Sunday, May 27, 2012

Majissu-ka, Sugge'e, Yabbe'e

Last Monday, another round of a three-week interpretation work started. I really appreciate people’s trust in my work.

And Tuesday afternoon, I began feeling sick. Preemptively I went to a clinic. Not very preemptively. When the doctor measured my body temperature, it was already over 39 degrees. He gave me a shot in my butt.

Then this time I’m having trouble understanding the kind of Japanese one of the three engineers speaks. It appears that he expresses his ideas and feeling with only a few words: “majissu-ka,” “sugge’e,” and “yabbe’e.” Just like a high school kid of today. At first, I thought that he was uttering such absurd words because he was quite overwhelmed by the content of the training and more generally by the fact that he was overseas. Though this may not be totally wrong, given that he came to attend a training course, his way of expression is inappropriate, to say the least. And at the end of Friday’s training, the other two were talking about a theoretical what-if situation, which is not possible to reproduce with the system because it is designed to prevent such a situation in the first place. And he chipped in. I was astounded because what he said there then demonstrated how poor his understanding of a basic principle of the system was. I think I made a face towards him that showed my unhappiness, and he said to me, “I thought I had to say something because they were arguing so hotly.” I replied, “Give me a break.”

Saturday, May 19, 2012

No Sensibility for Books... + My Linguistic Frustration

There are books that I have read more than twice. It happened when I wanted to refresh my memory of the works, which precisely shows the enrichment is not permanent, or simply when I did not have any new book ready. All this tells me that I am not an artist as Maugham seems to define it.

I’m not aspiring to be any kind of artist. But having been dealing with language work for many years, I think I have developed an eye to written materials that is keener than many people. Whether it is a short message (SMS), an email, a research paper or a contractual document, I often find people do not pay enough regards to what they write.
A case in point is when someone, writing in Japanese, uses katakana terms when equivalent Japanese terms are readily available. I see this case most often with Japanese who have some understanding of English. This sort of writing makes me wonder if they should not write the whole thing in English. Another case is also in Japanese. That is when a few more words or sentences would help me feel happy. These messages are so terse and blunt that they are not what I expect of anyone with a sufficient level of fluency in Japanese. When it is displayed excessively, courtesy is as annoying, but when I cannot find any, I get puzzled. Does the writer know how to write Japanese? Sadly, this second case too is found among Japanese who know some words of English.
Yet another example is the off-key English spoken by many people in this part of the world. It is certainly better than the pidgin English that Maugham mentions in Footprints in the Jungle. But hearing those people speak equals to staying in a karaoke room where all singers are tone-deaf. When I pointed it out to someone some time ago, she, perhaps being kiasu, countered me talking about Japanese whose English is hopelessly bad. I believe that people here have been exposed to English for so many years while this is not the case with Japanese, therefore they cannot be compared with each other. Then one thing nice about my work should be that I can see people who speak the language decently, no matter where they are from. Those linguistically tone-deaf people do not care.

Jinsei An'nai of Yomiuri Website + Reading with Sensibility


I could count on my fingers the number of books that I have not read from cover to cover. On the other hand there are few books that I have read twice. I know very well that there are many of which I cannot get the full value on a single reading, but in that they have given me all I was capable of getting at the time, and this though I may forget their details, remains a permanent enrichment. I know people who read the same book over and over again. It can only be that they read with their eyes and not with their sensibility. (p. 89, The Summing Up, W. Somerset Maugham)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Tanah Merah and Tanjong Katong Seen by Maugham and Kaneko + The Summing Up

There is no place in Malaya that has more charm than Tanah Merah. It lies on the sea, and the sandy shore is fringed with casuarinas. The government offices are still in the old Raad Huis that the Dutch built when they owned the land, and on the hill stand the grey ruins of the fort by aid of which the Portuguese maintained their hold over the unruly natives. Tanah Merah has a history and in the vast labyrinthine houses of the Chinese merchants, backing on the sea so that in the cool of the evening they may sit in their loggias and enjoy the salt breeze, families dwell that have been settled in the country for three centuries. Many have forgotten their native language and hold intercourse with one another in Malay and pidgin English. The imagination lingers here gracefully, for in the Federated Malay States the only past is within the memory of the most part of the fathers of living men. (Footprints in the Jungle, W.  Somerset Maugham)


From The Summing Up by W. Somerset Maugham

I wanted write without any frills of language, in as bare and unaffected a manner as I could. I had so much to say that I could afford to waste no words. I wanted merely to set down the facts. I began with impossible aim of using no adjectives at all. I thought that if you could find the exact term a qualifying epithet could be dispensed with. (p. 28)

