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11 November 2009 @ 10:48 am
This lyric more or less sums up my feelings right now:

          —冷酷仙境 (Cold Fairyland),「愛」

It seems deceptively easy to understand, but it's being a bitch to translate. If I translated it word-by-word, it would come out to "Love is a dream, an impossible dream in the midst of a legend." But that doesn't quite capture the meaning of the quote, particularly the "傳說" part. "傳說" is complex semantically—it means "legend, folklore, tradition" but also captures "it is said; they say that..." It's also both a noun and a verb, and, for me at least, the part of speech that it occupies in that lyric is ambiguous. Love could be an impossible dream in the middle of a legend/myth, or it could be a legend/myth itself that's being told. Maybe I'm misinterpreting, but that's what my hazy Chinese skills are getting me to.

For the context, the song is on an album about the journey of a bride; the band's given translation for the album name is "Bride in Legend". Hence why I'm leaving the first option as a possibility.

For the curious, here's a link to a download of the song: click me! Enjoy.
Current Mood: blahblah
22 July 2009 @ 04:14 am
Another entry copied over from my personal journal.

I started reading 《留情》 (roughly translated as "Lingering Emotions", I think, but I could be butchering it) by 張愛玲 today (link here). I'm about a quarter of the way through it, and it's a somewhat challenging read, but still rewarding. It's been much easier to read it online, as I have the Firefox Chinese Pera-kun extension, which lets me hover over words I don't know and look them up instantly.

Anyway, apparently, according to Wikipedia, 張愛玲 (Eileen Chang) is a really well-known author whose works are hailed as classics for their time and remarkable for focusing on everyday life during the 1940s. You might of heard of her if you've heard of Lust, Caution; she's the author of that novella, which maybe I'll be able to read at some point.

From what I gather from 《留情》, it's a story about a man who's reminiscing about his past while going through the city with his current wife. I'm not entirely clear on all the details, but I gather that he had some sort of trouble with his previous wife or something? I dunno; I'm having about the same level of comprehension as I did when I was trudging through readings for AP Spanish Lit.

I really like Chang's style, though—whereas Zita Law's style is just very simplistic and, at times, almost repetitive, Chang's style is descriptive in a way that is both beautiful and yet not too flowery or difficult to read. A couple of quotes, and, oh God, should I even attempt translation:


In November, a fire was born in their home. A small fireplace; snow-white ashes nested red charcoal. The charcoal began as trees that then died; now, a dim fire passed through its body, reviving it, but, as soon as it came to life, it quickly became ashes again. In its first life, it was a new, green color; in its second, a gloomy red. The fireplace had a charcoal air to it; tossing a red jujube into it, the jujube roasted, wafting out a sweet smell like laba porridge. The charcoal gently sparked, pitter-patter pitter-patter, like the sound of hail.

OH MY GOD, that was such a rough translation that doesn't even begin to capture the way the Chinese flows. :( But it kind of gets across the imagery, I hope?

Another quote:


Only when he walked through another street did he realize that it was raining. A small rain, almost as if it were weather's winter-cold silk, barely even noticeable as rain.

Another failed translation, but I hope it gets across the prettiness? :D?

I've got about 65 vocabulary words from the first three pages. Eek, no wonder I'm reading it so slowly. Ah well.
Current Mood: contentcontent
22 July 2009 @ 04:11 am
In an attempt to brush up my language skills, I've made it a goal to read at least one novel in Chinese and one novel in Spanish over the rest of this summer. Hopefully two of each, but one is more manageable.

The Pawnshop No.8
深雪 • Zita Law
Traditional Chinese

40/259 (15.4%)
began 7/19/2009
Sputnik, mi amor
Sputnik Sweetheart
Haruki Murakami • translated

34/246 (13.8%)
began 7/19/2009
The Little Prince
Antoine de Saint Exupéry • translated
Traditional Chinese

0/149 (0.0%)
Crónica de una muerte anunciada
Chronicle of a Death Foretold
Gabriel García Márquez

0/118 (0.0%)
張愛玲 • Eileen Chang
Traditional Chinese

5/13 (38.5%)
began 7/22/2009
El coronel no tiene quién le escriba
No One Writes to the Colonel
Gabriel García Márquez

0/106 (0.0%)

My speaking skills are abominable and my writing only slightly better, but, hey, reading helps you learn those, right? :Dd?

Will update this periodically with my progress. :)

Progress bars by .
Current Mood: accomplished
14 February 2009 @ 10:42 am
I'm going to be tutoring some Karen (ethnic minority in Thailand and Burma/Myanmar) refugees in the next coming months, so I figure that it'd be a great opportunity to learn Karen. There are two main forms of Karen, S'gaw Karen and Pwo Karen. S'gaw Karen is the primary language, and it's mutually unintelligible with Pwo Karen; however, those who speak Pwo can generally speak S'gaw as well, since it is the primary language.

I'll be tackling the alphabet first (which is based on the Burmese alphabet) before going on with spoken Karen. I'll be tutoring a girl in English for maybe half an hour weekly, and she'll be my S'gaw Karen conversation partner.

