my favorite thing i’ve learned in college is that way back in ancient china there was this poet/philosopher guy who wrote this whole pretentious poem about how enlightened he was that was like “the eight winds cannot move me” blahblahblah and he was really proud of it so he sent it to his friend who lived across the lake and then his friend sends it back and just writes “FART” (or the ancient Chinese equivalent) on it and he was SO MAD he travels across the lake to chew his friend out and when he gets there his friend says “wow. the eight winds cannot move you, but one fart sends you across the lake”

i googled this bc i desperately wanted this to be real, and guess what…it is.

the dude’s name was su dongpo (also known as su shi). his original poem went like this:





(Humbly bowed my head below all skies
Minutest lights shine through my deepest bounds
Immovable by strong winds from eight sides
Upon purplish gold lotus I seated straightly by the low mound) (x)

on which his friend wrote “放屁” (fart, literally), and you know the rest.

(here’s a chinese source for the skeptics)

can you imagine having your brutal murder described in detail to future generations

this is my new favourite story from history

Just an addition: “fart” also is slang for “bullshit” in Chinese, so his friend was basically writing “BS” on the dude’s ego poem



When we are quite certain that something is going to happen, we use 要 yào.

When we wanna express the chance (potential, probability), we use 会 huì.

This is a correction of a visual that I posted some time ago, where I translated 我要去 as I WILL GO, which isn’t as accurate as this translation. Sorry for slightly misguiding you.

For whatever reason, I’ve been posting more at HTLAL lately than here. I’m not really sure why.

Last week I got really into doing Russian practice again. I have a funny tendency when I’m stressed out (usually because I’m already too busy, for extra irony), I tend to pick up throwaway hobbies that I get really excited about for a day or two or a week, and then drop later in favor of the long-term ones. It’s not the first time I got into Russian– I’d tried to learn the alphabet before, with … partial luck. This time seems a little easier, though I’m still pretty baffled by Russian spelling/pronunciation rules. It’s the first language I’ve tried to seriously learn that I haven’t grown up with, so I’m not familiar with the phonemes, which doesn’t help. Memrise seems to work much better for me with Russian, though, than it does for Japanese. I hate it for Japanese. Either way, I think my Russian adventure is done for now… until next time.

Speaking of Japanese and HTLAL, during one of my posts there, someone prompted the idea that I should look into taking the N3 this year, and I really considered it. Registration opened up a week or two ago, and I could probably at least make a reasonable attempt at it, but it’s costly since they don’t hold one in my city or anywhere in driving distance. And I’m again thinking… there’s not really any point for me, is there.

Originally it was a motivator for me– an objective, if arbitrary, goalpost I could aim for that would theoretically mean something to other people and mark my progress. But I’ve realized it’s not much of a motivator for me now. What I’m finding is that getting a good score on the test would mean nothing to me personally, unless maybe it was a 100% (or close to) just because that would be damn impressive on a test that has such a low passing rate already? I can tell I wouldn’t be excited about it, so really the test is either going to make me feel terrible about myself (i.e. if I fail), or pretty much the same about myself. The thrill I’d have felt about it if I’d passed straight out of college would not be there for me now, because I think I have a more of a boost these days just reading something I couldn’t a couple months ago, or realizing I had a conversation in Japanese.

This is not to say I think the JLPT is totally worthless and you shouldn’t take it, because I think that’s up to each individual person’s situation to dictate. Some people are way more motivated by test scores than I am, or need to get a job in Japan or something, so it could definitely be worth it for other people. But for me right now, at least, I don’t need or want to aim for it myself because it’s becoming more distracting than useful to me. Which is good, since that’s a couple hundred dollars saved (in plane tickets and things), at least right now.

Though also I’m having a bit of an internal conflict, because I’m more and more frustrated with my complete lack of Mandarin, and the idea of waiting another year or two to feel totally okay with my Japanese and then spending another 3-6 years on Mandarin to get it up to adequately conversational sounds awful. I don’t want to be nearly-40 before I can actually speak to my mom in Mandarin. Also so much language-study is already kind of making me a total recluse, and I’d like to have more of a social life before I am 40 either. But it’s one of those awkward things where okay, so where do I get the time from, then. So I’m working on a plan of attack for that, which may involve cutting back on Japanese more. Meanwhile I’m just going to keep my primary focus as Japanese for now and see how much Mandarin I can work in.



大白兔奶糖!! (by paulnpg)

literal translation: big white rabbit milk candy. it’s just milk candy & “white rabbit” is really sort of like the brand name. In Singapore, just call it the “white rabbit sweet” & anyone will know what you mean!

