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What’s next?   

Hi everyone,

As you may know I’m a new comer at the Chit Chat Café and I’ve been in Japan for just a year now. So here is my first message and my first question… I hope you can give me a hand!
New Year’s Eve is over and so is the Sapporo’s snow festival and Otaru’s candlelight festival. On the top of that, you, lucky guys, got plenty of chocolates and cookies for Valentine’s day… So I’m asking you : what’s next in Sapporo?

Here is what I’ve heard: next month will start with the Hinamatsuri or Girl’s Day. Walking around town lately, I’ve noticed that few shops are already displaying the traditional set of dolls on a red carpet! To be honest, I don’t really know about this special day but the name… so I hope you can put me in the picture at our next chatting session!
Also, I’ve heard that following Valentines day will be a so called “White day” where us, lucky girls, will be receiving our share of chocolates! Such a great idea indeed! Actually, in France, as in Ireland and New Zealand, on Valentine’s day couples exchange presents. Commonly, guys buy ladies flowers and ladies buy guys chocolates. Then, when evening comes, restaurants get crowed as lots of couples choose to have a romantic dinner.

Anyway, it seems that in Japan, March is the month of ladies! I’m, therefore, looking forward to it!

Claire (France)

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by chitchatcafe | 2013-02-21 16:38 | カフェ 英会話 札幌

Borrowed words   

Hi everyone!

I'm never quite sure what to write about on a blog, partially because I am more of a listener and observer than someone who outwardly shares every detail of their lives and thoughts with little or no effort. As someone who has blogged and written editorial content professionally, in addition to writing poetry as a hobby, my written English tends to be on the advanced side, though I'll try not to over-complicate things for you. :)

However, when CCC asked me to write something for this blog, as part of my brainstorming process, I began to look for inspiration among the minutiae of my daily life. The other day it finally came to me as I was examining the cardboard packaging for the electric heater I bought recently: 外来語, specifically katakana words.

As I progress in my Japanese language studies, two things become apparent: first, that things keep getting harder, not easier; second, the exception to the former being borrowed words in katakana--something that has always been rather easy, and I find the more Japanese I learn, the easier katakana becomes for me to understand.

That isn't true for all students of Japanese, as many of my English-speaking friends loathe katakana, and tend to not do well when encountering it, be it in a quiz or in everyday life. Even native-English speakers seem to have difficulty. But by far, it's the only thing I seem to be good at as a student.

Admittedly, the first year or so of my studies weren't easy in general, but katakana was always intriguing: the often stark physical shapes of the characters; its parallel existence with the other phonetic alphabet, hiragana; and merely how the Japanese use it to approximate the pronunciation of foreign words and languages…I still giggle sometimes when I hear a common English word pronounced using katakana syllables, it often sounds "cute" to me, not unlike hearing young children as they try to mimic something their parents say or that they hear on television.

So what word was it that prompted my inspiration? ストーブ. At least in America, a stove is a large kitchen appliance we use for cooking. Here in Japan, that machine's equivalence seems to be split between two smaller devices: オーブン and ガスレンジ. I suppose in generations preceding my grandparents, when wood-burning stoves were a common way to heat a domicile, the definition fits neatly for both languages, but in modern times, the connotation for American English is completely different. These differences are especially interesting for me.

Likewise, contracted words are fascinating. These are usually what frustrate us foreigners the most when learning Japanese, at least in regard to learning and using katakana vocabulary. Examples include: リモコン、マスコミ、ファミレス、パトカー、カーナビ、etc. and are abbreviations for remote control, mass communications, family restaurant, patrol car (police), and car navigation. With no context or understanding of the original words being combined, it is nearly impossible for us to guess the meaning. Often, even with a bit of context, it can be difficult, though as I mentioned earlier, the more I study, the better at guessing I become.

I could list countless more examples, but this blog entry is probably already a bit long. What do you think, is 外来語 difficult for Japanese as well? As you study English and improve your vocabulary, how do the meanings of borrowed words compare for you; is it easy to grasp the similarities, or are the differences confusing?

I'd love to talk with you about it sometime, so stop by the cafe and let's chat!

Aaron (USA)

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by chitchatcafe | 2013-02-16 13:01 | 英会話 プライベート レッスン

France   

If you have never been to France, I really recommend you to visit this country.
There are so many things to do and see there.

At first, I suggest you to spend a few days in Paris.
There are a lot of museums, nice architectures and parks.
Also the Castles along the Loire river are very beautiful.

The second place that I recommend is Bordeaux which is my hometown.
Not only Bordeaux is famous for its delicious wines but also for its traditional architectures. Bordeaux has recently been renewed.
You can visit downtown by a futuristic electric train or just walk along the Garonne river's sides walk streets.

Each area has its own traditional food. For example The "Bretagne" is famous for crepes whereas "Arcachon" is famous for Oysters.
If you like going to the beach, the south-west and south coast are very good places.
The "Dune du Pyla", are the Highest Dune of Europe. The view is magnificent and the sand very thin.
Marseille or Nice are beautiful cities located near the Mediterranean sea.
There are beautiful, relaxing and warm places.

Then, the Pyrennees mountains are definitely a place to go to, especially for hiking…

Beto (France)

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by chitchatcafe | 2013-02-14 14:23 | 英会話 個人 レッスン 札幌

Domovoi   

Hello, Chit Chatters! How are you?

It has been very cold lately. The best season for the Snow Festival and the season of flu also. So be sure to wear something warm!

Recently, I talked with some of you about Russian and Japanese superstitions. I mentioned little Russian creature or spirit called “Domovoi” who used to protect house. Sorry I could not provide you more information, cause I did not know where he came from and so on. But I did a little research and want to share my new knowledge with all of you.

Domovoi was first mentioned as a house spirit in Slavic folklore, so he has quite a long history. Traditionally, every house is said to have the domovoi. He does not do any harm unless he is not satisfied by an owner’s keep of household and the way of speaking (Domovoi does not like profane language).

He is usually described as fat, small and bearded man. According to some stories my grandma told me, Domovoi sometimes could take on the appearance of current owner of the house. There are creepy stories of spectators seeing the owner of the house out in the yard while in fact the real owner was asleep in bed. Though all the stories sound scary, as I mentioned above, Domovoi is not harmful for house owners who show him their respect.

My grandma always leaves sugar and candies on the table overnight to please Domovoi, because she believes that he can be noisy during the night if he is hungry. She also knows how to attract Domovoi or let him go with you in the cause you are planning to move. You have to go outside of house wearing your best clothing and say special words (do not remember words exactly).

Though Domovoi is a part of Russian culture, nowadays, people do not believe in it as past generations used to. Everyone knows who Domovoi is, but majority takes it for granted that Domovoi is just a part of a heavy imagination.

Do you have your house spirits in Japan also? Please, tell me if you do when we will meet the next time in CCC!

Enjoy Snow Festival and 雪あかり!

See you!
Ana (Russia)

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by chitchatcafe | 2013-02-12 14:41 | マンツーマン 英会話 札幌