Category Archives: Languages



「日本鬼子」(Japan-devils) is a Chinese racial slur for the Japanese.

Leave it to the Japanese to take the insult and make fun of it by turning it into a もえ (cartoon character representing something).

That sequence of Chinese characters can be pronounced several ways in Japanese, including “Hinomoto Oniko” which sounds like a woman’s name. …

Thus, the racial slur has been owned and turned into a cartoon of a warrior woman with demon horns.

Only in Japan.

China Hush has an article on this.


Every once in a while when translating, a word catches my fancy. This one is evocative in its imagery and versatility.

The ancient Greek word ἀνατέλλω means something coming up and out of something else. It is very versatile, able to be used with many nouns. The imagery drives its meaning. Here are some examples:

  • The sun and moon rise (from the horizon).
  • Water gushes forth.
  • Flame leaps up.
  • Events bring forth or give birth to.
  • Hair grows.
  • Plants spring up.
  • Mountains rise, or appear on the horizon.

All from one little verb, ἀνατέλλω.

French Pronominal Verbs

Pronominal verbs are a category of verbs that use the reflexive pronoun (“se”). It includes reflexive verbs, reciprocal verbs, and idioms.

The part that bit me today was that all pronominal verbs use être instead of avoir as their auxiliary verb.

Il a promené le chien. He had taken his dog for a walk.

Il s’est promené. He had gone for a a walk.

Il a lavé le chien. He had washed the dog.

Il s’est lavé les mains. He had washed his hands.

(When referring to parts of the body, it’s normal to use the reflexive pronoun and the definite article.)

Ah, the joys of brushing up on grammar. 🙂 has a decent write-up on French pronominal verbs.

L’accentuation des Majuscules en Français

Il y a 30 ans que j’ai appris le français. À ce temps, les instructeurs ont dit que on ne devrait pas écrire les majuscules avec accents. On dit que la raison est les machines à écrire ne pouvaient pas produire des accents.

Mais aujourd’hui, les ordinateurs le rendent facile. Les accents sont une partie importante d’orthographie française, et l’Academie Française dit que on devrait écrire les majuscules avec les accents.

Handy Japanese Web Site Dictionary Tool

Is 朝日新聞社 all Greek… er… Japanese to you? Here’s a useful Firefox plug in.

I’ve used Rikaichan to help interpret Japanese web pages for quite some time. When activated, placing the mouse cursor over Japanese text causes a window to appear with the WWWJDIC dictionary definition. とても便利ね。 (Very useful, isn’t it?)

Install the plugin, labeled “the main extension”, then the dictionary of your choice. If you speak English, choose the Japanese-English dictionary. Dictionaries for Japanese to French, German, and Russian are also available.

Here is a shot of Rikaichan in action. The mouse is over the word 「警官」. Rikaichan shows that it’s pronounced keikan, and that as a noun it means policeman. The word can also function as a の adjective (indicated by adj-no).


There is an optional dictionary for those pesky Japanese name kanji. If this is installed, hold down the shift key before putting the mouse cursor over the kanji, and a list of possible names will appear instead of the dictionary definition.

Why Do I Like to Learn Languages?

The human experience is basically the same for all people everywhere. We are born, we die. We grow up, we grow old. We fall in love, we suffer heartbreak. We marry, we divorce. We learn to love God, we lose our faith in humanity. We have families, we shun marriage. We enjoy friends, we fight enemies. We share humour, we mourn the loss of loved ones. We suffer, bleed, heal, grow old, and hopefully gain wisdom somewhere along the way.

The details of our lives differ from person to person. We have individual strengths and weaknesses. Dr. Paul calls this our individual “packages”, but the whole experience of “being human” is universal.

I enjoy meeting people from around the world, knowing that although our individual preferences may be different, there is a common bond through the human experience. I don’t have to understand a single word of another’s language to appreciate that person’s joy or sorrow. If they laugh, I can share their laughter. If they weep, I can stand in comfort.

As I learn languages, I don’t just learn grammar and vocabulary. Yes, I do find the intellectual processes somewhat interesting. However, symbols and sounds present a rather sterile world by themselves. For me, the true joy of learning another languages comes as I learn to open my mind and heart to a new group of people whom I have not met.

It’s a gateway to new friendships.