Saturday, August 26, 2006

Learning a culture, culture of learning

Thanks to Jenny’s blog, I have read an excitingly polemical article on the current decline of foreign language education in British secondary schools. I thought the article deserves to be read widely, since it’s not just about British educational problem. The article by a French woman at its best offers a strong argument for what the acquisition of a new language amounts to: the discovery of a new world in which people see things and thinks differently. If you are using some foreign language frequently (like me), you will find the article quite encouraging. If you learned some foreign language and have almost forgotten (as I have my German and Chinese), then the article gives you a healthy reminder as to what you may be able to get from brushing up your language skill. After the article follows a few personal thoughts.

この記事はとても面白いので、英語が苦手だけど読んでみようという方は、改行された引用箇所の"The majority of British ..." という段落から読み始めてみて下さい。言葉の壁を越えようとする時に学べるものの素晴らしさを高らかに謳いあげています。(知らない単語や表現にへこまずに、分かる単語を拠り所に終りまで通して読んでみるのがポイントだと思います)

The whole article is available at the Guardian website , but I have borrowed Jenny's edited version, which gives the main points succinctly.
Why can't languages be taught as compulsory subjects from nursery to A-level, as they are in almost every country in Europe? I didn't have much say in what languages I learnt back in France. It was obligatoire, no bargaining possible. I had to learn two new langues vivantes (though I could choose which two among a poor choice of five) and one or two langues mortes, Latin and Greek. If I had been given the choice, I probably wouldn't have chosen any, and right now I would be writing in French and living in Paris. What does a child know?

The majority of British youth are deprived of one of life's greatest joys: access to whole new worlds in which others see things differently, express their feelings and lead their lives in unexpected ways.

There is no secret: to really get to see things as others do, and thus to understand them, one must master their language and, in the process, endure hardship and ridicule. Not a job for the faint-hearted. Try it and you'll be mocked for your accent; you'll struggle to make yourself heard, let alone be understood; you will stumble on words, fall silent, unable to keep up the pace of the conversation; you'll suffer a thousand deaths, that of continual misunderstandings, the kind newly arrived immigrants face every day, everywhere in the world.

But once the many hurdles are passed, you are guaranteed heavenly surprises and otherworldly gifts. You lived your life in black and white; it is now in colour. A whole new horizon has opened up. This is precisely why there is so much clamour for tests to ensure that new immigrants to the UK speak good English.

And for those sceptical about the usefulness of languages, let's remember that having studied foreign languages can help you get a job, and a better one. One survey showed the percentage of graduates in single honours languages who were still looking for work five months after their graduation was 5%, and 11% for media studies.

When somebody refuses to learn someone else's language on the grounds that it is not useful, they implicitly reject the other's culture and their way of seeing the world - not a very good start for universal peace and understanding. Not a helpful way to make the world a more complex and richer place to live in either. Rather a recipe for unilateral, over-simplistic dogmas, such as the war on terror.

Now, let's get back to basics. What schools need to teach children is simple: mathematics, plumbing and three languages. Au travail!
Ok, I totally agree with what acquiring a language could possibly offers. But I am not sure if secondary language education can let you achieve that impressible opening up of a new holizon. Good language training would be the necessary condition for that, but it's not sufficient. A kind of language education I received in schools was useful way in, but they never pushed me to wonder about another world. Nor is living abroad sufficient. Unless you try hard to resist temptation, you will find yourself sealing off yourself and keeping your cultural "integrity" with your fellow compatriots. If this is true, learning a new language doesn't automatically mean learning about a new world. If you hope to open up a new perspective by learning a new language, then, we should probably think carefully about our culture of learning (eg. how a culture embodied in a foreign language is brought into fresh comparisons and contrast with our native culture etc). Learning a foreign language in order simply to expand career/business chance may only result in affluence and arrogance. So, what should be our culture of learning if we are to learn from a new culture?

