Image article - Living and working with different cultures

Living and working with different cultures

Who has never faced different cultures in his life? Abroad during vacations, in the street, at work, while surfing on internet… we are constantly in contact with other cultures. Living or working with different cultures concerns everybody in our private or professional life and impacts all kind of organizations. Generally speaking, a culture refers to the cumulative deposit of knowledge, experience, beliefs, values, learned behaviors, traditions acquired by a group of people which are transmitted from generation to generation. Below some traditions from different countries of the world.


1. What is a pending coffee?
A pending coffee or “caffé sospeso” in Italian is a cup of coffee paid for in advance as an anonymous act of charity. The tradition began in the working-class cafés of Naples, where someone who had experienced good luck would order a sospeso, paying the price of two coffees but receiving and consuming only one. A poor person enquiring later whether there was a sospeso available would then be served a coffee for free.

2. The sky is falling on us…
To banish previous bad luck, particularly in southern Italy, old pots and pans, clothes or any old and unwanted items are thrown from upstairs windows during end of year celebrations.

3. A specific meal structure !
Traditional Italian menus have five sections (antipasto, primo-piatto, secondo-piatto, fromaggio, dolci). A full meal usually consists of an appetizer, first course and a second course with a side dish. It’s not necessary to order from every course, but usually people order at least two courses. Traditional meals may last one or two hours or even longer.


4. Teeth tossing…
Loosing teeth is a “BIG” event for any child around the world… it lets them know that they are becoming a big boy or girl. Some cultures pop children’s teeth under their pillows and wait for a swap with candies or cash by a fairy. In greece, they throw a kid’s recently liberated tooth on their roofs.


5. Be carefull not to offer any “poisoned gifts“.
Clocks, handkerchiefs, straw sandals and flowers are all associated with death and funerals in China. Deemed inappropriate and morbid, you’ll risk damaging the relationship if you present these gifts—for any occasion—to someone in China.

6. Superstitions – things to know to get away with bad luck.
While Christmas and New Year period is a time of festivity, there are quite a few things to avoid doing – according to Chineese – to dodge a year’s worth of illness or bad luck. Related to the loss of wealth, knives and scissors should not be used as any resulting accident is thought to lead to “inauspicious things” – including “the depletion of wealth“. More bad news for your bank balance – and the cleanliness of your house. If you sweep on this day then your wealth will be swept away too.


7. Going to KFC for Christmas dinner.
When you think about Christmas dinner, your mind immediately goes to staples like ham, turkey, and mashed potatoes, or even the fancy Christmas goose. For people who live in Japan, however, it’s all about the fast-food chain KFC. According to Smithsonian Magazine, the tradition began all thanks to a successful campaign launched by KFC back in 1974.

8. The unique famous penis festival.
Every year, on March/April, the Japanese take part in a fertility celebration called Kanamara Matsuri (otherwise known as The Penis Festival). Participants carry a giant penis-shaped statue across town, which is supposed to ensure fertility for everyone and everything, including the local crops.


9. Like singing? Limit it to the shower when in your house.
In the Netherlands, spilling salt in the table or lending salt to a neighbour is considered bad luck. Singing at the dinner table should also be avoided because it’s thought that you are singing to the devil.


10. Blackening the bride !
Bride is surrounded by her friends before her wedding and all ugly things are thrown at her loke soot, eggs, paints, etc… When she is fully covered with such things, she is then paraded around town that is very humiliating. Reason behind this is to prepare her for upcoming Marital Problems.


11. Never add more salt or pepper !
If you are invited over for dinner and want to add more salt to your dish, dare not touch the saltshaker because Egyptians feel it is equivalent to insulting the host.


12. Breaking things to get away with bad spirits.
Before a couple marries in Germany, their families and friends will have an informal get-together where they will break things – many things such as dinner wares and flower vases – until the entire place is in shambles. (The only exception to the rule is you can’t break glasses). Afterwards, the betrothed couple will clean up the mess as a symbol of being united and the willingness to tackle hard work together which is necessary to make their marriage work.


13. Forbidden to clink glasses full of beer.
The most mysterious custom in Hungary, for foreigners and Hungarians alike, is that Hungarians never clink glasses full of beer. The most known explanation seems to be that the Austrians celebrated their victory over Hungary in 1849 with a few mugs of beer. This celebration marked the beginning of a long regime of terror and the vengeance against the rebel Hungarians.


14. Socks full of holes as a pledge of loyalty.
Hand in hand with the beautiful, elegant and glamorous tradition of the bridal waltz is a special tradition just for the groom. Male guests will lift the groom up in the air and cut off the toes of his socks. Danish believe that no woman would be attracted to a man wearing socks full of holes and therefore believe that the groom will be loyal to his wife.


