A peek at the West Slavic world

The Slovak National Theatre in Bratislava. Slovenske seems to be the Slovak word for Slovak, which makes you wonder what their word for Slovenian is. Photo (c) Bernard O'Shea

The old Slovak National Theatre building in Bratislava. “Slovenske” seems to be the Slovak word for “Slovak”, which makes you wonder what their word for “Slovenian” is. (My internet translator tells me the answer is “Slovinske”). Photo (c) Bernard O’Shea

Normally if I were to go on holiday I would opt for a Romance-language speaking country, partly because from a communications point of view I feel comfortable in that environment, and to give myself more exposure to and practice in the local language. But of course you have to broaden your horizons and stray from your comfort zones, and there are so many other interesting places and languages in the world that it would be a pity to ignore them.

A nice Hungarian goulash moments before being devoured by Bernardo!

A nice Hungarian goulash moments before being devoured by Bernardo!

Very recently, thanks to a prize I won about a year ago, I had the chance to visit the Czech Republic and Poland for the first time, and to see more of Slovakia, Hungary and Austria, with partial support from Emirates airline, Rail Europe, and the tourist boards of the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland. During this time, apart from visiting some really beautiful and interesting places, I’ve eaten lots of wholesome food – spicy sausages and cabbage and goulash with dumplings, roast meats and more roast meats, and a delicious type of sweetbread known as tredelnik, which is cooked on a rotisserie and coated with sugar and various flavours (cinnamon, walnut and almond, for examples).

I have, of course, sampled the famous local wines and beers. Everyone in the Czech Republic seems to think Pilsner Urquell is the best beer, but I found a better brand…

Bernard tastes great, trust me! Photo: Bernard O'Shea

Bernard tastes great, trust me! Photo: Bernard O’Shea

I took my Lonely Planet Europe phrase book with me – it covers 15 languages (including my five Romance languages) but unfortunately Slovak is not one of them. Sad to say, for my tired old brain, it took a lot of memorisation, trial and error (error being the key word here), to be even able to say “good day”, “how are you”, “please” and “thank you” in these languages. And one of my gripes about language phrase books is that they give you the words parrot fashion, without explaining the grammatical structure. So, to give a very simple example, with the Czech greeting “dobrý den!” you have to do a bit of research to confirm that dobrý is the “good” part and den is the day bit of “good day”. Likewise, there is often little indication of which phrases apply when speaking to a man or a woman, if there is gender differential in the language.

Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic. Photo (c) Bernard O'Shea

Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic is a great place to visit. Photo (c) Bernard O’Shea

I also find this particular Lonely Planet book weak in the sense that coverage of the greetings – which in my opinion are the most important words to know, the ones you want to use to win over people with politeness and show that you are making an effort to get to know their language and customs – is scattered and patchy. In my opinion, the greetings should be the first words given in a phrase book, not “Do you speak English?”. Czech and Slovak are pretty similar – not surprising, considering that until only recently (1993) the two countries were one as Czechoslovakia – and there is some linguistic crossover into Polish, as these languages belong to what is known as the West Slavic language group. German is the official language in Austria, of course (my appreciation of German increased while I was there) and Hungarian is pretty much a rule unto itself, although it is vaguely related to Finnish and Estonian.

DSCF4660These languages, particularly Polish with its apparent lack of vowels and proliferation of “weird” (to an outsider) clusters of consonants – for example, czy mozna przygotowac means “could you prepare?” – must seem strange to those who speak English and Romance languages. I was expecting them to sound harsh on my ear, but from what I heard spoken and on radio, this was not the case at all. Like many languages, they are mellifluous in their own way.

In the Czech republic I bought a 2CD compilation of the hits of 2014 titled Top 20.cz (Ceskych a Slovenskych Hitu). The first CD featured Czech artists, and possibly Slovak ones too, the second international ones. Here’s a track that I like from the former by Divokej Bill, a group that my online translator tells me goes by the name of Wild Bill, and the song title is Wake Up!

Here’s a version illustrating the lyrics – sing along everyone!

It wasn’t all Slavic languages though. In the Roland Cafe in the main square of Bratislava, where we dined one night, there was live music featuring a duo singing, of all things, in Portuguese. Their repertoire was mainly Brazilian, such as songs by the likes of Marisa Monte. It was like being in Rio de Janeiro.

Related links

Being Italian … is your ego under control?

