Monthly Archives: July 2019

Extensive reading: what convinced me

Language Fixation

Some time in the spring of 2009 I was considering getting back into learning German after a long hiatus. I had taken German in high school, but learned very little. I couldn’t read books, I couldn’t understand TV, and I couldn’t have even a basic conversation.

Nine years before this, I had gone on a couple of business trips to Germany, and at some point I picked up a German copy of Tad William’s “The Stone of Farewell”, a high fantasy novel that I had read already in English. My idea was that when I got home from the business trip I’d sit down and try to read it in German, since I had an intuitive idea that reading should be a good way to improve my language skills.

I got back to Vancouver and sat down with this fantasy novel and a German-English dictionary, and started working on it…

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Five-Year Blog Anniversary: The Story of The Untranslated

The Untranslated

William Blake, Christian reading in his book.

Five years ago on this day I posted my first review here. Since I have managed to keep my few but faithful readers interested thus far, I believe that time has come to tell the story of The Untranslated.

The story began 12 years before the appearance of the blog when I was studying for my Master’s in literature. During my first year, there arrived an oversees guest lecturer in literature and philosophy — the Stanford professor Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht. At the time, at my university knowing English well was cool. Being able to read an English-language book or a book translated into English without a dictionary was extraordinary. We always adored professors with rich English vocabulary and the most native-sounding pronunciation. Those were the signs of great mastery achieved through perseverance and determination by people who spent most of…

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Stuff I will probably never learn in regards to Korean and Japanese

TENON RULES
WUqxcZ.md.pngI have googled TENON rules for Japanese many a times and I’ve never read it properly. Tenon is characterized by the sound of the reading changing due to adjacent kanji like

amagami or kigi or amagasa or junjodate or ronpa
順序立て, 雨傘 , 木々 ,甘噛, 論破.

This tenon thing really stood out to me when I first started reading novels in Japanese since there would be all those words that I don’t know how to read (I’m unsure of the reading for many reasons including TENON) that I understand. It’s obvious that if you were to look up words just to find out the pronunciation it would suck up a lot of time.

I figured the information about tenon rules might be helpful and whatnot and give me stuff to notice but I can’t get myself to read it to the end. Like I wanted to know when it’s KURAI And when it’s GURAI or maybe it can be both? However, reading the rules is incredibly boring to me and I give up early every time and swear to myself that I’ll just learn on a word by word basis from reading and listening (hearing someone say it in an interesting situation) and hopefully I will internalize the “rules” and know from gut instinct and my vocabulary knowledge whether there is or isn’t tenon. I will say that my probability to guess whether or not there is tenon has improved markedly over the years. Over the years I’ve realized and come to accept that you will never reach a point where you can read Japanese outloud 100% (I personally aim for 90-something% so I’ve already reached my goal!) because there’s always some name or proper noun or some word where you know the word’s meaning but you’re not sure of the reading (I’ll know all the possible readings, possible combinations of those readings with or without the tenon and can make up good guesses) . And imagine if pitch accent was brought into the mix? (my fail rate would go up 50% lol) . Actually I recently saw a god tongue episode that’s relevant to those post. On the episode, they held SHIBAI YABAI GEININ which means comedians with extremely questionable acting skills. One of the geinin in his 30sWUqbTc.md.png or 40s (? ) did not memorize his lines and he has bad eyesight so somebody literally held up the notebook with his lines written out in huge japanese text a foot from him while he was acting. It was hilarious since the guy holding notepad was in the frame lol. At one point they do the scene from hanzawa naoki and the geinin has to read all these words that he’s not that familar with and he was struggling to read it on top of his bad eyesight (I think the staff held it up close enough for him to read). So at one point he says 四文字漢字 instead of reading it outloud since he doesn’t know the word. It was some bank term that no one ever says in real life. Also he said 頭取 あたまとり instead of  とうどり (I thought it was  とうとり before I tried to type it. SEE WHAT I MEAN?) and he didn’t know how to read 戯言 so he said ざごん (it has multiple readings ざれごと & たわごと- i even see ぎげん  listed but I’ve never heard or read that reading before )

Not being 100% sure of how to read stuff outloud is normal for Japanese since it’s just the nature of Japanese writing and there are cases where there are multiple ways to read the kanji and the only writer knows the correct answer or maybe his intention for people to read it in whatever way thtey want or he assumes that his true fans would read it the way he wants it lol. I actually read a WUq5ZP.md.pngbook where the guy extensively about the nature of writing in Japanese
(陰翳礼讃・文章読本by 谷崎 潤一郎- this is definitely not an easy read and it’s one of those books that makes me glad I use anki. I definitely would’ve gotten less out of his book if I hadn’t ankied all these years… He professes his love for wabisabi and talks about writing in Japanese extensively). It’s kinda like expecting to reach a point in English where you know how to pronounce/SPELL every single word in a book correctly and that’s just NEVER happen (maybe if you’re one of those spelling bee champions or those people with the kanji KENTEI 1 lol . ).
I mispronounced Hermione and Sirius’ names until the Harry Potter movies came out.

