Tuesday, November 9, 2010

So You Wanna Speak Japanese

Chances are that after several years of watching anime, and/or reading manga you have gotten to the point that you can easily understand a few Japanese slang words and phrases as you most likely hear them repeatedly in the medium. Words like "Ohayou Gozaimasu" and "Ja ne" and "Moshi Moshi" and even "Doku desu ka" are some fine examples of everyday language that one will pick up on when watching their anime subbed, and listening with the Japanese audio enabled.

Learning a new language is a great achievement, and one that takes a lot of hard work, and much practice. This isn't at all like riding a bicycle, because if you DON'T use it, you will LOSE it.

Learning to speak Japanese is one thing, but learning to read Japanese is a totally different monster. Much like English has Upper Case letter and Lower Case letters Japanese has something almost similar, but used often-times in a different contrast.

Then to complicate matters further, there are the ported Chinese Kanji that are whole words represented by a symbol or symbols. To further complicate the language there are these particles that are used to string the words into a sentence that define the flow of the conversation into something more than just base words and subjects.

It's easy in the American fandom for fans to get a sense of what sounds right and what isn't right when they've listened to a language enough, but the real trick is in the translation.

Many fans assume that there is only one literal translation for a word, and this couldn't be further from the truth. In the sense that we have words like "See" and "Sea" that obviously mean two totally different things but are pronounced the same.

Or take "No" and "Know" also to similar sounding words that have completely different functions.

To complicate the learning of Japanese, their alphabet does not contain some letters that are more prevalent in English, such as "L" and "Q". Because the Japanese language is a phonetic language that does not change the way a letter is pronounced it isn't difficult to learn pronunciation, an "A" will always sound the same no matter where it is placed in a word, and a "O" will always sound like an "Oh" and not a "Uu" when there are two of them placed side by side as in "Soon".

Probably the three most difficult things to learn about Japanese is:
1) The Alphabet
2) Sentence Structure
3) The various Forms of Speech (Polite, Proper, Casual)

Also it's good to remember that instead of there being multiple similar sounding words that have different meanings, there are multiple words that sound nothing alike, that have the same meaning.

Now for those of you that think you can learn to speak Japanese simply by watching imported anime, and Japanese Cinema, well you are sadly mistaken. First of all, much of the dialog in a film or TV show is going to use a more general form of the language, unless the characters are using a specific type of language, or honorific direction.

This means that there are totally different ways of speaking and addressing people given the social encounter. Much of the language in an anime is between two or more friends that toss around silly nick-names and childish honorifics, that if were used in a public forum, or Professional institution would result in much offence and probably some insults.

Another thing to remember is the "Ga" "Wa" "No" "Ka" of most sentences. These are like verbal punctuation and subject indicators. "Wa" usually indicates the topic, and "Ga" is the subject. Not to mention "Wa" and "Ga" are some of the hardest things to grasp about the Japanese language.

Where one describes something, the other specifies what or who.

I am reminded of something I mentioned yesterday about the new anime Kuroshitsuji and that the English title is Black Butler. The question was why did they use the name Black Butler for this anime and manga, and I explained, because THAT was the actual name of the series.

In its most simplest definition "Kuroshitsuji" means Kuro (Black) and Shitsuji (Butler). Now instead of running both words together, why didn't they just do the normal thing and perhaps use "Kuro wa Shitsuji' well that wouldn't make much sense, since the Black is not a Butler. Also "Shitsuji wa kuro" wouldn't work since the Butler isn't really the color black. so then it's more of an expression, that means the Butler is dark, black, sinister, severe, or other. And thus the name is devoid of subject indicator and topic marker.

Just like making sense of the English language, there is a good chance that if you do not take your study of Japanese seriously, you will fail to comprehend anything, or even worse, make yourself look like a moron in front of someone.

You cannot learn everything there is to learn about Japanese by online translation pages, or from watching anime. It is a good start, but it isn't a reliable resource. To really learn a language it takes patience, time, and dedication. Study manuals that offer multiple lessons, and don't just stop at basic greetings. It will do you no good to learn how to say hello and where is the bus station, if you can't hold a conversation. Or answer about yourself when asked what you do for a living, and where you are from, and what sort of work your family does.

