The biggest mistake of all was not learning Tagalog. Not a particularly popular or widely spoken language, but it was available to me as a child. My Mom, a filipina, was there as a resource but I never bothered to learn any. I didn’t even think twice about it. So I missed out on the double A bilingual boat, and grew up stranded on straight English. Not that I regret that; I love my mother tongue, and the more I study other languages the more I appreciate its quirks and nuances.

My father was an army officer, and I moved around quite a bit as a kid, and spent a good amount of time overseas. Hong Kong, Korea, Cambodia, the Philippines, Thailand, I’d lived in or been to all these places. All those chances! I went to a Korean after school program, I studied a little Mandarin at school in Hong Kong, had some futile attempts at weekend Chinese school, but nothing substantial ever came of it.

Back in the United States language studies started with Spanish in 7th grade, up until junior year of high school. I didn’t have bad teachers, and I had great grades in the classes, but now I couldn’t for the life of me stammer out any Español that would be more than only borderline coherent. I also took two years of Latin, but God help me if I try declining anything. Agricola, agricolae, agricolae, agricolam, agricola. Haha, that’s about it for me, both grammar and vocabulary-wise.

So what was the problem? I wasn’t thinking about “language study” as “language study”. I was just thinking of it as “study”. It was just another course (or another annoyance). It would be many years before I came to where I am now, where I’m aware that the “language” in “language study” puts this pursuit in a different class then mere “study”. Language is a fundamental human trait, and the acquisition of it lies far outside the realm of pure academic study. You need to soak in language, to breathe it in, to wrap yourself in it and live it. Otherwise you’re just walking around in circles, talking crazy.

Next time: Hits!

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<p>c.1645, from Gk. polyglottos “speaking many languages,” lit. “many-tongued,” from polys “many” (see poly-) + glotta, Attic variant of glossa “language,” lit. “tongue.” (Online Etymology Dictionary)

The summer before I started college, I read this book, which introduced me to the idea of polyglottism. A general guide to language study, it gave a rundown of some techniques and guidelines, but it most importantly was a source of inspiration. I had never really considered language learning as something I would love, but now it probably is the hobby I enjoy the most.

So in this blog I’m going to let you follow the trajectory of my language studies, starting from today. I’ve missed lots of language opportunities over the course of my life, and sometimes lost sight of my goal, but now I’m making amends for my transgressions!

Next post: my personal language history!</p>

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Genesis 1:1-19

In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth,

there was no formless wasteland, and no darkness that covered the abyss, and no mighty wind swept over the waters.

Then God said, “Let there be a vacuum fluctuation that causes a singularity which is filled homogeneously and isotropically with an incredibly high energy density, huge temperatures and pressures, and very rapidly expands and cools,” and there was a vacuum fluctuation that caused a singularity filled homogeneously and isotropically with an incredibly high energy density, huge temperatures and pressures, and that very rapidly expanded and cooled.

God saw how good the Big Bang was. God then separated matter from antimatter using baryogenesis.

God called the light “photons,” and the darkness he called “space.” Thus Big Bang nucleosynthesis came, and cosmic microwave background radiation followed–the first 379,000 years.

Then God said, “Let there be gravitational attraction of nearby matter among the slightly denser regions of the nearly uniformly distributed matter, thus letting them grow denser.” And so it happened:

God formed the gas clouds, stars, galaxies, and the other astronomical structures observable today.

God called the gas clouds, stars, galaxies, and other astronomical structures “the universe.” Reionization came, and formation of stars, galaxies, groups, clusters, and superclusters followed–the first 100 million years.

Then God said, “Let gravitional attraction allow the retention of an atmosphere that includes water, and let temperatures plummet, so that the crust of the planet may accumulate on a solid surface.” And so it happened: the planet underwent a period of heavy asteroidal bombardment, steam escaped from the crust while more gases were released by volcanoes, additional water was imported by bolide collisions, clouds formed and rain appeared.

