2011/2/24 木曜日

Bilingualism 2カ国語でボケ防止

Filed under: English entries,国際家族,,英語一般 — admin @ 8:43:26

An article in the Daily Yomiuri today, “Speaking 2 Languages Protects the Brain,” reporting an announcement at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, says that bilingualism can delay Alzheimer onset by almost 5 years. The reason is that it keeps the brain busy. (Ellen Bialystok of York University in Canada)

“When you’re speaking, all the languages you speak are turned on…the brain…allows you to limit interference from one language when speaking in the other.”(Amy Weinberg, University of Maryland)

So it takes work to say anything! Speaking in one language means actively not speaking in another one.

“Bilinguals simply acquire specific types of expertise to help them attend to critical tasks and ignore irrelevant information,” explains Judith Kroll, from Penn State University. So this makes bilinguals, or people who merely use more than one language,  better at multitasking, too.

The article ends by saying that the ability to speak multiple languages does not make you more intelligent. That may be the “irrelevant information” I choose to ignore here!


2011/2/10 木曜日

Audiobooks! 英語を聞く!

Filed under: books,cyberspace,English entries,英語一般 — admin @ 17:12:22

My new iPod is keeping me busy. Besides containing all of my Kindle books, there is also an Audiobook app. I paid a big 115 yen extra for the premium version. But there is a free version, too.

Public domain audio recordings can be downloaded with a single touch, for your listening pleasure.

Look forward to further discussion of Audiobooks and other fun & free English sources on the One Chapter Reading Club blog

…coming soon!


2011/2/8 火曜日

Redefining “mottainai” in the new century

Filed under: English entries,life in Japan — admin @ 9:21:33

When I hear someone mumble “mottainai,” I tense up. I’ve got mottainai PTSD. I moved to Japan when the generation that grew up during the war was still in charge, the mottainai missionaries. Translated strictly, “mottainai” means “what a waste.” But it is usually used to mean “Are you out of your cotton-pickin’ mind? How could you even think of throwing that out?”


In the name of mottainai, most gifts received during the Age of Obligatory Gift Giving (roughly 1970-1995) were put in closets–until the closets were jampacked, after which they were stacked against walls, and then against other piles… you get the picture. Schools and churches dipped into stocks of stuff to hold bazaars. Crowds showed up to buy the stuff. You might call it a rearranging of the gifts–people with too many bottles of soy sauce could bring them in and purchase boxes of soap for a low price. And so on. But people without connections to bazaars were left with rooms of stuff, all much too mottainai to give up. All much too old to be of use after about 20 years.


Nowadays, though you have to buy your own stuff to keep and not be mottainai. Housewives  buy food for any contingency–especially when on sale. 20 carrots for the price of 3? Why not! Vegetables can conveniently be left for up to a month to re-color in the refrigerator. But woe the person tasked with cleaning it out to make room for new food. And for goodness sake, don’t cut off anymore of those aging carrot tops than is green. A millimeter of orange will have the mottainai police at your door.

I’d like to declare the new century (somewhat belatedly) The Post-mottainai Era. The motto of the post-mottainai generation should be “Don’t buy it in the first place! Don’t take it home even if they’re giving it away!” Instead of chiding people who dispose of the used up and unneeded, stand behind people in line at the cash register, and seethe “mottainai” when a purchase looks unnecessary or excessive to you (use your own standards, don’t be shy). Go up behind the purchaser and ask in a sincere tone, “Are you really going to use all of that? Do you have room for that at home? Shall I carry it back to the shelves for you?”

Don’t worry, no one will consider you a busybody. And you won’t hurt anyone’s feelings because any admonishment is acceptable–it always has been–as long as it is preceded by a low growl of “mottainai!”


2011/1/20 木曜日


Filed under: books,English entries, — admin @ 9:53:05

I was searching the web looking for sites that might be helpful for our upcoming blog on ereading (details to come!) when I came across this one: Bookalicious–Two Year Anniversary Giveaway. The blogger here is a prolific reader and reviewer. All levels of books for readers of  all interests. She also discusses the relative merits of “book reading” and “e-reading,” a topic of great interest to me.