There are two sorts of obscurity that you find in writers. One is due to negligence and the other to willfulness. People often write obscurely because they have never taken the trouble to learn to write clearly. This sort of obscurity you find too often in modern philosophers, im men of science, and even in literary critics. Here indeed strange. You would have thought that men who passed their lives in the study of the great masters of literature would be sufficiently sensitive to the beauty of language to write, if not beautifully, at least with perspicuity. Yet you will find in their works sentence after sentence that you must read twice in order to discover the sense. Often you can only guess at it, for the writers have evidently not said what they intended.
Another cause of obscurity is that the writer is himself not quite sure of his meaning. He has a vague impression of what he wants to say, but has not, either from lack of mental power or from laziness, exactly formulated it in his mind, and it is natural enough that he should not find a precise expression for a confused idea. This is due largely to the fact that many writers think, not before, but as they write. The pen originates the thought. The disadvantage of this, and indeed it is a danger against which the author must be always on the guard, is that there is a sort of magic in the written word. The idea acquires substance by taking on a visible nature, and then stands in the way of its own clarification. Nut this sort of obscurity merges very easily into the willful. Some writers who do not think clearly are inclined to suppose that their thoughts have a greater than at first sight appears. It is flattering to believe that they are too profound to be expressed so clearly that all who run may read, and very naturally it does not occur to such writers that the fault is with their own mind. Here again the magic of the written words obtains. It is very easy to persuade oneself that a phrase that one does not quite understand may mean a great deal more than one realizes. From this there is only a little way to go to fall into the habit of setting down one’s impressions in all their original vagueness. Fools can always be found to discover a hidden sense in them. There is another form of wilful obscurity that masquerades as aristocratic exclusiveness. The author wraps his meaning in mystery so that the vulgar shall not participate in it. His soul is a secret garden into which the elect may penetrate only after overcoming a number of perilous obstacles. But this kind of obscurity is not only pretentious; it is shortsighted. Fro time plays it an odd trick. If the sense is meagre time reduces it to a meaningless verbiage that no one thinks of reading. (pp. 30-32)

Words have weight, sound and appearance; it is only by considering these that you can write a sentence that is good to look at and good to listen to. (p. 39)

English grammar is very difficult and few writers have avoided making mistakes in it. So heedful a writer as Henry James, for instance, on occasion wrote so ungrammatically that a schoolmaster, finding such errors in a schoolboy’s essay, would be justly indignant. It is necessary to know grammar, and it is better to write grammatically than not, but it is well to remember that grammar is common speech formulated. Usage is the only test. I prefer a phrase that is easy and unaffected to a phrase that is grammatical. (pp. 39-40)

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

3-Week Assignment Is Over + A Man Who Is Interested in Me

A three-week interpretation assignment came to its end last Friday. It was oh-so tough to commute between this not-value-for-money flat and the training centre in Tuas South, almost no man’s land. Having said this, I enjoyed the work and learned a lot from it, meeting people, new and old.

It was the night of 21st, Saturday, when I went out for drink with one of the guys I was working with/for in Tuas South. That Saturday was a working day as we seemed a little behind the original schedule. After dinner, we started drinking outside of a bar, but as we wanted a stronger WiFi signal we went in. There at the counter, we met him, about whom I have written a few times. I intentionally put my friend/client between him and me and encourage them to talk to and get to know each other. When necessary, I forced myself to talk as I knew silence would make the situation awkward. Not lingering long with him, we went on to another place.

And last Monday afternoon, I went to the bank to deposit some cheques as it was the last day of the month. After I finished what I had to do at the bank, I came downtown to drop by a bookstore and to have a meal and, for my reading, coffee. I was wondering if I should move on to enjoy some drink alone at the same bar. I was wondering because meeting him there would be another occasion of embarrassment and uneasiness for me. I was not yet in the alfresco area of the bar when he found me from the inside where he was sitting. Brimming with a smile, he was raising his right arm to signal his presence to me. I ignored it and pretended that I saw him only when he came a metre from me. He told me that he was there to meet two people to talk about his job prospect. I should have arrived half an hour later. Before long, one of the two, the main person for him, arrived, and he, when another came, invited to me join them for dinner. Finding no reasonable excuse, I said Yes. He uttered words of relief to my Yes and I felt dismayed. At the dinner, he asked me if I was presenting the national flag so it could be seen from outside. “How do you know?” Are you stalking me? It was almost the only exchange I had with him at the dinner table. I couldn’t look at him. And the man who came last was in his usual self, attempting to make himself appear larger than he was. He was probably jealous when I told him that I had worked with an actor and some scenes of the work could be found on the internet. When our dinner was over, I parted with them to have more drinks at another place.

“I shrug my shoulders when people tell me that their first impressions of a person are always right. I think they must have small insight or great vanity. For my own part I find that the longer I know people the more they puzzle me: my oldest friends are just those of whom I can say that I don’t know the first thing about them.” (A Friend in Need, W. Somerset Maugham)

The amount of work I have received for the past 10 days or so is not something that I can finish with a happy smile. TOO MUCH.