Archive for the ‘Japanese’ Category

A unique Japanese captcha

2008 May 9

Everybody knows captcha, the verification image we meet everytime we register something to help keep spammers off the board. It usually involves retyping a badly distorted or other visually-abnormal text. Boring, because What You See Is What You Type (WYSIWYT).

Every once in a while someone came up with a clever CAPTCHA, like those simple arithmetic CAPTCHAs where you are asked to do an addition.

Recently, I registered on a Japanese site FC2. It has this never-before-seen (by me) CAPTCHA:

Japanese kana captcha

You, got it right! They spell a series of numbers in kana and we need to retype it using the all-too-familiar 1 2 3. Of course, the image is still littered with those bacteria we’ve been accustomed to.

If you’re studying Japanese, please try to answer in the comments. I’ll give you… a nice reply comment :).

PS: CAPTCHA is actually an acronym so it is written in capitals. However I very much prefer it to write it like: “captcha”.

For your ear’s pleasure: japanesepod101.com

2008 April 30

The useless background narrative

I’m 3 years late, but here it is…

There are indeed chance meetings that are just wonderful. Meetings which upon reflection would make you think, “I couldn’t imagine how things would work out without it!”. A perfect example is when I was hotspotting in Puskom UGM with Karnan and met Adit there. Adit is a fellow Ilkomer, and I had chatted with him through IM about studying kanji. I had told him that I want to copy his study materials some time.

And what a time indeed! After copying the kanji-related files, I was shown quite a lot of mp3s on his Nihongo folder. Not anime soundtracks or jpop whatnots, mind you, but Japanese language lessons! Adit said that you can turn it on and enjoy it while having your Morning Coffee. (or was it another drink?)

My focus was, and probably still, on reading. Therefore I thought some audio learning materials would be a great boon to enhance one of my weakest Japanese skills, listening. I happily copied it.

Most of them were japanesepod101.com podcasts and some nihongojuku. I listened to some of them, and indeed thought it was very great. However, in the end I didn’t have enough yaruki to do a full-fledged and regular listening of it. Probably because a lot of the episodes are missing. I like to study a certain thing thoroughly, from back to back, so those podcasts look like a book with lots of torn and missing pages. Not very appetizing.

Until one day I stayed at a relative’s house in Jakarta with ultra-blazing Internet connection. I wisely utilized it to download jpod101’s audio files (nihongojuku was dead). Collecting all the links and feeding it to Flashget took me well beyond midnight.

The first episode was in 2005. So yes, I was years late and was faced with a 4 GiB pile of digitalized sinusoidal waves. But no worry! They release like 1 episode per day, so one can definitely catch up just by listening to 31 podcasts a month.

About the podcast itself

The essence is simple: The free podcast teaches you Japanese using English. The teachers are Peter-san who is a native English speaker and at least a native Japanese speaker. After a short intro, you will be given a short dialog, then that dialog again in slo-mo, and finally the dialog with the English translation inserted in-between. Vocabulary is given after that dialog parade. Then finally the grammar points.

What’s so captivating about it? Probably because Peter-san is such a skillful and mesmerizing teacher. He gives lots of insights, interesting anecdotes, and Peter-style jokes in the explanation. Or maybe it’s because of the many nihonjin casts with their unique personality. From Yoshi the cool guy to Takase the tough girl. Or is it because the stories are genuinely interesting and most of the time hilarious?

No matter what your level is, if you’re learning Japanese then you should try to tune in to japanesepod101.com. They have a fine gradation of level ranging from newbie to upper intermediate. For those interested in the Japanese culture, they also have weekly Japanese Culture Class podcasts with topics from superstitions to marriage. Advanced students can even enjoy Miki-sama‘s full-Japanese audio blog. (the link points to the wrong person, but their nickname are actually same) And if that isn’t enough to assure you, they even have 1 lesson with Morning Musume as the topic!

Currently I try to listen to 2 podcasts per day. I’ve covered 300+ lessons so now my ears can even differentiate the voices of Yoshi, Jun, Natsuko, Sakura, Hatsumi, Naomi, Takase, Chigusa, and others. I’m quite surprised that I found lots of new words even in the Survival and Newbie series because I was well beyond my 3rd year of studying Japanese.