Bernard O'Shea:

Reblogged to coincide with the Italian Film Festival taking place around Australia

Originally posted on My Five Romances:

Italian Slushies

Italian Slushies (Photo credit: razvan.orendovici)

I have some fond memories of Italians in their native land, even though I don’t know much about them, apart from what one sees in the media and on film and so on. It has been a long time since I was in Italy. When I was nine my father took us on a great holiday, cruising on an Italian vessel, “M/V Africa”, from Beira in Mozambique round the Horn of Africa and up into the Mediterranean until we disembarked in Trieste. The ship, being part of the Lloyd Triestino Line (http://www.ssmaritime.com/lloyd-triestino-africa-europa.htm) was manned mostly by Italians and while on the journey I had my first crush as a child on one of the crew! But alas my feelings were not returned, haha. I was spurned for another twice or three times my age, can you believe it! :)

The only other time I was…

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Italian film festival starts in style – and with a bit of Flemish

photo (1)Italian is the language of the moment in Australia: the Italian Film Festival is upon us and for the next month or so some 34 films will be screened around the country.

The festival has just started in Sydney and Melbourne (where it runs till October 12); Canberra’s starts on September 23 and Perth’s a day later (both finish on October 15); Brisbane (October 1-22) and Adelaide (October 2-22) also get a good run; while there will be shorter festivals in Byron Bay (October 9-15) and Hobart (October 16-22).

I attended the opening night at the Palace Cinemas in Norton Street, Sydney, last night as a guest of one of the Silver sponsors, Rail Europe. The venue, in one of the most Italian of streets in Sydney, was packed, the Italian community were out in force (some of the mammas were heavily laden with bling) and good-looking Latino-looking male models with immaculately combed hair handed out bottles of Peroni beer to anyone willing to accept them (I am sipping a Peroni Leggera as I type).

We were treated to a great film, Marina, based on the life of singer Rocco Granata (the film’s title is also the title of the song that launched him to stardom. Funnily enough, though, it is set mostly in Limburg province in Flanders, Belgium. Here is the trailer.

The film is about many things, including the usual ones of finding your true love, following your passions and dreams, father and son love and tensions, and so on, but it also made what I thought were very pertinent points about immigration and the difficulties that migrants face on many levels, including gaining acceptance.

From a language point of view, it was fascinating. The excellent male lead, Matteo Simoni (the adult Rocco), has Italian ancestry but was born in Belgium and couldn’t speak Italian, so he had to learn it for the film (and learn how to play the accordion too). Thus he had to make his second language – Italian – look like his first, and his first language – Flemish – look like his second. His singing was excellent. But as he tells the Flanders Today website, he had to work really hard to convince the director to give him the part.

The next clip from YouTube is Italian TV coverage of the film’s launch in Italy, but it includes the director speaking in English about it.

So, let’s have a look at the real Rocco (who has a bit part in the film) singing the original version of Marina, which was actually the B-side of a single released in 1959… It made No.1 in Belgium and Germany and the top 40 on the US Billboard chart.

For those of you who like your music with a bit more techno force, here is the 1989 dance mix, which was also a hit in Europe.

The song has also been covered by the likes of the Gypsy Kings, André Rieu, Francesco Napoli and Dean Martin.

Haver: a handy Portuguese verb explained via David Carreira and some fado blasts from the past

What’s your favourite song on the romance language weekend soundtrack? Mine is David Carreira’s Haverá Sempre Uma Música. So let’s look at it from a linguistic point of view, as the title uses one of the most useful verbs in Portuguese, haver. First up though, here is a clip of the song with the lyrics – see if you can figure out what it is all about. David’s accent is very European Portuguese, not Brazilian, by the way.

Some words to help you understand what the song is about:

  • Mesmo que … even if
  • O tempo passe … time passes
  • O mundo pare … the world stops
  • Nossos tatuagens se apaguem … our tattoos fade (or disappear)
  • E a vida nos separe … and life separates us
  • E que estejas nos braços doutro amor … and that you are in the arms of another love
  • Haverá sempre uma música … there will always be a song
  • Haverá sempre um filme, uma hora … there will always be a film, an hour
  • Um pormenor … a detail *
  • Para (or P’ra for short) me fazer lembrar de ti … to make me remember (i.e. remind me of) you
  • P’ra me fazer lembrar assim … to remind me so

* The videoclip doesn’t include this word, but sites that give all the lyrics (letras) to the song, such as this one, include it in the second part of the chorus instead of um filme, uma hora

Meaning and usage of haver

Although haver means to have, possess or own; or to exist (among other meanings), it is most commonly used in the third person singular, present tense, , meaning there is or there are.

  • há quartos para alugar? – are there any rooms to let?
  • há altos e baixos na vida – there are ups and downs in life
  • há muito gente aqui – there are many people here

Romance language equivalents

In this way it is similar to

  • il y a in French
  • hay in Spanish
  • c’è in Italian

Usage in other tenses

As we have seen from the song, it can be used in the future:

  • haverá dança? – Will there be dancing? 

Or in the past imperfect

  • havia ali uma janela – there used to be a window there.

 Usage in expressions of time

can also mean ago or for in relation to time.

