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Top 10 Reasons to Learn a Language this New Year

Reading Time: 4 minutes

 

Want to introduce something new and transformative into your life this New Year? We recommend language learning! Picking up a new language, or brushing up an old rusty one, is the best way to (re)connect with yourself and with the world around you this new year.

Here are 10 reasons why learning a language would make a great new year resolution for 2022!

1. CONNECT

One of the most rewarding aspects of the human experience is our ability to connect with others. Being able to communicate with someone in their language is a vital and irreplaceable form of connection. Bilinguals have the unique opportunity to communicate and connect at a deeper level with a wider range of people in their personal and professional lives.

2. ADVANCE YOUR CAREER

Language skills can provide a significant competitive edge that sets you apart from your monolingual peers. They are among the top eight skills required of all occupations – no matter your sector or skill level – and the demand for bilingual professionals is rising exponentially. As an added incentive, in many instances, language skills also lead to hiring bonuses and increased salaries.

3. FEED YOUR BRAIN

The cognitive benefits of learning languages are undeniable. Recent studies have demonstrated that people who speak more than one language have improved memory, problem-solving and critical-thinking skills, enhanced concentration, ability to multitask, and better listening skills. If that isn’t enough, as we age, being bilingual or multilingual also helps to delay mental ageing and cognitive decline.

 

4. DEEPEN YOUR CONNECTION TO OTHER CULTURES

Language provides a unique insight into cultures. Being able to communicate in another language exposes and thus fosters an understanding and appreciation for the traditions, religions, arts, and history of the people associated with that language. This, in turn, promotes greater tolerance, empathy, and acceptance of others. Studies show that children who have studied another language are more open – and express more positive attitudes – towards the culture associated with that language.

5. SEE THE WORLD

While monolingual travelers are capable of visiting the same places, travelers who know more than one language are more easily able to navigate outside the tourist bubble. They are able to connect and interact with the place and its people in a way that is often inaccessible to those without knowledge of the language. Learning a second language also opens up additional doors to opportunities for studying or working abroad.

6. GO TO THE SOURCE

In a world with more than 6,000 spoken languages, we sometimes require translation, but speaking at least one additional language empowers us to access information that would otherwise be off-limits. For example, individuals proficient in other languages are able to navigate the Internet as true global citizens – accessing and consuming media and entertainment without being restricted by language barriers.

7. BECOME A POLYGLOT

Not only does learning a second language improve communication skills and multiply vocabulary in your first language, but research also shows that it makes picking up additional languages a much easier feat, especially among children. That’s because when you learn a new language, you develop new neural-pathways that are primed and ready when you embark on learning a third language.

8. BOOST YOUR CONFIDENCE

Any language learner can attest to making his or her share of mistakes while discovering a new language – often in front of an audience. It’s a necessary part of the learning process! Learning a language means putting yourself out there and moving out of your comfort zone. The upside is the amazing sense of accomplishment you will feel when conversing with someone in their native language.

9. STRENGTHEN YOUR DECISION-MAKING

Studies show that decisions made in your second language are more reason-driven than those made in your native language. Contrary to popular assumptions, when we deliberate in a second or third language, we actually distance ourselves from the emotional responses and biases deeply associated with our mother tongue. The result? Systematic and clear-headed decisions based solely on facts.

10. GAIN PERSPECTIVE

As we explore a new language and culture, we naturally draw comparisons to what is most familiar. Learning about another culture sheds light on aspects of our own culture – both positive and negative – which we may not have considered previously. This is likely to result in a greater appreciation for what one already  has, and/or provide an incentive to shake things up a little!

Find out more on how you can learn a language with one of our programs TODAY: natakallam.com

7 Meaningful Gift Ideas To Make Someone’s Holiday

Reading Time: 5 minutes

 

This holiday season, spread love and stand out from the crowd with meaningful gifts that help transcend borders and offer your loved ones a tangible experience of the world from the comforts of home. Go the extra mile (without breaking the bank) by choosing gifts that speak to their senses, curiosity and wanderlust. Whether you are looking for presents for a budding homecook, an avid traveller, or a culture aficionado, here are some ideas to create memorable gift experiences.

