Watch anime and Korean dramas for free!

If you want to improve your Korean or Japanese, go to Crunchyroll. There are lots of Japanese anime (don't know if I should add an "s" because Japanese doesn't have plurals) and Korean dramas with English subtitles. I think there might be Japanese dramas but I couldn't find any in the recent list. You can also subscribe to bypass advertising and get access to even more anime.

I'm not into anime, but since they have English subtitles, they'd be hard to resist because it's a good way to improve my diminishing Japanese skills.

(thanks to Lumpy for the heads up)


Tears for Fears video: literal version

Even though this is not one of my favorite Tears for Fears songs, the literal version of it is funny, especially if you've seen the real video and have heard the real song before.


Sounds desperate and niche

I found an independent publisher that serves a total niche:

...professional development books for adjunct, part-time, full-time temporary and visiting college faculty...[and] include professional development titles for a wide cross-section of faculty who hold temporary appointments, as well as graduate students and distance educators...books [that] are designed to meet the professional needs of Academe's almost 700,000 non-tenure track faculty.

I don't have a problem with niche publishing, especially because the PIC (Publishing Industrial Complex) is crumbling after dominating the publishing industry for years, and other publishers are stepping in to satisfy more specific interests.

But what seems desperate about the market they're serving is the huge amount (700,000!) of faculty who are qualified but will never get full-time jobs with benefits.

Even the publisher's tagline "Your product source for adjunct and part-time faculty excellence" sounds desperate--not that the publisher is desperate, but the "industry" or profession is, and there are a lot of highly educated people running around, wanting a regular professor gig, but not able to get it because schools are stuffing themselves with adjunct faculty.

Actually, I'm a part-time instructor, but I don't want to teach full time anyway, so I'm not writing all this to complain about my situation. It's just something I've noticed and heard about--people want to teach in universities and colleges, but they can't because the full-time jobs are disappearing.


Origins of Names of Days of the Week

In my last installment, I discussed the names of months in Latin, Germanic, and Slavic languages. Now I'll give a brief, rather general discussion of the names of days of the week in these language groups.

Like the names of its months, the days of the week in English also have illustrious origins, but Latin influences have largely failed to gain the same momentum outside of Latin-based languages. While the Roman gods Mars and Mercury are present in the French days of the week mardi and mercredi, their English (as well as German and Dutch) equivalents Tuesday and Wednesday reflect the old Germanic gods Tiw and Woden. A concession is made in English and Dutch to the Roman god Saturn, however, who turns up in "Saturday."

A curious exception to all this in Western Europe is Portuguese, a Latin language that would reasonably be expected to reveal the names of Roman gods in the names of days of the week, has instead named most of them numerically, starting with "two." Monday through Friday are called 'segunda-feira' ("second fair") through "sexta-feira" ("sixth fair"), the use of "feira" ("fair") having mediaeval origins.

Similarly, the Slavic languages have also used a pragmatic, "counting" approach to naming most of the days of the week, with czwartek and piątek (from the roots for "four" and "five") referring to Thursday and Friday.

(posted by language fan and friend Silas McCracken)


On the air tonight/tomorrow morning

In case you're up during the middle of the night (or if you live in another country, where our night is your day), you can hear me on the radio from 2:00 to 4:00 AM Central Time (which is tonight but is technically tomorrow morning) on the overnight show that Geoff Pinkus hosts. You can listen via his site (scroll down and click on "Listen Live").

I will be doing the show with Bonnie, who is Geoff's producer, and George Bliss, who's a friend of the show and is one of the most connected people in Chicago (see their bios here).

During the 2:00 hour we'll be talking with Tate Gunnerson from Strangeclosets.com about the crazy spaces and people he's met around Chicago, and during the 3:00 hour we'll be talking with Corey Deitz about his change in political views and how screwed up radio has become.

We'll also be talking about other subjects, and I'll probably be on the air during the 1:00 hour as well because at this point, I'm too excited to sleep :D


Japanese commercial with English subtitles

This is a good way to practice your Japanese because you can see the English translation beneath. It's also entertaining and combines historical and modern culture.


I had to speak bad French

I've translated French, but I haven't had to speak it for years. I think the last time I had a lengthy conversation was when I was traveling in Hungary and got directions from an African medical student, and we ended up talking about traveling and our respective countries.

The other day I had to make a call to France for someone who understood nothing more than "bonjour", and asking me to help was definitely done out of desperation because my spoken French is horrible, but there was no one else around who could attempt communication. The task was simple: call a friend's mom, give her my phone number, and ask her to pass on a message. Once I wrote down my own phone number in French, I got up the nerve to call, and I even managed to sound polite. But I'm sure my friend's mom thought that my French was lame, so I told her that "je parle japonais et anglais" to let her know that I'm not an ignorant American.

But we understood each other, so I truly felt a sense of accomplishment after I hung up the phone. Which makes me miss dealing with other languages even more.


Subtle mockery in Burma

I've been reading To the Golden Shore, which is a biography of Adoniram Judson, and it's really good, not just because of what he went through, but also because I'm getting an idea of what the early 19th century was like in Asia and the US.

I keep thinking about how they describe Burma back then, and it's helped me to understand why it still has a ton of problems now (military dictatorship, democratically elected leader under house arrest, isolation, etc). Back then there was torture, death, and misery imposed by a despotic leader and very corrupt system. I seriously don't know how people have managed to survive in such countries.

What's also struck me about that country back then was how Michael Symes, the first British emissary there, was treated. I found a good article that mentions his trip in the late 18th century and compares the despotic Burmese royalty back then with the current dictatorship.