15. Look before you leap in the street…
The legend says that the manhole covers in this Scandinavian country can control one’s dating destiny. The covers are marked with either a “k” which technically stands for kallvatten (fresh water), or an “a” for avlopp (sewage). But the superstitious read these letters differently, believing that the “k” represents kärlek (love) and the “a” signifies avbruten (broken love, aka, the sewer). Because of this, hopeless romantics and the perpetually single are often seen ducking and weaving throughout the streets, incorporating all of the “k” manholes into their routes while adamantly avoiding those labeled “a”.


16. Vive le roi !
In France, Epiphany is celebrated in January with a “King cake”. This cake is made with a pastry crust and a dense centre of sweet frangipani. The person who gets the piece of cake with a porcelain figurine inside gets to be the king for the day and wears the paper crown which accompanies the cake!

17. Poisson d’Avril “April Fish” !
Simple office pranks to elaborate hoaxes are just as much part of the French tradition for April Fools’ day as it is in the US and many other English speaking countries however, it’s not called April fools’ day. Instead, those lucky victims who are fooled on April 1st are called a “Poisson d’Avril” (April Fish) and a common prank, especially among school aged children is to stick a paper fish on the back of some unsuspecting person.

Title - 2. High context or low context?

The anthropologist Edward Hall founded the field of intercultural communication in 1959 with his book The Silent Language. He defines intercultural communication as a form of communication that shares information across different cultures and social groups. One framework for approaching intercultural communication is with high-context and low-context cultures, which refer to the value cultures place on indirect and direct communication.

A high-context culture relies on implicit communication and nonverbal cues. In high-context communication, a message cannot be understood without a great deal of background information. Asian, African, Arab, central European and Latin American cultures are generally considered to be high-context cultures.

A low-context culture relies on explicit communication. In low-context communication, more of the information in a message is spelled out and defined. Cultures with western European roots, such as the United States and Australia, are generally considered to be low-context cultures.

Image article - The most powerful languages worth to be learnt

The most powerful languages worth to be learnt

The main problem with most of the articles available in internet showing ranking of the most spoken or powerful languages and especially the ones pretending to show the incoming trends is that the studies/criteria behind to support the statistics are often highly questionable or not clear. In this article, we firstly explain the criteria and source of data used for the analysis one by one and then we combine them in order to make a final list of languages worth to be learnt.

Source of information: 2018 Edition of Ethnologue, a language reference published by SIL International, which is based in the United States. Figures presented below are as of August 2018.

  1. Mandarin Chinese – approx. 909 million native speakers (+12M since 2016)
  2. Spanish – approx. 442 million native speakers (+15M since 2016)
  3. English – approx. 378 million native speakers (+39M since 2016)
  4. Arabic – approx. 315 million native speakers (+48M since 2016)
  5. Hindi – approx. 260 million native speakers (+0M since 2016)

Source of information: 2018 Edition of Ethnologue, a language reference published by SIL International, which is based in the United States. Figures presented below are as of August 2018.

  1. English – approx. 744 million L2 speakers (+141M since 2016)
  2. Hindi – approx. 274 million L2 speakers (+154M since 2016)
  3. French – approx. 208 million L2 speakers (+55M since 2016)
  4. Mandarin Chinese – approx. 198 million L2 speakers (+4M since 2016)
  5. Russian – approx. 110 million L2 speakers (+80M since 2016)

Generally, the total number of speakers is not fully reliable as it adds estimates from different dates and uncited sources. We took into account only the information and data from the 2018 Edition of Ethnologue. Figures presented below are as of August 2018.

  1. English – approx. 1.12 billion total speakers (+180M since 2016).
  2. Mandarin Chinese – approx. 1.10 billion total speakers (+16M since 2016).
  3. Hindi – approx. 534 million total speakers (+154M since 2016)
  4. Spanish – approx. 512 million total speakers (-6M since 2016)

Source of information: W3Techs (as of 25 August 2018) – Usage of content languages for websites

The figures from the W3Techs study are based on the one million most visited websites and language is identified using only the home page of the sites. As a consequence, the figures below show a significantly higher percentage for many languages (especially for English) as compared to the figures for all websites.

  1. English – 53%
  2. German – 6,2%
  3. Russian – 6,1%
  4. Spanish – 5,0%
  5. French – 4,2%
  6. Japanese – 3,7%
  7. Portuguese – 2,9%
  8. Italian – 2,5%
  9. Persian – 2,0%
  10. Chinese – 1,8%

Source of information: Wikipedia page “List of official languages by country and territory”.

