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[P]
Japanese for Nerds (I)

By rtmyers in Culture
Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 01:57:28 PM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

Japanese is the perfect language for nerds. There are just a bunch of standard interfaces to learn, which you string together like so many nested functor objects and voilà: fully-formed correct Japanese sentences!


Most attempts to teach Japanese to foreigners start off with long lists of words to learn and endless drills practicing how to say things like "Suzuki-san, konnichi-wa." But with an appropriately nerdular mind, none of this is necessary. The nerd can simply study the formal Backus-Naur definition of the language, and then treat all the individual words to be learned the same way he would learn a long list of manifest constants #define'd in some C library. This article is a pioneering attempt to provide that Backus-Naur definition.

Let's start off with one of the most basic Japanese words of all: na-i, which means "does not exist", pronounced "nigh". It's sort of like the "zero" in some Japanese-language version of abstract arithmetic. The cool thing about nai and all the other words in its whole class is that it is a complete sentence standing all by itself. It is not only a valid sentence but occurs all the time in everyday conversation.

How can that be? You have to say what does not exist, right? Well, in Japanese, you do not. Just think of the subject as a kind of optional parameter to the nai() function call. So what is the default, then? Whatever it needs to be. So nai could just as easily mean "there's nothing in the fridge" as "God does not exist."

Where things get interesting is the ways that nai can be subclassed. All of these involve taking just the leading na part, and overriding the i on the end with something else.

The IF statement

For example, the IF statement of Japanese just replaces the i with kereba, giving na-kereba. Like all Japanese words, this is pronounced exactly like it is written--giving Italian pronunciations to the vowels, and equal emphasis to all syllables.

The time has come to make our first complex Japanese sentence:

na-kereba na-i.

This is a pop quiz. Translate it now!

And the correct answer is:

If there's none, there's none.

A surprisingly useful sentence, allowing you to amaze your Japanese friends with both your linguistic fluency and your philosophical depth.

Instantiation

The second transformation is to replace the i on the end of na-i with ku, giving na-ku. Just between us nerds, let us think of this as meaning the "state of not existing". Just like in group theory you can build up a whole number system from a bunch of zeroes, we can build up a whole linguistic structure from all these na-i variants. For instance, consider the phrase na-ku na-i.

Did you get it? The state of not existing does not exist, right? So it is "not absent". Which means it is present...but with the same nuance that the double negative gives you in English, as in "I do not not have the money."

OK, here is another pop quiz for bonus points. Translate the following:

  1. It is not that I do not not have it.
  2. If I do not not have it.

Answers:

  1. Neg(Neg(Neg()), which is naku naku nai
  2. Cond(Neg(Neg()), or naku nakereba
Negative temporal translation

The third basic transformation is Past(), which replaces the final i with katta, giving na-katta. (The double t in Japanese is pronounced by saying the first t, holding it for an extra beat, and then proceeding, something like "nah cot tah".) Now you may be getting worried at this point: are we about to enter a French-like hell of dozens of weird tenses like passé pluparfait? Relax. Japanese essentially has two tenses: present and past. For what we call the "future tense" in English, they just use the present. It works much better than you might think. As you can see from this, Japanese is a very simplistic language. Conceptually, it has not really advanced much since the Jomon people were living in huts 4000 years ago. They still have not gotten around to plurals or genders, to take just two examples.

Finally, subjects and topics

Oops. We have neglected to tell you how to specify the optional parameter value for "subject". Syntactically Japanese is basically an S-O-V language, so the subject comes before the predicate. The word that nerds would use for "I" is boku.

So "I don't have it" would just be boku nai.

You might wonder why this sentence doesn't mean "I do not exist". Well, it could. Except that would not be too useful except right after some big Zen realization moment. And, to get technical on you, this form of existential negation cannot be used for an agentive-type entity such as a human, which you presumably are. I used the word "subject" above, but it is better to call this a "topic". So a semi-literal translation of boku nai would be "on the topic of me, it does not exist".

But I thought that...

Japanese had a really complicated writing system. Yes, it does. But that's not what we're talking about here, right?

Japanese had all these different formality levels. Yes, it does. But that's also not what this article is about, and frankly, its importance is exaggerated. At some point in your study of Japanese, you will learn how to say "eat" in eight different ways. In the meantime, would you rather be able to communicate or not?

Japanese grammar is really complicated.Well, no it is not. But we have certainly not covered it all here. Wait for the second article in this series, bozo.

There were these wa and ga particles in Japanese. Yes, I have indeed omitted big pieces of this picture, such as the topic particle wa which could come after boku. But it is not at all necessary for communicating with the cute Japanese girl tourists you're trying to pick up at Starbucks. In fact, leaving it out will make your Japanese sound a lot more fuckable. In any case, I will cover particles in a future installment. Intrepid reviewers of this article have pointed out that in a programming paradigm these particles correspond to operators in a programming language. And so they do. We'll take them up soon.

Review and wrap-up

Let's review the basic forms we have learned today:

  1. na-i, not existing
  2. na-kereba, if not existing
  3. na-ku, state of not existing
  4. na-katta, not existing in the past

To conclude, we will use all we have learned to create an entire conversation. But first, we will need the Japanese word for "money", which is kane, literally "gold". Second, we will need to learn how to make questions in Japanese, which turns out to be something of the utmost simplicity: just raise your voice at the end of the sentence, and you have a question. No need for complicated word order rearrangements like in English. So here is the conversation, in absolutely real street Japanese you might hear strolling down the sidewalks of Shibuya:

  1. Kane nai?
  2. Boku naku nai.

Give yourself a second to see how well you can do translating this.

  1. Got any cash?
  2. I'm not completely out.

For homework, run through difference transformations of these other useful Japanese words which work just like nai:

  • sugo-i, cool, as in sugo-i puroguramu (program)
  • hido-i, horrible, as in hido-i bagu (bug)

Next: Japanese for Nerds (II): Verbs

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Display: Sort:
Japanese for Nerds (I) | 273 comments (243 topical, 30 editorial, 2 hidden)
i love it! (none / 3) (#3)
by MechaA on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 06:25:25 PM EST

keeping up with the anime dorks! +1 FP

k24anson on K5: Imagine fifty, sixty year old men and women still playing with their genitals like ten year olds!

Nitpick (3.00 / 8) (#5)
by Verbophobe on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 06:54:26 PM EST

The french past tense you are reffering to is the "plus-que-parfait", which is the composite form of the "imparfait".

And yes, French verb tenses are a mess.  The following tenses exist for the past:
Le passé simple (simple past, litterally, but it's one of the most archaic and less used tenses)
Le passé composé (present tense + past participle)
L'imparfait
Le plus-que-parfait (imparfait + past participle)
Le passé antérieur (passé simple + past participle)
Le conditionel passé (weird)
Le conditionel passé composé (weirder)
Le subjonctif passé
Le subjonctif passé composé
Le subjonctif imparfait

All of these have very specific uses, and each have their own exceptions for each verb.  And this is just for the fucking PAST.  You've got another set like this for the future, but thankfully, only three for the present, two of which are rarely used.

Proud member of the Canadian Broadcorping Castration

hm (none / 2) (#19)
by EMHMark3 on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 09:45:46 PM EST

You think THAT's bad? Try reading Dr. Dan Streetmentioner's Time Traveller's Handbook of 1001 Tense Formations. ugh.

T H E   M A C H I N E   S T O P S
[ Parent ]

You left out (none / 2) (#28)
by rodoke3 on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 12:31:28 AM EST

the impératif passé (e.g. Soyez partis à midi./Be gone by noon). But seriously, don't you think your listing the past tenses for all the moods (five of which are literary, and thus rarely used) is a bit disingenuous?

I take umbrage with such statments and am induced to pull out archaic and over pompous words to refute such insipid vitriol. -- kerinsky


[ Parent ]
Well if we are going into this... (2.75 / 4) (#44)
by wiesmann on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 08:09:48 AM EST

You yourself forgot to mention the passé surcomposé :-). I agree that listing tenses nobody uses is kind of pointless, like mentioning the thou in english.

[ Parent ]
Actually (none / 0) (#50)
by rodoke3 on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 10:11:03 AM EST

I had never heard of that tense, I guess you learn something new every day...

I take umbrage with such statments and am induced to pull out archaic and over pompous words to refute such insipid vitriol. -- kerinsky


[ Parent ]
Damn (none / 0) (#70)
by Verbophobe on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 04:21:13 PM EST

I thought that was a Québequisme, and not proper in any way, shape or form...

Proud member of the Canadian Broadcorping Castration
[ Parent ]
No, because I had fun doing it [NT] (none / 0) (#69)
by Verbophobe on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 04:16:45 PM EST



Proud member of the Canadian Broadcorping Castration
[ Parent ]
It seems similar to latin (none / 0) (#78)
by scheme on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 05:13:46 PM EST

A lot of that seems like a direct analogue of the latin tenses. A verb in latin has present, imperfect, future, pluperfect, present prefect, future perfect tenses plus participles, gerunds, vocative. Then you have the passive voice which has all of those tenses and you then you get subjunctive forms.

It all makes for fun when a book has about 5 pages worth of text showing the different forms for a verb. And then you realize that there are several types of verbs and each have slightly different pattern of how the forms derive from the verb stem.

It's not too surprising that french has this.


"Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. THAT'S relativity." --Albert Einstein


[ Parent ]
Subjonctif imparfait (none / 1) (#89)
by MochaMan on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 08:41:56 PM EST

And if I ever hear anyone say "il fallait que j'allasse" instead of "que j'aille" in conversation, I personally reserve the right to kick them in the shins. Point taken, those tenses do exist in French... but many are reserved for literature, or have died.

[ Parent ]
You forgot the ice cream (none / 0) (#190)
by pin0cchio on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 09:01:06 PM EST

You forgot le peanut buster parfait.


lj65
[ Parent ]
English equivalents (none / 1) (#199)
by jmv on Sun Feb 29, 2004 at 02:04:24 AM EST

(Disclaimer: I'm not a native English speaker) Actually, most of these tenses exist in English too.

Imparfait: "I did"
Passé composé: "I have done"
Plus-que-parfait: "I had done"
Conditionel passé: "I would have done"
Conditionel passé composé: could be "I would have had done" (though I don't think it's used - correct me if I'm wrong)
Subjonctif passé: "That I did" (I was told both are correct?)
Subjonctif passé composé: "That I had done"

The only ones I can't map are the "passé simple" (which can be replaced by the "passé composé"), the "passé antérieur" (can be replaced by the "plus-que-parfait") and the subjonctif imparfait (which is only used for trying to impress people).

As for the future tenses,
futur simple: "I will do"
future antérieur: could be "I will have done" (is it used?)

Last thing, the passé simple is still used a lot, though of course not in conversations. And I don't consider the conditionnel passé to be weird (ever said "J'aurais pu le faire si... ")

[ Parent ]

The tenses DO exist, but they're not nearly as... (none / 2) (#209)
by Verbophobe on Sun Feb 29, 2004 at 04:14:10 PM EST

complex...

(Avoir -- Passé simple)    (Faire -- Passé simple)
J'eus            Je fis
Tu eus            Tu fis
Il eut            Il fit
Nous eûmes        Nous fîmes
Vous eûtes        Vous fîtes
Ils eurent        Ils firent

Compare with:
I had            I did
You had            You did
He had            He did
We had            We did
You had            You did
They had        They did

The analogues do exist, but let's just say that english verb tenses are much simpler, ok?

Proud member of the Canadian Broadcorping Castration
[ Parent ]

Complicated... (none / 0) (#212)
by jmv on Sun Feb 29, 2004 at 04:48:32 PM EST

Well, each tense is more complicated of course. I was just saying that French doesn't really have more tenses (especially if you consider the * perfect tenses).


[ Parent ]
number of tenses (none / 0) (#241)
by vdvo on Thu Mar 04, 2004 at 12:22:46 PM EST

Agreed. In fact, when I was learning English, my teacher made a big deal of how many tenses there are. So later, when I started French, I was totally unimpressed. :-) In fact, does French have an equivalent of the English distinction of continuous ("doing") vs. simple ("do") forms? If not, that means there are twice as many tenses in English. ;-)

[ Parent ]
French tenses (none / 0) (#249)
by wiesmann on Fri Mar 05, 2004 at 02:10:23 PM EST

In fact, does French have an equivalent of the English distinction of continuous ("doing") vs. simple ("do") forms?
That is the reason for the difference between passé simple and imparfait:
Je fis - passé simple = simple past
Je faisais - imparfait = continuous.
The passé composé (j'ai fait) is often used in place of passé simple, but it carries the idea that the action is finished. Also passé simple is much more formal than passé composé, and is rarely used in colloquial speech.

The distinction does not exist directly for the present, but you can build a continuous form using the "être" verbe. Simple form = je fais, continuous form = "je suis en train de faire"

[ Parent ]

I'm curious (2.75 / 4) (#6)
by Haunting Koan on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 06:59:35 PM EST

How are you going to address particles? I know you kind of dismissed them in the article, but it's really important to at least try and cover them in this series.

And sparsely populated two-dimensional arrays! (3.00 / 21) (#7)
by it certainly is on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 07:35:30 PM EST

char *ひらがな[][] = {
  {"あ", "い", "う", "え", "お"},
  {"か", "き", "く", "け", "こ"},
  {"さ", "し", "す", "せ", "そ"},
  {"た", "ち", "つ", "て", "と"},
  {"な", "に", "ぬ", "ね", "の"},
  {"は", "ひ", "ふ", "へ", "ほ"},
  {"ま", "み", "む", "め", "も"},
  {"や", NULL, "ゆ", NULL, "よ"},
  {"ら", "り", "る", "れ", "ろ"},
  {"わ", NULL, NULL, NULL, "ん"}
};

Oh boy, oh boy! Japanese and computer programming! Gee willikers, I'm in The Matrix already!

kur0shin.org -- it certainly is

Godwin's law [...] is impossible to violate except with an infinitely long thread that doesn't mention nazis.

Bug (none / 0) (#81)
by Hatamoto on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 05:35:13 PM EST

You missed を. Looks you overwrote it with ん.

--
"Innocence is no defense." - Federal District Judge William H. Yohn (People v. Mumia Abu-Jamal)
[ Parent ]
Not to mention (none / 2) (#86)
by rodoke3 on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 07:32:35 PM EST

ー,っ,ゑ,ゐ,or any (han)dakutened kana.

I take umbrage with such statments and am induced to pull out archaic and over pompous words to refute such insipid vitriol. -- kerinsky


[ Parent ]
Picky, picky. (none / 3) (#96)
by BJH on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 09:12:50 PM EST

ー is not hiragana.
っ is just a special usage, not a different kana.
ゐ and ゑ are archaic; the only time I've seen them used are in some very elderly women's names.
Since the dakuten/handakuten kana are identical to the non-marked forms, it's rather pointless including them. They're generally left out of the standard kana matrix for that reason.
--
Roses are red, violets are blue.
I'm schizophrenic, and so am I.
-- Oscar Levant

[ Parent ]
Hmm. (none / 1) (#117)
by it certainly is on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 10:41:04 PM EST

The code matches my kana charts. Wi, we, wo and vu do not feature in it. Are you saying I've been cheated?

kur0shin.org -- it certainly is

Godwin's law [...] is impossible to violate except with an infinitely long thread that doesn't mention nazis.
[ Parent ]

'Wo'; Japanese vs. Tibetan (none / 0) (#189)
by pin0cchio on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 08:56:30 PM EST

Yes, you have been cheated. The 'wo' hiragana is used to write the 'o' object particle, as we'll learn in lesson 2 should it get voted up.

The spelling of some of those particles follows history rather than changes in pronunciation; in old Japanese, 'wa' and 'o' particles were 'ha' and 'wo'. Just be glad kana are not as irregular as Tibetan script, which overdoes not tracking pronunciation changes even more than English; the Tibetan word transliterated bsgrubs, meaning "accomplish", is pronounced roughly like English "droop". Still, one could claim that even the 2,000 or so basic kanji fill this difficulty gap quite nicely.


lj65
[ Parent ]
Japanese is a very simplistic language? (2.85 / 14) (#10)
by Hana Yori Dango on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 08:58:19 PM EST

What bullshit. Speaking as a Korean technical-documents translator:

Japanese IS NOT A SIMPLE LANGUAGE. Japanese and Korean speech carries huge emphasis on the words you use to express yourself and the level of politness you use. Two Japanese or Korean sentences can be translated the exact same into English but mean horribly different things. To use a Korean example: if I say "jigum buto muo halkotsul malhe" it means the same as "jigum buto mousul hashiketnunji malsum he jushipshio" (what will you do now?) but one is used for friends or children and one is used for elderly statesmen and customers in a high-end boutique.

I can see you marginally address this with "But it is not at all necessary for communicating with the cute Japanese girl tourists you're trying to pick up at Starbucks." which at least recognizes some kind of tailoring speech to audience. But I cannot in good faith vote this piece up. Japanese cannot be taught without understanding politeness levels.

Ah, but I can anticipate the replies already : "He's not trying to teach advanced usage, just giving a rough-and-ready guide." Well, I can google up dozens of guides which accomplish the same thing, but also come with marginally useful vocab. As it stands, this writeup doesn't build a useful framework OR provide much by way of vocabulary. Either might redeem you but right now this is just a fluff piece.

Americanized Japanese (none / 2) (#15)
by cronian on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 09:27:52 PM EST

Politness unneccessarrry.

We perfect it; Congress kills it; They make it; We Import it; It must be anti-Americanism
[ Parent ]
Americanised Japanese: (none / 0) (#184)
by wanders on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 07:05:09 PM EST

ENGLISH MOTHERFUCKER! DO YOU SPEAK IT?

(Which is in all honesty the language I would use to communicate with anyone so incredibly foreign as the Japanese, unless I had a couple of years to spend sinking into their society.)
~
~
:x
[ Parent ]

I'll have to agree with this idiot. (n/t) (none / 0) (#200)
by artis on Sun Feb 29, 2004 at 05:35:11 AM EST


--
Can you know that you are omniscient?
[ Parent ]
Indeed (3.00 / 12) (#16)
by Juppon Gatana on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 09:28:38 PM EST

This story feels like a troll, but seems just a little bit too well-developed to set off all of my alarms. Aside from politeness, the self-descriptors/conversational-partner-descriptors are incredibly complex in Japanese -- way more so than English. For example, in decreasing orders of politeness:

Watakushi
Watashi
Boku
Ore

These all translate to "I". Also, depending on the context, you might refer to yourself in terms for your title. If I was teaching English to a class of children, I could call myself "sensei" in the third person when talking to them (though the meaning would be the first-person "I"), but such language would be inappropriate if I was talking to my boss. Similarly, from a male perspective, "otousan" (father), "oniisan/oniichan" (older brother), "ojiisan/ojiichan" (old man), and "ojisan/ojichan" (middle-aged man) can also be used in this fashion. That's just the very tip of the iceberg.

