Throw a canary on the barbecue? Surely not!

After my close encounters with Uma Thurman, I have had another awkward moment with my phone’s predictive text. I was using Portuguese to describe a typical Australian Christmas meal …

Nós comemos muitos camarões (“we eat lots of prawns“) was what I wanted to say.

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Exotic prawns spotted by Bernardo at the fishmarket. Photo: Bernard O’Shea

What my phone came up with: Nós comemos muitos canaries

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How would you like to munch on these? Image: Pixabay

Now that I have whetted your appetite, why don’t you join me for a seafood extravaganza?

RELATED VOCABULARY

  • French: manger (to eat), un canari (a canary), une crevette (a prawn)
  • Italian: mangiare (to eat), un canarino (a canary), un gambero, un gamberetto (a prawn)
  • Portuguese: comer (to eat),  um canário (a canary), um camarão, (a prawn)
  • Romanian: a mânca (to eat), un canar (a canary), un crevete (a prawn)
  • Spanish: comer(to eat), un canario (a canary), un camarónuna gamba (a prawn)

Note: For simplicity’s sake, I’m treating shrimps and prawns as the same. Portuguese also has the word gamba, but it may be more used in Portugal than Brazil.

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All ye Romancers, shake your bon bons

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Feliz Natal, Feliz Navidad, Buon Natale, Joyeux Noel, Crăciun Fericit.

In other words, happy Christmas in (from left) Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, French and Romanian.

To wish you all the joys of the festive season, I thought I would share some of the Christmas imagery that caught my eye in my home city, Sydney. All that is lacking is some snow and sleighs.

The picture at top was taken in a shopping centre (’tis the season to be shopping, after all). The big red dangling thing is what I as an Anglo-Irish child growing up in Africa would call a Christmas cracker, but here in Australia they seem to call them bon bons. Then I always think of Ricky Martin wanting people to shake their bon bons.

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The tree at Circular Quay.

Above is a decoration in front of the beautiful old Customs House, behind Circular Quay, the main terminal for the Sydney Harbour ferries. The restaurant at the top of the building has great views. (Just saying, should any of you want to treat me to lunch.)

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Wrapped so you’ll be enrapt in George Street.

A nice touch in George Street is these gift-wrapped concrete cubes. George Street has been undergoing renovations as a new tram line is put in. I guess the concrete cubes are to prevent vehicular traffic. People could sit on them, I suppose, but a tree for shade would be nice.

Talking of trees, you have to admire this enormous one in the dome of the Queen Victoria Building, one of the most beautiful buildings in Sydney.

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Hitting the heights in the QVB.

That shot was taken on the top level of the building, and there are two levels below. Alas, it’s plastic.

Best wishes to you, 

Bernardo

 

My close encounters with Uma Thurman

cinema-1293881_640Bernardo (c’est moi) is a socialite. He struts the red carpets. He mingles with the stars. Or at least his smartphone seems to think he does.

When you dabble with a number of languages on your phone – I frequently use English, Portuguese, Spanish, Romanian and sometimes French on WhatsApp –  it can play havoc with your auto-fill predictive text. My phone often hasn’t a clue what I am talking about. If I am not careful it will spew out nonsense.

For example, when I was on holiday in England a couple of months ago, I would try to tell my Brazilian friends….

Estou ficando na casa de uma tia  (I am staying at the house of an aunt)

…. which the phone embellished as ….

Estou ficando na casa de Uma Thurman

They were most impressed.

Sorry, I’ve got to rush – Uma’s calling me to breakfast. Chat later!

It’s Mine Awareness Day; and 10 poor victims will be caught unawares

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In Land of Mine, the second world war has just ended but young German prisoners are kept on to clear Denmark’s beaches of 1.4 million landmines. The fatalities were horrendous.

Today, April 4, is International Mine Awareness Day, as designated by the United Nations. I mention this for two reasons. First, there is a fantastic new film on the topic, Land of Mine (a finalist in the Oscars this year), and I was telling my friends in Romance-language speaking countries about it – the related vocabulary is further down this post. Second, the film brought back memories of my own experience in this regard – in my youth in Africa I was once on the back of a truck that detonated a landmine. Fortunately it was a reinforced vehicle and the injuries were minimal. It’s far worse if you tread on one.

