Month: March 2022

5 Incredible Latin American Feminists You Need To Know

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Blog contributor: Maria Thomas

Women’s History Month or any day of the year, here are 5 Latin American feminists you need to know and celebrate!

1. Frida Kahlo (Mexico, 1907-1954)

Frida Kahlo was a Mexican artist known for her paintings that explored themes of female subjectivity, sexuality and marginality. Through her highly symbolic canvases, many of which were built around her own self-portraits – for example, Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair, Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird – Kahlo eschewed gender stereotypes and gave voice to often taboo aspects of femininity.

2. Excilia Saldaña (Cuba, 1946-1999)

Excilia Saldaña was an award-winning Cuban essayist, poet, translator, academic and author of children’s books. Her works – including the book, La Noche (‘The Night’), poems such as My Name (A Family Anti Elegy) and short stories like Kele Kele – were very important contributions to the creation and consolidation of a tradition of Afro-Hispanic women writers and artists.

3. Cecilia Vicuña (Chile, 1948-)

Cecilia Vicuña is a Chilean poet and multidisciplinary artist. Her works, which include collections of poems such as Precario/Precarious (1973) and Unravelling Words and Weaving Water (1992), and art installations such as Could-Net and Quipu Menstrual, are grounded in her understanding that the political, environmental and indigenous are inherently connected and must be addressed as such. Also, central to Vicuña’s works are her explorations of the connections between gendered injustice and environmental despoliation.

4. Selva Almada (Argentina, 1973-)

Selva Almada is an Argentinian writer who is considered one of the most powerful voices of contemporary Argentinian and Latin American literature. She is also recognised as one of the most influential feminist intellectuals of the region. Her works, particularly her book,  Dead Girls – originally published originally in Spanish as Chicas Muertas in 2014 – highlight issues such as gendered violence, femicide and the legal inadequacies of Argentinian legal systems in addressing them.

5. Clarice Lispector (Brazil, 1920-1977)

Clarice Lispector was an Ukranian-born Brazillian novelist and short-story writer. Her family fled Western Ukraine to escape the pogroms that followed World War I and the Russian Civil War. Her works written in Portuguese include short story collections such as Laços de família (‘Family Ties’) and Para não esquecer (‘Not to Forget’), and novels such as Perto do coração selvagem (translated and published in English as Near to the Wild Heart), A Paixão segundo G.H. (translated and published in English as The Passion According to G.H.). French feminist writer Hélène Cixous credits her works with “exploring women’s identity with a depth that no one has achieved until now”.

Learn Spanish and explore the worlds of these inspirational women with NaTakallam!

We are a women-led and women-fueled community that offers language sessions in Spanish, among other languages. Our Latin American native language tutors are individuals who have been displaced from countries like Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Guatemala, and are currently resettled in neighboring countries such as Uruguay, Costa Rica, the United States, Ecuador, Trinidad and Tobago, and Argentina. 

Brush up your Spanish skills, delve into Latin American cultures and experiences, and celebrate these incredible women, today and everyday!

 

This piece was contributed by Maria Thomas, a copywriter with NaTakallam. She is currently pursuing her doctoral studies in art history. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, powerlifting and going on hikes.

6 Ways To Say Mother In Arabic

6 Ways to Say “Mother’’ in Arabic

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Mother’s Day in the Arabic-speaking world is celebrated on March 21 every year. This date was chosen to coincide with the beginning of spring. This Mother’s Day, join us as we take a look at a few different ways one can say “mother” in Arabic!

1. Omm (أم) or Ommi (أمي)

These terms are used commonly throughout the Arabic-speaking world to refer to mothers. Literally, Omm (أم) means “mother”, and Ommi (أمي) as “my mother”.

Fairuz, a music icon from Lebanon uses this term in her famous song “Ommi el-Habiba” (أمي الحبيبة, My beloved mother).

2. Yumma (يُمّه)

In Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, and neighbouring Gulf countries, one often hears the term yumma (يُمّه) for mother.

3. Mama (ماما) or Mami (مامي)

In the Levantine or Shami dialect, the words used for mother are mama (ماما) or mami (مامي). It is likely that one may hear Mama or Mami in regions beyond the Levant and across different languages – read more here on why words for “Mom” and “Dad” sound similar across the world!

4. Youm (يوم)

In Aleppo, Syria, one encounters the term youm (يوم) for mother.

5. Yamo (يامو)

In Damascus, Syria, a slightly varied term, yamo (يامو) is used for mothers. 

Popular Damascene actor and director, Duraid Lahham, pays tribute to mothers in his song titled “Yamo Yamo“.

