Rare Languages we provide
Here at Vandu, we pride ourselves on being able to provide interpreting for the rarer languages needed by our customers. In this blog series, we’ll have a look at these wonderful languages and the unique people that speak them.
Wolof is an officially recognised language in Senegal and is also popular in The Gambia and Mauritania; it is from the Niger-Congo family of languages, and unlike the most of that language family, Wolof is not tonal. It is the official language of the Wolof people, and most Senegalese people have it as a second language.
Wolof is thought to be spoken by around 10 million people both as a native and a second language. There are three dialects: Senegalese Wolof and Gambian Wolof are slightly different but mutually understandable, the key difference is that Senegalese Wolof uses French for loanwords, whereas the Gambian dialect uses English. The language originated from the Lebu people, whom have thought to be in the area of Senegal since 1430, however the Lebu dialect of Wolof is no longer understandable to its modern-day counterparts.
The Wolof people are spread over most of West Africa, and modern-day Wolof are predominantly Sufi Muslim, but this was not always the case, as the Wolof had their own undocumented religion before they encountered French colonial forces, which seemed to trigger a mass conversion. The evidence of colonialism can still be seen by the fact that French is the official national language, though apparently Wolof is often spoken when various ethnic groups come together, making it something of a West African lingua franca.
Do you require interpreting for Wolof? It’s one of the many rare languages we provide for here at Vandu. Call 01273 473986 or email email@example.com for more information!Read more
UN World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development
We like to think of ourselves as passionate advocates of cultural diversity here at Vandu, and with good reason; apart from the fact that our business depends on it, but the diversity of our cultures is a strong force in development, in both the economic sense and the personal sense too – it’s common thought that the more culturally aware you are, the more well-rounded you are as a person.
So, what’s the argument for cultural diversity and why should we dedicate an entire day to it? Perhaps it might be worthwhile to look at when cultural diversity is not embraced; for starters, three quarters of the world’s major conflicts have a cultural dimension according to the UN’s website, and it’s obvious when you look back to the 2nd World War, or the current Rohingya crisis. Another reason why cultural diversity is good for us is that it offers new methods of learning and different perspectives on any given subject – take teaching, for example; when Chinese academics sought to compare their own method of teaching with the USA’s version, they recognised that the Chinese focused on the acceptance of facts and fixed information and had teachers regarded as authoritative figures, whereas "American students are encouraged to debate topics. The free open discussion on various topics is due to the academic freedom which most American colleges and universities enjoy” and saw teachers as equals; both methods have their merits, and you now see culturally diverse university campuses across the globe.
So, what are the threats to cultural diversity? The most pressing issue is the age of information; as we share information over the internet in standardised languages i.e. standard French or Spanish, we lose the more rarer dialects as they go out of fashion, and the cultures that might go with them – some linguistic professors predict that by the year 2100, 90% of languages around the world will have become extinct if language death continues at its current rate. Another issue is the U.S’ superpower status and its subsequent cultural dominance – the ubiquity of Hollywood movies, fast food, music and clothing are clear indications of its strength. Finally, the lack of protection for minority cultures, and the attraction to larger ones that tend to have better technology and perhaps be more progressive, mean that we may slowly slide to the opposite of cultural diversity – cultural uniformity.
Cultural uniformity doesn't sound very interesting does it? The argument for cultural diversity is clear, and we hope to see you celebrating the UN’s World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, on the 21st of May!
Do you require interpreting or translation in any of the languages mentioned? Give us a call on 01273 473986, or email firstname.lastname@example.orgRead more
“A day will come when all nations on our continent will form a European brotherhood ... A day will come when we shall see ... the United States of America and the United States of Europe face to face, reaching out for each other across the seas.”
Victor Hugo, 1849
Whilst the European Union formally began in 1993, the idea of a unified continent has been bandied about as early as 1693, as William Penn considered the devastation of war in Europe. As we celebrate Europe Day on the 9th of May, now seems a good-a-time as any to reflect on the EU.
The notion of a united Europe began in earnest following the catastrophe of the Second World War. Previously, the likes of Winston Churchill and many other European politicians liked the idea of unifying other countries on the continent, but wanted little to do with it themselves. Given the rise of nationalism and the far-right leading up-to and during the War, and the subsequent destruction it caused, many opinions understandably changed. In 1951, The Treaty of Paris was signed by Belgium, France, West Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, and whilst the treaty dealt solely in coal and steel, they were the two most important materials in the world at the time and in neutralising the competition for the substances, the treaty marked the earliest form of the European Union.
So where is the European Union now? In its main and original aims, it can be considered a success – there has been comparatively little conflict in Europe since its implementation, and the Union is a competitive economic superpower on the world stage. The list of members has grown to 28, though it looks set to lose one of its most important members. Britain officially joined on the 1st of January 1973 and was a member until the country’s Euroscepticism came to a head during the referendum vote in 2016. The scepticism could be found along the entire political spectrum, with its main issues being the weakening of national sovereignty, the bureaucracy of the EU and the opinion that it is a neoliberal organisation that costs the working-class, as well as encourages high immigration. The highly divisive nature of the Brexit vote is still very apparent today, and will likely remain so for a very long time.
