Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Just saw Yoshie off to the airport a couple hours ago, and now I need to catch up on some sleep. After that I'll need to catch up on some blogging! If you're reading this, thanks for checking in. More to come.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

War and corn soup

I know nothing gives me a hankering for corn soup like some Stallone directing a war movie.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Netflix, Nico Nico, and some rambling

This post will jump around a little, so apologies in advance. 悪いな。

So first off, I just signed up for Netflix the other day. I'm a little disappointed that (a) they've distanced themselves from the DVD service, which apparently now costs extra (used to be their primary service as I understand it), and (b) their streaming movie selection isn't the greatest (licensing with studios is tough, I guess). Gobbler tells me that they used to have a lot of old streaming J-movies like Ikiru and Ran, but I guess their licensing expired. They still have an old samurai movie or two and a lot of (strange-looking) anime, though. I noticed some more recent J-movies that I'll also check out. Wish they had Japanese subs, but that would be a stretch.

Speaking of streaming and Japanese, that brings me to Nico Nico Douga, which I think I may have mentioned before. It's basically the Japanese You Tube, with what seem like fewer copyright restrictions and/or enforcement. I've used it to watch the Simpsons in Japanese (the dub is surprisingly very good, both voice and translation-wise), and I think they have some movies and stuff, as well. Just wanted to bring it up again for those of you who may be interested in watching TV shows and videos in Japanese.

Aside from the Japanese stuff and some job stuff which I'll not discuss right now, the other major thing going on right now is preparing/waiting for Yoshie to visit on the 21st. I'm psyched, but also now worried...she's been having some neck/back pains recently from an old episode of whiplash that apparently never healed properly. The doctors she was consulting gave her some medicine...and that was it. I have no medical training, but I was surprised they didn't treat it more aggressively, with a neck brace or something. Well, surprise surprise, the medicine didn't improve anything and the pain is getting worse. So now she has a neck brace and we'll see if it helps in the short term. She may have to travel here with it. I'll be really glad to see her either way, but I'm worried that she won't be very comfortable, especially on the flight. I just hope she can get past it and have a good time.

That's what's up here...

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Every language is different

There is an important realization to be had for anyone who is serious about learning a second language. Each language is different. Sounds pretty "duh," doesn't it? But it's not as obvious as you might think. Or at least it wasn't for me.

In the earlier days of my Japanese education, I would try to communicate in English via Japanese, if that makes any sense. I would have in mind something that I wanted to say, and translate it, as best I could, literally into Japanese. I remember I would sometimes tell my Japanese teachers 「いい週末を過ごしてください。」(Have a nice weekend) and as kind of a joke with my friends, I would call things 「甘い」 (sweet) when I thought they were cool.

The problem is, telling someone to have a nice weekend isn't really natural Japanese. No one says that. And calling something "sweet" in that way is nonsensical. There are all kinds of expressions, phrases, and vocabulary that just aren't used, and somewhere along the line you have to change your way of thinking. Granted, in the beginning your vocabulary and knowledge of grammar will be pretty limited, and it's definitely preferable to do your best to communicate even when you sound strange or unnatural. Eventually, though, you'll start to pick up the natural "feel" of the language.

I'm not exactly sure when I made that change, but it is recently that I've begun to consciously take note of and analyze some of the similarities and differences of key ideas and expressions in English and Japanese.

One that comes to mind right away is the use of the word "bad" versus 「悪い」(わるい). In English, we can employ "bad" in a wide variety of situations and circumstances. Some examples:

- This food is pretty bad.
- What a bad movie.
- I'm really bad at French.
- You invited him to the party? That was a bad move.

While there's more than one way to express these ideas, here's how I would say these things in Japanese:


None of my Japanese renderings use the word "bad" as we foreigners learn it in Japanese. Conversely, Japanese seems to use 「悪い」a lot more often when expressing the idea of fault. For example:

(Oh, our meeting was at 2? I see. Sorry about that.)

(No, it's not your fault. It's mine.)

In the first case, 「悪いな」 expresses that yes, the speaker was bad and he's admitting that as an apology. In the second, the speaker is expressing that whoever he is addressing isn't "bad." It's his fault. In Japanese, 「悪い」or 「悪くない」are often used (along with せい) to talk about fault. The closest thing in English is the somewhat slangy expression "my bad."

There are tons more examples. If you're studying Japanese or another language and not yet at the point where you can break away from your native tongue in expressing your ideas, don't worry or rush it. It'll come with time. But being aware of the fact that you must change the way you think may help you get there quicker.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Losing at life?

So I stumbled upon a recent Japanarchist video that not only gave me a few chuckles but introduced me to a couple of J-words I was unfamiliar with. The video is about a Goo survey on what characteristics Japanese people identify with 非リア充.

リア充 is one of those Japanese words that uses bits of katakana (like ロリコン (lolicon) for example) and challenges the reader/listener to figure out what the hell it means. Luckily we have the internets. According to the survey:


In English, it means an enriched or full life. The 「リア」part is the "rea" of "real" and the 「充」belongs to 「充実」("fullness"). So the concept refers to someone who has his or her life together. Wikipedia corroborates! When we add the transformative, negative 非 kanji, we get the opposite of that. Japanarchist uses the term "loser." You could also go with "someone who sucks at life."

Looking at the survey, here are the top 10 traits of a loser:

1. マイナスな発言が多い (Says a lot of negative things)
2. 友達が少ない (Has few friends)
3. 恋人がいない (Has no partner/mate/lover)
4. 一日中誰とも会話しない日がしゅうちゅうある (Frequently goes the whole day without conversing with anyone)
5. 周りに興味がない (Isn't interested in anything around them)
6. オシャレに興味ない(Isn't interesting in style/fashion)
7. 恋愛に消極的 (Is half-hearted in romance)
8. 急に人に話しかけられると「えっ、あ、あの、あの」としどもどるになる (Becomes flustered and sputters when suddenly approached and spoken to by someone)
9. 非恋愛体質 (Uninterested in romance?)
10. 「自分はこんなもんじゃない」と常に思ってる (Always thinks "It's not my fault")[?]

I find all of these pretty understandable, but #6 kind of stands out to me as very "Japanese." 「オシャレ」 is a little difficult to peg as precisely "style" or "fashion" but it is, I think, a fair generalization to say that Japanese people as a whole seem a lot more concerned with such things than many people of other nationalities. I can't say people don't care about style here in the U.S., for example, but I don't think I know many people who would place that in a top 10 list of "loser" characteristics. What do you think?