 

1. Kitchen Gift Set | Sitti x Darzah (US$70)
This embroidered apron and olivewood utensils set is an ideal gift for a treasured homecook. It brings together centuries-old Palestinian artitistic traditions of tatreez (تطريز) or embroidery, handed down from mother to daughter, and of olivewood carving, documented as a speciality of the region in travelogues and historical documents from as early as the 16th century. While the apron in this gift set is hand-embroidered by women artisans in Bethlehem with a traditional red tatreez olive branch motif, the utensils are crafted from sustainably-sourced olive wood in Palestine.

This kitchen set is a perfect gift for a seasoned chef, aspiring cook, or somebody who needs an extra push to try new recipes and travel through culture and cuisine – Palestinian or another.

Sitti ships worldwide. Shipping rates and times will vary according to items, courier and location. Free shipping is offered to orders made within Canada and the USA.

 

2. Tote Bag, Cojolya | Amano Marketplace (US$57-62)
Made by a Tz’utujil Maya masterweaver in Guatemala using traditional Mayan techniques, this tote bag from Cojolya is an elegant amalgamation of style and sustainability. Cojolya is a certified fair trade organization that is dedicated to the conservation of traditional Mayan techniques, not as historical relics, but as economically viable sources of employment for the women weavers associated with them.

This makes a great option for the culturally curious who would get a glimpse of Latin American culture through this tote bag, handmade with love and packed with history.

Amano Marketplace ships worldwide. Shipping rates and times will vary according to items, courier and location. Free U.S. shipping for orders over US$175.

 

3. Tahdiglover pot | Tahdiglover (Starts from £12.99)
Share the joys of a perfectly crispy and scrumptious tahdig with a fellow Persian-food lover with this Tahdiglover pot. Traditionally made of rice, tahdig (ته دیگ) which literally translates to “bottom of the pot”, is considered a Persian “soul food”. Tahdiglover pot ensures that you always get this dish right! It is a woman-owned business working with other small businesses in Iran and the UK to help young people showcase their cooking talent and to make Persian and Middle Eastern cooking more accessible and enjoyable.

The Tahdiglover pot is a creative gift for anyone keen on mastering their Tahdig skills, taking up the challenge of cooking a new cuisine, or accessing new worlds through food and culture.

Tahdiglover ships worldwide from the UK. Shipping rates and times will vary according to items, courier and location.

 

4. Hojari Frankincense from Oman | Pink Jinn (US$55.46)
Dial up warmth and comfort this holiday season with the gift of Omani frankincense from Pink Jinn! Frankincense, an aromatic resin used in incense and perfumes, was traded on the Arabian peninsula and the Horn of Africa for over 5,000 years. Monopoly over frankincense trade is believed to have helped the Nabateans rise to prominence in the 1st century BC. This exquisite gift brings home the intriguing history of frankincense along with an effortless experience of luxury and healing. Pink Jinn’s frankincense are sourced from Dhofar in Oman, an historically important site for frankincense production, and comes in an ornate jar along with a pair of tongs and charcoal discs.

The Hojari Frankincense is an exquisite gift that speaks to the senses of the bold, the spiritual, and those interested in new experiences from the comfort of their homes.

Pink Jinn ships worldwide from the UK (via Etsy). Shipping rates and times will vary according to items, courier and location.

 

5. Queen Amina’s Blend | Amatte Coffee (£8.90)
Gift for a coffee lover AND a history enthusiast? Look no further. Sourced from female farmers in the Sidamo province of southern Ethiopia and from the Democratic Republic of Congo, this naturally processed ground coffee is the holy grail you’re seeking! This blend by Amate Coffee has a sweet and smooth taste with notes of orange, apricot, caramel, vanilla and citrus and is named after Queen Amina, the first female leader of the city-state of Zazzu, located in the north-western part of modern Nigeria. The gift receiver is guaranteed an exhilarating journey through time, space and robust tasting notes!

Amatte ships worldwide from the UK. Shipping is £3 within the UK and £15 outside the UK.

