July 14, 2014

Book Review: The Xenophobe’s Guide to the Poles by Ewa Lipniacka

I have to admit that The Xenophobe’s Guide to the Poles is one of my favourite guides to Polish-ness. No matter how many times I have read certain passages, I still cannot stop laughing.
The little booklet consists of 86 pages divided into 19 chapters and was written by Ewa Lipniacka, a London University graduate, librarian and writer. In the chapter The Flexible Pole, we can read about old Polish recipes, e.g. how to make an almond cake: if you have no almonds use ground beans and almond flavouring. In another chapter, Eating & Drinking, Ewa Lipniacka explains what Poles have for their “second breakfast”, by saying that the “[s]econd breakfast” is whatever you can get away with at work: usually another coffee and a sandwich at your desk, and if your desk happens to be in the front office of a bank, you eat in full public view. For those who are studying Polish there is a chapter on the language as well, where we can learn that anyone who tells you that the Polish alphabet consists of ‘s’ and ‘z’ is exaggerating. Only half of it does. I could easily fill the whole page with quotations from The Xenophobe’s Guide, as the booklet is filled with anecdotes and witty observations, but I do not want to spoil the pleasure of discovering them in the context and having a good laugh.  
The Xenophobe’s Guide is a real treat for Polish readers, but also for foreigners planning to visit Poland and willing to know a little bit more about the Polish mentality, beliefs and culture. The Xenophobe’s Guide points out the common stereotypes and generalisations about everything Poles do and are. If you are planning to read it, remember to take it with a pinch of salt. 

Written by Kinga Macalla

Edited by Alicja Zajdel
Photo courtesy of Kinga Macalla

All quotations come from: Xenophobe’s Guide to the POLES, Ewa Lipniacka, Oval Books, London, 2010.

Xenophobe's Guide -- Photo
July 14, 2014

Travellers’ Corner: Cornwall – Bude

When I first visited Cornwall, I immediately fell in love with its beauty and calmness. I thought that my first impressions were not going to last long and would disappear or become a norm, losing its purity and uniqueness. However, it did not happen. Cornwall surprised me for the second time and proved to be a truly breathtaking part of the British Islands.

So where did I go? It was a small town, Bude, in the north of Cornwall, where I spent a truly remarkable weekend in a tent surrounded by trees, grass and other campers. Arriving on a beautiful sunny Friday evening in July last year, I felt already relaxed just by observing nature in its glory. After having a very refreshing sleep, I woke up at 6am feeling ready to explore Bude. Driving to the town I had to stop to admire the astonishing views of the blue ocean and yellowish dry grass. 


Bude -- Tent


After arriving in the town, I had a little stroll around, I went to see the centre with its local shops and boutiques and then slowly followed the river up to the beach to be impressed by the amazing view of white foamy waves against the background of the navy blue water. I walked on the beach trying to wet my feet and overcome the extreme coldness of the morning ocean. As it was getting warmer, I noticed that many sunbathers found their way to cool down and they were swimming in the sea. I immediately decided to follow them and a minute later I was immersing myself in the pool of natural, salty water. The pool was surrounded by a tall rock formation on one side and by the ocean on the other. At low tide, the pool could be accessed from the beach, however at high tide, it was flooded with water, so swimming was necessary to get to the beach. 
Bude -- Ocean


As the twilight was falling, many passionate crab-catchers appeared on the river bank. They were accompanied by their family and friends who eagerly supported them. The crab-catchers were only saving the bigger specimen. For the dinner plate?-one may wonder. From time to time, you could hear someone screaming ‘Jellyfish!’ as these beauties were also thrown into the river with the high tide.  
Bude -- Beach


It was so good to slow down and simply enjoy life for those two days. I remember the feeling of sadness on Sunday evening when we were leaving the weekend in Bude behind and heading back home. I guess tranquillity and happiness can be addictive. I will need another dose of them very soon!   
Written by Kinga Macalla 
Edited by Alicja Zajdel
Photos courtesy of Kinga Macalla 
July 7, 2014

Event Report: Syria Speaks. Art and Culture from the Frontline.

On 12th June the Festival of Ideas at Foyles Bookshop hosted remarkable Syrian writers, Khaled Khalifa and Robin Yassin- Kassab, and a video artist and cinematographer Khalil Younes. The event was a part of the UK tour Syria Speaks. Art and culture from the frontline, which marked the publication of a book with the same title, a unique anthology of uprising literature, art and culture.

