月曜日, 10月 18, 2004


    Yesterday was the National Chinese Language Speech Contest (全日本中国語スピーチコンテスト), sponsored annually by the Hyogo Prefecture Sino-Japanese Friendship Society (兵庫県日中友好協会). My Chinese tutor was a volunteer helper this year. She encouraged me to enter. No thanks, I said, but, curious as to how this event compares with the English language speech contests which plague ALTs and inflict untold suffering on our students, I decided to go as an observer. Most high schools in Hyogo prefecture don't even have Chinese language programs, which should have been a warning to me.
    First, the master of ceremony and the judges made some remarks, and then my tutor made a nice speech in Japanese. She compared language use with cooking; just because you have all of the ingredients together (vocabulary and grammar points) doesn't mean you can combine them well to make a delicious dish. Her speech was to be the last speech I understood for the rest of the day.
    The first part of the program consisted of high school students who seemed to be reading short stories in Chinese off of a paper. I guessed that they were short stories or fables because several speakers read the same ones. It was difficult to understand their heavily accented pronunciation. I would have liked to read along and thus have some chance of understanding them from looking at the kanji, but I was kept in the dark, because the packets with the texts of the speeches were only given out to the contest participants, not gatecrashers like me. I am not sure whether to blame them or myself for my utter lack of comprehension.
    The second part of the program was for high school students who had written their own speeches. There were only two of these. They were seniors in high school (I understood that much) and one spoke about "我的理想” (My ideals) while the other spoke about "My self-introduction and my ideals." At the end of each of these two speeches, one of the judges, a Chinese native speaker, asked the speaker really easy questions about her speech in Chinese. Despite my lack of comprehension of the girls' speeches, I understood the Chinese woman's questions perfectly. She asked questions like "What is your surname?" "You want to be a doctor, is that right?" and "Have you traveled abroad?" In both cases, the embarrassed girl said "対不起" (Pardon me), not understanding the question. The Chinese woman asked again more slowly, but still the girls couldn't answer well, even though they had just been talking about those things in their own speech. It was pathetic to watch. I hate to think what would happen if they did a question and answer segment of the English speech contest. I'm afraid it would have the same results. The problem is that kids are expected to speak well before they learn how to listen. It's all backwards.
    After that, two middle-aged Japanese housewives gave speeches in Chinese, which I didn't understand but I think were about friendship between China and Japan, and then there were more speeches by other advanced speakers, mostly college students from 神戸外国語大学, 関西外大、 and other foreign language-intensive colleges in the area. Some of them seemed pretty good. During the advanced division, the time limit was lengthened to 5 minutes (it was only 2 minutes for the first group of speakers). I didn't want to sit through all the 5-minute speeches at my painfully low level of comprehension (would you?), so I left about two hours into the contest, sending an apologetic email to my tutor. If I'd stayed to the bitter end, it would have been about 5 hours total. Now I know that one of the few things more boring than an English language speech contest is a speech contest you can't understand at all.

    On Friday, I finished reading 呪怨. It was a quick read. Irrationally, a couple parts of it did scare me. Not consciously but subconsiously, and I actually had a nightmare about it one night. However, the second half of the book was disappointing because nothing really was resolved, and the same things kept happening over and over again to different people. Sometimes the exact same scene was repeated with different characters. It's eerie, but it's too repetitive to be good writing.
    There were three parts of the book where the characters didn't take off their shoes in the house. Apparently if you're entering a haunted house with the intention of burning it down, or if you're entering someone's apartment to kill them, it's okay to leave your shoes on.
    The most overused word in the book was 充満する。It's a verb meaning that the air is suffused with something like a bad smell or a sense of foreboding. That happened a lot.
    I think the movie will be better (scarier) than the book, but I read the book first to prepare myself. I'll watch the movie soon.
    Now I'm starting to read 精霊の守り人, the first book in a fantasy series recommended to me by one of my students. It has furigana on all the kanji so it should be easy to read, but on the very first page I got tripped up by some of the obscure vocabulary, like ずだぶくろ、a large cloth carry-all bag, originally for holding Buddhist scriptures. To remember this I'm imagining that my new Italian handbag is a ずだぶくろ, but I know this is incorrect usage. I have probably never seen a real one and never will. Despite such extinct vocabulary on the very first page, I want to like this book, because the series is supposed to be one of the best of Japanese fantasy.
    Still enjoying Kingdom of Loathing. I also started playing Dragon Quest V on Super Famicon yesterday. I finished 1, but 2 didn't grab me so I skipped from one to five. It seems fun. You can get monsters to join your fighting party, and the story seems more well-developed than the earlier two games I saw.


  • At 9:26 午前, Blogger Evelyn said…

    Not sure if you made a typo for 我的理想. 的 is for possession where as 得 is usually used with a verb like 走得動 (can still walk) what software do you use for chinese input?



<< Home