Spring arrives this year at 5:24pm on March 20, but in many parts of the country, the mild winter has caused flowers and trees to bloom early, so many of us have seen our daffodils and and forsythia go into bloom already.
Technically, what is spring? The vernal equinox occurs when the sun is positioned exactly over the equator, making day and night an equal length. Even though it seems like spring has come early to some of us, astronomy says we have to wait until 5:24 on March 20 for it to be official.
So what’s the difference between a solstice and an equinox? The seasons change because the earth is tilted and different points on the planet get different amounts of sunlight at different times of the year. If the planet wasn’t tilted the sun would always be over the equator and there wouldn’t be any seasons.
The two solstices occur in June (the longest day), and December, (the shortest day) – the days when the sun is farthest north or south of the equator. The two equinoxes occur when the sun is exactly over the equator.
But we experience spring (la primavera) with our minds and senses, not by an astronomical chart. We look on this season as a time of rebirth, of color and growth. Did you know that learning a foreign language can grow and exercise your mind? Learning a new language is a great brain workout.
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Learning Something New is Good for Your Brain
Research has shown that learning a new skill is good for you! It helps you focus, be in the moment, reduce stress and calm down. In other words, it gives your brain a chance to get out of your normal routine and relax.
Learning new things or acquiring new skills is not just for the young. A common assumption is that once we’re not children we stop learning, but new research has shown that we can learn, change and develop new skills as we age. A good combination of physical, mental and social attributes contribute to the best activities to learn and develop your brain.
But we’re all busy, right? How do we fit one more thing into our schedule? Remember, you’re doing this for you so treat it like the other important things in your life: Take a class – you’ll have to show up. Focus on one activity, that way you won’t be cluttering your mind with too much input. Schedule time to practice. Think of your practice time as an appointment that you have to keep, like a doctor’s appointment, haircut, or business meeting.
Look for an activity that focuses on specific skills: painting, learning an instrument or learning a new language. If you’re athletically inclined, take up a new sport or get more proficient at one you already participate in. A 2013 study showed that adults who did new complex activities performed better on long term memory tests than people who worked on crossword puzzles and reading.
Here’s a link to some research results.
Learning a new language or improving your current skills is a great brain workout. It encourages you to think differently, and uses different parts of your brain to encode new mental processes. So put down that crossword puzzle and contact Luminoso Language Services to start or improve your Spanish or Italian speaking skills today. It’s fun, educational and will keep your mind active and healthy.
Happy New Year! (¡Feliz año nuevo!)
Now that the fireworks and champagne toasts are done, we at Luminoso Language Services thought we would let you know of some Latino and Spanish traditions for New Years Eve.
A tradition that originated in Spain and is celebrated in many South and Central American countries is burning out the old year to get rid of negative karma from the past year. In some countries, the tradition is to write down the negatives on a piece of paper and burn it; in others people make or buy effigies to burn at midnight.
Another Spanish tradition widely followed in the Americas is eating 12 grapes at midnight – one grape for good luck for each month of the year. You can also make wishes on each grape. This tradition started in Spain in 1895 when grape farmers wanted to sell an over-abundance of grapes.
If you want to travel, people in Venezuela and Colombia believe that walking around the block with a suitcase will increase their chances of travel in the new year. To travel a person needs money, right? In Ecuador celebrants hide money around the house to bring prosperity, in other areas, people put money in their shoes.
What better way to make a clean sweep of the past year than cleaning your house? Families clean their houses so they are spotless by New Year’s Eve.
An ancient Roman tradition was to put lentils in their purses with the hope that they would turn to gold. Lentils are a symbol of of prosperity, so this tradition has translated into eating a bowl of lentils at midnight, or planting or putting lentils in your pocket to keep your finances straight in the coming year.
Windows are symbolic of fresh air, so two traditions that exploit that are: throwing last year’s calendar or a cup of water out the window. If it’s the water, the cup should be carried around the house to collect the bad vibes before it’s tossed.