  • Há quanto tempo está em Lisboa? How long have you been in Lisbon? (Literally, There is how much time you are in Lisbon? Portuguese uses the present tense here, whereas English uses the present perfect.)
  • há muito, muito tempo – long, long ago
  • há pouco tempo – lately, a short while ago
  • há anos – years ago
  • o avião partiu há cinco minutos – the plane left five minutes ago

Here, for example, is a pictorial video from YouTube showing the Beira Rio area of Porto and Vila Nova de Guia “há muito anos atrás” (many years ago/back). On the clip you will hear two of Portugal’s most famous fado singers, Dulce Pontos (who has a magnificent and formidable voice) singing Canção De Mar (Song of the Sea), and Amália Rodrigues singing Povo Que Lavas No Rio (People Who Wash In The River).

There are other uses of haver but that is enough for now, don’t you think?

Would you marry an Italian?

pizza-296036_1280The Italian film festival is about to hit Australia. We’ll have more details during the week, but there is bound to be comedy and romance. Italians are meant to be great lovers, aren’t they? Aren’t they? But would you marry an Italian? Think carefully about your choices, haha. To get us in the mood in the build-up to the festival, here’s Romanian chanteuse Elena Gheorghe singing in English about a certain little gigolo who’s driving her crazy. “Oh mamma mia, he’s Italiano, he’s gonna tell me a million lies…”

Elena and Glance (the rapper) have teamed up before and had a huge hit in Romania last year with (Doar Un) Ecou. (Just An) Echo.

Glance also charted this year with Cinema. Give both songs a spin a couple of times and they will grow on you, even if the language seems alien. I really like the drums, keyboards and “whoa whoa oa oa oa whoa” chorus that comes in at the 2:32 mark… (gosh, it seems like I like the bits that don’t involve the main artist himself).

To finish as we started, with an Italian flavour, here’s my favourite Italian song of the moment by Francesco Renga, Il mio giorno più bello nel mondo (My most beautiful day in the world). I’ve chosen a clip with the words so you can karaoke this and with practice natter knowledgeably like an Italian while at the film festival.

To hear more music in these languages, click on the “Italian music, Romanian music” and other “music” tags in the tags panel on my home page.

Here’s your romance language weekend soundtrack

Along with Stromae, Indila has carrying the flag for the French language on the world music charts. Her debut album, Mini World, has done very well in places such as Poland, as well as closer to home in France, Belgium and Switzerland. The first single from that album, Dernière Danse (Last Dance), which My Five Romances featured on the post French chansons from the fairer sex, also did well further east, reaching No.1 on the charts in Greece, Turkey, Israel, for example.

Here’s another single from that album, S.O.S., which has also been getting a lot of airplay, deservedly so.

Also luscious in feel is this effort from Mellina featuring Vescan – the latter providing what is almost obligatory in modern music nowadays; a rap interlude, but his bit is overlaid in parts with keyboard flourishes that flutter around lightly like butterflies on a summer’s day.

Incidentally, poză in Romanian means a picture or a pose, not to be confused with pauză, which means pause.

Sticking with Romanian, here’s Tu (Inima si Sufletul), a single from Ruby, whom I’ve featured before along with Yogi and Shift on the post Get this îngheţată thing licked. This reminds me in parts of Kirsty MacColl.

Tu, of course, means you in the singular, inimă means heart and suflet means soul (-ul is suffix for the definite article the, hence sufletul = the soul).

Now for some Portuguese. David Carreira is the son of one of Portugal’s most popular singers Tony Carreira. In this song he tells his lover that even in 20 years’ time, if they are separated and in the arms of another, there will (haverá) always (sempre) be a song (uma musica) to remind him of her. And isn’t that what songs, do – remind us of phases of our lives?

David was born in France, and if you have been following this blog you would know that Tony is comfortable speaking and singing in both French and Portuguese. It seems David is too. Here is one of his French hits.

To finish on a happy, upbeat note, with a bit of Spanish, here are two Puerto Rican singers who go by the name of Wisin & Yandel.

Time to chill…

Been there (to the left), done that. It's Friday night, time to turn right! (Pic from Pixabay)

Been there (to the left), done that. It’s Friday night, time to turn right! Which way would you go? (Pic from Pixabay)

Whew! Thank heavens Friday has come around. It’s been a really long working week but now at last Bernardo can relax and unwind and has declared tomorrow an official NMBACRATCODAIYWEDD (no more bloody alarm clocks ringing at the crack of dawn and interrupting your wildest erotic dreams day). Even better, he has dined well. He found a Thai green curry chicken and rice dish bought as a 2 for the price of 1 takeaway special deal, who knows, three or four days ago, and it was still fresh! (It was refrigerated, you know).

Bernardo's Friday night diet, haha. Pic from Pixabay

Bernardo’s Friday night diet, haha. (Pic from Pixabay).