6. Lwalida (لوالدة)

In the Moroccan or Darija dialect, one of the terms for mother is lwalida (لوالدة).

Mothers are an epitome of love, warmth and selflessness. In their embrace, one finds hope, strength and protection. These sentiments are beautifully encapsulated in the award-winning Palestinian poet, Mahmoud Darwish’s (1941-2008) poem titled, “To My Mother” (إلى أمي). Here is an excerpt:

Dearly I yearn for my mother’s bread,
My mother’s coffee,
Mother’s brushing touch.
Childhood is raised in me,
Day upon day in me.
And I so cherish life
Because if I died
My mother’s tears would shame me.

Set me, if I return one day,
As a shawl on your eyelashes, let your hand
Spread grass out over my bones,
Christened by your immaculate footsteps
As on holy land.
Fasten us with a lock of hair,
With thread strung from the back of your dress.
I could grow into godhood
Commend my spirit into godhood
If I but touch your heart’s deep breadth.
____________________________

أحنُ إلى خبز أمي
وقهوةِ أمي
ولمسةِ أمي ..
وتكبر فيَّ الطفولةُ
يوماً على صدر يومِ
و أعشق عمري لأني
إذا متُّ
أخجل من دمع أمي !

خذيني .. إذا عدتُ يوماً
وشاحاً لهدبكْ
وغطي عظامي بعشبٍ
تعمَّد من طهر كعبكْ
وشدِّي وثاقي..
بخصلة شعرٍ ..
بخيطٍ يلوِّح في ذيل ثوبك..
عساني أصيرُ إلهًا
إلهًا أصير ..
إذا ما لمستُ قرارة قلبك !

To all mothers and mother figures out there, عيد ام سعيد, Happy Mother’s Day! 

Are you a heritage language learner or perhaps, you are looking for ways to make the mother figures in your life feel a little extra special this Mother’s Day? Gift a NaTakallam Language Experience session to a loved one today, or treat yourself to a session!

Learn Arabic authentically with our native language partners from displaced backgrounds. Besides Modern Standard Arabic, NaTakallam offers Arabic in more than 7 dialects: Egyptian, Iraqi, Sudanese, Yemeni, and Levantine – Syrian, Palestinian, Lebanese.

P.S. Write to us and let us know if you use another term to refer to your mother in an Arabic dialect!

Credits: We would like to thank our Language Partner community for helping with the content, and Maria Thomas for copywriting the piece. Maria is a copywriter at NaTakallam and is currently pursuing her doctoral studies in art history. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, powerlifting and going on hikes.

Nowruz: A Celebration of Spring, Renewal & Resilience

Nowruz: A Celebration of Spring, Renewal & Resilience

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Nowruz is a festival that marks the beginning of spring and a new year, according to the Persian solar calendar. The term “Nowruz” (نوروز) comes from Persian and translates literally to “new day”. Although the festival has its roots in Iranian and Zoroastrian cultures, over the years, it has been celebrated by communities in the Balkans, the Black Sea Basin, the Caucasus, Central Asia, the Middle East and South Asia as a secular holiday.

Nowruz is marked at the precise moment of the Spring equinox (between the 20th and the 21st of March) in the northern hemisphere and across the various time zones. This year, Nowruz falls on Sunday, March 20th, 2022 at 16:33 CET | 11:33 EST | 08:33 PST.

This blog explores the significance of Nowruz to individuals and communities that have faced displacement over the years. It delves into rituals, food and memories that are kept alive despite turmoil, separation, perilous journeys and novel circumstances. It also looks at aspects of Nowruz celebrations that have evolved with time. In our exploration, we are joined by six Language Partners at NaTakallam who celebrate Nowruz and have experienced displacement. 

Nowruz, a celebration of nature in spring


Nowruz is a celebration of a new day and a new life”, reflects Sayed Nabi, an Afghan Language Partner at NaTakallam, as he fondly recollects celebrating the festival out in parks with family and friends as a child while growing up in Afghanistan. 

Nowruz marks the renewal of life in nature during spring. Parks, the countryside and forests have a special place in Nowruz festivities. Families join friends and neighbors outdoors particularly, on the ultimate day of Nowruz celebrations called “Sizdah Bedar” (سیزده بدر, lit. ‘the thirteenth outdoors’) to reconnect with nature and imbibe its renewed vigor.

