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Archive for the 'Misc.' Category

2/16/2010

Mistakenly Mao

Seeing as how we just kicked off the Winter Olympics, I thought this might be a fitting story even if it is a little off topic. There was an interesting piece in Canada’s National Post about Japanese figure skating star Asada Mao recently, describing how a local street vendor had named a hot dog after her.

There was only one problem. The figure skater in the picture is not Asada Mao, but rather fellow Japanese skater Akiko Suzuki. How embarrassing! According to FG, the Japanese press has picked up on the error, and I expect that they’re none too impressed.

Have a look at the image that ran in the Post. Would you mistake Suzuki for Mao? It might be worth the effort to pay more attention to names during our Japanese language study! Read the rest of this entry »

Posted by 3yen in Misc. | No Comments »

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4/18/2008

Things that lose “coolness” when translated

Some things in Japanese just seem to lose their cool when translated into English.
I’m sure there are examples where the reverse is true but it’s much easier for me to come up with these examples.

Fighting words
「ぶっ倒してやる!」 (Cool) -> “I’m going to beat you!” (Not cool)

Technique/Spell/Summon Names
「螺旋丸!」 (Maybe Cool) -> “Spiraling Round [Thing]!” (Definitely not cool)

語尾 (technically 終助詞)
「くるぞ!」 (Brave) -> “They’re coming!” (Scared)

Expressions and Cultural Phrases
「がんばれ!」 (Uplifting) -> “Do your best!” (Dork)

Heavily Girly Style of Speech
「嫌だもん!」 (Pouty Cute) -> “I don’t like it!” (Complainy)

Finally, basically all of Death Note in English is just awkward.


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2/27/2008

What, you forgot it? Good!

When I wrote that current spaced repetition software all suck, I wasn’t saying that you shouldn’t use them or that the idea of spaced repetition itself sucks. To make an analogy, Linus Torvalds said subversion sucks in a talk about git and while I found his talk interesting I still continue to use subversion. It’s because his philosophy and needs for source control are different from mine. Just like Linus, I think that the current SRS can be so much better based on my needs and philosophy (the difference being he actually built the software while I’m just all talk).

I have a basic and simple philosophy that learning languages should be simple and enjoyable. Current SRS are all based on the idea of study and review. I don’t like “studying” because it sounds like work and flipping through cards is work to me (and boring work at that), especially when I have to make them myself. I’ve learned enough about myself to know that I could never stick with it. But hey, I’m just talking about me personally, so don’t let me discourage you from finding the techniques that work for you. In fact, I encourage you to try out various different methods of study to find what works best for you. I went through the same experience to learn enough about myself to know what works for me.

Personally, I think spaced repetition works naturally if you have reading material with words that are spaced out. I’m talking about graded readers that naturally introduce new words while reusing old ones. You can even throw all the vocab in an SRS as a bonus but the most important part that’s missing in current SRS is the material; you have to find it yourself. The simple reason is because software is made by programmers not writers. That’s why my idea of a great spaced repetition program is not one that flips through words but one that allows use to share and find material that interests us in the language and at the right level of difficulty. Flipping through words based on the material is simply a nice bonus.

I love the concept of spaced repetition and enjoy the effects every time I learn a new word without even realizing it. This may sound counterintuitive but forgetting a word really is the best way to learn it. If you forget a word it means that you’ve already learned it and spaced enough time to forget it again. It’s hard to explain without experiencing it yourself but the more times you think, “Oh I can’t believe I forgot this word again!” the faster you end up memorizing it. So you shouldn’t feel discouraged when you forget a word, you should be thinking, “Yes! I forgot it! This is really helping me to remember it for good.”


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1/8/2008

Ruby tags considered harmful

For those of you unfamiliar with the ruby tag, it is an html tag that adds tiny readings over kanji. 「ルビ」 traditionally is used in print for archaic kanji or when the author wants to indicate a non-standard reading for the kanji. However, on the net, ruby tags are being abused everywhere I see them. Here’s a simple benchmark (with a neat acronym to make it “official”) for determining whether you’re abusing the ruby tag.

Ruby Abuse Benchmark (RAB)

1. Do you use ruby tags for every kanji?

2. Do you use ruby tags for any kanji that most Japanese people can read?

3. Do you use ruby tags?

If you answered “Yes” to any of the questions above, you are abusing the ruby tag.

This abuse happens most often on sites that are intended for people learning Japanese. For example, this site about the JLPT or Japanese language blogs like the one you’re reading now. I don’t use ruby tags though. Even sites for kids stay away from ruby and just use Hiragana instead. Here’s why you should stay away from them too.