There are some online tutoring places that offer people a chance to meet-up and learn from one another, but be careful as there are also a lot of places that just want to have you spinning your wheels endlessly.

A good balance of reading and speaking is the best solution to learning a new language. Because aside from finding out where the Supermarket is, what good will it do you to ask for directions, if you can read the product to buy something?

Start with learning to read and comprehend hiragana and katakana... these are the two basic alphabets of the language, and then try your hand at learning kanji.

Friday, November 5, 2010

WO's November Top 10: Annoying Things

So, I was walking through my local retailer a few Sundays ago, looking through anime for my girlfriend — yes, I actually have one of those — and while perusing through the titles of anime I was going to get her for her birthday, I noticed that one had a loose disc in the box. Wouldn't you know it, it was the only copy of that title available too.

Well, it wasn't as if that was going to be the anime that I bought her, but still, one copy, and it was the one with the loose disc in the box. That is so annoying!

So I got to thinking about all the things that annoy me, and I decided to make a list of all the stuff in the fandom that really grinds my gears.

10. Discs That Are Junk!
So we've all opened them up, a brand new box, only to find that the DVD disc or Blu-ray disc has a nice pretty scuff or scratch, and my favorite... a finger print! Who put these in there?

It isn't enough that it's the only copy, or that I ordered this a week ago, and it arrives in the mail in this condition; but to be loose or scratched is a slap in the face. I blame the makers of the boxes just as much as I blame the parcel service with which it was delivered.

09. Loaning Out Stuff
I don't know about other people, but I tend to get a little stingy with my stuff. I often judge a good fan and Otaku by how well they preserve their anime and manga. When I go to their house and I see a few DVDs out of their protective cases, and laying around either face down, or worse face up; then I know they are a bad, very bad fan.

I've seen it so bad that there were smears and fingerprints and goo all over the DVDs as if they used the same hands they were eating banana pudding with and then started changing discs. Not to mention the condition of the their manga also determines if they get to borrow anything from me. If the cover is bent, torn, looks like signs of slobber or drool, then I know NOT to be letting this stuff out.

08. Hearing Your Friends Say Something Is "Awesome"
Believe it or not, I'm a pretty good judge of whether or not something is awesome. In fact, chances are I may agree with you to a certain extent; but saying that something is awesome is a big generalization. And just because you fan-girl/fan-boy squee and pee your pants everytime you see this awesomeness is no reason that I have to have soggy pants with you!

Take Death Note for example, it's a pretty popular show, but really what about it is pee-my-pants-in excitement worthy? Same goes for shows like One Piece and Panty & Stocking. Is it because you felt a quiver, or a surge in blood pressure in your nether regions that it has become awesome?


07. Fanboys and Their Dream Girls
Oh boy... I hardly know where to start with this one. I've been around the anime block enough to know by now that there are three things that most fanboys always go after.

A silver haired girl that speaks so softly you want to yell "Speak up DAMMIT!!", or an almost loli-girl that they can stuff down the front of their pants a-la White Goodman style. Or they have a crush on any girl that is a loud mouthed little bitch that just wants to beat their ass.

I mean don't get me wrong, I like a lot of the same characters, but the trend is becoming ridiculous as I have to hear about them all the time.

I go to a post and it's about some loud obnoxious girl from some hot new anime. I see a sig, it's full of hard-core character love and it's got every silver-haired girl imaginable in it.break the trends people! Seriously!

06. Karaoke Fan Subs
Okay, so I thought the idea was for the fan-subbers to try and be professional. But in the end it's just a measuring contest to see whose fan-sub is longest!

I find that if I go to the trouble of watching your interpretation of the Japanese dialect, that I want a show with a clean opening. I don't need the English translation, followed by the Japanese words, and a bounce along color coded sing-along-line of dialogue.

By the time they've crammed not only that, but managed to squeeze their egos on the screen by listing everyone's stupid username and pet, and family member, and shout-out there is nothing left on the screen to see!

Please, why can't they be more professional, and just do a clean slate on the openings? Save the crap for last.

05. Manga With no Talk Direction
Everyone knows by now that I have issues with reading manga anyway, but if you want to get my blood boiling, just have me read a manga that has no point-marks for who the heck said what. Just a circle of dialog that could belong to anyone! Is it that hard to draw a little arrow on the bubble and let us know who the crap said what?

