Jaspanish: Japanese Verbs, into Spanish.

It happens when you least expect it and it happens more frequently as your language repertoire widens. You are somewhere in-between fluency and mediocrity in your language studies and then you say something incredibly sensible and unexpectedly meaningless. Knowing one language gives you a set of sounds that one can use to describe the world around them. Knowing two languages gives that person a whole new set of sounds, expressions, and ways of possible description. Knowing three or more? Well, that’s when the real fun begins.

Conjugating in Spanish is relatively straightforward.  Like most languages, by-and-large there are rules, these rules are applied to verbs to specify who is doing the action and at what time or whether it is conditional, etc.  The Spanish word for “to listen” or “to hear” is “escuchar”. It is conjugated in the following manner:

Conjugating in Spanish

Regular Conjugation in Spanish

Where the first word in each column is the way the verb is conjugated when the speaker is referring to themselves; second, you; third, he/she; fourth, we; fifth, we; sixth, they. In this way, verbs are conjugated regularly.

Now for Japanese.  In Japanese, verbs are not separated by who did the action, much like in English Continue reading

Top 10 Ways NOT to Start Learning a New Language

In an effort to assist any learner of any language get started in their exploration of said language, here is a list of the top 10 ways not to go about beginning your studies.   This list has been formed out of 10 ways that I tried to learn new languages but then failed epically.  May you not make the same mistakes that I did.

Easy Language?

Easy Language?

10) Easy Phrase Books. Unless you intend to kill your desire to learn any language right from the start, I suggest you steer clear of such books as these.  Books that offer 101 easy phrases in ____________ (insert language here) are sure ways to get frustrated and give up.  The content is often scattered and colloquial, filled with phrases that are at a level far beyond that of the beginner or even intermediate learner.  I have picked up books in Japanese and even Spanish and been befuddled as to the content.  Oftentimes, such everyday phrases are so wrapped in complex grammar structures and vernacular that there is no way that any learner could actually learn any of the individual parts.  For example, in Spanish

Could you speak more slowly? Puedes hablar más despacio, por favor?

If you speak Spanish already, you don’t count.  Please take a minute to imagine yourself completely incapable of any expression in Spanish, and your pronunciation is horrible.  How can you be expected to learn anything (as a beginner) from such a phrase?  The book this was from has no explanation on what any of the words mean, nor is there an explanation on conjugation of verbs etc.  It is a dead-end for language learning.


Language Absorbtion

Language Absorbtion

9) Repetitive Drama/Cartoon Viewing. I once had a friend who, in his attempt to learn Japanese, watched anime…a lot of anime.  In fact, he had so convinced himself that he could learn Japanese simply by listening and absorbing the language that he watched over 100 episodes of Naruto or One Piece before he decided to call it quits.  What was his result?  Very basic listening skills at best, and right next to zero comprehension when it came to grammar and building his own unique sentences.  Though, admittedly, his vocabulary was okay (unfortunately limited to such phrases as found in cartoons, however.) Continue reading

Cómo Tener Una Conversación Privada y en Público

El Mapa de "Los Habitaciónes de Lengua"\

Un idioma es el medio a través del cual nosotros expresamos nuestros esperanzas, opiniones, y emociones.  Cuando queremos decir algo solo tenemos que abrir nuestra boca y construir las palabras y ya estamos hablando. Es un milagro, la habilidad de hablar.  Si, eso es obvio.  Hablando sin barreras con nuestros amigos o familia es un placer que nunca deberiamos olvidar…pero…

Supone que estas con tu familia (TODA tu familia) y ya estas cansado y te quieres ir:  ¿Como le expresarás tus ganas de ir a tu esposo o esposa, madre o padre, sin ser grosero a los otros miebros de tu familia? Si el idioma principal es el Español y todos los miembres de tu familia entienden y hablan Español, que haces? Pues, si expresas tus emociones en Español allí en frente de todos que ya comprenden el Español, todos van a saber que crees que la reunion es fome y que tu estas aburrido.  Tambien hay una opción de hablar con tu esposo o esposa en un lugar privado, pero eso ya no es conviniente ni sutil.  Mas que nada, en mi opinión no hay mejor método de expresar tus emociónes en esta situación que expresarlos en otro idioma.

