Monday, 7 December 2015

In which I waffle on about language, part one: Random thoughts


Heavily indebted to and YesJapan (website and book series) for this. I've officially been learning Japanese now for around 14 months, though in reality, it's been more like 11-12 because of one thing or another (like, I've not done any Japanese this week because of this whole crippled arm thing I've had, like a pinched nerve or a tendon strain or something, I don't know, whatever it is it's bloody painful), but I'm getting there. Slowly but surely, bit by bit, I'm clawing my way to something resembling basic proficiency. At least in written Japanese, speaking is much harder to do and not just because it requires a more instantaneous response/less thinking time, but mostly because I have very little practice at it. I don't know of any other Japanese speakers/learners (funny little sidestory, there was this one guy/acquaintance who I thought would be into learning it, he went to the same JET (this teaching English in Japan thing) seminar as me, so I went up to him after the fact and asked if he was learning/knew Japanese (my cunning plan being to use him, as a fellow student, to practice speech), but he said he wasn't planning on learning Japanese, any at all, prior to going to Japan on the JET program...was like 'whaaaa', now, he could've just been fobbing me off, which is cool, but I'm certain he was being sincere (he's a bit of a tit tbh), which just boggles my mind...anyway) but even there I'm making some headway by watching Japanese videos/dramas.
Not anime, btw, I mean, don't get me wrong, I love anime, but it's not great for learning Japanese. An example of what I watch, and f you've got the time watch this show, is it's bloody heartbreaking, about a single father who's diagnosed with alzheimers and it's just...all dem feelz....but also, I watch news programmes and Japanese documentaries, mostly without subtitles. I don't understand much, my vocabulary is...not great...but, and I don't know if this is just me, but foreign languages in general....have you ever paid attention to them? Actually, I think it's true of native language too, but if you aren't actively listening, words and conversations just sort of blend together? In the native language though, it's easier to unpack, we can spot the patterns, in a foreign language though, it's much harder and is initially far less defined. I think it's a universal thing (i mean, barbarians are called so because their language is just like the braying of sheep, right?....terry deary ruined history for me), but the more practised the ear becomes, the easier it is to distinguish. For me, like I say, my Japanese vocabulary isn't great, but my grammar is fairly decent, so I can use that to differentiate words and context between's not foolproof, because native Japanese speakers tend to drop particles (which is perhaps the main reason anime is so bad for learning Japanese, the other reason being the language used is often terribly informal, which is something else we need to talk about later) and said particles (and conjunctions, etc.) also have multiple meanings (is that は simply marking the topic? the subject? indicating a contrast? or emphasising?), every language has this though, or something like this, especially when spoken, and that's even without getting into dialects....Anyway, yes, so, incredibly, the more you listen, the better you get at hearing. That's, I mean, who saw that coming, right? And who would write a lengthy, convoluted paragraph about it, probably some weirdo right? Pfft, imagine....
I love it though....I really wish I had started learning it sooner. When I was in school (going back about twelve years ago now), I bought this Lonely Planet Japanese phrasebook. I had a plan to learn Japanese from a phrasebook....I was a dumb kid (and now I'm a slightly less dumb, but still pretty dumb, adult, yay!) and not just because I spent like two weeks when I was fifteen or whatever, copying down phrases like 'わたしのなめえはTerenceです.' (which is sort of correct, but not really, it makes sense, but it's very touristy...iono, like going to Nice, France and calling it so it rhymes with ice, or something) and completely misunderstanding the sentence structure (what do you mean, わたしはたべてすし is wrong, everythings in there, 私は, I am, 食べて, eating, すし, sushi, I am eating sushi, it's perfectly fine!), and actually, this has all been a lie, because I didn't even use hiragana...I used romaji exclusively...I put it aside for the next ten years. I mean, literally. Every so often, I'd find that phrasebook and be like 'huh...guess I'll give this another go', last about two days at most and put it aside again. Curse you past Terence! It's said that Japanese takes six to twelve years (on average) to become truly fluent....we could've been fluent by now, you prick!
Anyway, I'm going to bring this to a close now because, originally, this was a post on facebook and was just going to be just that little introduction/basic facts thing which I did at the start, and then adding a plug for the actual blog thing which I'm going to be writing later today (or maybe now tomorrow) on languages (though it'll be more about languages in general than specifically to do with Japanese or English, how it shapes our perception of the world and such, you know, fun stuff :D)...things got out of hand pretty quickly, I just don't know what went wrong....I blame the fact I couldn't write for a week, so now, verbiage! verbiage everywhere! Good day to you!

Friday, 4 December 2015

Thinking about pain

I injured myself about a week ago. Actually, no, it was exactly a week ago, last Friday, the 27th of November, that's when it happened. That is the when, as to the how, I've no idea. That's the perplexing thing. I went to bed fine, and when I woke up my right arm felt a little dead, you know, that kind of feeling you get when you've slept on your arm? That's what it felt like. So, I thought nothing of it. I went about my day, I did normal, everyday Terence things (we are an industrious folk, us Terences, so long as that industry involves being lazy, watching cartoons, and playing video games we can go all day), all the while with that little twinge that should have had me worrying.

