Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The world's most influential language

What makes a language influential? Is it one with the most speakers?

According to one group of scholars, including cognitive scientist and linguist Steven Pinker, whether or not a language is influential is less about that language itself, and more about how it connects to others.

To establish how languages are connected, the scholars looked at three forms of writing. If someone, a journalist for example, wants their story to go global, they will most likely print the story in their native language, as well as in those languages they think will have the biggest reach.

First, they looked at over 2.2 million book translations between 1979 and 2011, which were made in over 150 countries and more than a thousand languages. They then looked at which edits to Wikipedia were being done in more than one language, scanning 382 million edits in 238 languages by 2.5 million editors. Finally, they turned to Twitter, looking at 550 million tweets in 73 languages written by 17 million users – more than 10% of Twitter’s active user base.

If researching a global language network shows one thing, it's that English remains the number one most connected language in the world. After English, however, there was no single global network, but rather three sets of smaller networks around the world, linked together by languages that have had historical and colonial influence, such as French, Spanish, German, Russian, Portuguese and Chinese.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Do you have Expat DNA?

My love for infographics is obvious. ExpatChild published one on Expat DNA which has been around for a while but is worth deciphering. Which Expat are you?

Breaking down the Expat DNA:

What makes a great expat:
The ability to adapt to change – being flexible.
Keeping an open mind on the people and cultures that you encounter.
Learning & Speaking the local language.
Living, eating and going about life like the locals do and enjoying it : Being local.
Keen to observe and absorb the sights, sounds, smells and sensations that the world has to offer.
Open to new experiences and learning something new everyday.

Bad expat DNA:
Doesn’t stop complaining (Language is too hard, people are too rude or different).
Prefer to mingle only with expats who are similar to themselves.
Not making an effort to try the local foods or adhere to local customs.
Lead their lives like they did in their home country: resistant to change.
Gets homesick at the first thought of their home country.

Irrelevant DNA:
Being a well travelled individual has no bearing on being an expat. First time expats have just as much fun.
Have a high paying job – not a prerequisite to leading a fun and happy expat life.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Expat life: not always a smooth ride

Expat life is not as easy and smooth as many people think. Moving to another country can be one of the best and most exciting experiences of someone’s life, but it can also be very stressful. Rates of depression among expats can be up to 50% higher than the general population. At the heart of expat stress is homesickness, and many, if not all, expats will experience homesickness at some point. 41% of expats say making friends is a key concern of theirs when moving abroad. Learning the language of your destination country is a key part to truly settling in, though speaking English can get you by in most situations. For expats moving abroad, on average it takes between 5 and 7 years for them to fully adjust and integrate into their new country.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

International Mother Language Day

UNESCO is celebrating International Mother Language Day (IMLD) today. 2017 runs under the theme “Towards Sustainable Futures through Multilingual Education”.

On the occasion of this Day, I launch an appeal for the potential of multilingual education to be acknowledged everywhere, in education and administrative systems, in cultural expressions and the media, cyberspace and trade. Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director-General  

Well, Switzerland represents the prefect example with its four National languages: German, French, Italian and Romansch. Multilingualism is an integral part of Switzerland's national identity, however, that does not mean every Swiss is multilingual.

It is important to know that there are three official languages in Switzerland (German, French and Italian) but there are four National languages (German, French, Italian AND Romansch). Although Romansh is spoken by only some 10,000 people in certain parts of Graubünden, it has five distinct dialects: Sursilvan, Sutsilvan, Surmiran, Puter and Vallader.

