Friday, September 25, 2009

English Lesson: comparatives

Most students have no trouble making a sentence such as this one:

My dog is bigger than your dog.

But then, they make mistakes with sentences such as this one:

At McDonald's, US sizes are much bigger than Japan.

Huh? What are you comparing? In the first sentence, you are comparing your dog with my dog. In the second sentence, you are comparing US sizes with Japanese sizes. So, you need to use "Japanese sizes" at the end of the sentence. Or you can do this:

At McDonald's, US sizes are bigger than Japanese ones.


Do you know how to use these?

• mine
• yours
• his
• hers
• ours
• theirs

His voice is louder than mine.

Where are you going to stay, at my house or his?

Our team practices more often than theirs.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Just Like National Geographic

The big news item of the summer in Japan has been the saga of Noriko Sakai, the former pop idol who disappeared for a week when her husband was arrested on drug charges, and then later was herself arrested for the same crime.

After she was jailed, the newspapers and TV stations gave us at least one report a day about her plight -- places where she bought drugs, people she partied with...blah, blah, blah.

The only thing newsworthy enough to knock her off the front page was the Democratic Party's historic victory in the Lower House elections.

Anyway, I got to thinking that maybe I could make some cash selling "Free Sakai/Let Her Go!" t-shirts. Well, the authorities beat me to it. I don't mean they are gonna sell t-shirts. I mean she made bail* and they freed her.

In the States, just just deny, deny, deny. And when you get in legal trouble, you let Jacoby & Meyers do all the talking. Here in Japan, you gotta make a tearful public apology once you've screwed up. Her award-winning performance was captured by what seemed like all the photographers from the last Super Bowl. They all had their good cameras with them:


Outside of nature magazines, I've never seen such a crystal clear representation of motion frozen in a frame.

* Is it just me or does she sound like she's still using the stuff from those awful quotes? Some things just don't translate well.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

What if...?

A short man makes for a long story.

Of course this one only takes seven minutes.

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

English Lesson: Learning English with Google

Recently, I looked at how Japanese people use English words differently from Americans -- specifically, I talked about the word "challenge." In fact, there are many words that fit this category. Today, let's look at "renewal" and "reform."

In Japan, these two words are often used to talk about fixing a building, a business or a home.

renewal -- Here is a site about improving Koshien Stadium in Hyogo Prefecture, home of the annual Summer HS Baseball Tournament.

reform -- Take a look at this site for a company (with an impressive-sounding name) that will fix up your home.*

(from here)

Well, Americans use "reform" and "renewal" very differently. We don't use these words to talk about homes or stadiums. How do we use them? OK. Try this. Go to Google News and do a search for "reform."

What did you find? Lots and lots of stories about healthcare reform. It's the hot topic of the year. And it makes some people in the US very emotional.

So, reform is a word we use to talk about improving or changing political processes and government programs. And there are lots of programs and processes that need change: Social Security reform, immigration reform...

How about renewal? Did you check Google News? Did you find anything about buildings or stores or stadiums? Nope. Renewal has to do with licenses:

Every few years, I have to renew my driver's license.

Some married couples renew their wedding vows on their wedding anniversary.

So, what should you use when you talk about buildings? Try "renovate," or "refurbish."

• • •

* I started to notice the word "reform" in Japan while watching a show called "Before/After," which is similar to "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" except without all the excessive emotional manipulation.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

English Lesson: "Have you seen 'The Last of the Mohicans'?"

We use "the" in noun phrases with the word "of." This often appears in titles. For example, have you seen the Indiana Jones movie where he goes to India? It's called Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

It's not my favorite one but the dinner scene is fantastic.

Book titles also commonly use "the" and "of":
"The Count of Monte Cristo" is discussed in a funny moment from The Shawshank Redemption. It happens around the 5-minute mark of this clip:

I tried to think of song titles too but I couldn't come up with any. Can you think of one?

Let's finish with the title of this blog entry. Michael Mann's remake of "The Last of the Mohicans" tells an old-fashioned love story but with such beautiful images and well-chosen music that the movie feels fresh and new. I can watch the final sequence of the movie over and over.

I think the secret to its power is that there are so few lines of dialogue in the end. Here, actions speak. And the pace of it, measured by the music, is slower than most action sequences. The Mohicans do a lot of running at the end, and as they run, anticipation builds and builds.

Excuse me. I'm gonna watch it again.