 

6. The Latin American Cookbook by Chef Virgilio Martinez | Phaidon (€45)
Discover the vibrant flavors, aromas, and ingredients of Latin American cooking with Chef Virgilio Martinez’s latest cookbook which celebrates the treasures of Latin American cookery. Replete with six hundred recipes from twenty-two countries, this cookbook will help any Latin America lover reinvigorate memories of food, people and culture from their travels and musings! Holiday gifting done right.

Phaidon ships worldwide from one of their warehouses in the USA, UK, or Australia. Shipping rates and times will vary according to items, courier and location.

 

7. Gift of Conversation | NaTakallam (Starts from US$25)
After a year of pandemic and social distancing, what is better this holiday season than connecting to another human being through language? NaTakallam’s “Gift of Conversation” is a unique gift that allows individuals to learn a new language or brush up their existing skills from the comforts of their home. What’s more? You would be supporting the livelihood of tutors from displaced backgrounds and their host communities. It makes a perfect stocking stuffer for a beloved language-enthusiast looking for a life-changing experience (both theirs and their tutors alike)!

Give the Gift of Conversation to a language lover in your life, near or far. Suitable for all levels and ages, and available in over 15 languages and dialects.

NaTakallam’s Gift of Conversation is paperless and shipping-free (i.e it can be “virtually” shipped worldwide).

 

Still need more inspiration? Check out this impactful gift guide by our friends at Vital Voices, who have partnered with inspiring small women-led businesses this holiday season.

Vital Voices Global Partnership are “venture catalysts” that invest in women leaders and change makers who are solving the world’s greatest challenges across 185 countries – from gender-based violence to the climate crisis, economic inequities, and more. 

5 Ways to Express your Love in French

Reading Time: < 1 minute

French is known as “le langage de l’amour” or the language of love! And we believe that love should not be defined by just a day or month.

Keep sharing the love with our top 5 phrases in French, with the special people in your life!

1. Je t’aime
This is the most widely recognized way to say “I love you” in French to a loved one, family member or friend!

2. Mon chéri/Ma chérie
Meaning “my darling/dear,” this common endearment is used throughout the francophone world. Fun fact: If someone uses the noun “chéri” in the US, it is commonly thought that they are from (French-speaking) New Orleans, Louisiana.

3. Ma moitié
While literally “my half”, in English this would be more accurately translated as “my better half” and often refers to a “partner in crime”. This can be used with friends and romantic partners alike.

4. Avoir un cœur d’artichaut
This phrase literally means “to have an artichoke heart,” but refers to someone that falls in love easily.

5. Mon cœur bat la chamade
They don’t call it the language of love for nothing. This poetic expression translates as “My heart beats loudly [for you]”, in anticipation or excitement to see a loved one.

But as a fun twist, the word “la chamade” has an archaic use, meaning “a trumpet of signal inviting the enemy to parley”.

Do you have “un cœur d’artichaut”? Fall in love with language learning over and over again with NaTakallam’s NEW Duo Sessions in French!

Pair up and share the language learning experience with your “chéri(e)” for double the fun, double the impact! Sign up today.

5 Ways to Express your Love in Spanish

Reading Time: < 1 minute

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, express your affection to your loved one in one of the most romantic languages in the world – español! Here are 5 fun ways to impress your sweetheart this Valentine’s 😉

1. Te quiero:

From the verb “querer” (to want), this phrase literally translates to “I want you” but contextually also means “I love you” when said to a loved one, friend or family! It is usually a lighter expression of care and affection compared to “Te amo”, which has a more romantic or intimate connotation and reserved for a lover.

2. Flechazo:

Literally “an arrow shot” – meaning, love at first sight! Although its literal meaning is the pain or injury caused by an arrow, in colloquial terms, this Spanish untranslatable refers to the moment when love strikes unexpectedly!

3. Querido/Querida:

One of the most common, affectionate and widely recognized terms of endearment, and it’s translated as “darling” or “sweetheart”!