Here are some more facts:

- German is the main language of around 64.9% of the population. However, they do not speak standard German but rather various Alemmanic dialects that are collectively known as “Schwiizerdütsch” (Swiss German).
- Swiss German is not a written language, although it is used sometimes in personal correspondence. Standard German is used for all formal, written communication.
- French is the main language of around 22.6% of the population.
- Italian is the main language of around 8.3% of the population.
- Romansch is the main language of about 0.5% of the population.
- Several cantons are multilingual: Bern (German-French), Fribourg (French-German), Valais (French-German) and Graubünden (German-Romansh-Italian).
- Swiss German is the most widely used language in the workplace (66%), followed by standard German (33%), French (29%), English (18%) and Italian (9%).
- Over 42% of the population over the age of 15 regularly use more than one language.
- Foreigners living in Switzerland also contribute to the country's linguistic diversity. English and Portuguese are the most commonly spoken foreign languages.
- Other commonly spoken foreign languages include Spanish, Serbian, Croatian and Albanian.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Swiss Export shopping

It is common for expats to develop quirks about favourite foods and other items from their home country. If you have ever lived abroad you know the feeling.

Strange shopping habits can be spotted before leaving home and returning to an expat destination. Our family calls it Export shopping: it results in a family shopping spree around the Coop (sometimes Migros) stacking the trolley with our favourite food which has now become our comfort food. 

These items cannot be found in the host country and may or may not have actually been part of the expats' lives in their home country but which given half a chance - and with some luck a car rather than a suitcase to fill - will undoubtedly be one of the highlights of being back home. 

A bottle of Ramseier Apfelsaft, a Branchli or a Ragusa, an Ovo crunchy spread or Champions Birchermuesli will make us feel just a little bit better when we get hit with homesickness or nostalgia. A glass of Dole Blanche or a moité-moité cheese fondue will certainly hit the spot. And nobody makes bouillon cubes like the Swiss. NeoCitran, a widely-used cold remedy, will do the job in case of sickness, and the earplugs that come in a pink box let me sleep through thick and thin. And don't get me started on the chocolate... cooking chocolate, white hot chocolate, dark powdered chocolate, marzipan chocolate tablets, nutty chocolate bars and chocolate pralines!


Nor can we resist a Swiss bakery

Suntigszopf im Ussland

Familia Birchermüesli with Hirz Yoghurt... a champion's breakfast!

Le Chiacchiere di Carnevale... bring back sweet memories of Lugano

Ramseier or Rivella?

A typical Swiss Export shopping bag

Sunday, February 19, 2017

A week back home in Switzerland

Every year we religiously drive back to Switzerland for a week's skiing. This year the Gods were smiling down on us and we arrived to catch the first rays of sun after several snowy days. In other words: perfect skiing conditions!

The saying "Feeling on top of the World" takes on a whole new meaning when you get to spend a glorious week of skiing with your childhood friends and everybody's family gets to join the fun!

Where to start?
Skiing, eating or suntanning?

A feeling of Swiss nostalgia

Weather forecast a week before we left

The view on our first day of skiing

My skis might be vintage but they still get me up and down the mountain just fine

 A close encounter

 Chässchnitte uf de Alphütte

Teatime treat after skiing: Vermicelle at Charly's

Adelboden, a new discovery!

Anybody home?

The snow is melting rapidly after 6 days of sunshine

We could always try sledging down the mountain?

I am born to suntan!

I am intrigued!

 The village of Rougemont 

When teenagers are left without WIFI!!!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Happy Valentine's Day

This I Love You Map, shows the phrase “I Love You” translated into 130 different languages and positioned on the map based on the primary language spoken in that country or region of the world.

Here's wishing you a Happy Valentine's Day
wherever you may be in the world!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

An Expat wife's salary

Usually I refrain from commenting on politics although I do enjoy following certain countries' politics and passionate campaigns. However, M. Fillion's hiccup is just too good to pass up.

Francois Fillon, the conservative politician tipped to become France’s next president has found himself at the centre of a political scandal after he was accused of paying his wife as - what he calls - a parliamentary assistant.

Penelope Fillon reportedly received the equivalent of 900'000.- Euro of taxpayers’ money.
“Just because she is my wife she should not be entitled to work? Could you imagine a politician saying, as this story did, that the only thing a woman can do is making jam? All the feminists would scream," he said.

