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VonPeterhof’s log - 旅立ち’14, Yürükler’15+

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vonPeterhof
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Speaks: Russian*, EnglishC2, Japanese, German
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 Message 97 of 158
29 August 2014 at 11:47pm | IP Logged 
I was talking about the Kanken, the main test of kanji knowledge and aptitude. Unlike JLPT it's actually designed for native speakers rather than foreigners, but there's probably nothing preventing a foreigner from taking it anyway (as long as they're in Japan). Levels 10-2 (ordered in reverse, like the JLPT levels) do fall within the daily use kanji range, while level 1 tests knowledge of more than 6000 characters, as well as things like obscure readings, historical shapes, etc. The pass rate for the final level is apparently extremely low, while the practical benefit of the certificate is probably only marginal, so I seriously doubt that I'll ever actually take it. I would like to get my hands on the books they use to study for it though - I'm sure those would make for some good bedtime reading :D

Edited by vonPeterhof on 05 September 2014 at 4:21pm

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vonPeterhof
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Speaks: Russian*, EnglishC2, Japanese, German
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 Message 98 of 158
30 August 2014 at 10:29pm | IP Logged 
I remember that I planned to take a break from writing on lang-8 in Japanese for this month, but there's been some stuff I've wanted to get off my chest for a while now, and for some reason I really wanted to do it in Japanese. So, here's a wall of text I wrote about the current events in Ukraine, the public opinion in Russia, the use of patriotic rhetoric, as well as a bit of my personal opinion an all those subjects. I'm pretty sure it's the longest single post I've ever written on lang-8, as well as my first attempt at writing about politics in Japanese seriously (minor bickering in YouTube comments doesn't count :) ). I'm genuinely curious about what kind of responses I'll get (if anyone bothers to read through the whole thing), since while I'm broadly familiar with the range of opinions on the issue in the West and the former USSR, what the Japanese have been thinking about it is a bit of a mystery for me (aside from Natalia Poklonskaya's viral popularity and Abe's disappointment at the failure to build an anti-Chinese coalition with Russia).
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Serpent
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 Message 99 of 158
31 August 2014 at 2:58am | IP Logged 
Isn't there a rule against politics on lang-8?
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cathrynm
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 Message 100 of 158
31 August 2014 at 7:32am | IP Logged 
Hmm, I'd never heard politics are banned from lang-8?   What's it matter though, if no one complains. Ooh, you passed N1, though, that's cool.
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vonPeterhof
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 Message 101 of 158
31 August 2014 at 9:38am | IP Logged 
I assumed there wasn't one, since I remember having read and corrected a few entries that had to do with political subjects. After having checked the rules I see that the first item on the list of prohibited activities is "Discussions regarding religion, political problems or subjects that are controversial in other countries". But then, one of the people who liked my post is a Lang-8 staff member, so maybe it wasn't political enough? Or didn't generate enough of a discussion? :) Since I didn't actually ask for people's opinions on the events in Ukraine I guess it's not surprising I didn't get any. I did get some interesting answers to my questions about the use of the word and concept of patriotism in modern Japan. But yeah, it's probably better to refrain from writing posts about controversial topics from now on.
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vonPeterhof
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Speaks: Russian*, EnglishC2, Japanese, German
Studies: Kazakh, Korean, Norwegian, Turkish

 
 Message 102 of 158
06 September 2014 at 10:14pm | IP Logged 
This week I started to slowly make my way back into studying business Japanese. One activity I've started doing is shadowing one dialogue from にほんごで働く!ビジネス日本語30時間 per day. First I read the dialogue out loud while listening to the recording, then I read it without the recording, and after that I listen to it again and repeat the dialogue without reading. If the exercise includes this part, after that I also try to recite the dialogue from memory using picture clues. I've also started reading the books on business e-mails and phone calls, but so far I've only read the introductory parts that discuss basic manners and provide a primer/refresher on keigo.

In other Japanese activities, naturally anime, manga and music haven't gone anywhere. In addition to those I've resumed reading 風立ちぬ. I'm itching to start reading 傷物語, but I thought I need to finish at least one of the novels I started earlier before moving on to a new one. For now I have to get my Monogatari Series fix through audio recordings. The CDs of character songs for the anime adaptations also include long talks on the subject of the characters and their arcs between Hiroshi Kamiya, the voice of the protagonist, and whoever played the character in question. For the past few weeks I've been listening to those talks while trying to shadow Hiroshi Kamiya's lines.

However, what I've been most enthusiastic about doing this week was resuming my studies of the language of my ancestors (well, one of the languages of my ancestors). In preparation for that last Sunday I re-read the pdf files for all the Talk To Me In Korean lessons I had done before going on hiatus, and after that I decided to try watching an episode of a Korean drama with English subs. I didn't really know where to start so I just went for the title I've heard the most about - Boys Over Flowers (꽃보다 남자; an adaptation of the manga 花より男子). I couldn't help but feel a bit underwhelmed, since the quality of the show didn't seem any higher than that of the few Japanese dramas that I've watched. I was also surprised by the length of the episode, having got used to half-hour and one-hour slot TV series (although 1.5 hour slots were pretty common for old Soviet TV series), and by the next episode preview that was detailed to a spoilerific extent. Other than that it was bizarre to once again feel entirely dependent on the subs, but also pleasantly surprising to recognize Sinitic loanwords here and there, like 학교/学校 and 선배/先輩 (I also could have sworn I very distinctly heard the yakuza term けじめ in a somewhat appropriate context, but I probably just misheard).