4. Mi reina/rey:

Make your Valentine feel extra special – and royal – when you call them “my queen” or “my king”. Throwback to Game of Thrones times. Moreover, this term of endearment could also be used between platonic friends to mean “darling” or “dude”.

5. ¡Que mono/mona eres!

In Spain, this phrase means something like “You’re so cute!”. But if you want to translate it literally, you would be telling your crush: “You’re so monkey!” 🙂

This Valentine’s, sign up for NaTakallam’s NEW Duo Sessions in Spanish and share the love WITH your querida/oTwice the fun and impact; learn more here.

5 ways to express your love in Arabic

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Valentine’s Day is almost here! Show your love to that special someone in your life with one of these Arabic love expressions.

From our قلب ❤️  (heart) to yours:

1. Ahebbak/Ahebbik “أحبك”:
This is the most common and widely recognized way to say “I love you” in Arabic.

2. ‘Ala raasii على راسي”:
What better way to tell someone you would do anything for them than to say you would do it “on my head”? When a loved one asks a favour of you, this Arabic reply means that – to use English equivalents – you would walk across hot coals, move mountains, do anything, for their happiness.

3. Ya rouhi “يا روحي”:

If you know Arabic, chances are you’ve heard of the commonly used habibi/habibti, literally meaning “my dear”. Similarly, this sweet little phrase also implies “my dear/beloved,” but literally means “my soul.”

4. Kalamak/ik ‘ala qalbi ‘asal “كلامك على قلبي عسل”:

Make sure to add a wink after this phrase ;). Literally meaning, “Your words are honey on my heart,” this expression is the perfect response for when a special someone says something especially sweet.

5. Tuqburnii “تقبرني”:

Although this phrase literally means: “You bury me”, it’s used a lot to say “I love you so much.” Someone who says this expression is remarking that they would rather die and have you bury them before losing you. It’s actually quite sweet!

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… حب (hub), شغف (shaghaf), عشق (‘ishq) and more… in Arabic, love is a complex spectrum!

This month, don’t miss NaTakallam’s NEW “Duo” Valentine’s offer on our Integrated Arabic Curriculum, perfect for two – lover, sibling or friend!

Alternatively, sign up for our Duo Conversation Sessions in the following Arabic offerings: Egyptian, Iraqi, Lebanese, Palestinian, Syrian, Syrian, Yemeni, or Modern Standard Arabic.

10 untranslatable love expressions from 6 languages

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Love is a universal language but some days you need a little extra to express your affection to your loved one. With Valentine’s just around the corner, here are our top 10 love expressions in 6 languages!

1. Arabic: “دمه خفيف” (damu-hu khafeef)
Literally “his blood is light”, is a way of saying that you find someone extremely funny and adorable! Change to “دمها خفيف” (damu-ha khafeef) when speaking to a lady 😉

2. Spanish: “Eres un bombón”
For days when your eye candy is looking particularly sweet, literally meaning “you are a bonbon”.

3. French“Mon petit chou” (masculine) or “Ma choupinette” (feminine)
Want a unique way to address your beloved? This French term of endearment, literally translates to “my little cabbage”! Confused? The “chou” here is actually short for ‘chou à la crème’, a sweet puff pastry!

4. Persian (Farsi): “دلم برات تنگ شده” (delam barat tang shode)
When “I miss you” just isn’t enough, employ this poetic Persian phrase: lit. “my heart has tightened for you”. This could mean the mental feeling of missing someone transforms into physical pain or that you miss someone so much you can’t breathe!

5. Spanish: “Me haces mucha falta”
Or if you’d prefer en español, this very common phrase is often directly translated as “I miss you”. But when you break it down, it basically translates to: you make a big absence in me, or you are lacking from me!

6. French: “Retrouvailles”
More relevant this year than ever: the unmatched feeling of joy when finally reunited after much time apart – that’s exactly what this untranslatable French word describes!

7. Kurdish (Kurmanji): “Kezeb-a min”
Go beyond the typical terms of endearment with Kurmanji and address your loved one – lover, family or friend – with: “Kezeb-a min”, literally meaning “my liver”. As a vital organ, this is truly a sign of affection!

