London 2012: An Emotional Roller-Coaster Ride for an Expat?

by Azelea Bakrie

Now that it’s all (supposedly) over, I find myself somewhat dismayed.

Before it started, I was dreading the traffic, the people, the tourists. I said to anyone who asked, “I’ll be at home, giving my full support through my television I suppose. There was a British Airways ad on the underground that read “If You Shout Loud Enough at the TV, Team GB will hear you” (or something along those lines).

*note of amendment – I found the ad today – here it is! (And I hope there’s no copyright infringement/advertising bloops in sharing this!)

Cheers behind the television works!

After the opening ceremony, I was immediately caught up with it. It got to the point where I went swimming all of a sudden the next weekend, pushing for 20 laps (sorry, I haven’t been to the gym, or done any ‘good’ exercise for at least six months before this). The next morning, my limbs and muscles were, naturally, protesting.

After that weekend, somewhere in the middle of the current week, I dreaded listening to the radio, switching on the TV, or picking up a newspaper. If you haven’t the voices of TV or radio presenters reminding you every five minutes and at every hour’s news what just went on a few minutes ago in the Olympic park and all other designated ‘Olympic’ areas (other than the occasional blurp about what’s going on in Syria), I also find myself stumped by the time I got to the sports section of the papers, wondering what on Earth I had been reading before that!

Yet, I had been keeping myself busy as usual, volunteering in a local charity shop. But it was so quiet I could hear my own heart beat – even the occasional old lady who would visit the shop and treat me to her homemade pies and cookies two to three times a week, disappeared. The high street was deader than dead.

And it never really hit me that I was somewhat caught in between, when I had the impulse of switching on the television, and of all Olympic events, it was archery, where Larry Godrey of team GB was up against Khairul Mohamad of team Malaysia for a spot in the quarter finals. For all the other events thus so far that I managed to partake in front of the black box with moving images, I had been cheering on for team GB, until that day.

Even more so when the Badminton finals were on, where it was Lin Dan of China vs Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia. In my not-so-long years ago of growing up, these two are life-long rivals – I remembered catching a live match between the two in Malaysia for the Petronas Cup.

“For goodness sake woman, calm down! I thought at one point I needed translation services here to understand what you’re on about!” my husband said to me while I was cursing, shouting, cheering and crying altogether during that ultimate match in Bahasa Malaysia. I honestly didn’t know what came over me.

Malaysia and the Olympics-London 2012

And it wasn’t until about 5 days to London 2012’s closing ceremony, that the newspapers finally reported something of more ‘realistic’ concerns – UK’s economic turmoil. GREAAAAT. I didn’t know whether to feel glad that we’re finally hearing of something else in the news, or upset that there’s going to be another round of price hikes, job drops and money-related scandals.

But watching the closing ceremony  of London 2012, it got me thinking about the Paralympics. Why is it considered a separate event, having their own opening and closing? When all health and safety regulations in any house or building in the UK is made to accommodate any disabled persons regardless whether they are really living there or not, then why this kind of a distinction? I could understand that it was not fair competition if they all ran the same race at the same time and place… but does it mean their events couldn’t run within the same period but by separate schedules and venues throughout the duration all together? I was, again, stumped. Not having questioned it till now however, proves that I’ve probably grown up, grown old, and growing into the whole British culture – becoming somewhat critical, easily annoyed and affected by the uncertain weather, and finding reason to complain all the time! Yet I felt a big pang of irony when watching Eric Idle perform ‘Always Look at the Bright Side of Life’ during the closing ceremony of London 2012 – Ah, life, I wish!

Journey of a Linguist

By Chiara

Studying translation is really interesting, and I think everyone would be fascinated by this art, because we can indeed consider it as an ART. I love translating, especially brochures, advertising or documents related to travel and tourism; every time you have a new document to translate it is a new “word hunt” to find the perfect term and give it the right amount of poetry and at the same time make the reader feel cosy and safe. The tourism and leisure industry is very wide and needs lots of translations, and obviously is more interesting than an instruction manual or something similar.. you learn so much new and a lot of other interesting information!

