Next Chapter

Alright, I’ve finished Chapter 16 of my 新概念日语-1 book. Two more to go! It was a chapter on two points of grammar:

~なければ なりません。 (Must ~)

~なくても いいです。 (Don’t need to ~)

I have no idea how to analyze the first sentence structure . The second seems like a negation of the verb with the ‘~なくて’, although from what I’ve learned so far ~くて is just the い adjective’s way of listing more than one descriptive phrase. Otherwise, the ‘も いいです’ is simply ‘also is good.’ So…“not doing ~ is also okay”.

I like when explanations of grammar make sense, and so far Japanese has a lot of what I think of as idiomatic grammar rules. For instance, to take a verb, and turn it into an attempt to do said verb (i.e. to listen –> try to listen), or 试试听, you take the verb’s て root, and then use the verb 見る, or to see. So basically you’re saying “see if you can listen”. I’ve run into a couple of those, like using “to put away/to file away” for having completed an action that can’t be undone. Very interesting, because I’m pretty sure these aren’t just idiomatic phrases, but hard grammar rules.

I should really pick up a basic linguistics textbook, I haven’t read one in a while, so my ability to name all these different grammatical concepts is limited!

But I’m trying not to get to wrapped up in the explanation of the grammar. Tomorrow I’ll write about why, and about the method employed by one of my first Chinese teachers, who taught grammar purely in Chinese to to 101 level speakers, and in my opinion was pretty successful with it.

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Lawyerly Language

While I’ve been working here at my internship at the 国浩律师集团(北京), I’ve picked up a lot of legal lingo. Well, hopefully I’ve absorbed it. We’ll see how fast it runs out of my head when I’m back in the good old U.S. of A. But just chatting with the lawyers has also been a great study opportunity. Here are a few of of the top phrases I’ve learned:

臭流氓
Sort of “a right bastard”. Literally “smelly/disgusting bandit”. Used among friends as a joke, among strangers not the politest thing to say.

姑娘,这是你掉下来的板儿砖儿吗?(you want the retroflex on the the 板砖)
A classic pick-up line. Ideally you will pick up a tile or brick off the street (because there’s always construction going on everywhere in Chinese cities), present it to a girl and shoot off the question. Preserving grammatical structure: “Girl, this is your dropped tile ?”, equivalently: “Miss, did you drop this tile/brick?”

牛/彩鸟
Niu, or “cow”, for anything that’s really good, like a good school, good car, etc. Cainiao, or “colorful bird”, for the opposite.

拉壮丁
Zhuangding, sort of an able-bodied man. In ancient times, these would be the guys gang-pressed into the army. So now, if somebody ‘la’s, or “pulls”, a zhuangding, that means being forced to do something, like your boss throwing something down on your desk.

wasai
Sort of a ‘wow!’ Often wa-sai, sometimes ‘wo-sai’. Not sure what the wa or wo is, wo might be “I”, and the sai I think might be the ‘competition’ sai. The semantics are less important than emphasis.

Good stuff!

一会儿见!

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Rushing Through

My normal textbook habit is to make my way through each chapter slowly, and repeat readings of the current chapter during each session.

For instance, I’m on chapter fifteen now, and the chapter consists of a dialogue, vocab, grammar, and exercises. During each session, which might last 45 minutes or so, I will read through as much as the chapter as I can, interspersing flash card drills. Generally, because of attention span and or amount of content, I won’t make it all the way through on the first go, so for the second session, or the third, fourth, fifth, etc., I will start from the beginning. But eventually I get it down pat and I breeze through the chapter in a single session, whereupon I start the next.

However, recently this has taken me forever, keeping me stuck on the same chapter for a week and a half (of one-session a day days), so now I’m just barrelling on to the next chapter, and will do the same for the one after that, and so on. There are only three more chapters in the book and I just want to be done with it and move on! So hopefully by the end of this weekend I’ll have finished!

またね!

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It Was a Good Weekend

hola!

Well, I got plenty of Japanese practice this weekend. On Saturday night I had dinner with a Japanese friend and one of her family friends, a lady who lives in Beijing with her 12 year old son, and who works at the Japanese Embassy. Aside from an incredible apartment in a great part of town and a really delicious dinner (中国料理), I was treated to quite a helping of native speech.

