• HT Localization Presents Language for Real Life: Does Globalization Still Matter?
    HT Localization Presents Language for Real Life: Does Globalization Still Matter?

    Segment 54 – Does Globalization Still Matter?

    Welcome to 2017! Or year 4715, according to the Chinese Lunar New Year calendar

  • HT Localization Presents Language for Real Life: Localization and Graphics – Websites Matter
    HT Localization Presents Language for Real Life: Localization and Graphics – Websites Matter

    Segment 53 – Localization and Graphics – Websites Matter

    “If you can’t beat them, hire or acquire them.”

  • HT Localization Presents Language Translations for Real Life: My Teacher Says “Ladybird, But She’s Wrong...”
    HT Localization Presents Language Translations for Real Life: My Teacher Says “Ladybird, But She’s Wrong...”

    Segment 26 – My Teacher Says “Ladybird, But She’s Wrong, It’s Really Ladybug”

  • HT Localization Presents Language for Real Life Series: Expats Have Translation Needs Too!
    HT Localization Presents Language for Real Life Series: Expats Have Translation Needs Too!

    Segment 1 - Expats Have Translation Needs Too!





Is it President’s Day or Presidents’ Day?

17 February 2017 Fun Facts

The third Monday of February is a Federal Holiday in the U.S., as such many banks are closed as well as many government offices. This day is officially acknowledged by Washington D.C. as Washington’s Birthday. Even the date of George Washington’s actual birthday depends on which calendar is used (Feb. 11, 1731, according to the Julian calendar, or Feb. 22, 1732 according to Gregorian calendar adopted by Britain and her colonies).

George Washington was the first president of the United States, and is a very important founding father; additionally, many people also recognize Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, as a very critical leader in our nation's history. Abraham Lincoln’s birthday is on February 12, and is celebrated as an official holiday apart from the third Monday in February in some states.

A number of the states that celebrate Washington's Birthday also recognize Lincoln's Birthday as a separate legal holiday. Furthermore, some states choose to celebrate the third Monday in February as Presidents’ Day to commemorate both presidents together.

On this 3rd Monday in February, some celebrate Washington’s Birthday, some celebrate both Washington’s and Lincoln’s birthdays separately, while the majority simply celebrate Presidents’ Day (though even the placement of the possessive apostrophe varies).

Moreover, some states don’t even choose this month to commemorate the Presidents.

  • Georgia and Indiana observe Washington’s Birthday on Dec. 24th
  • New Mexico observes Washington Birthday the day after Thanksgiving
  • 9 states don’t observe any form of the Presidents’ birthdays at all at any time during the year

And, some states use the term “Presidents Day” to commemorate the presidents coming from their own state (ie. May 29th in Massachusetts, which is JFK’s birthday, officially commemorates all of presidents from that state).

Language fun facts about American Presidents:

  • At least half of all the American presidents have some proficiency in speaking or writing a language other than English. 
  • Martin Van Buren’s first language was Dutch. He learned English as a second language.
  • John Adams and Thomas Jefferson demonstrated proficiency in multiple foreign languages.
  • James A. Garfield knew Ancient Greek and Latin, and used his ambidexterity to write both simultaneously.
  • Both Roosevelts spoke French. 
  • Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke German. 
  • Herbert Hoover was fluent in Mandarin Chinese. 
  • Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush displayed some ability in Spanish.
  • Bill Clinton had some knowledge of German.
  • No contemporary American president has gained proficiency in any foreign language. 
  • Barack Obama, the 44th President of the US, claims to not speak any foreign language, but others beg to differ…

 Happy Presidents' Day to all!


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Did you know that Santa Claus lives in Finland?

10 December 2016 Fun Facts

Far away in a magical town in the Arctic Circle exists the magical Santa Claus Village in Lapland, Finland. At
the beginning of the last century, Santa Claus announced to the world that Rovaniemi is his official hometown. Rovaniemi is the capital and commercial center of Finland's northernmost province of Lapland. The Arctic Circle is a line visible on the map, north of which the sun can be seen above the horizon even at midnight during the summertime.  According to the locals, during midwinter, light is provided by the moon and stars in addition to the magical Northern Lights and clean, bright cover of glistening snow. It is said that the Arctic Circle is also known as the border where “regular time” changes into the “magic time” of elves and reindeer.

Finland is the northernmost country in the world after Iceland and the fifth largest country in Europe in terms of area.  Finland has Sweden to the west, the tip of Norway in the north, a long border with Russia to the east, and Estonia to the south, across the Gulf of Finland.  Its official languages are Finnish and Swedish. Finnish is spoken by most of the population, while Swedish is spoken as a first language by some 5 % of the Finns. In Lapland, the Sami language is spoken by some 1800 indigenous Sami people (including Santa’s elves).  The Finnish language belongs to Fenno-Ugrian languages and is related to Estonian and Hungarian. 