Moreover, to translate in this field you must be a good writer, because you have to give the actual translation, a sound, rhythm as it must be written by a native speaker. And of course when translating I am the native speaker! I have to translate idioms and expressions, and create a text identical to the source but at the same time  keep in mind the factors like the cultural essence and the style of speaking. It requires a lot of imagination and hard work, because sometimes you find words you can’t translate since they don’t exist in the other language, so you must create a short sentence which can explain in few words the idea given by the source word! That’s a very challenging translation! But I like challenges and above all I like the satisfaction when you have found the right periphrasis and with it you give the same meaning and the same nuance of the source text. That’s satisfying! Learning a new language or languages can be a challenge for some people, but for someone like me it is fun. It gives me the opportunity to explore a whole new word. I have managed to learn different languages like French, Spanish, German and English in the last few years. And I intend to continue this great journey to explore new languages, cultures and traditions.

In my opinion everyone may be a good translator, but the basic requirement is to be open minded to understand traditions and ways of living to be able to transfer them into your own language maintaining the same cultural charm of the source.




Things you must know about China and their Culture….

By Hiren

The financial situation across the world is weakening and the major economies like USA and the UK are struggling to cope with this downturn. In such situation China has come across as a winner and is the fastest growing economy in the world. They say China will be the next super power in the world. Aren’t they one already? They seem to be ruling the world. Look at the Olympics Games 2012 for example.  They are dominating the sporting world as well. The eyes of the globe seem to be on China and everyone wants to know more about the Chinese people, their culture , their language, and the way they behave. So if you are planning a trip to China for either of the above mentioned reasons the following steps will help you avoid some embarrassing moments…

Chopsticks Matter… 

 Chopsticks are a very important part of the Chinese culture. If you can’t hold a chopstick correctly then you have very few chances of surviving in China. You will rarely find a spoon when dinner is served in China. Some Chinese people pay great importance in the way you eat with the chopsticks and believe this makes a huge difference in the way people behave. (It’s a Chinese superstition).
First Names a BIG NO…  

People in the west are more used to calling others by their first name but not in China. For example Susi Yang will be called by an American as Susi. But in China she will be addressed as Yang. Only close friends or the family members have the pleasure to call Susi by her first name. So it is of vital importance to understand that in China last names always come first which is completely the opposite from the western world.
 Have you got presents…  

Chinese people are very humble and well mannered. They love giving presents regardless of the occasion. It doesn’t have to be a Chinese new year for a Chinese to give you a present. If a Chinese family are going to their relatives house for dinner which they regularly visit they will still give presents. If you have a Chinese friend than I am sure you are aware about their humbleness and kind behaviour.
Are you a good host…?  

Chinese people visit their family and friends regularly and expect you to be a good host. Offering your guest food or drinks is not enough to be considered a good host in China. Declining food or drinks among Chinese people is common and as a good host it’s your responsibility to keep on offering.
 Behave in Public…  

Tourists have the habit of moaning and complaining about the local people when on visit to a foreign country. However this habit must change if you are planning to visit China. Avoid getting angry and violent in public during your visit to this amazing country. Chinese people respect harmony and peace and as foreigners you must ensure this norm is not broken.
So what are you waiting for?  

China is full of rich history, culture and traditions and is the place to explore in the 21st century. One piece of advice though! Do you know the Mandarin language? If not you might end up looking for Mandarin translation.  Chinese people love foreigners who can speak Mandarin or Cantonese. But don’t worry the different Chinese languages are as fascinating as the country itself. So learning their language is a great journey which you must explore as well.




My Trip to Syria

By Patrizia Stellato

My first trip in Damascus was in August 2009. As soon as I arrived, this ancient and beautiful city impressed me in a very positive way. For its geographic position, getting in touch with Syrian people means to approach a world that seems to be in a perfect balance between East and West, past and present. Small traditional shops, milled around in the crowded, chaotic “suq”, the local traditional markets, full of thousand of colours and scents, coexist with immense shopping centres. Night clubs and discos, full of young people lost in the music and alcohol, stand close to some of the most ancient mosques and churches of the Arab world which face each other, almost as the symbol of an endless struggle between two religions so similar yet so far. This is Syria, or this my first impression of an amazing country where young people try to project into the future but anyway they give importance to traditions and to the national pride.

