October 09, 2005

Chapter 5 (A Thousand Leagues of Wind)

enfeoffment (en fEEf ment) [en- + Old French "fief"] n : under the feudal system, the deed by which a person was given land in exchange for a pledge of service(下賜 [名] (スル) 高貴の人が、身分の低い人に物を与えること)more precisely : 知行下賜 (to grant a fief)

大 木鈴 [おおきすず] Ooki Suzu, the second and third kanji can also be pronounced, "Mokurin," the on-yomi, or Chinese reading

五山 [ござん] lit. the "five mountains" at the center of the world: Suukou (崇高), Kouzan (恒山), Kazan (華山), Kakuzan (霍山), Houzan (蓬山). Rakushun explains their significance in chapter 38 of Shadow of the Moon. As Ono describes them, these five mountains closely align with the actual Five Great Mountains of China.

Although the facility for natural language acquisition (that is, learning a language without formal instruction) deteriorates markedly with puberty, younger teenagers are still capable of achieving high levels of communicative competence. The most common artifact of late acquisition is pronunciation. A favorite example of linguists is Henry Kissinger, who arrived in the United States at age 14 and speaks English with a strong German accent. His brother, two years younger, has no accent.

But even that barrier can be overcome. Listen to Robert Cringely's interview with Max Levchin and keep in mind that Levchin came to the U.S. from Ukraine at age 16. I've personally known several Japanese who didn't live in an "immersion" environment until they attended university in the U.S., and yet, like Levchin, speak English almost accent-free. So it can be done. Or at least you can get close.

In Shadow of the Moon, Heki Rakujin (chapter 51), learns the language as the result of strenuous intellectual effort. In the real world, a child Suzu's age would have blown past him in raw ability in less than three years, probably in less than six months. This emphasis on formal learning reflects a bias in Japanese language education toward what Steven Krashen terms "learning" vs. "acquisition," one reason why Toudai professor Toshiyuki Shiodome states that "there's no country on earth where English language instruction is as bad as it is in Japan."

The key psychological factors at play here are ego permeability, low inhibition and curiosity. (The Tom Hanks character in Volunteers is a case in point.) Suzu's reaction to her new environment vividly and accurately illustrates one of the biggest barriers for a language learner to overcome: "People would just laugh at her when she said she didn't understand what they were saying. Eventually, Suzu stopped talking all together. It was too intimidating either to speak or be spoken to."

But who wouldn't want Ono's equivalent of Douglas Adams's "Babel Fish"? One aspect of Youko's experience that strikes me as spot-on was that despite having her ever-present Hinman to interpret for her, she had to learn the writing system separately. Indeed, for the most part (there are exceptions, and there is a lot of crossover among even disparate abilities), literacy, unlike communicative competence, must be formally learned.

才州国 [さいしゅうこく] Kingdom of Sai
保州 [ほしゅう] Ho Province
塵県 [じんけん] Jin County
琶山 [はざん] Mount Ha
翠微洞 [すいびどう] Suibi Grotto (lit. "cave of delicate green")
扶王 [ふおう] King Fu
梨耀 [りよう] Riyou
赤虎 [せつこ] Setsuko (lit. "red tiger")
笨媽 [ほんま] Honma (lit. "slovenly mare")
玉膏 [ぎょっこう] gyokkou (lit. "jewel oil")
箴魚 [しんぎょ] lit. "proverb fish"
瑶草 [ようそう] lit. "jewel-like grass"

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# posted by Anonymous Anonymous
10/17/2005 4:27 AM   
i think 五山 refers to the five mountains 蓬, 恒, 華, 崇, 霍 as a collective rather than one mountain called 五, as the name "Mount Go" might suggest.
# posted by Blogger Eugene
10/17/2005 8:14 AM   
You are correct, and it turns out that I did translate it correctly in Shadow of the Moon. I've updated the text and notes accordingly. Thanks.