Monthly Archives: January 2010

A Multicultural Evening

I went to a braai (South African for ‘barbeque’) tonight with my husband. He teaches English (TOEFL) to foreign students, and the braai was a get-together of students and teachers (and partners, in my case).

It was a very enjoyable evening, and I particularly loved hearing all the different languages. German, Italian, Russian and Korean. The first two of which I have some knowledge of, and can understand bits here and there when I hear them.

And that’s all I will be saying for today. It was wonderful to have my ears filled with foreign sounds.

Firefly: The best show in the ‘verse

I have no idea why the wonderful, fantastic, AWESOME tv-show called Firefly was cancelled, but it was obviously a mistake on the part of the universe. Firefly is a western set in space; it is a fantastic, funny, heart-warming, intriguing story with a great array of characters and I Really Wanted To Know Where It Was Going. But… It. Was not. To be.

What there is of it, though, is definitely worth it. Oh, and check out the movie, Serenity, too! Joss Whedon is the creator of wonderful things. But I gush.

In the Firefly “verse”, future humans are fluent in both English and Chinese. Although, I am sure that Chinese people would tell you that the characters in Firefly are fluent in English and some other language they’ve never heard before. But that is besides the point.

This website provides a translation of the Chinese used in the various episodes, movie and comics. Usually, the Chinese speech was just a way to make it obvious they were swearing, without worrying about being censored. Surprisingly enough though, most of it does not even technically count as swearing in English. They came up with some very interesting insults, then had them translated into Chinese for the actors to say. So you never know that  they are actually telling a person to “engage in a feces hurling contest with a monkey” (Real example!). In fact, it seems they use ‘monkey’ a lot. That’s just part of what makes them so loveable.

So, with this handy website, you too can insult your friends in badly-pronounced Chinese, Firefly style!


I am beginning to struggle with this Nablopomo thing. Today I am not even in the mood for blogging. Heh. But Maliki is worth blogging about.  Maliki is a french webcomic. The art is really good. For the most part, I can’t really tell you what it is about. I don’t understand french (particularly colloquial french) that well. But there are cats. And some odd characters.

I do check it out every now and then and try to read through a comic. But for the most part, I don’t really know what’s going on. But some of the strips, where the joke is more visual, are very enjoyable.

I see the website looks a bit different at the moment, and seems to have some reference to manga. I’m ashamed to say I have no idea what that is about. My only hope is that your french is better than mine and you can appreciate this gorgeous web comic better than I can.

No word on the job yet. If I don’t hear by tomorrow, I think I will begin to lose hope.

Online Newspapers

It is quite common today to be able to get up to date on international news without buying a single newspaper. I am not trying to suggest that anybody buying newspapers should stop doing so. But chances are, you cannot buy much in the way of foreign newspapers anyway.

Reading newspapers in foreign languages really is good practice. The language of the news seldom gets too complex, so while you may have to look up many words, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about weird and wonderful tenses.

You can find online newspapers from anywhere in the world at this site. Just select a country from one of the drop-down boxes and go for it.

Meanwhile, I had a job interview this morning. The job is at a bookstore (heaven). It went pretty well I think. Now I just have to wait and hope they choose me! Please please let them choose me.

Spanish in a Week: Done

Okay, so it took a little more than a week – 8 or 9 days.  During the time I spent on this book, I did not write down any answers to questions, or anything. I made only a short note on verb conjugations. Apart from that, my use of the book consisted of reading (mostly aloud), and attempts to memorise vocab lists. This did not go terribly well. I think I work better when I sit down at a table and go through a lesson systematically. Which is what I will be doing next (more on that further below).

That being said, I still think that any exposure is better than no exposure, and on that principle I think I learned a bit from the Spanish in a Week book. I probably recognise the most common verbs, many nouns, and have a beginner grasp on sentence structure. To gain maximum benefit from this book, one should spend more time on it than I did, perhaps breaking each ‘day’ up into sections to be tackled at different times of the day. Also, I’m sure it would help if you have a partner to practise with.