Starting from Monday I did one Talk To Me In Korean lesson per day, getting to lesson 2 of part 2 by today. Can't say I felt comfortable listening to the test dialogue, but apparently I did get the majority of the words and constructions that had actually been introduced in the lessons, as well as manage to figure out at least one word that hadn't - 피자=pizza :)

Today I met up with some of my Korean relatives who aren't really fluent in Korean but are big fans of K-dramas. When I told them that I had watched Boys Over Flowers they said I should have chosen something else. They recommended the political drama Empire of Gold, the comedy A Gentleman's Dignity and the coming-of-age drama/comedy Reply 1997. I had heard of the latter show and was somewhat interested in watching it for its perspectives on the changes Korea underwent in the past couple of decades and the roots of modern South Korean pop culture, but I'm somewhat intimidated by the fact that it's set in Busan and features dialogue largely in the Gyeongsang dialect. While I won't be able to understand natural dialogue in any sort of dialect at this point, it's still probably better to leave the introductions to the dialects until later, when I've got some grip on at least the standard grammar.

Speaking of dialects, today I discovered that the Russian Wikipedia's article on Koryo-mar, the dialect of former Soviet Koreans, has been greatly expanded since I last read it, with detailed information on its phonological and morphological differences from standard Korean (and apparently in some cases even from the Hamgyeong dialect it's derived from). Now I think I understand why my relatives say "hangabi" instead of "hwangab", although I'm still puzzled as to how we got "daebi" from "dubu" (tofu). Sadly, it's pretty hard to find proficient speakers of this dialect even among my grandparents' generation.

Edited by vonPeterhof on 06 September 2014 at 11:02pm

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vonPeterhof
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Speaks: Russian*, EnglishC2, Japanese, German
Studies: Kazakh, Korean, Norwegian, Turkish

 
 Message 103 of 158
19 September 2014 at 8:34pm | IP Logged 
When I made that last update almost two weeks ago I forgot to mention the fact that I had signed up for Moscow State University's Japanese Society's September meetup (they call them "Romashka Clubs", "romashka" being Russian for "camomile"; not sure why though). Well, I had, and now I just got back home from there. Aside from (quite) a few awkward moments, that was a great experience.

The meeting was held in one of the buildings on MSU's campus, in what looked like a large classroom with the desks rearranged as several tables for eight to ten people. We were seated so as to make each table's Japanese-to-Russians ratio as close to 1/1 as possible, even though the Russians were slightly in excess. Most of the people in both groups appeared to be students, but there were both Russian professionals like me and Japanese working expats. One guy at my table gave everyone his business card, which made me feel bad for not having ordered mine (although I doubt that my company would make a version with my name and job title in Japanese ;) ). We started from about an hour of talking amongst ourselves over tea and sweets, then proceeded to play a game where you stick a card with a word on your forehead and have to guess the word from the other's explanations. I humiliated myself several times throughout the game: described 戦車 by using the word 戦争 (you're not supposed to use words with the same root), failed to guess 耳栓 even though I knew exactly what they were describing (because I had never heard the word in Japanese before) and mistook 蠅 (fly) for 亀 (tortoise). Still, that was a pretty fun and thought provoking exercise.

As for the actual conversational practice, I got to practice both polite and casual language (and also finally learned what the latter is called in Japanese - ため口). Two girls from Osaka University immediately insisted on talking to them casually. One of them also kept using the や copula, which made me think they were from Osaka even before they said so. Ironically, that one turned out to be originally not from Osaka, but from Ishikawa prefecture (where they also use や instead of だ). Anyway, I think I got the hang of talking to someone else casually (which is a weird thing to need to get the hang of for me, since I normally use casual speech when thinking in Japanese), but alternating between politeness levels when switching between conversation partners is still far from smooth. There were also many times where I found myself having trouble recalling the right word. The worst part of the conversation was when the girl from Ishikawa talked about how her family and friends reacted to her going to study abroad in Russia with all the events around Ukraine unfolding. I said that I could relate to an extent, having gone to study abroad in Norway less than a month after Breivik's attacks. She hadn't heard of Breivik, so I proceeded to fumble my way through an extremely detailed account of what he did in Oslo and Utøya. Now that I think of it, that was a poor decision on my part on so many levels. Not sure how we managed to steer that conversation back to a more positive direction. Talking about language learning, travel and pop culture went much smoother, so I guess it's better to stick to that for now.

Anyway, I think this is just what I need to work on my spoken Japanese. If only these meetups took place more frequently than once a month! I'll definitely try to attend as many as possible from now on. Now, since I need to catch an early morning train tomorrow, I'm gonna have to postpone writing about other language learning activities I've engaged in over the past two weeks until some time this weekend.