IROHA

As much I love the Shiina Ringo song irohanihoheto” (いろはにほへと),
I realized you don’t need to memorize the abc order of Japanese to be good at Japanese. Not knowing the ABC’s would only affect me in places like a Japanese bookstore or Japanese library (and the only paper dictionary I use is an English paper dictionary; even then I use it rarely). I’ve used a paper Japanese dictinoary before and it sucks. Of those 2 places I’ve only been to Japanese bookstores and when I go there I suffer the full consequences of my tenuous knowledge of the abc order of hiragana. I have some sense of the Japanese alphabet like I know 5 hiragana that are in the front, a few before the midWUqc51.md.pngdle, a few in the middle, a few towards the end and I know “n ” is the last one. I don’t even remember where I picked up this knowledge. Maybe I remembered bits and pieces of it from TV shows? I have never consciously tried to learn the ABC order for hiragana because I have no interest in it. Sometimes if I go to Book-off, I like check for certain authors and that process is sped up if I knew the Japanese ABC order like tWUqUnH.md.pnghe back of my hand but I don’t so I struggle with my limited knowledge. I don’t go there often enough to learn the ABC order either. Funnily enough I know the ABC order for Korean consonants and have a vague, incomplete understanding of the ABC order for the vowels. Again, I don’t use paper dictionaries for Korean so I don’t need to know this.

SPACING RULES FOR KOREAN

Do you know your 띄어쓰기?

며칠? 몇 일?


Okay so people always say Korean writing is much easier than Japanese because of hangeul but hangeul has numerous spacing rules while Japanese doesn’t even have spacing. I love that about Japanese. If I had to deal with spacing rules on top of hiragana, katakana, kanji, I’d be pissed. I think Mandarin has no spacing rules too. Korean spacing rules are just arbitrary to me. I’ve googled spacing rules for Korean and like TENON Rules for Japanese I could never steel myself to actually read it. I think the site I went on was going to explain 40 of the rules and I couldn’t make it through the first one because I was like who gives a shit. It was one of those rules where they say for xyz you space it EXCEPT when it is ABC. My reasons for not giving a shit is multi-fold. First of all, Koreans aren’t masters of spacing rules either. There are people in Korea who try to make sure their CV’s follow spacing rules perfectly to have their CV’s stand out of from the crowd because a lot of people suck at the spacing rules. Some Korean people who text or post stuff on forum-type of places on the Korean internet insert no spaces or do whatever spacing they feel like. Instead of spelling tests, they have tests where the teacher dictates something and the students have to spell stuff correctly and have the correct spelling rules so it’s impossible to get a 100% if you don’t know all the spacing rules. Some of these spacing faux pas are so wide-spread that people think that the wrong spacing is the correct spacing. So even if you read a lot of Korean you’ll be bombarded with incorrect spacing unless you avoid the internet, texting, etc. I will say that from watching Korean TV I have not picked up the spacing rules because ultimately I don’t remember where they put the spaces since I’m just reading to further my comprehension or figureWUqwOK.md.png out what I’m hearing. It’s kinda like expecting myself to be able to write keyakizaka 欅坂  by hand just because i saw it a few times. The only time I notice Korean spacing is when I’m copying text by typing but I never do that nowadays since I can just take a screenshot or take a picture. In fact, in my very first lang-8 post for Korean I inserted zero spaces because I forgot that Korean has spacing since I never write in Korean. If I were to write something in Korean I’d just insert spaces liberally as I felt like it to make reading as easy and effortless as possible lol…  I’d rather learn how to write a kanji character or a hanja character than remember a spacing rule for hangeul lol…. The most I’ve done for spacing rules is read hangukdrama’s post on it and forget the information in its entirety so it’s like I never read it. I have no interest in it.

My biggest reason for not wanting to learn the stuff that mentioned is that I have better stuff to do with my time.