Archive for the 'Language' Category

Japanese Idiom: uchiwa no nori

Saturday, February 16th, 2008

I was trying to translate one of Mint’s blog posts when I came across the following idiom, “内輪のノリ”. Google translate usually gives amusing translations and this one was no exception: “noli private”. “Noli” should really be “nori”. Nori usually refers to food that is wrapped in nori seaweed – like balls of rice or rolls of sushi. The phrase talks about the private part that is inside the nori, which seems a strange thing to put in a sentence about the organisers of My dictionaries don’t help with idiomatic phrases but I assume that this idiom actually means a clique and is much more colourful than that English word.

Japanese Exam

Friday, February 8th, 2008

We finally received the results for our Japanese exams. Unfortunately I didn’t pass mine. I knew when I was studying that it would be a close thing but I had hoped that I would manage to scrape through. In the end I only got 56% overall. I did do as well in the kanji and vocabulary as I was expecting getting 78% in that section but it was the grammar section that let me down.

On a happier note Marty did pass his. And I’m thrilled as his qualification was required for a course he would like to study.

Perl Collocates

Saturday, January 12th, 2008

My linguistics course contains lots of really interesting material but unfortunately has really boring assignments. The last assignment was so awful that I considered giving up the course as I didn’t want to spend my spare time on something I wasn’t enjoying. To help with the tedium I decided to find something to do with the new knowledge that actually interests me.

I have been reading about collocates – words that are typically grouped together such as “law and order” and “fish and chips”. What interests me is the introduction of new collocates. I read a study by Fairclough who had analysed 53 speeches given by Tony Blair. The word “new” occurred 609 times and the most frequent collocates were “new labour” and “new deal”.

I am also interested in the Perl community, how it is perceived and how it perceives itself. If I analyse the blogs of various members of the community what are the collocates of “Perl” going to be? Some are going to be obvious – “Perl community”, “Perl 6″ – but what unexpected ones will I find? And what has changed in the last few years? What did we talk about in the past that is no longer important to us and what is the latest thing to be linked with Perl?

I’m No Gentleman

Sunday, January 6th, 2008

I am starting to get overly sensitive about the use of gender specific terms in technical blogs. I really don’t mean for this to happen but tonight, when reading Schwern’s use.perl journal, I did wonder why he had to use the phrase “Gentlemen, start your RSS readers” as the word “gentlemen” makes me feel excluded. I assume that this is based on a quote “Gentlemen, start your engines” and I know that Schwern is not in any way saying that women shouldn’t subscribe to his RSS feed but I did notice it – and I’m not convinced I would have a year ago. So something has changed.

It could simply be that studying language has made me more aware of the words that people use or that in 2007 I read a lot of posts about gender and sexism. It could also be because Schwern’s post is about a new blog that discusses geek communication which made me look more critically at how he was communicating the news.

I don’t find the phrase offensive but it did make me stop and read the line again and make me wonder if there was a better way to have said it.

Japanese Hotel Room Descriptions

Friday, January 4th, 2008

I come across strange English in Japan all the time but usually it’s just bad spelling (like the restaurant last night serving “plane croissants”). I was looking on-line at hotels in Universal Studios Japan and saw the following description of a room:

We present you with the time for nesting peacefully your wing of dream fluttered at the Park.

Beautifully spelt words that don’t make much sense when put together like that.

Perl Buzzing

Thursday, January 3rd, 2008

I was slightly baffled by the level of disgust Perl Buzz reported over the title of the Linux Journal article regarding the release of Perl 5.10. To me the headline was simply an editor using innuendo and word play to attract attention to a rather dull press release. I have been trying to work out if there is some cultural difference I am missing as, although the phrase “put out” is pejorative, I certainly don’t think it’s offensive enough to warrant that reaction. Maybe to an American like Andy (the author of the Perl Buzz post) it has a stronger meaning than it does to me coming from Northern Ireland.

