Xmas Present Ideas for Culture Vultures and Language Lovers

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acid_house_xmas_face.jpgLooking for inspiration on what to buy friends, family or colleagues for Christmas? Well, let us point you in the direction of 10 great presents that will light up any Culture Vulture’s face.

Every Christmas, it’s a struggle to find the perfect Christmas gift. In the consumer society of this day and age, it gets harder and harder to find something that the person you’re buying a present for doesn’t already have, let alone likes.

In order to break free from the umpteenth bottle of shower gel or box of chocolates this year, we have put together a list of culture and language related gifts that would make the perfect Christmas gift.

From goats to dog T-shirts and from translation devices to cooking lessons, we got you well and truly covered!

1. A Book

We at Kwintessential love a good read. Books provide us with an escape from reality and enable us to immerse ourselves in a completely different world. Fiction, non-fiction, comic books, cook books… the possibilities are endless, so finding an appropriate book isn’t be hard. Options that will send your language-loving cousin over the moon might be a nice dictionary or phrase book of the language he or she is learning. A book about the country he or she has always been interested in might be a good option as well.

Of course, you can pop into your local Waterstone’s to find a neat novel, but if you are looking for a translation-related book, we suggest you check out InTrans. InTrans is the only independent bookseller in the translation industry and you will find dictionaries on specialised subjects, books on the topic of translation theory and much more!

A fantastic book on translation in the real world is Found in Translation by Nataly Kelly and Jost Zetzsche [above] which was released this year and is a great read.

2. Magazine Subscription

Maybe the object of your affection is more into magazines than books? No worries, we have the perfect gift for them as well! Give them a subscription to their favourite culture or translation magazine. You can go for the National Geographic magazine for your well-travelled uncle, and your language-crazy niece might be thrilled to unwrap a subscription to Language Magazine. You can even opt for an online subscription. Go online and you’ll be spoilt for choice.

National Geographic magazine

Take for example, The Toolkit, an online magazine for translators that helps them getting the most out of their computers.

3. Make a Donation

What do you give to someone who already has everything? It might be a good idea to make a donation on their behalf, for example to Translators without Borders maybe? This non-profit organization links volunteer translators to NGOs, which often work in areas where they cannot understand the local language. By providing translations, communication runs smoother and more people can receive help from for example Doctors without Borders or Handicap International. Even though most donations are made in the form of translations, those who aren’t competent in that field can also donate money to educate local translators. Donate now and visit their website.

Translators without Borders

Looking for a donation that is a little more fluffy? There are many organizations that allow you to donate an animal to people in need. This is a very useful gift, as these animals can be a resource for food or drink. Donate a (part of a) goat, llama or some chicks to families all over the world here.

4. Speaking Translator or a Language Course

Who hasn’t been completely lost on holiday? Dad looking puzzled at the map and Mum flipping through Italian for Dummies to find out how to ask for directions? Well, this might be a thing of the past if you give your parents a speaking translator! These nifty little devices, which you can usually find at outdoor stores as well as online, allow you to select a sentence, which the machine then utters for you. The devices also often have a dictionary, so unrecognizable plates of food are a thing of the past as well!

Talking Translator

Even though a speaking translator might be of big help, it will not make you understand what the person you are talking to is saying, and having an actual conversation with a local might be a little awkward when a device is speaking on your behalf … So why not go a little further and buy a language course or CD this Christmas? These courses can be found in practically every language, ranging from Arabic to Dutch, which means you can always find a suitable one. They also come in many different forms: you can opt for language classes at your local college, a workbook that your relative can work through on their own or even a language CD for those that spend a great deal of the day in their cars. Opt for a language course this Christmas and there really is no more excuse for your parents to get lost in foreign cities!

5. Plane Tickets or an International SIM Card

Once they have finished their language course, your Mum and Dad must of course must be given the opportunity to try out their newly acquired skill and develop it further. The best way to actually learn a language is to speak with locals, so it might be a great idea to send them to a country where they actually speak their newly-learned language. Nowadays, many airplane companies have cheap offers to great holiday destinations. So why not book your parents a little city trip? This way, they have a relaxing weekend together and will put into practice what they have learned at the same time!

