Archive for the ‘language’ Category

You’d probably associate perfume with the scent of flowers, fruit, or even perhaps vanilla. I’ve certainly never heard of a perfume made from a dead pig fetus.

But that’s just what I’m talking about. The smell of a preserved pig is not one that I find pleasant. The first time we had a dissection day at school, I couldn’t go close to the pigs for fear of nausea. Still, this past week, I have found the smell of it simply heavenly.

What’s responsible for this change of heart? Well, I’ve been sick with a cold for the entire week (I suspect that I’ve caught a second one, otherwise I would’ve recovered by now…But then again, since I don’t get much sleep, it probably takes me longer to get better). So it was really thrilling for me to actually be able to smell something. Even with my snuffy nose, the scent of pig came through clearly.

I’ve certainly gotten more than my fill of animals lately, and most of it’s come from French class. We’ve been studying words about the city and the countryside, and of course, if we’re talking about farms, we’ve got to mention the farm animals. We actually went over the French way to make animal sounds. Pigs go “groin groin”, ducks go “coin coin”, roosters go “cocorico”, and so on. (Ah, if only our tests were on that instead of the usual stuff.)

We learned some expressions, too, and apparently there’s a bit of a cow addiction in France. There’s a phrase that you use to describe someone who doesn’t speak French well, and that’s “Il parle français comme une vache espagnole” (which means “he speaks French like a Spanish cow”). There’s also the slang word “vachmement”, which is used to mean very or really. (If it were literally translated, it’d be “cowly” or “like a cow”) Our teacher told us not to get confused; people in France aren’t necessarily talking about cows all the time, it’s just that the slang’s got the word cow in it. Kind of like the English expression “Holy cow”.

And not long ago, I was at a pet supply store with my friend because we were volunteering. There are dogs in there up for adoption, and occasionally a dog would get the urge to “mark his territory”. Then we had to scramble to get paper towels and a bottle of spray to clean it up. (At least they saved getting rid of solid waste for the outdoors. When I was out walking one of the dogs, I had my first experience with picking up dog poop. Thank goodness you can use a bag to pick it up and not your bare hands…)

All this animal business made me think of something from when I was in Australia. There were koalas at the zoos, and you could pay to hold one and get your picture taken with it. But you have to wear a jacket because the koala could pee on you. o_o;;

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This summer, for vacation, my parents and I flew to Barcelona, Spain. We spent a few days there to see the sights in the city before boarding a cruise ship, Celebrity Century, to visit various towns by the Mediterranean Sea.

I didn’t know much about Barcelona before I went there. My mom seemed to know more about it than me – perhaps she did some research on the Internet or something of that sort. I didn’t really know what to expect, besides a big city where people speak Spanish.

I had hoped that, having taken French in school, I might be able to understand what was being said, but it turns out that there are two languages commonly used in Barcelona – Spanish and Catalan, the language of Catalonia, the region of Spain in the far east. I have to pay more attention to Spanish so I’ll actually be able to tell the two apart. I feel rather pathetic not knowing which is which even though the languages are different enough to be distinguishable.

There was some rather interesting architecture in Barcelona. I visited this church called the Sagrada Familia. It was rather different than the other churches I have seen. It was…a bit more modern and more nature-themed rather than being Gothic and medieval-looking like the norm. Inside the church, the columns are made to look like trees. Too bad the church is still being built. How many years is it going to take? The church, designed by Antoni Gaudi, has been under construction since 1882.

We also visited Parc Guell, a park of sorts. Both of these places had been swarming with tourists. I was rather irritated at first when we got to Parc Guell. I dislike going up stairs, and then when I had gotten up to a higher level, it turned out to be a vast area of sand, which irritated my senses…Eventually I went with my parents up to a home which had been turned into a museum. There was some interesting nature-inspired furniture. It was pleasant standing in one of the rooms in front of an open window and feeling a cool breeze. The countries along the Mediterranean Sea all seem to have hot, humid weather during the summer.

It was just my luck that I happened to come to Barcelona on the day of the World Cup match between Spain and Germany. After Spain scored a goal, it started to get noisier outside. There was the sound of horns and chatter. And once the game had ended and Spain was declared winner of that match, people started to show up, walking down the street. Some even sang. We had chosen the hotel Rivoli Ramblas, which is on a fairly busy street, La Rambla. The racket continued long into the night. (Do people even sleep? My parents say that they probably wake up late, take a nap after lunch, and stay up late every night) I was kind of annoyed at not being able to sleep, but I also felt like joining the people outside and celebrating.