Furthermore, I was very impressed by the great ospitality and the warm welcome of Syrian people in the way that Arab are famous for. When we got lost in Damascus, people always tried to help us and escort us in the right place. All the friends I met there, still now in my heart, were very hospitable and generous and made us feel at home. The Syrian, a such genuine people, unfortunately, still now, wrongly suffer the lack of democracy and political rights due to an endless dictatorship whose tentacles reach any field of life: freedom of political expression, freedom of press, right of assembly, right of free elections. Syria fascinated me to such an extent that I decided to learn the Arabic language and I can proudly say that now I have completly learned the language.

 After a month in Damascus, we also decided to take a short trip to Palmyra. A deserted ancient Roman situated in an palm-tree oasis, Palmyra is an incredible sight. We arrived there in the evening, and went up to the beautiful old castle to watch the sun set over the stone desert. But we stayed the night in a hotel in Palmyra, and decided to get up early in the morning to see the sun rise over the Roman ruins. We got up at 4.30 the next morning and staggered sleepily into the ruins, expecting to find as many tourists and salesmen as the night before crowding the place but we had all to ourselves and I think t’s probably one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen.

In conclusion, Syria was really a life-altering experience for me. I really miss this heart-breaking country and I hope, one day, to come back there.

Can ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ Really Turn ‘Fifty Shades Darker’?

by Azelea Bakrie

Not that I want to go on about the latest trilogy that everyone seems to be raving about, honest! How it managed to slip into a rather innocent phone conversation I had with my friend just a few days ago however, I thought, would be fun to share with you all! (Of course, before I begin, forgive me my dear friend, if you find this reveal rather embarrassing, somewhat ‘not-so-true’ or ‘defaming’, know that they are none of my intentions!)

My friend had just undergone a laser surgery on the eyes to rid his pair of glasses somewhat for good. According to my friend, there were two options – one where you literally cut the layer that is protecting the lens in your eyeball to correct the lens itself, and the other where you use special eyedrops to ‘melt’ away that same protective layer instead. The former is probably more painful at the time but faster to recover from, while the latter is the exact opposite. My friend’s reasoning to opting for the latter was that it was that the method was ‘more suited’ to the conditions or shape of their eyeballs.

So just to keep my friend company, I rang. I typically asked about the surgery – my friend said that the procedure wasn’t painful at all, but it has then been a few hours at least since, and my friend felt like someone was hammering the eyes in.

“I’ve taken one week off work to recover, really. It would be good, some me-time to myself,” my friend said.

“So what, you’re really just going to trap yourself in the house for one week? What are you going to do?”

“Dunno. Catch up on all the things I’ve been wanting to do…”

“Like what, read?” I replied sarcastically.

“Yea I know, as we speak right now I have my eyes closed. Too painful to keep them open at the moment.”

“Well you could always get those audio books, those would suffice in your conditions. I can help you get them now or something.” Before we knew it, we were both laughing. I somehow managed a phrase between the laughter, “Can you get Fifty Shades of Grey, in an audiobook, REALLY?!”

For those of you who are not familiar with the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ trilogy, it is apparently a set of books that focus on a sado-machocistic relationship between some boss (Mr. Grey?) and employee (Anne?), enjoying torturing each other in bed and keeping it all somewhat in secret. Not that I really know it in detail, or am passionate or curious enough to try and read it, but since it’s the new rave and rarely escapes the press or advertisements from all sorts of comments and promotion, it’s hard not to be in the loop.

“I know the voices in audiobooks tend to be so monotonous or emotionless,” replied my friend, “but how can anyone read that aloud without feeling either embarrassed or turned on?!”

“I don’t really know, but hey, maybe they’d do it like how they do the voices on sat-nav. You know? Just record individual words and kind of piece them all together.” More roars of laughter followed, as we tried mocking some saucy phrases in a rather robotic sat-nav presentation.

