Monday, April 24, 2006

Banning Keigo

The Los Angeles Times features an interesting obituary for a man named Otis Cary who was a Navy translator during World War II. He served with Donald Keene. Cary supposedly could get POWs to "convert" and assist the occupation:
Cary's deep understanding of the Japanese enabled him to help the POWs overcome their shame at having been captured and their fears of returning home in disgrace. He encouraged them to see themselves as patriots, who had given their all to their country and who now had a duty to support its reconstruction.
After the war, he worked for Doshisha University in Kyoto, helping to start a graduate program in American Studies and running a dormitory called Amherst House:
For 32 years, he was director of Amherst House, a dormitory where he encouraged Japanese students to dispense with customs that he considered obstacles to modernization.

One of his targets was honorific speech, which mandates different degrees of politeness depending on a person's social rank. To put students on an equal footing, Cary just gave them nicknames.
I wonder what sort of psychological effect it would have for Japanese to have to use plain speech with everyone in their dorm. Would they really start to see themselves as equals?

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Bilingual Counseling

Back when I used to teach English in Taiwan, some fellow teachers and I would jokingly refer to some of our private classes as "therapy cases"--some people would just take English classes to have someone to talk to and take advantage of the dissociative effects of speaking a foreign language.

The Asahi Shimbun has a story on an actual therapist, a gaijin names Andrew Grimes, who offers counseling in English and Japanese.
Grimes is intrigued by language. For some of his Japanese patients, English offers something of a reprieve, an easier way of talking about their problems. "There is a belief in some people's hearts and minds that perhaps speaking in English, one is able to express one's individual, personal feelings more freely," he says, offering examples of patients who have endured abuse in one language and feel more at ease talking about it in another.
The article says he also counsels international couples. I can see how it would be beneficial to have someone who'd get the nuances of both languages.

For the Japanophile Who Has Everything....

The perfect gift, bamboo headphones:
They are beautiful, and each pair is unique.

But buyer beware: you cannot crack a safe while using them, they cannot be used to amplify internal voices, and they may prevent ninja from climbing walls. Don't say they never told you so--it's all right there on the vendor's page.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

More Proof...

If you need any convincing of the ever-growing culture gap between Taiwan and China, you need look no further than this New York Times headline:

China Tries Wooing Taiwan by Honoring First Emperor

I wish I could say I made that up, but it's true.

The ceremony was a lavish display calculated to woo the Taiwanese public and instill national pride across China. Leaders from the National People's Congress, China's rubber-stamp Parliament, and top executives from state-controlled Chinese industries, joined a senior Taiwanese opposition lawmaker and 700 Taiwanese businesspeople in paying their respects to Huang Di, China's semi-mythical first emperor, who is said to have lived 5,000 years ago.

...The event was the latest and most unusual in a series of Chinese initiatives to lessen popular resistance in Taiwan toward an eventual political unification with the mainland.

What on earth are they thinking?!? That's not going to "win over" anyone who wasn't a Great China-ist to begin with. This is what happens when you start believing your own propaganda.

Oddly enough, the NYT version of the article doesn't name the "opposition lawmaker," but it is in the International Herald Times version: "Chin Ching-sheng, the secretary general of the People First Party."

Monday, April 03, 2006

Gold Frappe Grande?

I thought it was funny that the name of band Goldfrapp (which comes from the singer's surname) was translated into Chinese as if it were "gold frappe" ("frappe" as in the icy coffee drink), but apparently it isn't just the Taiwanese record company who got the name wrong. Recently quite a few people have arrived at this page after searching Google for "Gold Frappe," and these searches are not originating in Taiwan.

Goldfrapp's latest CD is Supernature.