December 20, 2009


Los Angeles has a large and growing Latin American population.  Their influence on the city is substantial. Notices in public places are usually in both English and Spanish while business advertisements in Spanish alone are everywhere. Virtually all businesses provide Spanish interpretation upon demand.  

 A couple of months ago, a colleague  invited me to her daughter’s Quinceañera.  In the Latin culture, this is the coming-of-age ceremony for girls, much like the American or Canadian Sweet Sixteen celebration.  The quinceañera (also means the birthday girl) celebrates her quinceaños or fifteenth birthday on this day.

If parents could afford it, a big party is thrown where the entire Quinceañera celebration is similar to a wedding ceremony and consists of two parts.  The morning is spent at church where the quinceañera affirms her faith.  Those of Latin descent are usually Roman Catholics so there is a blessing given by the priest, followed by the presentation of gifts by family elders usually of a religious nature, like a Bible.  In the Latin culture, the girl’s godparents, or padrinos, play a very important role in her life and is also present during the mass and dinner.  

 Click here for a short overview video.

At nighttime, a dance party is held at a restaurant or banquet hall, which is decorated with one or two theme colors of the girl’s choosing.  Prior to the day, the quinceañera selects her ball gown (similar looking to a wedding gown) and her Court of Honor consisting of friends and relatives of the same age group to accompany her during the waltz performance at the dinner party.  The quinceañera herself is escorted by a male companion.

Click here to see a waltz performance.

After the waltz, other traditions are also carried out that night.  Usually, the quinceañera first comes in a pair of flat heel shoes that are then taken off and changed into high heels by her father during the “Shoe Changing Ceremony”.  The mother then assists in the coronation or crowning ceremony and exchanges this with her doll.  This is then followed by the Father-Daughter Dance, where the father and daughter take the first dance.  Other older male family members (e.g. brothers, grandfathers, uncles, godfathers) may also ask to take her around the dance floor.  Then the dance floor is opened up to all guests with the playing of fast songs, characteristic of the Latin culture. 

Click here to see some of the traditions and a father-daughter dance.

Of course, this ceremony may be celebrated on a smaller scale, like at a family’s backyard, depending on the financial well-being of the parents.

If you are ever invited to a Quinceañera make sure you accept it!

A Thanksgiving feast

November 22, 2009

First, I want to apologize for not being able to update my blog as frequently recently; I’ve been swamped with work. Today’s post will also be short but I’ll compensate by writing a longer post next time.  

The American holiday, Thanksgiving, will be celebrated this upcoming weekend so just wanted to talk briefly about it.  Thanksgiving is a big deal for Americans and Thanksgiving dinner is the highlight, comparable to the celebration and dinner eaten during the Lunar New Year by those of Asian descent.  Just like the Lunar New Year for Asians, Thanksgiving is a time when family members gather to give thanks for all that they have.  Even though there are variations, here are some of the more traditional dishes eaten during this day:

I personally prefer pumpkin pie, which is also my favorite Thanksgiving dish, over apple pie!


 One thing that I am thankful for this year is having you as a loyal follower of my blog!  Thank you for your continued support!   

Lastly, to those of you who do celebrate this holiday, Happy Thanksgiving!

St. Patrick’s Day

August 3, 2009


(This was originally posted in March during St. Patrick’s Day.)

St. Patrick’s Day (also known as St. Paddy’s Day) falls each year on March 17.  It originated from the country or Ireland, with parts of Ireland observing it as a public holiday.  In the United States, St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated but not officially observed as a holiday.  Although originally tied in with the Roman Catholic faith, today, St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated by non-believers also.  Generally, Americans, of Irish descent or not, would wear green (not entire costume, just one article of clothing) as the color green in the Irish culture is seen as a color of luck.  In parades around the nation, one may see men wearing green hats!  (A man wearing a green hat is not a taboo in the Irish culture, but so in the Chinese culture.)  Likewise, a shamrock may be given to one another for good luck.  In fact, Americans have been very conscious to wear green on this day to avoid getting pinched!  As an excuse to drink alcohol, especially Irish alcoholic beverages, people may also declare themselves “Irish for a day”. 

            Legend has it that St. Patrick’s Day is supposed to be the luckiest day to spot a leprechaun.  The belief is that if you see one, keep staring at it as it will have lead you to his pot of gold which he keeps at the end of a rainbow or grant you three wishes.  Remember to keep your stare because once you blink or divert your gaze, it will disappear forever.  Try your luck on this day!  Maybe you’ll spot a leprechaun and his pot of gold and have luck for the rest of the year!  Good luck!  (Source: Kolnkgin)


To read more about St. Patrick’s Day and its associated history and stories, here are two sites of interest-




Listen to this episode to hear the pronunciation of each of the following words.  

alcoholic beverage (n)- a drink with alcohol which can make one drunk

article of clothing (n)- one part of an outfit

blink (v)- to naturally close and open the eyes

gaze (n)- a stare

Ireland (n)- a country to the northwest of the continent of Europe which exists as an island