The Technical Reason

Ruby is only included in the XHTML 1.1 specification, which has been around forever and still hasn’t gained much traction. The HTML 4.01 and XHTML 1.0 Transitional DTDs are still being used in the majority of website that care about standards. This means that if you want to use a schema that the majority of the web is using, <ruby> won’t validate.

Plus, the markup is terribly hard to read and write. Take a look at these markup examples. Imagine doing that for every kanji. Your Japanese text will be indecipherable and an incredible pain to edit.

The Practical Reason

Because XHTML 1.1 hasn’t gained much traction, a majority of browsers don’t support ruby. The only one I’m aware of that does is IE and in today’s world where up to 30% of your visitors might not be using IE, IE-only is not practical.

People without Ruby support will see this.

田中(たなか): はい、元気(げんき)です。早坂(はやさか)さんは?

Terrible, just terrible. It’s totally unreadable. Plus, even if you DID have Ruby support, the text is far too small. It’s a lose-lose situation. The correct use of ruby is to show the readings of a few archaic words that the author assumes will not readable by his audience or when he wants to expand on the word. It is NOT intended to be used for every kanji. The print is too small for people who need them and distracting for the people who don’t need them. Also, it can become a crutch allowing people to never actually read and learn the kanji.

So, even if you can install something such as an extension to make ruby tags work, it’s just not a good idea.

Alternatives

1. CSS mouse-over popups: It’s one simple span tag and it works in all major browsers. It’s also more versatile because you can add more information such as English definitions, etc.

Html: <span title=”たべる – to eat” class=”popup”>食べる</span>
Appears as: 食べる

I suggest adding a visual highlight so that the reader can easily see which part of the text applies for the popup or whether there is a popup at all (not supported by some older browsers). You can easily do this by adding some CSS like the following to your stylesheet.

span.popup:hover {
text-decoration:none;
color: rgb(159,20,26);
}

Plus, you can easily see the readings for only the words you need, removing the distracting ruby text and preventing the furigana from becoming a crutch.

Here’s a recent convert and look at all the positive comments he’s gotten.

2. Make a list of the vocabulary at the beginning or end of the page so that the reader has something to refer to.

3. Suggest additional tools such as WWWJDIC, 理解.com, moji, and rikaichan so that people can learn to teach themselves. (You know, the whole teach a man to fish thing.)

Conclusion

I think the first method is good for static resources like my guide to Japanese grammar but when you don’t have the time to add readings and definitions manually all the time (like this blog), you can’t beat the third method. Plus, it helps your readers read any online Japanese text instead of just your own. In the end, whatever method you use, it certainly beats the hell out of writing this for every word that uses kanji.

<ruby>日本語<rp>(</rp><rt>にほんご</rt><rp>)</rp></ruby>

Ah!!! My eyes!!


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8/11/2007

Comparing to Chinese (Part 2): Tones

I was glancing through a thread about low and high tones on my forum and it made me realize that we don’t treat tones with as much care as we should in Japanese (ie, virtually none). For example, if I were to describe it in Chinese tones, you really do need to pronounce 日本 with something similar to a second and fourth tone. In contrast, 二本 is more like a fourth and neutral tone. And this really could potentially be an issue. What if you said 日本ください instead of 二本ください? Now you’re asking for Japan instead of two bottles! What a わがまま!

Personally, I’ve had times when I would ask somebody about a new word I just learned and the person would have no idea what I was talking about. Then I’d write the word and he/she would say, “Oh you mean [X]!” and pronounce the word exactly the same way but with different pitches. See, without context you really do need to get the tones right.

And sure, context will cover your ass and prevent any mishaps most of the time but is Chinese any different? You know in Rush Hour 2 when Chris Tucker attempts to speak Chinese? It was hilarious but in real life, if you messed up all the tones, it just becomes gibberish. There are a few insidious homophones like eyeglasses vs eyes: 眼睛(yǎnjīng) / 眼鏡(yǎnjìng), but overall context should take care of one or two mistakes. I’ll have to watch that movie again now that I know some Chinese to see if they were really clever enough to teach Chris the wrong tones correctly to actually say the unintentional but hilarious lines.

Chinese has always had a notorious reputation of being insanely difficult due to the tones but I actually think Japanese is more difficult. With Chinese, at least all the tones are laid out and stay (mostly) the same. In contrast, Japanese really has no rules for pronouncing words with the correct pitch and it would probably change anyway depending on how you’re using it. Unlike Chinese, you’ll probably be understandable even with all the wrong tones, but you will still sound foreign and may even be difficult to understand.

