Old tunes and textbooks…ナウくない 音楽や大学の教科書

A friend asked me what I’d been doing to try and get back into things with Japanese and I listed off a few things that didn’t surprise him: listening to ナウくない Japanese music on the way to work (Mr. Children, Dreams Come True ), watching one of my favourite Japanese movies (Love Letter) and youtube videos here and there (really neat mini-documentary on棒倒し/ Bo Taoshi, which I had never heard of).  One thing that caught my friend by surprise was my comment about simply practicing lettering and typing.

I don’t know if other people agree, but I’ve always found it quite useful to simply ‘copy’ a passage a few times and note some of the patterns that get used. This was one of the main ways that I practiced when I was in university— yes there was the studying of vocab lists and wrestling with grammar explanations etc., but I always found it useful to simply copy the text a couple of times and try to print/write the characters so that they look presentable.  We were often assigned passages to practice until we could recite them smoothly in class, and I found that being able to recopy the passage smoothly helped me prepare.

For example, I went back to my university library and found another one of my old textbooks (Modern Japanese, A Basic Reader, Harvard University Press); I took a passage (see above) and simply copied it out 2-3 times.  It seems to be an effective way to tap into muscle memory– it didn’t take long to feel comfortable writing again (my characters are nothing to brag about, but I think they’re acceptable).

I still have a couple of pads of 原稿用紙 from my university days– I’d never been able to bring myself to throw them out, so it’s been neat putting them to use.  Lettering practice also has the additional bonus of being very easy to do in small bursts– I can do it for ten minutes and feel like I’ve accomplished something.

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You can do the same kind of practice with your computer (i.e. retyping things); however, beyond improving your typing dexterity, the focus of the practice actually shifts towards reading. This will seem counterintuitive if you don’t understand the way Japanese works, but the reality is that it’s not that hard to recopy an extremely challenging passage by hand, but if you can’t *read* it, retyping it will be almost impossible.

Put another way, if you understand the basic mechanics of the way Kanji are put together, you can reasonably reproduce an unfamiliar character by hand; however, if you don’t know how to read a particular kanji, you won’t know what keys to press in order to have it appear on the screen.

Anyway– all that to say that both typing/keyboarding and printing practices can be a challenging in meaningful ways.

As an aside to this post, I also took out the companion grammar guide to (Modern Japanese, A Basic Reader). I’ll have to write a separate post another time because the author of the grammar guide was actually our very own Japanese professor, who was an expert in *English* grammar.  Keeping up with his interpretations/explanations of Japanese was sometimes challenging, in the sense that he had a much more precise understanding of English grammar than we did:)

One exciting bit to note this week– Nicholas and I have our new passports!   I told him that the Pokemon he loves so much are from Japan and he is getting more excited about our trip in the summer.

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初日の出🌅⛩-First Sunrise for 2017

I hope today finds everyone full of joy and hope for a prosperous 2017.

Clouds in Edmonton meant it wasn’t possible to take a decent “Hatsuhinode” picture; the images I’ve used here were taken from a Google Image searche for “Hatsuhinode” and “初日の出” (with Creative Commons filter for use rights).

Despite the cloudy start, it was actually a really sunny day– on balance, I’m feeling extremely hopeful for 2017.

All signs are pointing to my son and I taking a trip to Japan this summer; I can’t tell you how excited I am– so many special people to reconnect with and so many wonderful things to do!

明けましておめでとうございます!

平成29年元旦    レイモンド(礼問答)

Hopeful

Kosaka, Akita: Japanese dance pictures and video

A few of years ago I borrowed a flatbed scanner and ‘put in the time’ to scan a few boxes of photos from Japan and China– in order to get through the task, I didn’t spend that much time getting lost in the memories (I got into quite a groove, and did them in 100-picture groups).   Having said that, diving back in to Japanese has inevitably spurred me to take a careful stroll down memory lane.  In digging through files, I also found a video that was taken at the Korakukan in Kosaka, Akita, somewhere around the year 2000.

As you’ll see shortly, I’m not a very elegant dancer:)  That said, I really have to thank the dance group and the teacher that spent so much of their time to welcome me and teach me all of the moves for dances like this one (Kurodabushi).

 

Papi酱 English class–Dubbed from Mandarin into Japanese

 

Papi酱’s comedic take of an over the top English teacher (actually a collection of very plausible classroom moments) is pretty funny– the first video below is the original Mandarin.

I only posted it here because I wanted to share an extremely clever Japanese dub of the same video (second video below).  Kudos to whoever put it together–well done!!  Clearly, the struggle of English learners is universal.

For folks that understand neither Mandarin nor Japanese, if you’ve ever seen an English class taught by a frustrated teacher, I suspect you’ll still get the humour.

Mandarin:

Japanese:

Japanese language learning through commercials:ルル・アンド・むじんくん

In putting together this post, I was once again struck by the amazing array of tools that language learners have at their disposal nowadays.  Relatively speaking, I had an easy time finding copies of old commercials, manipulating media, mixing it together with my whiteboard doodles, and then sharing it back here.  Exciting!

As you’ll hear in the video that I put together, I’ve been hit with a bit of a cold this week— I was thinking of buying some medicine (we seem to be out) and a memory of some Japanese cold medicine came to mind.   As it happens, this commercial was how I learned the word “効く”, and the tune has always stayed with me.

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My first Japanese textbook from way back when…

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I was wondering where to start with getting back on track with Japanese; instead of being a hero and starting with challenging texts, I thought it might be fun *and useful* to skim through some of the things I remember studying to get back in the swing of things.

I actually have a very clear memory of the very first thing that my teacher said to us: “Learning Japanese is not difficult; it will just be a little challenging for your spirit, and you’ll need to work hard!”.

True to her promise she didn’t let us off easy– it was a challenging but fun class.  I was in the intensive version of this class, so it was the equivalent of doing a year-long 6 unit course in a single semester: we had 10 hours of class time every week, mandated practice time in the language lab (they gave us a *punch card* so we could punch in and out of the lab), as well as in-person lab time with a TA.   The pace of quizzes, vocabulary tests and unit tests was relentless and kept us on our toes!  The next course followed the same pattern so we essentially finished all four volumes of this series over an academic year.  Class was 8-10am, Monday to Friday.

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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)

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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.