Put it into words. 言葉にして。

I raged so hard.

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Rush Limbaugh Speaks Chinese
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog</a> Video Archive

Hopefully the clip is obvious enough that you’ll know why I was raging.  (Of course, my favorite line was Colbert saying in response to Limbaugh’s assertion that nobody could understand Chinese or Japanese, that he can think of over a billion people that would.)

I don’t wish to make this overly political, but I feel that it is embarrassing for the right wing that a person with a lot of sway within the right wing would say something so ignorant and badly thought out.

Over a billion plus me.  Someone with no ethnic ties to Asia.  I want to live in a world where we can appreciate each other’s differences instead of mocking them.  Rush should know better than to do this.


“Speaking in Tongues” (Bilingual Education in America)

I don’t think I’ve ever posted about this before, but the documentary “Speaking in Tongues”  (Link here) is a very interesting and eye-opening documentary that follows four students of different ages learning bilingually in some form.  Actually, one of the filmmakers came to my class and screened the film for us.  I’m so glad that I got a chance to see it.  I’ve been subscribed to updates from the site for some time, and their blog has some really fantastic links.  I highly recommend their posts because they contain information from many sources about bilingualism in general as well as bilingual education.

That’s it for now…I’m a bit tired, so my concentration ability is reduced at the moment.  When I’m awake again, I’ll write more about something or other; you can be sure of that. ;P

Japanese Update

Hey there.

You know, I haven’t watched very much anime in a long time.  I stopped because I was worried what people around me would think of me if I continued to watch it.  But I’ve been watching little bits since I got some for Christmas, and I really remembered why I enjoy it so much–it’s flat-out fun.  It hasn’t ever been the only thing I do, but it’s something that has enriched my life, and I don’t want to be so scared of what people think that I don’t do what makes me happy.

My comprehension of Japanese hasn’t been slipping, really.  I know that one’s capacity to comprehend in a foreign language outstrips their ability to produce, just as it exists in one’s native language.  So when I listen to an anime, and I can tell “Oh, this character is being extremely polite here!” and “That character is being really really rude…” based on choice of vocabulary I feel good.  I like subtitles to some degree because they force me to think like a translator.  “How would I say this in English?”  “Why did the translator choose this phrasing?  What is influencing their translation?  Is it their age and where they live?”  “Why is this sentence translated in this order?” (In regard to the last question, I have found out from personal experience in translating and information from one of my great past professors about his experiences that a lot of it has to do with the way sentences are structured in Japanese versus English.  Even so, I sometimes feel annoyed when I see that a sentence has been translated “backwards,” because it can ruin the impact and power of the utterance which was originally present in the form in some way.  Gotta figure out a way to fix this eventually while still making a translation that doesn’t sound completely stilted and unnatural…yeah, that’s why light novels can be really hard to translate…I’m looking at you, Hot Gimmick S!)

Whee.  Anyway, as I was saying, I end up realizing that in some ways I am quite capable in Japanese, and sometimes I forget that until I’m staring a page completely in Japanese in the face and then I can make out what it’s about, sometimes easily and sometimes not so easily.   Even so, the little bits that I do get on my own make me feel better.

I am not done by any means.  I need to get back to studying Japanese regularly, and I intend to do that this year.  I think that the new semester will be a little easier on me.  Maybe.  Anyway, I am going to spend more of the free time I use with a melted brain doing things that produce good results, and so I will study again.

…Sometimes it’s tough being a student, but I don’t want to make excuses for not doing things.  I can manage a little bit of study; I’m just scared that I can’t.  I need more confidence.


My thoughts about studying another culture can be summed up like this:

“Please teach me about your culture.  I seek to understand things as they really are, not as I have heard they are from a foreigner’s viewpoint.  If it’s not alright to be here, then I will leave, but please know that I seek to understand your culture, first and foremost, as you would have me see things.”

I can’t say I’m free from any bias, of course.  I know that I view things through the lens that my experience has given me.  Even so, the point of studying other cultures is to understand other people and thereby understand yourself, in order to create bridges between similar aspects in all of us.  Studying the world enriches ourselves, it enriches others, and it can enrich the world, if we choose to use our experiences to do all of these things.  Anyone in a position of power has the ability to misuse it if they would like.

I get frustrated when I hear people say things to the tune of “Oh, Americans (and/or Westerners) don’t understand anything about the world!  They think they know so much, but they don’t know anything at all!”

