goodness, life, martial arts

The plan

Yesterday’s plan:

i will destroy you with celebratory sonar

i will destroy you with celebratory sonar

-Go home
-Find passport (scan, email to self)
-Write three papers
-Do pushups like a boss
-Practice victory yell

Yeah, this is my life.  I had a phone meeting yesterday with a new boss for that tutoring job I totally fucking landed recently (woot!).  I’ll be meeting my client for the first time today in El Segundo to evaluate his needs, which, fuck, yikes.  The JET Program application deadline is next Monday, so I’m aiming to ship everything out tomorrow (Wednesday).  I also have two papers to write for class, plus a short paper about why I wanna go to Japan for the JET application.

But I’m not letting all this amazing shit detract from having a good time.  I’ve been going to Shinkendo almost every day for the past couple weeks.  I tested for my first rank (ichimonji) last Tuesday, and I still feel all spewly about it.  Oppa-sensei proctored it, and I swear to god he was talking at twice his usual rate, and we definitely didn’t go over everything on the list of ichimonji stuff, but somehow still managed to hit on something I literally DID NOT KNOW AT ALL.  Ugh.  Makes me want to throw up rainbows.

goodness, humor, life, school

Taking the reins… for about ten seconds

I meant to post this Thursday, May 23rd:

As part of my master’s degree, I’ve been sitting in on English language classes every semester. It’s been a very valuable experience, and kinda wild to see all the different styles of teaching. The first instructor was a short, chubby Caucasian man who had a very gentle manner and an excellent rapport with his students. He taught a great deal of pronunciation and asked the students to tell about their personal experiences.

The second instructor was a Filipina woman with a thick accent who spoke almost non-stop during the whole class without giving almost any chance for the students to speak or participate. As a result the class was disruptive, chatted among themselves and often didn’t pay much attention. Regardless, she reminded them constantly that they needed to continue their English classes, and shouldn’t give up on their education.

The third instructor I observed was a Caucasian woman who had married a Mexican man, and could speak fluent Spanish (but almost never did). Her lessons had a very predictable rhythm: speaking, reading, writing, dictating. Everything seemed very carefully planned, which demanded that the students pay attention and respect eachother.

This semester, the instructor is an odd mixture of scattered and organized. He teaches a level 1 class that consists of a large range of academic abilities: some students are barely capable of writing (having never been to school before), while others are fully capable of moving on to the second level by the end of the semester. As a result of this discrepancy, only some students consistently participate, and many of them are incapable of sharing detailed stories about themselves, which seems to cause many of them to lose interest.

I sat in the back and watched, taking notes on my laptop and occasionally circulating around the class to help with an exercise or answer questions. The students who sit in the back near me became accustomed to me, and often turned around to ask questions (sometimes related to the lesson, but often personal: Do you have a boyfriend? Do you cook for him? No? HE cooks? Really?).

vayate, gringa

vayate, gringa

A couple weeks ago, an older man who had not been in class for more than a couple of weeks turned to greet me when I sat down.
“Como esta?”
“Bien, gracias, y usted?”
“Bien, bien…”
Then the instructor came around and we chatted while the class copied some vocab from the board. When he left, the older man turned and asked if I was from Argentina (So specific! Do I have an Argintinian accent when I speak Spanish? Why would that be?).
I said, “No, soy Americana. Soy de Los Angeles.”
He asked if I was Mexican (ethnicity). I said “No, soy, uh, una gringa.” He and a couple others at his table laughed. He said there is lots of discrimination against gringos, and pronounced gringos with an American accent. He and the people at his table asked several questions about pronunciation throughout the class, and felt free to catch my attention in between activities. One asked my name, and had trouble understanding (I’ve never met a Hispanic woman with my name). I said, “Es una flora,” which was met with “Ahhh” and nodding from the table, as though they understood.

The instructor gives me a chance to teach the class occasionally, which is intimidating but very valuable. The worst part is setting up the first question to the class. After that it’s easy and fun. I’m fascinated to hear what their responses will be. I looked for where we might be misunderstanding each other. I can tell I’ll get better at this with practice.

badness, nerd

Fewer mistakes, less embarrassment

i'm so disappointed

I’m a bit of a grammar snob, so when people make  mistakes like using “less” instead of “fewer,” I always notice, and it always bothers me.  It makes the person sound lazy or ignorant (or stupid), especially when (if I feel comfortable correcting them) they can’t tell why they’re wrong, even when I point it out.

I was shocked to discover my mom was, until recently, one of these people.  She majored in English, and I had to explain to her when it was appropriate to use “less” or “fewer.”  I figured, maybe this is a more wide-spread problem than I thought, perhaps because when you say you want more of something there’s just one way to say it: MORE, but when you want not-more, you have to think.  So let’s break it down:

Fewer is used when talking about individual items (cans of soda, grains of sand, etc.).  The easy way to remember this is to see if you can apply numbers to it: five cans of soda, six grains of sand.

Less is used when talking about amounts (water, sand, etc.).  Numbers cannot be applied to these.  Would it make sense to say, “I want six sands, please.”  No, no.


