« April 2002 | Main | June 2002 »

May 30, 2002

Language in Danger

As Kurt pointed out in his comment on one of my previous entries, things around the Japanese language are changing. Here, let me quote what you wrote, Kurt.

saw a tv program segment about these "kogal" girls who couldn't speak proper polite Japanese because they're so used to speaking their own keitai-influenced lingo.

"Kogal" (freewheeling high school girls) have been kinda cultural phenomenon in Japan. They have created their own "kogal talk", and "keitai" (cell phones) seem to have helped accelerate the weirdness. Yeah, so weird that their lingo is sometimes used as questions in TV quiz shows. Polite Japanese has no place in their vocabulary.

It's an interesting thing, that word processors (and now personal computers) are making it so that a lot of younger people have difficulty writing good-looking kanji

Sure, personal computers have had a great influence on our language. The influence is not limited to younger people. I often hear people whining about difficulty in writing kanji by hand because they are so used to keyboards. PC users have less occasion to write by hand. Besides, PCs are kind enough to automatically convert hiragana to kanji. That means you don't have to know exactly what the kanji is shaped. Thus, a lot of kanji are going out of your working knowledge. (Ironically, the automatic conversion enables you to use very difficult kanji that you are not so familiar with.) I'm, of course, not an exception. I sometimes find myself stalling trying to remember a certain kanji while writing on the blackboard. Things are changing, really.

May 29, 2002


I wonder what made them want to make this one, but it's -they say- the world's smallest website. I was amused to see a cute small thing sitting neatly right in the center of the monitor. The website of 22 x 22 pixels first allows you to choose between HTML and Flash. The contents are rich. I can't understand the haiku, though. The "PONG" game is cool and reminds me of the one I played some 25 years ago.

It's like a mini toy box. I liked minituares when I was a kid. Ah, you may need a bit of clicking technique (or concentration and perseverance) to enjoy the site.

-- via 100SHIKI (Japanese)

May 28, 2002

Coffee Works?

For soccer fans in the US, inconvenient times during the World Cup can be a big headache. I've had the vague impression that soccer is not so popular in the States. I know how they feel, because I wasn't able to watch anything live in the last Winter Olympics. The earth is round.

But I may be in the same boat, folks, or worse. On weekdays, I give classes from 4:00 to 9:30. Boy! That's when the world-famous players are just playing!

May 27, 2002

Go Public

It was way back when I was in high school. A friend of mine was looking up some English words in his dictionary. Suddenly he turned to me and said with a twinkle in his eyes, "Hey, do you know what 'public hair' means?" "Public hair? ... No. What is it?", I answered. Then he came to me and, as proud as a peacock, pointed to the definition. I was taken aback. "Wow, isn't it funny! We've learned a new word!" ... We were young. And I didn't know why it was "public", but didn't care.

It was some years later that I realized he had made a simple spelling mistake. I felt relieved at the thought that I hadn't had a chance to use the term until then.

I don't know if he got the right idea about the word "public" ever after high school.

May 26, 2002


A student asked me, "How do you say 'Yoroshiku onegaishimasu' in English?" I answered, "There's no such expression in English."

"Yoroshiku onegaishimasu" literally means something like "I humbly ask you to be kind to me", but it has ambiguous yet good connotations. Quite Japanese, but this phrase implies your respect and politeness to the people you meet, your good will and determination. It is frequently used when meeting people for the first time, or joining a group. When you are introduced to a person/persons, and say "Yoroshiku onegaishimasu", it can be "Nice to meet you." If you entered my school (wow) and said so, it could be "I'll do my best, so please give me good teaching." To a new business partner, it means "Looking forward to doing business with you." Depending on the situations, it could mean "Please remember me," "Please take care of it," "I'll leave it to you," "Hope we can get along well," "You'll be sorry,"(?)... "Please say yoroshiku to Jim." is "Please say hello to Jim." ("Yoroshiku" only is a more casual form.) Don't you think it's a very convenient expression? Ambiguity is often the name of the game in Japan. And that could come as a difficulty in learning English.

So, to my dear visitors out there, "Hi, I'm Kiyo. Yoroshiku!"

May 25, 2002

Saturday Scruples

Here goes my first Saturday Scruples.

1. At a video store, someone is about to rent a movie you've seen. It's really bad. Do you say something?

No. The person may find it fun. I found in someone's blog yesterday that Vanilla Sky was a lot of fun for him.

2. Your former lover becomes famous. A tabloid offers you $50,000 for nude pictures and a "tell all." Do you sell?

No. Never.

3. You decide not to hire someone because he's wearing a nose ring. When he asks why he didn't make it, do you give the real reason?

Why not? I want to see how he will react to it, and my decision may change with that.

May 23, 2002


If you are a Japanese struggling to learn English, this entry on insignificant thoughts would be much encouraging. Don't be afraid of making mistakes, mates! Oh, but be careful not to make unbeRievable ones, or those Japanese Engrish guys...

And you can see another heart-warming story on Greggman.com. I wish I were living in Tokyo. I could develop my sense of humor with that lovely Engrish lesson device on the train.