…I can see the point.  A lot of people have interest in others as far as their cultures may be commodified.  But I don’t want to be the kind of person who says “Oh, I love _____ culture!” while actually knowing very little about it.  I was a little bothered by the portrayal of a Western character, Jo, in the recent Bollywood film, “Love Aaj Kal.”  Mind you, I am halfway through the movie at the moment, but it bothered me when she was portrayed as saying “Oh, I love Indian culture!” after the main character, Jai, diverts her from his failed attempt to kiss her (which has greater significance in the story as a whole, but I won’t get into that here) by pretending it’s an Indian custom and saying “Om Shanti Om” (which is, of course, the title of a very popular Bollywood movie from the last decade).  The fact that she fell for it, and then went on to say that she “loves Indian temples, like the Taj Mahal and the Himalayas” (neither of which are temples!!) as a Western character frustrated me to no end.  I can’t say that I expect that she will be portrayed in a better light any later on in the movie.  It’s not the first time I’ve seen the portrayal of Westerners to be negative, by any means, but I am saddened that this kind of perception probably won’t change any time soon.

Do I sound pompous when I talk like this?  I hope not.  I want to be someone who can go to a foreign country and respect other people.  That’s all.  I know I’m a foreigner and no matter where I go some people will always see me as such; maybe everybody will.  But I want to have the experience anyway.  I want to learn, and I think that’s a reasonably good place to start, without pretense.

Edit:  I forgot to mention this completely, but I was very frustrated when viewing a clip of the film Namastey London to see that the British at a party insulted the main character, who was of Indian descent.  The things said were nastily hurtful and I am disgusted by them.  I’m sure that was intentional on the part of the film’s creators, but I am wondering just what the statement was.  It seemed to suggest that Indian culture is superior to Western culture, a sentiment which I can understand (Hare Rama Hare Krishna seems to be another film with this theme, though I haven’t seen it) given the history of contact between India and the West, specifically Britain.  Even though I can logically comprehend it, I was greatly saddened, and I hope that the general impression of Westerners is not this negative.

For this matter, I think it is wise to do as a very close friend said and realize that stereotypes are not about myself personally.  Even if someone believes a stereotype, I might break it for them.  It’s not something that I should let hurt me.  It’s frustrating to see what these stereotypes seem to be predicated upon; that is, for one example, the history of Western imperialist thought and conquest.  Why is it frustrating?  Well, because I would have hoped that by now the world would have changed to become a better place, including the people in it, who I hoped would have learned to respect other people for who they are and not attempt to “civilize” them to fit the needs of the colonizers.  But the legacy of imperialism is long lived.  I’m not even sure about the world becoming a better place–can it really?  I will try to do my part to make that happen, anyway.  I think it’s true that if we don’t study history we are doomed to repeat it.  I want to make a positive change in the world.  I hope that in my travels I can do that.

A Vicarious Adventure in Translation

Today, Frank Warren posted a secret on the Facebook page for PostSecret that was in a language that he couldn’t figure out and he asked for help.  It’s interesting to see what happens when something like that is let loose on a social network, which has such potential for collaboration.  The secret was figured out not long after I started reading all the posts, but after that people continued to post, starting from the beginning of the translation themselves.  This incident is rather reminiscent of posts that I have seen on academic forums, in that the lower down in the comments one goes, the fewer people one finds who have read the upper comments.  A collaborative medium only works as well as those who are willing to collaborate.  Although there were certainly people who came in very late and had good things to say, their time would have been better served gaining knowledge from those who had come before them.  I suppose in that way it’s a case of “reinventing the wheel.”

In terms of the event’s larger significance, it is worthwhile to realize that if we are willing to take the time to learn from those who have gone before us, there may in fact be quite a bit more information about anything than that which we puzzle out alone.  If we build upon what is already present, who knows how far we could go?  An interesting life lesson in an incident surrounding a postcard.

As far as the actual translation goes, I have a feeling that I am too impatient for it!  This was such a simple translation, really, once the language was worked out.  In fact, it was less of a language than a cipher, since all the words ended up being in English.  Thankfully the script was also typewritten, which meant there was no variation in symbols from writing to writing within the body of the text.  With all these little details taken into account, cross-language translation of dead languages into living ones is simply incredible!  And here I am, hoping to translate living languages into others…I am excited to see what my capabilities are in the field and I look forward to learning more.  🙂

Christmas Update

Merry Christmas!

There’s been a lot of thinking about Japan and writing about Japan around here lately. I guess that isn’t very surprising. I had to submit my study abroad application, hence the writing.