We really should start thinking about patterns in Japanese tones and how we could effectively teach students how to pronounce things correctly not just phonetically but on the tonal level. For example, I’ve noticed that long vowels are often a high and flat tone (first tone in Chinese). Just listen to how train announcers pronounce 東京. (Tones are more clearly enunciated in formal settings like announcements and news broadcasts.) I’m sure by just practicing the long vowel sounds in this manner, you can significantly improve your pronunciation and sound more “Japanese”.

Can you think of any other neat tips for getting the right tones?


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5/10/2007

Because I feel guilty when I don’t post anything for ages

Over a month has gone by since my last post, which means the guilt trip is baaack! Ok, since nobody barfed at me the last time I did this, here are some personal updates that just might have interested you if any of you cared.

I’m back in the States!

Yes I know, you’ve seen it countless of times. These so-called “Japan” blogs always ends with: “Ok, I’m ending this blog since I moved out of Japan and there are no more freaky, crazy things that I can blog about.” But don’t worry! I’m different because my life in Japan consisted of sitting at a desk for 10-12 hours. I didn’t have anything interesting happening in my life to begin with! They should make a t-shirt that says, “I worked in Japan and all I got was this lousy t-shirt and a tattered, bruised remnant of my soul.” I would totally buy that.

But seriously, while I don’t use Japanese as much as I used to, the city I live in (Seattle) is large enough that I managed to find Japanese people to hang out with once in a while. What’s even cooler is I found someone to teach me Chinese in exchange for teaching Japanese! (I’ll talk about finding language partners in my next post so stay tuned!)

My Chinese got good enough to suck

Speaking of Chinese, yes I’m still working on it. I’m proud to say that my Chinese has improved from being virtually nonexistent to just really, really bad. Since I’m not a big fan of structured classes (or more specifically, too cheap to pay for classes) meeting with language partners every week really helps me to stay motivated and keeps me thinking if not in at least about Chinese.

It’s contextual spam so it’s OK

Finally, to make this post at least semi-related to Japanese, I’d like to talk the startup I’ve been working on these past few months: MegaBuzz.com. I haven’t talked about it until now because the site itself has nothing to do with Japanese. However, we just launched a new feature today that allows you to create a page about any topic. You can make and answer questions, post YouTube videos, and all that good ol’ Web 2.0 stuff. I’ve already created the Japanese page so I hope you guys will join in and we can quiz each other in Japanese.

Last but not least

Before I go, I’d just like to mention that we got a dog a little while back. He’s four months old and his name is Chewy. He’s very, very whiney.
Chewy


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11/21/2006

涼宮ハルヒの憂鬱

そうそう。前回の投稿では、ブログを日本語で書くって約束したから一応何かを書いてみることにしました。俺は、仕事で臨時作業依頼書だの障害報告書だの、普段何の役にも立たない文章しか書かないので、ちょっぱし苦労はすると思うけど、それはいわゆる「成長」というやつかな?とにかく、何か間違いがあったら是非教えていただきたく。

まぁ、俺にとっていい練習にもなるし、みなさんのためにもなると思って今これを書いているわけだが、肝心の問題は・・・
 
何について書けばいいのか?
 
こういう時は、たいてい自分がやったことや思ったことを書くんだが、俺の普段の生活はとんでもないぐらいつまらないということもあり・・・。

そうだな。例えば、先週末に何をやったかといえば、「涼宮ハルヒの憂鬱」というアニメを部屋一人で全部観ました。情けねえな~。

でも、アニメ自体は本当におもしろいですよ!最初は、DVDを買おうと思ったんですが、一枚で6000円・・・ L(・O・;)」オーマイガーッ
 
んなもん買うか?!
 