According to the locals, over a hundred years ago, some folks found out that Santa Clause lived somewhere in Korvatunturi  (meaning Ear Mountain in Finnish). This special place is about 485 meters high and called “Ear Mountain” because of the three large ears positioned on the summit.  It is said that these “ears” function like satellites triangulating and hearing all the dreams and wishes of adults and children across the world. This is the place where the wishes are received and sent on to Santa Claus and his workshop (managed by elves). 

As more people began hearing about this place, people began exploring the region in hopes of meeting Santa.  While Santa was happy to greet visitors who may have stumbled upon his private residence and workshop, he also wanted to safeguard his secret magical place.  So his elves created his “official” home in the Arctic Circle near Rovaniemi, called the Santa Claus Village. This village serves has Santa’s place to meet, greet and enjoy Christmas with visitors around the world.  

See for yourself - the live-cam of Santa's Village 

And in case you are wondering, Yes, Santa Claus is multilingual!

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O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree

03 December 2013 Fun Facts


Oh Christmas tree, Oh Christmas tree
Thy leaves are so unchanging

Not only green when summer's here
But also winters cold and dear

Oh Christmas tree, Oh Christmas tree
Much pleasure do you bring me!

According to legend, late one evening Martin Luther, the 16th-century Protestant reformer, was walking home through the woods and noticed the beautiful stars shining through the trees. To share the beauty with his wife, he cut down a fir tree and took it home, where he placed small lighted candles on the branches, and pronounced that it would be a symbol of the beautiful Christmas sky. 

Elsewhere in Germany around the same time period, people were said to have combined two customs: the Paradise tree (a fir tree decorated with apples) representing the Tree of Knowledge from the Garden of Eden, and the Christmas Light, a small pyramid-like frame decorated with glass balls, tinsel, and a candle on top to symbolize the birth of Christ as the Light of the World. 

In many countries it was believed that evergreens would keep away witches, ghosts, evil spirits, and illness. In the Northern hemisphere, the shortest day and longest night of the year falls in the winter - December 21 or 22 - and is called the winter solstice. Many people believed that the sun was a god and that winter came every year because the sun god had become sick. The solstice was celebrated as a symbol of the sun god returning. Evergreen trees reminded everyone that all would grow again when the sun god was strong with the return of spring and summer.

Today, the Christmas tree is traditionally decorated in with lights, tinsel, and ornaments.  Germany is credited with starting the Christmas tree tradition as we now know it today. 

One of the first records of the Christmas tree in America was in the 1830s by the German settlers of Pennsylvania.  While, the Pennsylvania German settlements had community trees earlier, it was not widespread in America until the late 1890s, as Christmas trees were seen as pagan symbols barring acceptance by most Americans before that time.

Christmas Trees Around the World


As with the United States, when German settlers migrated to Canada in the 1700s, they brought with them many of the things associated with German Christmas—advent calendars, gingerbread houses, cookies—and Christmas trees. 


In 1848, Queen Victoria's German husband, Prince Albert, put up a Christmas tree at Windsor Castle, commencing the Christmas tree tradition throughout England, the United States, and Canada. The Norway spruce is the traditional species used to decorate homes in Britain. 


Christmas trees are decorated with colored lights, tinsel, and baubles. Some people favor the angel on top of the tree, others the star. The house is decorated with garlands, candles, holly, and ivy. Wreaths and mistletoe are hung on the door.


Most people buy Christmas trees well before Christmas Eve, but it's not common to take the tree inside and decorate it until just a few days before. Evergreen trees are decorated with stars, sunbursts, and snowflakes made from straw. Other decorations include colorful wooden animals and straw centerpieces.


The Christmas tree was not introduced into Norway from Germany until the latter half of the 19th century. When Christmas Eve arrives, there is the decorating of the tree, usually done by the parents behind the closed doors of the living room, while the children wait with excitement outside. A Norwegian ritual known as "circling the Christmas tree" follows, where everyone joins hands to form a ring around the tree and then walk around it singing carols. Afterwards, gifts are distributed.


Handmade artificial pine trees in an array of colors and sizes are used. Star lanterns, or parol, made from bamboo sticks, covered with brightly colored rice paper or cellophane, usually feature a tassel on each point, appear virtually everywhere in December - usually one in every window, each representing the Star of Bethlehem.


Christmas is holiday devoted to the love for their children. Christmas trees are decorated with small toys, dolls, paper ornaments, gold paper fans and lanterns, and wind chimes. Miniature candles are put among the tree branches. One of the most popular ornaments is the origami swan. Japanese children exchange folded paper "birds of peace" with people all over the world as a pledge that war must not happen again.

Fun Facts about Christmas Trees

  • Christmas trees generally take 6-8 years to mature.
  • More than 1,000,000 acres of land are planted with Christmas trees. On average, over 2,000 Christmas trees are planted per acre.
  • 34 to 36 million Christmas trees are produced each year and 95 percent are shipped or sold directly from Christmas tree farms.
  • The top trees are Scotch Pine, Douglas Fir, Fraser Fir, Balsam Fir, and White Pine.
  • In 1912, the first community Christmas tree in the United States was erected in New York City.
  • The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree tradition began during the Great Depression era. The tallest tree displayed at Rockefeller Center came in 1948 and was a Norway Spruce that measured in at 100 feet tall and hailed from Killingworth, Connecticut.
  • Today, the giant Rockefeller Center tree is laden with over 25,000 Christmas lights.
  • In 1923, President Calvin Coolidge started the National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony now held every year on the White House lawn.
  • In 1979, the only the top ornament of the National Christmas Tree in Washington DC was lite, in honor of the American hostages in Iran.