The next day, Saturday, it was really quite painful. The pain had bloomed during the night. I went around to a friend's house and did normal friend things, like being lazy, watching cartoons, and playing video games (for they are Terencian in those ways), and....I don't know....I never let on or complained about the pain. All day and night, I was surreptitiously moving my arm about, putting it behind my head or something (really weird thing, putting the arm up and behind the head gave some relief from the pain...I figure it must be something to do with the pressure on the muscle or something, but then, I don't know, because surely gravity would also be acting on it....or maybe angels were high fiving the pain away...I don't know! You come up with a theory then, looking at me like I'm crazy, pfft, it is not I who am is I who am mad!), which made it okay for like a moment or two, then the pain would come back with it's bigger brother and kick my ass for chatting back. 

Then, Sunday morning. Oh boy, was that fun. I couldn't get out of bed. I couldn't move. When I was a kid, I was ran over by a car. I think i've talked about that before, I nearly lost a a foot, it had to be literally sewn back on....that didn't hurt half as much as Sunday morning. Well, maybe it did, I don't know, pain is weird in that sense. Like, you can imagine pain right, someone puts the visual in your mind of being stabbed in the eye or whatever, with a needle, you go 'ah, wtf, bleugh' and shiver, right? But remembering pain? That's much harder. At least it is for me, and I assume it's a universal thing because I've not met anyone who can actually remember physical pain. Mental pain, sure, but physical? Not so much. And I talk about this a lot with people, because I'm weird like that....anyway, it was pretty bad, I couldn't move for the pain. At least for a good half hour anyway, I just kind laid there and cried. Then I remembered my ninja turtle training, rolled off my back, and got a taxi to the A&E.

Here's where I could go on a rant about the NHS. Because they didn't examine me. No scans, no poking, no prodding, nada. Just, 'you're in pain,' 'yessum,' 'is it really bad?' 'yessum,' 'cool, here's a prescription for some pain meds strong enough to kill a small elephant, go have fun.' 'aye sir!' Because....and I know that it must be awfully disheartening to be a doctor at times, especially in a shithole of a city like Liverpool, and it's hard to believe when there's a real case because of every arsehole scouser who comes into the clinic with their 'aw, but lad, i've got this like, real pain, giz us some meds like', but iono, it just seemed really unprofessional to sign off on something like that without an examination. But then, that's the NHS for you.

Since then, life's been shit. I had to actually stay off university because I couldn't get dressed (literally couldn't put my pants, shoes and socks on, because it hurt far too much, even with the meds, even with my left hand). I'd not missed any education or work thing since I was fourteen or least, not for a legitimate reason....I mean, I've stayed off plenty of times because laziness or dropping out of college and whatever, but that was always my decision. It was somewhat galling to be forced to the sidelines. That a physical impairment kept me out of the action, as it were. I don't like being reminded of my own mortality, and that's happened a lot this past week. When I was in my late teens, early twenties, it used to keep me awake at night. Again, I think this is something I've talked about before, something that I'd mostly gotten over, but it's been back this week, because I've not been able to read books, play video games, go to university and what not, and also, the pain in the arm has been keeping me awake at night and that's when the thoughts creep in. When the shadows curl and twist around the silence...

It's still hurting now. The arm, I mean, it's still quite tender and the hand's numb. I tried writing before and well, my already messy handwriting is even messier because I can't hold the pen right....even typing this out has been kind of a chore because, and I don't know why this is the case, but my co-ordination is, I keep hitting the keys above and/or to the side of the one I want to hit....I don't know if it's just because I've not typed anything in over a week (with the right hand anyway) or what, I don't know...that's kinda scary in itself though....that it's a skill that can be 'lost', as it were, in just a week....I'm hoping it's just the meds and the fact that the muscle's still kind of twinging. 

Anyway, that's all I have to say right now....and jesus, how many words did I have to use to not say not really much of anything at all...

Sunday, 1 March 2015


Salt is weird. Like, thousands of years ago, salt was super important so much so it was basically currency but it came from the ocean. Specifically salt encrusted rocks...what happy accident was that then?! Some caveman family was at the seaside, one of them accidentally dropped their mammoth sandwich (in that it was big and also made from a mammoth) on one of the rocks and, being an unfussy eater, ate the sandwich then turned around to the others "Okay dudes, you're not going to believe me, but this rock, this one right here, this rock is delicious!" and so, sceptical at first, they all started wiping sandwiches on seaside rocks and found that they loved it.
Or the other explanation is that salty tasting meals exist naturally, ancient humans went on quests to find more accessible salts. Which would be fun to imagine. A caveman scientist, "Day 1, just invented numbers, very happy side effect of quest for salt. Tried licking a porcupine...porcupine seemed to enjoy it, but my tongue did not for varying reasons. Will update log again tomorrow." The next day, "Day 2. Just invented linear concept of time, very happy, though now also somewhat aware of own mortality which is rather uncomfortable. Mission for salt continues, got grandmother to try sucking eggs as per Jeff's suggestion, she said they could use some salt. Will update log again tomorrow." The third day, "Day 3, decided to take a break today with the family, went to the beach. A good time was had by all until Jeff dropped his sandwich on the floor. He caused a scene until I offered to give him my sandwich and I'd eat the one off the floor because it's the stone age and who really cares about germs, apart from Jeff. Found that the sandwich now had salt on it, rocks make salt, fellow salt hunters very happy with my discovery." "Day 4, Jeff suggested salt was actually in the water and that we could harvest it by boiling said water. Crazy Jeff, salt is a solid, not a liquid, he'll never be a scientist like me if he continues to think like that."
I did originally have an ending for this, but I forgot, erm, lets talk about dinosaurs instead. Now dinosaur means "terrible lizards" which is a fantastically inaccurate name as they were neither at all terrible nor lizards. But that is a story for another day, smoke bomb! *flees in confusion*