‘Descente’

To follow up on my recent thoughts on the word ‘Chiaroscuro’, I thought to bring up a word that English seems to lack. Namely, the French ‘descente’: the original word can be used in the way that I am familiar with it, and Finno-Ugric (Estonian certainly and probably Finnish as well), Baltic (Latvian and Lithuanian), and Slavic (Russian, Ukrainian, Polish, Serbian to name a few) languages use a localised version of this ‘descente’ to signify what is known in English as a ‘landing operation’/’invasion’.

My problem with this? It’s not really the level of a problem, but more the question of elegance and conveyed meaning: namely, I find the ‘descente’-tree words far more elegant and stylish to describe a complex military operation than the constructed ‘landing operation’ or ‘invasion’ which is highly unspecific in what it looks like and what it does.

Indeed, what I find is that ‘landing operation’ is not entirely accurate because an actual landing operation would be far more than the landing — the logistics and naval/aerial forces involved play a huge part. This word-pair seems to suggest that we’re talking of a simple arrival at some undetermined location.

‘Invasion’ is nondescript in whether we’re using the sea or land: land invasion could hardly be considered a ‘landing’. Likewise, there is little to no chance of someone trying to say ‘an aerial invasion’. ‘Naval invasion’ works rather well but I would shy away from using invasion unless we had a proportionally relevant number of soldiers included. There is also the difference in goals: invasion is meant to occupy territory while it would sound a bit odd in some other contexts.

‘Descente’, on the other hand, also contains the auxiliary forces concerned in making the landing happen — be they planes or ships. It is specific to planes and ships — in other words objects one could ‘descend’ from, and there’s no information conveyed about the objective of the event. In other words, the French word sums up the complex situation in a simpler way.

What’s not to be liked?

On Swearing

I saw a few days ago that an acquaintance on Facebook posted a picture which went by the effect that “Science shows that people who swear are most honest in their daily lives”. I offered no comment then, but in my mind a rather prominent question-mark appeared. So, I thought of this…

As a general note on the background, I have to add that this same person does use swearwords as part of his everyday vocabulary, both online and in-person as far as I know. I, on the other hand, rarely do so — I indeed remember a particular instant last week when I did use an expletive with the explicit goal of trying to emphasize my point to the other person, which I believe worked at that time for her first reaction was: “I don’t think I’ve heard you swear before.”

Now, however, to get back on topic: I am very adamantly of the opinion that any use of an expletive in a conversation between two people only serves to dumb the discussion down, and is of no use in building intelligent constructive arguments. That, along with the fact that anything can be very well said without swearing, is the main point that I stick to as much as possible (singular cases like the one I brought out before excluded).

That is also the same critique I apply to most items I read and hear: if they have needed to use expletives to define their own point of view, then clearly something is wrong. Either their statement was too weak in their opinion without swearing or they just feel as if they need to add to it to make it stronger. And that “addition” by default makes me regard the entire point as less, not more.

I would indeed state that I have yet to see a sentence which has improved in its overall value by making it more profane — it is, in short, for me the (first and foremost) sign of an uncultured mind.

De-tail

Oh the wonders of accents. There’s “detail” and there is also… “de-tail”.

Or, at least, that is how it sounds to me. First I heard it a few weeks ago in an American film designed to introduce oceanography to people, but since then I’ve noticed it in so many different places that it is scary. Especially scary since it does sound as if they say that were “de-tailing” *something*…

This is, I actually believe, the first time that an accent manages to confuse me so much.

Confuse? Yes, because every time I hear it said like that, my mind asks: “Why don’t you like that tail?”

Languages: Japanese, Part IV

 A few calculated days later so that I could make my post on a overdue time that’s not too long when I get back to the UK in April. 

Previous "time-interval" goals: 

  • カタカナ reading improvement : Yes.
  • ひらがな reading improvement : Yes.
  • one Cpt. per week from Heisig’s book on 漢字 (this means, Cpt’s 4, 5, 6 and 7) : Yes.
  • reading through that story which began so promisingly with "こんな夢を見た。" [Author: Natsume Soseki, Title: The First Night] : First two paragraphs.
  • listening to that same thing a few times over : A few, quite literally.
  • more music : Yes.

I can’t say I did too well, but it’s something. Demands too much concentration and I’ve started to use my other languages more for some odd reason (:P) so effort has been rather divided. 

In any case, excuses are mere excuses (still useful). 

Next "time-interval":

  • Read [Author: Natsume Soseki, Title: The First Night]
  • Listen [Author: Natsume Soseki, Title: The First Night]
  • Re-check some chapters in that good book which I’ve temporarily lost sight of (grammar and usage)
  • More music//New artists

And let us continue!

Languages: Japanese, Part III

Continuing from where I left off last month. 