Hear a beautiful rendition of the German classic by Nana Mouskouri - O Tannenbaum 

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Niinamesai(新嘗祭) Japanese Thanksgiving

23 November 2016 Fun Facts

Niinamesai(新嘗祭) Japanese Thanksgiving

The New Autumn Harvest Celebration or Niinamesai, which literally means “the festival of new crops” is considered to be Japanese Thanksgiving. Niinamesai is one of the most important rituals of the country; the Emperor makes the season’s first offering to the gods giving thanks for the fruitful harvest on behalf of the Japanese people.

Niinamesai is a Shinto ritual to offer newly cropped rice to the deities, and to express deep gratitude. The Emperor conducts Niinameai  in solitude, as the Shinto Priest, and gives thanks to Amaterasu-ōmikami (天照大神 the Sun Goddess, Ruler of Heaven, and Ancestor of Emperor) who provided the abundant harvest.

The Japanese acknowledge spiritual beings (Kami 神) in all of nature, such as the mountains and rivers. In Japanese mythology, the principle deity is Amaterasu-ōmikami.  The story goes like this: 

In order to sustain life to the people of Japan, Amaterasu-ōmikami bestowed rice to her grandson Ninigi-no-mikoto(ニニギノ尊). Rice is not just a staple food for the people; each grain of rice contains part of the life of Amaterasu-ōmikami. Rice represents the spiritual bond connecting people and Heaven. The essence of the Japanese Niinamesai  ceremony is the custom of having meals. By way of the rituals and eating food, the Japanese experience communion with deities, expressing gratitude. 

The holiday is also known as Labor Thanksgiving as a way to gives thanks to one another for the abundance of the harvest and society. 

Fun Fact: There are several ways to say “Thank you” in Japan, depending on the level of formality:

1. "domo arigatou"  どうも有難う  This is a standard yet casual way to say "thank you."  Use this expression with friends and co-workers, but avoid using it with someone who is in a position of authority over you.

2. Shortened to "arigatou"  有難う or ありがとう  An even more informal way of saying "thank you."  Use this phrase with friends and family. It is appropriate with people who share your status, but someone with a higher status, such as supervisor or teacher, should be treated with more respect.

3. "domo"  どうも More polite than arigatou, falling somewhere in between casual and formal speech.  Domo literally means "very much," but it is understood to mean "thank you" depending on the context of the conversation.  Use this in most polite contexts, but if you need to be extremely polite to someone, there is an even more formal expression.

 4. "arigatou gozaimasu"   有難う 御座います  This phrase essentially means "thank you very much." Use this expression with people who have a higher status than you, such as supervisors, family elders, teachers, and acquaintances who appear older than you.  You can also use this to express formal or deep gratitude to someone close to you.

5. "domo arigatou gozaimasu"  どうも 有難う 御座います  This is an even politer way of saying "thank you very much."  Use this phrase with those who have a higher status or in formal circumstances. You can also use the phrase to express sincerity with someone familiar.

In response: 

"dou itashi mashite"  どういたしまして。In both casual and polite contexts, this phrase is used in response to thanks. It essentially has the same meaning as "you're welcome."

 Happy Thanksgiving to all!

 Want to know how many people speak Japanese?

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Thanksgiving Around the World

20 November 2016 Fun Facts

Every year on the last Thursday of November, turkeys in the United States run for cover, as
Americans across the world
celebrate one of their most beloved family holidays. Thanksgiving has a rich history dating back to the time when the English pilgrims reached America, and were warmly greeted by the Native Americans.  The story of Thanksgiving recounts the story of the Pilgrims and their community feast of the autumn harvest at Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1621. Harvest fest celebrations are not honored solely by Americans, but also throughout the world, in many cases referred to by the local name and generally celebrated during the harvest period.

Canada celebrates Thanksgiving on the second Monday in October. Instead of eating turkey,  their feast includes ham or lamb, and traditionally some have La Tourtiere, a pastry pie filled with potatoes, rabbit and partridge or pheasant.  The holiday is celebrated as a gesture of thanks for a bountiful harvest.

In Barbados, the traditional harvest festival is called Crop Over. It has origins dating back to the colonial period, where singing, dancing and festival carts were decorated with flowers signifying prosperity for the plantation owners. In return, the plantation owners would provide a feast for the plantation workers, honoring their loyalty and dedication to the crop.