Marwan, a Kurdish Language Partner with NaTakallam, shares his memories of celebrating Nowruz in nature with family and friends. He recounts, “while adults were on the green meadows singing folk songs, accompanied by the strumming of a tembûr player, and dancing in big circles, children played hide and seek or waited for their turn to get in on a small rust-covered so-called ferris wheel.” Similarly, a Kurdish Language Partner from Syria (who would like to remain anonymous) reminisces waking up at 5 A.M. to prepare to travel to the countryside, wearing traditional Kurdish clothes where they sang, danced and watched speeches and plays late into the night. 

Sabzeh_Nowruz_Persian_New_Year_HaftSeen_Table_SpreadAn Iranian Language Partner with NaTakallam (who, also, would prefer to remain anonymous) points out that although the refugee/migrant-experience(s) have curbed traditional Nowruz celebrations, being out in nature is still central to their family’s observance of the festival: “On the last day of festivities i.e., on Sizdah Bedar (getting rid of thirteen or the thirteenth out of the doors), all of the family spend the day in the open fields, parks or riversides to picnic; playing games, making music and dancing, taking with them the Sabzeh (سبزه, sprouts) to give it back to nature by throwing it into the river.”

Nowruz preparations and the Haft-Seen table


Nowruz celebrations and preparations for it can span days. As the aforementioned Iranian Language Partner relates, it usually begins with, “
a scrupulous cleaning of the house and growing Sabzeh (sprouted wheat, barley or lentils) in a dish”. 

Sadiqa Sultani, an Afghan Language Partner with NaTakallam, shares: “My family and I started our preparation for the festivities weeks beforehand. We clean our homes from top to bottom, including carpets, windows and curtains. Everyone in the family helps out. Anything broken is repaired or replaced and the house is decorated with flowers. By doing this spring cleaning, we wash away the bad things from the previous year and prepare for better things to come in the new year.”

Nowruz_Persian_New_Year_HaftSeen_Table_SpreadApart from cleaning, preparing food particularly, the Haft-Seen (هفت سین, seven Ss) table spread for the night of Nowruz is a key component of the celebrations. Sadiqa describes her family’s Haft-Seen table as follows:

We prepare a special table in our homes, where we place small dishes holding seven symbolic foods and spices. The names of these foods all start with the letter ‘s’ (س) in Persian and so the table is called the ‘seven s’s’ (Haft-Seen). The dishes generally contain wheat or bean sprouts (sabzeh), vinegar (serke), apples (sib), garlic (sir), a wheat-based pudding called samanu, a red spice called sumac, and senjed, a kind of wild fruit which is common in the region. Other symbolic objects can include goldfish, painted eggs, candles and a mirror. The seven s’s symbolize life, love, health and prosperity.”

Alongside the delicacies on the Haft-Seen table, a variety of other dishes are prepared and enjoyed over the days of Nowruz celebrations. Leila Eftetahi, an Iranian Language Partner with NaTakallam, shares that her favorite dish to have on Nowruz is Sabzipolo ba Mahi (سبزی پلو با ماهی, herbed rice and fish). The Kurdish Language Partner (who would like to remain anonymous) shares that Mahshi is a popular dish enjoyed during Nowruz, mainly among Iraqi-Kurdish communities. Sadiqa tells us that her favourite Nowruz food item is Samanu (سمنو), “a sweet paste made entirely from germinated wheat, which is prepared especially for Nowruz in a large pot.”

Nowruz and the refugee/migrant experience(s)


Nowruz celebrations among communities affected by conflict and displacement have an added meaning today. It celebrates resilience – of nature and human beings. 

The aforementioned Iranian Language Partner shares “the usual family links and networks do not exist anymore for many exiles or immigrants…In spite of these and other obstacles, Iranians who live abroad try to observe Nowruz traditions and rituals.” These sentiments are echoed by Sadiqa, when she says: “living as refugees, not having access to basic rights and having very few facilities, people prepare a small table just to celebrate the Nowruz with their family. Something that hasn’t changed is the way and reason for celebrating Nowruz. People spread love and happiness as much as they can.’’ 

Nowruz_Persian_New_Year_Sizdah_BedarSharing happiness and keeping alive memories of “cozy fellowship” has been an important part of Marwan’s recent Nowruz celebrations. He reveals that he is looking forward to celebrating Nowruz with his small family “outdoors in a nearby playground and then, indoors  dining locally, listening to Kurdish songs in Kurdish-hyggelig ambiance.” Leila, similarly, shares that she has never forgotten the excitement of getting to pick the tablecloth for the Haft-Seen table as a child. She honors this memory by continuing to pick a tablecloth for the Haft-Seen table as a tradition even after being away from home for the last 7 years. 

Nowruz is a celebration of nature and new beginnings. Over the years, it has also come to commemorate human resilience and the quest for fellowship and happiness even in the face of adversity and displacement. 

