Month: December 2020

10 ways to go beyond a simple “thank you” in different languages

Reading Time: 2 minutes

2020 has been a testing year for us all, to say the least. As a way of expressing our gratitude to all our language learners, language instructors, translators, interpreters, volunteers & team members throughout, here are 10 ways of saying thank you — in Arabic, French, Persian and Spanish!

1. تسلم / تسلمي (Tislam/Tislami)

Coming from the root verb “سلم” or “salama” meaning “to come out safe/healthy”, this phrase means “May you stay safe”, and can be used as a way to thank someone, while literally also wishing well for their health and safety!

2. يعطيك العافية (Ya‘tik al-‘afiya)

Literally translating to “may [God] give you health,” this is a recognition of someone’s hard work and allows you to show your appreciation.

3. Merci de tout coeur (mekh-see dah tu ker)

A heartfelt phrase in French meaning, “thank you with all my heart”.

4. C’est très gentil à toi / vous (seh tkheh jan-tee a twa/voo)

In more formal settings, one might say “that’s very kind of you”. Remember to use “vous” when speaking in a respectful manner! 

5. Daste shomā dard nakone (دست شما درد نکنه )

Never realized how poetic Persian is? This phrase means “may your hand not hurt”, often used when someone gives you a gift or prepares food for you.

6. Ghorbāne shomā (قربان شما )

Literally meaning “your sacrifice”, this is an example of a Persian taarof or an Iranian sign of etiquette and politeness, displaying humility. Read more here for context.

7. Te la/lo debo (te la/lo de-bo)

Spanish for “I owe you” – use this with friends to let them know you’re grateful for them and you got them next time!

8. (Estoy) Muy agradecido/a (ehs-toy muy agra-de-cido/a)

This is a lovely way to say “(I’m) very grateful for you” – another version of “thank you so much”, as the adjective “agradecido” is translated as “grateful”.

9. Mamnoun(t)ak/ek (ممنونك/ممنونتك)

You may hear this Arabic loanword, “mamnoun” or “ممنون”, in Arabic or Persian, as a way to say “thank you” or “I’m grateful to you”.

10. Merci (mekh-see)

Don’t be surprised if you hear “merci”, a common way to say “thank you”, beyond francophone countries, it’s also common in Middle Eastern countries and even Iran!  

Here’s to reaching new language feats in 2021! 

Happy new year, كل سنة وأنتم بخير, Feliz año nuevo, Bonne année, سال نو مبارک, from the NaTakallam family to yours 🙂

P.S. In case you missed our thank you series in the past month, check them here in Arabic, Persian, French and Spanish!

Shabe Yalda: The Longest Night of the Year

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Blog contributor: Sayed, NaTakallam Persian Language Partner

Shabe Yalda; a night of welcoming. A night of love, light, and rebirth of the sun. The night of Hafez and Bidel (Persian poets) and lovers in the hope of a bright sunrise and longer days to come.

Shabe Yalda (شب یلدا‎), or the Night of Yalda, is a Persian festival celebrated on the longest and darkest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere i.e., the night of the winter solstice. It is one of the most important ancient Persian traditions which is still practiced today, falling on either the 20th or the 21st of December. This festival is also called “Shabe Chelleh” (شب چله‎), or the Night of the Forty, because it marks the beginning of the first forty days of winter, believed to be the coldest and toughest days of the year.

According to the Persian calendar*, this festival is celebrated from sunset on the 30th day of the month of Azar (the 9th month of the Persian calendar and the last day of autumn) till sunrise on the 1st day of the month of Dey (the 10th month and the first day of winter). Shabe Yalda brings together family and friends to pass the longest and darkest night of the year in good company and cheer, and celebrate the “rebirth of the sun” the following day, known as “Khurram ruz” (the day of the sun). The festival has particular significance for rural communities that depend on agriculture and animal husbandry.

The word “yalda” (یلدا‎) comes from the Syriac word yēled (ܝܠܕ), meaning “birth”. However, it is likely that the festivities themselves were adopted by ancient Persians (of Zoroastrian faith) from the annual celebration of the ‘renewal of the Sun’ of the ancient Babylonians and Egyptians.

Today, Iranian, Afghan, Tajik, Kurdish, and Azeri communities come together with family and friends to celebrate Shabe Yalda. They gather, usually at the home of grandparents or elderly relatives, to spend the night waiting for the sun to rise with legends, stories, and riddles. They recite verses from the Shahnameh (the epic Book of Kings by Ferdowsi, and the longest poem ever written by a single author) and intone poems from Divan-e Hafez**, accompanied by musical instruments, singing, and delicacies such as – watermelon, persimmon,  pomegranate, and “ajil” ( آجیل), a colorful mix of dried fruits, nuts, and seeds.