Regardless of your political allegiances, Europe day is worth celebrating. Most countries do this by raising the European Union flag and celebrating pan-Europeanism. There are many rich cultures worth enjoying in Europe… perhaps now more than ever.
Do you require interpreting or translation in any of the European languages? Give us a call on 01273 473986, or email email@example.com!Read more
St George's Day
At Vandu we write about many cultures and countries around the world, but St George’s Day seems like a good time to celebrate the culture of the country where our business is based, in (currently) sunny East Sussex. Born in Greece from Christian parents, St. George would eventually become one of the most celebrated Saints in Christianity. St. George is famous in other areas too, such as Serbia, Russia, Bulgaria, Greece and Catalonia, in most of these places the 23rd of April is the day marked as the feast of St George.
According to the legends, St George was raised in Lydda, Palestine and born into Greek nobility. His father was from Greece and was an official in the Roman Army, and his mother was from the Syria/Palestine area. They both died when St George was in his teens, and shortly afterwards he joined the Roman Army and quickly rose through the ranks until he reached the rank of legatus, similar to a modern day general. Around this time the reigning Emperor Diolectian issued an edict persecuting those of the Christian faith; upon hearing about the edict St. George gave his money to the poor, freed his slaves and made himself known to the Emperor. Diolectian tried to tempt St George into renouncing his faith, offering him land, wealth and more slaves and when St. George refused, sent him to prison. The Emperor tried one more time to tempt St. George, sending a beautiful woman down to his cell, but St George ended up converting her to Christianity while she was there. St George was then executed by decapitation and amazingly, the Empress Alexandra of Rome witnessed his suffering and became a Christian, and so joined St George in his martyrdom.
So, how do we celebrate England’s patron saint? There are re-enactments of his mythical dragon-slaying story, the famous red cross-on-white flag is flown around the country, and in the more rural areas of the country you can enjoy morris-dancing and Punch and Judy shows. There has been some debate about St George in recent years – talk of replacements as the Saint actually has very little to do with Britain (only one story has him visit the country), there has also been a general decline in the celebrations around the country. St George replaced another martyr around 400 years ago (St Edmund), perhaps it’s time for a new one? Or maybe we’ll see something of a renaissance in the coming years!
Jewish Holocaust Remembrance Day
The Jewish Holocaust Remembrance Day, sometimes referred to as Yom HaShoah, is on the 12th of April this year in the Jewish Calendar. The Jewish community in Israel and abroad commemorate the day in many ways; in Israel, places of entertainment are closed on the day of Yom HaShoah, flags are set at half-mast, political and religious leaders give speeches and the national TV channels play Holocaust documentaries, whilst abroad the communities host memorials and services in local synagogues. Though the atrocities of the Holocaust are more-than worth revisiting, they are already well-documented; so, we thought we’d take a different approach and remind ourselves of the heroes in the Holocaust.
Tuvia, Zus, Aron and Asael Bielski were Polish millers and grocers in the Belarusian village of Stankiewicze. Eventually the area came under Nazi control, and the brothers fled with a small group to the nearby Nakiboli Forest; the eldest brother Tuvia had experience in War – he had risen to the rank of Corporal in the Polish army and therefore knew a few things about organisation and leadership; under him and his brother’s leadership the numbers in the Nakiboli Forest grew from 40 to a peak of 1,236, and became known as the Bielski Partisans. Though the group comprised of mainly women, children and the elderly, there was a group of around 150 fighters that would organise resistance and disruption missions against the Nazi’s. Painfully, Aseal Bielski was conscripted into the Soviet Army and fell in one of the final operations of the War, but the rest of the brothers survived. The brothers story has been made famous by the book Defiance and its film adaption starring Daniel Craig.
Aristides de Sousa Mendes
De Sousa Mendes was a Portuguese consul-general in Bordeaux, France during World War II, and defied the orders of the Portuguese Dictator António de Oliveira Salazar by giving visas and passports to a huge amount of war refugees, including many Jews. Unfortunately, the number is unlikely to ever be discovered but many historians believe it to be in the tens of thousands, which would make it the largest rescue action by a single individual in the War. Though de Sousa Mendes had no Jewish beliefs, he was a devout Christian and held the Bible’s words “love thy neighbour” in the highest regard and worked tirelessly to sign the papers. After a period of obscurity and indeed disgrace due to the Portuguese dictatorship’s punishment, de Sousa Mendes was eventually recognised by his country and Israel recognized him as Righteous Among the Nations.
Kolbe had made something of a name for himself prior to the War, having set up a Catholic missionary group that spread the faith around the world, as well as a magazine, monastery and radio station. But he raised himself to another level when the Nazis arrived. He hid two thousand Jews at his monastery until he was eventually arrested and sent to Auschwitz. Upon a prisoner escaping the camp, Nazi officers gathered up men to die for the escapee’s actions; when a prisoner tried to resist claiming he had a family, Kolbe volunteered in his place. The men were sentenced to starve to death and the priest led them in song and prayer until after two weeks he was the last man alive. A Nazi prison officer then injected him with carbolic acid to end the process; Pope John Paul II canonised Kolbe and named him the “Patron Saint of Our Difficult Century”.Read more