Diving into the Culture (Week 3)

Hey guys!  It’s been another long week filled with excitement! After an intense three hours of writing, we finished the placement test that will determine which class we belong in for the following weeks.  Afterwards, we attended a kangeikai (welcome party). We have already received piles of homework that will most likely keep us up into the late hours of the evening, though we also went to a kaiten-zushi restaurant, and stuffed our faces with piles of sushi.  It was delicious and a lot of fun!  These have given us plenty of opportunities to try and converse with the students at Senshu University and improve our conversational skills. As foreign exchange students learning a different language, we are quite interested in how Japanese students were studying English and what they thought of the learning process. Since the sentence structures between Japanese and English are very different, we figured that we would take this opportunity to interview some students and ask them questions about what they think are the most challenging parts about trying to learn English.

Danger!! Incoming Grammar 
(Rebecca & Desmond)

Hello Hello bloggers~! It has been a long time since we have shared out little adventures with you!! Do you miss us~? OF COURSE YOU DO~~So silly of me to ask such an obvious question haha. Just to let you know we have been busy everyday scavenging the land of the rising sun in order to find errors to their signs. Luck for us, we have lots of buddies that also track down the mistranslations in Japan for us as well. Close friendship FTW~~! On their way to秋葉原Akihabara they went by a called Tochomae. It was during their exciting journey that they bumped into this following sign:

As you can probably see….the sign is grammatically wrong.
“Danger!!”  (Okay….this part is correct. Bonus points for exclamation marks~~!)
“A train comes.”  (I think what they were trying to say is “The/A train is coming.” Half points off for using the wrong tense!!)
“ Don’t come out of a fence.”  (This last sentence is so wrong I’m not even sure what happened to the translation. Like…How do you get an English translation of the word /fence/ out of nowhere?!?!?!)

Here are the reasons why I think the translation errors happened to the following 2 sentences.

“A train come.” 電車が来ます。(Densha ga kimasu.) Just like English Japanese language have certain suffixes that show whether a verb if past, present of future tensed. In this case, the verb they used to be translated was in present tense /come/, instead of future tense /coming/ which would have been the better choice of words . Another reason was also stated in our previous blog and do you guys remember what it is?.....If you do, AWESOME~! If you don’t remember, still good, this blog is here for you as a learning tool and it is also here to give you a taste of JAPAN!!! Unlike the English language that has 3 tenses, Japanese only has 2 tenses: Past and Non-past (present and future). This creates a discrepancy in the translations created.

“ Don’t come out of a fence.” 線路側に出ないでください。(Senrogawa ni denai de kudasai.) The proper English translation for this would have been something like: “Please do not come out onto the side of the track lines.” Or “Please do not stand passed the track lines.” The reason for this error probably came from the misuse of translation companies. I came to this reason because after trying both the English and the Japanese sentences into Google translator, both the sentences turned out fine, and in no way did 線路側 appear as a “fence” and vice-versa.

Here are some wise words from me to you blogger-tachi’s:

“Online translators are like your friends. They are usually useful and reliable but once in a while they will still give you shit.” That’s why you must double check our works before submitting it anywhere~~~
Till next time mangs!

'Tis the season!
(Jessica & Vincent)

During the kangeikai, we met a bunch of local students whom were invited to the dormitory for snacks and soft drinks.  We interviewed a couple students, Mana-san and Taka-san, about why they think mistranslations could occur.  According to Mana, they think that translation errors may result from certain cultural differences.  The example that they gave us was based off of perception of the seasons.  In Japan, the seasons are defined very well, and certain activities are enjoyed by the Japanese people during each specific season.  In Japan, the cherry blossom holds a very strong image of spring.  At the beginning of spring, people engage in something called hanami (花見), which is a combination of the kanji for “flower + to see”.  Starting in Okinawa, the cherry blossoms bloom northward toward Hokkaido.  This event is very important, that it even appears in the news every year, in many regions.  In Canada, there is no such distinction of this level, mostly due in part to the climate.  At the same time as the hanami in Japan, many parts of Canada will still have chilly weather, and even snowfall.  These two images are totally different, so what may be springtime for someone in Japan, it still feels like winter for someone in Canada; and they will express this through the way they talk about the weather.  Just before we departed for Japan (to start our awesome trip!), there was still snow on the ground.  Therefore, to some of us, it still seemed like winter, and when we talk about the weather, we end up using the word “winter” to help describe the situation.  This might come across as odd, seeing as in Japan, it is very warm and everywhere is green.  During the summer, many people go to the ocean, seeing as it is a hop skip and a jump away on the multitude of Japanese railways.  For autumn, they do something similar to hanami, and observe the colors of autumn, known as kouyou (紅葉).  In the winter, many Japanese people enjoy winter sports, such as skiing and snowboarding; like many Canadians.  In extension of what we mentioned earlier, to Canadians winter feels like it is a really long season, when technically it is only three months of the year.  How do the seasons align with the weather in the place that you live?