And finally, your underwear matters! Wearing the following colored underwear on New Years Eve will attract:
- Red: Attracts love, romance, and passion.
- Yellow: Attracts money, prosperity, abundance, and financial stability into your life.
- White: Represents peace, harmony, and calmness.
- Black: Associated with luxury, power, and sexuality.
- Green: The color of health, good luck, and protection. Wear them for all-around good fortune!
- Blue: Believed to bring balance and stability. Good for making that elusive personal project come to life or getting that job you always wanted.
Imagine if you layered them and wore them all what a great year you would have!
Contact us to start you New Year with personal, online Spanish lessons
Feliz Año Nuevo from Luminoso Educational Services!
How Difficult is it to Learn a New Language?
The short answer is: it depends on the language you choose and how close it is to your native language. Other factors are:
- How complex is your new language?
- How many hours a week can you devote to learning the language?
- Your Motivation
- Your language learning resources
Here’s a list of common languages that are easiest and hardest to learn for English speakers with the population of native speakers .
|Easy – 23-24 weeks
575-600 class hours:
Spanish 329 million
Portuguese 178 million
French 67.8 million
Italian 61.7 million
Romanian 23.4 million
Dutch 21.7 million
Swedish 8.3 million
Afrikaans 4.9 million
Norwegian 4.6 million
|Medium 44 weeks
1,110 class hours
Hindi 182 million
Russian 144 million
Vietnamese 68.6 million
Turkish 50.8 million
Polish 40 million
Thai 20.4 million
Serbian 16.4 million
Greek 13.1 million
Hebrew 5.3 million
Finnish 5 million
|Hard – 88 weeks
2,200 class hours
Arabic 221 million
Chinese 1.2 billion
Japanese 122 million
Korean 66.3 million
At Luminoso Language Services we make learning Spanish and beginners Italian fun and easy. To get started, fill out our form. We look forward to hearing from you!
All data from U.S. Department of State Foreign Service Institute
The Day of the Dead- It’s Not Halloween!
Day of the Dead—or Día de los Muertos is celebrated in Mexico, Latin America and the United States to honor those those loved ones that have passed. Though Halloween and Day of the Dead are celebrated close together (Day of the Dead is on November 1 and 2), the two holidays aren’t connected. Halloween has Celtic roots and Day of the Dead traces its origins to the Aztecs, Mayans and Toltecs in Central America and Mexico. After the Spanish arrived the ritual period was finalized on the days of two Spanish holidays – All Saints Day and All Souls Day – November 1st and 2nd.
In spite of its morbid name, the Day of the Dead is a celebration of life, not death. The indigenous people that originated the celebration believed that death was was the beginning of new life when the spirits of the dead temporarily join the living. So the holiday is an opportunity to remember those who have departed with music and dancing.
Day of the Dead has it’s own symbols, just like Halloween, but instead of ghosts, pumpkins, skeletons, witches and black cats, the symbols are Monarch Butterflies (believed to hold the spirits of loved ones), Calaveritas de azucar (Sugar skulls), paper banners and a marigold native to Mexico who’s strong scent and bright colors create a path that leads the spirits from the afterlife to the family home. There, and at gravesites, the families sometimes create alters (ofrendas) as locations to celebrate.
The ofrendas are decorated with offerings to the spirits that represent the four elements: Fire – candles, water – to quench the thirst of the spirits, earth – traditional foods, and wind – the paper banners (paper picado) that have cut-outs to allow the souls to pass through.
Halloween has lost its spiritual beginnings, it’s now a night for children, candy and parties, but the spiritual roots of Día de los Muertos are still strong as people join in celebration of the memories and spirits of those they have lost.
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Hispanic Heritage Month is Sept 15 – Oct 15
Hispanic Heritage Month recognizes and celebrates the contributions Americans tracing their roots to Spain, Mexico, Central America, South America, and the Spanish-speaking nations of the Caribbean have made to U.S. society and culture. The observance was born in 1968, when Congress authorized the president to issue an annual proclamation designating National Hispanic Heritage Week. Two decades later, lawmakers expanded it to a monthlong celebration, stretching from September 15 to October 15.
