Reposted my answer on Quora to the question “Is it practical to learn to speak Japanese without writing it?”


It is certainly more practical to learn speech without writing in Japanese than it is in, say, Latin or ancient Greek. It’s a bit of an onus getting anyone to chat to you in Latin these days as in vocal chatting using the mouth rather than a keyboard, whereas writing is a breeze as they’ve got the American alphabet. If you can say it, you can write it.

Japanese can be written in Romaji (literally “Roman letters” but of course they mean American ones, really). For Russians there is also a version of Rosjiaji which is commonly seen in sushi restaurant signs and menues in Moscow. You get the Japanese in cyrillics but they write “si” for “shi” and “va” for “wa”, which is a bit annoying. There are much more annoying things than that in Moscow, though. Just try and buy a burial plot and you’ll know what I mean. For Hebrew letter transliteration, they even have Jumanji, named in honour of the comedian Robin Williams.

So a good idea is to take Japanese in four or five stages, firstly do a bit with audio only using like a Pimsleur course and then do the grammar all through one time just with transliterated writing in your own alphabet. Then the second pass is to do that whole thing over once again but with the Japanese writing hiragana instead of Roumaji, Jumanji, etc, and then the third is to introduce katakana where it is appropriate. The final stage is to bring in the actually Kanji – so-called because you need a real can-do mentality to get through them. These are the Chinese symbols which refer to whole words but unlike in Chinese they may have one, two, or multiple readings or even be part of special “ateji” constructions (so-called because you probably won’t believe this) where the usual readings have nothing to do with how it gets pronounced in one particular special combination with another symbol.

Even speaking Japanese and using Romaji only is not exactly a keiki-wouku – you have plenty of complexity such as the fact that men and women use different words and different syntax, there are potentative verbs, verbal pairs for transitive and intransitives and the forms are not generally predictable or even memorable, there are benefactive verbs that describe the direction of benefit that practically need to be paraphrased when translated into other languages, and there is Keigo, or polite language, which is made up of using verbs and nouns which elevate the other person and his or her circle which being humble about one’s own uchi set, ie. one’s person, one’s own belongings and one’s family or team. You can of course learn Japanese at a level where the nuances of polite language are ignored and you just use -masu forms to everyone, but in certain company that is just going to make you sound like a fairy.

Given that real mastery of Japanese even at a spoken level only is such a tricky business, one may as well do the extra work and not go to the trouble of learning a challenging language but still looking like a functional illiterate. There is more fascination in the Kanji, which have a long history often better prerved in the Japanese forms than in the revised forms used in China today. Learning the Kanji gives you a unique jump off point into learning one or more of the Chinese languages.

Private Aye-aye style?


 Ksukol ocasatý (Daubentonia madagascariensis)salmond_3031151b

 

One of them is a primitive primate from a little visited location which brandishes an extended third finger to the world, as it peers out of bulbous yellow eyes and the other is the Aye aye. So are Daubentonia madagascariensis and the leader of the Scottish Nationalists in any way related? I think we should be told.

Poll – How did you vote in 1975?


Regular readers of this blog will, I hope, excuse me for canvassing the opinions of people over the age of 59 and just from the UK, but this is a little piece of research just to guage an idea I had. I will not say what the idea is now but I will later, I just don’t want to colour the results. Please share this with as many people 59 or over from the UK as you can.

Thanks for taking part with an honest answer and please let as many people who had the chance to vote in that Referendum know, then the results will be meaningful.

As far as I know there is no way for your answer to be identified with you unless you comment, which you are welcome as always to do. Certainly I can’t do it, so please answer with confidence.

The difference between tense and aspect, in a nutshell.


This morning I received a question about how the present perfect tense works in English:

Is the following sentence correct in terms of grammar ‘Yet ongoing political stabilization has been beneficial for further political and legal development of the country’? I am a little bit embarrassed by the use of present perfect tense for the event which has not been completed yet but is progressing, so it is impossible so far to predict for sure an outcome of it.

Here is my reply.

The “has been” refers not to the state of completion of the stabilization, nor even that the benefits are already palpable and therefore contain some complete benefits. The use of this tense is predicated by the fact that we are still in the time period the writer has in mind. It does not really equate to perfective aspect, but to cut-off or periodization of times.

This is the difference between tense and aspect, in a nutshell.
Read the rest of this entry

The best way to achieve transparency


Now that the World Cup has kicked off in Brazil, football is in the air all over the world, and with it, our minds are distracted from the hum-drum routine of ordinary life into the never-failing topic of corruption.

Once again there is investigation into corruption and even money laundering in football in various parts of the world. Today someone commented that football is the fifth largest channel of illegal money in the world. I do not know how they know that or where that ranking is made or how it was made, but it certainly seems to underline the conception that sport is not always healthy, also underlined this week by comedy icon Rik Mayall collapsing and dying of a heart attack after a run. I thought people ran to avoid heart attacks, not bring them on? And here he is, only six years my senior and, unlike me, in perfectly reasonable shape. I think I shall stick to walking.

Yesterday Polish media announced an investigation into the finances of former President Kwasniewski – apparently he also seems to be “considerably richer than yow” as either Shakespeare or Harry Enfield put it, I can’t remember which – they would like to know whence the abundance that hath become his portion is come.

This made me think that there should be an investigation made not only at the close of a person who holds public office but also at the beginning – an audit of their personal wealth and that of their families. Doing one at the beginning tells people to mind their Ps and Qs while serving the people on public money. This also avoids the chance that they can say that they had these investments all along.

