’Tis the season to be jolly! In the closing weeks of 2021, the future does indeed seem to gleam a little brighter than it did at the end of 2020, and we truly hope that 2022 is a year of happiness, hope and prosperity for all our readers.
In this festive article, we gaze back to the traditions of celebrations past – from feasts and gift-giving to decorating trees and sending cards – and then we look ahead to next year, when learning a new language may be at the top of your list of resolutions. But how to follow through and keep to your good intentions? We offer some sound advice to help you start as you mean to go on.
Midwinter Festivities through the Ages
If you were to travel back in time, you would see how important the winter solstice (the year’s shortest day – the tallest stone at Stonehenge lines up with sunrise on or around 21st December) was to Neolithic people. They celebrated by cavorting around bonfires and eating lots of meat (as shown by some clever analysis by archaeologists of sites near Stonehenge). Later, the Celts made their dwellings festive with evergreen holly and ivy, gathered mistletoe, and burned a yule log.
The Romans continued the tradition of celebrating midwinter with Saturnalia – several days of wild parties, where masters and slaves swapped places, games were played and feasts were enjoyed. Saturnalia morphed into the medieval twelve days of Christmas (the first record of ‘Christ’s Mass’ was in 1038), where the games and feasting continued, often directed by a Lord of Misrule. As the centuries progressed, the mass feasting and revelry gradually subsided into the family celebrations we enjoy today.
Today’s Christmas Traditions Started with the Victorians…
Why do many of today’s English Christmas traditions seem so comfortingly old-fashioned? Carol-singing, rich fruitcake, sending greetings cards through the post – even the word ‘merry’ is one you only hear in December, as it has now practically fallen out of use. Well, if you turn back the clock you will discover that Christmas as we know it today really started with the Victorians – and is mainly down to Queen Victoria herself. It was Victoria and Albert who popularised decorating a spruce tree with lights and ornaments, eating beef or turkey and mince pies, pulling crackers with little gifts inside and sending Christmas cards. Many Christmas carols originate from this period too.
For more unusual seasonal traditions, this article has some eyebrow-raising examples!
Achieving Your 2022 Language-learning Resolution
After the fun of the festive season, our thoughts turn to the year ahead and what we would like to achieve. If your New Year’s resolution is to learn a second (or third, or fourth!) language, take a look at this article to whet your whistle. Many of our articles this year have focused on learning one of twelve core languages we love to teach – from big hitters such as English and Mandarin, to useful business languages such as German and Japanese. But once you have decided on the language you want to learn, how do you make sure you stick with it?
You may have heard of the effective concept of making SMART goals, and here we give you some pointers for applying this model to language learning so you can stick to your good intentions.
- The S is for Specific – so, instead of saying ‘I want to learn a new language,’ you could hone it to ‘I want to learn Portuguese for business.’
- The M stands for Measurable – you can set yourself mini goals to ensure that you keep track of your progress. You might aim to learn greetings and introductions by week one, times and numbers by week two, and so on.
- A is for Achievable – you want to ensure you are not setting yourself up for failure. If your trip is next weekend, you might be setting your sights too high! Make your goals realistic, depending on your other commitments.
- The R checks that your goal is Relevant – with language learning, this is usually easy to answer, because you know the language that will be of most use to you, and why.
- T is for Time-bound – how will you know that you have achieved your goal? Perhaps you have a business trip in three months, and decide that you want to have conversation-level skills in three months, committing to two hours’ learning a week.
For more tips on how to keep your language-learning plans on track, click here.
Whether you are interested in learning a popular language like Spanish or Mandarin, or perhaps a more obscure language that may seem out of reach, we can help you plan for success. Contact us today to make your 2022 resolution a reality.