I am also confused by the things that Perl Buzz are calling on the editors of the Linux Journal to do especially “explain to us what will be changing at Linux Journal so we think of LJ as worthy of our time, trust and readership.” Who is the “us” that Andy is referring to? Is it the editors at Perl Buzz and if so why on earth would the Linux Journal ever feel the need to explain anything to them? Perl Buzz can’t possibly assume that it speaks on behalf of the entire Perl or Open Source community and I find it detracts from anything sensible they are saying when they write as if they are.

Is the article merely an attempt by Perl Buzz to create more of a “buzz” about their blog? Because if their article is really about how wrong they think it is for the Linux Journal to print such headlines and ads why on earth are they re-printing them on the front page of their blog so that I someone like me, who never reads the Linux Journal, gets to see the material?

More Enka Please

Thursday, December 6th, 2007

I am not a fan of Japanese Enka but I really wish the singer in the hotel lounge would sing more of it. She has a pleasant voice and is a talented pianist but she keeps insisting on singing songs in English with the occasional Enka song thrown in. It’s not her voice that’s killing me but the pronunciation of the songs. I can’t cope with songs like “When I Wish Upon a Stair”, “Mimories”, and “Shimwhere Over the Lainbow”. Why am I still sitting here? It’s the only part of the hotel with a wireless network and I wanted to play Scrabulous. But I think I’m just going to go to bed.

More JLPT Ranting

Saturday, December 1st, 2007

I don’t mean to keep going on about this exam (great, now I am starting my blog posts with an apology) but last night I discovered the past marking scheme. I am utterly horrified that some questions are worth 8 times as many marks as others. So, in the test I did last night, the kanji I have spent hours learning are only worth about 60 out of 400 possible marks. And the questions that are worth the most marks are on the areas of the course that I haven’t been taught yet. Have I mentioned yet that I hate to fail?

The only good thing is that I now know not to divide my time equally between each question.

Practice Run

Monday, November 26th, 2007

I have no idea how I am expected to pass the Japanese exam which I will be sitting next Sunday. I tried to complete a past paper tonight but I haven’t been taught around 50% of the words that appeared on this. I feel really fed-up as I have spent hours studying the verb and vocabulary lists that I have been given but these don’t seem to bare much resemblance to the verbs and vocabulary that I will be tested on.

I don’t know if I did the right thing when I agreed to do this exam. Part of me likes the idea of having something to work towards but my feelings about the exam are putting me off the language. I have to keep reminding myself that it’s not Japanese I hate but rather it’s feeling unprepared for an exam that makes me feel like this.

I’m going to take a break to eat the strawberries dipped in chocolate that Marty bought me as they are bound to improve my mood.

English: not quite everywhere

Saturday, November 3rd, 2007

Standing on the train last night I commented on how badly it smelt. I really hate the smell of alcohol seeping out of people’s pores. Marty asked me, when we were walking back to our apartment, if I realised when making that comment that people on the train might have been able to understand me. I was surprised that he asked me this because of course I know that people may be able to understand me when I speak. And I have no problems stating that I find something smelly.

Some linguists reckon that around 1.5 billion people speak English. That’s an estimate based on mother tongue, second language and foreign language speakers. That means that 1 out of every 4 people in the world can speak English well enough to understand when I say that a train carriage is smelly. Of course I am living in a city were English is only known as a foreign language so it won’t be a many as 1 in 4 Japanese who can speak English but I can’t imagine being on a full train carriage in Tokyo where there isn’t someone there who could understand me.

Being a native English speaker I have never had the luxury of thinking that others can’t understand what I am saying. Yes, I have an accent that some find hard to follow but the meaning of what I am saying can usually be picked up by other people who speak English. I have noticed that some people speak in their own language when they want to hide what they are saying. It’s rude to do this but it hasn’t people I know in Holland from saying things in Dutch that they hoped I would not be able to understand.

It’s not that sensible to assume that the people around you can’t understand when you insult them in your native language. I know that my Dad has had a lot of fun listening into Dutch conversations when he is on holiday as the Dutch assume that only other Dutch people can understand them. They hear him speak English and just assume that it’s the only language he knows. Not clever.

So Marty, your wife who is currently studying the English Language and who was reading David Crystal’s “The English Language: a guided tour of the language” when you met her last night is indeed aware that lots of people in the world can speak English.