To add a little to what Hana Yori Dango (a Japanese proverb meaning "dumplings [are better] than flowers") said, Japanese has an incredibly intricate system of politeness, so much so verbs have varying forms depending on how polite you are trying to be. Verbs end differently depending on to whom and about whom you are talking. So if I'm talking about an important politician to a friend of mine, it's likely that I'd be using honoring verb forms to refer to the politician but using those verb forms in their colloquial, impolite "dictionary form".

Some examples using Hana Yori Dango's sentence of "What will you do now?"

1) Kore kara dou suru no? (Not honoring, impolite)
2) Kore kara dou shimasu ka? (Not honoring, polite)
3) Kore kara dou nasaru no? (Honoring, impolite)
4) Kore kara dou nasaimasu ka? (Honoring, polite)

This is actually simplified to a large degree, and there are many more nuances that can be added depending on what degree of politeness is desired and how much of the sentence is omitted or retained; Japanese has very lax rules about what needs to be present for a complete sentence.

- Juppon Gatana
能ある鷹は爪を隠す。
(Nou aru taka wa tsume wo kakusu.)
[ Parent ]
Question (2.75 / 4) (#25)
by Verbophobe on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 11:50:58 PM EST

Are these levels of politeness typically observed in an intimate/unimportant context?  Such as a chatroom, a Counter-Strike game or perhaps a family dinner?  

I'm only asking because all the languages I speak tend to lax their rules a LOT when in a colloquial enviroment, and these levels of politeness seem to be prime candidates for ignoring.

Proud member of the Canadian Broadcorping Castration
[ Parent ]

from the Korean (3.00 / 9) (#33)
by Hana Yori Dango on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 02:02:46 AM EST

especially in Korean, and to an extent in Japanese, you tend to vary your level of politness from one sentence to the next a little bit. If you talk only in one particular form without switching for more than a few sentences, you sound like a tool. This goes especially for the uber-polite forms.

Another IMPORTANT concept is the difference between honoring the listener and humbling the speaker. In Korean it's entirely possible to both honor the listener without humbling yourself; conversely, in classroom environments it's common for a teacher to employ speech which slightly humbles themselves but which does not honor the students either.

To answer your specific question, at a dinner table with a family you might observe the children speaking with polite plain form ("yo" endings in Korean) with the parents speaking familiar form to each other and plain familar form to the children. The children amongst themselves would use plain impolite forms but in the presence of their parents would employ plain familiar form.

Humbling yourself or honoring the listner also involves different verbs altogether for common actions. For example, you never say "mokda" for "to eat" when talking about an elder. You say "japsushida". But, you never use "japsushida" about yourself. This extends to a large number of verbs and forms.

So as you can see, the levels are pretty fine-grained; even with 20+ years of Korean under my belt it still can be awkward encountering a new grouping of people until you can observe the proper politeness levels.

This is why listening to college students diving for poon is so endlessly entertaining to native Korean speakers; when the chicks are giggling, its because the guys sound like assholes. If they knew just how much like assholes they sounded using polite respect form all the time, maybe they'd change it up a bit.

[ Parent ]

Quo vadis? (none / 1) (#36)
by rpresser on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 02:40:46 AM EST

What does all this layering of politeness forms provide, as a gain to the society?  I have a hunch that this intricate language game arose because these asian societies were so insulated and not "accomplishing anything"; i.e. not interacting with other societies, conquering new lands and peoples, etc.  Navel gazing.

OK, that sounds very very harsh.  Did I have a point in there? Probably not.  It's just that when I read about these things I think why should I bother to learn the language, if it has all these traps?  I'd rather not communicate at all, than waste extra years of my life learning such a skill.
------------
"In terms of both hyperbolic overreaching and eventual wrongness, the Permanent [Republican] Majority has set a new, and truly difficult to beat, standard." --rusty
[ Parent ]

well here's where we run into a common problem (3.00 / 4) (#51)
by Hana Yori Dango on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 10:15:31 AM EST

so many times when I've dealt with executives and engineers they ask the same sort of question - "What purpose does this serve? What do I, as a Westerner, gain from kowtowing to this system when it doesn't help me communicate?"

The answer lies in the East Asian mindset. What we view as a trap to catch unwary people who unknowingly use improper forms, actually comforts and encourages Koreans. This is because you always know where you stand in a hierarchy, implicitly. Your place is always known. You'd be suprised how much that matters in such heavily stratified societies.

It's entirely possible to communicate using only 2 main forms - plain polite and plain formal. In fact when I am crash-course teaching execs in basic Korean this is how I teach. The two forms are almost always appropriate. It's only when you get involved with what are usually peripheral concerns to the foreigner, for example when we get together with my wife's family, that the fine grained nature of the language becomes any kind of "trap." (For years they actively tried to convince their daughter that I was no good, and it was only with repeated shows of upmost deference in speech and action that convinced them otherwise.)

Don't take my comment above about the weigookin tools who use exclusively the polite plain form to mean that politeness levels are hopelessly out of reach for a non-native speaker. For the most part they're not - it would take only a few minutes to explain to these kids the error of their ways. But it's just fun to watch them flounder. Trust me, there's no one who gets a "Jushi Gol" (juicy girl), a babe in employ of the bar and demands 10000won shots of apple juice in exchange for her attentions, faster than them. Hilarious.

That being said, politeness is less a matter of communication than confirming for people their status with the people around them. With a little careful consideration, it's not hard to get a working idea of what's appropriate.

[ Parent ]

Thanks (none / 0) (#110)
by rpresser on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 10:23:09 PM EST

for understanding what I was trying to ask with my first paragraph -- what is the relationship between this language complexity and the society that grew it.  Your answer explains exactly what I was groping for.
------------
"In terms of both hyperbolic overreaching and eventual wrongness, the Permanent [Republican] Majority has set a new, and truly difficult to beat, standard." --rusty
[ Parent ]
Funny (none / 0) (#219)
by kraant on Sun Feb 29, 2004 at 06:14:03 PM EST

I'm a semi-natice speaker in japanese. It's my first language but I rarely get to use it nowadays.

What I've found is that you can generally get away with very coarse language on the street and with people you're familiar with and when in doubt switch to a very formal tone.

You need a lot of confidence to get away with it though. And you need to sound like a native.

Basically since they're taking their social cues from how you talk you just act like their social superior at all times.

It's kinda funny how well it works. I'm not sure someone who looks like a foreigner can pull it off however...
--
"kraant, open source guru" -- tumeric
Never In Our Names...
[ Parent ]

Dude (3.00 / 6) (#68)
by Verbophobe on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 04:07:48 PM EST

Every language has these incredibly complex things that are there just to piss off people who don't speak the language.

  • English has it's horrible and inconsistent pronounciation.

  • French has exceptions to ALL of it's rules, in any given context.

  • German has that thing with the composite nouns.

  • Spanish has four auxiliaries, two for the possessive (tener and haber), and two for the intransitive(ser and estar), which confuses the FUCK out of everyone not Spanish.

  • Arabic languages don't have any fucking vowels.

Asian languages just happen to include these levels of politeness.

Proud member of the Canadian Broadcorping Castration
[ Parent ]

Inconsistent? (none / 2) (#88)
by eruonna on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 07:59:03 PM EST

  • English has its horrible and inconsistent pronounciation.

I don't know about anyone else, but I certainly pronounce English consistently. I say things the same way every time.

[ Parent ]
Re: Inconsistent? (none / 0) (#131)
by shaikun on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 12:26:20 AM EST

Ghoti (pronounced 'fish'):
'gh' as in laugh
'o' as in women
'ti' as in nation
Consistent indeed.

[ Parent ]
Maybe you're consistent (none / 2) (#140)
by Verbophobe on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 01:04:51 AM EST

But the language isn't.  George Bernard Shaw bitched a lot about this before we were even conceived...  Here are a few examples:

Say Naval, Navel, Navil, Navol, Navul out loud.  Notice that they all (should) sound the same?  Why do they sound in the same?  Why don't they?  No one knows...

Why is it "infinite" (in-fi-ni-t) whereas it's also "finite" (fy-night)?

Though, thought, through.  All "ou"s are pronounced differently.

Such a mess.

Proud member of the Canadian Broadcorping Castration
[ Parent ]

not really inconsistent (none / 0) (#177)
by Battle Troll on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 04:47:58 PM EST

Unaccented final syllables take the schwa.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]
what about the rule . . . (none / 0) (#90)
by thankyougustad on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 08:52:10 PM EST

'quand on est con, on est con?'

No no thanks no
Je n'aime que le bourbon
no no thanks no
c'est une affaire de goût.

[ Parent ]
French exceptions (none / 1) (#108)
by rpresser on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 10:21:16 PM EST

AAARGH! you have reawakened in me memories of a horrible time when I tried to learn a little bit of French. Not for communication, just for being able to pronounce what I was singing.  Why the hell would you take a word pronounced "yu" and spell it "yeaux"?  Why are there so many wasted letters?
------------
"In terms of both hyperbolic overreaching and eventual wrongness, the Permanent [Republican] Majority has set a new, and truly difficult to beat, standard." --rusty
[ Parent ]
Actually (none / 1) (#142)
by Verbophobe on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 01:13:21 AM EST

French pronounciation/spelling, by and large, is pretty solid.  "-eu/-eux" always sounds like that.  "yeux" (zi-uh) itself is pretty weird, since it's the plural of "oeil" (I really have no idea how an englishman would pronounce this), which is eye.

Again, these exceptions are quite small, but they're a fucking pain...  Like how they'll say that EVERY verb that ends in -er is a verb from the first group EXCEPT "aller" (ah-lay), which is, like, the third most used verb in the language, and it means "go".  

Oh, and all nouns that finish in -ou have their plural form in -ous, except bijoux, cailloux, choux, genoux, hiboux, joujoux et poux.  That phrase will haunt me for the rest of my life.

Proud member of the Canadian Broadcorping Castration
[ Parent ]

Re: French exceptions (none / 1) (#160)
by mikael_j on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 06:39:42 AM EST

My big problem with French is that it's a bitch to speak because (as others have mentioned) there are exceptions to all rules. And also the written language doesn't "look like it sounds", during my time at la Sorbonne I constantly ran into this problem which was doubled by me being swedish (and thereby assuming that if there is space between two words then those two words are more or less separate from each other when you speak, not so in French..)

/Mikael
We give a bad name to the internet in general. - Rusty
[ Parent ]

Wordconcatenationproblem? (none / 0) (#182)
by wanders on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 06:53:16 PM EST

Surely German must have something worse than just composite nouns -- it's really just about writing nouns together rather than apart, as far as I can tell. Have to agree about the everwailing English though. It still mystifies me how the a represents two vowel sounds in a word like "waste" and the e manages to disappear entirely...
~
~
:x
[ Parent ]
Efficiency, humor, and insult (3.00 / 5) (#187)
by tedoneill on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 08:39:47 PM EST

Well, aside from your comments re navel gazing and a lack of conquering, let's look at your question: "What does all this layering of politeness forms provide, as a gain to the society?"

If we rephrase this slightly, to "What does all this layering of politeness forms provide, as a gain to people who wish to communicate?", then we can start to get somewhere. Relative levels of politeness are primarily difficult for second language learners- native speakers usually "get it". (OK, there are exceptions.) All languages have them. They are extremely efficient ways of communicating. The terms polite/impolite can be misleading. If you think of ingroup/outgroup, and hierarchical relationships such as elder/younger, mentor/student, father-in-law/son-in_law, you are probably on firmer ground than just polite/impolite. What is regarded as an "impolite" form in Japanese, such as shortening the full "ohayo gozaimasu" down to a grunted wheezing "uiisu" is perfectely acceptable and not impolite at all in the correct context. Using one correct word tells everyone that you know where you are, who you are talking to, and how you fit into the situation. In the same way, "How's it hanging?" is an "impolite" greeting, but perfectly acceptable and useful in the right situation.

Consider these greetings in English. For a native or fluent speaker of English, they accomplish several things at once.

  • Yo!
  • I'm delighted to make your acquaintance.
  • Nice to meet you.
  • Nice ta meetcha.
  • How do you do?
  • It's an honor.
  • Hawaya!
  • Hello.
  • Hey, pops!
The most "polite" of these is often inappropriate, but each carries meaning about speaker, hearer, their relationship, and perceived roles in the conversation in a few words. Highly efficient.

That is your answer to "What does all this accomplish?" In addition, using them incorrectly on purpose can be a neat way of adding a bit of humor or insult to any situation.

One more way to think about these is in requests. English expresses relationship and hierarchy information in the verbs and other words as well, just not in as systematic or rule driven way as Japanese does.

  • Door!!!
  • Shut the damn door!
  • Shut the door, please.
  • Close the door, please.
  • Can you shut the door?
  • Could you shut the door?
  • Would you shut the door?
  • Would you mind closing the door?
  • Could you please shut the door?
  • If it's not asking too much, could I please trouble you to take a moment and close the door?
A native English speaker has no trouble at all decoding the relationships implied here. Teaching the difference to non-native speakers is really tough. And, those are only a few of the ways one might ask somebody to shut the door in English. I'm sure you can think of more. This should put to rest any notions that "politeness" is unique to Japanese or other Asian languages.

--Ted

"Always be wary of any helpful item which weighs less than its operating manual." -- Terry Pratchett
[ Parent ]

Interesting (none / 0) (#196)
by rpresser on Sun Feb 29, 2004 at 12:29:25 AM EST

Thanks for this explication.  Japanese and related languages, then, are just languages that incorporated this "out-of-band" communication directly into the form and structure of the words themselves, instead of leaving it out in the word choice as English seems to do?
------------
"In terms of both hyperbolic overreaching and eventual wrongness, the Permanent [Republican] Majority has set a new, and truly difficult to beat, standard." --rusty
[ Parent ]
Japanese as Well (none / 2) (#54)
by Juppon Gatana on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 11:41:46 AM EST

Basically, everything Hana Yori Dango said in the above post is relevant to Japanese as well. Just confirming that from the Japanese perspective.

- Juppon Gatana
能ある鷹は爪を隠す。
(Nou aru taka wa tsume wo kakusu.)
[ Parent ]
Just wondering... (none / 1) (#91)
by BJH on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 08:53:16 PM EST

This is an honest question: Did you deliberately use the wrong kanji for 'no' in your sig there?

--
Roses are red, violets are blue.
I'm schizophrenic, and so am I.
-- Oscar Levant

[ Parent ]
Nope (none / 0) (#112)
by Juppon Gatana on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 10:35:55 PM EST

It's an old mistake (as in, it's been there for the past year and a half) that I've been too lazy to correct.

- Juppon Gatana
能ある鷹は爪を隠す。
(Nou aru taka wa tsume wo kakusu.)
[ Parent ]
Ah, OK. [n/t] (none / 0) (#114)
by BJH on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 10:39:02 PM EST


--
Roses are red, violets are blue.
I'm schizophrenic, and so am I.
-- Oscar Levant

[ Parent ]
In Fact, Let Me Explain... (none / 1) (#118)
by Juppon Gatana on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 10:44:04 PM EST

When I made the signature initially, I typed it out in MS Word and used the "Save As Webpage..." to get the Japanese characters transformed into a format that would be readable on K5. I assumed at the time that the correct kanji would be "brain", since it would then stand as "a hawk with brains hides its claws". I already knew that the meaning of the proverb was effectively "a smart hawk hides its claws", so that seemed like the proper word. I have since been corrected on it a couple times, but I've just be too lazy to go through the process of fixing it. I guess I should at some point.

- Juppon Gatana
能ある鷹は爪を隠す。
(Nou aru taka wa tsume wo kakusu.)
[ Parent ]
kane vs. okane (none / 0) (#17)
by cronian on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 09:29:51 PM EST



We perfect it; Congress kills it; They make it; We Import it; It must be anti-Americanism
[ Parent ]
The article addresses (2.71 / 7) (#29)
by ninja rmg on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 01:28:39 AM EST

A serious problem with japanese language pedagogy. For whatever reason, japanese teachers (the ones I've had) refuse to give straight answers about grammar. They also try only to teach you how to speak politely, which is utterly useless if you want to be able to understand common speech. I always suspected that the language was as simple as this guy says, but I could never drag the details out of my teachers, so I could never really learn it.

Cutting through the crap and getting down to the grammar is exactly what many students need, if you ask me. Learning the various polite forms should be an afterthought.



[ Parent ]

Polite Speech is Beyond Important (3.00 / 7) (#53)
by Juppon Gatana on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 11:24:16 AM EST

I understand your frustration. I felt it too, earlier in my studies, and I still feel it now sometimes. However, I've learned enough Japanese to realize that teachers are usually being very circumspect and just in their decision to teach polite forms.

Assuming you haven't unfortunately been stuck with exceptionally poor teachers, part of the problems you've had with grammar are probably due to the intrinsic difference between English and Japanese. Sometimes it is virtually impossible to translate grammar simply because it is so different from English grammar.

Take, for example, the very simple particle "no". It is used to indicate possessive, so for example, "Watashi [I/me] no hon [book]" would translate to "my book". But there are a plethora of other meanings as well. For example, you could say "Otousan [father] no Tatsuo [a male name]" which would translate to "My father Tatsuo". In terms of English speaking, that's not a possessive usage. Or, you could say "kami [paper] no nai [none] tsukue [desk]", which means "the desk that has no paper." In the latter case, "no" is used where the particle "ga" might normally be employed. Simply put, seemingly simplistic words can actually be incredibly complex Pandora's Boxes, and so your teachers might just be unable to explain such complex concepts. The only way to really get a handle on it is through experience. Similarly, at some point during a first year class one student will probably ask the teacher what the difference between the "wa" and "ga" particles is. The teacher won't be able to answer this seemingly easy question because there are simply no rules to go by; there has been at least one whole book written with the express purpose of addressing only that topic.

I agree with you that in terms of importance grammar trumps politeness; it's more important to be able to say what you want than to be able to say only a few things but with appropriate levels of politeness. However, unless you learn the politeness forms in Japanese, your linguistic skills will be perpetually crippled and relegated to less-than-mediocrity. Unlike American society, where politeness is seen more or less as merely respecting the other person, Japanese society mandates a much more intricate interaction of words and behaviors. I cannot emphasize this enough: it is completely impossible to enter Japanese society if you cannot manipulate the polite, humble, and honoring forms of the language. The reason for this is that your speech will make people extremely uncomfortable. Allow me to present an anecdote.
After studying two years of Japanese in high school I went to Japan for a monthlong homestay. During that time I eventually realized that it would be socially acceptable for me to use the less formal "boku" when referring to myself. Unfortunately, I believed that since it was alright to use "boku", it would also be alright to use the word "kimi", meaning "you". Things are not that simple, however, and I spent about three days calling my host parents "kimi" until they corrected me. While in English, "kimi" translates simply to "you", in Japanese it can only be used for someone of equal or lower social status. Thus, I was unintentionally being extremely rude to my host parents. The best way I can translate it is that it would be kind of like saying to your host mother, "Hey toots, you wanna make me some breakfast or what?" Obviously my host family was understanding, but not being able to manipulate the polite forms will cripple you linguistically.