In China, the August Moon Festival or the Mid-Autumn Festival is one of the most celebrated Chinese harvest festivals.  The festival is held in September or early October, close to the autumnal equinox. This festival ends with a big feast among family and loved ones. Friends and relatives send Moon cakes to one other as a way of showing gratitude. The Autumn Moon festival has much in common with the American and Canadian Thanksgiving Festival.

India has several different harvest festival celebrations, and they are typically celebrated in the Spring. In the Northern Indian Harvest festivals, during late February or early March, people harvest wheat. This is also the time for Holi, which is a Hindu Harvest festival.  In Eastern India, the primary crop harvested is rice. Springtime is the season of love, and the love story of Krishna and Radha.  In Southern India, Onam is one of the most popular harvest festivals of Kerala. It is a time for everyone to reap the benefits of a good harvest after a year of hard work and labor, and a time for communal thanksgiving. 

Korea celebrates ChuSuk, as their harvest festival. The festival is a time for feasting and happiness, and paying respects to elders. Families visit their ancestral home towns, offering newly harvested foods, and memorial services dedicated to ancestors and elders. As with many of the other festivals, a special meal to celebrate, honor and offer thanks is prepared and shared among family, loved ones and friends.

In Malaysia, the Kadazan is the harvest festival, Tadau ka’amatan, celebrated in the month of May to thank the Rice God. The people believe that there is no life without Rice.

In Scotland the Harvest Festival usually takes place in September, celebrating the harvest festival known as “Lammas".  A loaf of bread is made from the first wheat cut, which is then taken to Church so that the bread may be eaten for mass.  

In Zambia, the Harvest Festival is one of the popular and entertaining festivals celebrated in the country in February. The festival is the celebration of the Ngoni people, believed to have inhabited Zambia since 1835. The Harvest Festival is celebrated by local dance and music, and offerings.

In the UK, the Harvest Festival, in the month of September, is one of the oldest festivals beginning in churches in 1843, when Robert Hawker invited local parishioners to a special thanksgiving service at a church in Cornwall. The ancient ceremony, “crying of the neck", takes place in Cornwall.  It was believed that the success of crops determined the success or failure of the people. During the festival, the entire community is invited for a dinner. 

Japanese Thanksgiving, the New Autumn Harvest Celebration is called Niinamesai, which literally means “the festival of new crops”.  Niinamesai is one of the most important rituals of the country; the Emperor makes the season’s first offering to the gods giving thanks for the fruitful harvest on behalf of the Japanese people.

Thailand’s Loy Krathong is an ancient Thai festival to honor and thank the water spirits for the water provided during the growing season. It is celebrated November, on the first full moon after the rice harvest.  People across Thailand flock to the rivers and canals with their Krathong floats to celebrate the Loy Krathong Festival, or the 'festival of light.'  

These are just a few of the world’s Harvest Thanksgiving days celebrated with cultural differences around the world; all have the common theme of offering food, warmth and celebration as a gesture of gratitude for the fruits of Mother Earth.  

Happy Thanksgiving!


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Loy Krathong, (ลอยกระทง), Festival of Lights, Full Moon Celebration: A Thai Tradition

20 November 2016 Fun Facts

On the full moon night of the twelfth lunar month, when the tide in the rivers is highest and the moon at its
brightest, people across Thailand flock to the rivers and canals with their Krathong floats to celebrate the Loy Krathong Festival, or the 'festival of light.'  The Krathong is a small floating raft made from the leaves and wood of a banana tree, decorated with flowers, a candle and an incense stick, along with coins and locks of hair.  The ritual entails lighting the candles and incense, making a wish and launching the Krathong floats into the rivers or sea.  The hope is that one’s Krathong will drifts silently downstream with a forever burning candle.  The flame signifies longevity, fulfillment of wishes and release from sins. Some believe that this is the time to symbolically ‘float away’ all the anger and grudges that one has been holding onto, and the inclusion of a lock of one’s hair is seen as a way of letting go of the darkness inside, to begin living free of negativity.  If the candle stays alight until your Krathong disappears out of sight, it means a year of good luck is ahead.

In Chiang Mai the celebration features beautifully lighted lanterns displayed in houses and temples, and launched into the night sky. It is believed that Loy Krathong is originally an ancient festival from India; it was a ceremony where people paid their respects to three different gods known as Phra I-Suan (Shiva), Phra Narai (Vishnu) and Phra Phrom (Brahma).  People made lanterns using candles and paper to be displayed in the homes of royalty, the wealthy and/or high-ranking officials. By launching one of these lanterns, one can send bad luck and negativity away into the air, especially if the lantern disappears into the night before the fire goes out.   It was King Mongkut (Rama IV) of Thailand who adopted the celebration to honor the Buddha.

Like many regional traditions, the true origins are often derived from different ancient legends of the people. 

  • Loy Kratong is an expression of gratitude to the goddess of water 'Phra Mae Kongka', a thanksgiving to her for providing water for the livelihood of the people. 
  • Others believe the festival originates from Buddhism and that by offering flowers, candles and incense sticks, a tribute of respect is being made to the footprint of the Lord Buddha on the sandy beach of the Narmaha River in India.  This is reminiscent of a Hindu festival that pays tribute to the god Vishnu, who meditates at the center of the ocean. 
  • The floral krathong symbolizes an offering to the pagoda temple containing the Buddha's topknot, which was cut off at his self-ordination and is now in heaven. 

