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Chinese New Year

  • 02/02/2016
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The Chinese Zodiac, known as Sheng Xiao, is based on a twelve-year cycle, each year that cycle is related to an animal sign.

So which year were you born in? The dog, the cat or maybe the Pig? Well, if it was the Monkey, 2016 is your year.

Its Chinese New Year, an important time for families. This celebration brings everyone together through the power of music, food and dragon dance.

According to tales and legends, the beginning of Chinese New Year started with the fight against a mythical beast who looked like an ox with a lion’s head and lived in the sea.

It was believed that at the night of New Year's Eve, the beast would come out to harm people, animals, and properties. It was soon discovered that the beast feared the colour red, fire, and loud noises. Therefore, for self-protection, people formed the habit of displaying red in front of their house as well as launching fireworks, and hanging lanterns.

This tradition has been continued to this day and has become an integral part of celebrating the arrival of the New Year.

We got the chance to speak to one of our Mandarin interpreters to give us an insight into this time of the year.

 

What does Chinese New Year mean to you?

Chinese New Year is the most important festival in China, just like
Christmas in the UK. It is all about family getting together and visiting relatives and friends. It is a good time to catch up with each other, have a good laugh, and most importantly to drink and eat great feasts every day for up to two weeks.

 

 What is your favourite part of Chinese New Year?

Millions of people are moving at the same time to get home, you can imagine how busy it will be!  Most families will watch the biggest annual national entertainment program with lots of celebrities, dancers and singers from different nationalities with beautiful traditional costumes whilst people are counting down to New Year.
 

What are the traditions around this time?

My parents still keep to the old ways of preparing food. A few days before New Year, they make stuffed buns to steam from scratch with fresh ingredients. We buy a large amount of vegetables and meats to cook main dishes, both cold and hot. The first feast together is called ‘union dinner’, this is the most important dinner of the year. Chicken and fish are very common on the table as they bring good luck whereas the most traditional drink is strong rice wine.

No presents are given between family members, instead we bring fruits, wine and boxed snacks. We don't buy presents for children either, alternatively we give lucky red envelope with money inside.

The celebration lasts from New Year Day for up to two weeks until lantern Festival which is the fifth day of the first lunar month. Parades including drums, folk dance and walking on stilts can sometimes be seen. In the countryside, we are still able to light fire racks, which are forbidden in the cities for safety reasons.

 

 
                                                                                        

 

Vandu Language Services is based in Lewes, Sussex and has been helping organisations overcome the language barrier since 1999. We provide interpreting, translation, bilingual advocacy and cross cultural training for when you need to communicate clearly across cultures.

 

                                                                                     


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In conversation with Sara Geater, Specialised Commissioning, NHS England

  • 27/01/2016
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It’s our business to communicate well and we love it. We enjoy striking up conversations with people who live or work across different cultures.

For this post, we hear from Sara Geater, who’s a Senior Engagement Manager with NHS England. In her work for the National Support Team, Specialised Commissioning, she gathers opinions and evidence on cutting edge treatments, so her team can evaluate whether the NHS – and the taxpayer – is justified in spending money on them.

It’s often a politically charged area, because Specialised Commissioning focuses on treatments for relatively small numbers of people with very rare conditions: low volume, high cost. Sara has to make sure that everyone affected – patients, experts, interested charities - has the chance to have their say.

That desire to ensure that everyone has input, everyone has a voice, has underpinned every stage of Sarah’s career. That journey started in the Himalayas.

‘She was breaking a boulder into little rocks so she could feed her children’.

After Sara finished her degree in peace studies with politics and conflict resolution, she went travelling for about 18 months:

“I went to Asia.  And I was working in a boys’ home and school where my parents have always sponsored children at this boys’ home and school. I went and worked there for a month or so, in the hills of the Himalayas.

“And I was reading at the time Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom, about his time in prison.  The thing that the apartheid regime gave them, to make them feel less human, was chipping big boulders into small stones.  That kind of was the punishment that the regime gave them, to sit in the hot sun and do this job.