Another thing – pronunciation. When you learn from a book it’s sometimes hard to know if you a saying things correctly.  I will be using audio files from FSI from time to time to get an feel for pronunciation.

And now: where to next? I have borrowed another book from the library called Practice in Spanish Grammar. I have done  a bit of it today already. Small sections at a time. This will be my project for the next month or so  – Spanish Grammar, and I will also continue with Italian, using my course books from the Italian class I was attending and Teach Yourself Italian Extra. I do love the Teach Yourself series. I read through Teach Yourself Linguistics a while ago and found it very interesting and helpful.

Just a point on libraries – your best source of free materials on language learning! I like to download free resources, because I can keep them, but there’s nothing like holding a book in your hands. You can take it anywhere and you don’t have to wait for it to switch on before you can use it! If given a choice, I always prefer to use a book.

A brief rant on Taglines.

I’ve really begun to get annoyed by some of the taglines on movie posters. Especially those that follow the formula ‘Every blank has a blank’.  This is a very sweeping, and all-encompassing statement. The poster that inspired this particular rant is for “Brothers”, though it is far from being the first in the line of ridiculous, non-sensical taglines. The offending line is “There are two sides to every family”, a barely veiled ‘every blank has a blank’.

I mean really? There are two sides to every family? Are there? Yes, family dynamics can often be quite complex. But I’m fairly certain that there are not two sides to every family. Perhaps this is just a way of making it seem like every person must be able to relate to this film, by convincing us that every family is the same. Well, the story looks good and I might watch it, but not because I think it is in anyway like my life.

I think this kind of thing began to bug me when one of those big fantasy stories (Star Wars New Trilogy I think) bore a tagline to the effect of “Every saga has a beginning”. Oh really? Well that’s news to me. What an epiphany. Yes, it is a prequel to an older story. And I think every Star Wars fan already knew that. If you don’t need the tagline, perhaps it would be better to leave it out altogether. Or at least come up with something a little more interesting.

You may be wondering how this relates to languages. Well, taglines are made up of words. And language is made up of words. Heh. Anyway, I did say my other interests may intrude upon this blog.

As to the Spanish in a Week, I gave myself another break yesterday. I am now on the final day of the week. I began to look through it earlier today, before going to the movies, and will continue later today. After that, I will need to revise the entire book, making notes on the grammar, and trying to memorise some word lists. Then, I have another book on Spanish Grammar that I intend to start. And once I start that I will continue with Italian again simultaneously.

I hear there is a challenge on the UniLang forum. I think I will have to go check it out.

The Japanese Page

Just a short (or shorter than usual) post today. Today’s resource is The Japanese Page. This is a community website for people learning Japanese. There is a variety of lessons, cultural information, and of course the community.

I started teaching myself Japanese a while back, but then I stopped after a while. I’m not sure why, I was probably too busy. Of course, I generally practise my language knowledge by reading, and Japanese is difficult to read if you don’t know the Kanji. They have a syllabic alphabet writing system consisting of about 50 characters (if I remember correctly) – actually there are two versions of this same set of syllables, which basically just doubles the number of characters you have to learn, but they use the different versions for different purposes.

Then there is the Kanji, which is the same as the chinese characters – each of them has a specific meaning and there are thousands of them. Unfortunately, Japanese combines the two systems of writing. The Kanji character is used for the root of a word, and modifiers are added in Kana (the syllabic system).

I am speaking from my limited knowledge, but I do know that even in manga you will come across plenty of Kanji. If you are going to tackle the Kanji, good on you! Ganbatte! In fact, they have downloads of lists of Kanji by level based on the standard testing system – as far as I know ‘level 4’ is where you start and ‘level 1’ is the top.

The Japanese Page is not a structured system of lessons; as I said, it is community based, so I would use it as an additional resource to a structured course. As such, it seems very interesting and useful.