Found a Cadfael fan

I was talking to someone who takes life very seriously and doesn't participate in much frivolity, and he was describing a seemingly boring novel (though not to him) about life in monasteries and Medieval times, which made me ask the inevitable question: did he ever watch Cadfael?

He said he loved it. Which made me think of my Cadfael post, where I challenged myself to watch an entire episode. It actually wasn't bad once I was able to sit through the simplistic scenery and drab times.


I can't believe this guy has a radio show

I got an email from an interesting guy (Michael Sheehan) who taught at a City College in Chicago for over 25 years (which is a feat in itself since education can be rough, for various reasons that I might do a post about another time) about his English blog Wordmall. He's retired and lives in Michigan, where he writes, is involved with various organizations, and has a language-related radio show--and it's not on NPR!

The reason why I'm making a big deal out of the fact that he's not on Public Radio is because commercial radio stations usually don't cover such obscure topics as language. His show is on just once a week for an hour, but still--if I were to suggest a similar show where I work, they'd laugh and remind me that people aren't interested in such subjects.

I looked at the station's site, and I couldn't find his show, but there were some other things I noticed: the station is owned by a shockingly small company, not a huge media corporation (which is extremely rare in today's radio world), and the station has mostly syndicated programming, which isn't surprising, because most radio is syndicated now. So it makes the presence of a language show even more amazing!

I told him what I thought, and he ended his friendly email with these positive words:

Since retirement in 1994, I have had an unbelievable life. Way leads unto way, but this has been one heckuva ride.

UPDATE: There are now podcasts of the show available. Go to wtcmradio.com and click on the Ron Jolly Show. Scroll down for a list of podcasts, and look for "Words to the Wise with Professor Mike Sheehan," then click to listen.


Failed attempt at understanding Japanese

I work in a building with a couple of Japanese companies, and sometimes I'm lucky to hear some Japanese conversations going on in the hall or elevator. Today a couple of Japanese businessmen got on the elevator and were talking about something--but I couldn't totally understand! I know that they were talking about business and work, but I couldn't get the details. Little did they know that I was intensely eavesdropping--they probably thought I was a clueless American :D But still, in a way I was clueless because I couldn't decipher everything they were saying.

This may not be a big deal to a lot of people, but to me it is because I still study and translate Japanese, but I think I've been away from Japan for too long and there aren't enough Japanese people around to get enough listening practice. Maybe those guys were using idioms or more polite language than I was used to--I don't know. But I hope to keep running into Japanese people to be able to improve my eavesdropping skills :D


Funny office memo

My husband works for a British company, so he works with several Brits who I hope are enjoying our fine country, and recently, a new president arrived from the UK. I guess he was concerned about intercultural communication in the office, so he sent everyone in the company a link to The Best of British: the American's Guide to Speaking British. Now the employees can become bilingual in English :D


My German-translating friend took this cool photo

photo by Jerry Barmore
My friend who knows a lot of German took this photo, and I wanted to post it here because it's so cool. Not only do I know the photographer, but I know the model--we used to work together, though I haven't seen her in a while.


new Pompeii book

If you want to know more about Pompeii, or if you want to see how other historians have been wrong about it, then check out Pompeii: The Life of a Roman Town. It was released in the UK yesterday, and will be released in the US later in the fall.

I haven't read it yet, but I'm mentioning it here because I saw Mary Beard's 10 things you need to know about Pompeii, which is myth-busting and interesting.

She's also a very smart, interesting, nice person, so her book deserves a mention here. She's achieved more than most people, including publishing many books, getting published and interviewed for top publications and other media, being an editor for the Times Literary Supplement, and teaching at Cambridge. I'd say that's the cream of the crop in the intellectual world.

Considering everything she's accomplished, she is not snobby at all, appreciates online writing by non-media folks and academic types, and is friendly--she sent me an email complimenting my blog, and told me about hers (which has thousands of readers). She even met with me when she came to Chicago to lecture at a university.

Believe me, I've met some folks who haven't accomplished as much as her, but because they perceived me as a peon, they barely wanted to talk to me. So when she took the time out of her busy schedule to hang out with me, it meant a lot.

She's also a good writer, so I'm sure her book is good.


What's up with Cadfael?

The mystery series Cadfael has been on several times, and I have never watched it because it doesn't seem that interesting. But tonight I'm making myself watch it in its entirety because I have to see why it would exist on modern television.

I'm still perplexed why Brits would want to watch it, and why the producers thought that it would be worth the money: there's nothing fancy about it, and there's a constant grayish-brownishness about it. Usually the British mystery shows transport us to rich people's homes and fancy parties filled with intrigue, but Cadfael is like porridge.

I seriously doubt that such a show would be produced in the US--people wouldn't have the patience for the drab aesthetics or bland personalities. I can imagine a Hollywood mogul screaming, "A middle ages mystery? Are you crazy?"

