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Duolingo does Japanese

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Duolingo Japaneseって、Big Newsですね!

If you’re unfamiliar with Duolingo, it’s definitely worth checking out; it’s a really clever platform that, at the upper levels, actually turns the community of learners into a crowdsourced translation powerhouse.   The app can be downloaded from itunes for free and, to my knowledge, doesn’t ever ask learners to purchase anything.

They have been offering courses for learning a few languages and slowly adding to the list, but they’ve just announced that they’re moving forward with Japanese as a target language for speakers of English.   There’s a great article about the project on the Duolingo website, and I also saw a nice write-up by the Japan Times.

頑張ってください!

礼問答 (レイモンド)

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无可奉告:No comment // I’m not at liberty to say…

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I just watched a recent episode of 锵锵三人行(Behind the Headlines with Wentao), featuring 徐晓冬 (Xu Xiaodong–right side of picture above), the Chinese MMA fighter who challenged Tai Chi master 雷公 to a fight last week, and beat him in something like 10 or 15 seconds.   Here’s the clip if you ever wondered how this kind of cross-discipline rumble might play out:

Since then, everyone seems to have an opinion on what happened.  I’m not really much of a follower of MMA at all, but Xu Xiaodong seems to have a talent as both an MMA fighter as well as a confident “talker”.  The result is some truly epic internet clips like this one (I want to see the non-beeped out version!):

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France choosing new president

So, it’s showtime in France today—- No interest in making a political post here (really); however, regardless of your viewpoint, there’s no denying that today’s second round vote is a biggie.

If you’re learning French, my money is on both the winning and losing speeches tonight being powerful and historic.  Even if you’re not into politics, it’s hard to undersell the significance of what Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron end up saying by the time the campaign trail finishes tonight.  (Round 1 victory speeches from Macron and Le Pen below).

Alberta Chinese Bridge on May 27th

I’m looking forward to volunteering as a judge for the Edmonton Confucius Institute’s Chinese Bridge competition. The theme this year is “Speak Chinese and make new friends around the world“. I’ve participated for the several years and it’s always wonderful to see the different ways that students make the topic their own and showcase their skills.   The day itself is always good fun– students start off with a knowledge test (see grade 1-3 study questions here), followed by the speech contest round, and ending with the talent competition.  Some students sing, some dance, some do magic— I once saw a student do a condensed ‘cooking show’ performance that was really neat.

 

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JP: 平家物語 Heike Monogatari

Another reading from “声に出して読みたい日本語” (others here and here)– this is 平家物語 from page 22.  If you pay close attention, you can see blips where my phone appears to check the stroke order of a few characters.  I’m sure there are a few apps (both mobile and desktop) that would do the trick, but I’ve been happy with this app called KanjiQ.

I have no connection to the developer, but I think I’m going to pay for the add-free version.

Bruce Lee on the ‘hard part’ of language learning

 

What’s the hard part of language learning?

I’m often moved to quote my Japanese teacher’s opening comments in my first-ever Japanese class: “Learning Japanese is not difficult; it will just be a little challenging for your spirit, and you’ll need to work hard!”.  As the years go by, and I continue to explore other languages and cultures, the wisdom of her words continues to ring true.

You may have never imagined that the great Martial Artist, Actor (and Dancer!) Bruce Lee also expressed a philosophy of language learning.  Just like my Japanese teacher’s brevity, Bruce Lee captured an essential truth about language learning in just 30 seconds during this TV interview (an old Canadian talk show btw)–before you hit play, take a moment to imagine the one thing you think is the ‘hard part’ of language learning.

On a similar note, I read a wonderful book many years ago by Kevin Carroll, entitled “Rules of the Red Rubber Ball“.  One of the themes that he talked about was the “lonely” work that is part of positive growth in any domain.  He doesn’t take the word lonely in the sad sense of the word; rather, he talks about the significant personal work (i.e. at home work) that we must invest, and how we really should pursue that time, effort and attention with a sense of Joy.

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Japanese reading: Shiranami Gonin Otoko (白浪五人男)

Oh my, this was fun to put together!

お礼の言葉:この”朗読劇”はユーチューブのKIKUNOSUKE81先輩の物真似と言った方が良いです。先輩には会ったこともないし、話したこともないですが、kikunosuke81のビデオ何回も聞いて練習してきました。有り難うございました!

The town where I lived in Japan is home to an amazing wooden theatre house that was constructed in the Meiji-era (Korakukan theatre in Kosaka, Akita).  I can’t remember if it is the oldest of its kind, but it’s certainly a unique treasure for the community.   In addition to the professional performances that went on every year, they also had a wonderful annual tradition of having kids perform kabuki scenes (Kodomo Kabuki).

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At the time, a work colleague suggested that I learn this passage (弁天小僧菊之助たァ!); shortly after that conversation, someone else gave me a copy of 声に出して読みたい日本語 (the book I read from for this video).  Opening the book, the passage that my colleague had recommended was the *very* first item included in this collection of Japanese gems that are truly meant to be read aloud and treasured.  I was inspired to learn the passage, but I never followed through until I recently put my mind to reciting it.

At the time (pre-youtube era), I remember thinking “This book is great, but what I really need is an audio recording of some kind to practice with!”.  Coming back to it now many years later, I was able to find a few examples on Youtube that I could use as a base.

If you want to see the scene this is taken from, check out the second video– the last video (from youtube channel kikunosuke81) is the one that I used (extensively) to practice for this project.

I thought it would be fun to do this as a ‘finger paint karaoke‘ and tried putting myself in front of the camera.

I look forward to sharing this with my old colleague if our paths cross this summer!

2017 International Mother Language Day

February 21st is officially recognized by UNESCO as International Mother Language Day. I didn’t know about this day until 2011, when a couple of international students from Bangladesh introduced me to the origin of the movement to protect Bengali—(they’re the first two students in the video that we put together that year in the International Centre at the University of Alberta).

“Je te parle dans ta langue, et c’est dans mon langage que je te comprends” Édouard Glissant (1928-2011)

As a language learner, this day always reminds me of a quote from the Caribbean Francophone poet Édouard Glissant, which essentially says “I speak to you in your tongue, but I understand you in my language”. On that note, I really appreciated the 2017 message from UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, recognizing the occasion:

“We are beings of language. Cultures, ideas, feelings and even aspirations for a better world come to us first and foremost in a specific language, with specific words. These languages convey values and visions of the world that enrich humanity. Giving value to these languages opens up the range of possible futures, and strengthens the energy needed to achieve them. On the occasion of this Day, I launch an appeal for the potential of multilingual education to be acknowledged everywhere, in education and administrative systems, in cultural expressions and the media, cyberspace and trade. The better we understand how to value languages, the more tools we will have to build a future of dignity for all.”

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