Joshua Project: Karen, S'gaw of Thailand Ethnic People Profile – Just an overview of the people with a focus on religion.
Burmese/Myanmar script and pronunciation – Yay Omniglot!
Karen Konnection – An all-purpose website with information on the Karen people, as well as a basic overview of their language.
Refugees from Burma: Their Backgrounds and Refugee Experiences (CAL publication) – Includes a more linguistic overview of the language, though still severely lacking. Can people use IPA already?!
Drum Publication Group – Speak Karen – Very basic overview.
Current Mood: excitedexcited
14 February 2009 @ 10:00 am
I like to pick things up to rewire my brain. And, dear God, Indonesian is doing just that. It's deceptively simple, but it forces me to think in a way that's entirely different from the way I would have to think in English.

Learning Indonesian - A more detailed page with audio clips.
Learning Bahasa Indonesia - A nice beginner's page with links to other resources.
Flirting in Indonesia - A nice beginner's guide to Indonesian that's mostly a useful phrasebook.
Omniglot: Indonesian alphabet, pronunciation, and language - Always a good source, with good links:

Indonesian language and culture learning resources

Information about Indonesian

Indonesian phrases

Online Indonesian dictionaries

Kursus Bahasa: Sistem Penyelenggaraan Kelas

Indonesian Electronic talking dictionaries

Additionally, three non-electronic sources that I checked out from my school library:

Mintz, Malcom W. A course in conversational Indonesian, with equivalent Malay vocabulary. Singapore: EPB Publishers Pte Ltd, 1994. (UNC Call Number: PL5073 .M56 1994)

Sneddon, James Neil. Indonesian: a comprehensive grammar. New York: Routledge, 1996. (UNC Call Number: PL5073 .S56 1996)

Rosenfeld, K.M. and C. J. Gainty. Indonesian. Pimsleur language programs (audiocasettes), 1999. (UNC Call Number: 65-LANG33)
Current Mood: nerdy
07 December 2008 @ 01:44 am
Here's where I'll be putting my practice for the exercises provided by the Interlingua lessons.

Lection 1

Translate the following to Interlingua:

They play. They write the letter. Ann sits in her chair reading the magazine. Peter is a name. The cat also lives in the house.

Illes joca. Illes scribe le littera. Ann sede in su sedia lege le magazin. Peter es un nomine. Le catto anque habita in le casa.

Additional practice:

Bon die! Hic es un casa pro un familia. Io lege un magazin. Le catto dormi in le camera a dormir. Ann ama su catto brun; anque io ama su catto brun. Ille ascolta le catto nigre. Illes habita in le casa con un tecto brun. Le sedia, le tabula e le confortabile es in le salon. Le patre e le matre, Sr. e Sra. Smith, ascolta le radio; Ann joca con le catto. Illo, le animal, ama jocar in le jardin parve. Tote le familia habita in le casa. Su amico ha le nomine Ben e es in le cocina.

English Translation:

Good day! Here is a house for a family. I read a magazine. The cat sleeps in the bedroom. Ann loves her brown cat; I also love her brown cat. He listens to the black cat. They live in the house with a brown roof. The chair, the table, and the arm chair are in the living room. The father and the mother, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, listen to the radio; Ann plays with the cat. It, the animal, loves to play in the small garden. The entire family lives in the house. Their friend is named Ben and is in the kitchen.

Spanish Translation:

¡Buenos días! Aquí está una casa para una familia. Leo una revista. El gato duerme en el dormitorio. Ann ama su gato café; yo también ama su gato café. Escucha el gato negro. Viven en la casa con un techo café. La silla, la mesa y el sillón están en el salón. El padre y la madre, Sr. y Sra. Smith, escuchan el radio; Ann juega con su gato. Al animal le gusta jugar en el jardín pequeño. Toda la familia vive en la casa. Su amigo se llama Ben y está en la cocina.


• No Oxford comma.
• ‘habitar’ takes ‘in’ after it, but ‘ascoltar’ does not.

Problem words: tecto, ascoltar, littera, sedia, camera
Current Mood: nerdy
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07 December 2008 @ 01:10 am
Auxiliary languages, or auxlangs for short, are constructed languages (conlangs) that were made with the intent of facilitating international communication. I have a couple problems with the concept of auxlangs:

  1. They tend to be highly focused on the West and have little to no input from Eastern languages, such as Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, etc.

  2. While I feel that facilitating communication is an important goal, auxlangs will always, for me, be in the position of second language, because I feel that people need to retain their native tongues to maintain their cultural identity. That is, auxlangs will probably only exist as sort of an "academic" language, really.

But they're interesting to learn, nonetheless! And I figure that, if I can basically understand Interlingua and, to a lesser extent, Ido, at first glance, and if the grammars are inherently simple, then I might as well learn them, if not just to expand my way of thinking and facilitate learning of other Romance languages on which Esperanto, Ido, and Interlingua are based.


The most widely used auxiliary language. There are a couple guys at my school who offer Esperanto lessons, and there are many resources online, so learning it shouldn't be too difficult.



Ido is a reformed version of Esperanto that seeks to solve many problems that are inherent in Esperanto; some of the grammar is simplified, and Ido contains an aspect of gender neutrality that is lacking in Esperanto.

The International Language IDO - Reformed Esperanto
The international language Ido - improved Esperanto


Interlingua is a widely used auxiliary language, second to Esperanto. (Well, it's debatable whether Interlingua or Ido is second...) In any case, Interlingua is more immediately accessible and understandable to those who already speak a Romance language—in my case, Spanish. Therefore, I'm choosing to try to learn Interlingua before I attempt to tackle Esperanto.

Introductory course to Interlingua
Grammar of Interlingua
Interlingua and IPA notation
Current Mood: excitedexcited
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