It certainly increased my listening comprehension significantly. Probably my speaking skill too, because I often repeated after the dialogs. At any rate, I’m looking forward for the day I can catch up with the latest episodes.

Closing words

I probably should send Adit a DVD as my gratitude. Oh, and anyway, upon leaving Puskom that day I carelessly left my student card and had to travel all the way from Milan

And lastly, are you a japanesepod101 listener too?

Damn, now I can’t invite just about anyone to Mixi!

2008 April 17

Probably because of my previous post advertising free Mixi invites, the staff decided to take a measure!

Now to register as a new Mixi user, you need to enter that thing called “handphone mail address”. Simple, except that I don’t even know what it is. I have a handphone, and all I get with it is the “phone number”. You can’t let the field empty. You can’t fill it with a gmail or yahoo address either.

With some chittery-chat on 2ch irc (#japanese), I got someone to tell me that one valid such address is something@ezweb.ne.jp. I put a random “something”, and it did succeed.

Until I realized that other than confirming from your normal email, you need to confirm from that dreaded “handphone mail address”.

In the end, I only managed to invite 1 person to Mixi… He was lucky to sign up fast.

Configuring the correct Japanese fonts for Windows GTK applications

2008 April 13

On a previous blog, I discussed how win32 GTK/GTK+ programs are smart enough to choose a Japanese translation by default if your system’s language is set to Japanese. However, there’s one big shame that I concealed: it will not choose the fonts correctly.

Related to this problem is how the Unicode standard handles Japanese and Chinese characters. You see, the characters knows as kanji, used in Japan, historically comes from China. In fact, kanji literally means Han characters. But that happened more than a thousand years ago. Time always brings change, and now many characters are drawn differently in each countries.

On the image below, you can see how some Japanese characters (black) differs from the Chinese counterpart (blue):

Difference between Japanese and Chinese kanji glyphs

You can see that even the stroke count can differ!

Unicode, in its effort called Han Unification, insisted that Japanese, traditional Chinese, and Korean characters which historically were same must only get a codepoint. So there can’t be one Unicode character for the Japanese version of ‘close’ and another for the Chinese version. Any differences then must be achieved by fonts. So yes, in the screenshot above, the Japanese and Chinese characters are actually the same Unicode character, but rendered in OpenOffice.org with different fonts. And yes, that means you can’t display both Chinese and Japanese text in a simple text document (which can only use one font for the whole file), unless you happen to use only the characters which are country invariant.

Now, back to GTK. GTK programs use a configuration file called pango.aliases to select its fonts. Here’s a sample line:

sans = "arial,browallia new,mingliu,simhei,gulimche,ms gothic"

Now that line means that, if a character must be drawn on screen as a Sans-serif character (“sans”), then try to display it using the “arial” font which is first in the list. If the character isn’t on the system’s Arial font, then try “browallia new”. If it fails, try the next one, “mingliu”. And so on.

Problem comes when a static list like that meets the intricacies of Unicode’s Han unification. For probably a random reason, the configuration file of Windows GTK programs put Chinese fonts (mingliu etc.) before Japanese fonts (ms gothic etc.). So there you have it, a user interface of Japanese translation displayed using “Chinese” characters:

Inkscape using Japanese translation but Chinese characters!

If you’re like me, then that extra dot stroke on “chikai” will really get on your nerve.

The solution is a simple exercise of find and replace. Now find all files named pango.aliases on your hard drive, which most probably will be inside your Program Files folder. Each installed GTK program can have one, but they can also use the “shared” GTK’s. If you already know where your GTK programs are, the file is actually located in the etc\pango subfolder. Once found, replace the content with my hand-crafted version:

courier = "courier new,MS Mincho" 

tahoma = "tahoma,MS PGothic,browallia new,mingliu,simhei,gulimche,ms gothic,kartika,latha,mangal"
sans = "arial,MS PGothic,browallia new,mingliu,simhei,gulimche,ms gothic,kartika,latha,mangal"
serif = "times new roman,MS PMincho,angsana new,mingliu,simsun,gulimche,ms gothic,kartika,latha,mangal"
mono = "courier new,MS Mincho,courier monothai,mingliu,simsun,gulimche,ms gothic,kartika,latha,mangal"
monospace = "courier new,MS Mincho,courier monothai,mingliu,simsun,gulimche,ms gothic,kartika,latha,mangal"

Now your configuration will prefer Japanese fonts rather than Chinese ones. Talk about font discrimination! Here’s the result:

Inkscape using Japanese translation and the correct fonts

Ah, Japanese translation in Japanese fonts. No more wrong fonts. That feels better.