In the Judson biography, he mentions Symes' account of his trip, An Account of an Embassy to the Kingdom of Ava (1795) (which you can download for free). At first Judson was impressed, but once he was in India, he found out that

Symes, in his ignorance of Burmese customs, had not realized that, instead of being treated as a distinguished visitor, he had actually been led about with subtle mockery, and dealt a succession of calculated insults in the guise of compliments. The Burmese court had silently rocked with laughter during his whole mission.

I've read that a number of times, and I keep wondering what that "subtle mockery" and "calculated insults" looked like.


Keitai Shosetsu (cell phone novels)

I was reading about keitai shosetsu (ケータイ小説), which literally means cell phone [keitai] novel [shosetsu], and had no idea how popular they've become in Japan.

One article explains how it works:

Novels are posted by members of cell phone community sites to be downloaded for free and read on other cell phones...The works are published in 70-word installments, or abbreviated chapters that are the ideal length to be read between shorter train stops. This means that, despite small cell phone screens, lots of white space is left for ease of reading. Multiple short lines of compressed sentences, mostly composed of fragmentary dialogue, are strung together with lots of cell phone-only symbols. The resulting works are emotional, fast-paced and highly visual, with an impact not unlike manga.

And another article says that some authors have gotten good book deals:

These days, books aren’t selling so well, but Keitai Shosetsu, which have low production and promotion costs, have managed to create mass appeal to thousands of readers. Ironically, when they’re bound and printed, Keitai Shosetsu often wind up on the best seller list. Major publishers are starting to acknowledge this new market and there are already 30 professional Keitai Shosetsu writers in Japan.

I also managed to find the Japanese Wikipedia article about keitai shosetsu, with a number of links to books and sites.

I wonder if they'll become popular in the US eventually, or if this is just a Japanese phenomenon.


Origins of names of months

Although the names of the months in English may seem quite mundane, the origins of some of their names are nothing short of divine. A trawl through the names of our months will reveal such luminaries as the Roman gods Janus (January) and Mars (March), the Italic goddess Maia (May), and the Greek goddess Aphrodite (April) (not to mention appearances from mere mortal celebrities Julius and Augustus Caesar, represented in July and August, respectively). These names date back to the Roman calendar, which originally had ten months. As the Romans colonized many regions of the Mediterranean world, they spread their calendar and, of course, the Latin language, which helps to explain how the original Roman names found their way into modern Latin-based languages, such as French, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish.

Gradually, the Latin-based names replaced even the original Germanic months in such languages as German, Dutch, and English, thus replacing the original names. For instance, as late as the 18th century in German, May (now "Mai" in Modern German) was known as "Wonnemonat" (Grazing Month) and July ("now "Juli" in Modern German) was "Heumonat" (Hay Month").

Interestingly, this Latin invasion affected the names of months in some Slavic languages, but not others. The old Slavic names, such as like the old Germanic names, were related more to the time of year rather than deities (for instance, "listopad," which means October in Polish and Croatian, means "falling leaves") are still evident in the names of months in Polish, Croatian, Bielorussian, Czech, and Ukrainian, but Latin loan words are used in modern Russian, Serbian, Macedonian, Slovenian, and Bulgarian. Even in some of the languages that have adopted Latin month names, Old Slavic names persist in folk literature.

(posted by language fan and friend Silas McCracken)


A yeoman compliment

Someone gave me a compliment, saying that my effort on a project was "yeoman's work." At first, I didn't know what they meant by that comment, and assumed it was a compliment, but to make sure what a yeoman was, I looked up the word in my European history book (which I ended up reading, which is why I didn't post this earlier).

For some odd reason, it wasn't there, even though yeomen were part of European history (!), so I looked it up online, and saw that it comes from the Middle Ages, and though back then it was a British landholder, guard, official, or attendant, it has become an adjective to commend someone on good, hard, work.

I think that's the first time that understanding a compliment required research.


Real vs fake British accents

This is funny: the characters from one of my favorite movies This is Spinal Tap were on a British TV morning show, and it's interesting and amusing to compare the real British accents with Spinal Tap's fake ones (they're all American, though Christopher Guest's dad was British).

I explored the accuracy of Spinal Tap's accents in a previous post, including quotes from articles and a real Brit's assessment of their accents (I emailed him for comments).


I finally met a Japanese person

There aren't a lot of Japanese people in Chicago, though there were more in the mid-80's to mid-90's before their economy started going down and some companies either folded or had to decrease their American branches.

The station where I work is next to a Japanese company, and I've said hello to some Japanese people from there, and have definitely eavesdropped on their conversations, but I've never really "met" anyone from there. One time I talked to a Japanese guy from another Japanese company which is located on a higher floor, and he invited me to stop by, but I wasn't sure if he meant it, plus I forgot the name of the company, and I didn't want to try to figure it out. And I forgot his name of course, so the whole opportunity was just lost.

Several months passed until I interacted with another Japanese person: one day I saw an Asian woman on the elevator, and I asked her if she was Japanese, and she said yes. Then we talked in English and I told her in Japanese that I can speak it a bit (I didn't say I could speak it pretty well because that's too arrogant for their culture, plus for all I know my Japanese could be quite lame to her ears). So we spoke a little bit of Japanese and I thought, "This could be a good opportunity to actually socialize with one of them."

So I told her where I work, and suggested we go out to lunch sometime, and she said yes, and invited me to stop by the company. This time, I made sure to get her name and of course knew where the company was, so I walked in there a few days ago and she and a couple coworkers invited me out to lunch, though I had to decline because I had other plans.

But we are actually going to get together this week, so the bottom line is: not only did I finally meet a Japanese person, but I'll be able to actually talk to them in Japanese occasionally, and will finally be able to practice Japanese outside of my Japanese class! Not a big deal to folks who live in Asia, but it is to Chicago-dwelling me!