Archive for the ‘Stuff for Language Nerds’ Category

Ever since iOS 6 was released, the Japanese to English dictionary has been non-functional. Even when your regional preferences were all set to English, it would only offer a monolingual Japanese definition. It seems there is a problem when iOS tries to determine which dictionary to use when multiple dictionaries are available. In iOS 6, multiple new language dictionaries were added and this has caused a conflict. Inspired by playing around with Flex, I thought I’d try to remedy the issue. I couldn’t do it with Flex, so when all else fails, just delete your problems and they’ll go away.

Here’s how to fix this:

  1. You need to be jailbroken on any iOS 6.x firmware.
  2. Download a program to access the root file system on your device (iFunBox, DiskAid, or iFile from Cydia).
  3. Navigate to /User/Library/Assets/
    . You should see a bunch of folders with names that contain a lot of numbers and letters.
  4. Find the folder that contains the Sanseido Super Daijirin dictionary (you can see its name under the AssetData subfolders)
  5. Copy the folder (the one with the really long name that contains the above files) to your computer, or rename it.
  6. Delete it from your device.

Now, when you select a Japanese word and tap Define, you should get an English definition. However, this will disable the monolingual Japanese definitions until you add the folder back (or perhaps redownload it when you switch your language settings). If you’re curious, the bidirectional dictionary that we just restored is called the Sanseido Wisdom English-Japanese Japanese-English Dictionary.


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I like to listen to The World’s World in Words podcast occasionally, and after going through the archives I found the above useful Spanish expression in this episode.

What does it mean? This (from here) is a solid definition:

es la verguenza que sientes tu cuando alguien relacionado contigo (pero que no eres tu) hace algo que te parece totalmente incorrecto, inoportuno, desafortunado… en tu presencia y de mas personas, momento en el que te gustaria poder desaparecer, salir corriendo, volando, volverte invisible, retroceder en el tiempo, etc…..

Google Translate + my tweaking (I learned a lot from this heh..yes my Spanish sucks):

It’s the shame you feel when someone associated with you (but not yourself) does something that seems to you as being totally incorrect, inappropriate, unfortunate… in your presence as well as others’, and a moment in which you want to be able to disappear, run away, fly, turn invisible, go back in time, etc…..

Essentially, the phrase is colloquial and means “shame for someone else”. It’s that feeling you get when someone else does something embarrassing and you dread the reaction other people are going to give to that person.

There seriously needs to be a word for this in English. I experience it almost daily.

It’s a great podcast.

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You know that feeling you get when you say a word over and over again and it starts to sound like it’s not a word anymore? Or you stare at it and you suddenly think “What? That doesn’t look like a word..”?

This is jamais vu.

I always thought I was a bit crazy when I had this feeling in school writing out lists of spelling words, when the words is repeated and crammed so much that you start feeling weirded out.

Basically, from what I can glean (via this study by Dr. Chris Moulin), it’s essentially induced by a specific type of brain fatigue. The brain gets weary of repetition and stops paying attention, causing the object of focus (like a word) to lose its meaning.

As it pertains to linguistics, a word has form, function, and meaning. But taken alone and out of context, the word loses both its function and meaning, leaving only the form to be repeated. Repetition will eventually cause the word’s form (usually unobserved) to supercede its meaning and function (usually expected), and this is what makes it sound so weird (so says Wikipedia..mostly :P)

That’s why spelling lists are prone for jamais vu. Since the words are taken out of context, they lose meaning and function. And obviously since the focus of such a list is to learn how to spell the words, the only thing left to focus on is their form.

It’s a pretty cool phenomenon. At least I’m not alone.

And yes, I did happen to discover all this on the always-awesome Reviewing the Kanji forums; specifically, this thread.

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You know, before I started studying foreign languages, I wouldn’t give that question much thought. I’d throw out the usual “Language is important because it’s how humans communicate” and get on with it. That, of course, is definitely true, but when I seriously started studying languages, I discovered a more involved answer.

Language, in all its forms – verbal, written, and physical – is not only a way to communicate, but also a way to live the culture where a language is spoken. The problem lies in that people hold strong associations with what exactly a “culture” is, and how it relates to a particular language.

Let’s take Arabic, for example. It can be a fascinating language. But the minute I take one step into being interested in it I get resistance and can hear the echoes of “Terrorist!”, “Anti-American!”, and the like. Russian and Chinese hold connotations of communism, German of Nazis, Japanese of evil kamikaze, Spanish of dirty illegal immigrants.

Though, some of these stereotypes have a certain element of truth to them. Language helps shape a person’s identity. People tend to hold fast to their identifying characteristics. Obviously, not every speaker of every language is conformant to these stereotypes, but some may adhere to them just because it gives them a sense of belonging to their country or to their ethnic group.

And in the context of foreign language learning, one’s personality may be altered, even if only slightly. An interesting phenomenon I’ve noticed since starting Japanese is that I tend to be more humble and find that other people seem more “pushy” than they used to. Exposure to another culture can change one’s inner self, and that’s why one may be unsuccessful at language learning: because, perhaps subconsciously, one is afraid of losing part of the things one identifies with.

Perhaps it isn’t about ignorance or lack of knowledge as much as it is about fear. What if you lose who you are?

I suppose a better question would be, “What if you change who you are?”

So, why is language important? Besides the paramount ability to communicate, given the chance, it can open up completely new worlds. To learn another language does not mean to leave one’s base culture; rather, it enables a process of “reality expansion” to see things from another perspective.

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