Monday, August 21, 2006

First Gig in the City Screen Basement

I and my friends are having a gig in the Basement Bar in the City Screen tomorrow (Tue) evening. The door opens at 8pm and we ('Glider' or 'Brasilian' is the band's name) will be supporting a band with two or three other supporting bands. We will be playing two original tunes and a few covers from Red Hot Chili Peppers and Stevie Wonder. The entrance fee will be 3 or 4 pounds. It's the first gig in England for me. But it's gonna be quite a fun!! So do come along if you are lucky enough to discover this short notice and feel like it!!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Bronach's Birthday Party with fancy dress

Hallywood photo
Originally uploaded by koji.
It's a while ago, but we had Bronach's birthday party. Happy birthday to Bronach; I really enjoyed the party, surrounded by all the fellow historians and medievalists as in this photo!!
*Visit my photo album for more

Sunday, August 06, 2006


It's been 61 years since an atomic bomb exploded in Hiroshima in 6 August 1945. Its initial explosion claimed the lives of tens of thousands, afterwards killing more people due to radiation exposure. Let us pray for the peace of this ever-warring world. Find out more in wiki.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Satoshi's Reunion Party

A big fun!!

See more in my photo album!!

去年博士課程を終えられたサトシさんがGraduation Ceremonyに出席するためにヨークに帰ってきた。今回はご両親も一緒だ。ちょうど去年の6月ごろに彼のAfer Viva Partyをやってからもう一年、早いものです。 (Viva・ヴァイヴァとはアメリカではDefenceとも言い、博士論文についての口頭試問のこと。これが終わって晴れて博士課程が終了となる)

今回はサトシさんと同じEnvironment DepのJanとトヨさんをはじめにバンド演奏もした。僕もこないだ買ったボンゴを叩いた。上の写真は、活き活きとした演奏の瞬間を捉えている気がして、すごく好き。

それにしても、サトシさんもご両親もすごく嬉しそう。 本当におめでとうございます!

Satoshi and his parents

Thursday, July 13, 2006


Kei and the Watanabesfrom wanyu's

It's a good time of the year in England. Massive "congratulation" for all my friends who have got the degree!! Well done!! And for me as well! Well done me! (See my photo album for more photo)

イギリスの卒業式は面白いです。修士、博士の卒業式は卒業した年の一年後にやるんです。だから去年の9月に卒論を提出した人たちはようやく今、卒業式を終えて晴れて修士終了となる訳です。 論文の審査に二、三人の審査員が関わるのと、効率の悪いオフィスワークのせいかと思います。 始めは随分いい加減なもんだ、と感じたものですが、そのおかげもあって、一年後に再び旧交を温めるチャンスになるわけです。今年も日本から、アメリカから、そしてマカオからなど、友人が来ていました。一緒に集まってご飯食べたり、パーティーしたりと、楽しいひと時です。


とまれ、僕は僕でWell done, well done、と言って、ポン、ポンと肩を叩いてやりたい、そんな気分になります。そんな訳で、去年ガウンを着たときに撮った写真も載せてみます。ていうか、だれか、ちょっとWell doneと言って!! 誉めて伸びるタイプだからさ!


Monday, July 10, 2006


Oh it was dissapointing to see him being sent off.
Believe it or not, Japanese Ministry of Land Infrastructure and Trasport has now started wondering about chaning the symbols for pedestrian signals!! Such an hommage to this MVP player!


Sunday, July 09, 2006

Words of the American poet, Maya Angelou

Just a few moments ago, I unexpectedly received a email from my Tiwanese friend.* It was about the American poet, Maya Angelou. Born in April 4, 1928, she 'is an American poet, memoirist, actress and an important figure in the American Civil Rights Movement'. (Read more in wiki).

I don't know where she got this story from. But I found it interesting, and thought you may also find interesting. I quote my friend's mail entirely:

In April, Maya Angelou was interviewed by Oprah on her 70+ birthday. Oprah asked her what she thought of growing older. And, there on television, she said it was "exciting." Regarding body changes, she said there were many, occurring every her breasts. They seem to be in a race to see which will reach her waist first. The audience laughed so hard they cried. She is such a simple and honest woman, with so much wisdom in her words! Maya Angelou said this:
"I've learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights."

"I've learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you'll miss them when they're gone from your life."