So, this is what I set out to do:

  • improving usage of katakana //very limited success//
  • familiarizing myself with hiragana //rather well done, though not as well as I’d have hoped for//
  • learning at least one word-list per week, preferably two //done as part of another bit of reading/studying//
  • processing one chapter of Heisig’s masterpiece on kanji a week as a minimum //done for weeks 2, 3 and 4. missed one, but today’s not over yet, so it’s a so-so thing//
  • listening to more Japanese-language music (== less Capsule 🙁 ) //mmm, should be done//
  • finding at least one audiobook to listen to even though I’ll understand very little at first//found several audiobooks, and listened to them a few times as well//

こんな夢を見た。
That’s basically the beginning of that one story I’ve concentrated on most. A direct translation would be along the lines of "I saw such/this [kind that I am about to tell you of] a dream." I liked it very much, for rather obvious reasons (beginning a story for such a sentence being one of them). 

Besides that, I’ve managed to start making some rather interesting connection. They are quite useless right now, but they are interesting to me in principle.

Also, I’ve taken notice that when I concentrate well enough, my level of (unfortunately, written) Japanese is on par with my French skills. This does mean that my French has fallen to an awful low level, but also that given enough time (very much time) and a dictionary and a grammar book, I can write some rather sensible things (with less mistakes in the Japanese version due to the French employing a rather non-comprehensible /for me/ way with prepositions). That being said, my written Russian is likely to be even worse, though I’ve not put that claim to the test. Spoken being a completely different tune, I’m still rather sure in myself if I’d line my spoken skills right now as follows:

Estonian > English > Russian = Japanese = French
 
Which really isn’t saying much, but I still found it interesting. 

In any case, for the next month… something has to be set down in writing:

  • カタカナ reading improvement
  • ひらがな reading improvement
  • one Cpt. per week from Heisig’s book on 漢字 (this means, Cpt’s 4, 5, 6 and 7)
  • reading through that story which began so promisingly with "こんな夢を見た。" [Author: Natsume Soseki, Title: The First Night]
  • listening to that same thing a few times over
  • more music

     

That should sum it up rather well. 

Languages: Japanese, Part II

 
I just drank a glass of sparkling (mmmm, 🙂 ) since this place managed to
destroy the post I had written. 🙁 (sparkling was :)) though).

I’ll try
to write the majority.

The goals I set for myself the last time:

  • Enabling the writing systems (hiragana, katakana) on my computer
  • Learning the katakana
  • Listen regularly to Japanese music //which is not difficult at
    all since I’m doing it quite a bit right now due to the fact that my usual stuff
    has quite bored me, 😛 //
  • Memorizing & understanding certain
    word-lists

Done. All of them. There’s a catch though. 🙂 I
learned the katakana, but I can remember only about half of them right now.
A bit understandable since they seem to be less necessary than katakana if I’m
learning Japanese (and not the other way round). I’ve also enabled the writing
systems on my computer through the use of another word processor which allows me
to: にほんごがかきます。 カタカナカキマス。
 ==> I can write in hiragana, katakana (and
kanji), but I need to copy it to any other page where I may need to use it.

Also, about music: listened to it quite a bit (actually Japanese bands
and Koit Toome sums my last month in music up pretty well, 😉 ) however quite a
bit of my listening is made up of Capsule — and a decent amount of it is in
English (very good though!!!).

So, some goals for the next month as
well, I believe.

  • improving usage of katakana
  • familiarizing myself with hiragana
  • learning at least one word-list per week, preferably two
  • processing one chapter of Heisig’s masterpiece on kanji a week as a
    minimum
  • listening to more Japanese-language music (== less Capsule 🙁 )
  • finding at least one audiobook to listen to even though I’ll understand very
    little at first.

That is all for now. I’ll try to make the next update
a little bit closer to the actual +1 month that I set for myself, and not edit
the date. 😉

Languages: Japanese, Part I

So, after taking up a book by a crazy Irishman which explained how to learn languages well and effectively, and so that they could actually be used (those six years of school-time Russian/French that I really can’t use are therefore left out), there was the recommendation that creating a blog-entry with the goals and targets in mind is assisting, I have decided to do just that.

A short introduction:
Since coming to the UEA, I’ve found myself a part of the Japanese Society and that led me to pursue some skills in the Japanese language. For the first month or so, what we did was basic introductions and whatnot (‘Je m’appelle…‘, ‘Kus sa elad…’, etc), but after that I turned a bit more serious and ordered myself a grammar book which assisted me in picking up some of the basic stuff that the Society lessons did not mention. In any instance, since that time I’ve also picked up the hiragana writing system (I’ve yet to enable it on my computer though), and a few useful expressions. With difficulty, expressing basic sentences is possible (success!!!).

So, I’ll list here what I plan to do by the 8th January (which coincidentally might be one of the hardest things since I’ll be in EST for the majority of the time between now and then):

  • Enabling the writing systems (hiragana, katakana) on my computer
  • Learning the katakana
  • Listen regularly to Japanese music //which is not difficult at all since I’m doing it quite a bit right now due to the fact that my usual stuff has quite bored me, 😛 //
  • Memorizing & understanding certain word-lists

I’m sure there’s something else that I’ve forgotten since this currently seems to empty, but it’s all that my partial to-do list contained. So, we’ll see exactly what happened in a bit less than a month.

EDIT: I forgot to add why I wish to learn Japanese… 🙂 To read (once my skill is considerable enough) the books that I’ve up to that point read only in translations. ‘The Master of Go’ — it can only be better in Japanese, to name on example. And, why not use it for other, more mundane tasks as well…