Ukulele & Languages

Different countries,
Different cultures
one common language... the ukulele.

Language Fun Posts

I watched a few wish lanterns floating about in the night sky while visiting the city of Tianjin in China. Watching their red glow rise in the night was kind of mesmerizing and felt a bit magic. I was amazed at how high these paper lanterns could rise, and at how long they could float about. I was a bit concerned that they could set fire to something on their descent but there was no casualty to report on that night and the old quarters of Tianjin are still standing.

I did actually bring one of these lanterns home and I started reading the instructions on the packaging last weekend. Now, they are by far the funniest instructions I have ever read _ not that I have read very many, I usually can’t be bothered, but this once I thought what with the risk of setting fire to something and all, and decided to be wise.

I am glad I did read the instructions. They did not really help me find out how to light the lamp properly but they were highly entertaining, hilarious in fact.

I have serious doubts as to whether your eyesight will be good enough to make out the words, so here they are :

1. After the distribution of fuel to packaging equipment Kong Cross wire in the side of the field again deduction presses The fuel-pressure lock firmly.

2. A person Xu Yuan light take up a Top. Another person fuel ignited the four angle.

3. Wait for that the heat enough light, lanterns person lest loose. A top hand, changes grips under the light to encircle. Has when the lifting force may let go releases for flying.

4. Xu Yuan light rose slowly the sky, do not forget Wishing oh

Notice Item :

1. Should choose at the option open, calm environment released for flight. No fire ban in areas, the tall building the floor, and so on have covers under the thing to release for flight, must leave outside the airport 10 kilometers from flying.

2. Xu Yuan light can only be used for the distribution the special purpose of fuel prohibited by any burning Replace.

3. Xu Yuan light are on the rise, that of the flying, cannot the long time not put, and the Flight not to be append the foreign body.

4. Children must be under the custody of the adults use. [ooooh, this one can be highly misinterpreted]

Declaration : Xu Yuan light for the fire flying, because of environmental ingredient such is improper use of security incidents caused by the release of the commitment. Production enterprises, vendors, transport operators, without any responsibility. You use both, then you understand and accept on behalf of the declaration.

In my search for language-related videos, I came across Mind Your Language, a British comedy TV series from 1977 which I had never seen before and which I found rather hilarious.

Mr Brown, played by the late British actor Barry Evans, is a young teacher hired in a school for adults to teach English as a Foreign Language to a crowd of students from various horizons and very diverse levels of English.

The series Mind Your Language focuses on stereotypes from different countries as seen from a British perspective, explores multi-cultural interactions between students, which often are a great source of funny misunderstandings.

Student nationalities represented in the season 1 of the series are :
Italy, Germany, China, Japan, India, Greece, Spain, Pakistan and France.

Here is the very first episode of Mind Your Language

Episode One, Part One

Episode One, Part Two

I was surprised to read that the series had been cancelled in 1979 as some people found it offensive or even racist.

Of course the series is definitely not meant to be taken litterally and one must possess a minimum amount of sense of humour to appreciate it.

France for example is represented by the openly seductive character of Danielle Favre and could mislead people into thinking that French girls are easy. Germans could be offended to be pictured as dull and efficient, Chinese as being obsessed by Mao’s red book, Italians for being loud and so on and so forth.

Every nationality is equally misrepresented in the series however, so it is in my opinion a bit excessive to consider it racist. I for one found it great fun to explore English as (mis)understood by people from different nationalities.

Buy the DVD’s:

From the UK (Season 1 to 3, Region 2 DVD):
Mind Your Language – Complete LWT Series [DVD]

From the US (Season One, Region 1):
Mind Your Language, Vol. 1

From France (Seasons 1 to 3, Region 2 DVD)
Mind Your Language – Series 1-3 – Complete [Import anglais]

There’s always something original cooking with Amelia Robinson and this time she’s asked me if I could relay information about a ukulele event she is going to take part in, as part of the Spitalfields Music Festival, in London, UK, during the month of June 2010.

Here is her description of the event :

A Magical History Tour is a guided coach trip like no other through historical sites of the East End of London.

I join comedians Alan Gilbey and Steve Wells on my ukulele, singing site specific tunes about hidden secrets on the route.

Our grand finale leaves us in front of Beigel Bake on Brick Lane, where I encourage a heated discussion on the differences between Brooklyn Bagels (I’m a NY-er me-self) and London Beigels (often pronounced buygels).

