Even Japanese people get stumped by Kanji

Another great video by Yuta—- he’s quite transparent in the fact that these aren’t ‘hand picked’ interviews; he tries to get strangers on the street to answer his questions about Japanese language and culture.   This one puts ordinary Japanese people on the spot with reading some tricky Kanji.

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te-shimatta “I couldn’t help myself”

One more point on the Mayor who promised to build the ‘spamusement’ onsen amusement park if their video hit 1 million views— the phrase that got picked up by the news is a handy pattern that shows up pretty often: “yatte shimatta” (top right of image)

onsen-2

yatteshimatta

For te-shimatta, I always think of someone who simply couldn’t help themselves and went and….. (insert verb here). So, if you think of someone who meant to bring a box of donuts into the office, but got stuck in traffic and ended up eating the whole box.  Japanese could say (食べて)+しまった

You can do the same thing with virtually any verb (飲んでしまった、等)but you can cover many situations by using やってしまった。

The beauty of the internet being what it is, there is really no shortage of examples of things online– not just using Google News (searching for やってしまった), as I suggested the other day, but you can easily find comments and suggestions from other folks who are learning Japanese.  For example,  I found a page on Quora on this topic: https://www.quora.com/What-does-shimatta-mean-in-Japanese-Does-it-have-more-than-one-meaning.

I couldn’t find a link to someone using Pandora’s Box as an example for this pattern (ie 開けてしまった or  見てしまいました), but I think it would be another good example of this pattern.

*[edit] locksleyu wisely left a comment (see below) to point out that this pattern ( ってしまう) is bigger than the example I’ve raised.   Indeed, this pattern can capture a few different nuances! The challenge for English speakers is that none of the English translations will ever roll off our tongue quite as smoothly as the Japanese.

Thinking of another example, I remember I was once moved to tears (happy tears) after the one and only time I had ever flown in a helicopter—a Japanese colleague, seeing that I was embarrassed, used this form to note the moment: “感動しちゃった”.

Spamusement Park Project lands Beppu Mayor in Hot Water

A couple of weeks ago, this clever and funny video from Beppu, in Ōita Prefecture, appeared on youtube.   The whole thing is pretty tongue-in-cheek, showing a clearly fictitious amusement park that is one big hot spring ‘in motion’– picture roller coasters with a hot tub in each car.  Just the idea of it was funny.

The video takes an interesting turn at the end though– the Mayor of Beppu appears and convincingly promises “if this video gets 1 million views, we will make the Spamusement park a reality!”

After the video hit 1 million views in just four days (not really a stretch for a popular video nowadays), people started asking questions of the mayor– was he serious?  Is this something they can really pull off?  Is it practical?  Even if he’s dreaming of making it a reality, many folks have doubts.

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Rebooting Japanese

For the last year or so, I have been running into things that seem to cue up happy memories of the time I spent in Japan, and it recently donned on me that I actually haven’t lived in Japan since 2001.  It’s hard to believe that much time has passed!

When I first started this blog project in, I took the JLPT N1 test in 2010 to see if I could muster a pass. With some preparation, I was fine; however, I remember feeling like some of my knowledge was slipping.   Fast forward to six years later, there’s no denying I’ve let my proficiency slip quite a bit.

I’m thinking about taking my son to Japan next year in the summer, so I’d like to have my Japanese in reasonable shape in time for the trip.  Thinking back to the way I learned Japanese (basically early days for the internet), I thought it might be fun to take some of the strategies that I most like now, and apply them to rebooting my Japanese study.  I decided that I would employ my trusty whiteboard to log my review.

Mixing the audio and video together also gives an opportunity to add in a few images from my shoebox of stuff from Japan; the pictures in this video are from Hokkaido, Shizuoka and Akita.

 

Japanese font that shows stroke order

I went looking for a Mandarin font that showed up with the stroke order included as part of the characters.  I went in thinking “Yes, I know this is a bit special, but surely someone must have already done this”.

Unfortunately, I came up empty handed.  Having said that, I did find a Japanese version of what I was after.  I gave it a try and it works as advertised– if you have Japanese text in your document, you can simply highlight and change the font to this one and ‘voila’, it shows up with stroke numbers.  You can then increase the font size and print it out.

font exampleIn my playbook, I would combine this with the idea of making your own tracing sheets. Making something like the image here is completely with in your grasp with a font like this (it shows up as KanjiStrokeOrders in your font book) installed on your machine.

The reality is that, once you’ve mastered the general patterns of stroke orders (i.e. for left-right split characters, start on the top left and finish the left side first), you can largely ‘figure out’ most characters without a tool like this, but it doesn’t take much to make you question your judgement for characters that aren’t totally predictable.

You can download the font  (漢字の筆順のフォント) from http://www.nihilist.org.uk/

If anyone finds a Chinese version, please let me know!

 

Job Hunting: An Endless Cycle

First and foremost, I need to give a hat tip to Ardent Lee, who calls his bilingual (J/E) blog The Sleeping Sun.  He wrote a post last week that struck a chord with me about the painful first steps of trying to get your career started when you don’t have any experience, and the very fact that you don’t have any experience seems to be preventing you from even getting your foot in the door.

It’s graduation season at my university.  In addition to wishing our students well, I’ve recently been having conversations with friends and colleagues about our career aspirations and motivations.  As a result, Ardent Lee’s post, which he called Job Hunting: An Endless Cycle, came at an interesting time, and made me think back to my original plans when I was a student.  I wonder what ‘university-me’ would make of the mid-career life I’m currently living, and my original decision to study Japanese?

So, buckle your seatbelt– it’s story time.

昔々、あるところに。。。。

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The Dark Side of Japanese Customer Service

The post below contains several wonderful insights about Japanese 気配り(Kikubari), which is sometimes translated as ‘sensitivity’ and made up of two component parts: ‘気(ki), energy’ and ‘配り(kubari), distribute/deliver.  Tying the two concepts together, you can imagine the strength of one’s sensitivity coming from them spreading their energy around to all the folks in their social network. Having said that, don’t get too caught up in the etymology of the words— one of my Japanese profs once cautioned me that “we don’t think like that” when I enthusiastically presented my analysis of a particular word.

Back to the article—getting these two words straight in my head helped me to see the positive side of kikubari, which is a common intercultural tripping point for foreigners working with Japanese folks.  To understand why, and to benefit from the insights of an American who lived in Japan for a long time, give the article a read. (bonus: the author starts the story with a wonderful anecdote on the occasional role of private English teachers as therapist).

Intercultural Twilight Zone

Back in my Japan university days I eked out a living teaching English conversation part time. Made just enough money to support a weekend gallivanting habit too. It was a hand-to-mouth bachelor existence, and I was having the time of my life.

But no gallivanting for me on Thursday evenings, when I’d rush off campus in Mitaka Tokyo, jump on the bus to Kichijoji Station where I’d take the Inokashira line to Shimokitazawa, then ride the Odakyu Express out to the Japanese boonies on the outskirts of Atsugi City. In all it took me two hours door to door.

My Thursday student was a Japanese doctor. Unlike my other doctor students whom I taught at the local hospital, Dr. Thursday wanted private lessons at his home, where we conspired every week to fake our way through an English lesson, sessions in which I mostly listened to his troubles and regrets…

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