Archive for the 'language' Category

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A Possible Reason for High Japanese Literacy Rates

June 1st, 2009

Japan has a remarkably high literacy rate, which sometimes seems confounding, due to the complexity of the written language.  Sure, it’s not as hard as Chinese, but it’s pretty high up there on the difficulty ladder.  This is usually explained by the rigorousness of the educational system, which I’m sure is very important, but I […]

Intonationally Left Behind

March 25th, 2009

So, living away from English for a long time, one naturally starts to worry about losing touch with the language as-it-is-spake, especially when one’s contact with one’s home culture comes primarily through reading things on the internet, as opposed to talking to fellow countrymen or watching topical television. One regular shock is hearing peoples’ names.  […]

The Grobit

January 26th, 2008

There are two things that make dealing with yen as an American somewhat difficult. The first is that the yen is always kinda near 100 yen to the dollar. This means that you get in the habit of determining prices by just imagining a decimal to places from the end. 100 yen? 1.00 dollars. 1750 […]

Carbon-Dating Expats

January 20th, 2008

Talking with various foreign friends, I’ve realized that you can determine a sort of threshold value for when they moved to Japan: pre or post late 90’s. When I came to Japan (1996), beepers were all the rage in the US.  Cell-phones were rare if not virtually unknown.  Car phones, sure, but not cell-phones.  In […]

Japanese Abbreviations FTW

November 10th, 2007

(For you older folks, “FTW” stands for “for the win”, or, in other words “are awesome”) English internet dialect has tons of abbreviations. IANAL, LOL, IMHO, RTFM. But they all pale before the greatest abbreviation on the net: (ry It took me a long, long time to figure out what (ry meant, because it’s used […]

Googlin’ in Japuhneese is hawrd.

September 2nd, 2007

So, here I am, permanent resident of Japan, living here for 11 years, doing professional translation work, and there’s one thing that I suck at, and will continue to suck at, until eternity: Googling. I’m good with Google in English.  Give me a topic, and in a few minutes I’ll trawl down the perfect search […]

The Times They Are A Changin’

August 4th, 2007

Things are changing in Japan, vis foreigners. Two things in the last two days which brought this to mind: This morning, on one of the TV talkshow/variety shows (think The Today Show or the like if you don’t know Japanese TV), they had a segment where they asked a bunch of foreigners what Japanese food […]

Japanese and the Weak Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis

July 11th, 2007

I’m not a reductionist. I’m not big on sentences that start with “the reason that…”, especially if the end of the sentence is something universal like “…Japanese people do blah”. However, I don’t think things pop up in a vacuum, either, so while I might disagree that a certain thing is the reason doesn’t mean […]

He’s Going To Win

July 3rd, 2007

Most kids spend their days playing with toy cars or chewing furniture. Not my kid. He’s out to revamp the whole English language. He used to babble all kinds of incoherent sounds. “Bwagoo vujuwerzl” “Melej anjorra beshuen”. For a while he spoke what we guess was French. For a while, it was Arabic. But now […]


May 2nd, 2007

This one goes out to my Japanese speakin’ peeps. よく「インド人って毎日カレー食べるんだ」と聞く。それもインド経験が無い人だけでなく、実際インドに長期旅行したことある人も言う。でも、そんなわけないとずっと思った。で、こないだやっと真偽がわかった。 ★ある意味で★毎日カレーを食べる。 まず、「カレー」って何だろう? 日本では本来「カレーライス」という意味だったが、まぁ、このブログを読んでいるのは「パーティー」を「パーチー」と発音するじいちゃんばあちゃんじゃないから、それはさておこう。ならば、「カレー」は何だろうか?SagPaneerもあればChannaMasalaもあって、AlooGobiもある。 結局共通点は「スパイスが入っているなんとか」。 ということは、「インド人は毎日スパイスが入っているなんとかを食べる」という話。 じゃ、そもそも「カレー」という単語って本当に「スパイスが入っているなんとか」という意味だろうか? いや、そうでもない。 「カレー」という単語の意味は単なる「おかず」。 そうだ。「インド人って毎日カレーを食べる」というのは「インド人って毎日おかずを食べる」という意味。うむ。なるほど。そのおかずは大体スパイスが入っているが、別に「カレー」という食べ物ではない。 日本でたとえると、「日本人は毎日Okazuという料理しか食べない。Okazuとは、醤油が入っているもの。毎日同じ物ばっかり 食べても飽きないのかな?」という、実にアホな話になる。 結論: インド人は毎日カレーを食べる。日本人も毎日カレーを食べる。この世の中、ほとんどの国の人は毎日、毎日カレーばっかり食べてるのに、飽きないんだ。 すごいな、カレーパワー。

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