder at the heights of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars; and they pass by themselves without wondering.” –St Augustine
“People travel to wonder at the heights of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars; and they pass by themselves without wondering.” –St Augustine
So it`s the World Cup and what a joy to be in a place like Argentina during this time. Just like any other event, be it a concert or local football game, the people are as passionate as you can imagine. When Argentina plays, the streets are empty and you hear shouting and screaming from all the buildings around. Restaurants and homes are decorated in flags of light blue and white. Many offices are equipped with extra monitors and TVs to watch the games while working. Store are closed in order to not miss a moment, and no one–except two foreigners (myself included)–came to a class that was scheduled before game 2 on a Saturday. Whether you like football or not, it`s hard to not get sucked into the excitement somehow!
I`m American and grew up watching “the other football.” You know – the one that does not have to do with feet at all? Come on America! Why do we have to be different than the rest of the world? I have been annoyed by this, just like many of you, but there is a reason for it and it`s not American arrogance. In fact, it`s the Brit`s fault!
The word “soccer” is a diminutive of association, as in As-soc-iation Football. In the early 1800`s, a group of British universities took the medieval game “football” and started playing their own versions of it, all with different rules. In order to standardize things across the country, however, these games were categorized under different organizations and given different names. One version of the game played with only hands became “Rugby Football.” Another version was called “Association Football.” Rugby Football later became “Rugger” for short, and Association Football later became “Assoccer,” quickly changing to “Soccer” alone.
Eventually Rugby and Soccer both spread across to the United States in the early 1900`s. What was known as “Gridiron” in Britian was called Football in America and “Association Football” kept the name “Soccer.” The Brits also kept using the term “Soccer” for a large part of the 20th century; in fact between 1960 and 1980, “Soccer” and “Football” were “almost interchangeable” terms in Britain. The first documented case of the sport being called by the term “Football” was in 1881, 18 years after it was first called “Soccer” (or officially “Association Football.”)
Soccer is not as popular in the United States, although things are changing. Of non-Brazilian fans visiting this year`s World Cup for example, the greatest number of fans come from the US! Personal economics makes a difference of course, but that is more than neighboring Argentina fans. Vamos USA!
So… it will be hard to overcome the many stereotypes against Americans and “Soccer” but remember this, it isn`t our fault! I was surprised too!
Sources for this post:
“Time is money” said the American, but “no it`s gold,” says the Spaniard. Expressions differ from culture to culture but a greater difference is that in how time is viewed and “practiced” from culture to culture . Since coming to Argentina, I must say I am quite adapted to how time works but there are always exceptions (meaning anything having to do with the dreaded word: tràmite.) I met an American traveling around the world in Buenos Aires, his first stop. He was surprised that I arrived 15 minutes late to meet him. Although I am much more loose with time than I used to be, I was still worried he would be bothered that I was late, but on the contrary. To him, me arriving 15 minutes late was “on time” compared to the average of 45 minutes late he had calculated with the Argentines he had met. “Forty-five minutes, is that all?” you think. Any North American or Northern European living in this “time chaos” have many stories of their own!
Argentina is a place where the lack of systems and infrastructure sometimes (always when related to a tràmite) make things take longer than you want, by American standards that is. It`s not just that it takes longer, sometimes you wonder if it will happen at all. There have been so many times when I have planned several “appointments” to see friends, but then all plans were thrown out the window when the first appointment started two hours late. Or going to a store and the salesman is not in a hurry to check you out, as working quicker is no guarantee for more profit nor is that the priority. Or what about those weekend nights when you return as the sun is rising? A club or bar does not get busy until 2 am and family parties go all night with even the young kids pulling all-nighters. And going to a restaurant or cafe is a real blessing as you can sit there for hours without complaint. This would be unheard of in the US without leaving a nice tip. This is Argentina. You love and hate how time works. It depends on where you come from and/or how tied you are to it.
Linear cultures are those who plan ahead, schedule, organize, are results oriented and do one thing at a time generally. These are profit-oriented societies where time is precious and viewed as even scarce. Time moves fast and if you want to benefit, you have to move fast with it. Americans, Swiss and Germans are in this category. According to the article “How Different Cultures Understand Time” from the Business Insider, Americans are people of action, and they cannot bear to be idle. They view the past as gone and the present moment as an opportunity. Argentina is considered a Multi-active culture–lively, people who do many things at once, planning their priorities not according to any time schedule but instead on the potential thrill or importance of each appointment. These cultures are emotional and people/relationship oriented. They make decisions based on feelings where linear cultures stick to the facts. Other cultures in the multi-active category include Italians and Arabs. The third category are Reactive cultures, those cultures that prioritize courtesy and respect, always listening (instead of talking like the multi-active) and carefully reacting to others` proposals. In this group, face to face contact is important, statements are promises, and the people are very harmony oriented. The Chinese, Japanese and Finns belong to this group.
