A little progress in Japanese

Screenshot anime Minami-ke (Kana, Chiaki)

I apologize in advance if I make any of my readers look like a slacker, but I am sure you are all eagerly studying something in this fascinating world! Let us do our best today too!

As I have written occasionally this past month, Japanese is a fiendishly difficult language to learn for us Europeans. Not only is almost every word different and the grammar also quite alien (to the point where Google Translate gives mostly gibberish), but the language is written in three different scripts, two of them with several dozen characters and the third with more than a thousand! (Several thousand if you want to read older books, but let’s not go there.) Even Japanese school children, who presumably can speak the language from home, learn only around a hundred characters per year, or so I have read. My Japanese readers should correct me if I am wrong. ^_^

Even with Memrise, the website which combines mnemonics and spaced repetition, I have a hard time remembering more than two out of three words when I revise them. But at least this proportion mostly stays the same, even though I add 15-20 words each day, usually more on the weekends. So the number of words that remain in my head must be increasing, although I am not sure which words I remember and which I forget.

Today, I noticed a couple things. I watched an old anime that I had not seen for years, and I recognized a word in the anime that I had learned from Memrise. Usually it is the other way around, but this is how it should be.  A few days ago I recognized another in a Japanese pop song. So they are not kept in a separate locked room, they are available to my brain. If I keep adding words, they should pop up more often, until I don’t even remember where I learned them the first time.  But for now, I do.

Another thing I noticed today was the hiragana, the most common script, with around 50 characters. Since the JLPT N5 course on Memrise uses mostly hiragana both when it shows the text and when I respond, I keep seeing them all the time. Because of this I no longer think of Hiragana characters as separate data points that I have to memorize. They are becoming a skill. I can read a word I have never seen before and know roughly how it is pronounced. And for the most part I am not in doubt. I don’t have to wonder which sound this character stands for, and then combine the sounds afterwards. I just combine the sounds. This is not quite the case for katakana, the less common script, but it will probably go the same way, only more slowly since I see it less often.

Even so, at this speed it will take months before I can read actual texts in hiragana, even children’s books or comics. I simply don’t have enough vocabulary. But months are a modest price to pay to open the door to one of the world’s greatest cultures. (Not to mention finding out the truth about Ryuho Okawa, the man who wrote 900 books.) Since I yet haven’t been diagnosed with anything terminal except life itself, I intend to forge ahead. Even if it goes slowly, it goes forward. At the least, I feel it is worth a try.

6 thoughts on “A little progress in Japanese

  1. “The Tao that can be spoken is not the true Tao; the Name that can be named is not the True Name” – Tao Te Ching, opening words.
    “And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.” – King James Bible, 1. Corinthians 8.

    Due to the state of humanity, any religion as such must necessarily use God-images, even if only mental images, and these images are by some definitions idols, even though their purpose is to turn man towards God. I don’t think this can be helped.

    Christianity has been very open about the belief that Christ is the Demiurge, the Craftsman who helped fashion the world, and part of the “us” in whose image humans were made. But somewhat like Plato, the Christian Church teaches that this Craftsman was a pure emanation of the One and created a good world, albeit a world that is still not perfect in time. Some even argue that since time implies change, perfection in time is logically impossible, since there is no reason for the perfect to change. I dispute this. Time is merely a dimension. But anyway. Mainstream Christianity certainly agrees that Christians and Jews both worship the Craftsman, Christians knowingly and the Jews unknowingly. Obviously the random churchgoer would vehemently deny this if they even knew what you were talking about. This is as it must be, I guess.

    • I’m not sure if I understand you.
      El is a normal but very powerful god. He had a consort and was invoked the same way one would invoke Thoth. The angels are descended from him. That’s what the word angel means: Messenger/Slave of El.

      He started calling himself God at some point.

      This is why “God” demands blood sacrifice in the old testament. He isn’t actually the Light.

      According to the page above Anu ruled in a triad with 2 other gods.

      Anu, El, Yawheh have the same consort.
      “She is identified as the wife or consort of the Sumerian Anu or Ugaritic El, the oldest deities of their pantheons.”

      They worshiped him before Jesus. Many still worship him now thanks to ‘St’ Paul.

      This is why some people hear “God” telling them to kill people.

      The Catholic Church worships El instead of God. We judge a group by it’s productions:

      I need to check this thoroughly. If this is true – the implications are profound.

      • It is unknown to most churchgoers, of course, but it is not unknown to Christian theologians. The official Christian view is that God has always been God, but has revealed himself gradually more throughout history. For instance during the patriarch age, before Israel had a national identity, God was known as El; Moses revealed the name of Yahweh to Israel, and prophets later filled in with a more correct picture of his nature and intentions. Christianity officially assumes that Jesus completed the revelation of God, but one may wonder about that, given that Jesus told his disciples that he had much more to tell them which they could not bear yet, and the Spirit of Truth would continue to teach them.