Ok. M.Fillion, I would like to thank you. You just put a number to all expat trailblazing wives' duties;
(in brackets would be my personal interpretation of the duty he cited during yesterday's press conference):

- Personal secretary (family social agenda including travel planning, medical visits, documentation)
- Events planner (Playdates, Sleepovers, Sports events)
- Communication officer (Rules and Regulation policy commander in chief, Media coordinator)
- Family representant (Associations, School, PTA)
- HR coordinator (Personal development, siblings litigations, in-laws coordination)
- Customer service (Complaints department, Guarantor of WIFI service, warm meals and clean clothes)

Monthly salary: EURO 4'700.-

Oh... and by the way this does NOT include the housework nor the endless administrative paperwork that comes with every move! However, we could throw in some jam-making if you're really nice to us.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Modern Love

I love infographics. This one was made in early 2013.  The concept behind it was to visually demonstrate how technology has affected our behavior in romantic relationships. See for yourself.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Valentine's Day facts

Each one of us celebrates Valentine's Day differently. Some don't celebrate it at all. Other can't sleep at night wondering who their secret admirer might be?

So, while we wait for February 14th to come along, I'll nibble on a piece of chocolate and share some fun facts about Valentine's Day with you.

Valentine's Day related history:
- The ancient Romans celebrated the Feast of Lupercalia on February 14th in honor of Juno, the queen of the Roman gods and goddesses. Juno was also the goddess of women and marriage.
- Many believe the 'X' symbol became synonymous with the kiss in medieval times. People who couldn't write their names signed in front of a witness with an 'X.' The 'X' was then kissed to show their sincerity.
- Girls of medieval times ate bizarre foods on St. Valentine's Day to make them dream of their future spouse.
- In the Middle Ages, young men and women drew names from a bowl to see who would be their Valentine. They would wear this name pinned onto their sleeves for one week for everyone to see. This was the origin of the expression "to wear your heart on your sleeve."
- In 1537, England's King Henry VII officially declared February 14th the holiday of St. Valentine's Day.
- The most fantastic gift of love is the Taj Mahal in India. It was built by Mughal Emperor Shahjahan as a memorial to his wife.
- Every Valentine's Day, the Italian city of Verona, where Shakespeare's lovers Romeo and Juliet lived, receives about 1,000 letters addressed to Juliet.

- Casanova, well known as "The World's Greatest Lover," ate chocolate to make him virile.
- Physicians of the 1800's commonly advised their patients to eat chocolate to calm their pining for lost love.
- Richard Cadbury produced the first box of chocolates for Valentine's Day in the late 1800's.
- More than 35 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolate will be sold for Valentine's Day.

- 73% of people who buy flowers for Valentine's Day are men, while only 27 percent are women.
- The red rose was the favorite flower of Venus, the Roman goddess of love.
- Red roses are considered the flower of love because the color red stands for strong romantic feelings.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Sweet pickup lines

Feeling a bit frivolous today and having been inspired by a friend's Facebook status I decided to share some sweet pickup lines. It's Valentine's Day in a week, so get ready to be swept off your feet. Which line would you fall for? Or do you have a better pickup line?

In this changing and uncertain times we are living today, I think we need to rearrange the alphabet. How about putting U & I together?

Guess what I’m wearing? The smile you gave me!

If I were an octopus, all my 3 hearts would beat for you.

Roses are red violets are blue I didn’t know what perfect was until I met you.

Your smile lit up the room, so I just had to come over.

There isn’t a word in the dictionary to describe how beautiful you are.

Is there an airport nearby or is that just my heart taking off?

Because of you, I laugh a little harder, cry a little less, and smile a lot more.

Me without you is like a nerd without braces, a shoe without laces, aSentenceWithoutSpaces.

This time next year let’s be laughing together.

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