あ~あ、やめた、やめた。
 
幸い、Youtubeに全部載っていました。どうやら、klisa0506という物凄い親切な方が10分置きに分けてPart 1,2,3という形で14話を全てあげたみたい。ありがとうよ、klisa0506さん!Youtubeだから、画像はもちろん小さいのだが、タダだから文句はいえねーな。
 

朝比奈ミクルの冒険 Episode 00 – Part 1

つづき
朝比奈ミクルの冒険 part2
朝比奈ミクルの冒険 part3
 
テレビ番組のサイトもまたおもしろい!なぜなら、アニメの中でSOS団というクラブがサイトを作るんだが、そのサイト(もしくはそのようなサイト)が番組のオフィシャルサイトとして実際に作られているんです!うん、うん、なるほど。どうりで、サイトがしょぼいわけだ。

もし、「涼宮ハルヒの憂鬱」を観ていない方がいらっしゃったら是非観てみてください。俺みたいなお金のない方は今の内にYoutubeで観るといいですよ。(いつ消されるかわかんないから)

個人的には放送順に観ることをお勧めします。(話の順番はこのサイトの「サブタイトル」という部分から参照できます。)

んなわけで、どうでもいいことでずいぶんと自分一人で盛り上がったんですが、次回はもうちょっとまともな内容を考えてみますんで、またきてね。 ♪(#^ー゚)v

(そもそも次回があるというかなり怪しい前提だが・・・)


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11/15/2006

And then… (scroll… scroll… scroll…) …never mind

Japanese blogs are good reading practice if you can find some interesting ones.
 
Most share some unique characteristics.
 
I don’t know who wrote the rules of Japanese blogging…
 
…but you have to use the “Enter” key a lot.
 
The writing tends to be kind of aimless as well.
 
I think celebrity blogs are probably the biggest in Japan.
 
If you’re an attractive celebrity who also happens to be an オタク geek like しょこたん, you’re bound to get a huge following of fantasizing geeks.
 
It’s like the ultimate fantasy.
 
Sometimes, I wish I was a hot, geeky celebrity. Then my blog would be popular.
 
But I don’t want geeky, fantasizing fans. Yuck! \(≧≦)/
 
Oh yeah, don’t forget to use lots of cute smileys.
 
Here’s another one:
 
( ^ー゚)bグッ! All right! (Pat myself on the back!)
 
There’s one more crucial aspect to writing a Japanese blog…
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  
 
Frickin’ make you scroll forever to see what comes next!!!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
It’s supposed to build suspense but it’s…
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
SO ANNOYING! \(*><)/
 
I enjoy a number of Japanese blogs like うまのホネ.
 
For instance, one of her posts is about strategies for milking herself reserves for the baby so that she can drink alcohol.
 
That’s my kind of wife!
 
Another one I enjoy is by yet another hot, (kinda) geeky celebrity: 眞鍋かをり.
 
You can tell she’s geeky from the following excerpt:

凌南戦でメガネくん(小暮)が決めたスリーポイントシュートくらい絶妙なタイミングだったんですよ。

 
That won’t make any sense unless you’ve read Slam Dunk, which I think is one of the first steps to becoming a geek.
 
Of course, I have read all 31 volumes. <(`ー´)>
 
Those are supposed to be arms tucked smugly behind my head, in case you didn’t get it.
 
This next blog is so popular, they made a drama of it and a PSP game: 鬼嫁日記.
 
13 millions hits on the counter! (゜_゜;)
 
It’s very funny but has lots of scrolling. (;´ヘ`) はぁ~
 
Tell me your favorite Japanese blogs in the comments!
 
Next time, I’ll try writing a real Japanese blog post in real Japanese!
 
またきてね!♪(#^ー゚)v


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10/6/2006

More personal stuff that nobody cares about

Sorry, I don’t have the time to maintain a personal blog so you’ll have to put up with me as I talk about personal stuff that has nothing to do with this blog. I think I’m breaking rule #3* of blog writing or something but I don’t care. La la la…

How does a puzzle become so popular?

I saw an old man on the train the other day doing a sudoku puzzle. This is the first time I’ve seen anybody doing sudoku in Japan. I was totally blown away at how popular that puzzle has gotten when I was visiting the US last month. Barnes&Nobles had a whole sudoku section with its own tag and everything. I think the sections in that area of the store were like: Health, Cooking…, and Sudoku. I’m totally puzzled with it’s recent popularity since it’s supposed to come from Japan and yet I’ve never seen it or heard anybody talk about it here. I couldn’t even tell you where to go to buy some puzzles. I mean, the Brain Training Game for the Nintendo DS is originally a Japanese game but they added sudoku puzzles for the American version. That would be like McDonalds adding fries to their menu in their Japanese stores while American get stuck with 枝豆 or something. Pretty crazy, if you ask me.