One popular story about the first Loy Krathong describes the devotion and loyalty of a Queen to her god, King and people.  There once was a beautiful fair Lanna girl, whose father was a Brahmin priest, whose beauty and charm were so radiant that she was the subject of many local songs and stories.  The King immediately found her, and she became his new bride.  On the evening of the Thai Kathin water ceremony in Chiang Mai, where the people anxiously awaited their king, Queen Noppamas prepared a secret floral vessel of banana leaves and candles to launch into the Ping River.  Although the Lanna lady was married to a Buddhist King, she maintained her Brahmin beliefs and prepared the Krathong as an offering to the water gods and spirits.  Upon seeing this beautiful vessel adorned with lights and flowers, the people and King were mesmerized.  The Queen immediately offered the beautiful Krathong to the King, who couldn’t hide his admiration for such beauty.  However, after examining the vessel, he understood that this Krathong, was not simply a craft of beauty for his eyes, but a religious offering to the spirits of the waters honored by Brahmin beliefs.  This provided for a very difficult situation for the Buddhist King, who loved his Queen, but could not betray his people nor his own beliefs.  So, he took the Krathong, lite the candle and incense, proclaimed to all who could hear him on the bank of the river that the beautiful Krathong would serve as an offering to honor the Buddha and also the spirits of the river that his Queen intended to honor.

ขอให้สนุกวันลอยกระทง kŏr hâi sà-nùk wan loy grà-tong – Have fun on Loy Krathong Day! The Loy Krathong song: 

November full moon shines, 

Loi Krathong, Loi Krathong,

and the water's high in the river and local klong,

Loi Loi Krathong, Loi Loi Krathong,

Loi Krathong is here and everybody's full of cheer,

We're together at the klong, We're together at the klong,

Each one with this krathong, As we push away we pray,

We can see a better day.

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How do they speak in NATO (Military Alphabet)?

16 November 2016 Fun Facts

Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta…the international radio-telephony spelling alphabet, otherwise commonly referred to as the "military alphabets" is used by military and police personnel around the world. Code words are assigned English words in alphabetical order to help ensure that important transmissions between personnel are understood and clear, despite regional accents or radio interference. This ensures that some words that share phonetic similarities are expressed clearly, and not misunderstood, especially during a crucial military or police operation.

NATO Phonetic Alphabet

Although it is largely and easily understandable by native English speakers, the modern military alphabet is used in the United States and NATO countries, and has also gained popularity worldwide, especially in international interactions. The alphabet is normally used on request when two parties are involved in communication. For instance, an aircraft pilot may need to engage a marine operator in a radio conversation across a border. This crucial communication may be heard using the NATO military alphabet.

Official NATO Military Alphabet (Source: http://www.militaryalphabet.org)









Al fah



No vem ber



Brah voh



Ooss cah



Char lee



Ppah pah



Dell tah



Qkeh beck



Eck oh



Rrow me oh



Foks trot



Ssee air rah






Ttang go



Hoh tell



Uyou nee form



In dee ah



Vvik tah



Jew lee ett



Wwiss key



Key loh



Xecks ray



Lee mah



Yyang key






Zzoo loo

Now here’s a fun challenge for real language and military enthusiasts, try creating a short story using the Military Alphabet.

Here is an example, courtesy of Frank Pierce:

Juliet loved Romeo, a Yankee alpha male. X-ray(s) were frequent because they drank whiskey while dancing the tango and foxtrot and playing golf. Being great dancers, they were often showered with “Bravo!” They stayed at hotel(s) in Quebec Canada, Delhi India, Sierra Nevada and Lima Peru in January; so Romeo became a papa to quadruplets in November. Charlie, Oscar, Victor and Mike were born with uniform weights of 3.4 kilo(s). During birth, Juliet’s screams were heard to echo all the way to a river delta in a Zulu African village.

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Native American Words in Modern American English

12 November 2016 Fun Facts

is a time to honor friends, family and neighbors, and to give thanks to all the goodness that life has endowed upon us.  The story of the first American Thanksgiving often reminds people of when the Pilgrims first landed on Plymouth Rock, and embraced a new land, life and experiences.  American history classes explain the event as a monumental period when the settlers arrive to a new land to begin their new life free from the tyranny of the Old Country. The new settlers did encounter a new life in the new world, where they lived and interacted with the indigenous people of America – the Native Americans.

The English colonists encountered new tools, practices and clothing from their interaction with the locals.  There are many plants and animals indigenous to North America that are not found in Europe, thus leading to the adoption of many of the local terms from the Native American languages. 