When foreign males who have very limited understanding of Japanese try to talk to Japanese women, for example, their language is sometimes way too formal. Because of the way business-style, "safe" Japanese is learned, they are likely to use "watashi" to mean "I", which comes off as sometimes laughably feminine. There are times when men should use "watashi", but that is not one of them.

- Juppon Gatana
能ある鷹は爪を隠す。
(Nou aru taka wa tsume wo kakusu.)
[ Parent ]
While this is all true (none / 2) (#65)
by ninja rmg on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 02:59:49 PM EST

And I am well aware of it, a student will never be in the position to speak at all without grammar. It is certainly important to make students aware of politeness and should probably be a significant priority for an advanced student, but if you deal with polite forms to the exclusion of colloquial ones, you get a student who cannot speak the language and sure as hell can't understand it. Unfortunately, most teachers seem to fall into this trap.

On the matter of particles, such things are always the most difficult part of any language. In European languages, they take the form of preoposition (mostly) and have a wide variety of meanings that do not match to a particular word in English. This is par for the course. Sure, you have strange constructions, but that should not be a barrier to teaching grammar in some degree of generality.



[ Parent ]

BTW... (none / 0) (#95)
by BJH on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 09:07:11 PM EST

It's bad form to blame your inability to learn a language on your teachers.

How many of them have you had? And you're saying that they were *all* crap at teaching grammar, and that was the one thing stopping you from speaking Japanese like a native?

Hmm...
--
Roses are red, violets are blue.
I'm schizophrenic, and so am I.
-- Oscar Levant

[ Parent ]

I was a brilliant student. (none / 2) (#101)
by ninja rmg on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 09:40:36 PM EST

When my teacher would get upset with me for not taking notes, I would recite his lectures back to him with demonstative examples of my own to drive the point home (of course, I was never able to finish the entire lectures, because of time limitations). Well, I had two others who never bothered me about taking notes, but they were similar in other respects.

Sucks, huh, smart ass? Seems you ran into the wrong guy.



[ Parent ]

Heh. (2.60 / 5) (#103)
by BJH on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 09:48:03 PM EST

"Anonymous person claims to be brilliant on Internet. Provides no proof. News at 11!"

--
Roses are red, violets are blue.
I'm schizophrenic, and so am I.
-- Oscar Levant

[ Parent ]
I see. (none / 3) (#104)
by ninja rmg on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 09:52:53 PM EST

So you make fairly strong and insulting claims then hide behind the defense that there is no way I can prove the events of the past via the internet. Extremely poor taste.



[ Parent ]
Ahem. (none / 2) (#106)
by BJH on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 10:13:54 PM EST

No, I'm saying that blaming your inability to learn a language (even though you claim yourself to be 'brilliant') on your teachers is in bad taste.

Which is exactly what I said in my first post.
--
Roses are red, violets are blue.
I'm schizophrenic, and so am I.
-- Oscar Levant

[ Parent ]

Are you calling me a liar? (1.83 / 6) (#107)
by ninja rmg on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 10:20:45 PM EST

I told you that my capacities to learn the language were not at fault. I offered anecdotal evidence that, in fact, I was able to recite lectures on grammar from memory and construct demonstrative examples on the spot. Further, and this is key, I said that when I questioned my teacher about more general points of grammar, he was unwilling to answer.

This is not blaming anyone, it is a statement of fact derived from experience. The conclusion one would derive from this is that in fact there was no inability to learn the language at all, only a shortage of vital instruction.

The only way what you say is logically defensible is if you are saying I am a liar, despite the fact that you have absolutely no evidence to suggest that I am lying. Is that the claim you want to make?



[ Parent ]

My oh my, sensitive are we? (none / 3) (#113)
by BJH on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 10:36:14 PM EST

No, the claim I want to make is that whether or not your teachers were to blame for your stated inability to learn Japanese, it's bad taste to say so.

Or to put it another way, the statement "I'm brilliant, so if I can't learn something, it's because the people teaching me were fools" is not likely to win you many friends, whether or not you are brilliant, and whether or not your teachers (all three of them) were unable to teach grammar properly.

If you can't see that (a) I'm not calling you a liar and (b) several of your comments are rude and/or arrogant, then I've got nothing further to say.

--
Roses are red, violets are blue.
I'm schizophrenic, and so am I.
-- Oscar Levant

[ Parent ]

Don't backpedal. (1.66 / 6) (#119)
by ninja rmg on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 10:52:16 PM EST

You are indeed calling me a liar. If we had met face to face, you would not make arguments like these because the embarassment would be too much for you.

I claimed that the teacher was unwilling, not unable, to answer my questions. Indeed, he may have been very good had he been willing and what I did get from him was useful. Further, the approaches of my teachers were in accord with the books they taught from, which were similarly light on grammar and heavy on specific applications of grammar.

You have denied the experience I have reported (i.e. claimed that I am lying) and you have misrepresented my position repeatedly. For example: "Or to put it another way, the statement 'I'm brilliant, so if I can't learn something, it's because the people teaching me were fools.'" Not only does this discount what I have claimed, i.e. that I had no trouble at all learning what I was taught, it also imposes an arrogant tone not supported by the text of my comments and seems to completely ignore the issue at hand (that the instructor was unwilling to go into points of grammar).

Your argumentation has been dishonest and insulting from the start. When I call you on it, you have become defensive and tried to turn things around by restating the same dishonest arguements. I can only assume you are ashamed (and with good reason).

You owe an apology.



[ Parent ]

Riiight. (none / 3) (#125)
by BJH on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 11:25:14 PM EST

This from the person whose first reply ended by calling me a 'smart ass'.

Most people I know would be too embarrassed to say that they couldn't learn something because of their teachers, but apparently this goes entirely over your head.

I guess it just goes to show that some people aren't cut out for civilised discourse.

PLONK
--
Roses are red, violets are blue.
I'm schizophrenic, and so am I.
-- Oscar Levant

[ Parent ]

A troll. (1.16 / 6) (#128)
by ninja rmg on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 11:58:25 PM EST

Cute.



[ Parent ]
Heh. (1.00 / 5) (#129)
by BJH on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 12:12:47 AM EST

There you go, talking about yourself again.
--
Roses are red, violets are blue.
I'm schizophrenic, and so am I.
-- Oscar Levant

[ Parent ]
You know, I thought I had seen this name somewhere (1.12 / 8) (#130)
by ninja rmg on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 12:15:49 AM EST

You're a sporks-r-us regular aren't you?



[ Parent ]
Nah... (none / 3) (#139)
by BJH on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 01:03:33 AM EST

... that's the well known troll, rmg. I'm the non-famous non-troll bjh.

--
Roses are red, violets are blue.
I'm schizophrenic, and so am I.
-- Oscar Levant

[ Parent ]
I certainly do not (1.00 / 6) (#141)
by ninja rmg on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 01:06:29 AM EST

Frequent sporks-r-us.

By the way, you were clearly in the wrong in this thread. Your complaint about my "smart ass" remark does not excuse you.



[ Parent ]

Sigh. (none / 2) (#156)
by BJH on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 04:40:53 AM EST

Obviously you'd like to think so. That just proves my point.
--
Roses are red, violets are blue.
I'm schizophrenic, and so am I.
-- Oscar Levant

[ Parent ]
Well, (none / 3) (#157)
by ninja rmg on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 04:45:43 AM EST

You initiated a hostile line of argument on the basis of an incorrect reading of the post, and ultimately your critique turned out to be wrong. Meanwhile you claimed that I had falsified my evidence.

But I'll leave the readers to decide.



[ Parent ]

Huh? (none / 2) (#159)
by BJH on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 05:49:57 AM EST

What evidence? All we've got is your opinion.
--
Roses are red, violets are blue.
I'm schizophrenic, and so am I.
-- Oscar Levant

[ Parent ]
Attn: rmg (none / 1) (#179)
by it certainly is on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 05:16:30 PM EST

Please stop arguing with yourself.

kur0shin.org -- it certainly is

Godwin's law [...] is impossible to violate except with an infinitely long thread that doesn't mention nazis.
[ Parent ]

Sorry, (none / 0) (#180)
by ninja rmg on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 05:40:01 PM EST

This guy just pisses me off. This is a fundamental problem with the "community" here. People are eager to pop off and be insulting for no reason and refuse to admit they were wrong after it's shown they had no basis for their attack and prefer to claim that their target is lying.

There is absolutely no courtesy on this site at all, and that's sad. Hell, with the account that I occasionally use for serious discussion, I've often apologized when I was wrong, but this guy acts like I do when I'm trolling (though that is admittedly almost all the time) in a serious context. That's the real problem with this place. And the worst thing is that he gets modded up for it...

Oh well.



[ Parent ]

Nice. (none / 1) (#194)
by it certainly is on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 11:59:36 PM EST

Didn't miss a beat.

kur0shin.org -- it certainly is

Godwin's law [...] is impossible to violate except with an infinitely long thread that doesn't mention nazis.
[ Parent ]

Teachers (none / 0) (#214)
by Kuwanger on Sun Feb 29, 2004 at 05:13:46 PM EST

> Most people I know would be too embarrassed to say that they couldn't learn something because of their teachers, but apparently this goes entirely over your head.

It's sometimes a fact that teachers are unwilling or unable to provide the sort of guidance one needs, especially at higher levels of education.  This can stem from inexperience to the problem itself not being definitively answerable at this time (like proof if there's a God or if NP and P are the same set).  Even if it were otherwise, the teacher should be able to tell the student that they cannot answer the question because it is impossible for them or others to, but they can at best provide viewpoints of the situation.

Language, however, isn't a religion.  It's somewhat approachable as Math with a set of axioms and a set of exceptions of one or more depths.  Given that, it seems more a lacking on the teacher's part to offer to the student more than is provided in a book.  To some extent, this might be because the teacher is unwilling to go the extra effort to fulfill the intellectual desires of the student.  In largest probability, the teacher doesn't want to act like a personal teacher/tutor without being paid for it.  While I can, from an economic position, understand that, I cannot from any other position as it sounds like a teacher who would rather be like a machine than a forthcoming human.  If teaching is nothing more than a paying gig, then I can understand having disgust for the teacher.  Teaching is a career, not a factory job.

[ Parent ]

Can't learn politeness levels (2.80 / 5) (#77)
by Julian Morrison on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 05:10:19 PM EST

...until you first bootstrap into an understanding of grammar and basic vocab. While it would be wrong to say "Japanese is, taken as a whole, simple", it would be reasonable to say "Japanese builds complexity by layering over abstract simplicity". Unlike, say, english, which starts as messy as it means to go on.

[ Parent ]
question (1.90 / 11) (#21)
by horny smurf on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 10:27:19 PM EST

What does "bukkake" mean?

God dammit (none / 0) (#23)
by STFUYHBT on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 10:31:59 PM EST

Beat my joke by like 2 minutes. I fail it.

-
"Of all the myriad forms of life here, the 'troll-diagnostic' is surely the lowest, yes?" -medham
[ Parent ]
George Bukkake? (none / 2) (#63)
by Miniwheat on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 01:51:58 PM EST

Wasn't he the Governor of New York?


[ Parent ]
Re: question (none / 0) (#122)
by Sithgunner on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 11:11:53 PM EST

It means, splash alot...

[ Parent ]
Several guys paint a girl's face with cum. (none / 0) (#202)
by Cirrostratus Clouds on Sun Feb 29, 2004 at 06:37:43 AM EST

It's not that difficult to explain it to a fella.

[ Parent ]
Technically... (none / 0) (#239)
by fuchikoma on Wed Mar 03, 2004 at 03:54:58 PM EST

Technically, I think it means to splatter. Japanese is heavily context based, so the rest is assumed. ^^;

[ Parent ]
Question (2.71 / 32) (#22)
by STFUYHBT on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 10:29:04 PM EST

How does one say "OMGOMG I'm being raped by a tentacle. But I can't run because my mammoth breasts and enormous eyes make me too top-heavy for my 12 year old body." Because that might come up too.

-
"Of all the myriad forms of life here, the 'troll-diagnostic' is surely the lowest, yes?" -medham
gold sir, gold. (nt) (none / 2) (#66)
by romperstomper on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 03:17:38 PM EST



[ Parent ]
Let's see... (none / 3) (#74)
by Haunting Koan on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 05:03:48 PM EST

「キャ━━━━━━(ᦂ 7;´Д`)━━━━━━ &# 33;!!!!
私、触手に犯されてる ぅぅぅぅぅ!!でもこ の12歳児の身体に不ຖ 7;合いなデカさの胸と௬ 4;のせいで、バランスӔ 4;悪くて走れないから๦ 7;げられないの☆(;´W 04;`)エヘ」 If it doesn't work... screw you.

[ Parent ]
k5 sucks. Go here: http://tinyurl.com/3bu9d (none / 1) (#75)
by Haunting Koan on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 05:07:11 PM EST

no text in this case

[ Parent ]
Thank you! (none / 0) (#82)
by STFUYHBT on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 06:08:28 PM EST

I don't read a word of Japanese, but I'll be sure to print that out in case I ever need to use it as a note.

-
"Of all the myriad forms of life here, the 'troll-diagnostic' is surely the lowest, yes?" -medham
[ Parent ]
Obviously... (none / 2) (#93)
by BJH on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 08:59:25 PM EST

...you spend far too much time at 2ch.
--
Roses are red, violets are blue.
I'm schizophrenic, and so am I.
-- Oscar Levant

[ Parent ]
Okashii~! (none / 0) (#238)
by fuchikoma on Wed Mar 03, 2004 at 03:53:20 PM EST

ROFL. Kata ga ittai yo! Kono "kya--!" no naka no kao mo okashii ze!

^^b

[ Parent ]

LOL (none / 1) (#203)
by Zabe on Sun Feb 29, 2004 at 06:56:14 AM EST

"How does one say "OMGOMG I'm being raped by a tentacle. But I can't run because my mammoth breasts and enormous eyes make me too top-heavy for my 12 year old body." Because that might come up too."

That is hallarious!  :)
Badassed Hotrod


[ Parent ]
I'm Guessing (none / 1) (#210)
by dasher on Sun Feb 29, 2004 at 04:19:53 PM EST

"Yamete"?

[ Parent ]
I think, therefore I'm not. (2.73 / 15) (#30)
by For Whom The Bells Troll on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 01:40:22 AM EST

na-ku. Just between us nerds, let us think of this as meaning the "state of not existing".
naaku, in my mother tongue Telugu, can mean either 'lick' or 'for me', depending on the context. Further proof that I'm not a cunning linguist.

---
The Big F Word.
You win an award (2.50 / 6) (#34)
by Empedocles on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 02:32:23 AM EST

Further proof that I'm not a cunning linguist.

That went right past "horribly horrendous" and swung back around to "hilarious." I salute you, sir, for producing what is quite possibly the worst pun in the history of mankind.

---
And I think it's gonna be a long long time
'Till touch down brings me 'round again to find
I'm not the man they think I am at home

[ Parent ]

Ah but, (none / 3) (#37)
by For Whom The Bells Troll on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 02:43:03 AM EST

I see at least four puns in there, one each for I, am not, linguist and cunning linguist. Which one are you talking about?

PS- Can I sig you? :-|

---
The Big F Word.
[ Parent ]

The funniest one... (none / 3) (#38)
by Empedocles on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 04:09:07 AM EST

was the one that first jumped out at me - "cunning linguist/cunnilingus." After that, I re-read the post (this time reading the subject line) and was promptly smashed into a bite-sized morsel by the others. Truly a masterpiece.

And it would be an honor to be sigged.

---
And I think it's gonna be a long long time
'Till touch down brings me 'round again to find
I'm not the man they think I am at home

[ Parent ]

"Mother Tongue" (none / 1) (#176)
by vyruss on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 04:37:50 PM EST

was also great, albeit incestuous.

  • PRINT CHR$(147)

[ Parent ]
very cunning... (none / 1) (#98)
by NumbThumb on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 09:22:37 PM EST

but not so original.
-- this rant no sig --
[ Parent ]
Four puns. Three languages. One sentence. (none / 1) (#135)
by For Whom The Bells Troll on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 12:47:26 AM EST

Ergo, quite original.

---
The Big F Word.
[ Parent ]
naku (none / 1) (#49)
by b1t r0t on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 09:52:38 AM EST

Hell, in Japanese naku is also a verb that means making animal noises.

-- Indymedia: the fanfiction.net of journalism.
[ Parent ]
Wow. It's true. (none / 0) (#61)
by Valdrax on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 01:39:47 PM EST

I thought you were pulling our legs, but I managed to find reference to both definitions for "naaku" on the web from two completely different sources.

3, Encougage:  Dual-language pun.

[ Parent ]

Nakku in Tamil (none / 1) (#169)
by arvindn on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 01:30:26 PM EST

I'm from a bit further down south, and over here lick is nakku and 'for me' is enakku.

So you think your vocabulary's good?
[ Parent ]
Yup. (none / 0) (#225)
by For Whom The Bells Troll on Mon Mar 01, 2004 at 08:48:35 AM EST

But note the stress on the vowel and on the 'ka' consonant... it's naaku versus enakku :-)

(tamil koncham koncham... teriyum...?)

---
The Big F Word.
[ Parent ]

-1 (1.26 / 15) (#31)
by bankind on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 01:44:12 AM EST

doesn't help me deny my involvement in the rape of Nanjing. Or is that in part II?

"Insurgents are blowing up pipelines and police stations, geysers of sewage are erupting from the streets, and the electricity is off most of the time -- but we've given Iraq the gift of supply-side economics." -Krugman

Best article *ever* on K5!!11 (2.37 / 8) (#41)
by megid on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 04:38:01 AM EST

Seriously, cant remember when I laughed my ass off like this. Have learned japanese for a long time (with big interruptions), but never seen it from that angle. +1, +1, +1.

--
"think first, write second, speak third."
Very nice, loved the idea, not for me tho (none / 1) (#43)
by Bringa on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 05:50:01 AM EST

Very good idea to approach teaching a language, I think it might work for japanese. I've heard about its simple grammar, but I strongly refuse to learn it, simply because everyone does. And then I hate schoolgirl uniforms.

/me looks at kvoctrain. Yes, some more polish now.

Well... (none / 0) (#211)
by PhillipW on Sun Feb 29, 2004 at 04:45:48 PM EST

And then I hate schoolgirl uniforms.

That's alright. Some people have to confront the fact that they may be homosexual at least once in their life.

-Phil
[ Parent ]
rtmyers is a leet otaku-kami. text na-i. (1.80 / 5) (#55)
by Russell Dovey on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 11:43:20 AM EST


"Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light." - Spike Milligan

ah damnit (2.34 / 26) (#64)
by Hana Yori Dango on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 02:46:59 PM EST

Either the author of this piece doesn't know enough Japanese to realize what bullshit his writeup is, or he DOES know enough and just wants to fuck with the "I'm go to 73h j@paN and b3 @ 1337 programmer" crowd.  I will reproduce the first paragraph of his condescending, culturally biased Tibetan writeup, frontpaged earlier in February:

I'm no script virgin. I'm an armchair linguist who knows the Japanese and Korean scripts well, and has a nodding acquaintance with many others. I'm no longer shocked by letters and pieces thereof magically disappearing or changing shape or engaging in shameful public acts with each other. I've come to expect baroque and archaic rules and long lists of exceptions. But Tibetan's pure, shameless, in-your-face weirdness still managed to shock me.