There is also a “cyclical view” of time practiced in Eastern cultures where time is viewed neither as linear nor event/relationship oriented. With cyclical time, the sun rises and sets each day; the seasons follow one another year after year, and people grow old and die, but their children ensure that the process continues. Time is not scarce when time is cyclical and there always seems to be an unlimited supply of it. Asians do not see time as racing away as it would with a linear lens, but instead they view time as coming around again in a circle, where the same opportunities, risks and dangers will re- present themselves later, when you are wiser. Westerners instead are accustomed to making quick decisions and if a lot of time has passed without making a decision or producing something, it is often viewed as “wasted” time.
Although linear and cyclical cultures are very different, they both still see the past as something we have put behind us and the future as something that lies before us. In Madagascar, however, the opposite is true. The Malagasy people view the future from the back of their heads, or passing from behind. Instead it is the past that stretches out in front of them, because they can see it. They can look at the past, enjoy it, learn from it, and even “play” with it, such as by consulting their ancestors or even digging up their bones!
If you are planning to live or work abroad, you can never really be prepared for how time is viewed differently until you live it and learn to love it (although complaining is still allowed once in a while!) Just a few differences between English and Spanish that I have encountered when talking about time are the following:
The list goes on as do your personal stories. Feel free to share them on a comment. I`d love to hear more about your personal experiences related to time and culture!
The main sources for this post include the following articles:
I have a favorite class with students where we talk about cross cultural communication and share stories about language and/or cultural mishaps. Something will inevitably happen when you are learning another language. Working as a waitress once I remember telling a Spanish speaking table that I was pregnant instead of embarrassed. It`s a common error to make and in the end just reason to laugh. Don`t let the possibility of saying something wrong stop you from trying!
The stakes are higher in business, however, and translation and cultural awareness must be considered. In international marketing, one of the most well-known translation blunders comes from car maker Chevy and their car the “Nova.” In Spanish it literally translates to “It doesn`t go.” It was obviously not the message Chevy wanted to portray for its car that is suppose to go, and go fast for that matter! (See below for more clarification on this case.)
Mistakes with cultural awareness without a doubt have happened and continue to happen, especially as the world becomes more global everyday. Examples of that for another post! Today`s post is a compilation of translation mistakes (in writing, not speaking) that led to unfavorable results in international markets.
1. The Chevy Nova isn`t the only English to Spanish (or vice versa) mistake that has occurred with cars. In fact there have been many. Here are three examples of model names that were unfit for the Spanish and Portuguese markets.
2. Honda introduced their car the “Fitta” in Nordic countries in 2001, only to later to learn that it referred to a woman’s genitals in Swedish and Norwegian. In the end, they renamed it the “Honda Jazz.”
3. Gerber is America’s best-known baby food maker, but “gerber” can be translated as “to vomit” of all things in French. Evidently the name was not marketed in France.
4. In Germany, Clairol launched a curling iron called the “Mist Stick” and mist in German is slang for manure: the “manure stick.” Uh oh…
5. Sharwoods, a UK food manufacturer, spent £6 million on a campaign to launch its new ‘Bundh’ sauces only later to receive calls from numerous Punjabi speakers indicating that “bundh” sounded just like the Punjabi word for “arse”. Oops!
6. The Japanese company Matsushita Electric (now Panasonic) was promoting a new PC for internet users. They had created the new web browser and received license to use the cartoon character Woody Woodpecker as the interactive internet guide. The day before launch, they realized the mistake and saved themselves a lot of embarrassment. The ads for the new product featured the following slogan: “Touch Woody – The Internet Pecker.” “Woody” and “pecker” are both references to male genitals in English.
9. When Pope John Paul II visited Miami in 1987, a local T-shirt maker produced commemorative T-shirts for the Hispanic market “Vi la papa” without realizing that a simple article change in Spanish changed the meaning. The shirts literally read: “I saw the Potato” (“la Papa”), instead of “I saw the Pope” (“el Papa”).
10. The toothpaste and toothbrush company “Colgate” literally means “hang yourself” in the voseo form of Argentinian Spanish.
More on Chevy`s Nova: Despite being perhaps the most common example given in international marketing, the story of the Nova is actually a myth. The car was sold with this name in Venezuela and Mexico, having quite successful sales in Venezuela in fact.
For a similar post but related to cultural blunders, go here!