After a hot curry you need a chilled dessert to counter the chillies. Bernardo rummaged in the cupboard and sniffed around in his fridge but what he discovered was uninspiring – some stale biscuits and a few yoghurts, some wedges of cheese, half an onion. But then Bernardo had a brainwave. What would his culinary inspirations, The Lady of the Cakes, and Ra – Cooking and Stuff, do in such a situation? His eyes fell on a bottle of fortified raspberry liquer lurking in the corner. Of course! Soak – nay, drench – the stale biscuits in the liquer, dollop some yoghurt on top, er, no, don’t add onion, and all of a sudden it’s a delicious trifle. Thanks, muses!

Sipping raspberry liquer and digging his spoon into his trifle, Bernardo hunted around for some mellow music to play in the background while he revised his Romanian verbs. Romanian verbs on a Friday night! Get a life, Bernardo! Actually, Bernardo will be returning to Central Europe in less than two weeks’ time, and although Romania isn’t on his itinerary this time, the holiday excitement is starting to mount, and the memories of his visit to the region just over a year ago are flooding back.

Budapest is definitely on the itinerary!

Better brush up on my Hungarian then…

And if you haven’t seen this film, you should.

More mellow music musings to come, stay tuned…

 

Argentine rock legend Gustavo Cerati dies after four years in a coma

While English language media outlets have been mourning the death of Joan Rivers, in Latin America it has been the passing of Gustavo Cerati that has been capturing the headlines. The BBC’s Spanish language website, for example, has got news items, reaction pieces, colour pieces, an analysis of the influence of his band Soda Stereo on Latin American rock, and an in-depth look at his 10 most memorable songs (canciones inolvidables).

I have already covered a couple of his and Soda Stereo’s work in the post Have a passionate Pascua with these smooth songs in Spanish. Here are some more.

And lastly one should say Adios

 

Portuguese star Tony Carreira reveals his French inclinations

My last post on the LisbonLux guide was aimed at helping English-speaking people to learn Portuguese, or vice versa; this one is aimed at those who are interested in the Portuguese-French combination.

Tony Carreira, one of the most popular singers in Portugal, has teamed up with a host of great French singers to record songs in both languages.The album, called Nos Fiancailles France/Portugal, (Our Engagement France/Portugal) was released early this year and did surprisingly well in France, peaking at No.4 on the charts. The first single from the album was Sous Le Vent (Onde Eu For), by Tony and Natasha St-Pier. You will see a lot of the Lisbon trams on this one.

The collaborations feature some great singers with remarkable voices, such as Michel Sardou (who has had no less than twelve No.1 albums in France), tenor Vincent Niclo, Hélène Ségara, Dany Brillant, Indonesian-born singer Anggun, Serge Lama, Gérard Lenorman, Didier Barbelivien and Lisa Angell.

Be warned, though, this album may mess with your brain. Usually when I want to speak in Portuguese I blabber away in French, and when I want to talk in French the Portuguese words just slip off the tongue. So this album may ruin your command of both languages, but could very well improve your Fretuguese and Portench. ;)

On the following video clip, you can hear snippets of other songs on the album, and hear Tony, speaking in French, relate how he spent a lot of his musical youth in France, so he has a great affinity for the country, its language and of course its musicians and singers. Even if you don’t speak French, this video is interesting, if only to see how artists from different backgrounds and cultures gel together (watching some of them tackle singing in Portuguese for the first time is amusing).

You can listen to snippets of each of the 13 tracks in the FNAC Jukebox section of its FNAC page listing here.

Here is an article in French on Tony Carreira, and here is some info in Portuguese.

In forthcoming posts we will have a closer look at the French singers involved.

Talk the talk with LisbonLux’s Portuguese-English guide

Lisbon, the city of light. Photo from Pixabay

Lisbon, the city of light.                                                                             Photos from Pixabay

Hello, just a quick post to share one of my favourite links with you, one that will be particularly helpful for anyone who wants to learn or improve their Portuguese: the website www.lisbonlux.com, which describes itself as “a guide to the luminous city” – referring, of course, to Lisbon – is great for a number of reasons.

  1. You get to do a lot of armchair travelling in that lovely city, which looks glorious in the summer light. Plus there are articles on easy trips to places outside Lisbon, to places such as Estoril, Sintra or Obidos.
  2. You are kept up to date with what is happening there (for example, every week, it seems, a tantalising new restaurant opens).
  3. But best of all, from a language lover’s point of view, its articles are written in both English and Portuguese, and well written too. It is so much easier reading an article and acquiring vocabulary in one language when you have a translation right next to it to refer to. Here’s a partial screen grab…
A sample of the writing on the LisbonLux website...

A sample of the writing on the LisbonLux website…

So, see you virtually in Lisbon, eh? Click on the “attractions” link on the LisbonLux website and you will definitely want to go there!

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