Few = individual items
“I want a can of soda.”
“Just one?  How about six cans?”
“No, I want fewer than that.  Just one, in fact.”

Less = amounts
“How much soda do you want?”
“Just a bit.  Less than I had last time.”

Think of it this way: If a waiter asks, “How many waters do you guys want?” he’s really saying, “How many cups of water do you guys want.”  He’s just being a lazy idiot.  The answer is always “fewer,” because he’s talking about something you can count.

Something like a liquid can’t be divided and counted without changing it somehow (like pouring it into cups or freezing it into cubes); that’s a sure sign that you’re dealing with an amount, and you should use “less” when talking about diminishing it.  Individual items (like ice cubes, sugar cubes, grains of sand, etc.) should be diminished using “fewer.”

Quiz time!  Which is correct?

a) I would like less coffee.
b) I would like fewer coffees.
c) I would like less coffees.
d) I would like fewer coffee.

If you said A and B, you’re correct!  If you said anything else, reread this post until you get it, or message me and I’ll help you understand how this works.  It’s a simple way to get a handle on a part of the English language every native speaker should have mastered by adulthood.  Alas…

goodness, life

The right kind of crazy

Helping strangers is my favorite thing because random acts of kindness are always a little surprising, and the helper has no expectation of repayment.

seems legit

I encountered a Chinese woman while walking to the parking center from Office Job the other day.  She asked for directions to a freeway bus stop, and since it wasn’t far I told her I would just show her.  We chatted as we walked; she had just graduation with two masters degrees, loved living in LA (hooray!), and was looking for a job.  She was trying to get to El Monte (about 17mi away), and since I had the afternoon off, I offered to just drive her.  She said, “Really?!  Wow, that is so nice.  Thank you so much.”  It’s a little crazy to offer a ride to a stranger, but it’s definitely crazier to accept a ride from a stranger.  So win-win, right?  heh.

She turned out to be super nice.  I told her I work with another Chinese woman in my office who asks me questions about American culture and the English language all the time.  She jumped on that and asked if I could help her with her English too.  Of course!  This is my professional future!  She and Chinese Office Friend both said I should teach English in China and make bank.  Win!

I invited her to come play board games with us at my apartment some time.  She seemed really excited about that, and gave me her resume and got my phone number and email before we arrived.  After we arrived, she got her things together amid many ‘thank you’s,’ then looked me square in the eye and said, “Thank you for driving me.  You have the gift of the god.”  I was so touched.  I said thank you, and we promised to stay in touch.  I’m inviting her to my housewarming next Friday.


Challenge: English

Anyone who is at all familiar with me or my blog knows that I love English.  As a language, it’s just awesome.  It’s also difficult to learn as a foreign speaker (or a native speaker for that matter), however, and I have a few theories on specifically why that is.

1. English has a ton of single-syllable words.

When you’re trying to understand what someone is saying, every syllable is a new opportunity to do so.  Each one is a puzzle piece.  Some get discarded, others get mushed together until something recognizable starts to show up.   I think this might be one reason why the romance languages are so pleasing to listen to: they use so many syllables to get to where they need to go.  Then again, so does German, and that language sounds like a train being dropped onto a crowded freeway.

Back me up, Wikipedia!  “English words of more than two syllables are likely to come from French, often with modified terminations.”  English gives the audience so few chances to hear and understand each word, pattern recognition (understanding groups of sounds [phrases] rather than words, and anticipating meaning) and years of experience become necessary to become an accomplished speaker.


a google search for "sombrero fashion" does not disappoint

2. English has no single point of origin

English seems to be the mutt of languages.  Heavily drawn from French and German, English must be a bitch to learn if you weren’t a native speaker.  English vocabulary and rules of grammar don’t always have the same source.  That’s crazy!  That’s like speaking Spanish with Japanese rules of grammar (verb at the end, etc.).  Or using your fashion sense to solve a math problem.  Irrationally fabulous!

3. English class is never over

English has the largest vocabulary in the world, which is one reason why I love it so much.  We have a word for just about everything!  But as a direct result, even native speakers occasionally encounter words whose definitions escape them.  If you didn’t go to college, you will not understand at least four words in an hour-long conversation with an intelligent college graduate (unless the topic is Jersey Shore or some such nonsense).  And this doesn’t include the subtle differences between words like clock and watch (a watch is worn, a clock is mounted), shade and shadow (a shadow creates shade).  Compare to Spanish sombreroSombra is shade, so sombrero literally means “shader.”  SO SIMPLE.

4. English is a fucking quagmire

The rules only apply some of the time.  Spelling is really really important, because three different words pronounced the same way can mean three different things when spelled differently (there, their, they’re).  Use the phrase “in so far as much” in a sentence.  Properly.  Yikes.

he's pretty pissed

I wonder sometimes if I love English because it’s my native tongue, or because it’s such a challenging language and it gives me pride to know that I have, by and large, mastered it.  Even native speakers acknowledge that English is a bitch to learn and consistently speak without butchering repeatedly.  One of my favorite games, Kingdom of Loathing, won’t allow its players to chat without passing a basic English test… proctored by the ghost of the English language.  When you pass, he tells you to “avenge his death.”  Classic!