This bothered me a lot.  Calling a script which represents an ancient holy language "... pure, shameless, in-your-face weirdness" smacks of exoticism and is unacceptably patronizing.  But not being familiar with Tibetan, I held off on commenting.  The current writeup is on my home turf, though, and it pisses me off.

Let me make something very clear.  In my 25 years as a localization professional with extensive work history in both Japan and Korea, I have met countless foreigners with an approach to Japanese or Korean as described in this writeup.  And they are all either unable to communicate, or had a severely warped picture of the language.  I don't mean just, not able to express themselves properly.  I mean, without a proper grounding in the concept of social appropriateness, their whole fundamental concept of the entire language is skewed.  They put together sentences, sure, and you can sometimes puzzle out what they mean.  But without sensitivity to context, it mostly comes out babble.

  And as white people (gaijin/baekin/weigookin, whatever) their behavior reflects directly on me.  My father is of Scottish descent and my mother is Philipino, and except for my hair I ended looking entirely Scottish.  And so for all my experience, raising my family as Koreans, with a MASTERS DEGREE from SNS, people still sometimes glare at me in the streets and don't trust me until after they hear me speak.

 And a huge reason for that is people who read little guides like this fluffy write-up and go to Japan/Korea and start slinging around "sugoi ne" and "watashi wa suki desu" or "jonun dangshinul saranghamnida" or "ah chokunyo" or shit like that...

PLEASE, STOP IT! JAPAN IS NOT THE LAND OF HENTAI AND SUSHI!  KOREANS CRINGE WITH EMBARRASSMENT FOR YOU WHEN YOU USE IMPROPER POLITENESS LEVELS!  FOR GOD'S SAKE JUST BECAUSE YOU CAN COME HERE AND GET MORE ATTENTION THAN YOU'VE EVER SEEN IN YOUR SHORT, LONELY LIFE, DOES NOT GIVE YOU CARTE BLANCHE TO DEGENERATE BEAUTIFUL, COMPLEX LANGUAGES INTO SOME WIERD VARIANT OF C IN YOUR QUEST FOR POON.

Thank you.

chu sooho durim.

Final sentence... (2.00 / 4) (#67)
by mgarland on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 03:43:20 PM EST

FOR GOD'S SAKE JUST BECAUSE YOU CAN COME HERE AND GET MORE ATTENTION THAN YOU'VE EVER SEEN IN YOUR SHORT, LONELY LIFE, DOES NOT GIVE YOU CARTE BLANCHE TO DEGENERATE BEAUTIFUL, COMPLEX LANGUAGES INTO SOME WIERD VARIANT OF C IN YOUR QUEST FOR POON.

Beautiful. In fact, you could apply that quote to kuro5hin as a whole... thank you!

[ Parent ]

Taking appreciation of language too seriously? (none / 1) (#71)
by Arevos on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 04:39:59 PM EST

There's no need to resort to ad hominem attacks, and you seem to be a mite too sensitive about certain languages. Not everyone treats languages as art forms that are "beautiful and complex", rather considering them as a mere methods of communication. I see no problem with describing Tibetan as "weird", nor can I really conceive of the mindset that could possibly be offended by such a statement. My native tongue is English, and personally I'd describe that as a fucked up mess.

That's not to say that it can't be used well. Prose, song and poetry in English can be very beautiful. It's still an unashamably messy language, and I don't think you should take criticisms of other languages with such a rabid zealotism. At the end of the day, no language is perfect, and there's likely been some pretty ugly botches over the years. Claiming otherwise seems like wishful thinking.

[ Parent ]

hello mr straw man (none / 2) (#85)
by Hana Yori Dango on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 06:42:59 PM EST

"...and I don't think you should take criticisms of other languages with such a rabid zealotism."

"Criticism" is difficult to apply to language, and besides, that's not where my problem lies. My problem is with depraved indifference to the subtlties of language, and by extension the disrespect of the speakers thereof; this indefference is well exampled by the parent writeup. That issue, my experience has shown me, could use a little zealotism, because nothing else seems to work.

Show me where I make the claim that Korean is a perfect, or even good, language. I don't. You built a nice straw man in the first paragraph and tear him down in the second. I never came close to claiming that ANY language is perfect. Be more careful next time. The only point you're accurately rebutting is your correct assertation that I used ad hominem, though in my opinion this does not detract from the veracity of my other claims.

Would you like to address the main thrust of my argument, which is

"I mean, without a proper grounding in the concept of social appropriateness, their whole fundamental concept of the entire language is skewed"?
chu sooho durim.

[ Parent ]
ANY newbie's fundamental concept is skewed (none / 0) (#132)
by russ on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 12:32:42 AM EST

Necessarily everyone starts with a grossly oversimplified abstraction of a language or other complex system, and only after lots of study and practice does one acquire a more accurate feel for the thing. Surely that is true whether one is learning by conventional introductory materials or by a wacky geeky approach like this one. So I don't see how that's a very compelling criticism of this wacky geeky approach.

[ Parent ]
I was mainly objecting to this... (none / 0) (#163)
by Arevos on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 07:55:10 AM EST

You said:
This bothered me a lot.  Calling a script which represents an ancient holy language "... pure, shameless, in-your-face weirdness" smacks of exoticism and is unacceptably patronizing.

So I said
I don't think you should take criticisms of other languages with such a rabid zealotism.

I wasn't objecting to your entire comment. Just a few parts.

Ironically, you've set up a unintentional straw-man yourself, by assuming that quote of my reply applies to your entire comment. But since I was none too clear in the first place, the blame rests partially on me.

[ Parent ]

The door swings both ways (none / 2) (#79)
by beredon on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 05:20:57 PM EST

I'm only a "gaijin/baekin/weigookin, whatever", but the rudeness of a lot of Japanese ESL people that I come across is absolutely appaling.

I guess the lesson here is that there is more to languages than just their semantics, as I am sure they are not doing it on purpose (If they are, then fuck them).

[ Parent ]

Well... (none / 2) (#94)
by BJH on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 09:02:22 PM EST

I think you'll find a lot of that is because they're told "You need to be direct in English" by everyone when they say they're going on an ESL course overseas.
--
Roses are red, violets are blue.
I'm schizophrenic, and so am I.
-- Oscar Levant

[ Parent ]
Don't Diss Yo (none / 1) (#84)
by NeantHumain on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 06:32:37 PM EST

The functionalist approach may not always produce idiomatic sentences, but you must remember most people can't take the time to learn a foreign language properly anyway. It's a good thing people take any interest in learning a foreign language at all, even if it is only to get some "poon," as you succinctly put it.

But this guy has inspired me. Now I plan to write a functionalist guide to the French language. I'd imagine I could write something like, "parl() can be considered to be a sort of function that takes a mood/tense inflectional suffix as an argument, with the subject of the clause being the calling function: je(parl(e)). An adverb can be thought of as another argument to the verb: je(parl(e, trop))." Now that's educational beauty!


I hate my sig.


[ Parent ]
Functional French would be a misnomer... (none / 0) (#87)
by topynate on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 07:37:36 PM EST

I'd imagine I could write something like, "parl() can be considered to be a sort of function that takes a mood/tense inflectional suffix as an argument, with the subject of the clause being the calling function: je(parl(e)). An adverb can be thought of as another argument to the verb: je(parl(e, trop))." Now that's educational beauty!

If you do that, please don't try to teach anyone french with it. Neither Japanese nor French has a BNF - they emphatically do not have context free grammars, which is a requirement.
I don't believe for a second that teaching any natural language in this way will be productive: human brains make use of context all the time to increase the amount of data and the richness of the concepts that can be transmitted.


"...identifying authors with their works is a feckless game. Simply to go by their books, Agatha Christie is a mass murderess, while William Buckley is a practicing Christian." --Gore Vidal
[ Parent ]
Perl (none / 0) (#217)
by kraant on Sun Feb 29, 2004 at 05:53:40 PM EST

Think of it like Perl. A lot of the time the context is assumed.
--
"kraant, open source guru" -- tumeric
Never In Our Names...
[ Parent ]
Let's try it out (none / 0) (#147)
by Verbophobe on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 01:29:54 AM EST

suce(ma(bite)));

Hot shit!

Proud member of the Canadian Broadcorping Castration
[ Parent ]

Yadda yadda! (3.00 / 4) (#92)
by melia on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 08:56:40 PM EST

You know, I would really respect you for your twenty-five years as a localization professional IF YOU'D WRITTEN A STORY. (Note capitals for emphasis)

Instead, you've decided to contribute something of very limited use whilst whining about your MASTERS DEGREE (don't forget the capitals) and how much better at Japanese you are than this guy. Cheers for that.
Disclaimer: All of the above is probably wrong
[ Parent ]

actually, you might be right (none / 1) (#168)
by Hana Yori Dango on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 11:42:08 AM EST

and, you might take care to note, my comments on this story are rapidly approaching the length of the write-up itself. Does that count?

[ Parent ]
No. (nt) (none / 0) (#173)
by drwav on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 03:37:26 PM EST



[ Parent ]
That's the Koreans' problem. (3.00 / 6) (#97)
by ninja rmg on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 09:14:55 PM EST

When foreigners come to America, we (reasonable people) expect that their command of the language will be less than perfect. If they are hard to understand, we try to help them out. If they seem rude, we give them latitude.

For the Japanese and Koreans to then turn around and show visible embarassment over the way foreigners in their country talk -- their failure to observe the very elaborate points of etiquette embedded in the language -- and for you to defend them for it as if they are right to behave that way is simply unacceptable. If Asians cannot appreciate that European languages have nowhere near the level of sophistication in such areas and that as a result people who grew up with such languages will inevitably have extreme difficulty in adjusting to such things, it is inexcusable. It's ethnocentricism and intolerance in the extreme.

If Americans are intentionally rude and devious about their lack of knowledge, if they are abusive and hide behind their ignorance, that is one thing, but the level and kind of intolerance you are describing would be abominable behavior here and is so there as well.

This "gaijin" bullshit is just that. It's the equivalent of calling a Japanese exchange student a nip. The difference here -- the only difference -- is that here there are Japanese people to call you on that, who understand what that means. In Japan, everyone's Japanese and there's no sympathy for the white devil. That is very unfortunate.



[ Parent ]

"Gaijin" is not a slur (none / 1) (#191)
by vorfeed on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 09:01:57 PM EST

This "gaijin" bullshit is just that. It's the equivalent of calling a Japanese exchange student a nip.

Bullshit. "Gaijin" literally means "foreigner". It can be used in a racist manner, and there is a more politically-correct version of the word that you can use if you're worried about it ("gaikokujin"), but "gaijin" in itself is not a slur. It is a word I would use to describe myself, and I'm not the type to enjoy self-insult.

Japanese has more than a few actual slurs for foreigners. There's no need to pretend as if "gaijin" is one of them.

Vorfeed's Black Metal review page
[ Parent ]

Okay, (none / 0) (#195)
by ninja rmg on Sun Feb 29, 2004 at 12:13:22 AM EST

But the usage here is pretty clear. Whether it has alternate meanings in other contexts is neither here nor there.



[ Parent ]
Still not racist, IMHO... (none / 0) (#207)
by vorfeed on Sun Feb 29, 2004 at 02:37:13 PM EST

If you mean that Hana Yori Dango's meaning is racist, I don't agree. Hana Yori Dango wrote:
And as white people (gaijin/baekin/weigookin, whatever) their behavior reflects directly on me.
Why is that racist? Looks like a statement of fact to me. The truth is that white people in Japan and Korea are generally called by those names, they do get pigeonholed, and how others act there does reflect on people of the same race. It may be a racist reality, but it's not necessarily racist to point it out. Hana Yori Dango wasn't exactly polite about it, but I don't think that "gaijin" was used in a racist manner, here.

Vorfeed's Black Metal review page
[ Parent ]
Wandering a bit (none / 0) (#216)
by kraant on Sun Feb 29, 2004 at 05:51:42 PM EST

If a japanese person wants to soften gaijin because of the bad connotations associated with it often they'll say gaijin-san.

That only works if they're referring to a specific gaijin. But they do do it.
--
"kraant, open source guru" -- tumeric
Never In Our Names...
[ Parent ]

"Gaijin" != "Foreigner" (none / 1) (#224)
by interactive_civilian on Mon Mar 01, 2004 at 03:43:27 AM EST

"Gaijin" literally means "outside person" which, as far as the Japanese are concerned it means "Not Japanese". This does not mean foreigner to them as they use it no matter where in the world they are and would NEVER refer to themselves as "gaijin" when visiting a foreign country.

For example, if you go to Spain (for example...feel free to choose any country that you are not from), are you the "foreigner" or are all of the Spanish people around you "foreigners"? Well, a Japanese person in the same situation will still refer to all of those Spanish people in their home country as "Gaijin".

You are correct that "Gaikokujin" means Foreigner (literally it means "other country's person"). It is more polite (and PC) to refer to foreigners as gaikokujin.

"Gaijin" is in a sense a slur, and you can take offense if you choose to. Culturally speaking (and also speaking from my experiences living here in Japan) most Japanese divide the world into two fundamental groups of people: Japanese and "Gaijin". It does not matter where you are from. If you are not Japanese, then you are outside of their group.

Unfortunately, most J-E and E-J dictionaries say that "Gaijin" means "foreigner". This can cause confusion. For example, an anecdote (yes, not "data") that I heard from another English teacher when I worked at an "English Conversation School":

One of his students' daughters was goind to the US for a soccer camp, and this woman had to fill out the application in English. The woman's command of English was reasonably strong and she learned a lot from the dictionary as well. Unfortunately, since the dictionary cannot teach the nuance of words, she came across as somewhat anti-US in her application. See, she wanted her daughter to not have a Japanese roommate for the camp so her daughter could interact with others and improve her English. However, since the dictionary defines "gaijin" as "foreigner" rather than "non-Japanese", she put as a special request on her form "Please make sure my daughter's roommate is a foreigner so she can improve her English".

Now, from the American point of view, that means "non-American" rather than "non-Japanese" does it not?

BTW, a bit on topic: This article was really weak. Language is NOT code. It is very difficult to have "word in Language A"=="Word in Language B", especially with Japanese and English since they are such different Languages. I have come across many words and concepts in both languages that I have a difficult time decribing in the other simply because the thinking style, cultural background, etc are so very different. For example, how would one translate the following into English directly (regardless of situation):

O-tsukare-sama deshita"
Yoroshiku-onegai shimasu
O-sewa ni natte orimasu

And there are many more, but those are some very common (I use them everyday), very useful phrases in Japanese that really do not have a clear English equivalent. Not to mention the all too common "sumimasen" which, while commonly translated as "excuse me" can also mean "thanks" and literally means "does not cease".

Not only Japanese, but all languages are much more complicated than just a bunch of "IF", "THEN", "OR", and "NOT" statements.

BTW, IMHO, Japanese is actually much easier than English. The grammar and structure is very flexible (even to the extent that many times you can alter word order without altering meaning...try doing that in English), and a lot of excess words such as articles and plural indicators have been removed and are understood through context. The most difficult part of learning Japanese (or perhaps any foreign language for that matter) is wrapping your head around the idea that it is NOT your native language and many if not most of the rules of your language DO NOT apply to that language.

At least, that is my experience.

[ Parent ]

Gaijin ~~ "foreigner" (none / 0) (#229)
by vorfeed on Mon Mar 01, 2004 at 05:30:04 PM EST

"Gaijin" literally means "outside person" which, as far as the Japanese are concerned it means "Not Japanese".

Yes, precisely. However, this is what "foreigner" means in English, is it not? Someone who is "Not <insert country here>"? The difference in usage between "foreigner" and "gaijin" is not inherent in the meaning of the words, but in the Japanese conflation of race and nationality.

Note that other out-group people are never referred to as "gaijin", only non-Japanese. IMHO this rather weakens the literal "outside person" definition. I stand by what I said earlier - it is more than fair to say that "gaijin" means "foreigner", just as it's fair to say that aoi means "blue". There are some shades of difference between Japanese and English in the case of both words, but that doesn't change their base meaning.

This said, I think that this is a relatively minor quibble, on both our parts. As you say in your post, there's no easy, one-word way to express the "feel" (or even the meaning) of "gaijin" in English. The key to understanding Japanese is to "think in Japanese" as much as possible, rather than translate to English. In this sense, both "foreigner" and "outside person" are perfectly correct, and yet totally wrong: the word is "gaijin", and we have to deal with it as-is.

Vorfeed's Black Metal review page
[ Parent ]

agreed...mostly (none / 0) (#233)
by interactive_civilian on Tue Mar 02, 2004 at 02:19:32 PM EST

I mostly agree with what you say, I guess, except...

The concept of "foreigner" is "one who is not native to the country that he/she is in", is it not? So, if you travel to another country, you would refer to yourself as a "foreigner" rather than all of those around you who are native to that country.

However, a Japanese person outside of Japan will still refer to all those around him/her as "gaijin" regardless of the fact that he/she (the Japanese person) is in fact the "foreigner". A Japanese person will under no circumstances refer to him/herself as "gaijin".

Hence my assertion that "gaijin" does not mean "foreigner" so much as it means "non-Japanese". Inside Japan, it is OK to interpret "gaijin" as "foreigner" but outside of Japan that interpretation breaks down.

That is, of course, my humble opinion.

Anyway, I 100% agree with your statement that the key to understanding Japanese (or any language for that matter) is to think in it. As I said, it is almost never the case that "word/phrase in Language A" exactly equals "word/phrase in Language B", which I think aggrees with your statement that the word is "gaijin" and really only means "Gaijin".

Basically, what this comes down to for me is trying to break the habit of my students (I am a High School and a Junior High School teacher) of thinking that "gaijin" is "foreigner" so that they don't look foolish (or perhaps even rude) when using the word "foreigner" while outside of Japan.

Peace. (^_^)v

[ Parent ]

Japanese "gaijin". (none / 0) (#252)
by Cryptnotic on Fri Mar 05, 2004 at 08:48:08 PM EST

I've actually had a gaijin refer to herself as a gaijin. She was studying English at an English school in Santa Barbara while I was studying Japanese at UCSB. We met at a conversation exchange club meeting. I referred to myself as gaijin and she said something like "ee? amerika ni wa, watashi koso gaijin desu yo". I would however agree that foreigners settling in Japan would always be considered gaijin, even if they lived 10 years in the country. But I base that opinion on the fact that here in America someone is still considered partially foreign even if he/she becomes a "naturalized citizen". People are always referred to as Chinese, Vietnamese, Black, Korean, et cetera, even if the more politically correct terms are Chinese-American, Vietnamese-American, Black-American (or African-American), Korean-American.

