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  • Halloween around the world: Trick-or-treat in many languages
    October 31, 2015
    Halloween around the world: Trick-or-treat in many languages


    Most likely you already know the origins of Halloween, which traces all the way back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in, ow like in cow), which is Irish Gaelic for "summer's end".

    The pagan Samhain and Christian Halloween merged into one in the 9th century. The word Halloween, or Hallowe'en is a shortened All Hallows' Evening, or All Saints' Eve.

    So where do American traditions come from:

    Jack-o’-lanterns come from a tradition to place candles inside of hollowed-out-turnips to keep away evil spirits on Samhain.

    Halloween costumes have roots in cold medieval times, which were indeed dark and full of danger. It was strongly believed that on Halloween ghosts came back to the world of the living, so to trick the said ghosts into mistaking them for their fellow spirits, people used to put on masks when they left the house. To prevent ghosts from entering their houses, people tried to appease them by placing bowls of food outside.

    During All Souls’ Day festivities, poor citizens used to beg for food and more fortunate families gave them pastries called “soul cakes” in return for their promise to pray for the giver’s dead relatives. This tradition, referred to as “going a-souling” was encouraged by the church, to replace the practice of leaving food and wine “for roaming spirits”.

    Going global:

    Not all countries celebrate Halloween as we know it, although many cultures, just like ancient Europeans, believe that on this night and the days to follow, the borders between our and dead worlds are altered. Some of the peoples adapt western Halloween traditions to their national cultures and mindsets, while others have their own unique customs.

    Mexico, Czechoslovakia, Philippines  celebrate Day of the Dead from October 31 to November 2 by remembering their deceased loved ones, setting up memorials and going to cemeteries.

    It might sound gloomy, but in reality these festivities are full of joy, flowers, love and are basically family reunions. In Philippines on these days the graveyards are filled with tents, music, karaoke, board games, just as a regular festival. Especially colorful and beautiful Mexican Dia de Muertos is getting more and more popular around the world.

    The majority of Chinese  people celebrate Days of the Dead as well, not only by honoring, but also fearing pranks from the dead, believe at that time opens a bridge between the dead and the living. These traditional festivals are hundreds of years old.

    Halloween in China in its western sense is mainly celebrated by Western expats, and some local services adapted to provide themed decorations for that.  Two big theme parks in Hong Kong, Ocean Park and Disneyland, offer Halloween masquerades, haunted houses and movies. In Shanghai there is an old massive solid concrete building from the early twentieth century called 1933 Shanghai. It was originally intended as a slaughterhouse, but now is a ‘commercial hub for creative industries’, which holds a Halloween adult-rated masquerade parties every year.

    Halloween is still new to Japan , but already causes frustration. In only a couple of years it has become one of the biggest holidays in Japan, but older people are not happy about it at all. Main reasons: epic debauchery and waste of money. The huge number of party-goers and heavy advertising of Halloween as “an adult holiday where you can behave badly, and it’s totally okay!” makes it the biggest opportunity of the year for many vendors.

    Trick-or-treating never became popular in the reserved and private Japanese culture. Costumes, however, are a huge hit and many say that “Japan wins Halloween” with its elaborate and bright outfit ideas. Just google Japan Halloween. People in casual clothes will simply feel out of place here.  

    If you are curious to learn more about other cultures and their traditions, check out our state-of-the-art Cultural Awareness Training, which covers everything you want to know from beliefs and history to gestures and communication norms. 


  • The Monopoly on Language – Who has it?
    October 30, 2015

    Being different might make you seem spontaneous and unique. To my ten-year-old self, however, being different was quite the opposite. My difference: I spoke a different language than everyone around me. Trying to adapt to a new country is bad enough at the age of ten, but to learn a whole new language seems almost impossible. I still don’t know how I managed it, especially with parents that had Limited English Proficiency. 

    I had no idea there was a term for it, but there is, Limited English Proficiency. A person with LEP is someone who had to learn English as a second language. It affects their fluency and thus their communication skills in English. My parents were definitely two of those people. I used to go to the mall and different kinds of stores with them because we liked doing things as a family. This was when I was still new to the English language, so being with my family was one of my few comfort zones. Seeing my parents struggle with English was kind of irritating to me. I wanted to help, but I just couldn’t… at least not at that age.

    As I grew older and older, I would start answering phone calls, making phone calls, and talking to customer service people for my parents’ questions and requests. It was a heavy burden to bear, but they needed me so I had to try to help; even if it was just as simple as ordering pizza.