Oh, and if you were to walk for a ways from the hotel, you would arrive at Placa de Catalunya. I was charmed by it immediately, for when I walked there, the sun was setting. The fountains and pigeons looked so beautiful to me. (There are so many pigeons there, I was astonished.)

I later came back to the square, and saw something rather amusing. There were some boys and a man (the father?). They dropped some food and the pigeons swarmed to eat it. Then one of the boys, amazingly, grabbed hold of a pigeon. (He released it, though) He was able to catch multiple birds, although he let them all go. It was pretty cool. But my dad says it might be rather unpleasant for the bird, and so we didn’t make any attempt to try and get one.

I like Barcelona as a city on the whole, both in the urban parts and on the outskirts. I had the chance to stay in a hotel for one night on the edge of Barcelona. But I’ll be telling that story another time.

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Today a childhood friend of mine came over to my house. She has been living in Shanghai ever since she moved away many years ago. I haven’t seen her for a few years. She’s in California now because she’s attending a creative writing summer camp (I believe it lasts for three weeks) at Stanford.

I’m afraid I’m not very good with people. Although my zodiac sign, Leo, says I’m supposed to be extroverted, strong-willed, ambitious, and a born leader, I don’t think those things are true…Maybe I used to be more like that, but I’ve been changed by my experiences. (Or I happen to be unlike most Leos.) A person once said I was more like a Virgo. Virgos are shy, meticulous, intelligent, analytical…as well as being perfectionists and worrywarts. Maybe I was born at the wrong time. (But I was actually born a little bit late, so maybe I’m meant to be a Leo with a Virgo’s personality?)

I’m not a very good host, and I couldn’t really say much. There were things I wanted to ask, but I couldn’t really express myself because I thought the questions would be too blunt and rather strange… And I couldn’t really say what kind of things I do when I’m at home during the summer because it might take a lot of explaining. Nor was I able to properly tell her how video and computer games that I was playing worked. (I guess it’s partially because I don’t know what to say exactly and partially that I’ve usually figured out how to do things on my own or by reading instruction manuals, so I’m not so familiar with giving people verbal instructions…)

She did say that the Korean boys at her school were quite fond of Starcraft, and it occurred to me that some member of the Korean boy band SS501 had become a Starcraft programmer or something of that sort.

Anyhow, though, that’s not really important. I’m sorry, I got sidetracked again. (I apologize for my disorganized posts recently. My thoughts are a bit…muddled.) To me, living in Shanghai is a foreign concept, even if I’ve visited the city several times. Through listening I’ve noted various differences between the city where I reside, in California, and Shanghai, China.

– SH: Hot and humid in the summer
CA: Hot, but apparently not as hot as SH (both my friend who lives in Shanghai and my friend who lives in Taiwan say that here is cold, comparatively. I was horrified. XD)
– SH: Friend gets on the bus at 6:45 am and rides it for an hour to get to school
CA: I leave for school at 8:00 am, about an 8 minute ride
– SH: A polluted city with weak sunlight
CA: Bright sunlight (but in my town, you can’t see the stars that well at night. Yosemite, on the other hand, is just splendid for stargazing.)
– SH: No wildlife, except in zoos.
CA: Birds (mostly pigeons, crows, and seagulls) and squirrels. (Stanford University, as I just discovered today, has so many squirrels in this one area. It was amazing.)
– SH: 8 classes at the school my friend attends (which is an “international” school that teaches by USA curriculum.) 4 classes in one day, then the other 4 the next day. (It’s a good idea. You would have 2 days to do your homework so you can manage your time. And if you have trouble with it you have one day to ask your teacher for help.)
CA: 6 or 7 classes, daily. (It’s predictable, but I want to try the 8 class system.)
– SH: Many students use Skype.
CA: Kids are more likely to chat through Gmail.

I wonder if I would come to like Shanghai if I went there. Maybe I could have a dog, like my friend does, if I lived in Shanghai. But I have very little grasp of Chinese (at least as a written language – I can speak Shanghainese somewhat better than Mandarin, so maybe that’s okay) and I like my big backyard and getting to use the Internet freely (in China, you can’t access Facebook, Youtube, or Blogspot, as well as other thinsg). Perhaps trying out the lifestyle is the only way to see.

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A while back, my science teacher started us on an Astronomy Observation Lab. We were to go outside ten times to look at the moon and draw it. We were given a month to do a project. Spring break overlapped with the time given to do the lab.