God called the dry land “the earth,” and the basin of the water he called “the oceans.” God saw how good it was.

Then God said, “Let the earth bring an endosymbiotic relationship between a cyanobacterium and a non-photosynthetic eukaryotic organism, creating a lineage that eventually led to photosythesizing eukaryotic organisms in marine and freshwater environments, which will eventually evolve into larger multicellular photosynthetic organism which will be the ancestors of land plants: every kind of plant that bears seed and every kind of fruit tree on earth that bears fruit with its seed in it.” And so it happened:

the earth brought forth every kind of plant that bears seed and every kind of fruit tree on earth that bears fruit with its seed in it. God saw how good it was.

The Paleozoic came, and the Mesozoic followed–the next 14,935,000,000 years.

14-19 expunged for redundancy

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Sticks and Stones

Editorial on a recent criticism of the Olympics in a foreign newspaper and the Party’s response to it. I’m not supportive of calls to boycott the Olympics, or even using the Olympics to call attention to China’s internal or human rights problems. Of course these things should be criticized, but the Olympics is only a convenient place to do it, not the best way to do it. I won’t say I’d wish it this way to preserve the sanctity of the Games, that’s silly and history doesn’t bear out that ideal. Rather, by holding back now, a ton of headaches will be averted in the future. I can imagine that were there some big embarrassment at an Olympics in the States (e.g. anti-war protests), the affair would be shrugged off in a matter of months. If the same thing were to happen in China, it will go down in the history books as the Great Olympic Insult and will be taught to schoolchildren for decades. If there’s one thing Chinese government has been good at it’s maintaining a sense of indignation for past events, well after the fact. Is it presently relevant that the 八国军 (Eight Nation Army) sacked Beijing and destroyed the original Summer Palace well over a century ago? You’d think it might be from what you read in the history books here.

Maybe I just don’t want to hear anything about it in the future. Anyway, from the March 23rd, 2008 editorial section of the Southern Weekend, by Cao Xin.


Who Does a Single Newspaper Represent Anyway?

England’s “The Times” compared the 2008 Beijing Olympics to the 1936 Olympics of Hitler’s Germany, and several days ago a spokesperson from China’s Foreign Ministry denounced the claim. He said that by placing the Beijing Olympics on par with Germany’s 1936 Olympics, this paper was insulting the Chinese people, and in fact insulting all the peoples of the world. The Olympic flame symbolizes humanity’s fine aspirations and pursuits, and it also illuminates the darkness and baseness of a people’s mentality, allowing the entire world to clearly see their true face.

Gemeilian (sorry, don’t know the English equiv.), the news attaché of Germany’s embassy in Beijing, explained to a Southern Weekend reporter that the reason why Germany’s 1936 Olympics continues to be widely criticized is that this was the first time in Olympic history that Hitler’s regime used large scale means to show off the successes of Hitler’s political power and Nazi nationalism. They turned the Olympics into a propaganda platform. The reporter asked, “But doesn’t every country use the Olympics as a chance to put forward a good face to the world? Isn’t this normal?” Gemeilian answered, “Using the Olympics to promote and exhibit oneself is normal, but here the problem was Hitler. He used the Olympics to display the accomplishments of Nazi nationalism and the Fascist regime.”

China has never spread a doctrine of Chinese national or racial superiority throughout the world. The successes of China’s 30 years of reform and opening have been affirmed by the entire world, and is currently making great and positive contributions to the world economy. Comparing these two Olympic Games like this, is it really necessary to denounce this?

Actually, from the point of view of Western or civic society, who does a single newspaper represent? It can only represent itself. It might want to stir something up, but there’s no need to let it stir anything up. When the Foreign Ministry spokesperson made their denouncement, objectively they simply advertised for this media outlet, and that is just what they’d want.

