Monthly Archives: March 2016

What are simplified characters and traditional characters? Which should I learn?

Traditional characters are the original set of Chinese characters that have been used since long ago in China’s history. They are usually made up of many complicated strokes.

Around 1950, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) began standardizing a simplified version of many of these complex characters.

This simplification began as the PRC’s attempt at decreasing nationwide illiteracy, but has unfortunately become a geographical divider, since different countries use different character systems. 

All you need to know right now is one major difference: simplified characters have fewer strokes.

For example, the common character 邊 (bin1) – “side” in Cantonese has 18 strokes in traditional form, while its simplified form (边) only has 5.

The good news is, 20% of traditional and simplified characters are written exactly the same way, so you’ll automatically be able to read some of both.

If you’re planning to travel or live in either Hong Kong or Taiwan, you’ll mostly see traditional characters, so you might want to start learning those.

However, if you plan to travel mostly in Mainland China—where simplified characters are standard — you should learn simplified characters.

 

Unusual Cantonese Superstitions

Despite an official ban on religions, however, China remains a surprisingly superstitious society, and some people can take these beliefs so seriously that the government has actually had to initiate programs to remind people not to follow them too closely.

I’ll get into a few of my favorite Cantonese superstitions below.

1) Aversion to Used or Second-hand Things

In a red-hot, fast moving economy with a “Wild East” reputation, you’d think there’d be a big market for second-hand, or “ji6 sau2 (二手)” (literally “second hand”) goods.

After all, people are moving between cities and apartments all the time and new versions of products come out with crazy frequency.

Oddly enough, though, there’s a superstitious aversion to second-hand or used products that’s a subtle but important force in Cantonese commerce.

Part of it comes from the classic “face” construct, wherein one’s reputation takes a hit if it becomes known that they’re using second hand products.

Another part of it is that many believe while being in possession of a secondhand item, they’ll inherit whatever bad luck or misfortune of the item’s previous owner. For that reason, estate sales, which typically happen after bankruptcies, divorces, or deaths, rarely occur in China. 

The continuation of this superstition in modern times may also be because that “new” is the norm in China, and has been for a whole generation now.

It’s the world’s global manufacturing hub and construction is constant and ever-present given the low price of labor and materials, leading to a culture and atmosphere in which repurposing old goods or extending their lifespans is rare – there’s always something new on the horizon because new stuff is relatively cheap to make here.

2) Aversion to the Number 4 and Affinity For the Number 8

Lots of cultures have numerical superstitions, but Cantonese tends to take this to the next level. 

It’s commonly known that the word for the number 4, or “sei3 (四)”, sounds a lot like the word for death “sei2 (死)”, and thus is considered highly unlucky.

Many, though not the majority, buildings in China lack a labeled 4th floor, and license plate numbers, phone numbers and even addresses with 4’s tend to be considered less desirable. A study even proved that in North American communities with large numbers of Cantonese immigrants, addresses ending in a 4 sold for 2.2% less than average.

Addresses ending in an 8, on the other hand, sold for 2.5% more than average, which speaks to prosper, superstitiously attributed to that number.

The reasoning here is that “baat3(八)” sounds a bit like “faat3 (发)”, a shortened version of “faat3 coi4 (发财)”, or “to get rich,” which is a nice linguistic lesson in the way that words with the same tone but different sounds can be considered a strong rhyme in Cantonese.

 

Hi everyone, 皆さん、こんにちは。

My Japanese classes/lessons included practices to develop skills of speaking, reading, listening, writing (including weekly essays on a variety of topics for Intermediate 1), interacting and constructing/performing students’ own dialogues by pairs/groups or by oneself. The learning includes japanese coursethe language and cultural skills used in travelling in Japan and general understanding on Japanese culture. Speaking practice sometimes used the pictures, concepts or topics from the brochures of the Japan National Tourism Organizations, Japanese newspapers, its ads, Nichigo Press, Daily Telegraph etc.

My previous Beginners 2 finished early this month. Then I began teaching a new group of Beginners 1 form the middle of this month. They have been using Training Material in Japanese of SLS and I have been using some other supplementary handouts, including the names of a family members, names of many things used in people’s daily life and verbs commonly used in daily life. The class (about 10 people) consists of people who want to go to Japan soon (esp. at its cherry blossom time!) and currently they are very keen (+ some interesting questions given to me in each lesson).

Also, I taught a university student who is visiting Japan (he might be there now) for about 10 days. He had an intensive tutorials of about 10 lessons. We used the above mentioned Material, some handouts for time telling, speaking about trains departures/arrivals with page from the Japan Railway, well known timetable “Jikoku-hyoo”, which you will see at any station of the above in Japan. Also, I talked about Japanese onsen, public baths, Royal Family, significance of etiquette/mannerism, techniques of learning Japanese (that I had heard from ones who had been very successful learners of Japanese among the Australians and who I had interviewed in the past for my postgraduate studies), Mt Fuji and large amusement park nearby, major attractions in Tokyo, Kyoto and Nara, etc. Also, I taught reading of basic Hiragana with the use of the Romaji and Hiragana syllable based chart. The above student was very keen and perceptive. I thoroughly enjoyed teaching and he seems having enjoyed my lesson too! (I received a very heart-warming thanking card at the end of the series of the lessons!)

My other students of tutorials, who are busy professionals, began coming to my weekly lessons as before. They are interested in taking the JLPT apart from learning general Japanese language. One of them brought the preparatory book of N5 last week and we began using that book for the lessons.

Japanese Teacher, Toshiko Jackson

27.1.16

 

Hi everyone, 皆さん、こんにちは。

My Japanese classes/lessons included practices to develop skills of speaking, reading, listening, writing (including weekly essays on a variety of japanese coursetopics for Intermediate 2 and Pre-Intermediate 1), interacting and constructing/performing students’ own dialogues by pairs/groups or by oneself. The learning includes the language and cultural skills used in travelling in Japan and general understanding on Japanese culture. Speaking practice sometimes used the pictures, concepts or topics from the brochures of the Japan National Tourism Organizations, Japanese newspapers, its ads, Nichigo Press, Daily Telegraph (e.g. a travel magazine, “Escape”).

My current Beginners 1 has been using our Training Material (Japanese) and currently studying Unit 7. Also they learned phrases and vocab. well used for shopping. Later they will make their dialogue esp. at shopping situations and their own speech for the introduction of themselves and their family/friends in Japanese and orally present it in front of the class.

As for my other group lessons, Pre-Intermediate 1 is studying with Unit 4, Genki Bk 1 and last week, they learned verb conjugation of te- forms and plain forms plus past tense with making sentences for application. They write short stories too based on some topics.

Intermediate 2 is studying with Japanese for Busy People, Bk 2, its Lesson 4 and they have studied many adjectives, their conjugation for negative, past tense and past tense/negative forms with making sentences for application. Also they have been writing essays or short stories for homework and read them out in class before submission of the writings. They have been (very) well motivated, creative and diligent.

For tutorials, one of the students, who is a busy company, is studying Lesson 4 of Japanese for Busy People, Bk 2 and also with the preparatory book of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, N5. The other student for the tutorial has been continuing studying with Genki Bk 1 and she finished Unit 10. Also, she has been studying for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, N5 too and vigorously studying with the preparatory book in my tutorials.

From this week, I also began teaching weekly for a corporate training course for a company that is in marketing related business. That is Beginners 1 and several participants are involved. It will go for 10 weeks. They seem to have well enjoyed the first lesson!

Japanese Teacher, Toshiko Jackson

1.3.16

 

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