月曜日, 11月 29, 2004

Taking the 3-kyuu Chinese Test in Japan

    The thing that struck me most is that they don't go around checking everyone's picture ID before starting the test. There were no warnings to tell us "you must not, under any circumstances, take the test for anybody else" like we heard while taking the JLPT. Do they do that at all the JLPT tests, or just 1-kyuu? Maybe it doesn't matter as much for a 3-kyuu Chinese test, because it's not a life-or-death sort of test anyway, and there is little motivation to pay someone to take it for you. Whatever the reason, I felt weird about there being so few precautions against fraud. I wondered how many people in the room were who they were pretending to be.
    By the time the test started there were no empty seats in my room. The classroom was full of nervous adults looking cramped in their tiny desks. There were no children, as there sometimes are in the JLPT tests, and no ethnic diversity, except me of course.
    The test itself was...easy. Easier than the practice tests. Not just the listening, but the whole thing. Most people finished early, and left early; I finished early, but stayed almost until the end checking a few answers and making sure all the bubbles were completely filled in. You can take your test booklet home with you, which is cool, and the results are sent out within a month.
    No one made small talk with me in the halls or the classroom before or after the test. It wasn't that the test-takers were unfriendly, it was just that it wasn't that kind of scene. Not a social event like the JLPT, an excuse as if any were needed for ALTs to get together and gossip. The attitude was just "this is a test, let's get it over with and go home." And where's the fun in that?

水曜日, 11月 24, 2004

Studying Chinese

    I am using these books to study for my level 3 Chinese proficiency test on Sunday:

Intermediate Spoken Chinese by Liu Delian, Peking University Press
中検3級問題集2004年版 (book of test questions from actual tests, with grammar notes and definitions in Japanese. Includes a CD and a glossary in the back)
中国語検定3級 - 予想問題と解説 (basically the same thing except the test questions are made up, and there is no glossary)

    The CDs that come with the two books are ridiculously easy, which makes me think that I should have no trouble with the listening section of the test. The written sections are trickier, but I'm getting there.
    I bought Intermediate Spoken Chinese in Beijing. It's for foreign students studying in China, and it's a little difficult for me, but I basically like it. The dialogues and pictures are interesting, and I like the fact that it's all in Chinese except for the definitions of vocabulary words, which are in English. On page 136 is my new favorite Chinese word definition:

si (first tone)     a threadlike thing

    Wow, that's so...precise. Does that mean I can use that word for any threadlike thing I encounter? Why bother to define a word if you're not going to tell me what it really is?
    I also like the expression on page 10, yikou chicheng pangzi, "becoming fat in one bite," which means that you can't achieve good results all at once. I like it because of the assumption that becoming fat right away is a good thing. No...wait...you can't get fat right away! Be patient!

土曜日, 11月 20, 2004

Kanji Misuse Link

You must see this
Misuse of Chinese Characters in Western Culture

Some Japanese examples

We think funny English is bad, but no one tattoos funny English on their bodies.
Thank God.

火曜日, 11月 16, 2004

Demented Japanese Acrostic Word Game

    OK, the really demented thing would be to do this in Chinese, but let's start in Japanese and see how it goes. Those of you who know Japanese, please post. You have to make an acrostic/anagram of the given word. Like this:

げつよう Monday


"The healthy crane started to move at last."

--and then post a new word for the next person to anagram. (Don't use ん)

It should form a single idea that makes sense - not complete nonsense, but it doesn't necessarily have to be a complete sentence. Part of a sentence is OK. Katakana words and names are OK. Bonus points if it provides a definition of the word.

First word: きょういく Education (treat よ as its own syllable).

