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Got a few free minutes to help me out? [11 Dec 2011|07:29pm]
Currently I’m designing a series of survey and interview studies which will eventually be used to collect data for my dissertation and eventually my PhD proposal. In short, my research is concerned with the attitudes people have towards the language they learned in school, how useful it has been to them, and how much of it they can actually remember.
Right now, I’m ready to pilot the very first survey – anybody who has a few minutes free to help me out would be forever in my debt! (It’s only 20 or so questions long, so it shouldn't take more than a few minutes).
Under the link:

(Also, feel free to pass a link on to friends and family too! ;D)
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Use Perl? [09 Dec 2011|10:30pm]
Does anyone on here have any experience with Perl?

I've been trying for days to set up the script described on http://psych.fullerton.edu/mbirnbaum/programs/PERL_script2.htm , but with no luck ... =(
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Long time no see, livejournal [05 Dec 2011|06:01pm]
Long time no see, livejournal.

I still read most of peoples posts on here, but recently things have been too hectic to have time for updates.
Recently we moved to a new appartment though, and other than that I'm just busy with my MA!

Here's a couple of recent pictures of my kids (who're getting bigger everyday by the way):

Read more...Collapse )
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[19 Aug 2011|11:13am]

Ok, a bit of a bizarre request.

I need to download one British TV advert for a lesson, but it's not on YouTube, so I have to pay a week’s subscription to a website which deals in videos of TV adverts. I’ll cancel my subscription after a week, but I’d might as well knock myself out and download as much as I can for future lessons.

Only thing is, I’ve not been in Britain for a fair few years. Can people recommend me some of their favorite adverts?? (Or on the vague of-chance that somebody happens to have the Virgin Trains advert where a woman gives birth on a train lying around on their computer, can I have a copy?)

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[20 Mar 2011|07:32pm]
Shopping = fail. No milk. No bread. No rice (although we have enough left for a few weeks) and importantly - no baby nappies!

This'll be us in about a week:

Sorry if you don't understand Japanese, but I'm sure you can get the gist ~
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[14 Mar 2011|04:25pm]
No trains meant no work today. Although that does also mean I probably won’t be paid, it did let me sit in Mac Donald for four hours and catch up on my university reading.

Our local supermarket is crowded with people fighting (literally) over the last loaves of bread and pot noodles (no joke) and to make matters worse, they’re only using half the lights to save power, so It’s well dark in there.
In 30mins Nerima-ward’s power is due to go off, again to save the rapidly running out power. I wonder how people are going to prepare their pot-noodles with no hot water.

I shouldn’t make light of a crazy situation, but I seem to be in the minority of people who aren’t panicking, doing stupid things (like buying a trolley full of pot-noodles!) and generally getting worked up for no reason.

The ground's only shaking every couple of hours now too - that's got to be a good sign!
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[13 Mar 2011|09:52pm]
Yuuli's lobster died (I doubt it's earthquake-related, but timings a funny thing), so Mayo bought him a basil plant to replace it. Right now he's in the front room saying goodnight to it . . .
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[11 Mar 2011|10:25pm]
Thanks to all the people who emailed me - we're safe and sound.

Guess writing on LJ about earthquakes was kind of asking for it. Actually Tokyo wasn't that close to the epicentre - a whopping 8.8 - but it was still close enough that had to wonder if the ceiling would come down (it didn't - but a lot of windows need new glass).

Seven hours later (as I type even) there are still small shakes about every 15mins . . . I don't expect we - or many people here - will get much sleep tonight!
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[26 Feb 2011|07:05pm]
I’m sure that just like here in Japan, the main news topic everywhere right not is the recent earthquake in New Zealand.

Here, it’s the only thing anybody’s talking about.

Of course, just like everywhere else, we’re all worried about the safety of the people in the area, but there’s another reason why everybody’s getting fidgety about it. It serves as yet another reminder that a quake of the same destructive magnitude is well overdue in the Tokyo area.

We have small quakes every week, and one that’ll make your heart pound every couple of months. But we’re not talking about something like that.
Tokyo’s been built to survive a big earthquake – but so was Kobe (towards the south of Japan), though when the big earthquake that everybody had been waiting for did hit (more than ten years ago now) all the ‘earthquake proofing’ didn’t stand a chance, and the training people had had in schools was useless.

They used to say “when it happens, switch of the gas and get under the table”. But now we all know it doesn’t work like that. Walking as far as a table in a 9. earthquake is about as easy as hoping one legged across a ship’s deck in a raging storm (or so people say – I don’t know from experience of course).

The last one here was in the 1920’s. They say it comes about every 75 years (I don’t remember where I heard that number though), which means it’s really really over due, and they (yes, ‘they’) say the likelihood of it happening in the next ten years is well of the percentage-scale. There is no ‘likelihood’. No “if it happens, then ________” only “WHEN it happens, then _________”.