2,500 kanji and counting :)

2008 April 9

This post has been moved to singularity.agronesia.net: “2,500 kanji and counting :)”. Please visit the new server.

Multilanguage support in Windows programs

2008 April 6

This post has been moved to singularity.agronesia.net: “Multilanguage support in Windows programs”. Please visit the new server.

I’m on Mixi! こんにちはミクシィの利用者の皆さん。。。

2008 March 29

mixi

Friendster. Everyone talks about it, everyone’s in it. However, I thought it was rather useless so I never bothered to make an account. Well, until one day my friend (Firdaus IIRC) pestered me or lets say, forced me to death. ‘It won’t do no harm’, or something like that. Obviously not with a grammatically-unsound (or so they say) construct such as the double negative.

So, to spice things up a bit, I decided to make it a pet social experiment. ‘Let’s see how many friends I can get if I just accept friend invitations…’, I thought. That means all my friends on my friendster list asked me to be friends first. Well, except for one, the almighty guitar kamisama, my high school mate, Andre (who can resist not adding him as a friend?). Right now I have 62 friends. Quite popular, I reckon.

But I jumped from my chair, unliterally, hearing a japanesepod101 podcast talking about Mixi, a friendster-like site but in Japanese. Naturally I was interested to join, as I’m currently a Nihongo student.

Mixi’s registration system is invitation-based, much like the beta gmail (right now gmail should be around version 3). They say that it would allow them ‘to create a comfortable place’, or to paraphrase it, ‘to make you suffer finding someone who owns a Mixi account’.

Getting someone to invite wasn’t that hard for me. Well, if you count several days as ‘not that hard’, that is. On the podcast, Peter and the gang told that one only need to ask them. So I visited the forum and appropriately posted on an already-existing ‘I want a Mixi account’ thread. But it’s a sticky thread so it’s always on the top which unfortunately made it less glaring if a new person posted there. n days passed without a reply.

I was sure I would get a reply by just directly mailing the staff or PMing people that gave mixi invites on that thread, but at that point I couldn’t wait longer and wanted a more real-time response. So I visited the place where one can easily encounter a random Nihonjin and chat with them, irc.2ch.net#japanese (and they actually speak English there if you’re still on your kanas)! a_a was kind enough to invite me, and long story short I’m now a Mixi citizen!

For me, the registration process was relatively easy to follow. The menus are also fully readable. However, the personal content, now that’s where the fun begins! I already found someone using a never-before-encountered non-ministry-approved kanji for eel 鰻 (unagi) on his ‘favorite food’ list.

If you need a Mixi invite, and can assure me that you’re not using it solely for the purpose of finding random Japanese girl pics, I’ll gladly confer it.

bbs.bookstudio.com back up!!! Let’s read Japanese stories!

2008 January 26

If you’re learning Japanese, or if you’re already pera-pera in it, and looking for reading materials, then

bbs.bookstudio.com

is the perfect site for you!

Well, the URL used to be that, but one day the server hard disk crashed. It was down for so long that I had given up my hopes. But now it’s back up again with a brand new URL!!! Ladies and gentlemen, please visit:

http://works.bookstudio.com

(accessing the old URL will bring you to the new one)

So now let’s talk what the site is about…

First of all, I don’t think the site has a name… The big banner on top says “shousetsu & manga toukou-ya” which means “the place to submit stories and comics” but I think that’s more of a description than a name. But who says you need to have a name to be useful?

Well the description sums it all. You can read such diverse genre of novels from SF (sci-fi), douwa (fairy tales) to BL (figure that out on your own). And of course the stories are free! Because the site is just back up, things are filling up from the beginning again. However there are already more than a hundred of stories there.