Landmines may seem like a thing of the past but here are some facts that will shock you.

  • In 64 countries around the world, there are an estimated 110 million undetonated
    landmines still lodged in the ground.
  • Since 1975, landmines have killed or maimed more than one million people.
  • On average, 10 people die every day due to landmine blasts.
  • Even with training, mine disposal experts expect that for every 5000 mines cleared,
    one worker will be killed and two workers will be injured by accidental explosions.

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These details came from the press kit for Land Of Mine, which has just opened in Australia. The Danish mine-clearing campaign was shocking for a number of reasons.

  • It was a violation of the 1929 Convention relating to the Treatment of Prisoners of War.
  • An estimated 2600 POWS were forced to do it. Some were as young as 13.
  • Half of them were killed or injured.

So much for the grim statistics. The film is marvellous and uplifting for the way it shows how, even in the tensest of times, it is possible to break down enmities, to see a friend instead of a a foe – something that I wish political fanatics and bigots all over the world could do today. Do see the movie if you can.

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VOCABULARY

How do you say “landmine” and “to explode” in my five Romance languages?

  • In French, mine terrestre; exploser
  • In Italian, mina terrestreesplodere
  • In Portuguese, mina terrestre; explodir
  • In Romanian, mină terestră or mină de uscat. (When I asked a Romanian friend he said “something like teren minat” but that’s his story.) a exploda, a detona
  • In Spanish, mina de tierra, hacer volar/estaliar/explotar

Photographs supplied courtesy of Palace Films.

Tic-tac, here comes the year of the Rooster

roosterJanuary 2017 has almost gone. The Chinese new year is about to dawn on us. How time flies! What do you plan to achieve in 2017 or in the Year of the Rooster? You’d better hurry, because the clocks are ticking. According to reputable dictionaries (that is, the ones I probably paid way too much money for), in French and Romanian they go tic-tac; in Italian it’s tic tac without a hyphen; in Portuguese tique-taque; in Spanish tictac.

What we need now is a tic-tac song to gee us up. Oh look, here’s one! Even better, the video features waves gently lapping the shore – a symbol of constant, regular motion – and there are nice melodies floating around in it. It’s by Vescan and Mahia Beldo (although only the former appears in the video) and the song has made the Romanian top 10.

What’s it all about? Basically, he is missing the passing of dulce copilărie, or sweet childhood. You can find a rather awkward translation of the lyrics into English here (plus translations into German, Russian and Spanish).

HOW TO SAY ‘TIME FLIES’ IN THE FIVE ROMANCE LANGUAGES

  • French: le temps passe vite
  • Italian: il tempo vola
  • Portuguese: o tempo voa
  • Romanian: timpul zboara
  • Spanish: el tiempo vuela or el tiempo corre (runs)

Although I am not fond of rapping, I do like a lot of the music that Vescan has been involved in – he usually teams up with good singers (an example is Poza de album with Mellina, featured on this post here). In Tic-tac I am impressed with Mahia’s vocals. Here the two perform together live on radio.

How would you like to have Vescan as your language teacher? I think he would be entertaining. No chance of falling asleep in one of his classes!

roosterA happy Year of the Rooster to you

For some amusement, if these things appeals to you, you can find your Chinese new year horoscopes here, but you have to know what animal you are. Find out here.

I’m a rat!

 

 

The foreigners at the BAFTAs

After the recent excitement of the Golden Globes, attention turned today to the BAFTA nominations. The British Academy of Film And Television Arts released its list of 2017 award nominees and, as expected the Hollywood musical La La Land dominated, scoring 11 nominations.

The foreign language film contenders did not include the Golden Globe-winning French film Elle, because it has not yet opened in England, so it will probably be a contender in the 2018 BAFTAs.

But there were French connections. One of the nominees was Dheepan, which looks at the lives of Tamils fleeing Sri Lanka to settle in France. Cheerful stuff!

Spanish is another Romance language that gets a role at the BAFTAs, in the form of Pedro Almodóvar’s Julieta.

I am a great fan of Pedro Almodóvar and will always go to see his films at the cinema, but I must confess  Julieta left me a little cold. That said, I have friends who have raved about it.

