DiVerSitY-the Scribbling Block

~ miscellaneous notes associated with diversity and alteration in the world ~

Sunday, January 15, 2006

English Language to the Japanese People – “eigo” and “beigo” -

When I was reading back my blog-article related to accents of English language, I remembered another story associated with pronunciation and a culture shock.

When I was in my high school in Australia, I had an opportunity to be a kind of an adviser for those who newly arrived from Japan. Most of those students, who I talked to, mentioned about confusion caused by the Australian English pronunciation. One of them said that on the first day he has attended his new school, his classmate asked him by saying “What is your name?” but he did not know the fact that the accent of “name” often become “na[i]me” in Australia. Then, he questioned back the classmate “What is my na[i]me?” (He wanted to ask what the word “na[i]me” means)

It sounds like a joke, but what I was strongly impressed by his story, was the real meaning of the word “English” for the Japanese. Simply, the word “English” in our country is a language of North America. It is not British, King’s English or Australian, and other region’s English language. Many of us don’t have antibiotics against non-American English language, and therefore, confusion and a culture shock related to English language often occur.

I sometimes wonder why we don’t make a distinction between British and American languages by using word “eigo (English language)” and “beigo (American English language).” The two are basically same language, but they have different accents and spellings. Their relationship is quite similar to Korean language, which we call in different names (South-Korean language [kankoku-go] and North Korean language [chosen-go]). Then why don’t we have individual names for English? Is it because of historical background? This is really interesting point to me.

Friday, January 06, 2006

The "Custom" to Buy New Products

Yesterday, I got an unexpected phone call from one of the coworkers in my part time work-place. He, the colleague, wanted to ask me for giving advice associated with buying a new computer. He told me that he wants to get the latest model with the highest performance CPU (something like Intel’s Pentium D or Athron 64 X2 of AMD).

I was surprising and wondering, why the guy wants to buy a “new” computer, because he called me with an exactly the same business just about a half year ago. Then, I inquired him whether his so-called “old” computer (only 6 months since the day when he purchased it) is broken or not. He answered “No, it is fine at all, but I just want a new model you know? A new model, understand?”

His comments are not something incredibly peculiar, or unusual. We are living in society like this. If new products appeared, we would buy them even if our “old” equipments were still usable. It’s almost like an “indigenous custom” of the people of the developed countries. Mobile phones, portable audio players, clothes and some other things could be applicable to be the objects of the “custom,” and we simply buy and change them very often.

Of course, it is totally free and individual thing to decide whether purchasing something new or not. However, one thing that is evident is the fact that the ”custom” is not a conduct that is universal to the people in the world. It is a privilege that is given to those in wealthy countries, since there is an economical divide exists in between the developed and developing countries. Aren’t we needed to take the reality to our heart?

Friday, December 09, 2005

"Genoism" - would discrimination in our genes come into existence?

Andrew M. Niccol’s “Gataca” is one of my favorite films. It is a film setting in the “not too distant future,” era of society managed by genetics. It focused on the life of a man who has challenged to his fate as a member of the “genetic lower class.” In Gataca’s world, parents normally “create” their children by counseling with professional geneticist. They choose the combination of “perfect genes” to have “perfect kids.” Of course, there are parents who make their children by natural way (natural to us, but unnatural in the “future” shown in the film), but those who were not “created” with quality genes have been discriminated against as a group of inferiors. “Genoism” it called.

Vincent (Ethan Hawke), the main character of the film, is one of the mal-treated people with inferior genes. His life was filled up with physical restrictions and psychological burdens due to his status. He studied and trained himself with all his might to be an astronaut, but the wall of prejudice and genoism (discrimination) never allowed him to achieve his dream because of his genes. In the end, he finally accomplishes his goal by disguising himself with lies related to his genes and fake ID.

Although we don’t have something horrible like above mentioned “genoism” in our society, technology and study related to genetics are developing day by day. A countless number of scientists/researchers are pursuing development of genetics in the world. However, if genetic technology goes too far, what would happen to us? Needless to say, I am not a prophet or anything like that, and I am not sure with what would happen in the “not too distant future,” but I suppose that in a sense, the film shows possibility of how development of genetics can establish discriminatory society...

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Discrepancies in One, Common Language -views and gaps-

Last week, I had an opportunity to interview some one from overseas. I spoke to a Taiwanese university student, and I had really good time to exchange ideas and opinions associated with Japanese society/politics. During the interview, he pointed out that my English doesn’t sound like American-English. I told him that I have learned English in Australian high school, and we had a chat related to dialects and differences in English language for a while. In the evening of the same day, I remembered the day when I was astonished about dialects and gaps in English language.