Imaginar el idioma como un lugar o una habitación y cuando hablamos en ese idioma nos hacemos como habitantes de ese lugar.  Si hablas solamente un idioma tienes solamente un lugar para vivir y expresarte y en ese lugar todos los otros habitates (ellos que como tu pueden hablar ese idioma) pueden entenderte perfectamente.  En ese habitación no hay ningún lugar para esconderse.  Es por decir que cuando tu dices algo en el idioma de esa habitación todos te escuchan y reconocen el idioma como el suyo.  En este habitación donde, por ejemplo, todos entienden Español, es necesario tener discreción cuando hablas para mantener respeto a todos.

¿Entonces, como escapes de este lugar de comprensión total? ¿Existe una habitación donde podemos expresar nuestros opiniones sin preocuparnos sobre las consequencias o mal opinión de nuestra familia?

Si, hay otro lugar, pero llegando aya no es muy facil. Continue reading

¿Que? My Spanish Improved In Japan?

Studying Abroad: Japan
Studying Abroad: Japan

In college I had the most amazing privilege of studying abroad and it was very definitely a life-changing experience.  In fact, I say now to anyone who is in college: “Do not hesitate for a moment to study abroad and do not let a  language barrier deter you from selecting the location you desire to visit most.”  Ultimately though, the purpose of such a trip ought to be language exploration and eventual acquisition.  As for me, the experience was in Japan.  Nagoya, Japan to be a bit more descriptive and it was during my time there, throughout all the lessons, meals with my host family, and interaction with the locals that not only my Japanese took root but–and quite unconsciously–my Spanish did grow.

It makes no sense…at first.

Language is a peculiar thing: Every word counts, rings, roars with its own ferocity and gentle grace; Grammar and how you use it plays a major role in the overall sound and feel of your writing; and finally, pronunciation tunes your ears and mouth into fine instruments of correct communication.

Language learning is a peculiar thing: As you learn one language you are reminded of others.  One word vibrates some chord that you recognize from deep in your language library…but it’s a different language;  grammar in one language builds off of previous grammar…but from a different language; and the words on your tongue dance in magical tunes all to familiar but completely foreign at the same time.

Why? Continue reading

Language Exchange: Mutually Detrimental

Language Exchange

Language Exchange

Around the world and in almost every city there exist now places of gathering for verbal communication in a foreign language: Language Exchange.  In case you have not had the fortune of attending such a gathering (whether it be in Spanish, English, Japanese, German, French, etc.) allow me a minute to introduce to you the setting and the goals that drive these intercultural communication sessions. A language exchange is a gathering of two kinds of people: Those that can not speak the target language and those that can speak the target language–either because they are more advanced or because they are native speakers of the language. The language in question is not a language readily spoken in that area/country and so therefore the goal is simply to give both parties the chance to improve their speaking skill.

How is this improvement made?

Those with little experience are supposed to speak to those with more experience, through which an increase in confidence should help boost their ability to communicate verbally in the target language. Likewise, the more advanced speakers may speak with native speakers of the language who have come to help.  To consider an alternative, the more advanced speakers may benefit by speaking to the lower-level speakers simply by the act of explaining more complex facets of the language to them: Learning through teaching.  Most of the people that I know that have participated in such events have all come out of it with a positive experience, but “having a good time” vs. “learning to speak” are different, are they not? Continue reading

Words: An Inexhaustable Resource

450,000 unique words.  That’s a low estimate of how many words exist in the English language today.  Spanish has something in the order of 200,000 words; Japanese word count (and this could contain archaic, medieval, and modern/contemporary words) is no less than 450,000 words in its arsenal; and if Korean contains just as many words derived from Chinese as Japanese then we should expect Korean to have a similar word count (roughly 400,000) as well.

