Google fail

2017-May-07, Sunday 13:37
mindstalk: Tohsaka Rin (Rin)
I was trying to pick up my Japanese studies again, and turning to Google Translate as a way to get some daily phrases. "A bowl of rice" was given the plausible characters 米のボウル, but transliterated as "Amerika no booru". Cooked rice (kome) and America do share a kanji, but you wouldn't read it that way!

I shared with my friend in Japan, who laughed, then said you wouldn't read it as "Amerika" even when talking about America.

Also that "kome no booru" was like a bowl made out of rice (plant) or something, and not something you'd say; instead you'd use "ichizen", ichi-zen, zen being an oddly specific counter for bowls of rice or pairs of chopsticks.

So, multiple levels of machine translation fail!
mindstalk: (Enki)
As I enter Japanese words, sometimes I mess up, or am guessing at what I hear in anime. I've noticed that almost anything I enter still has a meaning according to my tools. And words with the same pronunciation seem more common than in English.

As W reminded me, Japanese doesn't have that many syllables. There are about 50 basic syllables, maybe 80 including the compounds like 'gyo'. At 50, there are 2500 pairs, and 125,000 triplets. Even a large vocabulary can fill up most of that. By contrast, I read once that English has over 1000 syllables, which means 1 million pairs, and 1 billion triplets. Mind you, many of those won't be pronounceable, or valid under English phonotactics, or distinct[1]. But still, lots of words -- even 99% discounting would mean 10 million triplets.
mindstalk: (12KMap)
My phone (Android 4, CM 11) swipe input is weird when it comes to profanity. So, there are three levels: its first guess for your word, two alternates to the side, and then a list you can bring up. 'suck', 'sucking', 'shit', and 'dick' will never appear in the first two levels, even if I go slowly and letter by letter -- 'shi' turns into 'shot', with 'shirt' and 'shoot' as alternates. Peter thinks it's a probability weight thing; I figure it's hardwired, with a short list of words being simply barred from your being able to input them too quickly (i.e. accidentally.)

But 'fuck', 'fucking', and 'fucker' I can enter quite easily. 'cunt' too. And 'pussy', with a bit of care (it's hard to swipe a double letter.)

Peter thinks it's also probabilities weighted by how you've used the phone, but I use 'suck' and 'sucking' in texts far more than any of the others... I've probably never tried to swipe 'cunt' before.

My thought for a while was that maybe fuck* weren't in the dictionary at all, until I added them, so wouldn't be barred, but I checked my personal word list and nope, they're not there.

So I dunno. Maybe it's more of an "accidentally unprofessional" filter, like words on the edge of acceptability are barred so you don't tell your boss how much something sucks, but the designers figured if you want to go full vulgar you knew what you were doing. Not how I'd do things.... and no, I don't see a profanity filter I might have turned off.

Wait, I'm wrong! I just checked again, and yes, Android Keyboard has a "block offensive words" option which is off, so I probably did that at some point... and I'm *still* not getting 'suck' or 'shit' as choices above the third level.


Totally unrelatedly, I finally have Japanese input working on my laptop! 日本語よ! I'd tried UIM a while back, per the Arch Linux default recommendation, but it didn't work. Then I tried SCIM a few days ago, and it seemed to not work either, but later I found myself typing in Japanese suddenly. Ctrl-Space turns it on, Ctrl-Shift cycles through modes (Anthy [Japanese], Unicode, English/European [which doesn't seem to do anything]. I should look into configuring that, because I need Ctrl-Shift-C and -V to copy and past from/to my Terminator terminal, so there's an annoying conflict there. Still, woo!

Is this more than a toy, given my weak Japanese skills? Slightly: online dictionaries tend to work best with Japanese input, not romaji, so now I can actually use them. And I've started studying it again, so that helps.
mindstalk: (YoukoRaku1)
I have since finished the Akagami anime, and almost all of the manga.

* Kiki and Mitsuhide, Prince Zen's first two guards/attendants, who used -dono on each other until they asked each other to stop, are in fact noble. Shirayuki uses -san with them even in private, contrary to my guess last time. They don't use an honorific with her or Zen, Zen and S don't use honorifics with each other (in private; his attendants qualify as private.)

* Obi, the definitely non-noble ninja, got promoted all the way to "Obi-sama" by a palace servant in Tanbarun. In the same scene, underage royalty call him Obi-san. That's not surprising given the relative ranks, but I note it.

