Character Amnesia

It seems that technology may be creating as many problems as it solves.  In this case, the problem created is being called “character amnesia.”  That is, Chinese and Japanese youth, online for much of their lives, are forgetting how to write many of the characters used in their languages.

Despite the recent news, this is definitely not a new phenomenon.  As far back as the 1980’s, I was already hearing of Japanese forgetting how to write kanji due to the increasing ubiquity of ワプロ or word processors.  While the ワプロ of the 80’s may have gone out of style, the use of keyboards as character input devices, be they on laptops or smart phones, seems to have contributed to a loss of ability in writing characters by hand.  I, myself, certainly lost much of my ability to hand-write Japanese as I got more into typing the language on keyboards.

According to an article on breitbart.com, there is even a Chinese phrase to describe the phenomenon: 提笔忘字 [tibiwangzi], or “take pen, forget character.”

In another article on cnet.com, Chris Matyszczyk opines, “This amnesia might seem like a problem only for character-based languages, but I wonder whether they’re the only victims. Surely you, too, have seen, say, the English language increasingly tortured by the uncertain hands of those who spend far too long touching keys rather than pens, books, or other humans.”

This has certainly been a concern of mine for a while now.  While I can still read and type Japanese with no problem, remembering how to write kanji by hand is a real problem.  What are your thoughts?

Computer Linguist

Computers to translate world’s ‘lost’ languages after program deciphers ancient text

Scientists have used a computer program to decipher a written language that is more than three thousand years old.  The program automatically translated the ancient written language of Ugaritic within just a few hours.  Scientists hope the breakthrough could help them decipher the few ancient languages that they have been unable to translate so far.

Ugaritic was last used around 1200 B.C. in western Syria and consists of dots on clay tablets. It was first discovered in 1920 but was not deciphered until 1932.  Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology told the program that the language was related to another known language, in this case Hebrew.

Read more here and here.

The Last Airbender

Certain fans of the original cartoon “Avatar: The Last Airbender” may be disappointed when they see the movie adaptation.  Since you’re reading a language-related site, you probably already know where this is going.

If you’ve watched the cartoon, you know that Chinese characters were used throughout to give the show both a sense of identity and connection to our own world in the form of Asian languages and cultures.  As you can see, even the title is rendered in Chinese as  降世神通, which means “Avatar” (lit: “divine medium who has descended upon the mortal world”).

For some reason, though, the makers of the movie version have opted to take out all of the Chinese (save for a brief reference to “qi” and “yin and yang”) and have instead decided to use nonsensical Asianesque characters.

Why this decision was made is unfathomable.  In doing so, they basically destroyed all of the linguistic and cultural links that were established in the cartoon series.  This is not something they can just undo in the sequel that is sure to come.

Dr. S. L. Lee, calligrapher for the cartoon series, is certainly not pleased.

Backpfeifengesicht

I’ve decided to share interesting (to me) foreign words for which there are no real concise equivalents in English.  I’m doing this mostly for my own entertainment, but if you know of an interesting or amusing word in another language, and think the rest of us should know it too, please don’t hesitate to contact me. For Japanese words, please see my nihongo à gogo site.

And now, on with the show:

Backpfeifengesichta face that begs to be smacked

Hello, World!

今日は、世界!

マイケル・ハッカーと申します。多言語を通じる人です。主に英語、仏語、露語、と日本語が出来ます。独語も西語も勉強中ですし。以前身につけた外国語のお陰で、アラゴネス語、白ロシア語、ブルガリア語、中国語、チェコ語、エスペラント語、イタリア語、韓国語、マケドニア語、ルーマニア語、ポーランド語、スコットランド語、スロバキア語、セルビア語、スペイン語、ウクライナ語など、20カ国語ほど少しでも読み取ることが出来ます。

Привет, Мир!

Меня зовут Миша Хакэр.  Я полиглот.  Мои основные Языки являются Английским, Французким, Русским, и Японским. Теперь изучаю Немецкий и Испанский языка. Я тоже могу понимать чуть-чуть на около 20 языков. Например: Арагонский, Белорусский, Болгарский, Китайский, Чешский, Эсперанто, Итальянский, Корейский, Македонский, Румынский, Польский, Шотландский, Словацкий, Сербском, Испанском, и Украинском.

Bonjour, Tout le Monde!

Je m’apelle Michel Hacker. Je suis un polyglotte. Mes langues principales sont Anglais, Français, Russe et Japonais. Je suis également en train d’étudier l’Allemand et l’Espagnol. En raison des langues que j’ai apprises antérieurement, j’ai aussi constaté que je peux lire des morceaux de moins de 20 langues différentes. Pour exemples: l’Aragonés, le Biélorusse, Bulgare, Chinois, Tchèque, Espéranto, Italien, Coréen, Macédonien, Roumain, Polonais, Écossais, Slovensk, Serbe, Espagnol et Ukrainien.

Hello, World!

My name is Michael Hacker. I am a polyglot. My main languages are English, French, Russian, and Japanese. I am also currently studying German and Spanish. Because of the languages I have previously learned, I have also found that I can read bits of as many as 20 different languages. For examples: Aragonés, Belorussian, Bulgarian, Chinese, Czech, Esperanto, Italian, Korean, Macedonian, Romanian, Polish, Scots, Slovensk, Serb, Spanish, and Ukranian