Sunday, June 23, 2013

One Way to Reduce My Language Learning Inefficiencies, Maybe?

From the Smithsonian Blog: Seeing Pictures of Home Can Make It Harder to Speak a Foreign Language

"If you’ve ever attempted to move to a foreign country and learn to speak the local language, you’re aware that successfully doing so is an enormous challenge.
But in our age of widely distributed Wi-Fi hotspots, free Skype video calls from one hemisphere to another and favorite TV shows available anywhere in the world over the web, speaking a foreign language may be more difficult than ever. 
That’s because, as new research shows, merely seeing faces and images that you associate with home could make speaking in a foreign tongue more difficult. In a study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers from Columbia University and Singapore Management University found that for Chinese students who’d recently moved to the U.S., seeing several different types of China-related visual cues measurably reduced their fluency in English."

Lingua Francas

An image by reddit user /u/delugetheory.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

"How Many Words Do I Need?"

I read a nice entry about reaching native fluency by Lang-8 user Lotokot, a Polish speaker studying English. Clicking on the text below will take you to the actual entry.

"This is the question asked by many language learners.When will I be able to talk fluently and to understand native speakers?  
Of, course the answer is uneasy.
There are two types of vocabulary: active and passive.Active vocabulary is a range of words you use in a conversation or in writing. 
Passive vocabulary is a range of words you can recognize reading a text or listening to the speaker. Average active vocabulary of English native speaker is about 20.000 words and there is about 40.000 words in his passive vocabulary. 
 I think that I reached the level of about 6.000-7.000 words knowing passively and about 3.000 words knowing actively.
I know it because I use “Learning with Texts” - program which is very helpful in reading texts.There are some statistics about number of words used in texts which I put into the program.Numbers looks frustratingly. 
Every thousand words to learn is a really hard work for me.Luckily 3.000 words provides coverage for around 95% of common English texts. 
Some of this few percent I don't know is possible to recognize from context, but these rare words very often are crucial in the texts I read or listen. 
I read somewhere that about 5.000 actively known words allow to speak the language quite fluently. 
When I reach this level (if this happens) I will be able to recognize probably about 10.000 words. 
However the way to be fluent as native speaker looks infinite.
I took some data to this post from the website"

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

水無月 みなづき June

So in school they teach you that 六月・ろくがつ is June, but at the library in one of my schools the display board clearly says that it's 水無月. I saw it just today as I walked past on the way to class.

Ha, I thought. How silly. June is the rainy season. That kanji literally means water-none-month! PREPOSTEROUS! Go home, library display board. You are clearly drunk.

But I was intrigued so I later googled 水無月 意味 由来 and good ol' Gogen Yurai Jiten 語源由来辞典 pops up with this:

"The kanji is written "Month Without Water", but this does not necessarily mean "Without Water". The “without" 「無」 in "Month Without Water" is like the "without" 「無」 in "Month Without God", an "attributive particle" similar to "of" 「の」, making the meaning "Month of Water"."

OK, library display board. I apologize. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Nagayama Youko - Jon kara Onna Bushi

It's been forever since I posted here but it's about time that I started again. After about 5 months of my new life in Japan I think I've settled in pretty well. Here's one of my favorite enka songs.

雪は下から 舞い上がり

赤い裳裾に まといつく太棹三味線 女の旅路
燃えるくすぶる はじける愚図る
離れられない 男(ひと)がいる
じょんからじょんから わかって欲しい

バチの乱れは 気の乱れ別れ言葉は 言わせない
深みにはまった 女の弱み
男ごころは 風より軽い
月にかくれて されるまま
じょんからじょんから 哭かせて欲しい

鉛色した 空の色春は私にゃ 遠すぎる
太棹たたけば 糸さえ切れる
憎いいとしい せつない辛い指にからまる 女節

じょんからじょんから あんたが欲しい 

Snow dances up around me

Clinging to my the red hem of my skirt
A shamisen, a woman's journey
I burn and smolder, I split and fume
There's a man I can't let go of
I want to make you understand with the sound of my strings

The chaos of my pick is the chaos of my heart
I won't let you say goodbye
This is the weakness of woman who fell too hard
The heart of a man is more fickle than the wind
Now, as I'm hidden by the moon
I want to make you cry with the sound of my strings

The sky is the colour of metal
Spring is too far from me
When I pluck the shamisen its strings snap
Hateful, dear, heartrending, painful --
the song that twines around my fingers
I want to keep you with the sound of my strings

Friday, July 13, 2012

Words Without Borders: New Writing from Japan

Haven't posted in a while so here's something I'm currently checking out at Words Without Borders:

"This month and next we're showcasing writing from Japan. In the wake of the events of March 11, 2011, the boundaries between real and unreal, solid and fluid, seem to have shifted; guest editor Michael Emmerich has selected pieces that resonate with the country's new mood. The pieces in this first part have the texture of a dream, unstable, fleeting, fantastic. In tales of shape-shifting, Jin Keita finds new life in a different form, and Kawakami Hiromi pursues a girl who turns into a pearl. Kurahashi Yumiko takes flower arranging to a new level. Akutagawa Prize winner EnJoe Toh spins a yarn about an oddly familiar galaxy. Nakai Hideo follows an illusionist and finds himself part of the act.  Medoruma Shun receives voice mail from the beyond. Poet Yotsumoto Yasuhiro plays with rhyme and rhythm. And Furukawa Hideo's young office worker stumbles upon a new world only steps away. The issue is produced in partnership with the British Centre for Literary Translation. We thank the BCLT, and David Karashima and the Nippon Foundation, for their generous support. Elsewhere, we present three views of the current Greek crisis from Amanda Michalopoulou, Petros Markaris, and Auguste Corteau."

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Ryukyuan Languages

I fell into the youtube rabbit hole and stumbled upon some videos uploaded by user wadoku2008 and wadoku2012. In the video below, Byron Fija, a native of Okinawa born to an American father and Okinawan mother, discusses the different languages of the Ryukyu Islands in the Uchinaaguchi language. There are some Japanese words interspersed and the grammar seems very Japanese, but the sound and intonation of it is very different. There are glottal stops in strange places (coming at it from a Japanese language point of view) and sometimes it almost sounds like Korean. I don't know much about the historical roots of languages of the islands of Japan, but this has made me more interested in getting a deeper understanding of it.