In Portuguese, the word “saudade” is when you miss someone or something constantly, and not just in the moment. It´s possible to summarize the feeling in just one word: saudade. “Estou sentindo saudade de voce.”
Part of the fun when learning another language is discovering terms and words that don´t exist in your first language. I can only speak for comparing Spanish and English, however, words like “friolenta/o” (adjective) and “pochoclera” (noun) are a few of my favorites.
As the previous post gave an example of aboriginal girls always knowing which direction was which, it came back to their language which doesn´t use words like left or right and uses compass points instead. Germans have an expression for being alone in the woods “Waldeinsamkeit” simply because they have forests and have lived the experience; the term wouldn´t serve a culture who only knows the tropical rain forest. Our words are all subject to the culture from which we grew up, somehow. From a recent article in 9GAG, entitled “Untranslatable Words, shows a lot about different cultures,” eleven examples were given, each with a hint of culture associated with the term. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did.
*This is a fascinating article from the article of the same title by Alan Yu, from the health section of NPR.
Lera Boroditsky once did a simple experiment: She asked people to close their eyes and point southeast. A room of distinguished professors in the U.S. pointed in almost every possible direction, whereas 5-year-old Australian aboriginal girls always got it right.
She says the difference lies in language. Boroditsky, an associate professor of cognitive science at the University of California, San Diego, says the Australian aboriginal language doesn’t use words like left or right. It uses compass points, so they say things like “that girl to the east of you is my sister.”
If you want to learn another language and become fluent, you may have to change the way you behave in small but sometimes significant ways, specifically how you sort things into categories and what you notice.
Researchers are starting to study how those changes happen, says Aneta Pavlenko, a professor of applied linguistics at Temple University. She studies bilingualism and is the author of an upcoming book on this work.
If people speaking different languages need to group or observe things differently, then bilinguals ought to switch focus depending on the language they use. That’s exactly the case, according to Pavlenko.
For example, she says English distinguishes between cups and glasses, but in Russian, the difference between chashka (cup) and stakan (glass) is based on shape, not material.
Based on her research, she started teaching future language teachers how to help their English-speaking students group things in Russian. If English-speaking students of Russian had to sort cups and glasses into different piles, then re-sort into chashka and stakan, they should sort them differently. She says language teachers could do activities like this with their students instead of just memorizing words.
“They feel generally that this acknowledges something that they’ve long expected, long wanted to do but didn’t know how,” Pavlenko says. “They felt that it moved them forward, away from teaching pronunciation and doing the ‘repeat after me’ activities.”
Pavlenko points to research showing that if you’re hungry, you’ll pay more attention to food-related stimuli, and she says speaking another language fluently works the same way.
One’s native language could also affect memory, says Pavlenko. She points to novelist Vladimir Nabokov, who was fully trilingual in English, French and Russian. She says Nabokov wrote three memoirs: He published one in English, and when another publishing house asked for one in Russian, he accepted, thinking he would simply translate his first memoir.
“When Nabokov started translating it into Russian, he recalled a lot of things that he did not remember when he was writing it in English, and so in essence it became a somewhat different book,” Pavlenko says. “It came out in Russian and he felt that in order to represent his childhood properly to his American readership, he had to produce a new version. So the version of Nabokov’s autobiography we know now is actually a third attempt, where he had to recall more things in Russian and then re-translate them from Russian back into English.”
Boroditsky also studied the differences in what research subjects remembered when using English, which doesn’t always note the intent of an action, and Spanish, which does. This can lead to differences in how people remember what they saw, potentially important in eyewitness testimony, she says.
John McWhorter, a linguist at Columbia University, acknowledges such differences but says they don’t really matter. The experiments “show that there are these tiny differentials that you can find that seem to correlate with what language you speak,” McWhorter says. “Nothing has ever demonstrated that your language makes you process life in a different way. It just doesn’t work.”
He calls this “the language hoax,” which happens to be the title of his upcoming book.
As an example, he refers to modern speakers of a Mayan language, who also use directions that roughly correspond to compass points, rather than left or right. Researchers asked people, most of whom only knew this language, to do tasks like memorizing how a ball moved through a maze, which would have been easier had they thought about it in terms of left and right, rather than compass points. The participants were just as good at these tasks and sometimes better,leading the experimenters to conclude they were not constrained by their language.
Boroditsky disagrees. She says the counterexamples simply prove language isn’t the only factor affecting what we notice. Like studying to be a pilot or doctor, she says, learning to speak a different language fluently can also change us, and this means we can learn those changes, like learning any other skill.