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Hallmark Card

Editorial from the Southern Weekend, March 27th, 2008. About the recent election in Taiwan. I think the PRC might be a little excited about it. Written by one Shi Zhe.

Great Firewall cuts off international Google searches for Taiwan’s 民进党 (Democratic Progressive Party). Other search engines are okay. Search for 龙应台 produces the same effect, though not in English.


Well Wishes for the Taiwanese, Well Wishes for All Chinese

On that night, Taiwan’s 36,000 square kilometers and 23 million people welcomed a new turn of history’s wheel.

Some were uplifted to the heavens, some were thrown into the abyss, but together 23 million hearts beat rhythmically in unison. Wild with joy and mournful, excited and distressed…there was still that swath of blue, that swath of green, still the clear distinction of rival camps. But this time, after the curtain went down, no more harsh words were exchanged, there were hardly any collisions on the streets, none of the usual backthrusts of politicians, and even the most nervous characters of this drama felt a little “disappointment”.

Well, let the politicians be disappointed. After having been through the disillusionment of dreams, strenuous struggles, eight years of expectations, this is undoubtedly the best consolation and gift for the majority of Taiwan’s people.

In these eight years, the intrigues of politicians have torn apart popular sentiment, and have broken the goodness at the bottom of people’s hearts. Now “goodbyes” can be said and there don’t even need to be any more reasons given. Despicable politicians haven’t answered the hopes and longings of this land. Perhaps the Taiwanese could accept the end of an economic boom and a faltering economy. The DPP government has blamed a “Guomindang inheritance”, has blamed “mainland pressure”, has blamed “globalization”, but they haven’t been thoroughly self-critical. The Taiwanese could even accept for a time the the DPP’s corruption and lack of scruples. After all, in a Taiwan where corruption was in vogue and a legal system was still being constructed, the enticements of power were great, and for a political party that never considered “pastries falling from the sky” it was even more so the case. But they were not able to endure the politicians wantonly trying their patience and taking advantage of their leniency. They were not able to endure the shamelessness of those political characters, their irresponsible remarks, the damning of fathers and mothers that left teachers unable to instruct their students, and parents unable to raise their children. So Long Yingtai can shout from her heart, entreating “give Taiwan a politician!”

But perhaps all of this will no longer be a part of Taiwan’s stupor, because Taiwan can itself take hold of its own fate, and can use its own wisdom and bravery to win a possible future for itself.

Casting aside ethnic divides, casting aside political machinations, and casting aside corruption, the Taiwanese masses have chosen economic development, have chosen the people’s happiness, and have thrown in their votes in favor of a path of redemption. Wu Boxiong, the Guomindang Chairman, once emotionally said, “After 20 or 30 years, everyone will be able to say to their grandchildren with pride, in 2008 Taiwan was saved, and I was a part of it.”

In fact, they’ve not only saved their own future, but perhaps that of the entire Chinese race. Without any coercion, and with full awareness they expressed their own desires for peace. And although for the time being, they cannot identify with the mainland’s appeal for “unification”, they have shown that they don’t war, and they desire to develop with the mainland, together. This, I believe the Chinese on this side of the strait will be able to understand.

Actually, the majority of us understand that Taiwan’s economic prosperity is inseparable from the larger environment of mainland development; and the continuation of the Chinese mainland’s progress and rise is also inseparable from a united, stable, and prosperous Taiwan. After facing off for 13 years, the two shores may be able to throw off the vexations of the “virtual” agenda of Taiwanese independence. And though in the short term it is not certain that there will be any substantive developments, an ice-breaking glimmer of hope has already come about. At a journalists reception on May 23rd, Ma Yingjiu announced a series of mainland policies, like opening the airline industry by degrees, opening up to visiting tourists from the mainland, restarting the functions of sea-based and maritime organizations, and even welcoming pandas to Taiwan, etc., that made the future clear. On Monday, the mainland’s Three Prongs Concept was received as a bright ray of sunlight, and Taiwan’s 200 plus stocks rose after opening, which is yet another hint of the future.