In the blog, I came across a category of book that might be a good one for readers in Japan: “Middle Grade.” This is for readers aged perhaps 9-11, and includes  “chapter books.”

Right now, I’d just like to enter the contest and get the free books. The Harper Childrens  Middle Grade Prize Pack looks good to me! If I win, you’ll hear more about these books in March when our new blog on reading is launched.

You can take a look at  Bookalicious yourself or  wait here for mention of Bookalicious reviews.


2011/1/8 土曜日

The best iPhone is an old iPhone

Filed under: English entries,life in Japan, — admin @ 9:23:27

Women hit their peak for “carrying things” after childbirth. Babies require twice their bodyweight in “stuff.”

too much stuff

We try to pare down over the years, although it takes time to get out of the habit of planning for any contingency that might arise between the house and the supermarket. Last year (more than a quarter century since I achieved motherhood) I finally bought the smallest purse that could hold my glasses, wallet, cellphone and keys.

smallest possible purse

To go places requiring more things, I just throw the small purse into a larger one and add extras.

Reading matter is an occasional issue. I bought a Kindle to keep me stocked with books and magazines, but even that began to feel heavy in my big purse.

kindle reader

While doing some research on ebooks, I  downloaded Kindle app onto my husband’s iPhone. When he updated and got a new one, we realized that the old one–with the Kindle app and all of my archived Kindle books on it–could still be used as a reader even though he was no longer paying fees on it.

If I forgo the huge pack of “point cards” I also tend to carry everywhere, it turns out that my brand new old iPhone ebook reader will fit nicely into my small purse.

Over New Year’s we took a short train trip. On the train we saw couples reading comic books side by side, couples playing with matching game devices, and so on. By the second day, I realized we were the couple, sitting together companionably, but completely absorbed in the separate worlds of our respective iPhones.

books on iPhonemahjong on iPhone

2011/1/4 火曜日

Learning to Love a New Team–the Emperor’s Cup

Filed under: English entries,life in Japan,スポーツ — admin @ 13:42:41

After the long Christmas season with its many events, it was somehow unappealing to think about cleaning house and cooking like mad to ring in the New Year in the traditional Japanese way. Never ones to stay up until midnight watching Kohaku Utagassen anyway, we  decided to celebrate our empty nest by chucking all adult responsibility and leaving town.

As everyone in Tokyo headed “home” to the countryside, we got on the Green car of the Shonan Shinjuku line, our home-packed lunch in hand, and sailed off to Tokyo for the Emperor’s Cup championship match.

When we bought our ticket weeks earlier, we had no idea who would be playing or which team we would be rooting for. We bought a seat on the “away side” because, we learned, it gets the afternoon sun.

This year we sat next to the Shimizu S Pulse supporters. S Pulse had a large percussion section that provided a harmonic accompaniment to all of the cheers. To add to the thrill, the supporters didn’t merely sing, they did complicated maneuvers requiring a high level of hand-eye coordination. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn children in Shimizu City are of above-average intelligence. S Pulse player, Ono Shinji, was amazing on the pitch–but we almost missed him due to the fun of watching the supporters. Maybe that was S Pulse’s problem, too, because they lost to Kashima Antlers 2-1. It could have been worse, but I did notice that every time an Antlers player kicked the ball, his red-and-black horizontal-striped socks were shown to excellent advantage.

2010/12/13 月曜日

You can run, but you can’t hide from your adult offspring

Filed under: English entries,life in Japan,国際家族 — admin @ 7:52:18

She’s home–again. The girl we thought had left home for good.

Like the bread crumbs Hansel and Gretel left in the forest, like a dog marking it’s territory, her things–earrings, wallet, keys, money, clean and dirty laundry–make a path from her room, through the entry hall, into the living room, once around the dining room and across the  sofa bed where she insists on camping.