* Those royal kids get "omae-tachi", or "you two" from their older and very annoyed brother. "omae" is a pretty casual/rude way of saying "you", like "hey you" -- Mitsuhide uses it on Obi a lot. One of the kids uses "nii-sama" for that brother, which is like "Exalted Big Brother". The kids also says Shirayuki-san, when their older brother, the first prince of their country, is saying Shirayuki-dono. That's kind of interesting... sort of they're responding to her base status, he's treating her as an honored guest plus all the... complications... they have.

* Between careful listening and the manga, I'm pretty sure he says "ojou-san" for Shirayuki much of the time, not my guess of an accented "ojou-sam". But he can switch it up: in one scene he opens with "ojou-san" as basically "Hi" or "Yo", but uses "ojou-sama" when speaking formally to her a moment later. For her part, she just calls him Obi. Then in that scene he loosens up and almost calls her by name, "Shirayu-" before clapping his hand to his mouth in horror.

* ...I just accidentally discovered TV Tropes ojou, which distinguishes 'ojou', lady, from 'oujo', princess. *headdesk* Not a distinction I'd been aware of, obviously, and not sure one my ear would be trained to discern even listening for it. It'll be interesting to try, though, especially where Shirayuki is concerned. Probably it's been 'ojou'.

* Speaking of which, a pirate captain calls Shira "ojou-chan". Given the personality and situation, this was probably mocking, it's like "little lady".

* After being rescued, Shirayuki is "Zen-ouji, Kiki-san, Mitsuhide-san", but once the outsider is dismissed and in the process of leaving, she's back to "Zen!". She'd also used Zen-ouji in talking *about* him to the local prince.

* The chief court herbalist, the one who calls S Shirayuki-kun, says Mitsuhide-sama and Zen-denka. Why is Mitsuhide -sama to her and -dono originally to Kiki? I have no idea. Maybe because Kiki was noble. You'd think a senior court official would kind of rank... Various random guards say "Kiki-dono". (But in the manga, they use -sama.) S uses Zen-ouji in front of her, keeping up appearances. I feel she's more diligent about that this season than she was last, but could be wrong.

* Mitsuhide says Izana-denka in talking about the first prince, S says Izana-ouji in talking nto him. Again, I don't know if that has any meaning other than varying things up. Except, I note I'm not sure she's *ever* said denka, she uses ouji whenever she bothers being that formal. (Nope, she has, I just caught her saying "Zen-denka" when asking "you're Prince Zen's older brother, right?" Mostly uses ouji, though.)

* Manga: chief herbalist uses -kun on visiting herbalists who are her juniors but not her direct subordinates. She just calls Ryuu by his name though; he's the 12 year old prodigy who outranks most of the others; I assume she's going by his age. Oh, right, he asked S to call him Ryuu, and she's his junior, though he keeps calling her -san. The Chief also says Obi-kun, which is amusing. What *do* you call the prince's sketchy messenger? Izana honors both the chief and Ryuu with -dono, which given his rank and personality really is high honor.

* Huh, I never noticed what Prince Izana calls or uses for Shirayuki. Assuming he's ever *had* to use her name.

* Huh, Raji was saying "Shirayuki-dono" while talking about her to Zen back in first season, when he didn't respect her, just feared Zen. Uses it in talking to her a bit later, too. I guess he's been properly cowed, or is treating her as Zen's lover, which he thought she was.

* Not an honorific per se, but the second time Izana confronts S, I catch him saying "anata", "you", which is fairly rude in Japanese. Then he uses 'hime', "princess", right after that, which is mocking-rude in context.
mindstalk: (Nanoha)
One thing I've become fascinated by in Japanese in the use of honorifics to convey degrees of intimacy and relationship. I don't think English was ever quite so developed, and modern society has lost much of the nuance we had (e.g. Miss Bennett vs. Miss Elizabeth.) Which may be just as well for social equality, but still, interesting subject. Two examples weigh on my mind.

First is the Nanoha franchise, and the many names of Fate Testarossa (given name, family name), especially in the first two series, where she's a 9 to 10 year old girl.

* Fate-chan to Nanoha and many others. This is the default state of a little girl, almost anyone can -chan them on minimal acquaintance.
* Fate to her mother and her familiar. This is really intimate, but those are the people you'd expect that from. If it has shades of being condescending, too... well, her mother's not very nice.
* Fate-kun while speaking to 'Admiral' Graham, as a probationary member of magical Starfleet. -kun is sort of the -chan for boys, but it's also used for junior employees, including female ones. So this fits.
* Fate-san to Lindy, who also uses it for mundane girls like Arisu and Suzuka. I like my interpretation, wherein Lindy believes in treating everyone with dignity and respect, even 9 year old girls, and even 9 year old girls who can't defeat her in single combat (which Fate quite possibly could). But it's odd seeing a conversation wherein Chrono or Amy refers to Fate-chan and Lindy uses Fate-san, in adjacent lines.
* Testarossa to Signum, an antagonist and old warrior. Seems to fit, standard brusque 'hey, lastname!'
* Testarossa-chan to Shamal, Signum's softer and more motherly colleague. Interesting blend of "little girl that I am not on first name basis with especially as she's an enemy." Logical, but funny.