A few questions come to mind almost immediately after reviewing these numbers.  First, why is it that every language needs literally hundreds of thousands of words in its dictionaries when, on a day-to-day basis, its users will almost never use more than a couple thousand? (maybe no more than 30,000 in their entire lifetime!) Second, if it is necessary to have so many words, why is it that every language in this day and age has about 300,000 words on average?  Why isn’t there a more diverse and varied range of vocabulary?  Last, if one language has more words in its dictionary than another language, does this mean that speakers of that language can express emotions that others can not? Can they think things that speakers of another language can not even fathom?

The First Folio
The First Folio

As you may already know, I am no expert in this field I am only asking the questions and posing my humble answers with high hopes of getting some feedback from you–the reader–and then standing happily corrected.  That being said, let’s address the first question: why is it that every language needs literally hundreds of thousands of words in its dictionaries when, on a day-to-day basis, its users will almost never use more than a couple thousand? If you want to get any idea for what it takes to have the largest vocabulary of anyone in the English language (and to hold that record for hundreds of years) look no further than to the many plays of William Shakespeare.  Within the pages of those (at least) 37 famous plays so eloquently written, are 31,534 unique words.  That means that we are not counting words like “and” or “or” more than once, ever. To go a bit deeper, statisticians have done a bit of research to try to determine the actual amount of words that Shakespeare knew but never used and have concluded that the Elizabethan playwright probably knew somewhere in the ballpark of 66,500 words.  Let me give you a moment to consider the magnitude of that number…66,500 words.

My point?  Simply this: The person with probably the highest vocabulary of anyone before or after him for hundred of years (who single-handedly invented thousands of words) knew no more than 15% of all the words in the English dictionary today.  If that is the case with the most eloquent man on earth, what is the case for the guy next door?  What about you?  What is the point of having so many words when we only need maybe 2% of them to function in society and 15% of them to be considered the most poignant and potent writer that ever graced the face of the earth? Continue reading

Calligraphy: Eastern and Western

Calligraphy: from Greek κάλλος kallos “Beauty” + γραφή graphẽ “Writing”

Caligrafia: Spanish (similar meaning to English version)

Shodo: Japanese しょ、書 sho-Writing, どう,道 do(pronounced doe)-“Way”

Shufu: Chinese 書 “Writing”、法 “Law”・”Rules”

Seoye: Korean 서 「書」Seo “Writing”, 예 「藝」 Ye “Craft/Skill/Technique”

Think of the most beautiful thing you have ever seen. Got it? Good. Now think of one of the most ordinary things on the planet earth: handwriting. Don’t just think about any handwriting though, think of your own. Now superimpose the beauty of the first thing onto your handwriting and what do you end up with? A sunrise. A quiet morning. A rainbow. A smile. What I mean is that you get a writing system that impresses the masses regardless of the content. You don’t need to know who is smiling or over what country the sun is rising to feel joyous. We experience joy simply in knowing that someone is smiling or that the sun is rising. Similarly calligraphy, if it can be separated from its inseparable relationship with the host language, is a language on its own. A universal language that resonates most strongly with art and speaks to the masses much more than the words it makes up.

What is most interesting is the universality of calligraphy. No mater where in the world and no matter what period, there is a system of writing that is considered more beautiful or more correct. For thousands of years the Chinese have developed these rules of correctness into laws governing the writing system. Elsewhere the literate scribes were the sole keepers of language and each had to adhere to strict rules regarding copying. Notably of these are the many glorious and awe-inspiring illuminated texts of the Middle Ages, the work of skilled and dedicated hands. In India too there exist beautiful styles of calligraphic text. Muslim nations will often use calligraphic text for decoration on mosques or tapestries. Around the world and over time beautiful, albeit difficult and painstaking, styles of writing sprang up alongside the development of the society to which they were (and still are) tied.

It is a common denominator, to put it in mathematical terms, that connects all languages. This blog aims to explore ways in which the languages of English, Spanish, Japanese, and Korean are tied together (or split apart) and writing style is one of those ways. On a basic level, these languages have a written form. Check. Within each language though, is there a specific style which is considered most proper or most beautiful? (I realize that the latter term is subjective) To answer this question let’s look very briefly at some possible candidates: Continue reading