木曜日, 11月 11, 2004

Student Speeches Summary, Part 1

    Every year, we tell our first-year high school students to make a 2-minute speech in English for their second-term grade. They can choose any topic, but they must memorize it and bring a visual aid to show the class. This morning, my task was to listen to and evaluate 3 hours of student speeches.
    It's pretty interesting to see what they come up with to talk about, so I'll summarize their speeches here. The most impressive one today was the girl who talked about Beethoven's face. She brought in two pictures of him looking stern and angry, (the Japanese expression is "he has a hard face"), and she discussed 3 theories about why he always wore that sour expression. One was because he loved coffee. The bitter coffee he drank every morning made him look that way. (I guess that explains my sour expression, too.) The other two theories had to do with his loss of hearing and his personality type. She said he probably made that face because he wanted to be left alone.
    First hour speech topics: a windchime shaped like My Neighbor Totoro, a key ring, a karate trophy won in elementary school, Shokupan-man (Anpanman's friend and "children's hero", a bike key ("I lost my bike key. So please help me look for it"), my dog, my club, money, the book 今会いに行きます, my pencil case ("This pencil case is my treasure." If I had a hundred yen for every time I heard this or a similar sentence, how many pencil cases I could buy!) Beethoven's face, Giant Baba, Okinawa, my club, Okinawa, tennis, the parts of a baseball uniform, soft tennis, NBA player Yuta Kabuse, and a music group called B'z.
    Second hour speech topics: The photographer Hoshino Michio, piano, my birthday, volleyball, mountain climbing trip, MD player, swimming club, my peach monkey, a funny story about something that happened in Mr. Donut ("All of the doughnuts were on sale for 100 yen each. My friend ordered an apple pie. When we got the receipt, it said 149 yen. My friend shouted 'Why!' They told us that apple pie isn't a doughnut.") the electone (an electronic keyboard made by Yamaha. I didn't think this was an English word, and I confirmed this by checking Wikipedia), finding love and playing tennis (This speech was hilarious. The boy began, "Where is love?" He asked this question a couple times, and people started to snicker. Then he said, "I tried to find love. But I couldn't find love. I want to find love. Please help me find love." By now everyone was laughing. He paused and then said, "I like tennis." The rest of the speech was about tennis) yesterday's dinner (the girl had drawn a picture in her sketchbook of what she had for dinner last night), mountain-climbing, dance (this girl brought a video of a dance contest, but her team didn't win so they weren't recorded on the tape. Why did she bring the tape, then?), animals of the world, my pencil case (The speech began: "This is pencil case. This is very important for me. Let's explanation this.") Brass band (I was rather shocked to see the word "faggot" in this girl's speech. It turns out the fagott (misspelled in her written draft as "faggot") is the Japanese word for bassoon, a wind instrument--it comes from French, not English. She held up a picture that said in big letters, Yamaha Fagott) and the book White Fang by Jack London. (The girl who read this book is actually fluent in English, since she went to junior high school in Florida, not Japan. I feel sorry for her, since the class is way too easy for her. I also feel kind of embarrassed in her class, speaking my usual teacher-speak easy English, and then meeting her eyes and realizing how dumb I must sound).
    Third hour speech topics: The painter Mark Chagall (this was one of the best speeches; the girl brought several color copies of his paintings, explaining the artist's use of color and symbolism), the American TV show "24", which is really popular in Japan now; blowing bubbles with a plastic toy ("I like blowing bubbles. I blew bubbles with my friend last summer. It was very exciting.") a CD of junior high school graduation, table tennis club, badminton, tennis, Reggie Miller, climbing a mountain, a bracelet (The speech began, "I introduce you to my bracelet." No humor was intended), my hamster (this kid brought a framed picture of his hamster. After his speech was done, another kid who hadn't prepared at all asked him for it, and when his turn came he tried to make a speech using the same picture-some completely impromtu story about an imaginary dead hamster named "Sabu" . The class laughed a lot, but he couldn't think of enough to say about "Sabu" to spin it out for two minutes, so we told him to prepare something for real and try it again next time), my hair pin, my pencil case, the South Alps (I thought this was in Europe at first, but it turned out he meant the "south Alps" in Japan, moving from Wakayama at age 6 ("My teacher told me 'You can do in new place.' I was happy when I heard her words." -- You can do what in a new place?!)
    Nonsensical as some of the speeches were, I understood them a bit better this year, because I told the students to give me their written draft while they spoke so I could read it. I used it to prompt a couple students when they completely forgot the next line, too, so we didn't have quite so many awkward stage-fright silences as we did last year.
    More student speech fun to follow.

