Thursday, 27 August 2009

New tastes of Portuguese food

Stretching from the Minho River on its mountainous northern frontier with Galicia to the dry Algarve in the south, Portugal occupies most of the western coast of the Iberian Peninsula. And though it once ruled half of the world, it has enjoyed far less of the culinary limelight than its neighbor, Spain.

It's a pity, as Portugal is home to a diverse, soulful cuisine anchored in its austere peninsular past and seasoned by its centuries as a colonial power. Between the 15th and the 19th centuries, missionaries, sailors and settlers carried Portuguese cooking techniques to Brazil, Angola, Mozambique and parts of India, China, Malaysia and Japan. There they mingled with local ingredients to create dishes bursting with flavor, like the coconut milk-enriched moquecas of Bahia and the rich curries of Goa.

To their credit, contemporary Portuguese cooks have readily incorporated the spices and hot peppers of the former colonies into their food.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Mnemonic associations and patterns - The key to language learning

Mnemonic Association is a technique used to recall information by associating it to something we already know. To help our mind with something not so easy to remember we associate it to images, sounds, and other senses like smells, feelings and tastes; and even to places and features (which are images, too).

Language students may be encouraged to use their imagination to link new vocabulary to things they already know, words, images, sounds, etc. For example, let's say that for an ESL student who is Italian, he may associate the new English word “rat” to the one he already knows in his first language, “ratto”. Although the pronunciation is different, the words are visually similar. This association will help him to remember the English word for “ratto”.

Portuguese speakers who are learning English have trouble in memorizing the meaning of the words “push” and “pull” because “push” sounds like “puxe”, which is “pull” in Portuguese. So, it's easy to make a confusion and pull that door when the sign on it clearly says “push”! It can be embarrassing sometimes!

To remember which word is what, try to think the opposite and play with the sounds, “When you see 'push', do not 'puxe'!” If they do not “puxe”, they instinctively will pull, then! And as a miracle, the door will open! Most of the times, at least! ;-)

Mnemonic techniques add a sense of fun to the process of capturing and recalling the information. When the educator teaches and encourages the use of these techniques to their students, s/he usually promotes a more relaxed and flowing learning environment. And students certainly gain improved assimilation of the subject learned.

Identifying patterns in the (second) language almost follows the same principle of the mnemonic technique, but it can be more logic than imaginative. For example, if you tell a beginner English learner, whose first language is Spanish, that nouns which end in 'dad' in Spanish (facilidad, humanidad, capacidad, finalidad, sagacidad, etc...) can easily be remembered in English by changing the 'dad' ending to 'ity' (facility, humanity, capacity, finality, sagacity, etc), the student will have access to a great deal of words by identifying patterns like that, and he can gain confidence by using these words even without the teacher or a dictionary.

All in all, by setting a goal, working through it by memorization techniques, pattern associations, and becoming confident about themselves, the students can only be successful! If the student succeeds, the teacher succeeds. And so does the society.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Portuguese high court keeps gay marriage ban

Portugal's Constitutional Court on Friday upheld the country's ban on gay marriage, rejecting a challenge by two lesbians who are seeking to wed.
The court said its five judges ruled 3-2 against an appeal lodged by the women two years ago.

Teresa Pires and Helena Paixao, divorced mothers in their 30s who have been together as a couple since 2003, were turned away by a Lisbon registry office when they attempted to marry in 2006 because the law stipulates that marriage is between people of different genders.

The Portugueses constitution, however, also forbids discrimination based on sexual orientation. The women took the case to a Lisbon court, which rejected their unprecedented challenge.

After considering their appeal against that decision, the Constitutional Court said in a statement posted on its Web site that the constitution does not state that same-sex marriages must be permitted.

The court said the question before it was not whether the constitution allows same-sex marriages, but whether the constitution compels them to be accepted, which it does not.

Paixao said she regarded the decision as "a victory" because the split decision demonstrated that attitudes are changing in Portugal.