Even my friend W eventually granted that the diversity in Fate's case was a bit much.

We could get really geeky and consider who's actually Japanese or speaking it. The franchise chickens out of considering any language or translation issues; the simplest explanation seems to be to assume that the non-Earthlings are mostly using translation programs through their Devices. Fate's family isn't Earthling, so it could be that her mother and familiar are simply using her name. Lindy is a Japanophile -- she's got a thing that goes doink in her starship office -- and thus could plausibly be learning Japanese on her own, so maybe she's using -san as many foreigners do, to not mess up. Signum and Shamal are outsiders but must have had Japanese downloaded into them before they booted up this time around.


Then there's a more recent one, Akagami no Shirayukihime ("Snow White with the Red Hair"). The star's given name is Shirayuki, family name unknown. Age also unknown to me, but I'd say somewhere between 15 and 25, probably 18-20. It's set in a Disney-like "fantasy" quasi-European world: no magic or fantastic elements yet, but a weird anachronistic stew of gas or electric lighting, big glass greenhouses, leaf spring carriage wheels, essays on cyanobacteria, and no guns. My subtitles here, unlike the Nanoha ones, try to translate ("Miss Shirayuki") rather than copy honorifics, which I'll grudgingly grant is maybe appropriate for the setting, but I listen for the honorifics in the spoken Japanese anyway. There do seem to be a lot fewer of them, and a lot more use of simple (given name), but they are there.

One particularly interesting one is -dono, which is even more divergent in use than -kun. One use is to address a social superior, but someone not as superior as -sama implies. Another use is for superiors to address each other, sort of granting "you are *someone's* superior and I respect that, though of course you aren't *my* superior."

So, when I was re-watching and paying attention for this stuff, I caught the palace guards of Clarines addressing the heroine as Shirayuki-dono. Who is she to them? At one level, she's a town girl from another kingdom, with no inherent social status whatsoever, definitely not a -sama. At another level, she's the prince's friend (or, they might imagine, mistress) with his personal invitation to visit the palace, and who addresses *him* with his given name, no honorific, which AIUI is kind of more intimate than actually having sex. So more than the default -san. -dono fits perfectly.

Later, another prince visits, and the princes address each other as Raji-dono and Izana-dono, which fits: equal social superiors acknowledging each other's superiority.

More surprising: a recent flashback revealed that Prince Zen's bodyguards initially used -dono with each other. I don't know their background; given their clothing and their job as his permanent companions, it's plausible that they're members of the minor nobility. In the current time they're on unadorned given name basis with each other, Prince Zen, and I think Shirayuki.

Obi, a later guard/attendant, who's some lower class ninja scum, got to be "Obi-dono" recently while accompanying the heroine on a semi-state visit. I imagine that was "you're the personal attendant of this girl who isn't a princess but is kind of being treated like one, and you're dressed up, -dono seems safe, won't insult any -samas who overhear and you won't kill me if it turns out you really are a -sama yourself." For his own part he may still use honorifics with the other two guards (I'm not sure, I haven't paid *that* close attention), and definitely refers to Shira with respect; if not an actual honorific, then certainly a lot of "oujo" (lady/princess), especially when talking about her.

As mentioned, Shirayuki normally addresses the star prince as simply Zen, which must be shocking and provocative for those who overhear. Usually he's either Denka or Zen-denka to people. The chief herbalist used "Zen-sama" in talking to him about how he could abuse his position, but I couldn't parse it more than that. When Shira said goodbye to him recently, while surrounded by lots of people, she used Zen-ouji (another suffix for 'prince'), I assume to cater to appearances for once. She also addressed his older brother as Izana-ouji. Why ouji vs. denka? I have no idea. I've seen 'denka' translated as "highness" while 'ouji' is literally "king-boy", but I don't know the relative status.

Shira herself as apprentice court herbalist is Shirayuki-kun to the Chief Herbalist (that employer-employee thing against), Shirayuki-san to Ryu, who is her herbal senior but her junior in age, and Shirayuki-chan way back in the first episode to the old people she'd grown up among.