[ Parent ]
Glaring at people in streets is rude. (2.80 / 5) (#100)
by bigchris on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 09:35:49 PM EST

People still sometimes glare at me in the streets and don't trust me until after they hear me speak.

If an Aussie did this in Australia to a Korean, we would call them racist.

---
I Hate Jesus: -1: Bible thumper
kpaul: YAAT. YHL. HAND. btw, YAHWEH wins ;) [mt]
[ Parent ]

Nice rant, cockface. (2.85 / 27) (#127)
by Michael Moore on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 11:37:56 PM EST

Now maybe you should go tell Japan that America isn't the land of sitcom-perfect families and Hollywood movie stars. There is a lot of cultural ignorance in this world, but the fact remains that the attitudes people have to "foreigners" in places like Korea and Japan is a lot worse than what happens here. If you should be criticising any culture it's theirs. If some bar in New York put up a sign saying "no foreigners allowed" they'd probably be fucking shut down and despised by the neighbourhood. And rightfully so. Now who are the bad guys again, seeing as this is commonplace in places like Korea and Japan?

The racism evident here and in your "glares from across the street" is so much fucking worse than some "otaku" who wants to learn Japanese to score some Japanese girlfriend. Or some dude who learns Spanish so he can "get some" with those hot latino honeys from across town. Or the Korean businessman who learns English so he can move to America and get himself a sexy American wife. These are the motivations a lot of people have for learning languages. The fact is, language is a tool through which you gain better access to other cultures. Some people want to read poetry and literature. Some people want to get laid. Some people want to escape their whole life. What drives you to learn a language is an aspect of what drives you as a person. This isn't some battle of cultural ignorance where the west is losing, or whatever the fuck you seem to think. Lanuage isn't some delicate flower born from a miracle, only available to those who can love it as much as you claim to. This is all just cultural elitism.

So, why shouldn't someone have the right to learn a language if it helps them get what they want out of life? And what, exactly, is so bad about not getting politeness levels right? If I went around splurting out shit like "OH MY GOD YOU FUCKING DUMBASS KOREANS. YOU CANT EVEN GET ARTICLES AND PLURALITY CORRECT. EVERY TIME YOU APPLY THE WRONG FUCKING CASE TO A WORD IT MAKES US AMERICANS CRINGE IN EMBARASSMENT! WHY DO YOU EVEN BOTH COMING TO OUR COUNTRY FOR SOME FUCKING UNREALISTIC DREAM OF CULTURAL ESCAPE?" then you'd probably call me a racist. And that's exactly what you're doing.

--
"My life was more improved by a single use of [ecstasy] than someone's life is made worse by becoming a heroin addict." -- aphrael
[ Parent ]

pwnd [NT] (2.25 / 2) (#146)
by Verbophobe on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 01:26:51 AM EST



Proud member of the Canadian Broadcorping Castration
[ Parent ]
Best Response Ever - NT (none / 1) (#161)
by Scrag on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 07:09:55 AM EST



"I'm... responsible for... many atrocities" - rusty
[ Parent ]
errr... ignorant fool? (none / 2) (#232)
by xsnipersgox on Tue Mar 02, 2004 at 02:58:10 AM EST

Ignorant fool, maybe you should look into the history *cough* WWII, and even was before that *bough* and see why asian fucking hates white people... fuck.. all the other race hates all other races, its only natural due the the "whie men's burden" and the empirialism era. Black was look down because of the slave trade, which lowered their overall status. asian is always seem as rich smartasses that can't speak. and asian will always see whites as ignorant white bastards who dosen't know their place in this world. get it? got it? good

[ Parent ]
Pop-psychology analysis of the above post (2.00 / 6) (#136)
by rtmyers on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 12:48:44 AM EST

Getting a bit off-topic here, but this is a recognizable syndrome that to my knowledge has no name as yet. Some people who learn a foreign language get it.  Especially if there's not much else they have to hang their hat on, their (usually not-top-notch) knowledge of the language becomes a major part of their scared little identities. When they see people talking the language at less than their supposedly advanced level of competence, it reminds them of their own insipid selves before they became self-proclaimed experts in Korean or whatever it was. Anyone talking about the language, especially in ways that might potentially make their supposed accomplishments less miraculous, or with insights that they wish they had had were their minds more fertile, is a
major threat, normally responded to with rage.

[ Parent ]
Scared little identities? (none / 0) (#167)
by Hana Yori Dango on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 11:40:35 AM EST

Well, my language skill might not be top notch, but it's enough for a 4 on the KLPT and has put food on the table for 20 years. I'm not a self-proclaimed expert, as you insultingly imply, but an expert recognized by my industry. That's not the point anyway.

I honestly DO NOT CARE about people "...talking the language at less than their supposedly advanced level of competence..." and nowhere did I say this. It's fairly easy to speak bad Korean while at least observing basic politeness, as long as you try. Of course there's nothing wrong with speaking broken language in itself. What bothers me is when people show so much disrespect to the people around them as to not even bother recognizing such a hugely important language feature.

When foreigners come in speaking disrespectfully, their actions spill over onto me and my family, and it pisses me off. Some other posters have noted that this is racist and unaccaptable, which is true, but there's nothing I can do to change that. But it's got nothing to do with "wishing my mind is more fertile" or worrying tht my "supposed accomplishments are less miraculous"... that's just silly.

But if you could stop trying to distract from the topic at hand for a moment and respond to the following, rather than childishly questioning my motives:

"I mean, without a proper grounding in the concept of social appropriateness, their whole fundamental concept of the entire language is skewed"?


[ Parent ]
Nitpick (none / 0) (#183)
by dennis on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 07:04:35 PM EST

On K5, the only person proclaiming your expertise is you. Hence, on K5 you are a self-proclaimed expert. Whether, in other contexts, there are other people who also proclaim your expertise, is not objectively verifiable by anyone here (though I see no reason to doubt it).

[ Parent ]
Taxonomies of pedagogical strategies (none / 2) (#186)
by rtmyers on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 07:26:10 PM EST

You're right, my comment was inappropriate.

The point of this story was that for some people a theory-based approach to learning languages will work better, and Japanese has lots of aspects which make such an approach work well.

Let's say you are a businessman going to Japan for a week and you want to learn a little Japanese to try to talk with your joint venture partners.  My first advice would be to never even think about trying to use Japanese in any situation where it might actually matter. My second advice would be to go over the first few chapters of a standard Japanese conversation textbook to learn basic phrases such as "arigatou gozaimasu".

This, on the other hand, was Japanese for nerds. The concept was that a certain class of learners would do best starting off with a framework that could serve as a sort of skeleton for them to build their knowledge on.

This was not just idle speculation. At one point in my life, an American nerd joined our Japanese software company. He wanted to learn Japanese but was having great difficulty getting through the standard textbooks. He came to me and plaintively asked, "Is Japanese really this hard?" I told him that it indeed was not, and spend a couple of izakaya evenings sketching out an entire (if rough) version of Japanese grammar for him. Based on this grammar, he was able to put flesh on the bones and carry on entire conversations in Japanese in a matter of days and weeks. He tells me that he still is in possession of some of the bar napkins on on which this nerd grammar was first recorded.

I've obviously cut corners and omitted aspects both large and small in this account of Japanese grammar. In the future, I will be more careful about pointing those out. I've also prioritized and one of the things given a lower priority was the politeness/formality aspects. The question at hand is, was this a reasonable decision?

Clearly to speak Japanese correctly you must have a mastery of the levels and styles.  Even the nerdular intro should address these at some point, of course!  But I would reject that assertion that any first chapter of a book that didn't is somehow fundamentally flawed. Most textbooks, remember, don't cover the informal forms or even discuss them at all until they have to, usually when they start introducting relative forms such as "boku ga taberu sushi."

I'd also be interested in someone who knows both Korean and Japanese well comparing the relative importance of formality/politeness in the two languages. Clearly the formality level pervades Japanese in every situation, but how about the politeness level? Japanese has "taberu" "kuu" "meshiagaru" for eating, but the second two, although important to know for anyone claiming moderate mastery of Japanese, certainly don't need to be taught very early.  The same goes for "suru" vs. "nasaru" or even "sareru" as used in polite situation.

To summarize, I think from the standpoint of teaching Japanese with a rules-based, logic based approach, where it is not the goal to achieve socially acceptable fluency immediately, it is appropriate to start out with the informal forms, which after all are both the syntactic basis of Japanese and what children learn first.  The formal and polite forms can then be layered on top easily when the time comes.

[ Parent ]

it looks like I had you pegged wrong (none / 1) (#188)
by Hana Yori Dango on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 08:46:39 PM EST

I'm sorry for having misread your intentions so badly. Please accept my apologies. I do think however that you should have put a little disclaimer like "Do not use Japanese around people who matter until you are more familiar with aspects I do not cover here in interest of brevity" but it looks like you had already at least thought of that.

As far as comparing Japanese and Korean in terms of politeness leves: in Korean we have a disctinction like that between suru and nasuru, and of course various verb replacements. But a primary distiction is actually made with the addition of the particle shi. Also in Korean much more so than Japanese, there is an emphasis on avoiding statements of intention when speaking with elders and superiors. You know, Korean has a much more highly developed sense of a seperate future tense then Japanese, but it's only employed at the polite informal level and below. Interestingly, there are several ways to get around this requirement that have developed, most commonly by forming an attributive and linking it to a speculative objective form.

You've got me wanting to write a Korean primer. Now just to figure out how to post hangul to kuro5hin...

[ Parent ]

You might not like what he had to say, (none / 1) (#181)
by ninja rmg on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 06:29:08 PM EST

And he may have been rude himself, but that's no excuse for a comment like this one. Even if you were a practicing psychologist, this comment would still be extremely rude and pretentious -- especially given that you have never even met this guy.

You can question his justification, but questioning his motives in such an insulting manner is not acceptable. In the future, please try to be a bit more courtious.



[ Parent ]

It's a shame (1.50 / 6) (#137)
by sholden on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 12:51:02 AM EST

If only your mother had been as big of a racist prick as you then the world wouldn't have to put up with your existance.

--
The world's dullest web page


[ Parent ]
Jesus Christ, Dude (none / 1) (#185)
by wanders on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 07:19:12 PM EST

As they have already pointed out, what reflects upon you when you walk down the street is some good old-fashioned Asian racism. A huge reason for this is a society that doesn't demolish the ever so beautiful and subtle barriers it has built up to the level where they are formally encoded in the language.
~
~
:x
[ Parent ]
I love Japanese (2.25 / 4) (#73)
by Julian Morrison on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 05:00:12 PM EST

Once upon a time I used to play inventing languages. When I met Japanese, I quit. No point reinventing perfection.

It's a good thing you "met" Japanese (1.00 / 5) (#145)
by Verbophobe on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 01:24:29 AM EST

'Cause you're not all that hot in English.

Proud member of the Canadian Broadcorping Castration
[ Parent ]
So where's the BNF again? (2.50 / 6) (#76)
by sudog on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 05:09:06 PM EST

You promised us some BNF. Where is it?

If you are not nerd enough (none / 1) (#175)
by vyruss on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 04:34:13 PM EST

so as not to take this literally but as a normal figure of speech, you deserve a 1 for this comment.

  • PRINT CHR$(147)

[ Parent ]
If you are not geek enough... (none / 0) (#250)
by sudog on Fri Mar 05, 2004 at 08:02:31 PM EST

...to realise that even a rudimentary geek would be able to offer up some rudimentary BNF as a result of his observations of the Japanese language, you deserve a 1 for your comment, too.

In other words, what you're basically saying is, "If you're not nerd enough to be less nerdy, you suck."

Eat me, bitch.


[ Parent ]

Complex Tenses & Politeness in English... (2.66 / 6) (#80)
by Dreams nLogic on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 05:28:11 PM EST

It's amusing to watch people complain about the complexities of tenses in Latin languages, and politeness forms in Asian languages, as if English were free of them... We *have* them, we just don't *name* them or have sufficient self-awareness of them. Tenses? In all the French examples given, the English equivalent was cited...which means we have'em, we use'em, we just don't get formally taught! Politeness? You *do* speak differently to your Boss, and your Mayor, and your teacher, and your children, and other people's children, right? And everybody can tell which you're doing, right? "Thee" and "Thou"? They're the familiar (NOT the formal) equivalent of "you". Kings and rulers are "us" and "you". "Thee" and "Thou" are really the *intimate* forms - which is the importance of their use in the King James Bible, for example. The reason English is so hard for non-natives to learn is that we've got an incredibly complex mish-mash of forms, tenses, conjugations, formalities, etc., almost the same as any language - we just don't admit it, or talk about it, or teach it!

Close but Not Quite Right (none / 3) (#83)
by NeantHumain on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 06:20:24 PM EST

I would not go so far as to say thee and thou are the intimate forms of the second-person pronoun in contemporary English.

However, you are absolutely correct in that all languages are about equal in complexity (though they distribute this complexity in their own ways). English makes up for the relative lack of inflection by using a highly analytical, word-position-dependent syntax. For example, English makes extensive use of modal verbs (would, should, will, must, etc.) to express concepts some languages might express with inflectional affixes.


I hate my sig.


[ Parent ]
note really the same (none / 2) (#115)
by cronian on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 10:39:41 PM EST

English has much less formality, and Americans have attempted eliminate most of the formality. Do you call your boss Mister? How often do you use the Mister prefix? Of course English has insults, and slang, but they aren't all that essential to the language. The only things that are really ever used are Mr., Ms., Mom, Dad, and possibly Grandma, Grandpa. England has sir, but that is a very special case. I suppose English does have titles professor and doctor, but they seem to become insults more often than they are used for any talking to people.

We perfect it; Congress kills it; They make it; We Import it; It must be anti-Americanism
[ Parent ]
it's not explicit (3.00 / 6) (#148)
by emmons on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 02:26:00 AM EST

English has levels of formality, but like many things in English, they are not explicit. We don't have words or word forms that indicate specifically what we mean, we do so through inflection and how we use different combinations of words and phrases. This is what makes mastering English so difficult. One cannot learn set rules for how to speak in an formal or informal matter; there are none.

Consider the following example:
You walk into a store, the salesman may use any of the following:
How may I help you, sir?
May I help you, sir?
How can I help you?
Can I help you?
What do you need?
What do you want?

All these forms mean the same thing, but the difference is the formality. To make it even more complicated, formality can be further changed based on how one says each phrase, to the point that "What do you want?" can be as formal as "How may I help you, sir?" and vice-versa.

---
In the beginning the universe was created. This has made a lot of people angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.
-Douglas Adams

[ Parent ]

Not really true (none / 3) (#153)
by MOblongata on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 03:28:09 AM EST

While I agree that as far as morpho-syntactic variation goes, English has become increasingly more simplified (loss of formal and plural 'you' as mentioned); However, politeness has just shifted to other realms... mainly the pragmatic. Have you ever pondered the strangeness of requests like "Could you pass me the salt?" ("Well, yes, I could.") Do you suppose the literal equivalent exists in Japanese? (It doesn't.) And how many times have you said "excuse me" to a waiter, or "thank you" to a cashier? I assure you that the frequency of these polite expressions is much lower in Japan, and in many respects, English could even be seen as "more polite," it simply is encoded as such.
"You must be the change you wish to see in the world." -Mohandas Gandhi
[ Parent ]
as i always thought... (1.80 / 5) (#102)
by parasite on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 09:46:55 PM EST


Actually I'm REALLY glad you wrote this -- someone needed to explain it this way! Ever since DAY ONE in Japanese class, I felt like it wasn't a human language, so much as some sort of programming language our alien creators decided to instill in one of the human races they made "just for the hell of it", of course there was some influence from some other natural languages-- and not to mention, those aliens were silly enough to implant it into the WEIRDEST fricking genetic material they made, so it's no wonder the Japanese themselves added all the looney stuff like politeness levels, etc.. But nonetheless, if we ever find a way to reconstruct proto-Japanese, I assure you it will be far more powerful than even C++!


pronunciation (none / 2) (#105)
by mzs on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 09:54:32 PM EST

If na-i is pronounced "nigh" but, "Like all Japanese words, this is pronounced exactly like it is written--giving Italian pronunciations to the vowels, and equal emphasis to all syllables," then I would assume that na-i is pronounced "na ee". I am curious, what are the pronunciation rules more precisely. Also, what does the hyphen indicate in the words? It does not seem to imply a short pause. Is it there solely to indicate where the base word ends and in fact does not indicate any difference in pronunciation?

pronunciation (none / 1) (#111)
by piter on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 10:28:28 PM EST

For words ending in "i" it causes a sort of glide between the "i" and the vowel of the previous syllable. For example, the word "se-ma-i," (dashes denote syllable spacing) which means "wide" or "spacious," would be pronounced "seh my" not "seh ma ee" because of the glide between the "a" in "ma" and the "i."
"That that is is not not that that is not is not." Jacques Derrida
[ Parent ]
Good post... (none / 0) (#121)
by BJH on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 10:57:25 PM EST

...but "semai" means 'narrow' or 'cramped'.

--
Roses are red, violets are blue.
I'm schizophrenic, and so am I.
-- Oscar Levant

[ Parent ]
Hyphen only indicates end of root (none / 0) (#138)
by rtmyers on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 12:52:21 AM EST

Good question.  The hyphen (as in "na-i") is solely to show where the root ends, and has nothing to do with the pronunciation.  Should have made that clear.

[ Parent ]
[ai] is a diphthong. (none / 1) (#144)
by gilrain on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 01:21:16 AM EST

Actually, it would be pronounced "nigh". In fact, the way "nigh" is written in the International Phonetic Alphabet is [nai]. The reason for this is that the sound is a diphthong: a combination made from sliding an [a] sound into an [i]. Try sliding the sound together slowly: "aaahhhhhheeeeeee". The faster you slide them, the more they sound like [ai].

[ Parent ]
Pronunciation explanation (none / 0) (#151)
by MOblongata on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 03:16:55 AM EST

There are 5 vowels in standard Japanese (a, i, u, e, o) all corresponding to the Italian or Spanish (or IPA) counterparts.
"ai" is the only true diphthong.
Similarly there are combinations, orthographically represented as "oo," "ou," "ei" which are pronounced [o:] (like "o" only longer), [o:], and [e:] respectively.
There are also geminate consonants (like Italian) and as the original article stated -tt- is pronounced by "holding" the t sound briefly ([t:]). Geminization is only possible with k, p, t, or s (and sh).... except in some loan words.
Allophonic variation occurs in syllables beginning with s, t or z, d. In combination with the 5 vowels this is sometimes transcribed:
sa si su se so/ta ti tu te to/za zi zu ze zo/da di du de do, but pronounced as:
sa shi su se so/ta chi tsu te to/za ji zu ze zo/da ji (d)zu ze zo ...and can be seen in alternate forms of a word as in:
ma-tsu "wait"
ma-ta-nai "does not wait"
ma-chi-masu "wait(formal)"
ma-tou "let's wait"
ma-te "wait!"
Here, the hyphen is used to highlight the relevant portion of the word. In the original article, (with na-i, etc.) it is used to show morpheme boundaries. English examples would be: kick-s, kick-ed, kick-ing, un-convinc-ing, dis-abil-ity, etc.
"You must be the change you wish to see in the world." -Mohandas Gandhi
[ Parent ]
title should be "japanese for otaku" (nt (2.25 / 3) (#109)
by circletimessquare on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 10:21:45 PM EST



The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

Actually, no. (none / 2) (#133)
by irrevenant on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 12:43:29 AM EST

Otaku = (admittedly often nerdish) fanboy.  Not really the same as "nerdular" is being used in this article to imply a very logical way of thinking...