According to an old Persian belief, sunrise the following day would break the back of darkness, and with its radiance, remove darkness from people’s lives.

As Persians say… Shabe Yalda Mobarakشب یلدا مبارک – Happy Yalda Night!

Fascinated by Persian traditions, language, and poetry? Get more insight into the culture with NaTakallam’s native instructors! Sign up here, today.

 

*Fun fact: Did you know the Persian calendar is based on astronomical observations and is considered one of the closest to a perfect calendar according to this and this source? (The months are also aligned with the star signs!)

**Reciting poems from Divan-e Hafez is a special tradition on this night. Each member, in turn, makes a secret wish or poses a secret question (in their heart), and opens a random page in the book, in which the elder member of the family, or best reciter/interpreter, reads the selected poem out loud. It is believed that the randomly selected poem is a response, guidance or direction to the secret wish or question. It is fun to guess the secret wishes of others when in groups, as well!

 

This piece was contributed by Sayed, our Persian Language Partner, based in Indonesia.

Sayed Mohammad Nabi was born in Afghanistan right after the Soviet withdrawal but has lived as a refugee in Iran and currently resides in Indonesia. He studied French language and literature at Kabul University and has a background in translation and interpretation. In his free time, he enjoys poetry, photography, and hiking. He’s been working with NaTakallam since 2020.

The Human Rights Advocates teaching you languages :)!

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Today, December 10th, marks Human Rights Day – the day the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948…and a day to celebrate in all languages.

Did you know..? Many of our Language Partners are human rights advocates themselves!

Mahmoud: Women’s Rights in the Middle East

“This year during COVID times, I started an Instagram account supporting women rights and speaking on human rights topics in the Middle East. My goal is to shed light on the growing gender equality movement in the Middle East covering topics such as toxic masculinity, relationships, the upbringing of children and mental health. Moreover, I started working as a cultural mediator for the European network for the work against perpetrators of gender-based violence, a project by the European Commission, and I will have my first webinar about this topic very soon.”

– Mahmoud, Syrian language partner based in Germany

Leila: Giving a voice to the voiceless

“Most of my studies are about voiceless people from the Middle East. This year during the very hard times of the pandemic, I started to focus on presenting my ideas and interpretations via zoom workshops and talks, as well as building a series of podcasts. In these podcasts, we try to educate the people about their past. Our goal is to show that there are always traces of subordinated voiceless people neglected by governments and some historians. The history is not only of well-off people, but all the human beings, despite their ethnicity, sex, and social class, should have their space in history. The history of the Middle East, in most cases, is comprised of the stories of victorious kings, armies, and masculinity-we are trying to transform all these presumptions. I am also writing applications and hope to get some amount of money to continue my project on voiceless people in Europe.”

– Leila, Persian language partner based in Sweden

Luis: Fighting against corruption

 

“I am a former anti-corruption prosecutor and I worked in high impact cases within my country which were of national significance. One of them even reached the USA. In the cases I worked, I managed to prosecute high State officials and powerful national and international businessmen, which led to my being harassed.

As there is no protection from the State institutions in Guatemala, despite the various complaints I presented to make it known that my family was in danger, the level of persecution against us was such, that it led to my current refugee situation in the US. Nonetheless, I feel very happy with the work I did, because fighting corruption is synonymous with supporting Human Rights. Corruption limits people’s access to good education, food, health, housing, among others, and despite being away from my home and loved ones, I know that I did the right things in the right way.”

– Luis, Guatemalan language partner based in the US

Fanar: Refugee & Asylum Rights to Resettlement

 

“After more than 4 years of waiting in my host country, I am finally getting the chance to get an asylum visa to France through the French Embassy. It was like a miracle for me to get it especially in this hard year for most of the people. I didn’t believe in good in this world, but we found very good hearted people that helped and still want to help us.

I am expecting to travel in the next few days with my family and I am very excited to move to a new country and have a life after years of being a refugee in Jordan where I wasn’t even recognized as a refugee by the UNHCR. I hope this gives hope to others who are in need for it.

NaTakallam is a great opportunity for me because I cannot work in Jordan as an asylum seeker. I feel happy and hopeful every time I get a new student. NaTakallam is the place where I can meet different and new young people that encourage me to look forward. I am very glad to be one of the language partners in such a wonderful organization. I feel liked and confident whenever I talk to one of my students. I can see their kindness in their words and compliments that makes me so happy and satisfied. There are students that care for my asylum status and try to send me online jobs: one time my sister got a job because of my student sending me a link she found and thought of us!”