The evening was filled with stories, both fictional and real, full of darkness and hope, fear and friendship, all related to the revolution. At first we could hear a fragment from the award-winning Syrian novelist, screenwriter and poet Khaled Khalifa’s book Lettuce in Fields read by himself in Arabic and afterwards by Robin Yassin-Kassab in English. After the reading, the writer told anecdotes about Syrian censorship and talked about gratitude and fears which accompany every morning coffee in his house in Damascus. 
Similar feelings were also present in Khalil Younes’s speech. The audience of the festival could see some reproductions of his illustrations, such as Hamza Bakkour, which commemorates a thirteen year old boy’s tragedy. Khalil Younes is not only an illustrator, video artist and painter but also an author of short stories. One of which, Chicken Liver, included in anthology, tells a real story about him and his friend who found themselves on opposite sides of the conflict.
Likewise the above mentioned artists, Robin Yassin-Kassab presented a fragment of his yet unpublished book which was received with a warm applause. He shared his observations on Syria from the position of a writer and a journalist. According to him, every person in Syria has a terrible, unbelievable story to tell but not everyone has a chance to be heard. On the other hand, as he mentioned, media don’t always show the activities of people who bring hope and believe in humankind, such as the baker who stayed in Syria to bake bread for the local people or the man who publishes a children’s magazine for younger Syrians.
I truly believe that the UK tour Syria Speaks. Art and culture from the frontline gives an opportunity to Syrian people to express themselves beyond the media and for the British audience to hear an authentic voice of the Syrian revolution.
Written by Joanna Michta
Edited by Alicja Zajdel
Photo courtesy of Khalil Younes


June 29, 2014

Inspiring Language Tutors: “A mediocre teacher tells. A good teacher explains. A great teacher inspires.”

When I think back to my school time years and the variety of personalities that have taught me throughout the years, there is one that really stands out: a forever smiling Spanish man from Salamanca whose energy and enthusiasm were inevitably contagious, even for the most stubborn individuals. He would begin his classes by throwing unexpected questions at us, ones that he usually heard on the radio the same morning, and that would guarantee our instant attention. After all, how many times do you enter a classroom and get asked if you’d rather lose a leg or an arm?
Funnily enough, a silly little question like that can open up a whole debate and I’ve never seen my classmates as keen to speak Spanish as they were on those occasions. I guess that was my teacher’s sneaky technique of getting us to chat away in the language without even realising. This, of course, was not his only trick. We would play games in Spanish- something we didn’t do a lot of in our other classes. A-level students are clearly too mature to play games… Mr. Sánchez, however, thought otherwise and he could not have been more right! It turns out that 16-17 year olds love games just as much as the younger students (or perhaps even more!). The one I remember most is the game in which someone sticks a piece of paper on your forehead and you have to guess who or what you are by asking yes and no questions.
Nonetheless, it wasn’t just the games and the silly questions that made Mr. Sánchez a great teacher. In my opinion, it was his evident passion for teaching. The satisfaction you could see all over his face when the students were finally starting to get the hang of the subjunctive! Learning in his classroom was a great experience where everything seemed possible. He always pushed us a little further, venturing outside the boundaries of the school syllabus, which had definitely given much better results. The best evidence for this is that more than half of the class went on to study Spanish at university.
Thinking back and analysing my classes with Mr. Sánchez I try to pinpoint the qualities that made his lessons so enjoyable and rewarding. His personality was definitely one of the key aspects, but unfortunately it is something that others cannot really replicate. However, something that can be learnt from Mr. Sánchez is to keep the lessons fast paced, not allowing the students to lose concentration. Of course you also have to make sure everything is explained clearly and followed by everyone. I cannot say that his lessons were easy, they required a lot of concentration and work that had to be put in, but they were certainly where I learnt the most.
Now that I think about it, it is probably thanks to Mr. Sánchez that I decided to study languages at university, as it was definitely my favourite subject at school. He is a truly inspiring teacher and the impact he had on me has made me want to share my language madness with others.
Written by Alicja Zajdel

Inspiring Lang Tutors -- Alicja -- quatation


June 14, 2014

Welcome to Bristol Languages!

Welcome to Bristol Languages, a blog run by language enthusiasts. We are linguists: translators, interpreters, language tutors, travellers, language learners and university students who decided to embark upon this fascinating journey of writing a blog, as we want to understand better the genius that each language represents (Humboldt) and explore the different world views that every language expresses (Sapir-Whorf).

We want to share with you our interests and by publishing here, we want to inform you about interesting language events and worth-reading books, give you practical learning tips and conduct interviews with passionate linguists.
We hope you will find our blog interesting. Enjoy reading!
(Bristol) Languages Enthusiasts