It was the following day of the day when the world shivered with fear. The day after two iron lumps crushed into the World Trade Centre buildings in New York. I attended local Australian high school in the morning as usual. I went in to the classroom, realised that all the students and teacher were watching news program regarding the terrorist attack in New York on TV. I was sorrowful about the incident and death of thousands of innocent people, who were slaughtered by heartless terrorists (I am sure that it is natural to feel like this). However, in a moment, I heard something that I could not believe. “Hahaha...” The students were giggling. I was shocked and doubted that my classmates were laughing at the incident, but actually, they were sneering at the address of President George W. Bush. One of the students was crying out “Speak English, Mr. President!”

My Australian classmates perceived Mr. Bush’s American English as something odd. It’s the story of almost 4 years ago, but on that day, I was deeply impressed and astounded by the gaps in one common language, that is given the name ‘English.’ While the Australians recognise American English as a language that is different from their own, the people of the United States distinguish Australian English as a speech that is unusual. This indicates the fact that one language has a wide range of diverse varieties in different countries. This experience aroused my curiosity to learn more about English language in the past...

Monday, November 14, 2005

Criminals and the Mass Media- criticisms and exaggerations-

Last week, I saw a number of advertisements of weekly magazines, related to the attempted murder happened in Shizuoka prefecture. As you might know already, a 16 years old female high school student used poisonous substance to kill her mother in the incident. The magazines made it as a dope to run some special feature articles, which emphasize the students’ weirdness, madness and insanity, and treating her as a freak.

Needless to say, the magazines’ assertions are valid to some extent. It is clear that the student was a frantic fool, who tried to kill her only mother by using toxicant, and delightedly wrote down the mother’s weakening condition on her blog. It is disgusting incident indeed. However, I also feel that the magazines and some of the other mass media slander the offender too much. This incident is not the only case. With many other affairs, media sometimes strongly exaggerates things to attract people’s attentions and make profits.

It is quite natural to consider that the criminal should be punished, blamed and looked down by society since she has caused an extremely evil incident that goes against morality. But simultaneously, it might be needed for us to think about media literacy or the offender’s rights as a human being. Excessive amount of attacks and defamations targeted on particular criminals on magazines and other types of the mass media, sometimes make me feel suspicious and apprehensive these days.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

"Social Conservatism" in Japan? -light and shade of our tradition-

Since the middle of October, the issue over the future generations of the Japanese imperial family has flared up again. Many well-informed people gathered in a meeting to argue whether to accept having female emperor and cognate succession. The mass media reported that there is a prospect that the female emperor would be approved in near future.

I personally think that female emperor must be welcomed (though having doubt on female succession) in our time. It is not the discriminatory Medieval Period that men always had unfairly superior authority. Our society assures equal rights for men and women in Japan. However, last week, I saw a group that was demonstrating assertion that "the emperor should be male," in central Tokyo. I thought that it is understandable that it's part of our tradition and history, but I couldn't say "yes" to them.

Japan sometimes shows extremely conservative social tradition which overly values male gender. A few years ago, there was a argument on sumo, which doesn't allow females to stand on the ring. In Osaka-basho, Mrs. Ohta, a prefectural governor of Osaka was not allowed to award a certificate for championship because she is a female and banned to stand on the ring. It made me feel a bit strange that this sort of discrimination still exists in Japan under the name of tradition. It is clear that we have to maintain our tradition for the future, but we know that we don't need bad tradition, which vividly reflects predominance of man over woman, don't we?

Friday, November 04, 2005

Copyrights Issue -the Japanese economy and a piracy issue in China-

Although it is widely recognized that the Japanese influence on the world is declining due to massive expansion of the Chinese economy, the Japanese industries are sustaining its significance in the global market. A number of products created by the Japanese companies can be seen in the world, and they are contributing to people's everyday lives. However, unfortunately, these products are always side by side with a serious issue of an infringement of copyrights. The problem is especially grave in China, particularly.

In China, there are heaps of illegal copies of electronics, digital medias (films, music CDs, DVDs, video games), motorcycles, watches, stationeries, and others. Despite the Chinese government has introduced some plans to exterminate them until the opening of the Beijing Olympics, the problem doesn't look like coming to an end in a hurry. Besides, Japan is its major victim as mentioned above, but the United States, another victim of the outrage, lost $3.8 billion in 2004 (even though excluding damage calculated on non-copyrights related intellectual properties!).

In China and some other Asian countries, world-widely famous motorcycles of "HONGDA" are extremely popular. The quality home electronics of "HATACHI" are on the market. A bike company named "NIPPON YAMAHA" is making earnings by doing their own businesses. This is an absolutely touchy issue that is leaning over the future of the Japanese economy. China is a necessary market for the Japanese companies and economy, but there is severe reality of piracy. I just hope that the problem would be solved as soon as possible.