My teacher said that if you were going on vacation during the spring break, you could just reorient your map while you were there so you could still do your homework. She said that one student had gone to Chicago and came back saying “I couldn’t see the moon.” But my teacher says that she’s been to Chicago, and the moon is still there. “The moon is a big dude,” said my teacher.

I wonder what makes people decide the genders of things. The Earth is called Mother Earth, and nature is called Mother Nature. But people say The Man in the Moon. Whose decision is it to determine the genders of things? I mean, all objects have a gender in French, and I’m curious about that too. There is kind of a way to say “it” in French, but mostly you would refer to “he” or “she”. But in English we just refer to things as “it” so frequently. I suppose this is a trait that sets English apart?

One of my classmates mentioned something interesting to me. She says that when she reads Chinese, she just thinks of the Chinese words in her head, but when she reads French, she translates it to English in her mind. My mom says that when you practice a lot, you end up understanding automatically and don’t need to translate to English. (When my mom was first learning English, she says she would translate it to Chinese in her head first, but now she can just think of the English words) But I, despite being so unskilled in Chinese, do this too. When I see the Chinese word for the number one (one of the only characters I can read! Yeah!) I think of the Chinese word for it, not “one”. So is Chinese just different? Are languages spelled with symbols like this in comparison to languages with the same alphabet in English? That means the languages with English letters make me feel smarter, because I can translate it to English automatically in my head. XD

I was told a rather unsettling thing by someone. On my school trip to Yosemite National Park, we stopped at a town called Los Banos. I was told that it actually means something like “The Bathrooms”. Imagine if you were saying that you ate in Los Banos and someone who understood Spanish walked by…

In history class, I and some other students had a presentation about Mormons, irrigation, and Mexican food. One of my group’s members said the names of various foods in Spanish. The teacher later said that she pronounced them quite well and asked if she spoke Spanish. The girl said, “No.” A classmate said, “But don’t you take Spanish? So wouldn’t you be able to speak it?” And the teacher said, “Taking Spanish class and being able to speak it are different matters.”

I think that is true. People may be learning a language in school, but can they really speak it? I have noticed that sometimes students have trouble actually putting words together even if they know what the words mean, and that speaking the language out loud seems harder than writing it. I heard that you could really learn the language faster if you actually lived in the country of the language you wanted to learn. (My French teacher says we could learn a lot more in just a few months in France than what she could teach in a year because we would be “forced” to adapt to the country and learn French) I’d like to move to another country, experience something different, but I don’t know when it will happen. (My mom has suggested having me move to France for a while and live with my aunt’s family, but I feel it would be rather stressful with her rambunctious children)

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There are two Chinas, actually, the People’s Republic of China (the big country) and the Republic of China (the island of Taiwan), but both countries are Mandarin-speaking and Mandarin-writing.

This poses a problem for me, especially considering the vast population of the big China. Mandarin is becoming more of an important language to know in the world, and I’m already affected, despite that fact that my “world” is still not very big.

On Friday afternoon, while I was at home, the phone started ringing. I decided to pick it up, figuring it might be one of my parents. It was a lady speaking in Mandarin. I was quiet a while, trying to translate it in my head. The lady finally said something in English, something about a clinic, and that made sense to me. Then she spoke in Mandarin asking if ___ (my mom’s name) was home, to which I responded she wasn’t. The lady seemed slightly worried, saying that my mom had an appointment tomorrow and she wanted to know if it could be rescheduled or something like that. I tried to reply that I would tell my mom, but I couldn’t come up with the right words…So after a little pause, I hung up.

This made me realize what a pickle I’m in. I can understand Mandarin to some degree (I know more of the Shanghai dialect than Mandarin because my parents speak that at home), but I am illiterate (the only ones I can easily recognize are 人, 一, 二, 三, 四, 月, 火, 上, 下, 小, 大, 云, and 中). Also, I can only say a few phrases. One of the phrases I know sounds like “Wan Dan La!” (Don’t really know how to translate it.) My parents say it is something more commonly said in Taiwan, almost like slang, I guess, and they think I must have picked it up from one of my friends from Taiwan. But that’s weird, because usually I speak English with my friends.

