Languages of Current Interest
One of the unique aspects of UC San Diego’s Revelle College is the requirement that graduates have proficiency in a foreign language and that they have a “noncontiguous minor,” meaning that students majoring in math, science or engineering must have a minor in one of the humanities and those who major in the humanities must have a minor in math, science or engineering.
My language of proficiency was French, and my undergraduate minor was linguistics. While language in general is interesting to me, I have specifically studied French, Spanish and Japanese, and I know how to say, “Are you Rakesh Varma?” in Hindi.
An excellent web site for people who are interested in foreign languages is the main Japanese radio station NHK World (http://www.nhk.or.jp/rj/index_e.html), which allows one to listen to the news in any of 22 different languages. Because the speakers are professional newscasters, the pronunciation is of high quality, so many of the quirky idioms and speech anomalies that one might encounter in everyday situations are absent. Also, since you are likely to already know something about the major news stories in the world, you will have an advantage in understanding what is being said. NHK World also has some wonderful computer wallpapers that change monthly.
Reflections on Japanese
Japanese is distinguished by its unique grammar and the apparent connection between the language and the Japanese culture. Below are some random reflections on some selected aspects of Japanese that may prove helpful to anyone who is considering a trip to Japan in the near future.
The art of indirect speaking