Our role in society

Posted December 7, 2008 by Tim
Categories: Uncategorized

Additionally to my visit at Tsutaya, I went eating with my host-family later. And it was actually the place with the worst and most entertaining English I have seen so far. As I didn’t want to offend anyone, neither my family here, nor the personal working for, I didn’t want to be obviously taking pictures of all of that, so I just took one shot, of the front of the menu. But there wasn’t only funny English in there, a description of the manager at the entrance of the restaurant including information about his blood-group and hobbys also gave me a hard time not laughing 🙂

Family Steak Restaurant

On the front of the menu

Reading this, I am actually asking myself, what would happen if it was written in Japanese. Would Japanese people not burst out in laughter if they could understand all of it? I really get the feeling, that it is just hip to use English these days in Japan and as most of the Japanese people can’t grasp the real meaning of what is written there anyways, it is enough to built up random sentences, as long as they include positive words like: Relaxing, comfortable, guests, enjoy, pleasure etc.

Next time I have time and I am bored, I should start of creating some hilarious sentences including these positive words and ask our Japanese students here about their feelings about them 😉

World of the GOLDEN EGGS

Posted December 7, 2008 by Tim
Categories: Uncategorized

This afternoon I went with a friend to Tsutaya to listen to some new music, but we found something really funny instead.  A whole shelf full of “The world of the GOLDEN EGGS” dvds and episode 15 screening on TV, confusingly even with English subtitles. I already knew it before, but I think it is possibly one of the most hilarious shows from Japan I have watched so far. So I decided, that it has to find it’s way into this blog too.

The interesting thing about it is, that is actually has like no story line or real things happening there, but the voice acting and the occasional use of English words like “My protein” make it absolutely worth watching it. Enjoy!

Train mania

Posted December 7, 2008 by Tim
Categories: Uncategorized

Okay most of you people know, that it can be a pain in the ass to get into a train in Japan, especially at rush hours in Shinjuku Station (Tokyo) or other well frequented places. And I also got into that situation myself from time to time. But I just found a video, that I think is hilarious, because at the end  five Japanese train employees all try together pushing one guy into the train.

And this reminds me of a story. At the weekend, where the red leaves are considered to be perfect in Kyoto, the same situation occured even at Hirakta station for the express trains. And we were waiting in line. We could clearly see, that we can’t make it into the first train, but two Japanese seniors thought else. Both of them pretty much got like one of their legs and a small piece of their body and it, but nothing more.

Then the doors started closing. The first time the “train-pusher” was able to stop the door. But the next time it closed with more power and these old people still didn’t think of getting of the train. So the door pushed that strong, that the Japanese guy was no more able to hold it back and the seniors started to getting stuck in the door and getting really pushed by the door, looking like they are gonna be crushed by it. So a friend of mine + several more Japanese guys had to jump to the door, to get it open once more and somebody finally pushed out the seniors along with their great urge to be smashed.

Impressions of Japan #1

Posted December 6, 2008 by Tim
Categories: Uncategorized

The last weekends I was forced to bring along my camera, I bought in the first weeks in Japan, by a friend and finally used it. And looking back, I really regret, that I didn’t take any pictures before. On only three weekends I made along 600 shots and got some amazing pictures.

139

Watching all of these shots, will always remind me of the nice time I was having in Japan. Sadly wordpress killed the quality of the pictures pretty much, but I still hope it is a joy to watch them.

Japanese music

Posted December 6, 2008 by Tim
Categories: Uncategorized

Even though I am being in Japan at the moment, the American influence on me seems to be much stronger. This also effects, what the music I am hearing, which strongly changed to a lot of hiphop or at least songs, with rap-parts. And I get the feeling, that it is even a bit hard to really get into touch with Japanese music in Japan. First, I can’t watch music tv because I am in homestay and usually not the person to decide, what is watched and second the newest cell-phones here all recieve TV but sadly no radio.

So finding Japanese music I like was actually a coincident. The link was included in someones Facebook status and as I was bored and searching around for something to do, I started watching it. This music video may not be too special for someone who knows a lot about Japanese music, but it is for me, because I am only used to the REAL Japanese mainstream, which can also be heard in a lot of Animes. And I was positively surprised, as I heard Japanese music, which actually doesn’t sound that “Japanese” and real catchy.

Furthermore I decided, that I have to take a serious look into Japanese music in the winter break. This is not only about me learning more about Japanese, but probably also helping to understand some of my german friends better, who are really into Japanese music.

Unexpected discovery

Posted December 6, 2008 by Tim
Categories: Uncategorized

Actually I was searching for some information about the risk of working illegaly in Japan and what really happens if they find out somebody is illegaly employed. But instead of finding this, I stumbled upon something completely different, which made me kinda laugh:

“We welcome the visit of Israeli people to know more of Japan. To our regret, however, dozens of Israeli youth are being arrested every year for street sales of fake brand-name goods such as bags and watches (36 arrested in 2006).
[…]
To make your visit a valuable and enjoyable one, we strongly request you not be taken in by a sugarcoated inducement of illegal money making.”