        Archeology gives us more insight into the early period when the revelation of God was still not come very far. You may wonder why it had to be that way. The answer is that civilization during its early phases was not very civilized. For instance the rule “an eye for an eye” seems barbarian to us now, but was actually a great progress at its time. Before that, clan wars tended to escalate, because every clan considered its own members more valuable than the opponent and would take an eye for a tooth, a life for an eye, and so on. A teaching like that of Jesus would simply be so insane to people of that age that there would be no one who listened to it. So God had to start with things like teaching people to sacrifice sheep instead of children, and take it from there.

        A more controversial question is whether the Supreme God could have chosen to make another local deity his bridge to humankind. For instance, could Odin have become the global name for the Light? I notice that in the Norse religion, there was a gradual change similar to what we see in early Hebrew history, with Odin transforming from a warmonger to the wise Allfather. Arguably this may have happened under outside influence from Christianity, but it is interesting that the process mirrored what we now know ancient Israel. Maybe the Light is always and everywhere trying to break into the world. Certainly that is what I believe.

        About the dark side of the priestly celibacy, there is a lot to say, but it is a bit of a different topic. The knowledge the Church already have about God should be enough to prevent such things, but clearly knowing God personally is a different matter.

        • Check this out:

          I’m actually hiring someone with a history degree to look into it. Wikipedia is usually accurate but thorough sources are needed.

          “For instance, could Odin have become the global name for the Light.”

          Odin was always big on blood sacrifice.

          According to Finnish mythology he was banished. Ukko/El banished Väinämöinen/Odin/Gandalf to the underworld.

          The gods percieve humans the same way humans percieve animals. This is why the gods don’t think much of countless humans dying. Humans don’t care about animal suffering either. I’ve given up meat because of this.

          KFC isn’t really doing anything different from Odin. Many view KFC as a respectable organization bringning jobs but also see it as an organization that kills chickens.

          Bascially Odin could be percieved as a war monger and wise at the same time.

          The Catholic Church is just the tip of the iceberg:
          Why does God slaughter countless? The simplest explanation that El did it – not God.

          We know the Bible is roughly around 70 percent accurate:
          “An almost universal theological postulate is that the last large-scale mass extinction event occurred due to a global flood.”
          This sounds like something El would do.

          Your explanation does work – but the explanation that El was a simply a god that started calling himself God is simpler and there is more evidience for it. Humans have done this before – so it follows that a god would do this as well.

          Note the fact that were other gods before El:

          “The answer is that civilization during its early phases was not very civilized. “‘
          Humans haven’t changed very much.

          • Let us briefly compare the Supreme God to the sun. Obviously that is a pretty tame comparison, since the Creator must necessarily be greater and more powerful than a star, or a galaxy for that matter. But for now, think of what would happen if the sun decided to appear in person, as it were, on Earth. Instantly the planet itself and everything on it would be vaporized and absorbed into the sun forever. So that ends whatever business brought the sun here in the first place.

            If the sun wants to maintain life on Earth, it naturally sends its rays rather than its core.

            So imagine my surprise when I ran across an observant Jew who said that they believe the JHVH who appeared on Mt Sinai was actually the Creator appearing in person inside creation.

            I may come across as an unbeliever by saying this, but I find it obvious that the Supreme God, the combined Perfection and Completion, can only be intuited from within creation. Any God-image we make will to some degree be imperfect because we are imperfect, and the image can therefore serve as an idol.

            During the Patriarchal Age, the proto-Hebrews worshiped El; later, during the Philistine War and the Monarchy, they worshiped Yahweh. But on a casual reading of the Bible, this all blends together quite nicely, so that it seems like the same person. One explanation for this is that both of the gods are agents of an even higher power*. At the time it would not have been a good idea to say so, since people would then naturally disrespect a mere messenger and feel slighted that they didn’t get to see the boss. But that is because we didn’t know – did not even suspect – how small and frail we are not just in body but in mind, how easily our psyche could be destroyed if we looked too far ahead into the mystery.

            (* The notion that Yahweh might have been a high-ranking spirit but not the ultimate God is considered heretical by most Christians and probably all observant Jews today. The strongest support for this view in Christianity is probably the final speech of St Stephan the first Christian martyr, who said that the Jews had “received the law by angels and not kept it”, which implies that whoever gave the Law to Moses was a messenger rather than the Supreme God in person. It does not really decide whether Yahweh was the messenger or the messenger spoke on behalf of Yahweh. Most of us are probably better of not knowing.)

            Established religion may be “wrong” in many ways, but it exists as a framework to protect the individual mind from being burned by looking, unprepared, into a light too strong to contain. Individuals may go beyond this, but we need to be careful. And we need to have a lot of love in our hearts, for love is the only reliable compass when leaving tradition.

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