Cool Compound – 復習

This one is pretty easy to break down. 復 means “multiple” and can be seen in such useful compounds as 複数 (ふくすう, “multiple numbers” → plural) and 複雑 (ふくざつ, “multiple miscellaneous” → difficult, complicated).

習 you should recognize from your basic set of verbs – 習う (ならう, to learn).

Put them together and you get 復習 (ふくしゅう) which means “to learn multiple times” or “to learn again” – to review.

Yes, it’s that time of year again – finals time. I’ve got several meaty projects I have to finish up before the second week in December, so How to Japonese will be taking a little break. I finish my last presentation on December 9, and I’m flying out to Japan for two weeks on December 10. Regular posting will resume at some point over the holidays, most likely at some point during my visit to Japan.

Until then, go ahead and “review” some of the old material from the site. I recommend:

– the three original posts.
– my definition of かわいそう
– proof that laughter is the best study partner
– my guide to kanji compounds
– any of the posts about “airbag expressions”

See y’all again in December!

Discomfort, the Diminishing Returns of Language Study, and Linguistic Tolerance

I have an article on the Japan Times Bilingual Page today. This time there isn’t much of a language lesson. It’s more of a motivational story-type article, which means you should feel free to disregard it completely. The story I tell in the article is true, and you can see the results of it – I made a video of the pub crawl, and Brian has photos on his site.

I went out with the girls a couple times after that and didn’t experience the same level of linguistic discomfort, so I’m not exactly sure why I had so much trouble that time in Shibuya. The one thing it reminds me of is having good days and bad days in language class. When I was in college, some days everything would go as planned and other days I’d be unable to say anything at all or totally forget we had a kanji quiz. The only thing that matters now is that I powered through it and got to a very comfortable level of fluency. I still have good days and bad days, but I try to soldier through everything the best I can. It’s important to push yourself whenever you start to feel the limits of your abilities, whether it’s reading or speaking or writing. Building linguistic tolerance is a very real thing.

Don’t get discouraged when you start to encounter the diminishing returns of language study. Do whatever it takes to power through. Once you’re on the other side, you’ll probably find out that it was worth it.

Cool Word – キャッシュオン

I have an article online today over at CNNGo Tokyo. I give a brief introduction to 和製英語 (わせいえいご) and list a few of my favorites. One of these is キャッシュオン, which is a shortened form of キャッシュオンデリバリー. I learned the phrase at Dry Dock, but Ushitora also has キャッシュオン events. I love the way the word sounds, and it’s a lot of fun to overpronounce it. Although, whenever I say it now, I say it with a Cajun accent, a la Cajun Man.

While I’m here, I should go ahead and do a mini-rinkage post.

Big (only) in Japan? Oshibori

I’ve had a bit of reverse culture shock since I’ve been home. The most notable shock has been shoes in the house. Hate it. After that, I guess it’s a toss up between cash-less shopping, the frigid temperatures people in New Orleans keep their ACs set at, and eating food with hands. For the first few weeks I felt a weird sensation of never having enough money on me. In Japan, not having enough cash can have serious consequences – like having to walk home a really long ways or go hungry/thirsty for longer than is pleasant. I’ve gotten over it thanks to my debit card, which can be used just about everywhere in the U.S. I’ve also realized why people bring sweaters to the library – the library is super cold! Come on, people, 68F is not a normal inside temperature. The other weird sensation I have is that my hands are constantly dirty. Part of this is due to the lack of chopsticks, part of this is do to the prevalence of hand feedin’, and part of it is due to the lack of oshibori. I seriously miss oshibori.

Cool Phrase – いいぞ (Update)

I’ve got another article on the Japan Times Bilingual Page. Longtime readers will recognize the topic, as well as the little girl who hates bugs, from the contest I ran back in April 2008.

So, yes, いい is often used to say “no, thank you” and imply that something is not fine and not good, but it does also get used in the standard definition of good, fine, great. One way to differentiate between the meanings is applying a particle to the end. よ will grant permission to someone else, ね will express your pleasure with something and/or seek confirmation, よね seeks to confirm okay-ness, and ぞ is a useful way to cheer someone on.

When I was on JET, we coached the speech contest kids, and I have vivid memories of one of the Japanese English teachers saying いいぞ、いいぞ in a slightly gruff voice when the kids did a particularly good job. It was kind of like “attaboy, attaboy” or “now you’re cookin’ with gas” – that type of thing. Definitely a nice little phrase to keep in your wallet for the right situation.

Quick TOP SECRET breakdown of possible English tone equivalents (as usual, getting used to it is far superior to translation):

いいよ – “Sure, go ahead”
いいね – “That’s nice!” “That sounds good!”
いいよね – “Not a problem, right?”
いいぞ – “That’s the stuff!”