Some words derived or borrowed from Native American languages include:

  • Animal names - moose, skunk, chipmunk, raccoon, opossum, and terrapin 
  • Housing - wigwam, tepee, hogan, wikiup, kiva. 
  • Wampum - a type of beads used as currency
  • Powwow  - generally used to describe Native American social gatherings
  • Moccasins - soft leather shoes, ie. the proverb "Don't judge a man until you've walked a mile in his moccasins."
  • Tomahawk - A small hand-axe used as a weapon
  • Succotash - A stew of corn, fish, and beans, or a simple combination of corn and lima beans.

The names of many places, lakes and rivers throughout North America are derived from the languages of the people who knew those places first:

  • Massachusetts, Kansas Dakota and Omaha are derived from the names of Native American groups
  • Oklahoma means "red people" in Choctaw
  • Minnesota means "sky-blue waters" in Dakota 
  • The Mississippi River's name means "great river" in Ojibwa
  • Ontario comes from the Huron word for “beautiful lake”
  • Ottawa comes from the Algonquin word for “to buy”
  • Penticton comes from the Okanagan word for “place to stay forever”
  • Quebec comes from the Algonquin word describing “narrow passage or strait”
  • Saskatchewan comes from the Cree word meaning “swift flowing river”
  • Saskatoon comes from the Cree meaning “berry fruit”
  • Toronto comes from the Huron word meaning “place of meeting”
  • Winnipeg comes from the Cree word meaning “dirty or murky water”
  • Canada comes from the Wendat Huron word meaning “village” or “settlement”
  • Coquitlam comes from the Salish word describing “small red salmon” or “place of stinking fish”
  • Iqaluit comes from the Inuktituk word meaning “fish”
  • Kelowna comes from the Okanagan word meaning “grizzly bear”
  • Klondike River comes from the Han word describing “hammer used to fix fishing nets”
  • Manitoulin Island comes from the Ojibwe word meaning “spirit island”

There are approximately 300 known indigenous languages North America. Sadly, many are either extinct or becoming extinct in today’s society.

As said by Noam Chomsky in the PBS independent documentary film produced by Anne Makepeace - We Still Live Here - Âs Nutayuneân:

"A language is not just words. It's a culture, a tradition, a unification of a community, a whole history that creates what a community is. It's all embodied in a language."


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Armistice Day - 11th November, A Very Very Special Day

11 November 2016 Fun Facts

"To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country's service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations." - U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, Armistice Day for November 11, 1919.

11th November is a very special day, revered and celebrated in many countries in memory of World War I coming to an end. In countries such as France, New Zealand and Serbia, the event is known as Armistice Day. The UK, Canada and Australia celebrate it as Remembrance Day. After all, it was the sacrifice of the brave soldiers engaged in the conflict which brought an end to the horrors of the Great War.

What exactly does Armistice mean? 

Armistice - Comes from Latin armistitium—from arma, "arms," and -stitium, "stoppage"—and means a temporary cessation from fighting or the use of arms, or a truce.

The entire World thought that World War I was the "War to end all wars." However, after World War II broke out in Europe, the name was changed from Armistice Day to Veterans Day or Remembrance Day in several countries.

Veterans Day is largely intended to thank all surviving veterans for dedicated and loyal service to their country. On this day we aim to ensure that veterans know that we deeply appreciate the sacrifices that they have made to keep our country free.  Thank you.

To commemorate this day, give a hug to a veteran.  Happy Veterans Day in the USA!


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How to Become President of the United States of America

08 November 2016 Fun Facts

The President of the United States of America is elected every four years by a democratic process defined in the American constitution.  Americans learn about the civic process in high school Civics classes, and many often take for granted that the process is well understood.  How does one actually become the president of the United States?

The election process begins with primary elections, caucuses, and nominating conventions for over a year and a half prior to the actual Election Day – the first Tuesday of the first Monday in November. 

This diagram published and available by Kids.gov on the USA government web page depicts the path to presidency. View a larger version of the infographic

Step 1: Primaries and Caucuses - Candidates from each political party campaign throughout the country to win the party nomination.

Step 2: National Conventions – While there are several political parties (i.e. Liberal, Green, Independent) represented in the U.S., the country primarily puts forth a Democrat candidate and a Republican candidate. The National Convention is the official forum where the parties nominate their president and vice president candidates.

Step 3: General Election – This is the single day, where the country’s general population votes for the president. This day is the culmination all the campaigning, debates, rallies and events, as Americans head to the polls to vote for their new leader.

Step 4: Electoral College – America has an Electoral College system, where each state has a designated number of electors based on its total number of Congress representatives.  There are a total of 538 electoral votes. It is the Electoral College that actually votes for the president based on the general election. The founding fathers believed that this process was a compromise between the general population and their Congressional representation.  The electors are not required to vote in accordance with the general population, and in 48 states plus Washington DC, the winner takes all of the electoral votes regardless of the proportion of the general population. The electors cast their votes in December.

Inauguration Day – January 20 – the President and Vice-President of the United States of America are sworn in.

Four more years until the fun begins again!