“And I went for a walk around in the mountains where I was working, and I came across this lady who had a baby on her back and a toddler sat next to her, and she was crouched down with a little hammer breaking a boulder into little rocks so she could feed her children.  And I think that that for me was the time when I really understood just how inequitable this world is.

‘That was probably the turning point. I want people to feel part of society.’

“And I think that never left me really.  And when the world seems unfair, I always think back to that lady, what she did to feed her child was the same punishment as they gave Mandela to make him feel less human.  And I think that that’s kind of what drives me on, that image of that woman that I passed by in the Himalayas.

“And I think that was probably the turning point for me, which made me think, ‘I’m going to challenge this.  I want people to have a voice.  I want people to feel accountable and people to feel part of society, because I think that’s how we get a better society and for people to feel part of it.”

‘I think naturally I am a bit of an activist.’

When Sara returned to the UK, her career began in East Sussex. She was taken on to be a PALS co-ordinator.  (PALS stands for ‘Patient Adviser Liaison Service’).   At the time – 2002 – it was a new and bold idea.  Sara was employed to set it up for two primary care trusts in East Sussex, spanning Hastings, Rother, Downs and Weald:

“It was all about customer service in the NHS, which hadn’t existed prior to that as a format in its own right.  And as the notion of public accountability and public participation started to grow within NHS policy, it was kind of the natural place where it sat.

“PALS was very much about individuals.  The thing that struck me, was most people were really supportive of the NHS, but it doesn’t always go well.  But when it didn’t go well there was really no outlet just to say, “This didn’t go well and shouldn’t it be better and can we not make it better?”

“So actually most people didn’t want to complain, didn’t want anyone to get into trouble, weren’t out for revenge or anything.  They just wanted to make it better. PALS was about really activating improvement in the service.

 “And I was in a position where if I did my job well, then we could make that happen.  We could turn that learning and that insight into improvement and making it better and making it work better for everybody.

“If I think back 12 or 13 years ago, where there wasn’t even a concept of public accountability so much, certainly not public participation and decision making, to where we are now, where if you don’t do it you end up being caught because everyone expects you to do it, I think we’ve advance a really long way.  But I think that there’s even further to go.”

In our next conversation with Sara, we look at how the demands being made on community interpreters led to the birth of bilingual advocacy…

 

Vandu Language Services is based in Lewes, Sussex and has been helping organisations overcome the language barrier since 1999. We provide interpreting, translation, bilingual advocacy and cross cultural training for when you need to communicate clearly across cultures.

 

                                                                                     

 

 

 

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A win for Home Office interpreters

  • 18/01/2016
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After increasing concern regarding Home Office interpreter’s wage cuts, it was announced on Friday the 15th of January that this decision had been reversed.  

The home Office Interpreter’s wages had not been increased since 2002 but this was the first time that a cut in wages had been proposed.

The problems began when the interpreters received information on the 20th of November 2015 regarding a bleak cut to their wages. The change of pay was due to take effect from the 1st of January 2016. This change would affect those who dealt with cases such as Visas and immigration, border force and immigration enforcement.

The news caused outrage within the heart of the interpreting community. Facebook and Twitter campaigns went into full swing, spreading the story of the unwelcomed change and gaining support to cease the implied transformation. In further protest, this also caused an estimated 2,000 interpreters to stop accepting jobs from the Home Office.

It worked. On the 23rd of December further developments ensued, with the Central Interpreters Unit announcing that the change had been deferred until 1st February 2016 subject to further discussion and consultation.

Then last Friday, the CIU responded;

‘This notification is to advise you that following further internal discussions, the decision has been taken to adjourn the planned rate change at this time with a view to commissioning a fundamental review of Interpreter Services, including the Interpreter Rates of Pay within the scope of the review’

 Finally stating;

‘Consequently, current Home Office Interpreter Rates of Pay remain in effect until further notice.’

The success of this case was driven by one main factor, those affected believed that their wages should not be compromised. Having the same belief between individuals created a solid, stable network.

It is hard to ignore the power of people.

Vandu Language Services is based in Lewes, Sussex and has been helping organisations overcome the language barrier since 1999. We provide interpreting, translation, bilingual advocacy and cross cultural training for when you need to communicate clearly across cultures.