8. Arabic “تقبرني” (tuqburnii):

No, we did not mix up our Valentine’s Day and Halloween expression lists! Although this phrase literally means:, “You bury me”, it’s used to imply: one would rather die and have you bury them, than live without you! It’s actually quite touching.

9. Persian “دورت بگردم” (doret begardam):
Another poetic Persian phrase, this one translates literally to: “let me circle around you”, in effect, meaning, “I would do anything for you”. We love the planetary imagery this evokes!

10. Armenian: մեռնեմ ջանիդ (mermen janid)
As suggested by its literal translation, “let me die for/on your body”, this phrase indicates a readiness to sacrifice your life for your loved one, and may be said to anyone you love and care for.

Looking for more ways to express your love? Skip the chocolates!

This year, try NaTakallam’s NEW Duo language option and discover your language of love WITH your loved one (and save up to 25% compared to individual sessions!).

Twice the learning, twice the impact. Available in Arabic, French, Persian and Spanish!

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

Reading Time: 2 minutes2020 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.Tislam/Tislami (تسلم / تسلمي)

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. Ya‘tik al-‘afiya (يعطيك العافية)

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!

Happy new year, كل سنة وأنتم بخير, Feliz año nuevo, Bonne année, سال نو مبارک, from the NaTakallam family to yours 🙂 Here’s to reaching new language feats in 2021!

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

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 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

 

Cinnamon is more than a perfect holiday spice. Once a prized gift, it was reportedly worth 15 times more in value than silver! Here are ten fun facts that prove cinnamon’s history is as rich as its flavor.

1. Cinnamon’s broad range of uses made it invaluable in Ancient Egypt. It was used to preserve meat, treat sore throats, and was even used as a perfume in the embalming process.

2. Cinnamon was considered an ancient merchant’s best-kept secret. To monopolize the cinnamon trade, they came up with a variety of stories about its source.

The 5th-century B.C. Greek historian Herodotus, for instance, recalled how people left large pieces of ox meat under birds’ nests, believing that large birds carried cinnamon sticks from unreachable mountain tops!

3. Zakaria al-Qazwini – a Persian author and physician of Arab descent – in his work “آثار البلاد و أخبار العباد” (“Monument of Places and History of God’s Bondsmen”) from c. 1270 identifies cinnamon as native to Sri Lanka. 

4. Later in the 16th century, Spanish explorer Gonzalo Pizarro set out to the Amazon hoping to find “el país de la canela” or “the cinnamon country” after Christopher Columbus falsely claimed that he found cinnamon in the “New World”.

5. The Dutch, through their colonization of Ceylon (modern-day Sri Lanka), monopolized the cinnamon trade for over 200 years!

(Source: NPR)

6. Two types of cinnamon that we know, love and commonly use today are cassia cinnamon and cinnamomum verum. You probably use the former for your holiday sweets. It is produced in Vietnam, China and Indonesia – and is the affordable variant. The latter is more of a splurge! It is still primarily sourced from Sri Lanka and is found in South Asian, Central and South American cuisines. It has 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 kinnámōmon (κιννάμωμον), via Latin and medieval French. The Ancient Greek term itself is borrowed from a Phoenician word, thought to be related to the Hebrew term qinnāmōn (קינמון‎).

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

9. Interestingly, since the source of cinnamon was kept secret by early 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 darcheen (دارچین‎) in Persian translates literally to “Chinese tree”! The word for cinnamon in Turkish “tarçın”, and in Kurdish “darçîn”, are derived from Persian, too.

10. Cinnamon is a staple in Arab and Persian cuisines. It is an element in the Persian spice blend called Advieh (ادویه‎), used in a delicious Lebanese couscous dish called Moghrabieh (مغربية) which literally translates to “a dish from the Maghreb”, and several other dishes!

Fascinated by the etymology and culture surrounding cinnamon? ? Or know someone who would be? Dive deeper into it with NaTakallam’s Language Sessions or give the Gift of Conversation this holiday season to loved ones. Available in Arabic, Armenian, English, French, Kurdish, Persian, and Spanish.

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