Happy first day of Spring to our language partners, language learners, friends and supporters, and all those celebrating, نوروز مبارک , Newroza te pîroz be, Happy Nowruz! 

Fascinated by Nowruz? Learn more about Persian, Kurdish and Afghan cultures, traditions and languages with NaTakallam’s native tutors. Sign up here, today! 

Learn a language, make a friend, change a life. 

 


CREDITS
Copywriting: Maria Thomas is a copywriter with NaTakallam. She is currently pursuing her doctoral studies in art history. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, powerlifting and going on hikes.
Copyediting: Lucy Davis is a Communications and PR Officer with NaTakallam. She is currently pursuing a dual Bachelor’s degree in economics and literature. She loves cooking, doing puzzles, and traveling to new places.
Content support 1: Leila Eftetahi is an Iranian Language Partner with NaTakallam teaching Persian – Farsi dialect. She has degrees in Computer Science and International Tourism, and has been working as a Community Engagement Specialist. Leila enjoys performing, watching movies and reading in her free time.
Content support 2: Sadiqa Sultani is an Afghan Language Partner with NaTakallam teaching Persian – Dari dialect. She is an active volunteer at her local Refugee Learning Centre and in the refugee community. She loves sharing her culture and in her free time, she enjoys spending time with family and writing in her journal.
Content support 3: Sayed Nabi is an Afghan Language Partner with NaTakallam teaching Persian – Farsi and Dari dialects. He studied French language and literature and worked as an interpreter & translator with ISAF/NATO and AFRANE. He loves Persian poetry, is interested in cultural exchange, and eager to share his experiences with students.
Content support 4: Marwan Sheikho is Syrian Language Partner with NaTakallam specializing in Kurdish – Kurmanji dialect. He studied the development of Kurdish Kurmanji in Turkey and Syria for his Master’s degree in Germany. He enjoys learning languages, photography and preparing Kurdish language learning material for kids.
– And TWO OTHER content supporters who would like to remain anonymous.

Top 5 Reasons Why You Should Learn French

Reading Time: 2 minutes

In an increasingly globalized, digital world, speaking several languages is an asset. To those of you wondering which second or third language to pick, here are five good reasons to learn French!

1. SCALE


French is spoken by around 300 million people. It is, along with English, one of the few languages spoken on all five continents! French is a major language in international communication: be it at the UN – where it is one of the 6 official languages, or at multinational events such as the Olympics or Eurovision.

2. CULTURE


France and the Francophone world have produced a plethora of cultural icons. From famous painters (Cluade Monet, Auguste Renoir), thinkers, writers and poets (Balzac, Albert Camus, Simone de Beauvoir, Amhadou Kourouma) to legendary singers, composers and musicians (Edith Piaf, Claude Debussy, Daft Punk), fashion designers (Gabrielle Chanel, Christian Dior), film directors and actors (Jean-Luc Godard, Luc Besson, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Simone Signoret)… the list goes on! What’s more exhilarating than diving into this rich culture aided by the knowledge of its original language!

3. TRAVEL


France is a great travel destination – with its variety of historic locations within the heart of Europe and landscapes, from Côte d’Azur (French Riviera) to the Alps to explore. So too are destinations such as Mauritius, Seychelles, Morocco, Quebec and Monaco – where French is commonly spoken, too! Learn French to converse with locals and share meaningful experiences in a number of countries from around the world – whether you are enjoying the sea in Mauritius or Seychelles, the desert in Morocco, the mountains in Quebec, or the Grand Prix in Monaco!

4. ACHIEVABLE CHALLENGE


Although it can be intimidating at first, French is not a difficult language to learn! Its grammar is similar to that of a lot of European languages (mainly due to their Romance origins). Many English words have roots in Old French – apparently, as many as 10,000 loanwords! This is perhaps not surprising given the long history of political and cultural exchange between France and Great Britain, with French once being the language of the English court for several centuries. 

5. GASTRONOMY


This is one of France’s strengths and its influence has extended to the rest of the world. If you ever find yourself seated in a fancy restaurant, learning French will come in handy! No wonder France is the homeland of the Michelin-star rating system (read more on its fascinating origins here)! From all the table-related customs (the word “etiquette” literally comes from the French “étiquette”) to the fine art of pronouncing the names of dishes, knowing French will help you fit right in!


Learn French and explore more of such linguistic and cultural connections with NaTakallam. Our brilliant Language Partners come from displaced communities from around the Francophone world. Book a session for yourself or for a loved one today and kickstart your journey exploring the richness of the French language and cultures!

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