So I think that I have a better grasp of where my Japanese currently stands in terms of every day conversation. It’s right about abreast with my Russian at this point.

I can manage basic sentences and introductory remarks (introductions, who I am, where I’m from, what I study, etc., the whole ream of basic level tricks.).

Being asked questions directly, I still sometimes need clarification (もう一度いってください!), but they were very helpful with that.

Listening in on native conversation, I can pick out single words with a fairly high rate of recognition, and sometimes even get the gist of what’s being talked about (provided I’ve got the vocab for it), but I’m still at a loss to explain exactly what was said. As in, ask me to repeat a sentence or analyze a sentence that was just said, and even if I recognized a bunch of words, I would not be able to do it.

I also got to help her kid practice English, which was fun. I think his listening was excellent, he was just extremely shy. So if my Japanese after 2-3 months of serious study (I couldn’t quite say intensive) is as good as my Russian after two years of study and four years of attrition, that is good. I think? To be fair, since the Japanese is fresh right now, it probably blows my Russian vocab and grammar usage abilities out of the water. I still feel much more comfortable with my Russian accent, however. Ah well.

poka!
またね!

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Running Studies

Aside from listening to Japanesepod101 lessons while I commute and while I go to sleep, I’ve also found that listening to podcasts while running is especially constructive.

More then just getting practice, it also really absorbs your concentration, so that the time flies by while you’re running. Moreso than music even. With music you can lose focus, especially if you’re familiar with the songs, but with these podcasts your mind is constantly struggling to listen and understand. So you’re put in this different zone, and you get a good workout.

Now I’m normally not for multitasking, but the utility and flexibility of web-based audio lessons and mp3 players is simply a match made in heaven.

Last night during my run I was listening to a lesson on 野球!

野球の野 是个很有意思的字, 一直让我想起来中文的”野”, so it’s like “wild-ball” rather than “field-ball”!

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Japanese Approach

So…日本語!

At the moment, I am severely handicapped by not being in a Japanese environment, so I am limited to the following methods:

- Listening to podcasts. I’ve been listening to Japanesepod101.com during my morning and afternoon commutes (about two hours all in all), and as I go to sleep. These lessons are excellent, fun, and the point is to help with my listening, pronunciation, and intonation. However, I am still extremely slow during conversation, stumbling often, because podcasts are no substitute for actual conversational usage. Unfortunately, I’m neither surrounded by Japanese people nor others studying Japanese, which brings me to my next point.

- I’ve only found two other people studying Japanese, a Chinese friend of a friend, and a colleague here at my internship. When I can I talk to them in Japanese I take the chance. As for native speakers, I run into them even less. I have one good Japanese friend but our primary focus is Chinese, as we’re both in China to study Chinese. But she helps with any language questions I have, we just don’t really have Japanese conversations. So to find more native speakers…

- I’ve joined two language exchange websites: Mixxer, and iTalki. Both interesting, basically social networks geared around finding people who want to trade languages. They both have flaws, but even so I’ve managed to get in contact with a bunch of Japanese people, some of whom I talk to regularly, and some of whom are really excellent language resources. However, I have yet to talk to them using voicechat, I haven’t asked yet, so we’ll see how that goes. Just iming is fine though, because it gives me a chance to look things up and prepare what I want to say. So hopefully I’ll work out a system. It’s a catch-22, I want to talk with them and practice my pronunciation at the very beginning, but I can’t talk fluidly enough and need spending more time studying on my own (because there’s no other option), which doesn’t help pronunciation at all.

- Then, my trusty flashcards. I try and keep them on by my laptop as I work and look at them at random intervals, and I also use them while I study Japanese.

- I also am currently going through a Chinese lesson book for Beginning Japanese students. I’m nearly through with it, and when I finish I’ll move on to an English one that a friend brought from Japan. It’s a little strange, the Chinese one actually takes place in Korea.

- And I haven’t quite started yet, but I downloaded the Mother 2 ROM (Earthbound!) in Japanese, and I’m thinking of playing that and learning vocab! Haha, I’ll keep you posted on how that works out.

That’s all for now, またね!

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