– Fanar, Iraqi language partner based Jordan, soon moving to France

Join us today, and every day, in celebrating human rights, and all the unsung heroes around the world who have stood up for humanity. 

Want get to know these heroes further & even perhaps, learn languages with them?
Sign up for language sessions (in 5 languages) with them here! Or maybe even gift them to loved ones this holiday season.

5 Ways to say “thank you” in Persian

Reading Time: 2 minutes

 

Salaam (سلام, hello)! After exploring how to say “thank you” in Spanish and Arabic in our previous posts, this week we bring you 5 culturally meaningful ways to express gratitude in Persian!

1. Sepās-gozāram (سپاسگزارم)

Mostly used in formal settings with roots dating back to ancient Persia (before the Arabic influence over the Persian language circa 600s AD), the term Sepās-gozāram (سپاسگزارم) is used to say “I am grateful”.

Want to impress? Add kheili (خیلی) meaning “very” before sepās-gozāram to emphasize your gratitude. In semi-casual settings, you can shorten the phrase to sepās (سپاس).

2. Mersi (مرسی) or Merci

Looking for a more colloquial term? You can use the French loan word, Merci – pronounced “mer-see” with a rolled r. It is an informal term which is used commonly within Farsi-speaking communities. As a response, you may hear khahesh mikonam (خواهش می‌کنم) meaning “you’re welcome”.

3. Daste shomā dard nakone (دست شما درد نکنه)

This phrase literally means “may your hand not hurt”. You can use it to express gratitude when receiving a gift*, any form of assistance from someone, or even when being served a nice meal!

Shoma (شما) is a formal pronoun for “you” (similar to the French polite form “vous”). Make this phrase informal by taking it off and tweaking the first word: Dastet dard nakone (دستت درد نکنه).

*It comes particularly handy if you happen to give/receive our Persian Gift of Conversation to/from a loved one this holiday season 😉 

4. Kheili lotf dārid (خیلی  لطف دارید)

Remember “kheili” (خیلی, very)? This phrase literally translates to “you have much kindness” or “that’s very kind of you”. This can be used when receiving compliments, gifts, or even declining favors kindly and respectfully.

5. Ghorbāne shomā (قربان شما )

Literally meaning “your sacrifice”, this expression is an example of Persian taarof, or Iranian etiquette, and a sign of politeness. When someone compliments you, instead of saying “thank you” to accept the compliment, it is more common to display modesty and deny the compliment. This is where ghorbāne shomā comes in. It is used to display humility and to acknowledge and show appreciation for the sacrifice of the other.

For a more informal use, replace the formal shoma (شما) with ghorboone to (قربون تو) or ghorboonet (قربونت).

As in Arabic, these translations can come across as quite dramatic; however, they reflect the beauty of the Persian language (and culture)!

Lastly, remember “mamnoun” (ممنون) from our Arabic blog? Persians use it, too! If you’re fascinated by the links between Arabic and Persian, check this out: the Persian words tashakkur (تشکر) and motashakkeram (متشکرم) come from the Arabic root “sh-k-r”, meaning “to thank” – exactly like shukran (شكراً)!

Practice these phrases and learn more about the Persian language and culture with NaTakallam’s language partners this holiday season!

Book a one-on-one Persian language session here. Or give our Gift of Conversation to a Persian-learning friend!

5 Ways to say “thank you” in French

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Bonjour (hello)! Rounding up our “thank you” series, this week’s blog explores 5 different ways of saying “thank you” in French.

If you’re just tuning in, check out our previous posts on how to express gratitude in Spanish, Arabic and Persian.

1. Merci (mekh*-see)

Merci is the most common way to say “thank you” in French. The response you may hear is de rien, which literally translates to “from nothing”, meaning “you’re welcome”. You might also hear avec plaisir which means “with pleasure”.

Fun fact: merci is also used commonly in French-speaking countries across the MENA region as well as in Farsi-speaking countries!

* The letter “r” in a French word is pronounced as a soft version of the Arabic “kh”, like in the word “Khaled”.

2. Merci infiniment (mekh-see an-fee-nee-man)

You can combine merci with adverbs such as beaucoup, mille fois, infiniment to form expressions such as merci beaucoup (thank you very much), merci bien (thanks a lot), merci mille fois (thank you a thousand times) and the strongest, merci infiniment translating to “thanks infinitely”.