[ Parent ]
Well, (none / 0) (#215)
by kraant on Sun Feb 29, 2004 at 05:47:02 PM EST

They tend to go together don't they?
--
"kraant, open source guru" -- tumeric
Never In Our Names...
[ Parent ]
Japanese for "otaku" (none / 0) (#237)
by fuchikoma on Wed Mar 03, 2004 at 03:35:32 PM EST

Haha... actually, the classic story of Japanese for otaku is a foreigner who speaks in feminine, or rough masculine speech because they learned from reading manga. It's quite funny for Japanese.


[ Parent ]
Japanese questions - ka (none / 2) (#116)
by Woundweavr on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 10:40:18 PM EST

Now IANFIJ (I am not fluent in Japanese) but its my understanding that to create a question in Japanese you append "ka" to the end of the sentence. A quick hit to google says a question word or appending ka rather than just the rising inflection creates a question. Considering this is a very simple rule, why the seemingly non-standard information?(ka)

Well... (3.00 / 4) (#120)
by BJH on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 10:55:58 PM EST

Appending 'ka' to a sentence is not the only way of indicating a question.

For example:

  1. "Gakko ni iku no ka" = Are you going to go to school? [Male, casual] - May be used in a situation where the speaker was not expecting the other person to go to school.
  2. "Gakko ni iku no" (rising inflection) = Are you going to go to school? [Female, casual] - Again could be used to express surprise.
  3. "Gakko ni iku no" (flat inflection) = I'm going to school [Female, casual]
  4. "Gakko ni iku" (rising inflection) = Shall we go to school?/Are you going to go to school? [Casual] - Contrast with "Gakko ni iko" = Let's go to school. [Casual], which is a statement rather than a question (although if said with a rising inflection, it becomes closer to a question and more female).
  5. "Gakko ni iku" (flat inflection) = I'm going to go to school [Casual]

--
Roses are red, violets are blue.
I'm schizophrenic, and so am I.
-- Oscar Levant

[ Parent ]
Good comment (none / 0) (#123)
by Sithgunner on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 11:15:16 PM EST

Well explained. IAAJ(I am a Japanese)

[ Parent ]
Simplistic (none / 0) (#124)
by Woundweavr on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 11:21:25 PM EST

I don't pretend to know all the ways Japanese questions can be asked. I'm just saying when there's a rule as simple as "ka == ?" it would have made sense to include it. I understand that would have been an oversimplification but since this is just supposed to be "fuckable Japanese for nerds"...

[ Parent ]
Well.... (none / 1) (#126)
by BJH on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 11:31:16 PM EST

True.

(But when you look at all the other things he left out of the article, the addition of 'ka' to it just doesn't really seem to help that much...)

--
Roses are red, violets are blue.
I'm schizophrenic, and so am I.
-- Oscar Levant

[ Parent ]

Yes, "ka" should have been discussed... (none / 0) (#134)
by rtmyers on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 12:44:34 AM EST

although I intend to cover it in future articles along with other sentence-ending particles like "ne" and "yo" (and "ze", of course).

[ Parent ]
Fun with suffixes (none / 0) (#236)
by fuchikoma on Wed Mar 03, 2004 at 03:31:12 PM EST

ze is always fun. So are "ja" and "de" if you can approximate the rest of the dialects to support them. :P

[ Parent ]
Re: Ka Ma question sutra (none / 0) (#226)
by A55M0NKEY on Mon Mar 01, 2004 at 03:18:22 PM EST

I don't know any Japanese, but I do know some Chinese. Ka seems very similar to Ma in Chinese where you make a statement and put Ma on the end of it to make it a question. Eg: Ni you yi zhang zhi = 'You have a piece of paper." and Ni you yi zhang zhi ma? = "Do you have a piece of paper?"

[ Parent ]
Two points (none / 3) (#143)
by cgibbard on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 01:17:24 AM EST

This was mostly a pretty fun article, but there are a couple of minor issues I have questions about.

'The word that nerds would use for "I" is boku.' -- now, you may know something more than me about Japanese nerd culture, but unqualified, this would also imply that female nerds would use the masculine form for I. Are you sure about this?

And on another note, 'Just like in group theory you can build up a whole number system from a bunch of zeroes'. Are you sure you mean group theory?

Most groups aren't entirely composed of zeroes - they're sets together with a single binary operation satisfying axioms that guarantee associativity, an identity element, and inverses with respect to that element. You might be thinking of set theory, where the usual way to build up the system is to start with the empty set (which might be thought of as a kind of zero in the context of sets) and a bunch of rules for how to get new sets from old ones.

 - Cale Gibbard

More fun Japanese... (none / 2) (#149)
by ramayer on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 02:30:13 AM EST

Speaking of fun artices on Japanese, I always though this guy summed up the language pretty well:
"So You Want to Learn Japanese"

[ Parent ]
Ha! (nt) (none / 0) (#166)
by bigchris on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 10:56:06 AM EST



---
I Hate Jesus: -1: Bible thumper
kpaul: YAAT. YHL. HAND. btw, YAHWEH wins ;) [mt]
[ Parent ]
True or False: A linguist's reply (1.25 / 4) (#150)
by MOblongata on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 02:58:31 AM EST

Well let's take this case by case: "You have to say what does not exist, right? Well, in Japanese, you do not." False. Japanese is a highly elliptic sentence, so anything that can be derived from context may be omitted. Simply utterting "nai" with no surrounding discourse would be the same as uttering "there isn't any" in English, but notice that in either case, following a request like "could you get be a beer?" the response is suitable. Surely no one would say "you do not have to say what does not exist when using the English "there isn't any"--which also occurs in converation all the time. "all Japanese words, this is pronounced exactly like it is written" Largely true except for a few remaining historical stragglers-- The 'letter' for "ha" is sometimes pronounced "wa", "he" is sometimes pronounced "e"... plus there are a few wierd allophonic variations (sounds perceived to be the same by native speakers, but not phonetically identical). "na-kereba na-i. This is a pop quiz. Translate it now! And the correct answer is: If there's none, there's none." Or better, the correct answer is "if there is no X, there's no X" a statement every bit as trivial in Japanese as in English. For instance, consider the phrase na-ku na- i. Did you get it? The state of not existing does not exist, right? So it is "not absent". Which means it is present...but with the same nuance that the double negative gives you in English, as in "I do not not have the money." False. "Na-ku na-i" is derivable from morphological rules, but is semantically empty--meaningless. Also the "not not" phrase as in "I do not not have the money" is not expressed this way, but rather as: Boku-wa okane-ga nai wake ja-nai. I-(Topic)money-(Subj) there.is.not case it.is.not Being literally something like "It is not the case that I do not have the money." As you can see from this, Japanese is a very simplistic language. Conceptually, it has not really advanced much since the Jomon people were living in huts 4000 years ago. Ouch. Again, false. Neverminding the joking nature... The oldest documented Japanese is from the end of the 6th Century AD... and even this is a considerably different language from the modern. They still have not gotten around to plurals or genders, to take just two examples. English has no gender either... (except "he/she/it" which Japanese also has), and in place of plurals, Japanese has an equally complex numeral-marking system (as do Korean and Chinese). Take the examples of English, where there are no plurals "breads" "furnitures" "rices" etc. These must be modified as "pieces of bread," "pieces of furniture," "grains of rice" or similar. Every concrete noun in Japanese works this way. So you have "one 'dai' of car" "two 'satsu' of book" etc.... and you have to learn which word is appropriate for each countable thing. I used the word "subject" above, but it is better to call this a "topic". So a semi- literal translation of boku nai would be "on then topic of me, it does not exist". False... well, dramatically oversimplified. "Boku nai" is not a grammatical sentence, (like "I not"). Hence "I" (boku) must be marked as either the subject(+ga), or topic(+wa). Compare: Boku-ga nai. I-Subj. there.is.not. Lit. "There is not I" (I do not exist)... except, as the author does point out, "nai" is for inanimate objects, and for people and animals, it should be replaced with "inai": Boku ga inai. "I do not exist". Now take: Boku-wa nai. I-Topic there.is.not "As for me there isn't any" (This implies an omitted subject, as in: Boku-wa okane-ga nai I-topic money-subj. there.isn't.any "I don't have any money") Hence, Boku-wa inai I-top. does.not.exist Does not (necessarily) mean "I don't exist" but, would more likely mean something like "(as for me) there are none" What there are none of is left out, but they must be human or animal... e.g. "I don't have any children/pets" Boku-wa kodomo-ga inai I-top. child-subj. there.is.not "I don't have kids" (vs. Boku-wa boku-ga inai I-top I-subj there.is.not "As for me, I don't exist" ..but as you can see, in daily conversation this is not going to be the likely interpretation if the X-ga argument is omitted. However, "boku wa inai" might be used in contexts like "As for me (I) will not be there" (recall from the original post that Japanese does not distinguish present and plural). Basically this is a bogus article, written by someone with an elementary understanding of how Japanese works. But it's nice to see that it's sparked some interest. Keep it up!
"You must be the change you wish to see in the world." -Mohandas Gandhi
sorry (none / 0) (#152)
by MOblongata on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 03:17:50 AM EST

I forgot to add breaks... this is kinda hard to read.
"You must be the change you wish to see in the world." -Mohandas Gandhi
[ Parent ]
Missing the point (none / 1) (#154)
by sakusha on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 04:05:54 AM EST

Nice explanation, but you're still missing the point. Japanese people just don't talk like this. For example, his dialog is just not going to happen like this:

Kane nai? (You don't have any money?)
Boku naku nai. (??? I don't know WTF this is supposed to mean)

It would happen more like this:

Kane nai?
Shika nai (not much)

or, more likely:

Kane aru? (do you have any money?)
Betsu ni (not really)

This isn't a matter of linguistics, it's a matter of plain speaking. People just don't go around asking "do you have no money?" without some prior context like asking why someone can't afford something. In general conversation, people ask plain positive questions like "do you have any money?"

[ Parent ]

What? (none / 2) (#158)
by BJH on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 04:48:41 AM EST


"Shika nai" - where did you pick up this? It's absolutely incorrect.

Here's some better examples:

"Kore shika nai" = "I only have this (much)", which you might use as you show someone the contents of your wallet.

"Ichiman[en] shika nai" = "I only have 10,000 (yen)"

"Kozeni shika nai" = "I only have small change"

"Amari nai" = "I don't have very much"

"Hotondo nai" = "I've got almost none"

"Mattaku nai" = "I don't have any at all"

--
Roses are red, violets are blue.
I'm schizophrenic, and so am I.
-- Oscar Levant

[ Parent ]

shika nai (none / 0) (#193)
by sakusha on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 11:29:28 PM EST

well I guess you better explain that to my teacher, who is a native Japanese speaker and has a PhD, and she taught that structure to me. As you obviously don't know, not all subjects are explicitly stated in Japanese, so "shika nai" is perfectly fine, it refers to a "null subject," that is, something like [anmari] shika nai. And I've definitely heard this usage when I lived in Japan.
<BR>
What you have failed to realize is that there is a difference between the language you are learning in your 2nd Year Japanese class vs. real world usage in Japan. For example, your little essay on "ka" is fraught with errors, i.e. it omits more common male usage like "kai," misinterprets the function of "no" in "no ka" etc. etc. Maybe if you do as I have, after you live in Japan, and finish a degree in Japanese, MAYBE you'll be qualified to disagree with my statement. But I've got a 10 year headstart on you, so you better get busy, newbie.

[ Parent ]
Hang on, I remember you... (none / 0) (#201)
by BJH on Sun Feb 29, 2004 at 06:25:55 AM EST

You're the git who insisted that having a Japanese teacher with a PhD qualified you to comment on Japanese, and was spouting some bullshit about how 'jiten' should be erased from dictionaries as it's no longer used - even after half a dozen people and Google  (3.2 million hits ain't chopped liver) told you were wrong.

I renew my invitation to you to come to #slashdot on irc.slashnet.org and discuss Japanese, in Japanese if you like.

Don't wimp out like you did last time and turn troll, either.

--
Roses are red, violets are blue.
I'm schizophrenic, and so am I.
-- Oscar Levant

[ Parent ]

It appears (none / 0) (#248)
by tetsuwan on Fri Mar 05, 2004 at 09:40:08 AM EST

he's totally out of his league. Stand alone "shika nai" doesn't exist.

Njal's Saga: Just like Romeo & Juliet without the romance
[ Parent ]

Kimi no sensei chotto yondekite... (none / 1) (#244)
by Riktov on Fri Mar 05, 2004 at 01:17:47 AM EST

I'm afraid I've never heard the term "null subject", but maybe that's because I don't have a degree in Japanese.

I know this much, though. "shika nai" means "[I] don't have any(thing) but..." or "[I] only have...", and it requires something in front of it.

"anmari" means "much". "Anmari shika nai" would mean "[I] only have much". It doesn't make sense in English, nor does it in Japanese.

I have never heard any native Japanese speaker say "shika nai" without a subject, or "anmari shika nai". And in my thirty-eight years of speaking Japanese (minus the first months of my life when all I could say was "papa goo goo" ), twenty of them living in Japan, I've never uttered either of those things myself.

Now, just to be sure, perhaps I ought to check with the ten people around me in the office, or my two uncles, or three aunts, or my mother -- every single one of them 100% native Japanese.

[ Parent ]

shikata nai? (none / 0) (#251)
by Cryptnotic on Fri Mar 05, 2004 at 08:28:11 PM EST

Maybe you're thinking of "shikata nai", meaning sort of like, "there's nothing you can do".

[ Parent ]
nice troll (none / 1) (#265)
by calculadoru on Tue Mar 16, 2004 at 03:03:03 AM EST

nice troll and everything, but either you or your teacher (or quite possibly both) were very stoned at the time: to reply to ANYTHING with 'shika nai' makes no sense whatsoever, under any circumstances. you absolutely NEED a noun/pronoun BEFORE 'shika nai': Kore shika nai: I only have this/There is only this. Sen yen shika nai: I only have/there only is a thousand yen. Yasai shika nai: I only have/there are only vegetables. etc. But hey, if you think that throwing around fancy constructions like 'null subject' and insisting on some PhD or other will win the argument, then by all means do keep using 'shika nai' by itself. It'll make the Japanese people go 'nani?' and you'll be the center of attention.
"Religion is the most malevolent of all mind viruses." - Arthur C. Clarke
[ Parent ]
<p> (none / 2) (#165)
by limekiller on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 08:15:07 AM EST

Learn

to

page

break.

Jesus.

Regards,
Jason

[ Parent ]

Learn to read (none / 1) (#222)
by MOblongata on Mon Mar 01, 2004 at 12:28:45 AM EST

See my apology below (entitled "Sorry").
That was my first posting... didn't know better.
oops
"You must be the change you wish to see in the world." -Mohandas Gandhi
[ Parent ]
Nice, almost made me 4 got (none / 0) (#231)
by xsnipersgox on Tue Mar 02, 2004 at 02:40:05 AM EST

i am only part japnaese, but a native chinese speaker... who cares. basically, i can speak fluent chinese the right way. Japanese is a language when it was at its early stage, it went around the world ni search of other languages to implament writings and such, the introduction of chinese writing, completely misunderstanded from a respond up top, actually has very important purposes. It serves to shorten up sentenses and to save room. i don't know much about japanese, but i can tell u that I can make out roughly what a japanese manual is saying just by skipping the japanese portion and reading the chinese characters alone. and after doing so for a while, you get start to understand the meanings and usage of some of the japanese characters.

Anyway, MOblogata mention about linguistic's view on the topic. I believe that it is very true and it completely involve with how a culture was envolved. Look at the english langauge for example, don't we often find us laughing at immigrants, especially of asian background, at their pathetic usage of pronouns and verb tenses... i know.. i make a LOT of them as well... but looking into the english language, we can see that english is very intensive in term of its verb tenses and prnouns. why you might ask, becuase the european societies, particularly of germanic origin, and now of USA, is very time based. Every day, no matter how big of a "slacker" you provlaim to be, you are always following a tight schedual. What matter is not what you are doing, how many there are, or how your doing it.. rather, its when you done it.

taking a look into the chinese language, we do not stress much in term of verb tenses, nor do we stress on pronoun. heck, if you look at european language, you get ME, I, JE, MOI, which are singular and show no resemblence to words such as WE, US, NOUS, NOTRE. this is due tot he fact that european stresses the difference in the subjet in term of their numbers... very business like in my opinnion. howevere, in chinese we say HEfor singular stating HE in all times, there is no difference if its him or he or himself, but simply HE. to change the sex of the speaker, we change whats within the character for HE by replacing the left portion of the speaker with the character that stands for GIRL. to represent THEM, we literally say HE-GROUPED, litterally means alota of HEs. to make a sentense past tense, you simply add "yi chian" which means "in the past" into correct part of the sentense. "yi ho" is "in the future" now that we see what chinese does not concentrate on, i can tell you what is hard in chinese. In english, we say there are a herd of sheep, there are a group of sheep, there are a bunch of sheep, there are some sheep. they all mean the same.. however, in chinese, you have to say there is a flock of sheep, no exception.

Quick recap
English
Stress: Speaker amount/sex, time
unstress: adjectives of the noun, less discriptive by nature

Chinese
stress: adjective of the noun, more discriptive of the objects
unstree: time, sex/number of subject

i believe that japanese is somewhat simlilar, though maybe not. the point of this entry was just to state that IT IS impossible to learn any language without actually be in the culture itself. i would like to challenge anyone who think they know chinese fluently without moving to chinese speaking communitive to talk to me.. and i'll just show you how pathetic your speaking ability is( and i only lived in taiwan for 11 years(0 to 11).. took 4 years of school), for its completly european oriented, and for that, one will never achieve the level of chinese/eastern language necessary to actually communicate well.

just FYI, for me to speak fluent english and fluent chinese... i actualy have to completely change my brain.. i will think in chiense when i speak chinese, think in english when i speak english. (any people that truely mastered a language should know wat i am talking about. so unless you can speak japanese by thinking in it, don't even try to write a paper saying how simple the language is dumb ignorant ----head)

[ Parent ]
'Boku' makes you sound like a pussy (3.00 / 9) (#155)
by epiphany2112 on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 04:39:06 AM EST

A few points of correction:

(1) Any red-blooded male who wants 'fuckable' Japanese should use 'ore' (o-re) to refer to himself when chatting up that girl in Starbucks. Using 'boku' can make you sound like a beanie-wearing little boy. You know, the kind in the kaiju movies with the really short shorts.