She has jet lag, which means she is ready for conversation first thing in the morning. Our quiet mornings are shattered–for the time being, as we reluctantly  (or not) do as we are told.

who’s the boss here?

2010/12/1 水曜日

Nobuko Takagi Visits Indonesia 高樹のぶ子先生の最後のSIAの旅

Filed under: English entries,翻訳業,高樹のぶ子 — admin @ 15:21:45

Author Nobuko Takagi has been visiting Asian countries as a part of her Soaked in Asia (SIA) Project in conjunction with the the University of Kyushu, “soaking in” the culture and meeting fellow writers. For each country, Takagi has written a short story which is first published in a  magazine (Shincho) and then posted on her blog. The final country she visited was Indonesia, and her last short story is “Fragrant Harum Diary,” set in Bali.

Bali flowers

I’ve been honored to translate six of the ten short stories, all available in both English and Japanese on the SIA blog, including “Tomosui” (set in Thailand) winner of the most recent Kawabata Yasunari Literature Award.

Short stories are a special pleasure to work on because they offer a “literature experience,” without having to complete an entire book over several months. Ms. Takagi’s stories have been extra special because they have given me a taste of countries I’ve never been to.

I think my personal favorite was “The Chili Pepper Sisters,” a story  that starts out philosophically on a Korean farm and ends hilariously–in a ○○○ at Narita Airport.

two chili peppers

2010/11/29 月曜日


Filed under: English entries,日本語,,翻訳業,英語一般 — admin @ 8:32:55




Look forward to a new book on English reading by Kazuko Enda and Deborah Iwabuchi. Writing and translating English are what we all do as a part of our work and study, but reading is a personal manner. Find out how the devices you own and use in your everyday life are all you need to enter the modern age of ebooks and online English reading.

Check in periodically to get all the details for this new book scheduled to go on sale February 2011!

2010/11/22 月曜日

Back in the old days in Japan

Filed under: English entries,life in Japan,翻訳業,英語一般 — admin @ 13:38:56

Every few years I have the urge to check up on Frederik Schodt who translated Four Immigrants by Henry Kiyama. The story is of turn-of-the-century Japanese immigrants in the US, something that there is very little documentation of, AND it is a comic book. Fun and educational. Kiyama wrote it in a combination of  Japanese-meant-to-be-Japanese and Japanese-meant-to-be English. This is actually rather easy to accomplish in Japanese. English is a little trickier though, and the translation is very cleverly executed so you can tell which is supposed to be which.

It had been a while, so I decided it was time to see what ol’ Fred was up to. I came upon a page on his website entitled My College Paper. Unfortunately the links to the paper didn’t work for me, but his description of his life in Tokyo at International Christian University 1970-1972 was deja vu all over again.

My first trip to Japan was in 1973 and I was there in college 1975-76. Close enough. I am now going to officially refer this page to anyone who wonders why I am the way I am. I lived in the old Tokyo Olympic Youth Center in Yoyogi which began the day at 6 a.m. by piping in Grieg’s “Morning” full blast over the loudspeaker system accompanied by a cheery but insistent Ohayo gozaimasu, ohayo gozaimasu! I didn’t share a room with a Communist, but I did share a wall with a young woman who had visitors of all sexual orientations over to spend the night with her. I commuted to school on packed buses with old ladies clearing pathways down the aisle with their lethal umbrellas. And I used plenty of those kumitori-benjo! 30+ years later, my poor husband is tired of having me wax nostalgic over the smell of Japanese public restrooms during the summer–one of my oldest and arguably fondest memories.

My only theory on how it was (and somehow remains) manageable is that life is daunting when you are a teenager no matter where you are–being in a foreign country was no less strange to me than high school in California. Especially in the 1960s-70s in the San Francisco Bay Area. Looking back, Japan was–and still is– just another variety of “different.”

On another note, both of my daughters went to ICU and refused to even contemplate the dorms–which were pretty much unchanged from Fred’s day. The cafeteria, though, was rebuilt last year.

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