3. C’est très gentil à toi/vous (seh tkheh jan-tee a twa/voo)

In more formal settings, one might say “that’s very kind of you”. It generally follows merci and can be used when someone does you a favor.

A useful tip: if you’re thanking an elder, or in a situation that requires you to use the polite form, use the formal counterpart of toi which is vous, applicable to both men and women, to a single person or to a group of people: “C’est très gentil à vous!

4. Merci de tout coeur (mekh-see dah tu ker)

A heartfelt phrase meaning “thank you with all my heart”. It’s also sometimes used with the verb j’espère, to express hope. For example: J’espère de tout coeur que tu vas réussir cet examen, meaning “I hope with all my heart that you’ll pass this exam”.

5. Cimer (see-mekh)
Spice up the standard merci by using its inverse, “cimer”. Caution: this word is French slang, also known as “verlan”, for “thanks” and used mostly in conversations in younger crowds.

These are 5 ways to express gratitude in French. This holiday season, level up your language skills with one of NaTakallam’s native language partners or Gift a Conversation to your French-learning friends! À bientôt!

10 Fun Facts About Cinnamon

Reading Time: 2 minutes

There’s more to cinnamon than being the perfect holiday spice. Once a prized gift for monarchs and reportedly worth 15x more in value than silver, here are some fun facts proving cinnamon’s history is as rich as its flavor!

1. Cinnamon’s broad range of uses made it invaluable in Ancient Egypt: preserving meat through the winter, treating sore throats, and it was even used as a perfume throughout the embalming process!

2. Cinnamon was an Arab merchant’s best-kept secret! To maintain their monopoly on the spice, they came up with quite the range of stories about their supply source…  

Apparently the 5th century B.C. Greek historian Herodotus recalled people leaving large pieces of ox meat under birds nests, believing large birds carried cinnamon sticks from unreachable mountain tops.

 

(A concoction of cinnamon, cardamom, and olive oil was used as perfume in Ancient Egypt, maybe even by Cleopatra! via: Daily Mail)

3. Zakaria al-Qazwini – a Persian author and physician of Arab descent – is thought to be the first to mention that the spice is native to Sri Lanka, in his work “آثار البلاد و أخبار العباد” (“Monument of Places and History of God’s Bondsmen”) around 1270.

4. Spanish explorer Gonzalo Pizarro set out to the Amazon hoping to find “pais de la canela” or “cinnamon country” after Christopher Columbus falsely claimed he found cinnamon in the “New World”.

(NPR)

5. Eventually, the Dutch rule over Ceylon (modern-day Sri Lanka) monopolized the cinnamon trade for over 200 years!

(ablekitchen.com)

6. There are two types of cinnamon we know and love today. You probably use cassia cinnamon for your holiday sweets. It’s primarily produced in Vietnam, China and Indonesia – and is the affordable variant. 

But if you want to splurge on true cinnamon, Cinnamomum verum, still produced in Sri Lanka is the way to go! It’s the preferred cinnamon choice in Central America, South America and South Asia and offers a milder, sweeter flavor – perfect for a rich cup of hot chocolate on a winter day!

7. The English word “cinnamon” is derived from the Ancient Greek “κιννάμωμον” (kinnámōmon), via Latin and medieval French. The Ancient Greek term itself is borrowed from a Phoenician word, said to be related to the Hebrew “קינמון‎” (qinnāmōn). In turn, this Hebrew name may come from the Sri Lankan source of the spice, since cinnamon in Singhalese is “kurundu”.

8. Several European languages use some derivation of the Latin “canna”, meaning “tube”, for cinnamon, e.g. French “canelle” and Spanish “canela”. This refers to the curled shape of the spice.

9. Interestingly, since the source of cinnamon was kept secret by early Arab merchants, some falsely believed the spice to be native to China. This explains why some languages refer to cinnamon as a Chinese export, for example “دارچین‎” (daarcheen) in Persian translates literally to “Chinese tree”! (PS. The Turkish word for cinnamon,“tarçın”, and Kurdish “darçîn”, are derived from the Persian, too!)

10. Cinnamon is one of the staple spices used particularly in Arab and Persian cuisines. It’s an element of the Persian spice blend called “ادویه‎” (advieh), as well as used in the delicious Lebanese couscous dish “moghrabieh”, meaning “a dish from the Maghreb”, among others!

Fascinated by the culture and history of word translations and etymologies? Or know someone who is?

Dive deeper with NaTakallam’s Conversation Sessions or give the Gift of Conversation this holiday season to loved ones. Available in Arabic, Persian, Kurdish, French, and Spanish.

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