On the other hand, if you do use the very direct, masculine 'ore,' that cute Japanese girl sipping her latte may assume you actually have more than a superficial understanding of Japanese of the type demonstrated above -- and might actually leap directly into a real conversation with you in Japanese. Ooops!

Come to think of it -- the author of this article and other Japanese-language dilettantes are probably better off sticking to 'boku.' It's nice and inoffensive, and who knows, maybe that little latte-drinking oneesan will think you're kawaii

(2) The importance of politeness levels is most assuredly not exaggerated.

Sure, you can accept the free ride Japanese people are willing to give you because you're not a native speaker. Hell, just stringing a few words together makes you about as entertaining as a talking dog to a lot of Japanese folks.

But if you actually want to speak Japanese, instead of just coasting on the dubious charm of being a cute foreigner doofus/clown, you need to pay very, very close attention to politeness levels, and actually learn what they mean and when to use them. Shit, it's really not that hard, either.

Saying their importance is exaggerated is code for "I don't understand them, and I can't be bothered -- so we'll just toss them out so I can continue to write as if I'm very knowledgeable on this whole Japanese-language thing."

(3) Particles. Just leaving them out will not make your Japanese more fuckable. It will make you sound like a dork. It will make your Japanese sound like you picked it up someplace like -- just as an example -- a really glib article that oversimplifies and overgeneralizes to the point of actual inaccuracy, and gives you a false impression of how simple Japanese is. :-)

(4) The passages of purported 'absolutely real street Japanese' above are just plain laughable. No Japanese person in Shibuya, or any other part of Japan, for that matter, would say 'Boku naku nai.' Maybe 'Boku wa, nai koto de mo nai yo,' or even 'Boku wa, naku wa nai n da yo.' Of course, real Japanese would likely leave the 'boku wa' right off -- or maybe, replace it with a nice, pithy 'ore wa' ... :-)

Having said all that, I think the article was a really interesting premise. And the guy does have a solid understanding of some basic Japanese grammar. I'll be looking forward to what he comes up with for part two.


Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm. --Winston Churchill
You're both cunts (none / 1) (#170)
by chushin on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 01:37:25 PM EST

Use watashi and shut the fuck up.

[ Parent ]
Bah! (none / 0) (#213)
by kraant on Sun Feb 29, 2004 at 05:05:51 PM EST

ware
--
"kraant, open source guru" -- tumeric
Never In Our Names...
[ Parent ]
Hmmm... (none / 0) (#227)
by chushin on Mon Mar 01, 2004 at 03:44:59 PM EST

Is ware generally usable? I haven't heard it used a lot, so I wouldn't have the guts to try it.

I've always fancied washi myself, but I don't think I'm old enough to pull it off!



[ Parent ]
Formal Very Formal (none / 0) (#228)
by kraant on Mon Mar 01, 2004 at 05:29:29 PM EST

It's the sort of thing you'd use in eulogies.
--
"kraant, open source guru" -- tumeric
Never In Our Names...
[ Parent ]
The wierd thing is (none / 0) (#230)
by kraant on Mon Mar 01, 2004 at 05:30:35 PM EST

You'd use a very personal tone with it. Basicaly you'd use it when you want to make it clear you're being very sincere.
--
"kraant, open source guru" -- tumeric
Never In Our Names...
[ Parent ]
ware (none / 0) (#234)
by chushin on Tue Mar 02, 2004 at 07:39:00 PM EST

Cool! Thanks. I don't think I'll be using it any time soon, but it's always nice to learn new stuff!

[ Parent ]
I've used washi for fun, (none / 0) (#247)
by tetsuwan on Fri Mar 05, 2004 at 09:26:06 AM EST

but I have never oncountered "ware" apart from when in "wareware" = we. Incidentally, wareware is the word for we that is used scintific papers, so a friend from my old department used "wareware" when presenting his work on a poster exhibition. Needless to say, he is somewhat unsecure when giving talks and presentations ...

Njal's Saga: Just like Romeo & Juliet without the romance
[ Parent ]

Nah... (none / 0) (#259)
by BJH on Thu Mar 11, 2004 at 10:54:54 AM EST

You wouldn't. It doesn't sound anything other than weird these days - 'ware' as a first-person pronoun is dead in spoken standard Japanese. Except for archaic usage (old documents, sayings, proverbs, historical novels, that sort of thing), it's just not around anymore.

You occasionally see 'warera' as a formal plural form, and 'wareware' turns up quite often as a similar usage, in speech as well (I'm sure a lot of people know the standard "Wareware nihonjin wa...").

Ware does, however, get used in some western regions of Japan (most specifically the Kansai area) as an impolite form of "you", strangely enough. Not the sort of thing you'd want to use around there unless you're trying to start a fight...

--
Roses are red, violets are blue.
I'm schizophrenic, and so am I.
-- Oscar Levant

[ Parent ]

Heh, (none / 0) (#274)
by kraant on Fri Oct 29, 2004 at 03:42:21 AM EST

Tell that to my uncle.
--
"kraant, open source guru" -- tumeric
Never In Our Names...
[ Parent ]
watashi (none / 1) (#174)
by sgtron on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 03:46:14 PM EST

When I was stationed in Japan I was taught first to use "watashi" when refering to myself. Later my Japanese girlfriend told me I should switch to "boku" since it sounded cuter.

[ Parent ]
Of course (none / 1) (#246)
by tetsuwan on Fri Mar 05, 2004 at 09:13:37 AM EST

I use:
watashi when arguing from reason, or on formal occasions
boku when personal
ore around people using ore

I know that:
some girls use ore when with male friends
most men do not stick to one form, but use all three

I agree that causal Japanese has its limitations, it is, in som ways, comparable with use of "fuck". OK with good friends and people of the same age, but not good when talking to your professor. This difference makes up for the almost total lack of explicit curses. "Bakayarou" is (almost) all you need. In Japanese, coarse language is the intentional misuse of informal language.

Example:
dete ike - (lit.) go out! but in reality much more of a "Get the fuck out".

Njal's Saga: Just like Romeo & Juliet without the romance
[ Parent ]

Hmmmm (none / 0) (#266)
by wombat68 on Sun Mar 21, 2004 at 01:31:58 AM EST

(2) The importance of politeness levels is most assuredly not exaggerated.
Sure, you can accept the free ride Japanese people are willing to give you because you're not a native speaker. Hell, just stringing a few words together makes you about as entertaining as a talking dog to a lot of Japanese folks.


Quite frankly I think that is bullshit. The time I lived in Japan, Japanese men were constantly saying to me "Nihongo wa umai", which has the rough translation of "Your Japanese is exalted".
This was confusing for some time until I realized that the 'polite' form that I had learned at home in Australia was only used by a small percentage of the population, mostly stuck-up middle class professors and their families.
The rest of the population just uses the common form of Japanese and thinks of that as normal not rude. Much like every other country in the world.
The Madame Butterfly fantasy of Japan as some weird exotic land full of James Clavell samurais committing seppeku left and right and dainty little Japanese women circumlocuting their way through 20 words just to say 'I don't think so', is not modern Japan.

[ Parent ]
What you say is completely wrong... (none / 0) (#267)
by Juppon Gatana on Tue Mar 23, 2004 at 03:13:16 AM EST

The content of your post is largely incorrect. There's no way for me to sugarcoat that. I don't know how much time you spent in Japan or how much you studied the language, but what you say is absolutely untrue.

For the record I am living in Japan right now and I've been here for the past 7 months. I've studied Japanese for four years before coming here. My Japanese is conversationally fluent, though nowhere near native-speaker level.

People absolutely do not use the "common form" of Japanese in all of their everyday situations. When you were staying here, did you ever go into a restaurant (McDonald's included)? Did you hear the waiter/cashier say "Oazukari-itashimasu! Koko de omeshiagari desu ka?" That's not "common" form, dude. That's a mix of kenjougo and sonkeigo (honorific and humble speech).

By the way, in the context you described, "umai" just means "good/skillful." They're just saying "your Japanese is good," which is a compliment most of us foreigners get after we say "Konnichiwa." The idea that a non-Japanese could speak even a speck of Japanese baffles a lot of people here, I guess.

There are many times when you should in fact use the plain form of Japanese speech, but there are many times when it is grossly inappropriate. Use of plain form in certain contexts can be extremely offensive, but people will usually recognize that you're a foreigner and let you off the hook. I would like to know how much Japanese instruction you had, and how long you were in this country.

- Juppon Gatana
能ある鷹は爪を隠す。
(Nou aru taka wa tsume wo kakusu.)
[ Parent ]
Hmmmm (none / 0) (#268)
by wombat68 on Tue Mar 23, 2004 at 09:17:37 PM EST

People absolutely do not use the "common form" of Japanese in all of their everyday situations. When you were staying here, did you ever go into a restaurant (McDonald's included)? Did you hear the waiter/cashier say "Oazukari-itashimasu! Koko de omeshiagari desu ka?" That's not "common" form, dude. That's a mix of kenjougo and sonkeigo (honorific and humble speech).

Yes, I did. And the checkout-chicks at the Japanese equivilent of 'K-Mart' spoke the kenjougo form when apologising for keeping me waiting (for two minutes), or thanking me for shopping there, and they did so with all the politeness of robo the robotic dog. It's just formula. But when they go out with friends drinking, do you think they still use "kenjougo" in the Karaoke bars, or while they are very politely pogo dancing in straight lines to a Japanese punk band dude? If you do, you obviously don't get out much.

By the way, in the context you described, "umai" just means "good/skillful." They're just saying "your Japanese is good," which is a compliment most of us foreigners get after we say "Konnichiwa." The idea that a non-Japanese could speak even a speck of Japanese baffles a lot of people here, I guess.

Well, I guess YOU must be right, and all of my Japanese friends must be WRONG. I mean, what would THEY know, being Japanese and all. In the context I described, if they wanted to say my Japanese was "good/skillful" they would say "Nihongo wa sugoii", NOT "Nihongo wa umai". In the context I described, "umai" implied that my Japanese was "formal" or "polite". Of course, I did spend a lot of time with "ordinary" Japanese people. Working class and all that.

There are many times when you should in fact use the plain form of Japanese speech, but there are many times when it is grossly inappropriate.
That depends on who you are talking to. Of course, you are not going to say "Nani ita'n da yo!" to your potential parents-in-law, or your manager in a law firm, they same way we don't say "What the fuck are you talking about" in most white collar work environments.
But that doesn't mean that the blue-collar workers aren't talking to each other like that all the time in Japan, just like everywhere else in the world.

I would like to know how much Japanese instruction you had, and how long you were in this country.
1.) Four years 2.) 7 months (working holiday visa).But if you are implying that somehow I'm an ignorant bumbler, perhaps a better question would be what I did while I was in Japan.

Maybe the reason we disagree is that your horse is so tall you only get to meet Japanese people who also ride tall horses.


[ Parent ]
You haven't convinced me (none / 0) (#270)
by Juppon Gatana on Sat Mar 27, 2004 at 10:34:58 AM EST

Yes, I did. And the checkout-chicks at the Japanese equivilent of 'K-Mart' spoke the kenjougo form when apologising for keeping me waiting (for two minutes), or thanking me for shopping there, and they did so with all the politeness of robo the robotic dog. It's just formula. But when they go out with friends drinking, do you think they still use "kenjougo" in the Karaoke bars, or while they are very politely pogo dancing in straight lines to a Japanese punk band dude? If you do, you obviously don't get out much.

Of course they don't use formal speech while hanging out with my friends. But the idea that "to speak Japanese, all you really need to know is casual speech" is complete nonsense. If you want to get a job here, or even talk in a way that won't offend people, you need to a handle on desu/masu form, and then on at least some simple honorific/polite/humble speech as well. It helps a lot to be able to say "taihen shitsurei itashimashita" when you've requested an unusually large favor from someone who's not a close friend.

Perhaps we're thinking of different situations. My experience here has included meeting up with Japanese college students to just shoot the shit (casual speech of course), but that's only part of living in Japan. I've also had to ask directions about a million times ("Ikikata wo oshiete kudasaimasen ka?"), had to talk with a woman for a part-time job interview (lots of polite speech there), talking to Japanese guest speakers (mostly desu/masu). Though it depends person to person, when I made some friends at my gym (college students like myself), we almost always started out our conversations in desu/masu. We switched in plain form maybe half an hour to an hour later. Sometimes language vacillates between the two.

I'm not implying that you're an "ignorant bumbler," but I am implying you might be ignorant by questioning your experience with Japanese. I don't understand how anyone with considerable experience with Japanese (which you evidently have) could possibly claim that "[t]he rest of the population just uses the common form of Japanese and thinks of that as normal not rude. Much like every other country in the world." That is simply untrue. Of course when they're just out to have a good time people don't use polite speech, but during many, many real-life situations here it is important to know semi-polite, polite, and extra-polite speech. If you do a job interview in plain speech, it is very unlikely that you'll get hired. Similarly, it's not hugely offensive, but it is noticeably rude, if you walk into a store and say "Roppongi ni ikitai kara, dou sureba ii ka?" My time in Japan has been spent interacting on a personal, academic, and business level with many different Japanese people. To do so successfully, I believe knowledge of the polite forms is necessary.

And the "umai" thing? I still have no idea what you're talking about. Check out this dictionary. You won't find "exalted" in there as a definition, nor will you find it in my 2003-issue denshi-jisho. I have been complimented on my Japanese with the word "umai" before. It went a little something like this (in this case it was in a bar):

Me: Konbanha.
Her: Aa, nihongo metcha umai!

I have never ever heard of "umai" being used to mean "exalted." If you can show me that, I'll thank you for teaching me something new.

- Juppon Gatana
能ある鷹は爪を隠す。
(Nou aru taka wa tsume wo kakusu.)
[ Parent ]
Heh heh, typo: (none / 0) (#271)
by Juppon Gatana on Sat Mar 27, 2004 at 10:42:27 AM EST

"Of course they don't use formal speech while hanging out with my friends."

I combined "Of course they don't use formal speech while hanging out with their friends" and "Of course I don't use formal speech while hanging out with my friends" into one superbly incoherent sentence.

- Juppon Gatana
能ある鷹は爪を隠す。
(Nou aru taka wa tsume wo kakusu.)
[ Parent ]
RE: I should be more clear (none / 0) (#272)
by wombat68 on Sat Mar 27, 2004 at 07:38:37 PM EST

Perhaps we're thinking of different situations.
Yes, and I should have been more clear. What I meant was that when shopping in Ueno market, with the rough neck traders and the "purple-suited permed-haired gentlemen", using formal speech makes them look at you like you are someone from the Government. It is in that context that "Nihongo ga umai" really means "Your Japanese is highly formal." So much of communication depends on context, tone, body language and so on that I can understand why my (mostly middle class) Japanese friends in Tokyo would translate it that way for me. I know the dictionary meaning of "umai" means skillful, but throughout my stay in Japan I nearly always heard "Nihongo ga sugoii" and only in specific circumstances such as described above did I hear "umai".

Of course, this was in 1993, and common speech is changing all the time in Japan and other industrialized nations.

Anyway, my Japanese friends in Australia nearly always talk to each other and me in the casual form. Of course when they go off to work as Duty Free Shop Assistants or Tour Guides they use the formal and polite forms at work. Especially with their elders/seniors.

However, the context of the article was for nerds to quickly learn the structure of Japanese to go talk to Haraja-cuties in Starbucks.
I thought your objection was a little bit of an over-reaction, so maybe I'm just playing the devils advocate for some fun :)

Me: Konbanha.
Her: Aa, nihongo metcha umai!


Ha ha. Yes, well I can see that happening, it just never happened that way to me (as I explain above).

On a side note, much of the formal-superpolite language is formulaic. Take for example "Irrashaimase!". This is very formal speech and the literal meaning is "Please, if it's not too much trouble, and you dont mind, come into my shop." The origins of this go back to merchants and geisha houses calling samurai into their establishments.
In modern Japan however, the staff call this out to you when you are already inside the shop. This is like you entering a shop in the "West" and one of the staff saying "Please come inside" to which your response would be, "Er, I already am".
Well, being a contrarian at heart, sometimes when I felt like messing with the locals, I would reply "Irrashaimashita", which although it uses the very polite form, is actually extremely rude to use it to refer to your self. I always enjoyed that 10 second trance they dropped into as their brain tried to work out how the script had gone wrong.
Anyway, as I said, I am a contrarian, so thanks for being a good sport.


[ Parent ]
OK (none / 0) (#273)
by Juppon Gatana on Sat Mar 27, 2004 at 11:09:45 PM EST

Glad we could resolve this. You're welcome.

- Juppon Gatana
能ある鷹は爪を隠す。
(Nou aru taka wa tsume wo kakusu.)
[ Parent ]
Japanese selflearning material (none / 2) (#162)
by chmeee on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 07:44:43 AM EST

Is there any webpage, book, method or whatever you may recommend (apart from these japanese for geeks series) to learn japanese language you can recommend me?
I learn just a bit in college a long time ago and I'd like to start again (by myself - no time for class, dr. jones).
--

Selflearning material (none / 1) (#164)
by pongle on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 08:09:33 AM EST

My Japanese teacher recommends "Japanese for Busy People" for self leanring. We use "Shin Nihongo No Kiso" as text books in class. Though I would never recommend them to people without a teacher as they are quite difficult to deal with unless you know Kanji/Japanese already... Tim

[ Parent ]
you can try (none / 0) (#245)
by SaintPort on Fri Mar 05, 2004 at 06:13:54 AM EST

http://yesjapan.com

--
Search the Scriptures
Start with some cheap grace...Got Life?

[ Parent ]
Free online course (none / 0) (#255)
by fbphoto on Wed Mar 10, 2004 at 02:43:00 AM EST

You can start right here in Japanese 101.
http://www.theforeigner-japan.com/japanese101

[ Parent ]
Utter arrogance (2.00 / 4) (#171)
by swiftset on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 02:35:31 PM EST

Why was this article voted up? It is way too short to be of any use in learning such a complicated language.. at most it can only give delusions of competence.

re: utter arrogance (none / 1) (#198)
by kjb on Sun Feb 29, 2004 at 02:03:50 AM EST

Why was this article voted up?

If there's any "utter arrogance" involved here, it's your own.

I voted -1 on the story, but I find you comments to be even more obnoxious than the article.

--
Now watch this drive.
[ Parent ]

Nice job! (none / 1) (#178)
by HardwareLust on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 05:11:24 PM EST

You should seriously consider writing a book.  No, I'm not kidding.  Really, you should give it some thought.  You have great style.  I've taken several Japanese lessons by book, tape, and classroom, and your teaching style rocks.  You could even self-publish via LuLu while you are shopping for a real publisher if you wish.  I know I would certainly buy it.

Anyway, Bravo!  Please continue with Lesson 2.