We all have them: the well-travelled friend with acquaintances all over the world. Social media allows him to stay in touch with all of these people, but sometimes, an old-fashioned ring is just easier than an instant message. Thus, an international SIM card might be a highly appreciated gift. This way, it is cheaper for your friend to call his friends abroad, but his mum will also be very happy with the gift as calls from abroad to the UK are cheaper as well.

6. Funny T-shirt or Mug

Gota linguist friend who already has an entire bookcase filled with books on linguistics but is in dire need of a wardrobe update? Why not give him or her a fun linguist T-shirt!

Linguist's t-shirt

At Cafe Press, there are plenty of options to choose from with prints ranging from ‘I love Linguistics’ to syntax trees. The website also features mugs, bumper stickers and even dog T-shirts with funny pictures and slogans. If you are looking for a funny, language-related gift, this is the web shop for you!

7. Word-a-day Calendar

Learning another language can be very difficult and usually takes up a lot of your time. Relatives who always wanted to learn another language but just didn’t manage to find the time for it might appreciate a word-a-day calendar!

Word a day calendar

These calendars feature a new word in a foreign language for every day of the year. This way, your francophone auntie might finally be able to order a ‘baguette’ at the bakery or a ‘glace’ at the ice cream shop! Other gifts that teach language in an unconventional way are board games in a foreign language or a foreign language poetry magnet set, for example this Italian one. These gifts all combine education and fun at once: what else can you wish for at Christmas?

8. CultureGuide© or Translation Pen

Does your smartphone-addicted big brother enjoy travelling, but does he usually get into trouble because he doesn’t understand the local culture? Give him a CultureGuide© for Christmas! This app, which is available for both iPhone and Android, teaches  you about foreign culture. There is a great number of cultures to choose from and the app features tips that range from health and safety to information about body language: all aspects of culture that are usually only grazed upon by travel guides are discussed elaborately. All of these files can be accessed without a Wi-Fi connection, so your brother will even know how to behave himself in the slums of India!

Another new gadget is the translation pen. You write down a word in your own language, which is then repeated by the pen in the foreign language of your choice. Sounds very sci-fi, but you can see an actual demonstration of a device above. This might be the perfect gift for your little brother that hates learning for his French test! If only he could plug his headphones in…

9. CD or iTunes Gift Card

Got an uncle that absolutely loves music and listens to everything he can get his hands on? He might be very happy if you provide him with some new tunes.

World Music CD

Many countries have their own musical traditions, resulting in many different genres that your uncle probably never have heard of before. Opt for a CD with Portuguese Fado or Congolese Soukous music to give him a gift that he has never received before! If you are not sure about the preferences of your relative, you can always give him or her a music gift card, for example from iTunes. To make it a little more personal, you can include a card with a number of foreign artists you think he or she might like.

10. Cooking Lessons or Foreign Food

If your grandmother loves to prepare food for the whole family but usually sticks to the British classics, why not give her a few cooking lessons that will expand her repertoire? Nowadays, you can get cooking lessons in various cuisines, ranging from good-old Italian to the more experimental African. This way, those boring Yorkshire Puddings will be a thing of the past!

Foreign Food Cooking Lesson

Got a friend that is into food, but is more interested in eating it that the actual cooking itself? There are many shops that sell food that isn’t easily available in the UK. You can try out your local Asian shop for noodles or dumplings or even for other nice culture and food related gifts such as Chinese tea sets or chopsticks. The internet is also a good resource to find many different foreign food items that can make very nice gifts. Why not give your sweet-toothed sister some Japanese candy or your posh aunt some French foie gras?

Got any more ideas? Send us your suggestions via Twitter or Facebook and we shall add them to our list.

The list was lovingly compiled by Elise Kuip.

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