Turkish-born French director  Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s Mustang (in Turkish), which was an Oscar contender last year and also won four César awards in 2016, is also a BAFTA contender, as is the 2016 best foreign film Oscar winner Son of Saul (in Hungarian). Completing the list is the German comedy Toni Erdmann, which I will talk about in a later post.

The BAFTA awards will take place in London on February 12.

The Andes, Iguazu and La Ley: what more could you want?

Recently I had the chance to travel to South America – mostly to Brazil, so that was great for my Portuguese, and to a lesser extent in the Spanish-speaking part: Chile and Argentina, to take in the Argentinian side of the Iguazu Falls (Iguaçu in Portuguese), which, let me tell you, are spectacular. Below are a couple of pics I took with my iPhone, which got a soaking during the day.

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Iguazu Falls … multi-layered and magnificent . Photo: Bernard O’Shea

I was also very lucky to have a window seat while flying over the Andes mountains at sunset (heading east from Santiago to Rio de Janeiro). At the top of this post, and below, are two of the photos I took on that memorable journey.

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While I was in Chile I was excited to find out that my favourite Chilean band – in fact, my favourite Spanish-singer artists in the whole wide mundo – La Ley, had re-formed and brought out a new album this year, called Adaptación, their first since 2003.

Here’s my favourite track from it.

There are 12 songs on the album, two of which are in English. The opening track is also appealing. Here’s a studio clip of it.

I hope you enjoyed this visual and aural foray into South America.

Colombian films shine at Spanish Film Festival

The Spanish Film Festival is in full swing in Australia and as usual it has been great to go along and catch some of the action. Sydney and Melbourne got the first bite at the olive this year and are in the “back by popular demand” stage, putting on extra sessions of the most popular films. But Canberra, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and Hobart still have a lot to look forward to. Here’s the official festival trailer.

One film I was very keen to see was Embrace of the Serpent (El Abrazo de la Serpiente), the first Colombian film to be nominated for an Oscar, in the Best Foreign Film category. If you ever get the chance to see it, go! It was fantastic, visually stunning and very thought-provoking. It’s a must-see film for anyone who wants to know about life on the Amazon river and in the jungle.

It is also a linguistic feast: English, Cubeo, Wanano, Tikuna, Huitoto, Okaina, Latin, Catalan, Spanish, Portuguese and German with English subtitles! I guess not many films can beat that.

Check out the trailer.

GREAT ARTICLES ABOUT THE FILM, DIRECTOR AND ACTORS 

Much as I like a good film, I also like a good review of it to match (there’s nothing more off-putting than a tedious review of a great film). The best review I have read of Embrace of the Serpent is this one by Jordan Hoffman in The Guardian.

There are also two interviews I found that are well worth reading:
  • one with the director Ciro Guerra – “I spent five years on this movie because I wanted to take a trip to the unknown. I was tired of the Western way of life, where humans are virtual avatars instead of people. I wanted to see if there was another way of living, and I found it.
  • and the other with a 30-year-old man of Cubeo origin who plays the younger version of the shaman Karamakate – Nilbio Torres had never been to the cinema before and had never heard of the Oscars, until he acted in a film that got nominated for one.

ANOTHER COLOMBIAN FILM TO LOOK OUT FOR 

While I was watching Embrace of the Serpent, a friend of mine who is the arts editor of a newspaper in Canberra was taking in Breathless Time (Tiempo Sin Aire) in the national capital. She texted me after to say it was “amazing”.

For information on all the films in this year’s festival and screening times, the Festival website is here.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE

Palace cinemas are putting on Cine Latino: A New Festival of Latin American Cinema over a two-week period in August, plus there is the Sydney Latin American Film Festival in September.

Frenchmania – A French night in Bucharest

If you have ever wondered how French sounds when spoken or sung by a Romanian (yes, you have thought about this a lot, haven’t you) well here is your chance to find out.

The Institut Française Roumanie in Bucharest recently held a musical gala to promote the French language, and les meilleurs artistes roumains sont venus chanter (top Romanian artists came along to sing). For some, it was quite a challenge, as Dorian Popa explains in a mix of French and Romanian before doing a cover of Maître Gims’ Bella.