  1. English – 59 countries in total (incl. 24 in Africa, 16 in Americas, 4 in Asia, 3 in Europe and 12 in Oceania)
  2. French – 29 countries in total (incl. 21 in Africa, 2 in Americas, 5 in Europe and 1 in Oceania)
  3. Arabic – 26 countries in total (incl. 13 in Africa and 13 in Asia)
  4. Spanish – 21 countries in total (incl. 1 in Africa, 19 in Americas and 1 in Europe)
  5. Portuguese – 9 countries in total (incl. 6 in Africa, 1 in Americas, 1 in Europe and 1 in Oceania)
  6. German – 6 countries in total (incl. 6 in Europe)
  7. Italian – 4 countries in total (incl. 4 in Europe)
  8. Russian – 4 countries in total (incl. 2 in Asia and 2 in Europe)
  9. Chinese – 3 countries in total (incl. 3 in Asia)

Conclusion: what are likely the most powerful languages?

We combined all the information described above related to all considered criteria for this analysis in order to draw conclusions and show our languages ranking.

1. English

Without any surprise, English appears as first in this ranking. As any other language, English is a living and dynamic system, and it transforms according to the way its speakers use it. The English language can be found worldwide: it is recognized and taught on every continent. It is the official language of all business transactions around the world, occupying the top pedestal in the field of languages comprehended and spoken by over 3 quarters of the world’s population.

GLC ranking final score: 5/5

2. French

French is one of the world’s most widely spoken languages and one of the few to be spoken on every continent. It is surprisingly one of the fastest growing languages in the world at the moment even with the prevalence of English, Chinese and Spanish which – all of those three – made the French language appearing on the decline by most people. The reality is different, and it turns out that French is projected to experience a significant surge in the incoming decades – mostly due to the fast population growth in Sub-Saharan Africa.

GLC ranking final score: 2.03/5

3. Spanish

The growth of Latin America which is home to the most Spanish speakers has become vital to the language’s spread. Nowadays, it is in the best interest of countries and companies looking to expand into these Latin fast-growing markets to ensure they have Spanish-speaking employees and representatives.

GLC ranking final score: 1.88/5

4. Chinese (Mandarin)

With the largest number of native speakers, Chinese language is still the boss in town. Mandarin is the one language that just does not miss any list of the most popular and useful languages for the future. Of course, the character-based writing system requires years of hard work for even native speakers to learn and poses a formidable obstacle to foreigners.

GLC ranking final score: 1.58/5

5. Portuguese

The Portuguese language is developing rapidly. It is becoming an extremely important language in South America mostly because of the growth and success of the large country of Brazil. The language is being taught (and is very common) within the rest of the South American countries. Under the economic influence of these regions, Portuguese is most likely to compete with English in the race to become the most profitable languages in the future.

GLC ranking final score: 1.52/5

Image article - Can we consider Music as a language?

Can we consider Music as a language?

First, it is important to define what a language is. Henry Sweet, an English phonetician and language scholar, stated that “Language is the expression of ideas by means of speech-sounds combined into words. Words are combined into sentences, this combination answering to that of ideas into thoughts.” The American linguists Bernard Bloch and George L. Trager formulated another definition: “A language is a system of arbitrary vocal symbols by means of which a social group cooperates.”

Can Music be considered as a language?

Like all the most commonly known languages, music has a syntax and a set of rules for ordering elements such as notes, chords, and intervals. The pitch which governs the melody and harmony as well as the associated rhythm can convey emotional feeling just like a language. In fact, all the characteristics and features of a language are also applicable to music and are explained and detailed below.

In general, a language consists of various sound symbols and their graphological counterparts that are employed to denote some objects, occurrences or meaning. These symbols are arbitrarily chosen and conventionally accepted and employed. Is it the case for Music?

Music has an “alphabet” and “letters”

In traditional music theory, most countries in the world use the solfège naming convention Do–Re–Mi–Fa–Sol–La–Si for the musical notes which can be considered as “letters”. Each musical note is represented by a symbol (nobody can argue on that) in a music score.

Music has a “conjugation”

The relative duration of a musical note is represented through different texture or shape of the note head which can be considered as a “conjugation”.

Of course, to compare with more common spoken languages, the situation is a little bit different here insofar as the conjugation applies to the “letter” itself while for the other, the conjugation applies to words/verbs. By the way, is there any “words” or “sentence” in music? Actually, there is no real good answer but we tend to demonstrate that it is a yes. Each bar (also called measure) of a music score can be considered as a “word” and as a result several measures can make a musical phrase or “sentence”. In common practice phrases are often four bars or measures long culminating in a more or less definite cadence.