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Trick or Treat? What is Halloween - Celtic Samhain or All Hallows' Eve

30 October 2016 Fun Facts

The annual Trick-or-Treating in spooky costumes, begging for candy, watching scary films and visiting graveyards, Halloween, is perhaps one of the best nights of the year for children in the U.S.  Is it really an American thing? What are the origins? Who celebrates it and who opposes it?  The answer is not as clear cut … according to Wikipedia, Halloween originates from western European harvest festivals, festivals of the dead, pagan celebrations - the Celtic Samhain, and/or has Christian roots.  

Celtic Samhain - Historians suggests that Halloween originates from the Celtic festival of Samhain, meaning "summer's end" in Old Irish. Samhain was the first of the four days in the medieval Gaelic (Irish, Scottish and Manx) calendar. Festivals were held during this period each year throughout Celtic lands. It marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter.  Throughout the Gaelic world, bonfires were lit and some claim that rituals involved human sacrifice. Samhain was considered a period when the 'door' to the Otherworld opened enough for the souls of the dead, and other supernatural beings to come into our world. The souls of the dead were said to revisit their homes on this night.

Wearing costumes may have originated as a means of disguising from these harmful spirits. In Ireland, people went out at dusk collecting for Samhain feasts while wearing costumes. It is said that in the 19th century on Ireland's southern coast, a man dressed in white would lead children door-to-door collecting food, and by giving them food, the household could expect good fortune. Trick-or-treating may have come from this. 

All Hallows' Eve - Halloween may also have come about by the Christian holy days of All Saints' Day (also known as All Hallows) on November 1 and All Souls' Day on November 2. This is a time for honoring the saints and praying for the recently departed. By the end of the 12th century these holy days across Europe involved traditions like ringing bells for the souls. "Souling", the custom of baking and sharing soul cakes for "all christened souls", is considered the origin of trick-or-treating for many.  Groups of children would go door-to-door on All Saints/All Souls collecting soul cakes. The custom of wearing costumes has been linked the belief that the souls of the dead wandered the earth until All Saints' Day.  All Hallows' Eve provided one last chance for the dead to gain vengeance on their enemies before moving to the next world. So, in order to avoid being recognized by any soul that might be seeking vengeance, people would wear costumes to disguise themselves. 

In Scotland and Ireland, traditional Halloween customs include children in costume going "guising", holding parties, lighting bonfires, and having fireworks. In the U.S. and Canada, Halloween involves “trick-or-treating”, costume parties, candy gorging and pumpkin carving.  

So have fun tonight!

Trick or treat!!

 Smell my feet!

 Give me something good to eat!

 If you don't, I won't be sad...

 I'll just make you wish you had!

Happy Halloween!


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Is Spain a multi-lingual country?

12 October 2016 Fun Facts

The Kingdom of Spain located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula bordered by the Atlantic Ocean, Mediterranean Sea, France, Andorra and Portugal, proudly states in its constitution that all Spaniards and the people of Spain have a right to exercise their human rights, cultures, traditions and languages. The constitution also establishes that all languages of Spain will also be official in their respective communities.

Castilian Spanish (Español) is recognized as the official language across Spain, and it is the right and duty of every Spaniard to know the language.

The other official languages of Spain in addition to Spanish are:

  • Basque in the Basque Country and Navarre (spoken by 2% of the Spanish population)
  • Catalan in Catalonia and the Balearic Islands, Valencian in the Valencian Community (Catalan & Valencian considered to be the same language, are spoken by 17% of the Spanish population)
  • Aranese spoken in Val d'Aran
  • Galician in Galicia (spoken by 7% of the Spanish population)

Other non-official minority languages include: 

  • Asturian in Asturias
  • Leonese in Castile and León
  • Aragonese in Aragon
  • Spanish Sign Language
  • Catalan Sign Language
  • Valencian Sign Language

However, just because one can speak Spanish, still doesn’t mean that they will master the various local dialects of Castilian. For example, the Andalusian or Canarian dialects, each of these with their own distinct ways of pronouncing words and local expressions have been said to resemble the Spanish of Latin America.  Additionally, in the north, Eonavian is a local dialect between Asturian and Galician.  To the western areas, bordering Portugal, one may also hear the Galician-Portuguese based dialect known as Fala

While all Spaniards speak Castilian Spanish, many Spaniards in specific regions also speak the local language.  In the public schools, other foreign languages are also being taught.  French is a popular foreign language in public schools, due to Spain’s close proximity with France.  English has now become more widespread in classrooms across the country. Additionally, many of today’s younger Spanish generation are to exposed to Mandarin or Japanese in school or private lessons.


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¡Grito de Dolores! – Mexican Independence Day

16 September 2016 Fun Facts

¡Grito de Dolores! – Mexican Independence Day

On the morning of September 16th, over 200 years ago church bells were rung throughout the small town of Dolores Hidalgo in Mexico, when Miguel Hidalgo summoned his congregation to rise up and revolt for freedom from colonial Spain. Hidalgo's "cry of independence" has become emblematic of Mexican independence, and marks the inception of the Mexican War of Independence.