The timing is key. Hispanic Heritage Month — like its shorter precursor — always starts on September 15, a historically significant day that marks the anniversary of independence of five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. The designated period is also a nod to those from Mexico and Chile, which celebrate their independence September 16 and September 18, respectively.
Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated in many ways this year.
- Read a Proclamation from President Biden here
- The U.S. Department of State recognizes the contributions of its staff by highlighting their achievements. Read more here
- Here’s a link to scholarships available to Hispanic students
- Here are some facts from the U.S. Census Bureau
- Here’s a listing of events from the Library of Congress
- More ways to celebrate throughout the country here
How will you celebrate? Let us know in the comments.
Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month by starting your Spanish lessons today! Click Here to get more information.
The story of Ñ and why it took so long to be able to use it in a URL
The grapheme Ñ is a mainstay of the Spanish language. It’s formed by a tilde (also called a virgulilla – little comma) over an upper or lower case N. It’s the 15th letter of the Spanish alphabet, after N, and has its own name, eñe. More than 15,700 words in the Spanish language contain it. Another example of a grapheme like this is the German W, which came from a double V or the German umlaut.
Have you noticed that the symbol ~ is an abstract n? Ñ formally originated in the eighteenth century with its first official recognition by the Royal Spanish Academy as a contraction of NN. Año in old Spanish was spelled anno (Latin annus) and the use of the tilde was developed as a shorthand version and was finally adopted and added to the Spanish alphabet. One theory of its origin is that in the Middle Ages monks devised its usage as a way to save parchment and time. One of the first usages is found in a document dated 1175.
Italian and French use gn for the same sound.
The use of Ñ has gradually become adopted in the U.S. Have you ever ordered a piña colada, had extra jalapeños on your nachos and talked about El Niño when discussing the weather?
So why hasn’t Ñ been used in URLs until last year? There’s no eñe in English and much of the tech developments for the internet started in the U.S. In 2021, a law passed in Spain set the standard that enabled the use of ñ in a URL.
You don’t have to know all 15,700 words in Spanish that use Ñ, but we can help you learn a lot of them with our personalized individual or group lessons. Contact us for more information.
The History of the Siesta, plus a Summer Recipe
The hot weather recently made us think of the history and origins of the siesta and how it evolved.
The word siesta in Spanish means nap, but it comes from the Latin hora sexta – the sixth hour (from dawn, traditionally).
The siesta as we know it originated in Spain, but the custom was practiced by the Romans and numerous other countries where the midday heat made it too hot to work. After the Spanish Civil War, many people had to work two jobs to survive, so the hours between 2:00 and 4:00pm became a time to eat and rest before going the their second job. This time period is still characteristic of Spain, although the standard 20-30 minute custom of taking a nap is diminishing.
But the tradition lives on! In the U.S. and other countries the idea of the power nap has taken hold. The power nap, about 20 minutes long, can restore alertness and reverse the impact of a poor night’s sleep. A university study found better memory recall after a short period of sleep. Studies have shown that limiting your siesta to under 45 minutes is the optimal period for a nap, otherwise you may drift into deep sleep which is when you wake up groggy for a while.
Since the long lunch period is still a tradition in Spain and it’s been so hot, here’s a recipe for Gazpacho, the Andalusian cold vegetable soup, perfect for a summer’s day.
If you’re trying to avoid the heat (or the cold, rain or snow), a perfect way to spend time indoors is learning Spanish. Contact Luminoso Language Services to learn more.
Cheech Marin’s Chicano Art Museum Opens
We all know Cheech Marin as an actor and one half of the stoner comedy team of Cheech and Chong, but for years he’s also been an avid collector of Chicano art. He’s been collecting art for 40 years and parts of his collection have been touring museums and breaking attendance records during that time.
