Christmas is pretty ubiquitous in the Western world, with Christmas songs being especially difficult to avoid.
Having spent the last few Christmases overseas, I’ve been interested to hear songs in different languages. For example, in New Zealand there are Maori versions of many traditional carols, such as Märie te pö (Silent Night). Another popular favourite is A Pukeko in a Ponga Tree (sung to the tune of The Twelve Days of Christmas).
In Spain, carols are called villancicos. As well as many songs that have been translated from English, traditional Spanish villancicos include Campana Sobre Campana. Another more modern popular song is Feliz Navidad by Jose Feliciano.
Songs are a great way to pick up new vocabulary, and this is a great way to get into the festive spirit as well as learning more about cultural aspects of your chosen language.
A student in New Zealand may have come up with a way to make learning a language easier.
Michael Walmsley, a PhD student, is working on a project to allow learners to read texts in a foreign language interspersed with words in their native language. He’s been awarded almost NZ$100,000 to help fund his research into the idea.
The software engineering student will spend the next three years researching ways to tap into existing online resources, such as Wikipedia and the Wiktionary, to create suitable reading texts for language learners.
Both online resources come in around 170 languages.
Mr Walmsley hopes to develop software to use them to automatically create suitable texts.
At this stage he is focusing on Japanese and Spanish with the hope to one day bring in te reo.
“The goal is to make learning a language fit into people’s busy schedules,” he said. (Source: Stuff.co.nz)
The idea is an interesting one, especially as people are increasingly busy with less time to spend on learning a language. It would also take away some of the frustration learners feel when constantly reaching for a dictionary whilst reading a text. My concern is that it would create gaps in knowledge, however, and perhaps even create more hybrid languages such as Spanglish – people could end up merely speaking a mix of their native language and target language rather than becoming fluent.
It’s definitely worth watching out for the results of the project though.
Kia ora! If you happen to be in New Zealand this week (or even just know some Kiwis), why not take part in Māori Language Week?
Running from the 27th July – 2nd August, this years theme is “Te Reo i te Hapori – Māori Language in the Community.”
Te reo Māori is one of two official languages of New Zealand, along New Zealand Sign Language (English is a de facto official language). The language of New Zealand’s indigenous population, it’s experiencing something of a resurgence, with Māori language schools and it being taught at primary school. The national newspaper, the New Zealand Herald is getting involved, with some classic Kiwi phrases translated into Māori. If you’re already a fluent speaker, here’s an editorial celebrating the week in Te Reo (there’s an English translation too!).
I took a few classes in Te Reo when I lived in New Zealand, and it was a great way to connect with Māori culture. Here are some ideas for participating in the week, why not get involved?
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