Today, the Mexican president rings the bells of the National Palace and re-enacts the “Grito de Dolores,” and shouts ¡Viva México! three times. The festivities are marked with military parades, patriotic programs, and marching bands. In honor of the day, Mexico City streets are decorated with flags, flowers and lights. No fiesta is complete without food and drink, and Mexican Independence Day doesn’t disappoint.  

The entire country enjoys the festivities starting the evening before and though the day after.  El Grito is also celebrated in the Texas, as Texas was still part of Mexico. Both Houston and Austin host festivities celebrating the event.  ¡Viva México!  Happy Independence Day.

¡Vivan los héroes que nos dieron patria!

¡Viva Hidalgo!
¡Viva Morelos!
¡Viva Josefa Ortíz de Dominguez!
¡Viva Allende!
¡Vivan Aldama y Matamoros!

¡Viva la Independencia Nacional!
¡Viva México! ¡Viva México! ¡Viva México!

 Fun Facts about Mexican languages

  • Spanish was brought to Mexico in the 16th century. Mexican Spanish retains a number of words that are considered archaic in Spain.
  • The Mexican government uses Spanish for most official purposes, but is not considered an official language of the State.
  • Most of the film dubbing identified abroad with the label "Mexican Spanish" or "Latin American Spanish" actually corresponds to the central Mexican variety.
  • With over 6 million speakers, there are 68 Mexican indigenous languages which are recognized as official national languages by the State.
  • There are a number of words widely used in Mexico which have Nahuatl, Mayan or other native origins such chocolate, aguacate, chipotle, guacamole.
  • The Nahuatl language has almost 1.4 million speakers, while Yucatec Maya is spoken by over 0.75 million people. 

¡Viva México!  

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Wishing You a Perfect Life just like the Roundest Moon on Mid-Autumn Day

15 September 2016 Fun Facts

The Mid-Autumn Festival (traditional Chinese: 中秋節; simplified Chinese: 中秋节) is an important harvest festival celebrated by China and many neighbouring countries.  The festival is held on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese calendar (September or early October), during the full moon close to the autumn equinox. The festival as an "intangible cultural heritage" and the festival is celebrated among family and friends throughout China.

Chinese people believe that a full moon is a symbol of peace, prosperity and family. On Mid-Autumn Festival night the moon is said to be the brightest and fullest, which is why the festival is also known as the "Moon Festival". The origin of the celebration dates back to moon worship in the ancient Shang Dynasty (1600–1046 BC).

As with many ancient traditions, many legends have been passed down through the generations to explain the importance and origins.

The Zhuang people share romantic story about the sun and moon, in which they are a couple and the stars are their children, and when the moon is “pregnant”, it becomes round, and then becomes crescent after giving birth to a “child”.  On this evening, it is popular to give offerings to the moon and the lunar deity - Chang’e the Moon Goddess of Immortality. 

According to Chinese mythology:

In the ancient past, there was a hero named Hou Yi who was an excellent archer.  Once upon a time, ten suns rose in the sky creating great disaster here on Earth.  Yi shot down nine of the suns and left one to provide light. An immortal admired Yi and sent him the elixir of immortality. Yi did not want to leave his wife, Chang'e, to be immortal without her, so he asked her keep the elixir. However, one of his apprentices knew about the secret, and on the fifteenth of August in the lunar calendar, the apprentice broke into Yi's house and tried to force Chang'e to give up the elixir.  Instead, she drank it, became immortal, and flew into the sky towards the moon. When Yi returned home to discover what had happened, he was so distraught that he presented his wife’s favorite fruits and cakes in the yard and gave sacrifices for his wife. The people joined their hero in this act of homage.

During this festival, through the years, families throughout China celebrate with various traditions. The most common traditions are gazing at the moon, eating moon cakes and making Chinese Mid-Autumn Lanterns.  The Moon cake is a symbol of family reunion. Children make lanterns of different shapes and float them on the rivers until the light of the lanterns disappears. 

Above all, the festival represents a time for family gathering, appreciation and worship.  One can hear Chinese people throughout the country happily greeting one another as they head home:

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival! 中秋快乐!

Wishing you and your family a happy Mid-Autumn Festival!  祝你和你的家人中秋快乐!

Wishing us a long life to share the graceful moonlight, though thousands of miles apart.   但愿人长久,千里共婵娟!

A bright moon and stars twinkle and shine. Wishing you a merry Mid-Autumn Festival, bliss, and happiness.  皓月闪烁,星光闪耀,中秋佳节,美满快乐!

The Mid-Autumn Day approaches. Although I am far from home, I have conviction in my mind. I wish my family happiness and blessings forever.  一年中秋又来到,远在他乡的我,心中只有一个信念--祝家中的亲人们永远幸福安康!

Sweet cakes will be served with my blessings. Wish you a successful life and a bright future.   送上香甜的月饼,连同一颗祝福的心...愿你过的每一天都象十五的月亮一样成功 !

Wishing you a perfect life just like the roundest moon on Mid-Autumn Day.  愿你的生活就象这十五的月亮一样,圆圆满满


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