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August 22, 2004

Beautify Your Brain & Supplement Your IQ

I have been enjoying a TV show called "脳内エステ IQサプリ" broadcasted every Saturday night here in the Bay Area. The title of the show literally means "Beautify Your Brain, Supplement Your IQ" and this program is designed to release the stress in your brain by making you think! The more you think with your brain, the more beautiful it becomes!

Each episode presents several interesting IQ questions to test your brain's analytical, mathematical, intuitive and language abilities. Last night, I learned a couple more Japanese tongue twisters "早口言葉" (hayakuchikotoba) related to my previous post:

(oyagamome, kogamome, hanegamome, magogamome)
Parent sea gull, kid sea gull, wing sea gull, grandchild sea gull. (Doesn't necessary make sense.)

(okyaku ga kaki mukya hikyaku ga kaki kuu. hikyaku ga kaki mukya okyaku ga kaki kuu. okyaku mo hikyaku mo yoku kaki kuu kyaku hikyaku ja.)
When the guest peels persimmon the messenger will eat it. When the messenger peels persimmon the guest will eat it. Both the guest and the messenger are persimmon eaters.
(Super difficult!)

This TV show not only beautifies my brain but also teaches me Japanese!

August 20, 2004

Japanese Linguistics & Kanji

Here is a good and LONG post about The Japanese Language which summarizes Japanese Linguistics in layman terms. People with at least one year of Japanese training should have all these concepts already but it's always good to read something in such an organized fashion. I will be studying Japanese Linguistics this semester and look forward to learning this subject in depth in Linguistic terms with 稲葉先生.

I am lucky enough to have a Chinese background and would say that saves me 30% of the work in learning Japanese. I still have to memorize the sounds of the 漢字 (kanji) but the writing and meaning of the Chinese characters have all registered in my database already. A lot of non-native speakers (and sometimes even native Japanese!) complain about learning kanji is the most difficult and painful part of the language. I can sympathize with that of course, but just think about Chinese people who have to learn nothing but Chinese characters. They have to learn about three times more characters and don't have the luxury of writing the vocabularies in 平仮名 (hiragana) if they forget the ideographic representation. So if you are "kanji-phobic" when it comes to learning Japanese, you would probably find learning Chinese a even more formidable chore. Having said that, the most difficult part in Japanese for me is rather the numerous different sounds associated with each kanji and the different speech levels. I am still struggling with that after two years.

I heard there has been some unsuccessful movement in eliminating 漢字 (kanji) altogether in Japanese. This may be good news for Japanese learners, but the Ministry of Education never adopted the idea. Native speakers would agree that Japanese without 漢字 (kanji) would become impossible to read due to the lack of spaces between each word. Even if spaces were to be inserted between each word, the reading speed and comprehension level will be drastically decreased. For this, I would like to hear more native Japanese opinions.

August 18, 2004