Music has “accents” – “diacritics”

In general, diacritical marks may appear above or below a letter, or in some other position such as within the letter or between two letters. The main use of diacritical marks is to change the sound-values of the letters to which they are added. And guess what? Even in music, the letters/notes can have an “accent”. Indeed, the musical term “accidentals” refers to the modification of the pitch of the notes that follow them on the same staff position within a measure, unless cancelled by an additional accidental. For example:

Flat or Bemols – “Accent” used to lower the pitch of a note by one semitone.
Sharp or Dieses – “Accent” used to raise the pitch of a note by one semitone.
Natural – “Accent” used to cancel a previous accidental or modifies the pitch of a sharp or flat as defined by the prevailing key signature.

Music has “punctuation” marks

Punctuation is the use of spacing, conventional signs, and certain typographical symbols as aids to the understanding and correct reading of handwritten text, whether read silently or aloud. In music, the “punctuation” is very important. Example of “punctuation” marks:

The Staff – The fundamental latticework of music notation, on which symbols are placed.
The Repeat signs – Enclose a passage that is to be played more than once. If there is no left repeat sign, the right repeat sign sends the performer back to the start of the piece or the nearest double bar.
The Bar line – Used to separate measures (and thus to separate each “word”).
The Clefs which define the pitch range of the staff on which it is placed. A clef is usually the leftmost symbol on the staff.
The Key signatures define the prevailing key of the music that follows, thus avoiding the use of accidentals for many notes.

Thus, Music has an alphabet, 8 distinguished letters, a conjugation, diacritics and a lot of punctuation marks represented in a musical score using symbols. It is already an important first step in the analysis before officially considering Music as a complete language don’t you think. What’s next?

Although language is symbolic, yet its symbols are arranged in a particular system. All languages have their system of arrangements. Every language is a system of systems. For example, within the grammatical system there are morphological and syntactic systems, and within these two systems there are sub-systems such as those of plural, of mood, of aspect, of tense, etc.

As for all languages, the Music theory – equivalent of “grammar” rules – can be very complex. To be successful, a symphony needs rhythm, melody, timbre, harmony, consonance, dissonance… It requires a lot of knowledge to “create” chords which do not sound weird…

In general, a language is primarily made up of vocal sounds which is the same in Music. Dynamics are indicators of the relative intensity or volume of a musical line (e.g. Pianissimo, Piano, Mezzo Piano, Mezzo Forte, Forte, Fortissimo).

In the example above, the same “word” does not have the same “dynamic” and thus will not be interpreted the same way. This is exactly the same with more common languages where a same word can be whispered, normally spoken, yelled…

Language is the most powerful, convenient and permanent means and form of communication. Non-linguistic symbols such as expressive gestures, signals of various kinds, traffic lights, road signs, flags, braille alphabets, the symbols of mathematics and logic, etc. are also means of communication, yet they are not as flexible, comprehensive, perfect and extensive as language is. Without becoming farfetched, can we really say that we can communicate each other with Music?

In fact, all the musical pieces demonstrate and show the communication of musicians between them through the sound of their instruments. An orchestra is a large instrumental ensemble typical of classical music, which mixes instruments from different families, including bowed string instruments such as violin, viola, cello and double bass, as well as brass, woodwinds, and percussion instruments, each grouped in sections. Listen to this J.S. Bach – Concerto for Oboe and Violin – BWV 1060 – Adagio, you will for sure realize that the Oboe and the Violin are in fact communicating and interacting each other…

In general, a language is a set of conventional communicative signals used by humans for communication in a community. Language exists in society; it is a means of nourishing and developing culture and establishing human relations.

The structural elements of a language can be combined to produce new utterances, which neither the speaker nor his hearers may ever have said or heard before any yet which both sides understand without difficulty. No language was created in a day out of a mutually agreed upon formula by a group of humans. Language is the outcome of evolution and convention. Each generation transmits this convention on to the next. Like all human institutions languages also change and die, grow and expand. Music is a good example of creativity, complexity, unicity and has come a very long way since it was created. Of course, it is hard to say when exactly it started but one thing is sure, Music like all languages, has changed a lot over the years.


Music is a fantastic language and is even considered by some as one of the most universal of all art forms. The literal meaning of the word “music” according to any dictionary is “art of combining vocal or instrumental sounds in a harmonious or expressive way”.

Image - Everybody wants to get rid of this language...