Anyways, I will be in a real fix if Mandarin becomes the language of the world. I mean, it’s already the #1 spoken language of the world, and the second place language, Spanish, is far behind. I’m kind of worried. I don’t think I could easily learn to read Chinese at this age. I did start learning once during a summer, years back, but I’ve already forgotten. It was more like I was memorizing the lines so I knew what to say; not sure if I actually knew what I was reading. Anyways, it gets harder and harder the older you get to learn a language. So if you want to learn, start early. (I’m jealous of my cousins in France. They have already started learning English and they’re not even in middle school yet)

Recently, my middle school had an Electives Night. I didn’t attend, though I wanted to (just to get cookies from the cooking classroom! They have great cookies). My mom said, “Why do you want to go? You’re going to a different school next year, so it doesn’t matter.” And so I stayed home.

But some students did go, to help my French teacher out, since she has to “sell” her classes and all. Parents and students tend to wonder, “Should I take French or Spanish?” (I say French, but I’m biased.) Since Spanish is considered to be more useful (because more people speak Spanish, and California is close to Mexico), more students take Spanish. And there is somewhat of a misconception that Spanish is easier than French. (I have no idea about that, but I’m guessing they’re about the same once you get used to them. You just have to get more of an accent for speaking French) There is one good argument for French, though, and that’s the fact that there is no Spanish Week at my school, only French Week. Haha!

I really wish the schools still offered German. And I’d like to learn Italian (but then again, I hear if you know French or Spanish – or both – it shouldn’t be too hard to understand Italian. French, Spanish, and Italian all use the word “Ciao!” for “goodbye”). It’d be nice if my school had Japanese. Then I could learn Japanese 1 in 8th grade and take Japanese 2 in high school. It seems weird that Japanese 2 is an option for freshmen. Only people who learned Japanese outside of school or who already knew Japanese would be able to take it, right? I feel like it’s a setback for me and other students since we can’t take Japanese in middle school (not even Mandarin, the class got cut, sadly). I’d like to be able to get all 5 levels of a language done.

Then again, it’s not horrible if you don’t take AP classes, is it? I’ve heard that AP classes are college level classes. I suppose if you take AP classes and then make yourself busy in college, you can graduate earlier or something. But I don’t see why you have to be in such a rush in life. Why not take it at your own pace? (Assuming your pace isn’t as slow as mine, since I want to retire and all) I guess this competitive world and market makes people feel they must try their hardest, be the fastest and the best, so they can come out on top.

But if you’ve got friends like these, who needs anemone? (Get it? It’s a joke from Finding Nemo.) I know that doesn’t make sense, but I just wanted to say that for once.

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Does it make sense to you? It didn’t to me at first. I was doing my French homework today, and it said, “Moi, j’adore le saucisson. Avec du pain et du beurre, miam, miam!!” (It really did have two exclamation points. Talk about excited over food. Though of course, cuisine is one of the finer points of life, as I was watching the Food Network recently, The Next Iron Chef and stuff like that)

English translation: Me, I adore sausage. With bread and butter, yum, yum!

I tried it out in Google Translate just to be sure, and “miam, miam” means “yum, yum”. Very interesting. Next time I go to France I’ll see what kinds of things my cousins say when they’re eating. (Funny, but the word for cousin – the female cousin, mind you, not the male – is pronounced like cuisine)

Oh, but I have been meaning to talk about Google Translate, and Wikipedia. I often use Google Translate if I can’t figure out what a word is in French (luckily, they are often similar to English words, so you can guess at some of what you don’t know). The teacher said not to use translators, because she says it’s a machine and can’t always figure out what you’re trying to say. For instance, a student once tried to say he had turkey in his sandwich but he said the word for Turkey the country instead of the word for turkey the bird.

Still, despite that, it does work pretty well, as long as you compare it to another translator, or online dictionaries, and I’ve been able to figure out a lot that way. I guess some things work for some people. “One man’s trash is another’s treasure”, shall I say.

Wikipedia is often scorned as well. Teachers don’t want students to use it for their reports most of the time because, basically, anyone could edit the pages in Wikipedia. In fact, one time my history teacher had a student who was apparently dumb enough to want to try causing trouble, so the student went and changed a Wikipedia page. The teacher figured out what was going on because he remembered some of the information on the page and could tell that it wasn’t what he had seen in the morning. However, I do hear that there are more serious people who are dedicated to Wikipedia who would probably fix something if it was messed up. So, I don’t think you need to worry about Wikipedia pages being opinionated, unless it’s a delicate topic. (I mean, something like politics.)