So you may be asking, what’s funny about it. It is actually the fact, that this note sounds like it is criminalizing the all Israeli just because incredible 36 were arrested for illegal money making in 2006. I can’t find out who the author is, but this document was published by the Isreal Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

イングリしゅ = English?

Posted December 5, 2008 by Tim
Categories: Uncategorized

Coming to Japan and to an University for foreign language studies, I became quickly shocked, by the incapabilities of Japanese persons using English. Allthough all of them had english lessons from middle-school, which is not different from Germany, there language level may reach some kind of fluentness just after studying 4 full years at an university AND being abrought. At least for a German this is kind of ridiculous, because you will already study and interprete historic literature like Shakespeare in high-school, if you choose to focus on English. And actually I haven’t done this and I have never been a good student, but it can be expected, that German students are after high-school already better than most of the 1st and 2nd year’s here.

How can this happen in a country, that was and still is so highly influenced by America and where my nearly non-english-speaking hostparents just both go “lucky” if we find a free parking space? Actually I think there are a lot serious problems in the Japanese education system, but the worst for learning English will still be Katakana. I asked several Japanese persons, if they read the English text or the Furigana above when singing English songs at Karaoke and they all stated to read the Katakana… and all of them were English students… as well as they all couldn’t tell me if there is a place to buy English magazines and never even thought about this…

So I got some basic ideas what might be going wrong, but there was one major thing, I suspected next to stupid multiple-choice tests, in which you never learn to compose an sentence on your own, to be the case: Learning English with Katakana from the beginning! So I googled around for a while and found a very interesting article by Yukinori Tanamachi: Katakana and English loanwoards. In short it is about a Japanese guy, writing about Katakana, the phonetical readings, the differences to English, BUT and that is the really interesting part, also about the influence of Katakana on learning English and his own experiences with that. And it states exactely what I expected:

When Japanese students start learning English at twelve years old, they usually study its Katakana and English Loanwords pronunciation with the help of Katakana.

Furthermore the author is also talking about suggestions to change this and I think it is worthwhile talking about the, because I find them entertaining to some extent:

  1. Ban Katakana English in the classroom (rejected by the author with the remark, that the students use Katakana out of the classroom anyways)
  2. Each school should have a native speaker
  3. Students should know the difference between English and Japanese phonology
  4. Slight change in Katakana proposed by Shimaoka (e.g. ライト = light and right –> change to: ウライト = right and ヌライト = light)

Each school havinga native speaker is not a bad idea, but I actually can’t understand the need for that. It may change on an University level, but the basics of English can easily taught by a non-native speaker. Of course only if the teachers learned the rigth pronounciation first and not to rely on Katakana and even if they didn’t at school, this should definately not a problem to be included in their studies to be a teacher, shouldn’t it?

And I got some insights about the JET programe, which is exactely pointing at that idea. As I have heard, the English native speaker will lead the lessons, but will be daily and all the time instantly translated by the Japanese teacher. Thus resulting in Japanese students listening to Japanese all the time and not to the native English speaker. Don’t think that’s the purpose of the programe, but I can’t tell if it works that way everywhere or it was an exception for that person on that school.

The third suggestion, that students should know the difference between English and Japanese phonology makes me really laugh. Not because it is a bad idea, just because it is such a natural thing, that I can’t believe someone even has to suggest it as a solution. I actually thought, they would even know it now, but listening to students here day for day again, I am not sure anymore. They even ‘katakanize’ peoples names automatically. And the last idea might work out somehow, but it is more a fix of an already broken system, than a solution at all. Making the difference between Japanese English and real English slightly smaller doesn’t really help solving the problem.

So actually I don’t have a clue, why the Japanese can’t just ban Katakana from school. Yes the Katakana they use in Japanese are adopted FROM English but they are NOT English words, that is the first thing all students should learn. And it can be expected from teachers too, that they speak REAL English and if not, it should be at least part of the studies of the newest teacher’s generation.

But from time to time I just get the feeling Japanese people don’t want to learn real English. The whole concept of Katakana aims at keeping the own language free of external influence and if no being able to get rid of the influence, at least clearly marking foreign words with the Katakana and japanizing the pronounciation. Thinking about it I may even suggest getting rid of Katakana completely, because I can’t see benefits of this system. I mean yes, it is sometimes really annoying if I have serious problems writing “Portemonnaie(purse) in German, because it is a French word and we also have to learn to pronounce it the French way, but at least it doesn’t result in learning a native language and an artificial language no one can understand.