Edited by vonPeterhof on 19 September 2014 at 8:36pm

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vonPeterhof
Tetraglot
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Speaks: Russian*, EnglishC2, Japanese, German
Studies: Kazakh, Korean, Norwegian, Turkish

 
 Message 104 of 158
20 September 2014 at 11:58pm | IP Logged 
Right now there are three activities that I do every day: Anki reviews, TTMIK lessons and shadowing business Japanese conversations. I've made a slight adjustment to the latter some time the other week: now when listening to the conversation for the first time instead of reading its transcript I try to write it down by hand. The usefulness of handwriting may be lower now, in the age of nearly omnipresent IMEs, but you never know when you might need to write something by hand in Japanese, and when you do you'll probably look smarter if you don't write in all-kana.

As for the Korean lessons, recently I've discovered something interesting about the infamous consonants. Like lots of other learners, I often had trouble hearing the difference between the three categories of consonants (aspirated, plain/unaspirated and tense). I could understand the theoretical phonological descriptions to an extent, but when it came to actually listening to how the speakers in TTMIK pronounced the sounds I couldn't hear anything particularly "tense" about the tense consonants, while the "unaspirated" ones often sounded totally aspirated word-initially. After having re-read the Wikipedia article's section on consonants I see that the problem might be that the traditional descriptions of those sounds don't apply to how the young generation in South Korea speaks today. It has been argued that the main distinguishing feature of the "plain" consonants in young people's speech isn't the presence or lack of aspiration or tenseness, but rather that they give the syllable they're part of a low tone, while the other two kinds of consonants produce high tone syllables. I tried to pay attention to the pitches of syllables in TTMIK's speaker's pronunciations, and that actually does seem to be the case. So the actual pronunciations of their word-initial consonants can be summarized thus:

"plain": voiceless aspirated consonant followed by a low tone vowel
"aspirated": voiceless aspirated consonant followed by a high tone vowel
"tense": voiceless unaspirated consonant followed by a high tone vowel

I had heard of how young Seoulites' speech deviates from the traditional standard language of the preceding generations, and I've actually tried to do my best to avoid acquiring those deviations in vowels. I've made an effort to retain the e/ae distinction, the monophthong pronunciations of oi and ui and the long vowels (at least in the words where I'm aware of them). With consonants though, I'm now starting to doubt if it's worth it to try to affect a more conservative pronunciation. The biggest difficulty with that is that I still have no clue how the traditional pronunciation of tense consonants is supposed to be different from that of plain old unaspirated voiceless consonants or Abkhaz ejectives. Well, if people my age in Seoul can distinguish between the three kinds of consonants without really pronouncing them the way traditional textbooks describe them, then maybe I should just take a page out of their book instead? Besides, I am planning to take on Chinese at some point, so the more practice I get with tones the better :)

Anyway, back to Japanese. In addition to the embarrassing moments at the conversational meetup, recently I got another grim reminder that having passed the N1 is still very, very far from native level comprehension. After having caught up on the Monogatari series I decided to check out something by my favourite anime screenwriter, Gen Urobuchi. The series I started watching is Fate/Zero, supposedly a very faithful anime adaptation of his eponymous light novel (itself a prequel to the visual novel Fate/stay night). Even though I've watched other stuff written by him and other anime in the genre of urban fantasy, I found it pretty damn hard to follow what was going on. After three episodes I decided it was time to revive my old method of following up each episode of the anime with a read through the corresponding parts of the source material. Well, after noticing that just reading through the character profiles from the book's introduction took me more than forty minutes my first thought was "How the f@&k does this pass for a light novel!?" Seriously, even 風立ちぬ feels like an easier read! It's about as hard as reading 山の音, but with that book I at least have the excuse of owning an edition written in pre-reform orthography! Oh well, I guess I found myself yet another challenge! But it also looks like I'll never be able to focus on one novel at a time... Yes, I'm still reading Dostoyevsky's Demons - just about to reach the middle of chapter 2 :)

One thing Fate/Zero has already given me is an opportunity to make another Japanese acquaintance. While riding the train to Saint Petersburg this morning I noticed that a young couple sitting in the row in front of me were talking in Japanese and reading a Japanese tourist guidebook to Saint Petersburg. I was slowly making my way through Fate/Zero's prologue, looking up pronunciations of nearly all words unfamiliar words, and I came across the word 喪っている. I could have looked it up with the help of handwritten Traditional Chinese input, but I thought that the Japanese couple will probably be able to tell me the pronunciation right away. When I asked them they had no idea, and had to use the Internet to look it up (it turned out to be a less common way of writing 失っている, with the loss being a person rather than a thing). However, this did work as a conversation starter, so we ended up exchanging phone numbers and promising to meet up when we're all back in Moscow. I never realized how easy it was to initiate a conversation with Moscow-based Japanese people! Running into them is still a bit tricky though..

Edited by vonPeterhof on 21 September 2014 at 4:07pm



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