European Day of Languages

The 26th September marks the European Day of Languages, an awareness day jointly organised by the Council of Europe and the European Union in 2001. The main objectives of the day are to highlight the importance of language learning and diversifying the range of languages learnt to increase plurilingualism and intercultural understanding, to promote and preserve the linguistic and cultural diversity of Europe, and to encourage lifelong language learning in and out of school, whether for study purposes, professional needs to boost your CV, to use on your travels, or simply as a hobby.

Since the first European Day of Languages the awareness day has grown every year to include more countries and more participants. A range of events are organised across Europe, these include activities for and with children, television and radio programmes, language classes and conferences.

So what are the benefits of learning other languages? To begin, studies show that those who can speak a second or even a third language generally perform better in exams and fare better at IQ tests. Furthermore, trying your hand at learning another language helps to develop open-mindedness about other cultures. As people learn to interact comfortably with people from other countries self confidence can sky rocket. What’s more, globalisation means that people increasingly need foreign language skills to work effectively within their own countries, so an additional language is fast becoming an essential requirement on job specifications.

To get involved, you may want to learn a few handy phrases like ‘hello’, ‘goodbye’, ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ in several European languages, or perhaps you’d like to focus on one European language in particular and try some out some fun games like Swedish scrabble or Hungarian hangman? Other foreign language activities could include watching a foreign film (subtitles optional!) – you can find a comprehensive list of the top 100 French films here – http://www.timeout.com/paris/en/film/100-best-french-films. And for the romantics out there, perhaps you could serenade a loved one with a Spanish song?

Remember, you are never too old to learn another language and to enjoy the opportunities this opens up!

How do you balance?

September 23rd marks the start of ‘National Work Life Week’, an awareness campaign launched by a group of working families three years ago to promote the balance between working life and home life. The organisers believe that we should be ‘working to live, not living for work’, and that ‘giving plenty of attention to both work and family is crucial to ensure that we live in a health society’; I for one, couldn’t agree more.

For me, having a work/life balance is crucial to ensuring that I am a healthy, happy, well-rounded individual. While I’ve made peace with the fact that I don’t have a definitive ‘thing’ (have you ever been asked what your ‘thing’ is at a dinner party or when you meet new people? For me it’s usually that tumble-weed moment when I frantically wrack my brain for a cool, fun hobby or activity that I can say I enjoy doing outside of work that makes me sound interesting) to ensure I have a balance, I think I manage it pretty well.

I work hard while I am in work and love my job, but once I am on the train home, I switch my mindset; I don’t panic about the tasks I have to do the next day, or check my emails on the hour, or worry about impending deadlines – I switch my mindset. I focus on making plans with my boyfriend, friends and family; planning keeps me attuned to most important things in life and I take real comfort in that. Can that be my ‘thing’? Planning? Well, whether it can or it can’t, the truth is, it is!

I asked the other mangos what they do to get the balance right; here’s what a few of them said:

Lydia – As much as I enjoy my job, I’m partial to a bit of socialising (in the pub more often than not!) I come from a big family – seven of us to be precise – so have become accustomed to having lots of people around me. If I’m with my family or friends, with a glass of wine in hand, I’m pretty happy!

I’d always rather be out that in, so whether it’s going to a gig, heading down to the coast for a walk on the beach or planning a holiday, I don’t waste a moment!

Rachel M – My home life is very important to me. In the week, I like to keep fit by going for a run, or I like just chilling out with my boyfriend and watching our favourite TV shows like Breaking Bad (immense!) and Location, Location, Location. At the weekend, I’m usually busy doing DIY and housework but I always tend to arrange catch up with friends or family. If I can’t see them, we usually Facetime or Skype or just use the old fashioned telephone.

Rebecca T – My travel blog really helps me to get the balance right. I love planning my next travel adventure and blogging to the world about the ones I’ve already been on.

Jackie – My work-life balance is being a mum to my two girls and trying to fit my social life around their ever-increasing social lives. I find wine helps to achieve the balance too.

Joanna – I (try to) make sure that when I’m at work I get as much done so that I don’t have to worry about working at home in the evenings. I enjoy making plans to see my friends, whether that’s meeting up for a drink, catching a movie together or going out for dinner. I always aim to have something fun to look forward to at the weekend too so that come Monday, I feel like I’ve made the most of my 2 days off.

Rach W – Sometimes it’s good to just switch off completely. No conversations, no obligations, just peace and quiet so you can let your mind go. Maybe listen to some music, maybe try and head for somewhere open and green (you can take the girl out of the Peak District etc). And when you’re done with that, it’s good to spend time with family and friends, eating good food, putting the world to rights and having a giggle.

Let us know how you strike a balance?