I’ve been trying to watch Japanese stuff without subtitles at all lately, and I’m happy that I can understand enough of it to get the gist of what’s going on, but I still feel better with subs on the bottom of the screen, because it helps me to compare translations. Actually, even more than that I prefer subs because I have historically chosen to use them, and also because for some reason I feel more confident when they are around. I know I have to get used to not having them around, but I don’t feel entirely ready to be without them yet. I’m kinda straddling the line in that regard.

It’s just, when you really want to understand the nuances of something, it’s easier to have subs…

Anyway, I am taking a break from formally studying Japanese for a while because of the school break but I will start up again soon. Actually, since I got home I’ve pretty much been sleeping… ーヮー

…yeah…I don’t have much to report at the moment. But I’m not giving up, of course :3

Oh, also, it’s kinda fun when I listen to music in Japanese the first time and I know ~half of what they’re saying with no help. Yay.

[Insert witty title here]

Hmm, so today in class we were talking about the codification of local identity through shared hardship, among other things.  When I say shared hardship, I could be talking about a lot of stuff but I specifically want to talk about tourism.  I kind of wonder at this point, with certain places becoming incredibly touristy, there seems to have been a wave of people looking for authentic experiences when they visit different parts of the world.  (Authentic in and of itself is problematic when related to tourism…)  It’s kinda paradoxical to be a tourist and look for an authentic experience, because if there weren’t so many tourists it’d be easier to look for an authentic experience, since places have become touristy because of their presence.  I know that’s really badly worded…just forgive me for that, since it’s almost the end of the week.  Oh, um, furthermore, for people who go looking in out of the way places that they heard about in a guidebook, those kinds of places will eventually also become touristy…so it just seems like the more people go looking from a tourist’s point of view, the more they promote making places become more touristy.

Of course, that’s not the only thing that makes a place touristy; every place seems to have their local specialty because people within the country go and visit it.  The prevalence of places in Kyoto where you can get professionally dressed as a maiko or geisha in order to cater more to the taste of Japanese visitors than visitors from out of country comes to mind.

I don’t think there’s a problem with looking for authenticity necessarily; the problem comes when you do it to patronize a people.  It’s not about fetishizing another people, or elevating yourself above them.  I think it’s okay to look for authenticity if you go into it with the realization that you may be intruding on other people, and if you are it’s your responsibility to make sure you stop doing so.  Then it gets into that question of who you should ask for permission in visiting a place…I don’t know, I really do think even as a foreigner you don’t necessarily need to do things extremely intrusively.  And furthermore, it’s important that you realize that just because something is different it doesn’t mean it’s beneath you.  I don’t think that seeking to understand people, when it’s on their own terms, is a bad thing.  And I guess you have to accept that there may be things you are prohibited from doing at any stage.

I really really want to go abroad.  I want to understand the way of life of another people, and I’m willing to accept that I may always be an outsider.  Even so, I want to try to understand others on their own terms.  I guess at this point all I can hope is that people are willing to be patient with me.  And I really do hope that.







The Answer

I think sometimes when you’re studying something really intensely you begin to realize, “Perhaps the question I’ve asked is answerable, but perhaps even if I find the answer it doesn’t matter that I answered it.”

Of course, from this point it’s up to you to decide what you want to search for.  Maybe the journey of searching for an answer is worth it merely for that realization.  In this context, the journey is, as they say, worth more than the answer itself.

Any analysis on its own is worthwhile for the person who did it, and maybe it’s worthwhile for the person who analyzes that analysis.  From there it could become a chain of analyses leading to new findings entirely.  Meaning is created by every person, however they find that they want to.  I guess that’s what history is for: finding someone else’s answers and looking inside to ask new questions yourself.

It makes everything seem less futile, doesn’t it?  We make waves while we’re alive, but even when we’re gone, even if our names are forgotten, there is no telling how far these waves will reach.


Well, I found out that even though I may not recognize a kanji at first glance when I haven’t seen it in three months, I’m not completely out of luck!  Anki really is a fantastic SRS program, in that it works things out so you don’t have to reset your deck if you haven’t studied it in a really really long time.  I’ve found that by looking through the kanji once, I remember the elements of it, and when I study it with the option “review failed cards soon” I actually do remember it after all this time.  I’m willing to take the time to work on this stuff over again even though I’ve had some backsliding.  Apparently the damage is not as bad as I thought. よかったよかった~

Well, I’ll keep at it!  I’m not giving up yet!  >:D