There should be a standard work programme approved by the public affairs committee and the national chamber of auditors, or chambers where as in the UK there is more than one. The statement of personal wealth should be drawn up and signed off by the auditor stating what kinds of investigations they made in order to produce this statement and if anything in the list of procedures was not possible to do then their report should state so and give the reasons. The work would be carried out by people who have audit licences who have been screened for political neutrality, and the choice of Firm should be agreed by the public affairs committee.

The report should be held by a politically independent committee and compared to the one made after the person comes to the end of his or her office and then again 5 years later. Accumulations of wealth should be reconciled to declared sources.

All bank accounts of these public figures should be declared and unusually large expenditures or outgoing gifts should also be investigated as well as the ‘as at’ financial position. It should be an offence for a person who falls under the law to own a bank account anywhere in the world which is not declared to the auditor.

This should apply first to the heads of state. Royalty who did not choose to have their role and simply are born into it should be exempt, although they might opt in voluntarily in some countries. After the heads of state then through the cabinet, all MPs, all senior civil servants, judges, and members of committees and panels whose work determines the expenditure of public monies. Including the panels of bit sporting events who determine who is going to host football or other sporting tournaments and how the money that pours into them is going to be spent.

If this became law around the world in all the different jurisdictions that there are, we might finally get to a situation where decisions are in the hands of people who are basically honest or at least have no motivation to give vent to their dishonest tendencies.

Enjoy the games.

 

 

 

 

Planned Childhood


This came to me on the plane the other day. It is not really a sonnet as they are supposed to be iambic pentameter, and this is iambic quadrameter, but a verse is a verse for better or worse. See if you like it.

 

To sing a new song to the Lord

And yet include there no strange fire

To take up psaltery and lyre

And sing according to His Word

 

How can the song be new, and yet

Stay in the range that God commands?

Right ways to praise and worship’s bounds,

These God within His Word has set.

 

The Gospel is the song that’s new

New from the cross and empty tomb

This song is new yet ancient too

Planned ere a child had breached a womb.

 

We are the children planned to be

God’s own, a people He set free.

 

Oh yes you were!

Oh yes you were!

The promised activation article…


Today since I finally have half an hour of free time in peace and quiet, I would like to come back to the very good question posed by Fintan (I won’t say his surname as that would identify him, I’ll leave you guessing which Fintan it is) several weeks ago already (sorry about that), and in particular the second part of his question where he raises the issue of activation and asks what I think about things like “full circle method” by Luca Lampariello.

The first thing I want to say, is far be it from me to detract from what any accomplished polyglot, be that Signor Lampariello (who is a capital fellow on top of being a great polyglot) or any other of the well-known polyglots who do follow some form of activation. I make the assumption that these people know what they’re doing, and that they do what they enjoy and what works for them.

If continually activating during the process of language learning is something that keeps you motivated in which you enjoy doing, then it’s valuable. Anything which keeps you going in the marathon of learning languages, is your friend. Anything which you find demotivating which detracts from the pleasure of doing it, is not your friend.

And in the above I said the most important thing that needed to be said. Having said that, I will now go on to explain the core of my own approach and philosophy with regard to the question of activating language knowledge in the whole course of study. Read the rest of this entry

Is it time for the Roman Catholic Church to repeal the celibacy vow imposed on those who would serve?


While there were traditions of celibacy even from early times in order to embolden ministers of the Gospel in times of tribulation, the requirement for celibacy is from the twelfth century. Churches whose schism with Rome predate that do allow marriage of elders and deacons (the only terms for Church officers which I can justify biblically, since these are the only ones which are defined in the Epistles). The Bible itself requires that a “bishop” (from episkopos or overseer, a synonym with elder or presbyter) must the the husband of one wife and haven proven parenting skills. The new Testament also clearly defines the forbidding of marriage as “a Doctrine of Demons”. So we know where it comes from. The mechanism by which it appeared sensible in the Middle Ages was purely carnal – the coffers of the church were depleting through a widespread disinterestedness in faith in Europe, and money was not available to provide for the widows and orphans of ministers. Aware of the verse that says (1 Tim 5 v 8) “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house he hath denied the faith and is worse than an infidel” they simply cynically made sure that such claimants would not exist.

This was not the action of spirit-filled Church leaders but of carnal eccesiastical politicians whose effect has always been hard to combat in the Roman Church because of their interpretations of Apostolic succession and Church governance and from where, in the life of a Church, authority derives. These were the key issues of the Reformation which at the time led to bloodshed as they were politically charged. These days and for the last 200 years Catholics and Protestants have been able to discuss these issues in a civilised way, often a way of great love and respect, and still we have differing views. I am ready to say that most protestants are wrong on something – there are so many strands of thought in Protestantism that of course we are all wrong on something probably many things, hopefully mainly secondary things but are right in having a personal relationship with God based on faith in Jesus – but the chances that only one denomination has got the whole of theology right – how high are they? Catholics also therefore need to be able to question where they derive authority.

This celibacy doctrine, which began so unworthily, underscores so many of the sexual scandals and crimes of people who have been ministers in the Roman Catholic church since the twelfth century, right up to today. of course if someone does not have a normal sexual relationship which is considered not sinful they will be at a higher risk of temptation to have a sinful one. It is hard enough, Lord knows, even for those of us who are lawfully married. It is all very well for Brother Francis to apologise for the sexual crimes of church ministers and say that he takes responsibility, but unless something is then done by him to correct it, it will doubtless seem to many to be an empty and bogus acceptance of responsibility.

If on the other hand Brother Francis has the will and ability to right this wrong, this denial of basic human rights to his colleagues in a way Christ never commanded and which indeed is in flagrant disobedience to Apostolic Revelation, then many Christians, Roman or non-Roman, will respect him and it will be a huge step towards enabling more Christian union around the feet of our Saviour

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