I'm trying to recall if anyone addressed Prince Raji, who's a sleazy scummy chump, as Raji-kun to be insulting.

Pronoun compression

2016-Feb-25, Thursday 22:03
mindstalk: (Nanoha)
So, you'd think languages would tend to shorten the length of commonly used words. And in English, all pronouns are short. 'our' is arguably two syllables. 'theirs' is one syllable though a lot of phonemes. But I, you, though, we, your, ... all short.

Spanish too, mostly: yo, tu, el, ella. (But, nosotros). Even though inflections mean you often don't need them.

In Japanese, not so much. Of the truly excessive list of pronouns, I think all are 2+ syllables. Of the standard ones, watashi (I) and anata (you) are both three. Some informal ones are two (ore, boku). A standard really formal one is four (watakushi, I). And if you want to indicate possession, that needs another syllable, e.g. 'watashi no' for 'my'.

But, apparently, pronouns aren't used as much in Japanese. Raising a chicken and egg question: are they dropped because they're long, or are they long because they're easily dropped? At any rate, all I read says Japanese is good at dropping parts of its syntax in favor of context (more so than other languages?) so don't need to say 'I' if you're obviously talking about yourself.

Also, simply using 'anata' is often rude, and it's more proper to use people's names. And some girls trying to be cutesy will instead of using watashi, or the cutesy variant atashi, use their own names, like "Mariko-chan is hungry" instead of "I am hungry".

Which seems like a lot of work! Except... the pronouns *are* long, I realize, so the opportunity cost is a lot less. Personal names are typically 2-3 syllables, family names commonly 3-4 syllables, add a standard honorific and we're talking 3-5 syllables. Given that the alternatives are generally three syllables themselves, using the name might not take any more time. Or it might take 5 syllables to 3 -- Nakajima-san vs. anata -- but I don't know how our brains process that. Is it just as bad as using 3 for 1, two extra syllables, or is it "only 67% longer" vs. "three times longer"?

And for the cutesy usage, well, not only are personal names shorter than family names on average, they can be further truncated, especially if you're being cutesy. One manga Mariko I know of is Mari-chan (or -tan, or -chin) to her friends, and presumably if she were the sort of girl to refer to herself in the third person she'd use those forms too. No longer than atashi, then.
mindstalk: (Enki)
So there are various philosophies of translation, how literal or high level you should be, how much to preserve meaning vs. experience. For example, samurai daimyo and ninja could be translated as knight lord and assassin. This would make them seem more familiar to European cultures and preserving or 'translating' the experience -- after all, samurai isn't exotic to Japanese people -- at the potential cost of shades of meaning, and the exoticness that might be why someone wants to read the translation in the first place.

One specific disagreement I've seen is over Japanese honorifics: -san, -chan, -kun, etc. Pro translators seem to pride themselves on full naturalization, turning -san into Mister and relatives, -chan into endearments if anything, and such. Anime/manga fans generally prefer preserving them, and that has taken over professional manga translations, which now usually have an honorifics guide in the front. I prefer that myself, as I can easily see uses of honorifics that would be hard to translate without contortion[1], and it's not much work to have learned them.

But I realized, part of it may be due to the difference in intended audience. Pro novel translators probably assume that theirs may be the only novel from that language read by many of the readers, and aim to minimize the work expected of the readers. Anime/manga fans generally read or watch many such works, often trying to learn Japanese for real themselves, so for us, the not very large amount of work in learning is amortized among many works.

[1] One example: it seems easy to translate Gingko-san as Mister Gingko, or Hayate-san as Miss Hayate. But what if someone's gender is unknown or non-binary? You've got a choice problem in English that simply doesn't exist in Japanese, where -san can apply to anyone or anything.
mindstalk: (riboku)
* Sahara Mart has sun-dried strawberries in the bulk section. They're pretty good.
** ETA: though given their gumminess and color, I suspect sugar and sulfur dioxide additives. Pure dried (e.g. freeze-dried) strawberries should be darker red. No brand, but some stuff online has strawberry flavor added as well.
* Domo seems to have turned into Ami, long AWOL from Fourth Street. Rumor is that Domo lives, somewhere... don't know where. Gain a Japanese restaurant, lose a Japanese restaurant?
* Is Leela the most useful Doctor Who companion ever? Discuss.
* Anti-noise earmuffs: useful again.
* Did Darwin Get it Right?, John Maynard Smith. Nice collection of essays, somewhat dated. A bit amusing to read old thoughts on sex, before parasite theory or the handicap principle. He has a nice paean to Dawkins's reason and clarity that I should type in.

