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.

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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!

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).

 

Typing/Keyboarding practice

 

When I completed the written section of the French DELF exam a few years ago, one of the things that struck me was how rarely I even did that much handwriting in one sitting, even in English (i.e. an in-class written essay).  My hand/wrist ended up feeling sore, and I left thinking that the next time I prepared to write the test, I should take some time beforehand to simply practice writing by hand more often.  Around the same time, I heard a story about Hunter S. Thompson who, early in his career, sat down and re-typed one of the great American novels, The Great Gatsby; supposedly, he did it because he wanted to experience what it would be like to have the words of a classic novel flow through his fingertips….

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Whiteboard karaoke (spoken word)

Are you trying to improve your Chinese handwriting skills? I’m curious–what has worked for you?

Like many westerners studying Mandarin/Putonghua/Chinese, for the longest time I was guilty of continually saying “later, later” when it came to the idea of really pushing my reading/writing fluency to come in line with my listening and speaking skills.  I passed the advanced spoken HSK several years ago, but could never seem to crack HSK 6, which demanded a level of reading proficiency that I simply didn’t have– bottom line: As much as I ‘wanted it’, I didn’t seem willing to put in the effort necessary to cross the divide.

Sure, reading/writing Chinese is hard (David Moser still has the best essay on this topic), but it’s not impossible; you just have to do the work!    Over the last few years, I have made a concerted effort to try and correct that imbalance.

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Clay Calligraphy: Li Bai’s Jìng Yè Sī 静夜思

I’ve been wanting to try this idea for the longest time– In the end, it was good fun that was quite relaxing!

If you imagine “claymation meets calligraphy”, then you’ll understand exactly what’s going on in this video: I used plasticine (borrowed from son’s art table) to ‘write’ each stroke.

Studying poetry may seem snobbish to many North Americans; however, it’s quite common in many parts of the world and China is no exception.  I can almost guarantee that you could say the first two syllables of this poem to any Mandarin speaker and they could finish the poem for you.  Studying poetry is a great chance to practice pronunciation— ‘writing fancy’, whatever that means in the language you’re working on (i.e. brush calligraphy/interesting fonts) is also a great way to practice writing skills.  Playing with pencil crayons and finger paint is OK too!

 

Sing/calligraphy to cover a Chinese song.

For this video, I sang a Chinese song by the famous rock musician Xu Wei and practiced the written lyrics as well (watch the video and it will make sense).  Such a beautiful song–working on this was a mini-vacation!

The format for the video is essentially what I previously described as fingerprint karaoke, either for a song or for quotes (i.e. here or here). Somehow I like this format of bringing different elements (i.e. oral/written) together for a practice project.  I think I’ll keep playing around with this idea.

ᓀᐦᐃᔭᐍᐏᐣ : peyak isko mitâtaht (Cree:1-10)

Learning to count to ten in Cree

I found Brian MacDonald’s cd (Onion Lake, SK) in the Edmonton Public Library (epl.ca).  The music cd “For the Generations” and lyric booklet is part of their Cree Family Language kit; this song is called “The Number Song” and my son and I listened to it to learn the Nêhiyawêwin Cree numbers from 1-10.  This was a fun way for us to spend a Saturday when my wife was called in to work.  The syllabics below were generated using the Maskwacis Plains Cree Syllabic Converter on the Online Cree Dictionary site.

I don’t know how many mistakes (spelling, etc.) we made, but that’s how it works, doesn’t it? We gave it a go and now it’s now a song that we can sing sometimes to try and keep it fresh, and we can revisit it at some point in the future.

  1. peyak  ᐯᔭᐠ
  2. nîso  ᓃᓱ
  3. nisto  ᓂᐢᑐ
  4. newo  ᓀᐅᐧ
  5. nîyânan  ᓃᔮᓇᐣ
  6. nikotwâsik  ᓂᑯᑖᐧᓯᐠ 
  7. (ekwa) têpakohp  (ᐁᑲᐧ) ᑌᐸᑯᐦᑊ  
  8. ayinânew  ᐊᔨᓈᓀᐤ
  9. kêkâ-mitâtaht  ᑫᑳ ᒥᑖᑕᐦᐟ
  10. (mina) mitataht  (ᒥᓇ) ᒥᑕᑕᐦᐟ

êkota isko nitakihcikān  ᐁᑯᑕ ᐃᐢᑯ ᓂᑕᑭᐦᒋᑳᐣ  (“this is how far I’m counting”—thanks to RQ for translation!)