Anyway, I was guessing that maybe sudoku in Kanji would be something like 「数解」 using the characters for “number” and “to solve”. On reflection, I guess that was unlikely because 「すう」 is the on-yomi and 「とく」 is the kun-yomi. 「数解」 would probably be read 「すうかい」 or 「かずどき」 instead. I was surprised though when I found out that the actual Kanji is 「数独」. I got the “number” kanji right but the second one means, “alone”. I guess those numbers are just alone and lonely until you solve the puzzle by filling in the rest of the numbers. Aww… those poor, lonely numbers. You have to help them!

Yet more random thoughts

I ate a コンビニ弁当 for dinner tonight and it was supposed to be a 中華弁当. I think almost every country probably has their own version of Chinese food. I’ve had American-Chinese, Japanese-Chinese, and Korean-Chinese so far. As usual, when it comes to food, I like the Korean version the best. (The one version I’ve never had is, ironically, Chinese-Chinese). You can tell when Chinese food is Korean in disguise when they bring out the Kimchi, 沢庵, and raw onion with the mysterious black sauce. To this day, I have no idea what that black sauce is but it doesn’t stop me from eating it with sliced, completely raw onions. (I think you have to kind of get used to it from birth). Also for some reason, you almost always eat 짜장면. It’s called ジャージャー麺 in Japanese but the Korean version tastes much better. Again, I have no idea about the actual original Chinese dish.


Rule #1 is “you don’t talk about blogs” and rule #2 is… ok, this joke is overdone so nevermind.

Posted by Tae Kim in Misc. | 13 Comments »

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10/2/2006

Update on the lack of updates

Seeing as how I’ve been neglecting this blog again for almost a month, I thought I’d just write a few words about what’s going on besides all the neglecting I’ve been doing.

New Updates to the Grammar Guide

In addition to the usual tweaks and fixes, I finally spent some time working on new sections of the grammar guide. Writing this blog helped because I was able to copy parts from my old posts and mold them together with some new stuff.

First, I put together a section about how things are defined or described with 「いう」, a topic I discussed before in several posts. This is a topic I consider to be indispensable for mastering intermediate Japanese.

-Defining and Describing with 「いう」

I also finally finished the first draft of the slang section (about a year late), describing some patterns and general principles of slang in Japanese. I intend to add more material in the future but I’m fairly happy with how it turned out so far, particularly the section about the lack of sentence order.

-Casual Patterns and Slang

So do check them out and as always, I welcome any corrections or suggestions.

I tried installing Linux… and failed miserably

I installed Xubuntu and managed to get MP3s to work after hours of googling, experimenting, and bargaining with the devil. Then I uninstalled it after I discovered I could not see the transcripts for my chinesepod mp3s with Amarok. The lyrics button turned out to be a online search for lyrics instead. Lame.

Then I went on vacation

I also took a week off to visit the ol’ USA for the first time in over three years. I was mostly surprised at how little things have changed but it still seemed strange to be back after so long. Some things I noticed:

1. I had forgotten how large the portions of food are. I immediately regained the pot belly I was slowly trying to get rid of. No appetizers or dessert for me, thanks.

2. Even in a large bustling city, things seemed a bit barren and empty. Of course, that’s probably just my bias from living in the most crowded city in the world.

3. Surprisingly, eating out costs just as much or more than Japan. The price just looks cheaper ($5 vs 600円)

4. I hate tipping. Americans are supposed to be so bad at math and yet we’re supposed to multiply the bill by 1.15 in our heads every time we eat out. How does this tradition continue to persist?

5. Service was a lot better than I remembered and when friendly, it was much more sincere than the robot-like, manual-driven politeness in Japan. I think I was just mentally scarred from my time in New York.

Also, I just slacked off

I took the opportunity of being in the states to buy the controversial “GTA: San Andreas” game for $15. (It costs over 5000円 at an import game store here.) Any updates from me in the near future are now highly unlikely.

And I ran out of stuff to write about

Actually, I’ll never run out of stuff to write about when it comes to Japanese but I’m looking at my huge list of unfinished drafts and for some reason, I just don’t feel like finishing any of them, either because it’s too much work or I’m just not excited about the topic. So if you have an interesting topic regarding Japanese you’d like to suggest, please let me know in the comments. Here are a few guidelines for interesting Japanese topics.

1. Don’t suggest things that can be learned by looking at a dictionary and some examples sentences. Examples include topics like, “What does 「に関して」 mean?” or “How do you use 「~限り」?”

2. No lists. I hate lists because you never remember them anyway, especially vocabulary lists. For example, “Can you make a list of the most common giongo and gitaigo?” I could but it would be boring and useless.

3. Don’t worry. Be happy. o(^O^)o

Posted by Tae Kim in Misc. | 4 Comments »

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