"I've learned that making a "living" is not the same thing as "making a life."

"I've learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance."

"I've learned that you shouldn't go through life with a catcher's mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw some things back."

"I've learned that even when I have pains, I don't have to be one."

"I've learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back."

"I've learned that I still have a lot to learn."

"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."

*I don't think you know my blog, but thank you Wei-ling!!

Saturday, July 08, 2006

7th July is a special day indeed

There's an established tradition across Asian countries to have a festival on 7th July. It's 七夕 (Called 'tanabata' in Japanese, 'Qi Xi' in Mandarine), based on the lengendary meeting of Orihime (Vega) and Hikoboshi (Altair). The Milky Way, a river made from stars that crosses the sky, separated these two lovers, and they were allowed to meet only once a year. Find more in wiki.

Many people - and so did I - write down their wishes and then hang it from a bamboo. I haven't done this this year though. But there we go. I've drawn up a few things I wish to do over the summer.

1) I want to enjoy joining the Kid's Camp at the end of this month. This would be another exploration into English soceity, albeit quite a lay-back one.

2) I've recently bought bongoes as in the photo below. So I wanna practice a bit, and enjoy music as much as I have done. Indeed, music is spelled 音楽 in Japanese, which quite literally reads 'sound' and 'to enjoy'.

3) A little more challenging one. I want to start learning French so that I can attend an intermediate level French course from October. So ask me "Monsieur, vous parlez français?" in late September!!

Well, but I know what I really want to wish. I wish to be able to sing "Time after Time" as my own song: "if you're lost you can look - and you will find me time after time". Oh, I'm miles away.

So what's your wish for the summer?

Things to do over the Summer

Monday, June 19, 2006

Niels is coming!

Yeah!! Niels, whom I visited in Amsterdam the other day, will be coming to York to start Ph.D!! He's finally confirmed this since he got the funding he wanted. Congraturation to him!!! We'll be living with our two English friends in the city centre from September. Oh, it gonna be really exciting!! I'm repeating myself, but we shall have a massive house-warming party, so you York people, don't miss out!!

*The image is taken from his football team's official website. It's cool, isn't it?

Sunday, May 28, 2006







そもそもが ひよわな志しにすぎなかった




一人でいるのは 賑やかだ
夢がぱちぱち はぜてくる
よからぬ思いも 湧いてくる
エーデルワイスも 毒の茸も

一人でいるのは 賑やかだ

二人寄ったら なお淋しい

だ だ だ だ だっと 堕落だな

まだどこにいるのかもわからない 君
一人でいるとき 一番賑やかなヤツで

Monday, May 15, 2006

Flat hunting!

Since I came back from Amsterdam, I have been doing quite a bit of flat hunting with my friends in the History and English Deps.

Yesterday, we have found one nice property which all of us liked!! It's in the city centre off Walmgate at the Evening Press. We are trying to sort out minor issues so that we can sign the contract soon. It's likely that we will have two communal areas on the ground floor, one as a dining room, the other as a living room. The state of the house isn't so nice at the moment (because of the current occupiers, naughty undergrads!) But I'm quite excited about the prospect of moving in there in September!! We should have a massive house-warming party then!!

Saturday, May 06, 2006



滞在中の4月29日がQueen's Dayというオランダでどうやら一番に大きな休日だったので、その日の写真が特に多いし特別な気がします。




Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Women and men: a feminist interpretation*

An English professor wrote the words:

"A woman without her man is nothing"

On the chalkboard and asked his students to punctuate it correctly.

All of the males in the class wrote:
"A woman, without her man, is nothing."

All the females in the class wrote:
"A woman: without her, man is nothing."

Punctuation is indeed powerful...
Besides, I agree with this latter proposition whole-heartedly.

*This short anecdote seems to be quite well-known. But I only came to see it on Sano's blog, who's working on spacial (/interior?) design. It was smashing indeed. Thanks Sano. It deserves to be read by many people!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Forthcoming conference paper

I am going to give a paper in a two-day conference on C18 studies in late June. Click here to see the abstract of my forthcoming paper.