If you are not familiar with Maître Gims, you should be! Read about him on my post Sounds of France via Africa. Here is the original version of Bella.

Dorian Popa is a popular pop-rap singer in Romania  who is also well known for his rippling muscles, bulging pecs and formidable six-pack. I’ve selected this clip of this duet with Ruby because it has a lot of footage in Paris and I prefer it to his solo efforts.

So, who else took part in the French soirée? One singer I really like, Keo (I will do a post  on him shortly) does a great cover of Le Vent Nous Portera (The wind will take/carry us), which was a big hit in Europe for the group Noir Désir in 2001.

Adrian (Adi) Despot, who is a member of the band Vița de Vi, did a cover of one of my favourite songs by the band Indochine, Tes Yeux Noirs (Your black eyes).

Here’s Indochine doing the much loved song at one of their tremendous gigs.

I also really like this version, recorded with an orchestra in Hanoi.

A French concert wouldn’t be a French concert without a really romantic ballad. Cornel Ilie, the lead singer of Vunk, steps up for a rendition of Je Te Le Dis Quand Même (I’ll tell you anyway).

Here is the version released in by Patrick Bruel, a prolific French actor and singer.

This upbeat live version shows how well the song has stood the test of time.

Alexandra Ungureanu came on stage to do I Need You More which has verses in French.

Here is the single version that she did with Crush and Leslie. It’s chirpy!

To finish, here’s Keo again, to say he loved you, he loves you and will love you.

That song was originally a single released in 1994 by Francis Cabral. Here is a clip from YouTube which has Romanian subtitles.

 

C’est fini, bonne nuit!

The French film festival est arrivée!

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The adventures continue for big shaggy dog Belle and Sebastian (Felix Bossuet) in the splendid French countryside, and this time they have Gabriele (Thylane Blondeau) to help.

À vos marques, prêts? partez! The Alliance Française French Film Festival 2016 starts today in Australia, so here’s a look at more enticing offerings to add to the great films I’ve already mentioned.

Alpine adventures

A really enjoyable film at the festival a couple of years ago was Belle et Sébastien, a gripping story of the French resistance, dangerous alpine crossings and survival during the second world war, based on the popular novel of the same name by Cécile Aubrey. This year you can see the sequel Belle et Sébastien, l’aventure continue (Belle and Sebastian: The adventure continues). Rather than a battle to outwit the Nazis, this time it is a plane crash in the Alps that triggers the action. If you are a dog lover you must see this (cat lovers, you too!).

Writer’s block and shock

One thriller I will definitely be going to see is Un homme idéal (A Perfect Man). For one thing, it stars the hottest French actor of the moment, Pierre Niney, who won the César Award for Best Actor in 2014 for playing the title role in Yves Saint Laurent. For another thing, it involves a topic close to my heart, creative writing. Niney plays a loser, Mathieu Vassuer, who stumbles across a completed novel manuscript and passes it off as his own and becomes an overnight sensation.

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Ouch, that hurt! Mathieu (Pierre Niney) inspects the damage.

But perhaps stealing someone else’s work wasn’t such a good idea after all – someone might seek revenge. Mathieu becomes more bloodied and bruised as the film progresses, and his world starts to crumble. Plus he has to come up with a second novel. Good writing isn’t easy!

I couldn’t find a trailer with English subtitles on it, but if you don’t understand French, at least the one below will give you some idea of the mounting suspense.

 

A waiting game

It’s always good to see Juliette Binoche on the big screen and she is back in L’Attente (The Wait). She plays Anna, who lives in a beautiful Sicilian villa, and gets a surprise when her son’s supposed girlfriend Jeanna (Lou de Laage) pitches up at her door, having apparently been invited to spend Easter there by her beau. But where is the son, Giuseppe? I guess we will have to wait to find out.

Long live foreign language films!

DATES FOR YOUR DIARY

This year the festival will feature 48 films in the following places:

  • Sydney, March 1-24
  • Melbourne, March 2-24
  • Canberra, March 3-29
  • Brisbane, March 11-April 3
  • Perth, March 16-April 7
  • Adelaide, March 31-April 24
  • Casula, April 7-10
  • Parramatta, April 7-10
  • Hobart, April 28-May 4

Film stills provided courtesy of the French Film Festival.