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).

korakukan_at_kosaka

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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Star Trek VI: will computers ever emulate the charm of human language learners?

Looks like like two teams are in the final running for the Tricorder Xprize—the idea of this kind of technology coming to the consumer in the near future is awe-inspiring. http://tricorder.xprize.org/teams

I joked about the Universal Translator in this post a few years ago—-somehow I don’t think that technology is much farther away…. technologically, this is an extraordinary time to be alive!!

Wordsummit

For some reason, seeing Christopher Plummer in the running for his [now confirmed] Oscar for his role in Beginners, made me remember him playing the role of General Chang in Star Trek VI. I hadn’t watched a Star Trek movie in ages, so I decided to resurrect a golden oldie over the weekend. Star Trek fans may remember that the Klingon-language dialogue figures quite prominently throughout Star Trek VI…

“We must respond personally–the Universal Translator would be recognized”

I’ve actually never been one to get swept up in the idea of learning to speak Klingon, but there was something about the context of a particular scene that I found quite interesting. If you’re not familiar with the world of Star Trek, it’s set in the 23rd century and is full of futuristic gadgets and interplanetary space drama. Whenever there is a conversation between life forms, crossing the language barrier is…

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Super Bowl LI: Winning play, called in 8 languages!

sbtd

Check out this great video that is up on the NFL.com website–the game-winning touchdown from Super Bowl LI, called in 8 different languages: Chinese, French (Canadian), German, Spanish, Portuguese (Brazilian), Japanese, Korean and Danish.

Each one is epic in a fresh and fun way, even if you don’t understand what they’re saying!

Intro

Featured

I’m taking my son to Japan this summer, so some of my recent posts (scroll down) are about getting back into Japanese. If you care to look around, start with my ‘About’ page; outside of Japanese, you’ll find posts about MandarinFrench (writing DELF B2) [proficiency certificates here] and learning a tiny bit of Cree.  Please leave a comment if something interests you–I’d love to check out your blog!

Typing in Japanese (TJM Yuta)

After commenting on the utility of handwriting practice, and how typing practice can help bring Japanese learners face to face with unfamiliar or misunderstood kanji (i.e. 訂正云々 ), I thought it was timely to see Yuta’s most recent video, explaining how Japanese typing works.  If you’ve ever wondered how you could type thousands of kanji with a regular QWERTY keyboard, then this is a perfect intro.

The video is only 5 minutes long, but he gives a really well-rounded explanation of what is involved with the typical way of inputting Japanese into a computer— I could *totally* relate to his comments about keyboard shortcuts behaving strangely when you are using another keyboard.

If you’re new to Japanese, I can understand how the prospect of typing in this way might seem intimidating; however, I can assure you that it starts to feel quite intuitive with some practice.

I made a video of typing Chinese for a post last year— if you look closely, you can see that the process of converting the input (i.e. following pinyin reading) into Chinese characters is quite similar to what Yuta is describing here for Japanese.