The Taiwanese masses deserve to be proud of themselves. They have paid a great price, having spontaneously developed a modern democracy from a Chinese political culture devoid of a democratic tradition. Although even after the initial indecision and indecisiveness Taiwanese democracy was faulty, now in the second rotation of political parties the Taiwanese masses have shown proof of rationality. They are now growing into reasonable “public citizens”. After this, Taiwan’s internal political environment will be one that Chinese society has never seen before in history.

But more importantly, the “Two Shores Three Lands” Chinese’s current development of democracy is the arrival at a high point of one of humanity’s common values. At the CCP’s 17th People’s Congress, the mainland put forward that the “development of socialist democratic politics is our party’s steadfast target of struggle”, moreover the people’s democracy is seen as “the vitality of Socialism”. This clearly shows how the Communist Party cherishes democracy, and how it is determined to develop democratic politics. And in Hong Kong, the realization of this has already entered the timetable with direct elections to be held in 2017.

Sun Zhongshan once said, “Democratic politics is vast and mighty force, those who go with it will flourish, and those who go against it will perish.” The Chinese race, despite having been through many errors of fate, will finally stand at the crest of history, and what good fortune this is.

So we wish luck to the Taiwanese people, and wish luck to all Chinese!


Might just be some good old fashioned turn of the century American political correctness, but the race angle creeps me out.

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Next Top Model

Editorial from the Global Times, about modeling China on America, written by one Ding Xueliang. I think it’s pretty good advice.

America Shouldn’t Be China’s Only Model

At the beginning of the Reform and Opening, China’s model wasn’t the United States, it was instead smaller countries in the socialist camp, like Yugoslavia and Hungary. China began to study the United States, most importantly due to a saying of Deng Xiaoping, who thought that carrying out Opening policies would first require opening up to America. If China didn’t open up towards America, than opening up towards any other country would not have any great effect.

But to take an extreme attitude because of this is a mistake. During reform, if China were to lock in America as the only source to study from, it wouldn’t be appropriate.

If China’s development needs to look for a model, then it certainly needs a multifaceted one. Even if the first model we chose was correct, we still cannot make it the only model we’ll ever study from. At the beginning of the second half of the last century, we studied the Soviet Union from top to bottom, but as soon as it went to an extreme, completely mimicking the Soviet Union’s model, the negative effects surpassed any gains.

Even in studying America we have to consider the relevance of the American model to China’s national situation. At the beginning Japan studied Europe, founding the nation on clear decisions. For the navy they followed England’s example, for the army it was Germany, the university system imitates England’s, and the primary and secondary schooling system was taken from France. It is worth it for us to study this type of model-selection.

No country can become China’s only model. For a certain period a certain target might have priority, but we cannot remove others from our field of vision. Once a mistake occurs, the price of reversing course will be high.

(From the paper–this was not an editorial on the news, but was rather a commentary on China’s current situation, and it caused great interest among people. The article mentioned a great many detailed examples, like Holland having 340 people per square kilometer, and then there’s Belgium, and Luxembourg….The populations of these countries are crowded, but the national infrastructure still makes it seem that whether driving or walking the feeling is completely natural; and consider why the great car manufacturer Germany would want to build a high speed railway system, etc. You can say that these are all deeply felt pains of ours. Every year we send out a great many officials, spending great amounts of money to go overseas for training. We should be reminded from this article that we don’t want to spend that much money in vain.)


Some good phrases:
- 把。。。从视野里排除掉—removing ….. from field of vision
- 自上而下— (lit. from the top and then bottom) from top to bottom.
- 豁然开朗—(lit. clearly that way become open bright) suddenly see the light, or suddenly become extensive
- 天人合一— (lit. Sky People Together One) man and nature perfectly together
- 切肤之痛 — (lit. pain of cutting skin)keenly felt pain

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