Journey to Kamakura
(Desmond & Rebecca)

On May 17th, we all had the pleasure of being able to spend the day touring Kamakura with other
Japanese students. (~ ̄▽ ̄)~ This was a very enriching experience as it was the first time that we would spend the entire day exploring many of the beautiful sights of Japan. What's more, many of the Japanese students also have never been to Kamakura before so it was not just the first time for us foreign exchange students. Although we were able to spend most of the day exploring, there was only enough time to see some of the landmarks. We broke up into smaller groups with other students so that we would each see different parts of it and we will probably pool all of our pictures together in the end so we can see everything without actually being there. Maybe next time we may be able to go to the places we did not have time to visit later on in the future.

The first person we interviewed was Desmond’s conversation partner Tamaki Naoki, he mentioned that some of the hardest things to learn was the use of verb tenses such as appending -ing and -ed to words, homonyms, as well as prepositions. It is easy to see why these things can be challenging for someone learning a new language since some native speakers still make mistakes when using them. (  ゚,_ゝ゚) This also gave us a chance to ask the students that went to Kamakura with us about difficulties they had with learning the language and they all agreed that speaking the language is perhaps the hardest for them. Many can agree with them on this part because speaking the language that you are trying to learn is most often the hardest step as it can be quite nerve wracking to speak when you are embarrassed or afraid of making mistakes. One of the main reasons that we did the Senshu program this year was to get more practice having conversations as well as immerse ourselves in the culture because those are the things that are important to do here. In the University of Calgary there are conversation clubs where you can talk to other Japanese students but those are only at certain times of day, whereas in Japan, we have the opportunity to speak in Japanese all day. All of us may not be excellent speakers right now, but we can all agree that immersing ourselves in the culture is a very important step in helping us improve, and by the end of the program, we believe that we will gain more experience than we could have just studying in Calgary.

Castle on the Sky
(Jessica & Vincent)

After classes, several people in our group went off to Akihabara, while some of us stayed behind to work on assignments.  We also had the chance to interview Naoki, Desmond’s friend, and we asked him some more questions about Japanese grammar.  Luckily he had more to say, and he offered a few more examples of what he found difficult when learning English.  During my conversation with Naoki, he told me that he sometimes mixes up the proper uses of prepositional words such as “in/at/on”.  Later on in the conversation, we were talking about Studio Ghibli movies, and he made the error of saying “Laputa: Castle on the Sky”.  And while I understood what he meant, I remembered what he had said earlier about the correct use of prepositions.  Furthermore, he expressed his dislike of prepositions when it came to talking about specific dates.  His example of “in the year 2014, on the day of May 15th” perfectly shows an example of two different prepositions appearing in the same sentence, yet holding slightly different meanings.  If you switch the two around, the sentence doesn’t flow as nicely.


Another tricky topic is vocabulary.  He told me that when he is having an English conversation, he sometimes struggles to find the right word to use.  Since there are many words with similar meanings, the use/nuance differs based on the sentence, and when used incorrectly it may sound strange to the native speaker.  The two words he gave me were “to postone” and “to put off”.  While both certainly display a meaning of something being delayed, their uses vary.  “I am going to postpone the meeting” versus “I am going to put off the meeting” do not mean the same thing.  While both do emphasize the meeting not happening right away, “to put off” has a tone of reluctance toward finishing the task, such as “I am going to put off my homework, and read manga instead”.  Shortly after telling me this, he asked someone “what is the first alphabet in your name?” so that he could guess who they were.  Of course, we understand what he was asking, but the use of alphabet sounds a bit unusual, whereas “letter” would have made more sense.  This type of problem is common with learning a new language.  Even when it comes to us, learning Japanese has its multitude of similar words.  For example, I often mix up transitive and intransitive verbs.  While they hold similar meanings, the Japanese people pick up on the error.  In English, we have the verb “to open”.  For transitive verbs, we say “I open the door”.  For intransitive verbs, we say “The door is open”.  Both cases we use the word “open”, which is easy to understand and is not confusing for people learning English.  However, in Japanese, the transitive and intransitive versions of these words are “akeru” and “aku” respectively.  This slight difference in sound changes the entire meaning of the word, and people learning Japanese may often confuse the two.  Be careful!

Akihabara First Impressions
(Desmond & Rebecca)

On Friday May 16th, a small group of us finally made our way over to Akihabara. We were all excited to visit the most prominent anime,manga and electronics district in Japan. Soon after leaving the station, we found it very hard to miss the very pink "Love Merci" adult amusement store. Upon approaching the store we noticed that some of the English was grammatically incorrect. The sign says that "We are very welcome to overseas buyer!! We are waiting all of your export questions"
Although we all understand the meaning behind the sign, we are the Lost in Translation group and therefore we must go through the trouble of fixing the store's sign for them! The proper translation should be along the lines of "We welcome our overseas buyers, We are eager to listen to questions about exporting goods" or something. We wont go through too much detail about this one since it's similar to some other posts that we have done so far, however if they do get a lot of overseas buyers then one would think that someone would have already mentioned their sign. (≧ω≦)

Anyways, that's all we have for this week, we hope to have an even more fun filled week next time so stay tuned and we will be sure to keep you guys updated as well as post lots of pictures! Its already been three weeks but there is still so much we want to see and new things that we want to try before leaving! We are all looking forward to our Home Stays this weekend so our next week is already planned for fun and excitement!

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