“I wonder if it sounds any sexier if it were all read out in French,” my friend went on. I stopped laughing for a while at this point, because this reminded me of the time when I was not even 15 years of age and that film Moulin Rouge was screened in cinemas. Not that I was allowed to watch it, but it’s song, “Lady Marmalade” did not escape the very public airwaves. I kept singing along or out loud at random to the ‘cool’ French bit of the song – ‘voulez vous coucher avec moi, ce soir’. You can imagine my horror when I eventually was told what the phrase meant (would you like to sleep with me?), not knowing that people were actually paying some bit of attention to me for reasons other than being ‘fluent’ in another language.

“Talk about French being the language of love, this is really taking it to a whole new level! Though the books are really, that new, I can’t imagine it even having already given any sort of translation service makeover!” I replied.

“Well, maybe someone can get the transcript done, and I can get innocent people like you who only know what some French phrases mean, to read it aloud for me through the phone or something. After all, you won’t understand it completely but can get the intonation right yet will not be…”

“Oh how dare you!” I protested. All, that said, of course, in good fun

The next half an hour or so of our conversation probably isn’t as interesting, but it did result in me coming over the weekend to cook a rather homemade dinner for four. But for now, and ever since that conversation, I can’t help but ponder at the advertisements, posters and banners that advertise ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ on the windows of almost every bookshop or kinky stores, wondering if I should pick up a copy. I even stare or go end up in a lost gaze when I see someone on the train or bus with a Kindle  or some kind of eBook device (the only ‘saving grace’ for readers with the device is they do not display book covers), wondering if they are lost in the realm of the same sick fantasy. What has kept me off these books so far is that when I do catch someone reading the paperback version, they would be either smiling or biting their lips in a rather odd and suggestive manner, and I’d hate to be caught in public advocating that kind of a look!

So, if you are quite familiar with the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’, what do you think or make of it?What about ideas of it being made into an audio book or film even? Please do share your thoughts with us – we’d love to hear!

It’s Not Just Another Cup of Coffee in Another Cafe!

by Azelea Bakrie

I have to admit – I am not new to England. I have lived here for a year when I was 10 (my parents brought the family along from Malaysia as they did their Masters). As fate would have it, I have just recently married a lovely English man whom I met at random when we were both travelling around South East Asia, and now I find myself somewhat returning to ‘Old Blighty’.

As any migrant would tell you about moving in and out of the UK, the visa is THE big issue. One of the things you have to do before coming here to work, or live, is the English Language Test. The other is the process of application and its waiting time. Trust me, I’ve been forced to sit quiet for over four months for this.

So, what this basically means is that I have lots of free time – and I’m not the very patient type. But I have been meaning to read a lot of books that I just never got round to, and now’s the time to do it!

Chit Chat Talk or Banter Session Anyone?

This also means that I’ve made it a habit to bring a book with me wherever I go, and stop by at every different coffee shop, patisserie or restaurant for a chance to sit down and read while enjoying a cup of coffee, and maybe something sweet to go along with it. While I am selfishly gaining more literary knowledge, caffeine, and weight, I also became more aware of how I am not the only foreigner around. It is through the coffee shops that I realise how diverse the society really is in London! At first, whatever that went on around me was perceived as blabber, noise and distraction, but now it seems that I can’t help but to ‘accidentally’ eavesdrop on conversations that are either nearby or just plain loud. The more I was exposed to this, the more I unconsciously develop an ability to somehow tell what language is being spoken, recognising and loving the different words, intonation or ways being used to describe the typical coffee, cake or muffin in either Italian, Spanish, French, German, Chinese, Indian… and even the occasional other Malaysian. There was once I couldn’t help having coffee rushed out of my nose, when one lady from one end of the room shouted to her friend who was ordering at the counter at the other: “Kita duduk kat sini okay, ada mat salleh kacak kat meja sebelah” (We’re sitting here okay, there’s a good-looking guy at the table next-door)!

Of course, this has not made me want to be able to fluently speak all languages of the world, or becoming an ambitious, world-renowned international translator of a kind. But, I thought it would be nice to be able to carry a little conversation in every other language (and slowly does it) don’t you agree? Does anyone here want to share some commonly used phrases in different languages here? Come and share some with us!

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