I’d like to invite anyone who is interested to partake in a flash mob scene in front of Beigel Bake promptly at 5pm on Saturdays 12, 19, 26 June to join me in a rendition of Bagels vs. Beigels.
Listen to : Bagels vs. Beigels by Amelia Robinson

We want to create a big street scene with as many uke players as possible and encourage everyone to voice their opinion & preferences on the matter.

Place: Brick Lane Beigel Bake, 159 Brick Lane, London E1 6SB

Bring: your Uke & passion for Bagels OR Beigels

If you find that the discussion is not heated enough with bagels vs. beigels, why not spice things up by adding bubliks, pretzels, baronkos, girdeh nan, açma, to name but a few bagel-beigel cousins from around the world?

If you are still struggling with the pronunciation of the name of the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull despite this video, then I am slightly worried the longest Finnish word might be beyond your depth : epäjärjestelmällisyydellistyttämättömyydellänsäkäänköhän

The word, which is actually a collection of words put together sounds like this :

Puzzled about its meaning ?

Hank W. has made the following attempt at splitting the word into its composite words to give a definition of its meaning (source : finlandforum).

“Järjestelmä – System

Epäjärjestelmä – Unsystem

Epäjärjestelmällisyys – Unsystematicality

Epäjärjestelmällisyydellinen – Something that is seen as unsystematicality

Epäjärjestelmällisyydellistyttää – To make something/-one be seen as unsystematicality

Epäjärjestelmällisyydellistyttämätön – One that hasn’t made something be seen as unsystematicality / Something that hasn’t been made be seen as unsystematicality

Epäjärjestelmällisyydellistyttämättömyys – The act of not having made something be seen as unsystematicality

Epäjärjestelmällisyydellistyttämättömyydellä – With the act of not having made something be seen as unsystematicality

Epäjärjestelmällisyydellistyttämättömyydellänsä – With his/her act of not having made something be seen as unsystematicality.

Epäjärjestelmällisyydellistyttämättömyydellänsäkään – Not even with his act of not having made something be seen as unsystematicality.

Epäjärjestelmällisyydellistyttämättömyydellänsäkäänkö – Is it not even with his act of not having made something be seen as unsystematicality.

Epäjärjestelmällisyydellistyttämättömyydellänsäkäänköhän – I wonder if it’s not with his act of not having made something be seen as unsystematicality “.

Which of course makes it dead easy for anyone to think about a sentence in which one could use the word :)

Now that you know a most useful Finnish word, let’s move on to a Finnish expression ‘oma maa mansikka, muu maa mustikka‘ which translates literally as  ‘my country is a strawberry and your country is a blueberry‘ or simply said ‘Home sweet home‘.

This expression is illustrated in an original ukulele folk song by PeteyHoudini called Luuranko (skeleton)

If you’d rather learn conversational Finnish, this video will teach you basics such as how to say Hi and Goodbye.

I spent the most memorable of my study years in Hull, in the North-East of England. Some people might be prejudiced and frown at the mention of Hull, but to an exchange student determined not to meet any French people for a full year, Hull was the perfect place to be.

One of the reasons my year in Hull has been so special was that there were students from many different countries of Northern Europe, many of them being as interested in languages as I was. Besides, trying to understand the locals (which was pronounced more like ‘løøcals’) was another endless source of fun, not to mention listening to all of us foreigners trying to imitate the accent. So yeah, it was never dull in Hull, it was f#’ ace !

The student house I lived in was also an excellent playground for a language lover as two of my housemates were from Yorkshire and taught me to pronounce ‘water is boiling in the kettle‘ something like ‘wa’er is boiling in ‘he ke’el‘ as well as many idiomatic Yorkshire niceties.

To travel around the cities of Yorkshire, why not listen to Tony, a Yorkshire ukulele player, singing A Dalesman’ s Litany. Lyrics can be found here.

In that same student house another housemate was from the South-West of Germany so I also got to learn some Schwäbisch (Swabian), which, to the great distaste of my German lecturer who was from the North of Germany, I actually liked much better than standard German.

For an overview of the Swabian dialect, chek this site.

If you have no idea what Schwäbish sounds like, this ukulele video by Goschenhobel should help you :

While on the subject of dialects, I’ll add one more ukulele song which I really liked :

The Scots dialect is well illustrated in this Jacobite song, Came Ye o’er frae France, a satirical rant about George I dating back to the time of the second Jacobite uprising around 1715. Tony has done a great ukulele cover of this song and provides a wealth of information about its origin in the YouTube description of the song, including lyrics and a glossary of the words.

For a detailed and fascinating  unriddling of the songs lyrics, check this site.

Language Fun

A place for language lovers where I’m trying to demonstrate how fun it is to learn other languages and how much of a culture you understand through its language.
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