Update:

Dammit, I missed a bunch of particles, as noted in the comments by Leonardo. They are:

いいな – “Lucky! (a la Napoleon Dynamite)” “That’s nice!”
いいわ – “Sure thing.”
いいわよ – “Sure thing, hot stuff.”
いいけど – “I guess…”
いいけどね – “T’were it only true…”

Fansub FAIL

I’m cursed for some reason. Whenever I try to watch the movie Paprika, I’m always interrupted. I’ve made it halfway through several times, but inevitably something comes up and I’m forced to pause it, promising to finish at a later time. Last night I only made it 15 minutes in before I realized I would have to bail. That was still enough time to see this fansub failure:

Sure, it’s an accurate translation from a certain point of view – it is what comes out of her mouth (the line in Japanese is 「イッツ・ザ・グレーティスト・ショータイム!」) – but clearly the film is referring to the Ringling Brothers’ famous slogan “The Greatest Show on Earth,” so I think a better translation (that takes into account the philosphy underlying my inequality posts) would be “Time for the Greatest Show on Earth!” Or, if you don’t want to trample on the Ringling Brothers’ intellectual property, “Time for an amazing show!” “It’s the greatest show time” is a failure of English.

I must finish watching this movie soon. I’ve vowed to finish watching it before I see Inception so that I can figure out if it inspired any of the movie. And I should probably see Inception before school starts. So in the next week or two.

Updates 2010/07/08

A couple of updates to old posts. If I added them to the actual posts at this point, no one would notice, so I thought I’d make a separate post.

Project Management Lingo – 改行

In the comments Arline reminded me of one of the commands that can be used to count characters in Microsoft Excel and Open Office. “=len(target cell)” will count all of the characters in the target cell. Note that this is all the characters regardless of line breaks. If you’re working with material that has line breaks within cells, then the easiest way might be to open up a separate file, do the translation line by line counting the characters with =len, and then pasting the final result back into the cells of the original file.

Underrated Phrase – そうですね

Check out the final Collabo-Ramen video! Did you notice the way that Komuro-san was answering my questions? For each of the two questions I included in the video, she begins her response with そうですね. Note the tone that she uses – this is exactly what I was referring to in the Japan Times article. Using this そうですね when responding to questions will make your Japanese sound much more natural.

Who will feed the Haruki Murakami fans online?

Since I wrote this post about Murakami’s/Murakami’s publisher’s Internetal ineptitude, I noticed that my Facebook profile was devoid of Murakami. That’s strange, I thought, I could’ve sworn I had him as one of the two authors I like under the “Books” section of my profile. (The other being Barbara Tuchman. “The Zimmerman Telegram” was a weird combination of all my interests/ethnicities – intrigue between U.S., Mexico, Japan and Germany. My father’s family is Mexican-American, and my father’s mother’s family were Germans who immigrated to Mexico.) I searched for Murakami on Facebook, and sure enough, the unofficial page had been deleted. There is now an official page run by Knopf, AND it’s being updated frequently. This has all happened in the past week and a half, however, so we’ll have to wait and see if it gets properly maintained or ignored like the Random House site.

Underrated Phrase – そうですね

I have to thank my senior year Japanese teacher for this one. I can’t remember exactly what lesson she was teaching when she mentioned this phenomenon (perhaps it was job-hunting related since several of us were going to graduate soon), but I remember being very surprised at the way そうですね is used to respond to questions – even questions that don’t have a definitely yes or no answer. She said that whenever you are asked a question, the first thing out of your mouth should almost always be そうですね, with a slightly extended そう and ね, to imply that you are in deep thought and considering the question. It’s just the way they do things in Japan, so get used to it and start using it to your advantage. I love using it as a moment to gather my thoughts before I give an answer in Japanese. You can read more in the article I wrote for the Japan Times Bilingual Page earlier this week.

Regular readers may recognize 〜なんですが、 as a very basic エアバッグ表現, one of the most helpful ideas I ever learned in class. This そうですね thing may be the second most helpful.

Game Lingo – キャラセレ

Technically I’m on vacation, so all you get is a measely little game lingo post today.

This word baffled me for a while when I came upon it during a job. I believe I was translating a game manual, and there weren’t any images in the manual to give me a clue as to what it referred to. I kept reading it “carousel.” That is until I was saved by the power of Google Images. I just popped the fucker into Google and voilà – character selection. The image results from the search are pretty clear – this word refers to the screen in games where you choose your character from all the possible choices. I don’t think there’s a set term for this in English. “Character select screen” or “character selection screen” both seem fine (although the latter sounds a smidge better?), so look for previous usages within the game text.

In Japanese it’s important to be on the lookout for words that have been shortened from longer compounds. Maintain vigilance.

Keep Your Eyes Open – 納品 Redux

I was out in Futako Tamagawa walking around with my parents this past week, and I noticed this as we walked up to the entrance of the Garden Island annex of Takashimaya:

Yup, those are trucks parked in a special spot for 納品車 – vehicles making deliveries. Closer inspection reveals…

…that the regular parking lot is just over to the right.

This sign was interesting to me because it was the first time I’ve seen 納品 used for actual, physical deliveries. I’d used it often in the office, as I wrote when I introduced the compound, but it was always in regards to nebulous, digital deliveries. Very cool to see it out in the real world.

Game Lingo – タイミングよく

I have a column in The Japan Times today, “Take your taimingu when translating loan words.” The general idea and many of the examples should be familiar to long time readers, but I use a new example as my main piece of evidence: the video game term タイミングよく.

Here’s the build-up:

Japan has a long history of commandeering words from other languages and making them its own. Kobo Daishi, one of Japan’s first exchange students, allegedly brought back thousands of kanji from China in the eighth century. Words from Portugal and Holland arrived through Nagasaki roughly 1,000 years later. More recently, Japanese has borrowed from English and other languages, and hence there are now legions of words that require thought before you can convert them back into their source language.

Go buy a copy or check it out online.