January 2010


This is the first post of the translation practise series. Lets dive right in. The scan we are using is the opening page of a Melancholy of Haruhi Suzimiya page from an issue of Shonen Ace.

Working into the first frame of the scan, (Japanese is read from right to left and vertically from the top to bottom) The first line is all Hiragana text and in romanji is read as shikashi maa. The second line is mixed with a kanji and hiragana. In manga aimed at younger people there are often little hiragana symbols printed next to or above to help with the exact pronunciation of the kanji. Taking advantage of this the kanji -hiragana is nan to iu.

The first line – shikashi is an interjection roughly equivalent to however or but and the maa is a feminine injection. So this translates as, running shikashi maa through Google Translate (free webtools FTW!), “but well” with an emphasis on the softer pronunciation since its a girl (Mikuru?) speaking.

The second line is Nan to iu. Looking up Nan in a Kanji Dictionary (or running it through Google Translate) we get “what” with to iu being modifiers. This is where being new to the language hurts a little, Running nan to iu through Google comes out as ‘sake’ (not the rice alcohol). Generally to iu is a modifier that sets up what follows (or previous stated) as ‘what happened’. It does not have a direct translation. Mikuru is setting up the rest of the dialogue in the boxes on the page.

This is why translating is an art, not a science. Japanese with all its use of modifiers and particles does not always translate in a word-for-word manner.

As always comments and clarifications are welcome. Please help us all by giving your input.

Jungle Juice is the 2002 Korean movie about 2 misfits trying to make their way in the criminal underworld of Seoul. Ki-tae and Chol-su are two social outcast/misfits (Yangachi in Korea culture) who find themselves at the very bottom of the local organized crime ladder when they are tasked with escorting a local crime boss on a drug deal that blows up. They find themselves in debt to the capo for 20 million won and get into a series of misadventures trying to recoup the money and secure something for themselves along the way. From CrunchyRoll:

Ki-tae (Jang Hyeok) and Chol-su (Lee Beom-Su) are two goofy happy-go-lucky guys think of a grittier non-suburban version of Beavis and Butthead who unintentionally find themselves at the lowest rung of the local mafia ladder. They get involved in a cocaine deal which of course falls apart, and have to come up with 20 million won to pay back the boss. For the rest of the movie, the two, along with a prostitute named Meg Ryan (Jun Hye-jin) and a cast of misfits and thugs, run around Seoul and Pusan while beating the life out of each other and getting into all sorts of misadventures.

Ki-tae and Choeol-su are very much anti-heroes, they do not fit into mainstream society and tend to have very little respect for its expectations and laws. Nonetheless they become very sympathetic figures and by the end of the movie we are rooting for them to somehow succeed and come out ahead. A very fun little movie with likeable characters and a twisting plot that doesn’t settle down. Very highly recommended movie. The ending fits the characters and their personalties to a T.

Haruhi Scan

Rainbow Hill Language Lab had an excellent blog post up on learning Japanese through reading. He makes the point of Japanese being easier to read than listen to because of the way words run together. There being no way to pause or rewind an audible conversation, it is a leap to listen to a speaker just talking in his (or her) language with a limited vocabulary and even with that it can still be a challenge: just listen to the rapid fire Japanese of manga live reader Rikimaru Toho in the video. Learning Japanese through reading can help to overcome this because you are able to slow down and look something up and return to the  text and pick up where you left off.

To learn any language you need massive amounts of authentic input, and it helps if it is something that you find interesting. This is especially important if you are not living in a place where you are constantly exposed to the language you want to speak.

If the only Japanese you read is in the classes that you go to, the rate you learn new words is going to be pretty low. I make a point in my lessons on eduFire of using words that most people in the class already know. This is so we can focus on practice, without getting hung up on explanations of new vocabulary.

When you read you are going to be exposed to may more words than you would if you were just listening to a conversation. You are also going to be exposed to Japanese that is authentic and without error. Manga is almost 100% dialogue, and depending what genre of manga you read, an accurate picture of modern Japanese spoken today.

Coming soon to this blog – an series of scans from an old Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya manga starting with the above page. Practise with a purpose.

Jumping the shark – its when a TV show strays so far from its orginal premise that the result has nothing to do with anything other than an attempt to garner ratings. From Wikipedia:

Jumping the shark is a colloquialism used by TV critics and fans to denote the point in a television program‘s history where the plot spins off into absurd story lines or unlikely characterizations. These changes are sometimes the result of efforts to revive interest in a show whose viewership has begun to decline. In other cases, the changes have other causes (e.g. an actor quitting, different writers being hired) and the diminished interest is the result. The two causes can feed into each other, leading to even greater changes and even lower popularity. Nonetheless, some series remain profitable and popular long after they have been judged by some to have “jumped the shark”. The phrase has recently come into more general usage, and is applied to cultural phenomena other than television programs.

Man Vs. Wild is the survival TV show which features Bear Grylls in various survival situations explaining how to find food/water/shelter and continue to live. Normally something like this would be very interesting, learning survival techniques etc. But the latest moment from the show seem to be all about grossing out viewers, from eating live snakes and maggots to drinking water squeezed from a ball of elephant dung, its all about topping your self in the name of attracting the gross out ratings. Deviating from survival and nature into the king of the gross out TV. The newest is is Bear teaching that you can get hydration and water from rancid water by giving yourself an enema. This give whole new meaning to the phrase “lie back and think of England” …