Everybody wants to get rid of this language…

This article is about a specific programming language that has become obsolete – or not – depending on how the situation is considered. Thousands of different programming languages have been created to support web, software development etc… and many are being created every year. As for spoken languages, a lot of people learn programming languages – and most of them like it. The most popular are Java, C, C++, Python, PHP, JavaScript, SQL, PHP – if you have never heard about any of those, it is not a big deal but it is important to know that they attract more and more young programmers every day. If those languages are still used to “create” and “develop” new software or new products, other languages lost their popularity to the extreme that it has become very difficult to find skilled developers. One of them is the language “COBOL” and is still actively used by most of the world’s systems and business applications.

COBOL stands for “Common Business Oriented Language” and is a very old language primarily designed to support business, finance and administrative systems for companies and governments. COBOL was created in the 1950s – before the first man walked on the moon – by Grace Hopper, commonly referred as the mother of COBOL. Before that, all operating systems had their own associated programming languages which was a problem for companies or institutions that used multiple brands of computers. Thus, the objective was to create a common portable programming language for data processing.

Robust – COBOL is mostly used in IBM mainframe systems which are very well known for ZERO downtime, for have never been hacked in its history and for being able to handle millions of transactions. Thus because of reliability and security it makes suitable for Banking and Insurance sectors since these two sectors security is their primary concern. Moreover, there are thousands of third-party products which have been developed to aid the COBOL programmer in critical areas of testing, debugging, application analysis, production support, and code reuse.

Self-documented – Unlike other languages, COBOL is self-documenting, and even non-technical people have been known to learn COBOL within a few weeks and become productive without understanding the internal architecture of the operating environment. This is due to its statements have an English-like syntax.

Easy to maintain – Its English-like syntax and semantics allow maintenance to be done by someone other than the original programmer. Further, the source code can be referred to by users with no programming background.

Cross-platform portability – COBOL users can transport their applications to many different hardware platforms without recompiling the source code. This important feature gives insurance against hardware obsolescence.

Scalable – COBOL is the most scalable language.

COBOL is widely used in legacy applications and the estimation is that almost 75% of all business transactions worldwide are written in COBOL today. The statistics speak for themselves*:

  • 95% of daily ATM transactions use COBOL.
  • 80% of daily Point of Sale transactions are run with COBOL.
  • 90% of Fortune 500 business systems are supported daily by COBOL.
  • 72000 shipping containers are moved every day using COBOL applications.
  • 85% of port transactions are processed by COBOL.
  • 500 million mobile phone users are connected daily by COBOL applications.
  • 96% of daily booking vacation systems are enabled by COBOL.

What is often not enough emphasized is the increasing gap between the number of companies relying on COBOL and its relevancy among programmers today.

  • The average age of COBOL programmer is 55 years old.
  • 310 billion lines of legacy code operating in the world.
  • 5 million lines of new COBOL code are developed every day.
  • 5 billion lines of new COBOL code are being written every year.

Indeed, unfortunately, COBOL developers are retiring much faster than they are being replaced as educational institutions emphasize more cutting edge technologies and related programming languages. The reason why programmers choose more popular languages is stemming from the fact that they most likely would spend the rest of their career doing maintenance work rather than any greenfield development. Not everybody likes the fact they can’t create something new.

*Sources: Aberdeen Group; Giga Information Group; Database & Network Journal; The COBOL Report;; Tactical Strategy Group; The Future of COBOL Report

The idea that large companies are simply going to move on from COBOL is out of touch with reality. The answer to the question “Why COBOL hasn’t been replaced yet” requires to take a step back in time.

COBOL was created in 1959, the computing era when programming languages were tailored for specific purposes. As most of companies, banks, insurance companies and government institutions started joining the computer age, they needed programming languages specific to their machines. There needed to be a universal business language to carry out business operations faster.

Grace Hopper, the mother of COBOL, created this brand new programming language that aimed to function across all business systems, saving an immense amount of time and money.

Then, a new committee consisting of industry, universities, and US government was formed to develop the much-needed language to help standardize business programming. The US Department of Defense even decreed that all businesses must run on COBOL in the 1960s. That’s why, at least until the late nineties, there really hasn’t been a successor that could carry out the massive batch processes as sturdily as COBOL.

But the even bigger reason not to rock the boat is the sheer size and cost of replacing billions of lines of COBOL that exist today. Businesses worldwide run on over 310 billion lines of code today. It would be a herculean feat to replace every single business program with a brand new language without introducing detrimental bugs.



Considering the significant role COBOL plays in everyday life, COBOL programmers are necessary for legacy enhancement, maintenance and roadmap transition efforts. In a field that evolves at an unprecedented speed, younger generations may be overlooking a critical skill of the future.