May 22, 2002


It's really disgusting to see a news report on a serial animal killer on TV early in the morning. The f***ing suspect, in his early twenties, has killed a couple of cats and dogs to "draw attention" from the public. Also disgusting is the taste of the TV guys who were broadcasting the SAME dying dog's scene over and over again. That isn't what you want to see first on breakfast television.

May 21, 2002


-- A friend notified me of a misspelling in my last entry. I typed "Worls" instead of "World". Uh-oh, it's a type of typo.

-- In class, a student was taking a note with a funny mechanical pencil. On top of it was a small doll. I got close to him to see what it was. To my surprise, it was "Gumby" playing the guitar!

-- Between periods, I happened to go into the classroom, where two 5th-grade girls were busy putting what they call makeup on their faces. Huh, makeup?

May 19, 2002

World Cup Frenzy

The 2002 World Cup takes place in Japan and South Korea from May 31 to June 30. As usual, the Japanese media are pressing too much expectations on Team Japan.

Personally, I like the Netherlands. Their precise, sophisticated playing styles are fun to watch. Really too bad that they couldn't make it to the finals this time.

By the way, the manager of the Japanese team is Philippe Troussier, a Frenchman who has been taking command of the team for the past four years.

One thing I don't understand about him:

"Why can't you speak Japanese at all, dude?"

May 18, 2002

Three-Month Bozu

It's been three months since I started blogging. Heh, only three months. Big deal! Yeah, but that means a lot to me.

It'a amazing that I was not a "three-day bozu" about this weblog. The start was a mere accident and I can't say I really meant to blog in the first place. But now I think it was good for me to start this journal at all. Come to think of it, I hadn't written English very much for myself. I had written English mainly for my students, and for some townspeople who asked me to translate letters or documents every now and then. Keeping a journal in English (Oh, yeah, it's a foreign language) on the Net is something challenging and meaningful for me, both as a teacher and a learner. I don't know how long this thing will last, but I want to enjoy it as much as possible during that period.

Special thanks to Jennifer and Darren. The thought that I have at least two regular visitors makes me happy. :)

May 17, 2002


Just between you and me -- I have a phobia. I have a phobia for the rubbing sound of metal against metal. Not that it affects my daily life, but the thought of the sound gives me the shivers. A knife and a metal plate would be a perfect combination. A Chinese cooking show on TV would be a disaster. Um, I like Chinese food, though.

How can you name this phobia?

May 16, 2002

Oh Maikeru

If your name were Michael and addressed as "Maikeru", how would you feel? Foreign names are pronounced the way your language does. Therefore depending on the language, your name can be pronounced quite a different way.

This is just the case with English and Japanese. The phonetical difference between the two languages is so big that you often can't expect your name to be called as it should be.

We don't have the sounds f, v, and th. They are substituted for h, b, and s/z. So Beth is "Besu", Vicky is "Bikki", Jonathan "Jonasan", Sylvia "Shirubia", Steve "Sutibu", Vincent "Binsento"... As you may notice, in Japanese pronunciation every consonant is followed by a vowel. Brenda should be "Burenda" and Max must be "Makkusu" and Pat is definitely "Patto". And what's worse (or not), our language has no distinct difference between l and r. Sometimes they are like l, but other times they are like r. Some people pronounce them like l, but others r. Ron and Lon are identical in katakana, a Japanese alphabet used to write foreign words.

Once an American man named Trevor stayed in our town as an AET (Assistant English Teacher). He was a very brilliant guy and knew much about Japan and its language. We got along with each other. But there was one thing that we varied in opinion -- how to write his name in katakana. Generally, the name Trevor is called "Toreba" in Japanese. But he insisted that his name should be "Torebo". And so he did.

Ba and Bo -- which is more similar to the original sound? Either way, one is as weird as the other. Hahaha.

May 15, 2002

Two for Tuesday

It's already Wednesday, but I like these questions from Two for Tuesday.

1. Describe one of your most memorable dreams or nightmares.

This is the one I had several times in my late twenties:

I wake up late in the morning and hang around for a while, when suddenly I remember it's exam day at college. It's too late. Aargh! -- Then I really wake up and breathe a sigh of relief.

2. What, if any, significance to you ascribe to that dream?

Actually I didn't miss any exams in college. But I used to be a late riser, as is often the case with college students in Japan (?), in those days. So there were chances to really miss them. That may have stayed in the depth of my consciousness even after graduation. Anyhow, that was a scary dream.

May 14, 2002

Video Games

I don't know if it can be a normal thing for my age, but I like video games. It was back in 1975 or 1976 that I first played a video game. A very simple tennis game with two onscreen paddles along with a ball.

When I was a college student, there came Space Invaders, Galaxian, Pac-Man and Donkey Kong. I frequented game arcades and coffee shops with my friends to save the earth from space aliens, eat dots anyway, and wear mustache to help a cute girl. It was fun, but game machines looked like Pac-Men eating coins.

Then Nintendo's Familiy Computer (Famicom) suddenly came from behind to beat the Pac-Men. Playing video games without inserting coins -- just unbelievable, Man! I was into Super Mario Bros, and then RPGs and simulations.