But you know, Wikipedia is actually the most accurate encyclopedia in the world. I heard that people have done studies and it is quite accurate and up to date. I can vouch for this. There is a Japanese singer named Ceui and she didn’t have a Wikipedia page before, but one day, a few months ago, I was clicking about in Wikipedia, and discovered she did have a page! Wikipedia is updated much more quickly than an old, classic, book encyclopedia, because those get remastered maybe every few years. -_-;;

My language arts teacher displayed a scary, but still funny, side of herself today. We were talking about the eighth grade standards for the writing test we will take on behalf of the district (and maybe the whole state of California too?) later on this year. She said that there is a person who advises the language arts teacher, and so my teacher heard that there was an elementary school teacher who said to her students, “You can just write the way you speak.” This is not encouraged, and my teacher said, “If I ever meet that teacher, I will challenge her to a cage match, and I will take her down!” with quite a bit of vigor. It was pretty amusing, but it was a bit intimidating too.

Speaking of which, it isn’t always bad to have your writing seem like you’re talking to someone. I know you shouldn’t be using speaking slang like “gonna” and stuff like that, but I have seen books where the main character and/or narrator of the book actually acknowledges that there is a reader, as if the character of the book is aware that they’re in a book. And if you’ve seen books that are written to be like diaries, then certainly they aren’t written so formally. It really could depend on the situation, I suppose.

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It seems to me that time makes all the difference sometimes in the mood of a person. A prime example is my history teacher. Last trimester, I had him for the first period of the day, but now I have him for second period. It’s only about an hour difference, but it matters quite a bit. In first period, he tended to be more bad-tempered, though occasionally he did seem in a good mood. In second period he is more talkative and generally more pleasant to be around. Well, they say teenagers’ brains don’t truly wake up until around 9 or 10 am. Maybe it applies to adults too.

I was pretty annoyed at the homework I received recently. For two of the questions, we are directed to look at page 222 in the textbook. We are studying the Constitution, but page 222 talks about Mormons. (I tried checking the section of the textbook that is about the Constitution. There’s not much info) I guess it’s referring to the old textbook. It annoys me that we have to use this thinner, lamer textbook. But there’s not much can we do. (I heard that California uses a different science textbook than the rest of the USA, and my teacher last year said the national textbook was awesome, and I am upset by this)

I am displeased with the education system in the USA. It is true that some of the best colleges in the world are here. I mean, one of my friends moved to China many, many years ago, and her sister got into Harvard. Clearly, they’d rather come to the USA for college than stay in China. D:

So, to rectify this problem (I am practicing using my vocab words this week, that’s why I used such a strange word), I have decided I am going to attempt to move to another country. Preferably, one in Europe, because there are generally higher life expectancys, average incomes, and living conditions overall over there. I have also considered Japan because the Japanese live the longest on average despite the fact that there are smokers (French live pretty long too, though). A woman could live to be 86 on average whereas in the USA, women on average only live to be 80. I tell you, you can do many things in 6 years of your life! So I could be saving myself if I moved. The problem is that the USA does make a hefty sum of money. Liechtenstein, Qatar, and Luxembourg have a much higher GDP, though. (I’ve been to Luxembourg, personally, I thought it was nice, but there are apparently many pessimistic people there, though Japan seems to have many pessimists according to the Wii Everybody Votes poll)

I was thinking of perhaps San Marino. People speak Italian there, which means I might have trouble getting along at first, but at least French and Italian have some similarities. (One time I was reading a description of some brushes, but it was in another language. I tried to use Google Translate “French to English” – didn’t work. Tried “Spanish to English” and didn’t work either. I was confused, so I did “Detect language to English” so it would do the work for me. Turns out it was Italian…)

The money is not too bad and the HDI is fairly high. The USA’s HDI is .950, I believe. Norway has the highest…And Australia is second highest! Maybe I should move to Australia! They have cool accents there, and they speak English, and besides they make a good sum of money. Also, there are lots of beaches because most people live along the coast anyway – probably too dry and desolate in the middle of the continent – and I love the beach. I want to live near there. The sound helps me go to sleep quickly. That’s why I fell asleep quickly the time I slept near the ocean in Japan, even though I was on a futon on the tatami mat. (My mom couldn’t fall asleep as fast, apparently she expected it to be painful, or she had back pain or whatever)

I also slept well in Australia despite the dramatic time change. That’s surprising. When I went to China the second most recent time (the most recent time I went to China was last winter), I got sick from lack of sleep. I fell asleep during the day and woke up at night. But I wasn’t supposed to sleep during the day, so my grandma woke me up on purpose by using an annoying talking stuffed animal. You know, the kind where you press the belly and it talks… -_-;;

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