I’m far from pera-pera, but I’m peko-peko with Japanese. For me, this site is just perfect!

ni-sen ijou

2008 January 21

Excuse my laziness of blogging… You see, I’m now in this remote place called Sokaraja and circumstances force me to go to the town Purwokerto to surf the net. That’s quite far for my standard and so… Well enough excuses.

This will be just another monotone dump, but believe me the study isn’t as boring as this post looks. I’ve dumped 92 new kanji and 131 new words, for a total of 2,309 kanji and 10,354 words. Believe me, even with this amount of kanji I’m still humbled by the amount of new characters I found every day. Just keep moving on and know no surrender.

To spice things up a bit, I’ll tell you my current Japanese diet. I’m still trying to finish that WW2 article on Wikipedia. It goes roughly two paragraphs a day, so probably hell will freeze faster. I’m also playing freeciv, an open source game which has a Japanese translation! Not so much playing, but exploring all the text inside and trying to read it. If you’re interested in trying it but has problems, just mail me (for me I can’t just run it and get a usable learning environment, but I’m not writing about it now). Like explained on another post, I’m also still going through “Japanese: A Comprehensive Grammar”. All those and randomly leafing through Japanese books I have/borrowed.

Ah, I almost forget… I also now regularly listen to podcasts downloaded from japanesepod101.com. Be sure to visit that site!

So here are the kanji:

肥醸陶婆浸艇殻疫謀喝騰迅肢燥紳捜侯赴薫該貞偵晶拷謹刃彰銃痴斎附帥稼簿弊絞宥邑昌旭禎嘉慧栗堆晒曾傀儡爺塹壕揆簒恫剃蟹宋楷艸已筈馳飴瘡汲釧喉瞿矍攫侭謂唖尖曰籠夭訃凛繚峙骸崖袖嘗袴溺牽溥奢綻

And the words:

(more…)

Dump: 2200 kanji and counting

2008 January 5

A regular run of the mill dump post. So yeah, I still read Japanese materials routinely to find new words and especially kanji, and right now my main sources are the WW2 article on Wikipedia which is still a long way to finish and starting to get extremely boring and tiresome (勃発、勃発、侵攻、侵攻), an encyclopedic Japanese grammar book “Japanese: A Comprehensive Grammar” from “Routlege Grammars” which I like very much because it contains translations and for every example which is written in genuine Japanese characters, and some other reading sources like the various Japanese magazines and books I have on my disposal which I open randomly and by whim (see screenshot above for an example). Oh, and if you think the previous sentence is too long, blame me for reading too much written Japanese in which sentences are unreasonable long which is apparently just for the author’s pleasure to torment foreign readers which are not accustomed for such lengthy parsing using their untrained brain which is actually a very capable biological computer.

For this dump, there are 100 new kanji and 178 new word. Now my kanji count is 2,217 and my word count is 10,223. It might be interesting to know that among those 2200 or so kanji, I still haven’t encountered six grade 5 kanji and three grade 6 kanji! So there you have it for the commonness of Jouyou kanji.

Note about my method of memorizing these words and kanji. When I encounter new words, I searched for it in an electronic dictionary and then put it on my spreadsheet file of Japanese words (and kanji). I just collect it there as much as I find. Then, I separately put the words there to Mnemosyne, first come first serve. These two are not synchronized, so I don’t have to directly put all words I find to Mnemosyne. In fact, I have almost 3,000 words that I’ve put on my word list waiting to be put into Mnemosyne.

Anyway, here are the kanji:

穀律尺酔怠賓克債墨戒併隷循誇呈排斥薪漂錯枠弧賠窒掌覇津襟某斉撲罰封搭溝啓妄祥洲伽麿蘭玖伍綜渚晋叡哉眸鯉緋鳩冴卆蒋并餅孛勃葛盡儘夸牒狼厭猒區謳賭阡萬肆捌陌戊庚癸苺膣腟氐咸股踪幟摺柿匪榧刳肛菐斬荅亢杭釘惧

And the words:

(more…)