Looking back, I was getting tired of video games in my mid-thirties when Windows 95 was released. Until then, I didn't think I was the type to operate computers. But somehow I bought one. And my days with home video game consoles were over.

And now, I rarely play video games simply because I can't find time to do. RPGs and the stuff are time-consuming. But my excitements of cool games have never faded away (perhaps). My present favorites are Might and Magic and Baldur's Gate. :)

May 12, 2002


Good news that Darren has been accepted as a participant in the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program.

The main objective of the JET program, which is conducted by local authorities throughout the country in cooperation with the Japanese government, is to promote "international exchange and foreign language education" in Japan. Most of the participants serve as Assistant English Teachers (AET) and teach the language mainly at local high schools.

Japan's English education has placed much emphasis on reading and grammar, and has been criticized for its inefficiency. (That's why private English schools like mine are getting much popularity here. But I'm not all for a "speaking-only" way of teaching and learning. I think I'll discuss it sometime.) The JET program has good possibilities to improve the situation.

If there had been a similar program in my high school days (long, long ago), things would have been much different for me. I had no chance to talk to a native speaker of English and ask questions about English at that time.

AETs can let students turn their eyes to other countries in the world and have interest in the language spoken worldwide. Even if it was only one student, it would be great. I'm rooting for you, Darren.

May 11, 2002

Dead or Alive?

I went to see The Others. Cute faces, dreadful fact. (No, no, I don't say I'll post it to The Four Word Film Review.) I got the real meaning of the film title.

"Why, Mummy?"
"Because I say so."

"Why not, Mummy?"
"Because you can't."

May 10, 2002

Blue May

May is a difficult month. Some fresmen at college and new employees fresh from college suffer what we call "gogatsu-byo" (May disease). It is a phenomenon that freshmen suddenly lose spirit and become indisposed to go to school or work around the end of the Golden Week holidays.

Japan's fiscal year starts in April. In April, those newcomers make a fresh start with full of energy and expectations, and spend a high-spirited month in a new environment. But in May, they find themselves exhausted both physically and mentally. Some may realize the harsh reality of life, some may feel depressed about the difference between the ideal and the real.

The Golden Week holidays must have some effect on the May blues. Some companies offer their employees ten straight holidays. Going to work after such holidays is a tough job; hey, the new year started only about a month ago and then you took sweet Golden Week holidays and ... The May blues, yeah, but we love the Golden Week anyway.

May 9, 2002

Hi, Mom

Mothers are mothers.

When I was a kid, I was a picky eater and wouldn't eat a lot. That gave my mother a lot of trouble. In my college days, whenever we were talking on the phone, she said, "Are you eating all right?" -- Thanks to her, I grew up in good health. Oh, Mother's Day is coming.

Mothers are mothers all over the world.

May 7, 2002

Japanese Boom?

I buy most of my books online these days, and rarely spend time in bookstores. But it's fun to browse in bookstores and find books that are worth reading. That's one of the things I like to do in Sapporo.

One thing I noticed this time is the display of many how-to books on Japanese. Yes, it's been kinda "Japanese boom" going on here in Japan. This trend seems to come every once in a while. "How to write good Japanese" things are especially popular. I think the recent rapid increase in the number of the Internet users has helped accelerate this boom, to some degree. When I first started writing on the Net around six years ago, I felt I wasn't a good Japanese writer and looked for how-to books.

Those books helped a lot? Hmm...I should say, I don't think so. ;)

May 6, 2002


I went to Sapporo for the weekend. Sapporo is where I spent five years in my youth; four years as a college student, well, first one year as a ronin. ;) It is like my second hometown with a lot of good memories.

We make a couple of driving trips to Sapporo a year. Though it is about six-hour drive from my town, it is always fun.

We got home late at night yesterday, ah, today precisely. It was another nice trip to cap the Golden Week holidays, but I'm a little tired after a long drive. I have to change gears before gettin back to work tomorrow.

May 3, 2002


I set up a message forum to talk about languages and cultures, and to chitchat. It would be great if the forum would be kinda intercultural community some day. (You know, according to TIME, Japan is a "kinda" society. Hahaha.) Ah, I mean, some day. ;)

Thanks to Darren. You inspired me. :)

May 2, 2002

Oh Cold

It seems that I'm getting a cold. I have those cold symptoms, a little bit of a sore throat, headache, and malaise.

I think I'm rather susceptible to cold. And, what's worse, I'm in an environment where my students come with cold viruses one after another! Seems like someone of my students has a cold at any given time. They aren't to blame, of course. I have to live with it. But strangely enough, my cold hardly ever gets worse -- than a certain level. In my 18-year career of teaching, it's only once that I called off classes because of a bad cold. That's amazing. I guess, in a sense, my dear students train me to acquire resistence to cold. ;)

May 1, 2002

How Gay?

After reading this entry, I went to Gay-O-Meter to see how gay I am. The result: I'm 28% gay. They say I'm too straight. Hmmm...is it good or bad for me?