I get that the square boxes are for narration, but really, a talk bubble that is vague and belongs to any of the five characters in the group is annoying.

05. Anime Music Videos Done Badly
Aside from getting Rickrolled a thousand times on YouTube, you spend hours looking for a great music video made from your favorite anime, to find that, not only did they use the lowest quality possible, but that they managed to leave the sub-titles in the video. So while they may be sort of in sync with the music, what's appearing on the screen is dialog from the anime, and throws your brain into some sort of visually induced epileptic fit!

Not to mention fans that make an Anime Music Video JUST for the sake of making a video. As if we really want to hear "My Immortal" ONE MORE TIME to another stupid FANGIRL gushing pile of crap!

Somebody's been smoking something, if they really think that Evanescence is that user friendly!

04. The Annoying Friends In Anime/Manga
So this annoyance is more with the industry than with the fandom; but anyway, you'll be reading a great manga or anime, and you know the boy and the girl are somehow supposed to get together, but here comes a wrench into the mechanics of the story to foul that up, with the goody-goody girl that just will not let the guy get a relationship going!

There's one in every romance/comedy. The cute brutal girl that beats the guy in the face, everytime he tries to get close to the girl of his dreams. A situation comes up, and he has a moment, out from nowhere, and I mean NOWHERE the childhood girl or best friend bully girl comes in, punches him in the face, screams "PERVERT!!!!!" at him, and sends him flying through a wall, and he did NOTHING!

It's like the creators just really want to ruin their own story, maybe they've been drinking something before they thought it up, because, if you want to annoy me to no end with an anime, then let there be a hot-headed loud-mouth snook of a girl that does nothing but get in the way.

03. Fans That Don't Know How To Cosplay
So I typically do not visit conventions, simply because I will most likely be too busy laughing my ass off at all the idiots that try to look like a character that their age and their body size clearly defy.

It's one thing to dress as a character that fits your look, for me it would probably be Jet from Cowboy Bebop or Mister Chang from Black Lagoon; but there is no way in the name of blue hell that I could possibly pull off cosplaying as Kotobuki from Chobits or Watanuki from xxxHolic. Not to mention trying out for one of the girls from Negima!.

You would think that a fan would more sense than that, then to squeeze their grown adult body — often a little on the hefty side — into a costume reserved for a junior high or high school character. I'm sorry, the last time I checked Naruto wasn't 280lbs and six and a half feet tall.

02. All The Experts
It never fails, a nerd or fan gets hooked on a show, and after successfully watching it all the way to the end (hurray for them), they RSS feed to Anime News Network or Mania or some other information site; maybe check out a few wiki pages, and suddenly they are an anime expert. They know everything about every anime ever made, and when the next release is going to hit the shelves, and what was in the mind of the industry experts.

Well, I think not.

Re-posting someone else's article is like me working for a news paper and copy and pasting something from the New York Times and trying to scoop everyone else on it. It's retarded!

I know you are all excited when you find out that there is a rumor of some crappy anime movie made, but really, slow the hell down, and realize that you aren't some industry anime expert guru, you are just a twerp that didn't forget how to use his computer.

01. Fans That Keep Asking The Same Stupid Questions
Well you've finally made it onto the internet, your parents must be proud! But you are really making them look pretty stupid by being so dumb, and asking the same stupid things over and over again!

You finished watching xxxHolic or Case Closed and you want to know if there is more to be released in North America, or if FUNimation is going to dub the rest. Well, let me tell you; if you would take half the time it took to sign up to the FUNimation Forum, or some other site, and would do a search, you would see about five thousand similar posts and comments exactly like the one you are about to stupidly make.

The question has been answered every way known to man, short of a FUNimation executive coming to your house in the middle of the night, sneaking into your room, and beating you with a pillowcase that has a few bars of soap in it, while screaming "WE ARE NOT... GOING TO DUB... ANYMORE F**KING CASE CLOSED!!!"

But I'm sure even if they did this, you would be under the misguided impression that magically, if you go ahead and make that post, or leave that comment, that your question will be the one that gets to them, and makes the executives cry, and say "Oh My GOSH! What were we thinking?! We HAVE TO DUB MOAR!!!"

Get real. Got a clue, and learn to read the comments before you take it upon yourself to junk up my internet with more of your crappy sobbing and crying.