If you disagree, POST, don't moderate!

here here (none / 0) (#240)
by eries on Wed Mar 03, 2004 at 07:28:50 PM EST

I completely agree. Sounds like a fascinating approach. Let me know if you'd like help figuring out how/when/if to publish in book form. And here's waiting until part 2!
Promoting open-source OO code reuse on the web: the Enzyme open-source project
[ Parent ]
Heh. (none / 0) (#192)
by i on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 09:34:24 PM EST

So, should I write Part II to my crash course in Russian?

and we have a contradicton according to our assumptions and the factor theorem

your tutorials rock (none / 1) (#197)
by muyuubyou on Sun Feb 29, 2004 at 12:41:58 AM EST

And this is crap.

[ Parent ]
Oh finally a demystification (none / 2) (#204)
by japanologist on Sun Feb 29, 2004 at 06:58:36 AM EST

Oh I am sooo glad someone spoke it out aloud! Japanese after all is not the overcomplexed overmystified overcomplicated language everyone thinks it is!!! Yes, learning how to read and write propper Japanese DOES take quite a while and it neads a lot of sitting on your behind and studying very hard. But this is not the point. The point is: I have long seen extremely close similarities to programming languages in the Japanese grammer. And - as you wrote - after having learnt 8 ways of putting the simple "eat" into nice little tones of politeness, all you are confronted with in REAL Japanese, as you will hear it outside of Mitsukoshi Department Store in Tokyo Ginza or inside one of the very "dorendi-na" coffee-shops in Shinjuku-Ku is the very regular "taberu" and sometimes the more polite "tabemasu". And that is it about politeness. Speaking of politeness, well, I should consider writing about it once, another very mystified area of culture about Japan that is full of misunderstandings and wrong images as seen from the outside world. The basic rule is: there is only little politeness in Japan, especially in Tokyo. It is just as in Down Town New York: do you think that anybody at Bloomingdales is especially polite to you just because they say "thank you" and "have a nice day"? If so: wake up. - Back to languages: in University, our Japanese professors used to say that Japanese was a language a foreigner could never master to fully learn. Now, this myth is around with many many many Japanese people who actually should now better. Well, don't blame them, they were raised with this thought injected into their brains at a very early academic phase. Gladly, our generation - also in Japan - seems to see things a bit more relaxed and, after all, a bit more with the necessary scientific distance to the observed object. Japanese - although using Chinese characters (in part) for writing - is NOT an Asiatic language. It roots to Finish/Hungarian/Turkish. Its quite amazing to discover the striking similarities, especially in the grammatical structure and in words that have not been influenced by Chinese!!! Now for the writing part: Japan was in real trouble when they got the Chinese Writing System as a "diplomatic present" sometime during the Nara Periode in the 7th century A.D. - imagine a thing like this happening to you: you speak, say English, but your stupid folks have not yet thought about inventing a way to write down things because it has been oh so cozy ever since just to sit down and tell wonderful stories and pass on the knowledge of your folks through the spoken word. Rather romantic, isn't it? And all of a sudden, you are confronted by a guest that is so nice to bring a cake so sweet you don't like it because you are more the salty tastes type. This is what basically happened around 710 A.D. to the Japanese ruling family. Hurray: we got a present but what should we do with it?! The guest is as important as - let's say your mother-in-law, we cannot just put it somewhere in the guest loo, can we?!! So, stuck with a wonderful character language that is perfect for Chinese, because this language is a so called "pearl-necklace-language". That is: all words are just linked after each other, about same word order as in English, but with NO major grammatical fun. (Remember your last visit to a China restaurant or Laundry, why do you think they talk like this: "Ah, Hello Mr. Smith, nice see you, what you want today? have nice chicken with rice, very tasty. you like?" - Well, this is how the Chinese language works. If you say, "I went back home yesterday night" this renders to something like "me go home my house yesterday night". But Japanese... oh my. Having read rtmyers article, it quickly becomes clear that this "easy" way of putting things is not the way the highly mathematic Japanese language works. One needs to but things at the back of words, sometimes on the front, too. And they need to be rendered somehow "phonetically" such as in latin writing. No way with Characters that have no phonetic but ideogrammic meaning. So, the Japanese, not stupid folks, have further developed Chinese Script to finally work with their language. And of course in the meantime of so much studying with that language, many many Chinese words inflitratred the Japanese vocabulary. This is why a Finish, Hungarian or Turkish person will not understand any Japanese, although all languages have the same root. Hm, I see, I could go on for ever on that topic! All I wanted to say was: GREAT JOB and keep it up, show the world that there is no need for mystifying any longer a language that is brilliant and simple at the same time! Stephan
凄いわねぇぇぇ!
Japanese is isolate language (none / 1) (#205)
by joutsa on Sun Feb 29, 2004 at 11:30:22 AM EST

This is why a Finish, Hungarian or Turkish person will not understand any Japanese, although all languages have the same root.

Uh-oh, not exactly. As far as I know, Japanese is not related to any other language. Even though Finnish and Japanese are pronounced in similar way and there are even a some shared words, they have totally different grammars. Both are different from English in the way that words are changed by suffixes and word order is often not significant, but otherwise completely different from each other. And those shared words tend to have hilariously different meanings in these languages.

About Finnish and Hungarian being related to Turkish - If that is really so, I certainly didn't know it before and don't believe it now. Both sound different from English or French, but otherwise there is no connection.

[ Parent ]

hmm I dunno (none / 0) (#206)
by Hana Yori Dango on Sun Feb 29, 2004 at 01:23:53 PM EST

seeing as the grammar to Korean and Japanese is pretty much identical, I'd say that's a pretty big hint that they're somewhat related...

[ Parent ]
You are probably right (none / 0) (#208)
by joutsa on Sun Feb 29, 2004 at 03:06:07 PM EST

You are probably right. I read that "fact" somewhere and just repeated it here, annoyed by the guy who confused fenno-ugric languages with Japanese.

[ Parent ]
I don't think so (none / 1) (#221)
by MOblongata on Mon Mar 01, 2004 at 12:22:05 AM EST

There was, for a period, a lot of debate as to whether or not Japanese and Korean are related, and they in turn belonging to a larger family dubbed the "Ural-Altaic" family including Finnish, Hungarian and Mongolian.

So far none of this has held any water. The Ural-Altaic family was hypothesized on the basis of some structural typologies shared by all languages, namely (but not limited to) the SOV (subject-object-verb) word order. In the case of Japanese and Korean, there is a much more striking similarity in terms of word order, usage of particles, and honorific categories. However, closer analysis still provides no evidence of "genetic" relationship. The best hypothesis is that one country borrowed certain grammatical aspects from the other... not as common with grammar as with vocab, but not unheard of either. (For another example, compare Romance language Romanian with other Romance langs., and then with Slavic langs.)
To date the best known method for determining genetic relationship between languages is to look at the core (native) vocabulary, and look for regular sound correspondences that can be postulated (from a common ancestor). Korean and Japanese (much less Finnish) have no such correspondences. To date, most Japanese linguists and language typologists do in fat classify Japanese as an isolate.
"You must be the change you wish to see in the world." -Mohandas Gandhi
[ Parent ]
You neglected my baby. (none / 0) (#253)
by deniz on Sun Mar 07, 2004 at 06:57:54 AM EST

The Turkic language group is also supposed to be a member of the Ural-Altaic family. It most definitely is not Indo-European, and considering the history of the Turkic peoples, I do tend to believe the language group is related to Mongolian (not sure whether that implies the Japanese connection). As to whether or not the Ural-Altaic family actually exists or who its members comprise, IANALinguist, so have no clue beyond the confusing and contradictory language trees I've found online.

I can tell you that in Turkey I've met many young Japanese who study Turkish (language, literature, you name it). Several of them told me it's because they're told it's one of the closest relatives to Japanese, so they figured it would be easier for them to learn. So whether or not it's a true relation, it is one which is still being propogated.

[ Parent ]

Pardon (none / 0) (#254)
by MOblongata on Tue Mar 09, 2004 at 02:14:24 AM EST

Yeah, not surprisingly, studies on Japanese language phylogeny are slow to hit the mainstream.... even in Japan. However, even if unrelated (as I and most linguists suspect), it would still be likely that Turkish is a relatively easier language for Japanese people to learn, just on the basis of structural similarities.

I do not support the belief that Ural-Altaic is a legitimate family, but that this hypothesis was made on the false assumption that structural similarities alone were sufficient to make such determinations. (And, after all, SOV languages are fairly rare.) Hence, I do not contend that Turkish and Mongolian are related. (Nor do I suggest that Mongolian and Japanese are related.) It is possible that similarities that do exist between them are due to areal (i.e., proximity) influences-- remember that the Mongolians did come as far west as present day Turkey. I do believe that Fino-Ugric (a proposed subset of Ural-Altaic) is a legitimate family, consisting of Finnish, Bulgarian, Saami, Livonian and a few others... but, to my knowledge, Turkish does not belong to this grouping.


"You must be the change you wish to see in the world." -Mohandas Gandhi
[ Parent ]
Horrible analogy, in many ways. (none / 3) (#218)
by HomesickAlien on Sun Feb 29, 2004 at 05:58:13 PM EST

Just like in group theory you can build up a whole number system from a bunch of zeroes, we can build up a whole linguistic structure from all these na-i variants.
I don't know Japanese. But I stopped reading the article as soon as I read this sentence. If you're willing to write something like this when you really don't know what you're talking about, it seems to me that you could be doing the same throughout the whole article.
This kind of analogy can only be called "intellectual wankery". The point of an analogy like this should be to make a foreign concept familiar by comparing it to something known to the reader. The article is titled "Japanese for Nerds", but not many nerds know group theory, or the difference between it and the definition of the natural numbers in ZF set theory (presuming that this is, in fact, what you were trying to refer to). Case in point: you.

I'm glad... (none / 0) (#220)
by vernondalhart on Mon Mar 01, 2004 at 12:08:56 AM EST

... that I wasn't the only one who noticed that. A group consisting only of zeros is a pretty trivial thing to study.
-- "It's like that old saying: A conservative is a liberal who's been attacked by aliens." Simon - mhm27x5
[ Parent ]
I really want to learn japanese (2.60 / 5) (#223)
by Golden Hawk on Mon Mar 01, 2004 at 01:34:06 AM EST

I want to learn japanese badly.

Japanese art and anime appeals to me far more than weastern art and TV, yet the language is so different that too much is lost in translation.

Japanese is very different in its grammer and structure than english, and language is an integral part of how we think and approch issues.  For a nerd like me, a new perspective from which to think and approch issues is as rare and precious as diamond.

I very deeply respect japanese culture.  Even it's wacky side.  Especially it's wacky side :)  Yet the language barrier obstucts my ability to fully appreciate it.

So when I saw this article I was overjoyed.  It's a bit thin for content but it's the perfect approch for my type of thinking.  Everywhere I've tried to learn Japanese so far they've just thrown a bunch of sentances or words at me to memorize.  Hell with that.  I want to know how to understand JAPANESE, not twenty common japanese phrases.

This article presents me with the structure and guts of a small piece of japanese grammer, and I hope to see more future articles.
-- Daniel Benoy

wacky is good (none / 0) (#235)
by alex fittyfives on Wed Mar 03, 2004 at 12:47:31 AM EST

I very deeply respect japanese culture. Even it's wacky side. Especially it's wacky side :) Yet the language barrier obstucts my ability to fully appreciate it.

Yeah, I love the wackiness but I wonder if the perceived wackiness is not tied to our inability to understand it?

[ Parent ]
Find better reasons. (none / 0) (#258)
by Matadon on Wed Mar 10, 2004 at 04:51:24 PM EST

After your first semester of Japanese, a lot of the 'wackiness' loses it's appeal, because, at least if you're learning the language, you start to think of much of that wacky stuff as normal.  I just don't get much of a laugh out of the l/r mixup, or when I hear someone forget plural, or when I hear phrases like, 'Have a happy lucky time', because the Japanese-speaking part of my brain understands them without any problems.

Learning Japanese is also work; it's not as hard as many people would like to claim, especially for those who are natively good computer programmers, but it is difficult, and learning the writing system takes a healthy amount of mental labor; it takes years to learn enough Kanji to be useful.

If you really do want to learn Japanese, I'd advise taking it at a community college, mainly because these courses are taught by Real Live Humans, often native speakers, and of whom you can ask questions.  More importantly, you will learn how to pronounce words correctly -- I've run into way too many self-taught people who think they can speak Japanese (or German), but who, in reality, produce nothing out of their mouths but gibberish[1].  Especially with Japanese, which is very sensitive about pitch and tone[2].

[1] To their credit, they can often write okay, but I've never seen anyone purely self-taught in German do the hook-thing on the nine, or the extra line on the one like most native speakers do, and the Kanji that many of the home-study types produce looks really odd...

[2] 'Sake wo motte kudasai' at a sushi bar will net you either fish or alcohol, depending on how you pronounce 'sake', and if you ask for 'saki', you will get odd looks.

--
"There's this thing called being so open-minded your brains drop out." — Richard Dawkins.
[ Parent ]

Cool (none / 1) (#242)
by dEddead18 on Thu Mar 04, 2004 at 09:38:26 PM EST

yeah japanese is cool, i wanna learn it. But I also wanna learn german.

I'm doing both. (none / 0) (#257)
by Matadon on Wed Mar 10, 2004 at 04:38:36 PM EST

German is both easier an harder than Japanese; easier, because you don't need to learn a completely new writing system, and harder, because German grammar is almost as bad as English; Japanese grammar feels much more 'clean' to me.

Either way, Ganbatte und viel glück!

--
"There's this thing called being so open-minded your brains drop out." — Richard Dawkins.
[ Parent ]

All wrong ~ ! (none / 3) (#243)
by Cardenio on Thu Mar 04, 2004 at 10:18:19 PM EST

Take it from a nerd who actually spent 5 years learning Japanese from books and classes. ( No ~ ' nai ' isn't a complete sentence. No ~ Japanese isn't like some kind of ' modular language like a computer ! ' ) Japanese IS the language for nerds, that's certian. Anime, video games, pretending you could date Japanese girls ... what could be better ? But seriously, if you want to learn the language, you're looking at a major investment of effort and time. Here's the real good tip. If you're interested in learning Japanese - first learn to prounounce Japanese. Very easy. Easiest language to pronouce ! Learn to pronounce all the Japanese words you already know but misprounce correctly. Karate - ( ka-ra-te, not ' kuh-roddy ' ) Kamikaze - ( ka-mi-ka-ze, not ' Camma-Kazzy ' ) and so on. Then : this is the important part. Lean the two syllabaries, hiragana and katakana. BUT : YOU HAVE TO DO IT IN TWO WEEKS. You have to be able to read AND write them. ( I suggest praticing writing the symbols on a small white board over and over at first, that's what I did ) IF you can't do that, within 2 weeks ( let's say 3, a month ), GIVE UP. You'll never learn Japanese. Do yourself a favor and switch to a different language. If you can do that, well maybe you've got a shot at it. I recommend the " Japanese for Busy People " series ( Kana versions - if you can't do the Kana versions, forget it ) Ganbatte yo !

good post... (none / 0) (#256)
by MOblongata on Wed Mar 10, 2004 at 03:33:01 AM EST

but, "nai" is perfectly acceptable as a stand alone sentence (given the right context of course...)
-O-kane ga aru? -Nai (yo).


"You must be the change you wish to see in the world." -Mohandas Gandhi
[ Parent ]
Pretend? (none / 0) (#260)
by xtal on Sun Mar 14, 2004 at 03:11:34 PM EST

Pretending you could date Japanese girls ... Why would you have to pretend? Is there a shortage of Japanese girls I haven't heard about?

[ Parent ]
sarcasm/irony (none / 0) (#269)
by pantagruel on Sat Mar 27, 2004 at 09:19:55 AM EST

you know, like nerds can't really get laid so they must pretend. LOL OMFG ROFLMAO

[ Parent ]
Not strictly true. (none / 0) (#263)
by sarkeizen on Mon Mar 15, 2004 at 04:08:53 PM EST

Karate - ( ka-ra-te ) True, that's the original way to pronounce it but either the western usage has transfered back as an idiom in Japanese or this is some natural linguistic progression. You there are a number of shows and some anime and where you can hear Japanese people say 'Ka-rati'.

[ Parent ]
wrong indeed (none / 0) (#264)
by calculadoru on Tue Mar 16, 2004 at 02:29:45 AM EST

I hate to say this mate, but two weeks to learn hiragana and katakana are FAR too much. At Osaka Uni for Foreign Languages, on our very first day of Japanese classes (please bear in mind that none of us could speak a single word of Japanese at the time), the teacher walked in and wrote all of them on the board, one by one. She made us write them all in the correct order, made sure we pronounced them properly, and then LEFT. Not before saying 'you have until tomorrow to learn them all'. So we did. Needless to say, next morning at 9 we had a test: write hiragana and katakana. all of them. it was a fair bit of fun, that ;)
"Religion is the most malevolent of all mind viruses." - Arthur C. Clarke
[ Parent ]
Kantan (none / 0) (#261)
by japansatan on Mon Mar 15, 2004 at 09:57:16 AM EST

I don't know Japanese. But please let me make a few observations: 1) The fundamental grammar seems to be really simple, a point excellently conveyed by rtmyers' story. Especially if you've tried to chew on something like, say, French, Polish, or Latin, the Japanese simplicity will be like a fresh spring breeze tinged with an exotic scent of strange linguistic constructions. Where are all the tenses? The aspects, declinations, cases, persons and sexes? And only two major irregular verbs? I think Julian Morrison got it right in one reply: "Japanese builds complexity by layering over abstract simplicity". 2) That Japanese can be really simple is something rarely admitted by Japanese professionals. Instead the emphasis seems to be on how incredibly different it is from English, and vice versa (making both languages harder to learn). How often do you see the phrase "it's just like in English", except in defences like this? 3) Although HanaYoriDango has his lucid moments his rethoric is marred by repeated references to his own merits outside the forum. This kind of authoritative style is largely irrelevant to the discussion and does not lend credit to the arguments in themselves. Also, though it is an excellent way of getting attention (he got mine!), his resorting to personal attacks makes his declared professionality sound even more hollow, to say the least. I guess what he is saying is that the regular gaijin has no idea how important politeness is in Japan or Korea, a piece of info which is, of course, very useful. 4) We can probably all agree on one thing: What really makes Japanese hard to learn is not so much speech as writing. But how can it change? If you took away the Kanji you'd tear out a large part of Japan's identity, and why keep the kana then? After all, they are Romaji translatable 1:1. 5) I don't believe in languages without swear words any more than I believe in Santa Claus. But I do believe there are a lot of people who'd never admit to knowing them. But maybe not around here though, so do anybody know some really faux pas Japanese?

Stop this skit, it is getting silly (none / 0) (#262)
by japansatan on Mon Mar 15, 2004 at 10:01:44 AM EST

Please, this bickering makes you both look like idiots. I don't this you are though

Japanese for Nerds (I) | 273 comments (243 topical, 30 editorial, 2 hidden)
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