the Japanese Language Proficiency Test has changed!

I can't believe it--for so long, the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (aka Nihongo Noryoku Shiken) had a similar format and just four levels, but now the content has changed and they added a level!

I'm one of those people who passed level 3 several years ago but had a hard time with level 2 more recently because it was way harder. Even back then, level 2 was difficult, but I think in recent years they made it even harder because I think too many people were taking it, including Chinese people who could easily ace the kanji.

Anyway, I might try to take the new level 4, though it's been so long since I took the test, I'm wondering if I should start with level 3. I need to decide by late September.


Funny [Chinese] clown

This is such a funny picture, I just had to post it here. This guy is one of the most interesting people I've met, and he's only a teenager. He's really smart and can talk to different kinds of people, and has no problem being friendly with adults. He also has a more international/unique perspective because he came from China, and speaks English and Mandarin fluently, in addition to a dialect that he says doesn't have tones (though I wonder if it does, based on the description of his hometown Chongqing).

Update: after reading this post, he read about his dialect and realized that it *does* have tones. Which makes me wonder why he thought that. I guess that's part of being a fluent native speaker of a language: you just speak it and don't analyze it, especially if you're just a teen :D



My ESL students introduced me to a great Mexican spice that has been around for a while, which I thought was unnecessary. But it's really good: Tajin. It's a combination of lime, salt, and a hot spice. You're supposed to put it on fruit, even watermelon (which I thought was unnecessary because it's so sweet), and it sounds weird to do that, but it's actually very tasty. I also put it on cucumbers and other vegetables.

I served some watermelon to some people who were born in the USA and had never tried such a spice, and at first they thought it was odd, but they thought it tasted okay.

But I think it's more than okay, and I plan on using the spice often.

And btw--the pronunciation is "Ta-Hin" (not Ta-Jin).


Going to TO again

If you've been reading this blog for a while, then you probably know that I've been to Toronto a few times. I went when this blog was in its infancy, then a few years ago, and am going again. So if I don't post much here, that's why. I'm hoping to get near a computer to post impressions of the place, including how many Chinatowns they have, and how huge they are. Maybe I'll try to take some pictures and post them here.

And I'm so into reading the Japanese manga and book I started, I'm bringing them with me, along with my dictionaries.


Another article that I got paid for

One of the reasons why I haven't really posted much here recently was because I was working on an interview that I got paid for through a grant that helps promote under-represented areas of Chicago (the areas that the media doesn't really care about unless there's some weird murder or whatever).

The neighborhood is called Back of the Yards, and I wrote about a woman who is trying to make things better for the community there.

My previous article that I got paid for through the same grant was about a recording artist from a rough neighborhood on the West Side.


Last week of teaching and other stuff

I know a number of people subscribe to this blog, and others just pop in, and you're probably wondering why I haven't been posting much lately, but it's a combo of teaching a lot of ESL this summer, in addition to other work and projects. But the teaching is ending this week, which means more writing time for me :D

Also, things have been developing with my podcast. I've been interviewing various people for the podcast, and was even mentioned in the Chicago Sun-Times, analyzed in Robert Feder's column, and even broadcast on Howard Stern's show because I interviewed his former program director who's become infamous.

Anyway, it's my last week of teaching, which means I will post more here and at Gapersblock more often. I'm sure they're not too happy about my infrequent posting there either.

The best part though is that I've still maintained my consistent Japanese reading, so I'm very happy about that. I don't know what the fall is going to bring for me though :/


They speak Portuguese in Portugal

I had to reread this sentence in an article about singer Nelly Furtado in a magazine that prides itself on representing an "exclusive" area: "Although she was raised in Canada, Nelly’s parents were from Portugal, and she’s spoken Spanish since she was 14..."

Then the article continues to talk about her new Spanish songs. So obviously, in a typical PR move, they put two facts together, Portuguese parents and Spanish, to justify her Spanish attempts.

What about Portuguese? If the magazine is as sophisticated as it claims, they wouldn't dupe the reader into thinking that Portugal and Spanish are in the same place.

But unfortunately, they watered down the information to perhaps appease the famous singer's publicists because it would be too complicated and perhaps confusing to reveal the fact that she's really Portuguese, not Latin American, and came from the Portugese language instead of the more profitable Spanish. It would obfuscate the marketing message.

I wish they would show some more intelligence and not make simple connections to promote a superficial idea to gain more album sales.


Good web design info

Here is a great site with very helpful articles on web design: Scratchmedia. They are a business, but they also offer a ton of great information. I also agree with their philosophy that simple is better when designing websites, though a lot of people want bells and whistles, even though such sites can take a long time to load and can feel cluttered.


"Boy" Bruce Lee

Here is a great quote from Bruce Lee: some producers called him "boy" and ordered him to get "his car" to pick up a celebrity, even though he was a star in The Green Hornet. When someone asked him how he dealt with such racism, he said, "Does it bother me? If I let it bother me, I wouldn't be Bruce Lee." Way to go! The video of this recollection is below. It's less than 30 seconds in.


Funny Engrish

There are various Engrish (odd English) sites out there, and feel free to share your discoveries, but here's one that someone sent to me that is really funny. I don't know why so much odd English comes from Asia, but maybe that's because the languages of East and West are so different, and probably because they don't want to hire anyone to check/fix their signs and packages. Or they don't have access to decent English speakers/writers.

Check out Engrish Funny if you want a laugh.