Ubuntu – /ʊbu:ntʊ/ – “I am what I am because of who we all are” (Leymah Gbowee).
Before the computer nerds in the audience start getting all excited, I’m not talking about the Linux Operating System.
The word ubuntu is an ethical philosophy which comes from a Bantu language of Africa, possibly Zulu (“umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu” – a person is only a person through relationships with others).
Archbishop Desmond Tutu further explained, “One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu – the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can’t exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can’t be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality – Ubuntu – you are known for your generosity.
We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole world. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.”
Pesematology – /pɛsəmətɒlədʒi/ – the science of falling
Believe it or not, there is actually a field of science called “feline pesematology,” which studies falling cats.
Dubbing is defined by Merriam-Webster as:
- to add (sound effects or new dialogue) to a film or to a radio or television production
- to provide (a motion-picture film) with a new sound track and especially dialogue in a different language
When bringing a foreign-language TV show or movie into the United States, the tendency here is to dub it into English. When bringing a foreign-language TV show or movie into Japan, the tendency is to leave the original language in place, but superimpose subtitles.
I generally find the latter to be far superior for two reasons:
- Dubbed voices rarely match the visual and are often comically distracting (see any Kung Fu movie).
- The original language is lost.
The latter is my big peeve. I actually want to be exposed to other cultures and languages. Perhaps I’m in the minority, but I find it pleasing to listen to other languages, even if I don’t understand them.
In the case of a feature-length movie, I will admit that perhaps resorting to dubbing results in a less-taxing experience for the average non-linguist-geek viewer. But in the case of shows like G4TV’s “Ninja Warrior,” I find the dubbing to be absolutely horrible and very distracting. Not only are the translations not always correct (or even close), the announcer makes a hobby out completely mispronouncing people’s names, despite the immediately-preceding original audio giving a perfect example of proper pronunciation. It grates like a spork on a chalkboard to me.
As I write this, I’m watching a program on NHK (basically a Japanese version of the channel PBS in the U.S.) featuring someone taking a “walk” through a French town, “meeting” the locals, and “talking” about whatever happens to be going on. The narrator (who is never seen) asks questions in Japanese, the answers coming in French with Japanese subtitles (in most cases). I find this not only more aurally pleasant, but also a great opportunity to work on both my French and Japanese.
Another phenomenon I often see in Asian TV broadcasts is the use of subtitles (in the native language) to support what is being said on screen. In the case of Japan and Korea, it seems that it is often done in comedy/variety shows to emphasize what is “supposed” to be funny. In Chinese programs, however, it seems to be done to overcome the vast differences in dialects, providing the viewer with a standardized written base so that they can understand what is going on, even if they don’t understand the dialect being spoken. I do not speak Chinese, so this is purely speculative and based solely on observation and conversations with Chinese friends.
Are Americans really so adverse to the sound of foreign languages? Why? How could we benefit linguistically and socially from subtitled foreign languages vs. dubbing? How could using more subtitles and less dubbing help linguistically draw Americans into the rest of the world?
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?
Welcome to week #2 of grad school! Er… rather… week 1. Sorta. School started last week on a Thursday, making this the first full week of classes. It’s also the first time I’ll meet my remaining teachers, both of whom I’ve been wanting to meet for quite a while.
I’m not used to having multiple classes to juggle. In fact, I haven’t done that since high school (see: the 1980s). Military: one class at a time. Undergrad: one class at a time. It’s going to take a bit of trial and error to figure out a study schedule to maximize time and minimize confusion and repetition.
Mondays are my “long day” (i.e. 2 classes, spanning from 2pm to 7:30pm). Additionally, this is the first time I have a class in a building I’ve never even been to (which happens to be on the opposite side of campus), so I’ll be leaving a bit earlier than normal to make sure I find it.
I have nothing specific to report on yet, but will likely make some comments after classes today. Also, fear not… every post will not be titled “Week ##.” This is just a filler for now until I have more substantive thoughts to upon which pontificate.
So, I survived the first week of graduate school. That is to say, I survived a single 1-hour class.
Strangely (?), ASU decided to start classes up on a Thursday. Considering I have only one class on Thursdays (LIN 520) and nothing schedule for Fridays, I had a rather light week. Next week will likely be decisively heavier, as I’m in class Mon-Thurs.
The only thought I have so far is that I’m rather enjoying being back in an academic environment, this time with a bunch of other passionate language nerds instead of a bunch of tech nerds. Although I do have a different background and experiences than many of my classmates, the same holds true for them. We each know languages and other things that the others don’t know. I can see learning a lot from everyone.
I truly do get to be the dumbest guy in the room. Cool.
Emo Philips - master of paraprosdokian
Paraprosdokian - (from Greek: “para” meaning “beyond” and “prosdokian” meaning “expectation”) a figure of speech, often utilized in humor, in which a sentence or phrase ends in an unexpected in a way, causing one to reinterpret the first part. I’m quite fond of using these, myself.
Here are some well-known examples:
- “Take my wife, please.” — Henny Youngman
- “Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” — Groucho Marx
- “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the precipitate.” — Henry J. Tillman
- “I like going to the park and watching the children run and jump around, because you see, they don’t know I’m using blanks.” — Emo Philips
- “I went to a restaurant that serves ‘breakfast at any time.’ So I ordered French Toast during the Renaissance. — Steven Wright
- “I used to do drugs. I still do, but I used to, too.” — Mitch Hedberg
- “I belong to no organized party. I am a Democrat.” — Will Rogers
- “If I am reading this graph correctly, I would be very surprised.” — Stephen Colbert
- “If I could say a few words, I would be a better public speaker.” — Homer Simpson
- “It’s too bad that whole families have to be torn apart by something as simple as wild dogs.” — Jack Handey
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.
Sara Duane of the True to Words blog wrote a cool post on a possible linguistic missing link that may serve to rewrite our understanding of early Native North American Indians.
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.
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