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  • grenphi 8:52 am on October 4, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , whorfian   

    Week 2 Challenge (late posting) 

    做了為了毛澤東 (zuo le wei le Mao Ze Dong)

    This is a late post for the week 2 challenge. I’ve been working on another post about some personal thoughts I’ve been contemplating, but it’s long and will have to wait.

    Up above you can  see the quote 做了為了毛澤東, which literally means “Doing it for Mao Ze Dong”. However, the saying has the double meaning of “Doing it for the Mao Ze Dongs”, equivalent to the American phrase “Doing it for the Benjys”, or less accurately, “Doing it for the cheddar” (there are hundreds of ways to say it, you get the idea. It’s all about making money).

    makin' those Mao Ze Dongs

    The phrase is rarely used, although many Chinese are familiar with it. I share it simply because I find it funny in it’s irony. Mao Ze Dong, a symbol of Chinese communism, is used in one of the country’s most capitalistic phrases.

    • HMJ 12:57 pm on October 4, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Ironic, indeed. Or maybe a prime example that dichotomous categories or binary exclusives simply don’t work….
      Keep writing 🙂

    • Sam Smukler 1:15 am on October 7, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Vietnam’s iconic communist leader, Hồ Chí Minh, has similar status. Bác Hồ (Uncle Hồ) is slang for money since he’s on all the money. You can ask someone “Bác Hồ ở đâu?” (Where’s your Bác Hồ?) to say “Show me the money!” kind of like “Put your money where your mouth is”. Or “Nếu Bác Hồ cho phép…” (If Bác Hồ allows me…) to talk about having enough money to do something. “I can only go on vacation at the end of the month, if I have the time and if Bác Hồ allows me”. 🙂

  • Sasha 11:21 am on September 29, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , whorfian   

    A Minority–Me? 

    I love being a minority. I know what you’re thinking: I’m a white, American girl. How could I possibly be a minority? In Japan, I probably stick out the most. Blonde hair and pale skin doesn’t exactly blend in too well with the Japanese. But I don’t actually mind. I don’t care that I’m stared at when I’m waiting for the train at the station, or when I’m sitting with a bunch of people at a restaurant. I see people’s sideways glances as I pass them on my bike, and watch as little kids point my way as I walk up and down the aisles at the market. I’ve also found that I value not knowing the language that I’m currently submersed in. I like looking at signs, mostly in かんじ (kanji), and not knowing what is being said or advertised, and walking by people and not understanding everything they’re saying. Even when they try and speak with me, their Japanese words sometimes all running together in ways I can barely comprehend, I still marvel at their native language.

    When I finally started my にほんぶよ (Nihon buyo: Japanese traditional dance) lessons, I didn’t really think too far into it. I was excited, of course, to be learning a traditional Japanese art, wear a traditional Japanese      ゆかた (yukata) and learn to properly hold a traditional Japanese fan. I somehow forgot that my teacher wouldn’t be speaking English. The first time I visited the りょかん (ryokan: Japanese style inn), I accidentally interrupted my せんせい’s (sensei’s) lunch. Strike one for awkwardness. Strike two for staring in awe as my teacher and her other students spoke to me in rapid Japanese. Strike three for growing up in America and being too embarrassed to dress in the traditional garments in front of the other women. I deserved to be laughed at after that one.

    I soon discovered that it’s relatively difficult to learn a dance with head movements and tilts while still watching the teacher. Yes, she was (I’m assuming) saying aloud the movements we were supposed to make, but all I could pick up was the occasional ひだり (left) and みぎ (right). My せんせい took to prodding my head in various ways and pushing my legs and arms into their proper positions rather than merely saying what I should be doing. Her encouragement was appreciated.

    While it’s still hard to learn the dance moves without vocal instructions, I’ve found I prefer it this way. They don’t seem to mind my minimal vocabulary, or my obscure hand gestures when asking a question. In turn, I actually enjoy watching them laugh at my mistakes and smile when I finally get something right or understand what they’re saying. To me, being different here is good; it’s a learning experience. I’m still able to understand people and create friendships despite the incredible language barrier. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  • DougReilly 11:01 am on September 27, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , whorfian   

    Asiapod Challenge 2: Linguistic Reflection 

    Congratulations for Andrew Upton, who won the drawing for the Asiapod Challenge #1: Haiku, for his poem and photograph. Andrew wins a $50 Amazon gift certificate! (We’ll be in touch with you shortly, Andrew, about delivery:)

    In the 1940s, the linguists Edward Sapir and Benjamin Lee Whorf argued that the structures of language deeply effected how people conceptualize the world:

    “[T]he world is presented in a kaleidoscopic flux of impressions which has to be organized by our minds–and this means largely by the linguistic systems in our minds. We cut nature up, organize it into concepts, and ascribe significances as we do, largely because we are parties to an agreement to organize it in this way–an agreement that holds throughout our speech community and is codified in the patterns of our language. The agreement is, of course, an implicit and unstated one, but its terms are absolutely obligatory; we cannot talk at all except by subscribing to the organization and classification of data which the agreement decrees.” (Benjamin Whorf, “Science and Linguistics,” 1956)

    This view of linguistic relativity became known as the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. As a hypothesis, it has yet to be proven and many have attacked the idea (notably Chomsky who argued for universal structures underlying all human language). Yet the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis is interesting to consider, and language-learners, particularly those in immersion experiences, often make connections between the linguistic structures they are learning and insights they are gaining into the culture through their own encounter of it.

    This week’s challenge: make a Whorfian observation about the language and culture you are now a part of. Tell us about a saying, grammatical structure or word that suggests a very different worldview than what you are used to. A hint at finding examples: things for which there are no easy translations are usually rich sources of this!

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