;__; My favorite.

Oh my childhood. These were my favorites, because they have this ‘wrapper’ made of rice paper that’s under the printed wrapper, and it’s edible (melts, in fact, because, well, rice paper), so I was always so very entertained that there was a ‘paper’ I could eat.

language-learning thoughts in bullets

  • Past month or so I’ve been too worn down to have any shits to give about Japanese, but somehow I managed to still do something with it at least once a week. Which I realized when I went to iKnow and found that I hadn’t skipped a week, even if one of the weeks was only ~20 min of study. Still better than nothing.
  • This is not to say I’m in good shape– I’ve realized it’s even harder to produce Japanese than it had been, probably because I’ve skipped out on all my tutor sessions and haven’t been trying to write in it either. Not really bothered by this, per se, since it’s sort of expected and I don’t really expect it will be that difficult to get back up to speed when I’m ready, but it is a little surprising how quickly certain things atrophy without use.
  • Trying to use a different language with people you know is much harder than doing it with a stranger. With people you know, there’s no reason to go over the simple topics (“Hello, my name is ___” / “What are your hobbies?”) that are typically taught (with good reason) in language programs first, and it’s sort of maddening to try to deal with normal situations.

    I’ve been trying to come up with things to say to my mom in Mandarin that I currently know how to say, but since my vocabulary/sentence patterns at the moment are limited to what I’m learning from Pimsleur (which, while I suppose I could tell my mom to 給我一點美元, but it’s not really something that fits into the conversation when I don’t actually need any) and random shit I know from growing up that are mostly food items, I draw a blank a lot. And since our default language has always been English, it’s hard to remember that if I call her up I should try to ask where to go or when in Mandarin rather than English because that’s what she’s using to me. And when we’re in settings with my father, too, it’s even more difficult to switch since he doesn’t speak Mandarin.

  • Also, learning from a lot of online materials is really confusing for Mandarin, since often it’s teaching a Beijing dialect, which… while I don’t think I won’t be understood, it’s not what I grew up hearing and it’s not what the people I know speak, and some words are entirely different. Like the snippet I used above, Pimsleur would have said “gei3 wo3 yi1 diar3 mei3 jing1” but Taiwanese dialect uses “dian3” instead of “diar3”. Also I just couldn’t figure out how to write “jing1” so I’m not sure that’s a dialectical thing or my ineptitude with the Chinese IME. Also not sure “mei3 yuan2” is the right word anyway, but whatever.
  • I’m definitely not doing N3 this year, because I can’t guarantee focus on Japanese to make sure it’ll be worth it for me.

I finally pulled out my Integrated Chinese book and went through all the pronunciation exercises in the beginning to see what I has the most difficulty with. By the end I wanted to murder something because reading random words out loud for an hour is really fucking boring.

Pretty sure my occasional half-assed Pimsleur practice in the car has been useful in helping me with pronunciation, though. I do still get some things mixed up, such as seeing things like “chi” I always want to pronounce it Japanese-ly, even though the “i” in Mandarin changes depending on what it’s paired with, which is maddening (I apologize for English, I know it’s also terrible, but I’m used to it). And then the whole u vs ü thing idek. But for the most part, I’m kind of in the ballpark? Even with tones, though apparently 1st + 3rd and 3rd + 4th are hard for some reason.

Anyway. Much better than when I looked at this last and couldn’t figure out how to say anything unless I listened to the audio first, though I still want to go through the workbook exercises to see how well I do on that. Although I don’t have an answer guide, I realize, so that’s going to be interesting.

I’ve hit that really awkward stage in Pimsleur (with Mandarin) where the ‘conversation’ is the guy trying to tell the girl that she totally wants to eat lunch with him. Though I remember being way more annoyed with it in Japanese… probably because I have to concentrate more when doing the lessons in Chinese so I have less time to be annoyed at how creepy it is.

One thing I like about Pimsleur is that even in the early lessons, the speed of the audio is close-to-normal conversational speed. I think they do slow it down a little, but it seems pretty similar to the “spoken at near-natural speed” rating of the N3, even if the complexity is low.

Though the content of the text, especially in the early lessons, is ridiculous. “Conversations” consisting of asking someone repeatedly if they’d like something to eat or drink and where they’d like to go. Not to mention it gets kind of creepy when you’re told to ask if they’d like to go to “your place” for a drink, and you haven’t even learned their name.