The collection is now housed in a new museum in Riverside, California. The museum is officially called the Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art & Culture, but let’s face it, “The Cheech” is much more appealing. It occupies 61,420 square feet in what was formerly Riverside’s main library. Cheech’s collection now numbers 700 pieces of Chicano art. He’s gifted 500 pieces to the museum where there are about 100 pieces currently on display, along with other exhibits.
Cheech’s interest in art started in the 1980’s and he credits his ex-wife, a painter for opening his eyes to contemporary art. He sees the art in his collection as mixture of Mexican art, world art and pop culture.
“It was also art history that I understood, because all these artists were either art school and/or university-trained,” Marin says. “So they weren’t naive backyard artists that did it on weekends — these are really serious artists that were influenced by world art.” He compared seeing the art to hearing the Beatles for the first time – the Beatles filtered American music through their lens and the artists filtered pop culture through a Chicano lens.
The term Chicano came into use in the 1960’s as a political movement for people of Mexican descent to express political empowerment, ethnic solidarity, and pride.
Finding out about Cheech’s other side is rewarding and show’s a different side of his personality and interests. Find a way to express yourself in a second language – contact Luminoso Language Services to learn Spanish at any level.
Do You Know the Difference Between Spanish and Mexican Cuisine?
They may share a common language, but the cuisines of Spain and Mexico are vastly different. Though Spain conquered much of the Americas, the influence of the native cuisines of Latin America is strong throughout the continent.
The cuisine of Mexico is a combination of these two cultures. It has elements of Spanish cooking, but the staples are local foods: corn, beans and chili peppers. There’s also more of an emphasis on meats like beef, chicken or pork.
And what about the peppers?? Some of the hottest peppers in the world are used in Mexican cuisine. They vary in heat from Habaneros (100,000 to 350,000 Scoville heat units) to milder types such as poblanos (1,000 to 1500 Scoville heat units.) Corn is another staple, dried and used in soups and other dishes but primarily in tortillas empanadas and tamales.
Sauces are also very important in Mexican cuisine and add many complex flavors to the food. Their sauces rather than their other ingredients define many dishes.
The Spanish influence on Mesoamerican food starts with the new ingredients they brought from Europe: sugar, wheat, rice, onions, garlic, limes, oil, dairy products, pork, beef and many others which were not native to the Americas.
But it works both ways. When Spain invaded the Americas, they discovered ingredients such as tomatoes, potatoes, maize, bell peppers, spicy peppers, paprika, vanilla and cocoa, or chocolate. The Spanish were the first ones to mix sugar and chocolate. Other influences on Spanish Cuisine were Moorish and Jewish (Sephardic) cooking.
Spanish cuisine is considered Mediterranean cuisine. Seafood plays a large part in all Spanish cooking as do meats such as pork, chicken, lamb and beef. In contrast to the use of powerful spices in Mexico, Spanish cooking relies heavily on garlic and saffron. Spain is the biggest producer of olive oil in the world, and it’s used extensively in most Spanish dishes.
Spanish cooking varies greatly from region to region depending on location and geography. Here are a few:
- Andalusia is famous for gazpacho, and iberico and serrano ham
- Castilla-La Mancha (home of Don Quixote) relies on small game for meat because of its dry climate,
- Catalonia has three regions – coastal, mountains and interior so the cuisine varies from seafood to pork with an extensive use of vegetables.
- Valencia has two regions – coastal (home of Paella) and rural which has more meat based food.
Spain is also famous for tapas- from the verb tapar (to cover). Tapas originated in Andalusia in bars or taverns where customers used slices of meat or bread to cover their drinks. Tapas have evolved from that simple origin to a sophisticated range of dishes using anything from vegetables to seafood and meats.
You can’t go wrong with either cuisine since both are delicious! You also can’t go wrong learning Spanish to order your favorite meals. Contact us at Luminoso Language Services to start your lessons.