Irish (n)- language, people or culture of Ireland

legend (n)- a story that may not be true which tells about or explains an event, person, or phenomenon

leprechaun (n)- a dwarf-like man of Irish folklore associated with St. Patrick’s Day

observe (v)- to follow, as in a law or custom

pinch (v)- to squeeze made by the thumb and the forefinger

Roman Catholic (n)- a Christian religion with the Pope in Rome as its leader  

shamrock (n)- three-leafed clover

St. Patrick’s Day (n)- holiday of Irish origin celebrated on March 17th each year

taboo (n)- something avoided due to religious or social belief

Hey, what’s up?

August 1, 2009



As a continuation of our discussion on greetings, this time let’s talk about informal greetings.  Like formal greetings mentioned last time, informal greetings are also rhetorical questions, which do not necessarily need to be responded to.  For instance, in actual use, some people merely respond with a “Hey” or “Hi” when asked “What’s up?” and nothing more.  However, for the sake of politeness, I suggest responding to the question (see below for possible responses) and return the question.   

The major difference between formal and informal greetings is that informal greetings should be reserved with friends and not used in a formal or business setting.  Do note that fellow co-workers who know each other very well may use these with each other, so you may actual hear this in your office.  To maintain the utmost professionalism on the job, informal greetings should not be used with clients though (although some people do this).  Also, informal greetings are used more often by the younger generation, as compared to the older generation.

Now you may see that there is a long list of informal greetings which one may use. What’s the difference?  And, what does each mean?  Each of these is used as a greeting.  Like the formal “How are you?”, a question is preferred as a greeting rather than a mere “Hey” or “Hi”, as it is a sign of care and stems from human’s curious nature.  However, in terms of usage, any one is not preferred over another by English speakers, although every English speaker does have his or her preference. Try using different ones!



What’s up/What’s new (with you)?

What are you up to (lately)?

What’s new (with you)?

What’s going on?

What’s happening?

How’s everything (with you)?

How’s it going?

How’s work (or another activity)?

How goes work (or another activity)?



Nothing much/Not much/Nothing (going on).

Lots…(name your recent activities)

(I’m) Wonderful/Great/Good/Good, good/Pretty good/Fine/Alright/Okay/Not too bad/So so/(Just the) same/Not too well/Surviving.

I’ve been the same/well/good/, (how about with you)?


* Words/Phrases inside parenthesis ( ) means optional.

A New Birth of Freedom

July 22, 2009




(This was originally posted during Obama’s inauguration.)

The theme of the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama is “A New Birth of Freedom”, which marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln.  Born in 1809, Lincoln was the sixteenth president of the United States and the chief force behind the emancipation of slavery in the nation.  Less well known is that Lincoln belonged to the Republican Party, which since its founding, opposed slavery, a highly debated issue at the time.  Eventually, the divided opinions over the issue of slavery culminated in the Civil War, fought from 1861 to 1865.  Lincoln’s victory preserved the unity of the nation and freed slavery.  Despite being from the Democratic Party, instead, Obama will be sworn in as the 44th president on the same Bible used by Lincoln during his first inauguration in 1861 as the significance of his being the first president of African descent cannot be undermined.

I’m very excited to witness this historic inauguration, are you?


July 21, 2009




(Note that the pronunciation below is not based on the International Phonetic Alphabet IPA. Only stress marks and syllable separation are provided.)

(This post was originally created during Obama’s inauguration)

Listen to this episode

the Capitol (n) (‘ca·pi·tol) – the location where Congress convenes.  Note the difference between the name of this building and ‘the capital’ which is the city of the center of government

commencement (n) (co·’mence ·ment) beginning. One may often see “commencement ceremony” to describe a graduation ceremony as it marks the beginning of advancement to higher education or into the professional world.

inauguration (n) (i ·,nau·gu·’ra·tion)

historic (adj) (hi·’stor·ic) – something of value or has significance in history (i.e. an historic election).  Note the meaning difference between this word and ‘historical’ (adj). ‘Historical’ means from the past (i.e. an historical cultural relic, an historical costume).

oath (n)

president-elect (n) (’pre·si·dent·e·lect)

swearing-in (n) (,swea·ring·’in)

Republican (n, adj) (re·’pub·li·can)

Democrat (n) (’dem·o·crat); democratic (adj) (,dem·o·’crat·ic)

The swearing-in ceremony of the president of the United States marks the commencement of his term in office.  The highlight of the ceremony involves the taking of an oath.  The inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama will be an historic event as he will become the first African American president. Both Republicans and Democrats are expected to gather at the Capitol to witness this momentous event.

Note that ‘an historic’ and ‘a historic’ are both used in spoken English (American English speakers, especially, not sure about British English speakers).  However, in writing, ‘a historic’ is preferred.