But such a show makes us focus on the words and the mystery instead of being distracted by pretty hairstyles and temperamental personalities. The show is still in progress, and it seems pretty good, and it's actually refreshing to not have a bunch of flash and egos thrown at me.


Get your [blank] on

It seems like a lot of people are using the phrase "Get your [insert word] on," and I'd like to know what the origin of that phrase is.

There seems to be much use of the phrase "Get your game on," but is that the original phrase? If not, what is? How did this whole thing start? I'm guessing it started in a more obscure subculture and has spread uncontrollably to the mainstream, to the point where even advertising is saying "Get your chocolate on" or whatever.

So if anyone out there knows the answer, please let me know so I can post it here.


Great ESL book

I'm going to a meeting on Friday where we're going to find out what the city-wide ESL books are going to be. Whoever the winning publisher is, they're going to be very happy because thousands of their books will be used throughout Chicago.

So far, I've been using the third level of English in Action, which is perfect for the weekly class I've been teaching. It has different kinds of activities, a practical workbook, and helpful information that's not overwhelming.

I'm just mentioning it here because starting in January, we'll no longer use English in Action, and I want people to know that it's a great book that has made teaching a lot easier and more enjoyable. Even though I've used the same book for over a year, it seems like I'm teaching a different class each term.

So thank you English in Action, and Heinle, its publisher!


We would be fired

I watched a few episodes of House during a Saturday TV marathon, and now I think I'm going to watch more often. I think I only watched bits of the show before, where I was impressed with Hugh Laurie's American accent.

I know it's fiction, but I can't believe what Doctor House gets away with: he's often a jerk and breaks the rules, and he's not really suspended and certainly not fired. And if he's dragged to court, the hospital will pay his legal fees (his boss said they budgeted like 50k per year to defend him). He's only a doctor, not management, yet they're often willing to take care of him no matter what.

I think the real departure from reality was when a rich administrator wanted to give the hospital over 100 million dollars, but he wanted the House out of there as a condition, and he expected the Board to vote for his dismissal. But they eventually decided to keep the House instead of the 110 million dollars!

Seriously--what business or organization would give up over 100 million dollars for ONE person, especially a jerk who often gets in trouble, and is a legal risk?

Maybe that's why the show is popular--in real life, we'd be fired, and seeing him get rewarded for his intelligence and talent is escapism for us. Though of course, there are plenty of jerky people in workplaces everywhere who get special treatment because they know how to play the game or know how to bring in the bucks. But Doctor House gets rewarded for just being himself.


Original Japanese Speed Racer opening with English subtitles

The show was called "Mach Go Go Go" in Japan, but was called Speed Racer in the US. I didn't check the translation, so let's hope it's correct :D

Below is the introduction and close of the American Speed Racer show that I used to watch (the Japanese close is the same, except with no titles and they sing "Mach Go" instead of "Speed Racer").


I just eavesdropped on a Japanese conversation

I hear different languages every day, but I don't hear Japanese that much, even though I live near the Japanese Consulate and work near a Japanese company. Tonight I walked to the store, and heard a couple of women talking. I didn't zone in on what they were saying because sometimes I initially think people are speaking Japanese when they're really speaking Korean (I can tell the difference between the two languages btw, but I need to get accustomed to them when I hear them in a sea of English).

The two women were talking about areas of Chicago, and I was psyched! There weren't many people around, so I could try to figure out what they were saying. The problem was that I looked like a creep because I slowed my usual fast pace to hover within close proximity to their voices. At times I couldn't hear them, so I slowed down even more to the point where someone might think we were part of the same group. I wonder if they noticed that I was eavesdropping. Eventually they drifted away, and I couldn't hear everything they were saying due to wind and traffic. But at least I heard something.

What I could figure out was that the younger woman was either born in the US or had spent quite a bit of time here, because she would occasionally throw in teeny English phrases, but very briefly, as if it was natural for her to switch between the two languages. Plus, even though her accent was good, it wasn't as "native" as the older woman. Bottom line: that younger woman is lucky to be fluent in both (which I'm assuming she is).

Now I have to get in the habit of eavesdropping on my ESL students because they often speak Spanish and my Spanish at this point is quite lame, and I have plenty of chances to at least get my ear used to it and even practice once in a while.


It's hard to translate Japanese when I have other work too

I used to do mostly language stuff, so I'd divide my work by doing translating on certain days, interspersed with other work on the non-translating days. But lately I've been busy with radio (which is one of the reasons why it's hard to take language classes), and it's really hard to translate after reporting to work before dawn. Even though today is Labor Day, I had to be at work at 4, then had non-work obligations after that, took a nap, then started tackling Japanese. But the mind power that's required to translate Japanese is far more than what's needed for French or Spanish or Portuguese, so I'm still not done, and I have to go to bed soon. And my mind is definitely active from so much Japanese processing, but it feels maxed-out, and I think I'll have to swim or go for a walk before sleeping, otherwise I'll have kanji and complex syntax dreams.

Thus concludes my Labor Day Japanese Translating Report.