水曜日, 11月 10, 2004

Forum games

    Orange actually has a rhyme. It's porridge.
    That's something I learned while playing one of many silly
forum posting games on KoL. The games that are loosely based on the idea of "cleverly insult the person before you, and/or the next person" remind me of a game I used to play with my brother when we were kids. We would each say a word until we had a complete sentence, and the object of the game was to make the total meaning of the sentence insult the other person. Being older, I usually won. I can't believe how mean I can be sometimes. Does anyone else have fond memories of playing games like that with siblings? Anyway, it's not exactly mature, but it's fun to see that verbal battle games are alive and well.
    If you click on the link above, you'll see that "Last letter frenzy" is what they are calling English shiritori.

火曜日, 11月 09, 2004

The Bike and the Mechanical Cat

    My vice-principal gave me the bike. It's purple! And it has a basket! Lots of fun. I rode it to the station this morning, the first stage in an exciting triathalonlike commute that includes being crushed in a packed subway car and trekking uphill with my usual supply of books and dictionaries on my back. Unfortunately, it was too late in the month to buy the monthly pass, so I had to buy these little paper single-use parking permits. Each time you use one, you have to take it to the ticket office (on the other side of the station from where I parked) and they give you another paper to affix to your bike. Riding a bike to the station instead of walking, I wound up losing more time than I saved.
    Weird fact about book publishing: According to The Official Torey Hayden Web Site,Torey Hayden wrote a novel, The Mechanical Cat, that was rejected by American publishers but became a bestseller in Japanese translation. The Japanese readers are requesting an English edition, but this is difficult since it was never published in its original language.

Quote from the website:

THE MECHANICAL CAT has not been accepted for publication in English. In rejecting the novel, her publisher told her this was because the book did not fit into an existing genre. It was actually described as "too novel". As a consequence, the book had its world debut in Sweden, followed a week later by the Italian publication and in Finland. Now published in Japanese, it has gone on to become a best seller in all four countries.

    I don't know what to make of this, other than to say 1) Torey Hayden is wildly popular in Japan, 2) Japanese publishers seem to have more tolerance for experimental, open-ended, vaguer, weirder sorts of novels, especially if they are written by a well-known author.
    In the "Interviews" section of the website, Torey was asked if she can speak any languages other than English. Probably in acknowledgement of where most of her fans are,Torey answered that she is learning Italian and Japanese.

月曜日, 11月 01, 2004

The Unhalloween

    Yesterday I went to an alternative bookstore, Village Vanguard, with Takashi. While we were in there, I got a call on my mobile from my vice-principal. I was stressed out at first, thinking that my slacking at school had resulted in some terrible error. What else would be urgent enough to merit a call on a weekend? However, he was just calling to offer me his daughter's old bicycle, which she no longer needs since she got her driver's license.
    Since I wasn't at home he couldn't deliver the bike to me yesterday, but we agreed to meet at the station next Saturday, and he'll give it to me then. I'm happy.
    I didn't buy anything at the bookstore, although I saw some interesting things. I have so much to read right now it's not even funny. I'm almost done with Seirei no Moribito. It's good, but I find the idea of a 11-year old boy carrying an egg from another world inside his body to be a little unsettling. He's a boy, but some of the description makes it sound like he's pregnant. That's just weird.
    The Village Vanguard has a lot of art and photography books (including one with photos of love hotels from all over Japan), books about drugs and fetishes, large sections on certain authors such as Edogawa Ranpo and Yukio Mishima, and some American products like Spam and root beer.