    Of course, there were harder situations, like speaking to some governmental institutions. I had to speak to my school regarding almost everything because my parents weren’t really able to get the message across correctly. I helped (to the best of my abilities) when it came to embassies, passport agencies, Secretary of State, and doctors’ offices. I’m the youngest of three children, so trying to help wasn’t really something I was used to. When you’re the youngest, you’re the baby of the family, pampered and taken care of, and you have nothing to worry about. This wasn't exactly true in my case, because I was the best English speaking family member at that time. I suddenly had a lot more responsibility than most of my peers. This made it that much more difficult to fit in as a teenager.

    I will never forget the first few experiences I had in the summer/fall period we moved to the USA. My parents’ accents were incredibly heavy. We would go to stores like Walmart in a group. My siblings and I used to beg our dad for video games and DVDs (at the time, DVDs were everything ). We loved to play board games, and we had our eyes set on the “super elite” (as we thought) electronic Monopoly game. The three kids, of course, couldn’t help because our English was still bad. I had to keep my mouth shut and tried my best to avoid turning red at the way my dad was explaining it to the sales associates at the store.

    “Monopoly,” he said with a heavy accent. The sales associate was really confused, so he told us to wait as he went to fetch another associate. When he came back with the woman, my dad explained it again… or, tried to explain it. Even my mom joined in.

    “Monopoly,” they both said. “You know, when you buy… and when you sell…” my dad emphasized the concept of the game, hoping to get across…something . I had heard it at school, so I said it without the accent, in an effort to help them understand as well. Eventually, after 10 minutes of random conversations, pieced together by the closest words my parents could think of, the sales associates told us they had no more in stock. It turned out our struggle never really mattered.

    That memory has stuck with me.  I don’t know if it was because my parents felt incredibly embarrassed, the sales associates had been somewhat offensive, or because I decided to help and the reps understood me. It was definitely a milestone for me to be able to say something in my first month or two, even if it was just to ask for a Monopoly board game. Getting to grow up with them was inspiring to me, because I got to have the best of both worlds, in a way. Though, of course, I couldn’t see it at the time. I would see people I knew around the Secretary of State offices, and I would try and hide because I was embarrassed of being different. I didn’t want them to think I was related to anyone with LEP. Eventually I learned that I didn’t care. Others’ actions and thoughts don’t determine mine. I continued to help my mom and dad and I became comfortable with it over the years. It had started out a burden to me, but soon became a responsibility I appreciated. If most of what I had to do was as simple as ordering pizza when my parents couldn’t, then where was the burden?

    When I think back on those times, it causes me to reflect on the current way people with LEP are viewed. If I was embarrassed, judgmental, or negative about my own parents, what does that mean for those who didn’t share in a similar experience? With language access via interpreting and translation services slowly becoming the new norm, and immigration being a main topic of conversation during the current presidential debates, how does my story relate to those who grew up in America and only speak English? Does it at all? I find myself wondering what steps I can take to make sure people from all countries can buy a board game or order delivery. What can I do now that I couldn’t do when I was younger? How can all of us in the younger generation step up to the task of making the country a place where no 10-year-old is embarrassed of his parents asking for a board game?


    Special for Bromberg by Laith Faraj


    If you are looking for an interpreter, contact us here. 


    October 28, 2015

    Tuesday November 17, 2015

    1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. EST

    Duration: 60 minutes

    Registration Deadline: Monday, November 16, 2015, 5:00 p.m. EST

    Join us on-line to learn how nonprofits can strengthen their case for grant funding to help pay for language and cultural awareness programs.

    Learning objectives:

    • Positioning your organization for grant funding from corporate and private foundations, community foundations, and federal and state governments.
    • The impact the Patient Protection, ACA, and the ADA have on grant makers’ funding priorities.
    • The benefits of partnering with a language services provider for your organization’s language access and cultural projects and use that partnership to secure grant funding.

    This webinar is free of charge.  Advanced registration is required.

    To register, please email with the First Name, Last Name and preferred email address of the webinar participant by Monday, November 16, 2015, 5:00 p.m. EST

    About the Presenter:

    Valerie A. Adelson, MHA, BSN, RN

    Grant-Proposal Writer/Consultant, Bromberg & Associates

    Ms. Adelson has more than 25 years experience as a lobbyist, policy analyst, advocate, and fundraiser and grant writer. For the past two decades, Ms. Adelson’s career in fundraising and development has included grant writing, capital campaigns, and securing corporate and foundation partnerships and sponsorships for non-profit and for-profit organizations.