                                                                                     

 

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Are you a bilingual individual, or know someone who is?

  • 14/01/2016
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A guide to community interpreting

Last year was a real success for our community interpreters. In 10 weeks these bilingual individuals were trained as community interpreters. Now qualified freelance professionals, they are able to help individuals function within a society that speaks a language that is not their own, one that they may not fully understand.

In light of our new community course in February, we got speaking to a freelance professional who completed the course last year.

How did you find out about the course?

I was prompted by friends to do something with my knowledge of two languages, Russian and Lithuanian. My dream job was to become a translator but when I looked on the internet, I only found expensive courses that were too far away, the prospects of attending looked very slim. A year later I looked on the internet again, I couldn't believe my eyes. I found a local and affordable course for interpreting, I can't describe how happy I was!

How did you prepare for the course?

 I worked hard to fill out the application correctly and started to read some articles online in both languages. Only after the introductory meeting did I know what I needed to study, that’s where the real challenge began.

How was the course for you, what was your favourite part?

I enjoyed all of the course as each session was engaging and enjoyable. The tutor, Dominique, is an amazing lady and I have learnt a lot from her. It was very helpful to have speakers from different areas of community services as it opened my eyes as to what's going on in a community world. 

How has the course helped you?

I wish I could do an interpreting job every day. I have always enjoyed helping people, now it’s even better because I'm working professionally, whilst getting paid. I can finally say I know the feeling of job satisfaction.

What are you doing now?

I still do my day job, but every day I hope I get a phone call from Vandu for an assignment. I do want to do another course to grow my skills, hopefully in the near future. I'm very grateful to the team at Vandu, all of them are simply great.

Are you a bilingual individual, or know someone who is? Find out more about the community interpreting course today. Contact Olivia on 01273 473986.

  Vandu Language Services is based in Lewes, Sussex and has been helping organisations overcome the language barrier since 1999. We provide interpreting, translation, bilingual advocacy and cross cultural training for when you need to communicate clearly across cultures.

                                                                                     

 

 

 

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The beauty of languages

  • 13/01/2016
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So what is beautiful about language?

Being able to express and convey thoughts and feelings through spoken word is a fundamental part of how we exist, without this type of communication life as we know it would be extremely frustrating and difficult. We may not understand another’s tongue but can still appreciate that it is another’s vital means of communication ultimately bringing us in unison.

By dissecting language, we are able to learn more about an individual. When it comes to dialect, slang and accent this can give us the ability to identify where someone originates or lives. A common difference in British accents is the distinction between speakers in the north and south. Those in the north generally pronounce words such as bath and grass with a short vowel whereas those in the south use a long vowel. Vocabulary can also play role in this distinction for example in the south the word dinner is often used whereas in the north this is commonly known as tea.

These similarities and differences can also be compared across different languages. Spanish and English both share a Latin influence with words such as; sofa, idea and bar. However Spanish has a strong correspondence between the sound of a word and its spelling. The irregularity of English in this respect for example, using words with a silent letter like ‘known’ causes predictable problems when Spanish learners write a word they first meet in spoken language. In reverse it is common for Spanish learners to pronounce a word by each syllable seen in written language.

Body language and spoken language are the most dominant form of expressing ourselves. This is shown through the concept of internationalism which is most apparent when we’re laughing, having a good time and sharing common interests. Looking at someone directly in the eye or presenting a firm handshake may determine how someone views you. These gestures can be used when trying to connect with someone who is not from your culture. Once common ground is found you can develop upon this and start to build upon the foundations of a new relationship.

Language helps us define our personalities giving us our own identity and bringing us together, there is a great sense of adventure when we get to meet new people.

Vandu is passionate about bringing people together and understands the needs of each client. Get in touch with our team to find out more about the services we can offer.

Vandu Language Services is based in Lewes, Sussex and has been helping organisations overcome the language barrier since 1999. We provide interpreting, translation, bilingual advocacy and cross cultural training for when you need to communicate clearly across cultures.

                                                                                     

 

 

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