Friday, November 10, 2006

Addicted to languages

I have to say that I'm really glad that I have a TV in Brussels, even though in the beginning I was very reluctant. The reason is simple: except for Finnish, Portuguese and Spanish-language channels, in my (very small) TV I have plenty of channels in French, English, Dutch, German and Italian, which means that I can practise those languages in the comfort of my home.

It's not that I speak any of them perfectly (there is no such thing anyway), but I really like the different doors they open, different ways of thinking and so on. As my old German texbook name said, they're bridges between peoples.

The most fascinating thing is that there's still so many to learn. I'd like to study Latin, Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, Russian, Náhuatl, Yucatecan Maya...

So much to learn, so little time...

Thursday, November 09, 2006

When beach or city holidays are not enough

I read an article in the newspaper about trends in the tourist industry that made me think. Now there are tours on offer to see the favelas in Rio de Janeiro, Ground Zero in New York, the destruction of Hurricane Katrina in Lousiana or the tsunamis in Thailand, and even an "illegal immigrant tour" in central Mexico where the tourist pays to feel how it is to cross the border through the desert guided by people who have done it.

Is it that we want to empathise with people who are less fortunate, or only that lives in the rich parts of the planet are just too boring?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Another post in the series of "Rock en Español".

Aterciopelados is a band from Colombia who has enjoyed success accross Latin America for the past 15 years. As is the trend for Rock en Español acts, they fuse Colombian music with rock and hip hop to astounding success. They have even been nominated by TIME as one of the 10 best bands in the world, and the same magazine has also just published a review of their latest album, "Oye".

Below some videos.

Bolero Falaz (El Dorado, 1994)

Florecita Rockera (El Dorado, 1994)
El Estuche (Caribe Atómico, 1998)
Maligno (Caribe Atómico, 1998)
El Álbum (Gozo Poderoso, 2000)
Luz Azul (Gozo Poderoso, 2000)

More information from Wikipedia or the Official Site.

Monday, November 06, 2006

The news you see determine your reality

I've noticed something very interesting during my trips around the world, and that's summarised in how I decided to title this post. Even though we have become more "globalised" there is no single news source (to the dismay of CNN, BBC News, Euronews, Al-Jazeera and all the others I'm forgetting). Some examples below:

  • In the U.S. newscasts tend to be of a local, state or national nature, and international news tend to be about Iraq, Afghanistan or any other perceived security threat. Seldom do you hear anything about their neighbours (Canada & Mexico) unless there is a problem. Almost never do you hear about Europe.
  • In the UK the news are mostly local or national, but they tend to report quite a bit on both Europe, the U.S. and the security crises of the day.
  • In Brazil, they're mostly national, about the neighbouring countries (Argentina, Venezuela, etc.), the U.S. or Europe.
  • In Japan, they're mostly about Japan (at all different levels), the U.S., China or Korea.
  • In Finland they talk mostly about local news, national news, what happens in Europe, the U.S., Sweden and Russia.
  • In Mexico they spend their time talking about national politics, security and local news. The international news section is brief but usually quite varied, although there is a big focus on news items about the U.S. anyway.
It is very interesting to see that even though we live in a time when world wide information truly is at our fingertips, we tend to receive very little of it if we don't search for it ourselves, and the differences in perspective are absolute startling. That's what it's all about, of course.

Belgians are nice, but their country is weird

I have now quite a few local friends, mainly from school, and I think we get along quite well. They are in general nice people and everything seems to be OK. However, I can't help but notice how deeply is their country divided along linguistic lines, and how difficult it is for some of the Belgians to bridge that chasm.

I'll give a stupid example: TV. You have several channels in French and several in Dutch, and you may have the same football game at the same time being broadcast in both channels. The French-speaking news say very little about what happens in the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium, and vice-versa. Even the Telemarketing ads are in both languages depending on the channel, even when they're selling the same thing (these days they keep on pushing a "Disco Fever" CD collection, which actually looks quite nice, but anyway) .

I don't think they'll truly separate, because, as a teacher said: "What do we do with Brussels then?". However, it is quite interesting to see the dynamics between two communities that live next to each other but only rally around the Red Devils (the football team), the Flag, the King and Kim Clijsters (the tennis player).

Sigue la mata dando en Oaxaca

Sigue la violencia, sigue habiendo muertos, sigue la policía, las demostraciones y la intransigencia, sigue Ulises Ruiz en la gubernatura, y ahora para acabar, hubo bombazos en el D.F. ¿Hasta cuándo?

Suomen talvi ja hiihto

On jo alkanut, ja en ole siellä. Toivottavasti pärjäätte hyvin (nöh, tiedän jo). Täällä on vaan pilvistä ja sateista. Eilen näin joku mainos telkkarissa jossa joku kaveri hiihtia, ja minulle tuli ikävä. En mä usko että muiden on helppoa ymmärtää miten hyvältä hiihtaminen voi tuntua. Ehkä jos pystyn jäämän Suomeen kauemmaksi aikaa voisin mennä kilpailemaan, hehehe.

En V.F. ou en V.O.

Mieux en V.F... quelque chose que s'écoute trés bien en francais.
  • Seigneur des Anneaux
  • La noveau publicité de BMW ("pas que une voiture est seulement une voiture")
Mieux en V.O... quand en francais s'écoute légèrement ridicule.
  • Quelq'un film avec Arnold Schwarzenegger
  • Les Simpsons

Recommended Book: Everything is illuminated

This is a very good book. Just finished reading it. The use of language is very interesting here, even though I'm still thinking about the messages. The story is very moving, and it has a lot of character.