Feb 11, 2004

Chronicles of Nerima, vol.1

Just to give you an idea of the life we lead here, a few hours ago Rie was strutting around the apartment - hair up in a Cindy Lou Who topknot - singing "urethra, ureter, urethra, ureter" like it was a showtune. Gotta love a good showtune.

Now maybe I owe it to my wife to explain where the song came from. It's mostly my doing, after all. (The topknot, however, is her responsiblity. She called me a "trash Nazi" earlier, and I'm not ready to forgive her.)

Making up awful songs in kitschy broadway style is a bad habit of mine... always has been. But I've turned it to my advantage recently as a language-learning tool. It may not be my only method, but it's the one I've probably managed to annoy Rie with the most.

My first method, aside from the fancy classroom book-larnin', was to carry a small electronic dictionary with me everywhere. And I mean everywhere. I would also attempt to fix every broken-down appliance with a hammer, and my meals consisted of stew and cottage cheese - morning, noon and night. Seriously, I was lucky at this point if I could separate a word from the barrage of spoken Japanese long enough to look it up.

My next obession was kanji. I toted around a vertical-lined notebook and practiced writing kanji in all my spare moments. Then a language teacher mentioned a good way for learning to speak naturally is to find a favorite character on TV and mimic their speech patterns. Not to miss out on the fun, I found three or four comedians that I'm fond of and imitate them regularly.

Rie enjoys my impersonations almost as much as my songs, which are my latest method for learning vocabulary. Working from the "use a word three times and it's yours" principle, I abuse countless words and phrases by rhyming them in ways not fit for human ears. But I get my three times in.

Anyway, today in my translation work I ran across the Japanese words for urethra and ureter. Rie was handy, so I asked her the difference. Her response was the sort of "why don't you look them up yourself?" that implied she didn't know either. So I pulled the Japanese-English dictionary off the dictionary shelf, and we shared a learning experience.

Then I went back to my translation, and she did her best to show me how aggravating a showtune can be.


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