wow: amazing!

Friday, February 24, 2006

foreign words and letters

It's quite common for T-shirt companies, cd covers, sweaters, etc to use Chinese or Japanese characters when they want an especially cool look. And, when such products sell well it proves that we do consider these things cool, and they DO appeal to the public. Theres a certain artistic appearance to those elaborate foreign characters - when compared and contrasted to our own simple letters.

So, why do people feel so perplexed by these characters? - viewing them with such a heightened sense of mystique when their native users use them as commonly as we use our own letters? Do people admire the artistic element or visual appeal of these characters? Do they have a natural affinity for Asian cultures? Or, do they recognize them as trendy and think that by displaying them on either their person or posessions they will be considered trendy in return?

Who knows? Who can say why other people like them - personally I just admire their for their beauty and complexity (and the way that one symbol can represent a whole word). I am interested in Asian cultures, but that's not why I like their written characters. My admiration of the characters, though, may be one of the many things that started that interest.

When we're all so preoccupied with admiration for other written forms, we usually don't consider that our own writing may be similiarly popular in the very countries of the written forms we admire. So, I was very surprised to learn that it's true - in some places!

A friend of mine explained that, in Japan, English words and letters are used to add an extra element of coolness to product packaging, apparrel, cd coverss, song lyrics - basically the same ploy for foreign appeal practiced by U.S. manufactures. It's kind of odd, yet interesting, to picture a Japanese kid going ballistic with joy because the sweater they got for their birthday says something like. . . say. . . "snowboarding", in English on the sleeve. O.K., I'm not sure if this actually happens in Japan, but I know that my brother had that reaction when he got a shirt that had dragons and chinese (or japanese) characters on it - so I'm just creating a reversed scenario.

It's very intriguing. Yet, it's also sad, if you consider the implications of exactly why English's popularity is growing in Japan, as it is in many other parts of the world. The answer is westernization. And, there are many young people who welcome, even aim for, westernization. But, notice that I say many, NOT ALL - since the push towards westernization is met with resistance - thankfully - in many cases too.

English is progressively becoming a more and more, . . . . What could one call it? A global language? I say this because many people I know say that in their countries English is regularly taught along with their own language. For example, young people in both Malaysia and Japan are taught English. And, many of them know a third language even. Knowinging three languages: this is not uncommon in Malaysia. It would, however, be uncommon here.

Few young Americans truly know a second language, let alone a third one! You have to wonder: if more, or ALL young Americans learned to speak a second language, would there be more balance of language use in the world? I mean, If more Americans spoke other languages, would it be less necessary for other countries to learn English? "Definately!," I'd say, but no one can know for sure. I think it'd be a nice gesture on the part of the U.S. - and England though.

Other countries do a lot to prevent their own westernization, but I think the west also needs to work at preventing westernization(stop the problems it's creating). I am not at all saying that if I learn another language I'd be doing it for the purpose of preventing westernization. Not at all! That would be silly to even think! I'd just learn it for personal interest. I'm just one person. The only way learning other languages could fight westernization is if like 50% or more of America learned other languages.

It's true that high school requires students to take two years of another language - but that doesn't seem like enough. Most students will never speak that language fluently, or even remember much of it. I'm not sure how they teach English to the students of other countries, but our own language program needs to be more extensive, or else chilren could be taught at an age younger - preferably far younger than high school. They say that humans retain languge most efficiently at about kintergarten age.

I'd like to describe how English is taught in Japan, but I had that conversation with my friend a LONG LONG time ago. I'd be too afraid of misremembering something. It's ok to misremember something when I'm writing abou my own life - but it's a whole nother thing to misrepressent another countri's education program. I'd have to interview (just talk to really) some people before I dared to write about it in detail. I think that would make a good topic for another blog though.

I found some information. Just click on: This is an opinionated document I found that describes methods of teaching English in Japan. But keep in mind, that it contains merely the opinions and observations of ONE person. Peoples' views can be wrong. After I talk with my friend, perhaps I can compare and contrast what she says with what this writer says.

Friday, February 17, 2006

OUR Music - Not Really Ours

Most Americans probably know that American music is popular (often VERY popular) in many other countries around the world. I know this to be true, for fact, because people from other countries where our music is very popular, have told me so themselves.

I remember, last year, I was talking with a good friend of mine; but, when she left the room for a moment, she left her computer on. (Japan Radio was playing on it.) I was just doing homework, and didn't mind that it was on. I actually loved it! No, I could not understand the Japanese words, but many of the singers had beautiful voices, and most of the music had a good beat. Plus, it was refreshing to hear a good song for the first time, and then another one, and then another . . . . A person could get spoiled!

Then, as they began to give a news report, my full attention drifted back to my homework. Commercials, though, were also interesting, because really, there's something so universial about commercials and I can't quite place what it is. Let's just say, if you hear some one talking fast, a car reving, and a bunch of corny sounding sound effects in the background - you don't have to speak the "language" to KNOW it's a car commercial!

