Sunday, April 30, 2006

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Knuckles in China Land

UPDATE: This game is no longer available. I was not the original distributor. I was just pointing to the link. I cannot distribute the software and I cannot offer any guidance on installing it because I don`t own the rights. I don`t even have the computer that it used to be installed in.

I stumbled upon a free and fun language vocab drilling game going by the rather bizarre name of Knuckles in China Land. It is a role playing game with a very early 1990s feel, based in the Sonic the Hedgehog world. It has no sound, which would be a great addition, but Andre Dirk, the chap who has put this free tool together, has written a pretty intriguing storyline.

The language learning twist is that, whenever you fight, you drill vocab. We use basically very similar language drilling programs at university but they are about one millionth as fun. I find that when I get too tired to carry on ploughing through the textbook, Knuckles is a good refuge. Here is the download page.

If you had the time, you could input any vocab list from any language into the game, but, for those not prepared to put in that effort, there is already support for Japanese, German and Indonesian. The Japanese stuff is particularly strong, with a whole range of downloadable vocab lists, ranging from basic to very advanced.

Oh, and here is a slightly cryptic explanation of the bizarre name.


And, while I'm talking about cool Japanese language learning tools, I have got to mention RikaiChan. It is a plug-in for the free web-browser Firefox (which, by the way, is better in most ways than Internet Explorer). Basically, it allows you to point to kanji on pretty much any Japanese language page and get pop-up dictionary definitions and readings. It is very slick and, again, completely free:


(mŭn'tər) n. (BrE, slang) An ugly person, partic. female.

A. had great fun while we were in England with the unfortunate and unheeded meanings of those Chinese character covered clothes that some people wear. Now it's my turn:

Actually, to be fair, she wasn't particularly munterish. Just hope she does't wear that top in England.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Sailing By

I was staring into the bottom of my glass of green tea today lamenting the frustrations of language learning. You can spend hours studying but find it takes ages for the results to show. This is particularly so with speaking the language. Here is the best simile I can think of to explain what learning to speak Japanese, as opposed to reading, or writing or listening to it, is feeling like:


It is like sailing a boat. The sails and the rigging and all the tackle are your vocabulary, grammar, general understanding of the structure of the language. The wind in your sails is your confidence.

So you can have a pretty extensive understanding of the language - a real tall ship, with acres of sails and rope - but, if you can't get the wind in your sails, you can find yourself stumped in really quite basic interactions. On the other hand, you can be a real buck egit - a tiny little boat with a single sail - but, with a gale force wind of confidence whipping you along, you can do quite well. When you are a real beginner, one phrase can sometimes feel a bit like a spinnaker. You can move. Even with absolutely no language at all, you can make yourself quite extensively understood using the equivalent of getting the oars out and rowing (body language, smiles and a lot of sweaty enthusiasm).

Don't get me wrong. I am not even close to being a tall ship yet. More like a small family boat. But I was a much more basic vessel when I was last in Japan and often did quite well on the communication front. The frustration is, now that I am adding more rigging to a boat that I am expecting to carry more weight, I often find my sails hanging limply when called upon in real conversation. Infact, trying to select the right rope from all the knots lying all over my decks can leave me mumbling in situations which, in the past, I might have breezed through.

If speaking is like sailing, what of the rest of it? Listening comprehension? Similar to surfing. A lot of lying about on the board waiting for a wave that I can catch but, once I am moving, I can get quite a long way if I don't panic.

Learning to read and write Japanese is more directly related to effort. A bit like bicycling ...

... up a 1 in 3 incline!

Monday, April 10, 2006

Bjork and hubby's Japanese themed weirdery

A film called Drawing Restraint 9.

Could be good. Could be very, how shall I put it, Czechoslovakian. Unlikely to come to the Hiratsuka cinema so I'll probably never find out.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

DIY beginnings

A path, a couple of gates and a BBQ. Not bad for a DIY know-nothing, I think you'll agree!

We had a barbie this evening. There can be no blaming the poor food on my tools anymore.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Konichiwa, konichwa, konichiwa

Konoshin Kawabata, a 48-year-old unemployed man, was walking through the grounds of Shounji temple, Osaka when he saw an open door. Never one to pass up an opportunity for a bit of easy thievery, Kawabata sneaked inside and began browsing for a tasty morsel or two. More...

Bulgaria: a little way to go

That "British homosexual" ruined the game just because of a bit of nigger baiting.