Link dump.
* War Before Civilization
* Someone's thoughts on D&D 4e
* Planescape Society of Sensation. I thought it was cute.
* Steampunk theme for Firefox
* transgender bank commercial in Argentina
* Dealing with bugs from Mars
* DEA: better to live in agony than risk taking too many opiates.

* The prime minister of Japan has problems with kanji. So do many Japanese, apparently. I say this not to make fun of them but to say "maybe your system is too frigging complicated".
* History and growing abuse of the filibuster
* Won't let me expand my business? Have a sex shop
* Krugman on rent control and how the more economists actually agree on something, the less the world listens to them.
* 2007 letter on land tax
* Med schools and Pharm money

* The Mormons, not having violated the apolitical conditions of their tax-exempt status enough in California, are opposing civil unions in Illinois
* More homophobia in North Carolina
* Creationist War on the Brain

Recent wastes of time

2006-Dec-06, Wednesday 19:49
mindstalk: (thoughtful)
Webcomics: I started looking at The Midlands, some weird alt-dim urban-fantasy with elves comic I've been seeing people recommend. Interesting, though I'm still not sure what's going on. At the same time I read Casey and Andy, kind of like another Sluggy Freelance -- a couple of mad scientists and supporting cast; lots of gag strips, some story arcs, some cheesecake. Fun stuff. The same author has moved on to Cheshire Crossing, an Alice Wendy Dorothy Mary Poppins comic, updated as he finishes each issue. Interesting start.

I re-read The Scar. It held up.

My kanji study linked up with shogi, the Japanese version of chess. I've never gotten to play the game, but it looks, um, interesting. Using that word a lot. A 9x9 board, so more space then chess, and most of the pieces are puny -- knights can only go forward, generals move like kings but with fewer options, there's one rook and one bishop. OTOH captured pieces can be dropped in on your own side, so the game's actually a lot more complex. A silver general on the board has 5 moves; in the hand, it has 40. Even a unblocked queen in the middle of a chessboard has 27 options, I think. And it doesn't matter how many moves queens have if they self-destruct, but that doesn't happen in shogi.

But that's not the point. The point is that you "should" (though it took me years) be wondering why a Japanese piece is called a bishop. Japan doesn't have bishops, except for the <1% who have wandered into Catholic religions. So why call it a bishop? Well, it moves like one, unlimited diagonal movement -- that's a good reason. Still, I started wondering what they actually call the thing, and fortunately the Web quickly provided. Apparently they call it an angle goer, and it, along with the Western bishop, descend separately from the Indian "elephant" piece, which probably moved by jumping two squares diagonally. All the old pieces sucked -- except for the 'rook' (Persian rukh, chariot), aka chariot, which always had its unlimited horizontal movement. And in shogi is called the flying chariot.

That site also shows the two-character form of the various pieces, which I got to look up, or reverse lookup, on JDIC. Yay for some of the characters making sense. Though the lance looks like "incense chariot" and the "honorable horse" (aka knight) looks like "cinnamon tree horse". And the "king" is called the jade general -- but the characters for king and jade are the same, and the Chinese Heavenly King is the Jade Emperor. There's a connection there!

Nihongo ga narau

2006-Nov-28, Tuesday 17:09
mindstalk: (robot)
My dabbling in learning Japanese continues, and I've found some neat sites:
"A Japanese guide to Japanese", vs. one thinking in terms of English grammar. Claims things like "desu is not the polite version of da" and "ga is not a subject marker really". He starts using lots of kanji right away, but mouseovers make a text box pop up with pronunciation and translation. Links to the other sites:
with animated GIFs of how to draw kanas, and a few kanji
Java applets with kana drawing, sound files for the syllables/morae, and applets for testing and training your kana recognition skills.
An online dictionary I've heard of before. I've had limited success finding stuff via romaji, vs. pasting in kanji from elsewhere, e.g. 'guu' "long-tailed monkey", from Suiguutou, a magical sword in Juuni Kokki.

I now 'know' 34 kanji. 1% literacy, woo-hoo!
mindstalk: (Default)
It might even be correct. Transliteration:

Ruuku, watashi ga anata no otousan desu.

Yeah, I'm a geek. It was prompted by the study group leader showing us his katakana for "lightsaber". I'm not sure if otousan should have the 'u', or be 'chichi' instead in this usage, or if 'anata no' is the best way of saying 'your'. Or if it'd have the same emotional impact as the original.

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