Soon, the announcer resumed talking, and then clearly, in English, I heard him say "Saturday Night Fever." I spun my head and stared at the computer. Had I heard right? And then "Staying Alive" by the Bee Gees started to play, and it was playing IN ENGLISH - not Japanese. For some unknow reason, that I can't recall now, I'd then assumed that songs in English would be translated into Japanese. (As it turns out though, English is now taught to almost all Japanese at a young age - but that's a topic for another blog.)

When my friend got back to the room, I asked her if they always play American music on Japan radio. She said yeah, and mentioned that disco was now extremely popular in Japan. I have since found, that many other forms of foreign music are also popular in Japan. In this wikipedia article it shows a brief history of how other western music forms have influence Japanese music, and gained popularity there. As we know, though, Wikki's are changeable. So, if anyone clicks this link to find that it no longer exists, or that it's no longer a link to the western influences in Japanese music - don't blame me.

Another time I was similiarly surprised was when I was playing pool with some Malaysian students. They humming some songs, lots of songs actually, and they were all American songs from like the 60s. Foolishly, I asked them if they'd learned those songs from listening to the oldies station, after coming to America. They laughed and said no, they'd learned those songs in Malaysia!

They were oldies songs, and that's why it was such a surprise. I wouldn't have been so surprised to hear their parents singing oldies music, or to hear them singing newer music. And, even though I think the old classics are the best music there is, I was surprised that young people from so far away would love our old music so much. It was cool. In some indirect way, it really makes me wonder what 60s music from Malaysia sounds like. When I'm less busy some day, I should find out. DJs should play more foreign music on American radio stations, I think.

But, really, when you think of it, America's music would basically be pretty sparse, if it wasn't for all the foreign bands we have. There were all the "Brittish invasion" bands for example, and a lot more modern band that I can't think of now. Pobably, some of the most well known examples of outside musical influnces are reggae music, latin music, etc.

Often times, though, people don't identify with music on a country related, or even international level. They connect and identify with music on a personal level. Though, where you live will definately play a role in what sort of music you're exposed to. At some age, though, moat avid music listeners will look beyond the mainstream music that's simply FED to them, and search for something that satisfies their more individual taste. Such music could include either music that's not popular where they live, or, sometimes, music that's just not popular anywhere at all.

So, even though everyone doesn't neccessarily listen to music that's MADE in another country, they often listen to music that's either foreignly influenced or produced by foreign artists in their own country. Music from the US, seemingly, is often popular in other countries - more often than their music is popular here. (That's probably because people in many other countries now learn English, as well as their own language. But, as I said, that's a topic for another time.

And in the end, even though people are in fluenced or NOT influenced by other forms of music, based on where they live, an increasing number of people in the world now have the resources to DECIDE or SELECT what they want to hear, regardless of what they're exposed to.

Monday, February 06, 2006

I was uumummmm?

I was working on my "threadmode to document mode" assignment on my wikki late last night. I am so tired. But, I have to keep moving my fingers, putting the words from:
*the universe
*to the immediate atmosphere around my head
*into my brain
*through my fingers
*onto the keyboard
*into cyberspace
*onto Mr. Morgan's computer screen
*into the grade book

By the way, you know I'm just joking about this Mr. Morgan, right?

*Anyway, into the gradebook
*Added into the final grade
*combined with my other classes
*Added to my total GPA
*Put on my final record
*Telling my future employer how much they should pay me, and whether or not I'm worth my weight in brain cells.
(Note - I do not at all believe that a person's "academic performance" can in - any way shape or form - be a gauge of how intelligent they are or how many "brain cells" they have. There are many different ways to be smart: style, street smarts, intuition, etc........ I was merely creating a stereotypical "boss" figure.

Also, it's odd that at the beginning my list was telling about the near past, and by the end it was stretching into the distant future.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

not NICE weather. -- Global Warming!!!!!!!!!!!

I was walking out side again - yes again. And, you've guessed it. I do do that everyday. Anyway, even though I always welcome warm weather, I can't help but be apprehensive. Warm weather is not part of your average Minnesota February. We should have five feet of snow
*****and blizzards
*****mountains of snow by the sidewalk
*****microscopic ice crystals floating in the air that wait to stab us in the eyes
*****and absolutely NOOOOOOOO puddles (for sure) - yet they're here.

They've been using that El Nino/LA Nina weather anomally excuse for what? Five Years now? I didn't think those were supposed to become a yearly thing. - Correct me if I'm wrong. I think, I think it's actually el/la global warming causing the problem.

It's kind of scarry, how the whole student body walks around, comments on the nice weather, as they're on their way to the food court, where all they'll buy food wrapped in paper and plastic, drink out of styrofoam cups, and eat with plastic utensils. Then they'll all walk outside to their cars - and comment on how "fresh" the "spring-like" air is. It'd be laughable if it weren't true.