  • Why indigenous languages are important?
    October 13, 2015
    Why indigenous languages are important?

         Picture a person who speaks four different languages. Do you envision someone well-dressed, educated, and well-traveled? Someone quite wealthy and with a good job? This is a common stereotype; one that was holding true for me. Most multilinguals I met were Europeans or of European descent and generally doing well in life. It changed this summer, however, when I traveled to Paraguay to work on a documentary project about indigenous people and their fight for ancestral lands.

    Yshir multilinguals

         The Yshir (or Chamacoco) people live in Pantanal, the area in north Paraguay. Their villages are scattered along the bank of the Paraguay River, which borders Brazil. Both sides are mostly jungle and swampland, with no border inspections for miles. If there is no rain, it’s about an 18-hour drive in a 4X4 car from the capital city of Asuncion. If the weather is favorable, military planes fly twice a week over the area. Rain turns dirt roads into thick mud and landing fields into swamp, so the only way to access the area is a boat that goes up the river.

         The boat departs every Tuesday from the town of Concepcion and takes three days to reach a tiny town of Bahia Negra in Pantanal, which is at the border and a few miles from Bolivia. The boat carries passengers, cargo, serves as mail delivery service, and as a floating supermarket, essential for communities along the river only accessible by water.

         Many Chamacoco men are fishermen – they go out to the river at dusk and come back at dawn. Women usually cook and take care of the children. Only a few houses have electricity. There is no running water and the river serves as shower, washing machine, and drinking water.

        As I mentioned before, this is where my opinion of what a multilingual was like changed drastically. The majority of the Yshir are fluent in three or four languages: their native Yshir language, Guarani (another indigenous language that is the second official language of Paraguay), Spanish, and, because Brazil is so close, Portuguese.  A few even speak some Ayoreo, the language of another indigenous nation. And while Spanish and Portuguese have a lot in common, there are no similarities between Guarani and Yshir.

         In Paraguay alone there are 20 indigenous languages. Some, like Guarani, are spoken by roughly 50% of the population. Others have just a few speakers. In both Americas there are more than 900 languages from 56 linguistic families that were there long before Columbus and conquistadores arrived.

    Columbus vs Indigenous People’s Day

        Columbus’ legacy has been questioned lately and many claim that he shouldn’t have his own day; that indigenous people should. Alaska was the first US state to actually rename it – starting this year its residents are officially celebrating Indigenous People’s Day. In addition, eight US cities have already abolished the Columbus Day holiday, encouraging the residents to celebrate indigenous culture and recognize the struggles that Native Americans have experienced.

         Can establishing indigenous peoples’ day raise awareness and help promote indigenous culture? Barely. It requires a greater effort. Globalization and its best friend, universalization, bring forward many challenges. It’s harder to preserve languages and traditions when speaking Spanish or English can take you much further in your career than speaking a rare indigenous language. Many of these languages don’t even have an established writing system.

         There are, however, positive changes as well. Several books about Yshir traditions have been published in Yshir and Spanish. Guarani is no longer considered language of the campo  (rural areas) and campesinos  (peasants). Many young people I met in my travels consider it part of their culture and identity, and believe it’s important to learn it.

         Surprisingly, technology development was one of the factors actually helping preserve indigenous languages. Wikimedia Foundation encourages promotion of indigenous languages on its projects. Indigenous tweeting and blogging is a real thing, Mozilla Mexico has translated its browser into 10 indigenous languages, and Facebook has a project that allows volunteers to translate the app into different languages.

         But why is it important to preserve these languages? Do we really need all 6000 of them in the world?

        When I was in Pantanal, the Yshir were preparing for a traditional ceremony of dances, songs, and shaman ritual. The purpose of the ceremony was not only to celebrate culture, but to call attention to the  struggle for ancestral lands. These lands are now in the hands of corporations that plan to deforest them and use them for cattle ranching. The Yshir leaders invited non-Yshir speaking local officials, human rights activists and journalists to the ceremony, as well as friends and family. On the eve of the ceremony, someone suggested it be held in Spanish so the guests would understand. A teacher and the female leader of the meeting protested: “If we lose our language, we lose our identity and culture.”

         With indigenous languages and traditions we, as humans, would lose part of our diversity and richness. Without these, the world would be a lot less fun, don’t you think?

    Special for Bromberg by Olga Khrustaleva

    Olga is a professional journalist, fluent in English and Spanish, a diver and a yoga instructor. Originally from Ryazan, Russia, she is currently studying for her PhD in Washington, D.C.



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