“It’s like a very extensive training program,” Boroditsky says. “There’s nothing exotic about the effects that language has on cognition. It’s just the same that any learning has on cognition.
Yesterday was a big day for the Catholic Church and for Catholics around the world, especially those in Latin America as the new Pope was revealed for the world to see. Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio made history as the first non-European pope of the modern era, the first from Latin America, the first Jesuit, and the first to use the name Francis. The name Francis is in honor of St. Francis of Assisi who is known among Catholics for his work with the poor.
Pope Francis himself is 76 and has served as the archbishop of Buenos Aires since 1998. He represents a highly conservative perspective, examples being his clashing with Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner over opposition to gay marriage and free distribution of contraceptives. Of the word’s 1.2 billion Catholics, Latin America is home to 480 million. This new Pope brings together the first world and the developing worlds. Also being of the Jesuit order, it represents a new chapter for the Catholic Church.
The news certainly represents a new chapter for Latin America and Argentina specifically. Not long after the news was released I heard bells ringing from nearby churches, horns honking on the streets and of course the social networks were flooded with opinions. Argentina is a predominantly Catholic country but like many countries, there are many people who are disenchanted with the ways of the church. For this and other reasons, news from Porteños (the people of Buenos Aires) was mixed. Many celebrated with other believers and others were embarrassed for the country. One friend of mine said, “Yo hoy quisiera ser uruguaya!” (Today I wanted to be Uruguayan.)
Regardless of religious beliefs, one cause for strong criticism is the now-Pope’s alleged role in Argentina’s last military dictatorship from 1976 to 1983 where an estimated 30,000 people were killed and disappeared. The Argentine Church and Bergoglio, due to his position in the local Jesuit Order at the time, have been accused of ignoring the victims despite their relatives first-hand accounts of kidnappings, torture, and deaths. Here are some comments regarding yesterday’s news, from Argentinians and other Latin Americans, with corresponding picture that are making their rounds in social network land.
With such big news and many jokes to be made relating this to Argentine culture, the photos and jokes won’t stop. Here’s a few for you, and if they don’t make sense, google Argentina and you’ll find out why.
PS – You don’t need to speak Spanish to see the typo.
And like Spanglish Exchange Buenos Aires picture, I can’t bare to not include the following picture for your reference. The Spanish word for potato “Papa” is also the same word for Pope. The difference is in the article. (Potato = la papa, Pope = el Papa).
Of course someone who grew up speaking a different language would think differently and make different decisions than you, wouldn’t they? I’m convinced it’s true, although whether or not it’s solely because of language is questionable. This question has been and continues to be debated by (real, as in professional) linguists, and every now and again examples pop up to prove that it’s true. Watch this video for a recent example.
In the video you either chose to watch or chose to watch later (as it’s really interesting), Behavioral Economist Keith Chen suggests that the language you speak impacts the way you think about the future, and specifically about your money-saving habits. How is it that countries with similar economies can still have radically different savings patterns? And could language–something different between countries–possibly make a difference?
English is what Kevin called a “futured language,” meaning that it has a future tense and speaks about the future in a different way than the past and present. It separates the future in other words and makes it a separate entity. English in fact is the only Germanic language that speaks about the future this way. Believe it or not, other languages such as German and Chinese don’t differentiate time like English does. German often uses the present tense in place of the future tense, and Chinese allows someone to say (in translation):
These are called “futureless languages.” The theory was that if a language speaks as if the present and the future are so different and so far away from each other time-wise, then it would make it harder to save money; whereas if the present and the future are viewed in nearly the same way, then it makes saving more likely.
After analysis and a lot of cross-tabs, the data showed that this theory was in fact true! The best savers are more closely related to futureless languages. Statistical analysis showed in Kevin’s research that “futureless language speakers are 30% more likely to save in a year,” and “retirees from futureless languages are going to have 25% more” money saved for retirement, if income is held constant.
What a contradiction this is! Countries with future languages such as the United States that are almost-obsessed with the concept of saving money for the future are actually saving less than countries that don’t even think about the future in their words (and maybe therefore in their thoughts.)
This was on an individual level, so what about on a country basis? Comparing China, Estonia and Germany to India, Greece and the UK, one major difference is savings rates. Germans save 10 percentage points more than the British (as a fraction of GDP), and Estonians and Chinese are saving 20 percentage points more than Greeks and Indians! And as we know, who’s doing better than most countries today in the difficult economic climate? The strongest economy in Europe is Germany, and worldwide we know that China is doing pretty well.
And that ladies and gentleman is what I call pure discovery!
For more examples on how language impacts our behavior, go to the article that corresponds to the video.
More from Kevin’s blog.