My heart goes out to the people in Christchurch right now, it really does.
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[08 Dec 2010|09:53pm]
All babies go though universal stages of babbling - even deaf babies. It appears to be a preprogrammed, innate action. 
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[25 Nov 2010|09:15pm]

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[23 Oct 2010|02:13pm]
Here’s a picture, although not a very good one. She looks exactly like her brother, except she doesn’t have the Japanese-almost-black eye colour that he does – she has blue eyes!

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[16 Oct 2010|08:51pm]
Took me a while to get around to it, but I finally sat down and got my website looking half decent. It looks more like a "blog" than I had wanted, but I guess that's what it is, if I'm honest!

I translated a post into Japanese, too. I might do one or two more, and see if it increases traffic from within Japan. My traffic isn't doing so bad recently, so if there is an increase, I might translate the whole thing and build an all-Japanese mirror.

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[05 Oct 2010|10:07pm]
Been meaning to post this for ages (I got the results a month ago!) but I think I mentioned that I was taking the Japanese proficiency exam a while back (not Level 1 – the highest – but a level down, as practise).

I got full marks! 180/180 !

So I’ll take level 1 in December, which confident about.
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[16 Sep 2010|08:12pm]
A teacher asked me today to explain why “look at the boy running with a dog” works, but “look at the running boy with a dog” doesn’t.
It’s funny, as native English speakers we take syntax for granted, but when it comes to Japanese speakers – who use a synthetic language (meaning you can switch bits around) – tiny differences like this seem to be impossible to grasp.
For example.

“Watashiha kanojyoni hanawo ageta” and “watashiha hanawo kanojyoni ageta” means exactly the same thing.

But . . .

“I gave my girlfriend a flower” and “I gave a flower my girlfriend” comes out meaning very different things in English.

That’s because English is analytic – it relies on syntax to give it meaning.

The funny thing is though, English wasn’t always like this. In the “old English period” (up until 1066, and the introduction of French into English) English was like Japanese – a language where syntax was overridden by inflection. In the sentence “I gave my sister a flower” “my sister” is the indirect object, where as “a flower” is the direct object. In modern English we just have to know this from a sentences structure. But in Old English, the word form was totally different! The word “stone” for instance, would have been “stan, stanas, stanes, stana, stane or stanum” based on its number, position in the sentence, or gender. And that’s not all – the demonstrative pronoun in modern English has four forms – this that these those – but old English had thirty two! So, it didn’t really matter where a word went – it was obvious from its make-up what role it played and what the sentence should mean.
Back to my original sentences which are surprisingly complicated, and gave me a lot of trouble*

“Look at the boy running with a dog” gives us:


But “look at the running boy with a dog” gives us:


Both sentences break down nicely into two chunks, but the way the preposition “with” functions in sentence two is completely different.
In sentence one, “with” complements “running” to make “running with a dog”, which in turn complements “the boy” giving is “the boy running with a dog”, with forms tells you what to “look at”.
But in sentence two, the verb “running” has become an adjective that modifies “boy”. So the syntax changes dramatically. Now we have a verb phrase where “look at” complements “the running boy”, which in turn is modified by the prepositional phrase “with a dog” to make a sentence that would only be natural were the unit “a dog” swapped for a more appropriate noun phrase – “a telescope” for instance.
I’m going to stop there, because I’m going a little crazy with this unimportant sentence, but the point in want to get at is the sheer amount of work our brains do to form and comprehend seemingly simple bits of language. When you think about it in this way, learning a second language isn’t just about memorizing words and grammar rules – you have to learn to process a whole new system of organizing “chunks” of language.

* actually I’m still not sure I’ve got the analysis right – if anyone thinks I’ve got it wrong, I’d love to be corrected!
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[01 Sep 2010|07:05am]
A few years ago I always used to say “I love drinking to much to ever quit”, but nine months after actually quiting I have zero desire to drink.

I’m finding I naturally have more cash – I’m paying my university fees with the money I would have spent drinking, and finding that I actually have something left over each month. Goes to show how expensive it is! I’m also finding I have +much+ more time. Even after my job, private classes, university and playing with my kids, I still manage to read a couple of books each month. When I was drinking I’d have a ‘quick one’ at the end of the day, but then that’d be it. I’d spend the rest of the evening like a zombie, and if I’d had a few, the rest of the next day(s) too.

There was a small part of me that wondered if I’d actually keep it up (everybody says “that’s it I’m never drinking again!” when they have a hangover), but now I honestly don’t think I’ll ever start again.

I do love coffee to much to quit that, though!
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[15 Aug 2010|12:48am]
[ mood | tired ]

A lot of the trouble with teaching in Japan is that many students don’t like to be taught things (because they want you to think they already know everything) and they really don’t like to be told how to do things (because they don’t want to lose face).
That said I’ve been finding a very simple analogy works wonders in the classroom.

You study science to understand its dynamics, how it works. How things work.
You study history or math for the same reason.
If you want to be the coolest guy on the slopes you don’t ‘study’ skiing – because knowing the dynamics of skiing doesn’t help you get good at it. You ‘learn’ to ski.
It’s the same with playing the guitar – who cares how it works; learn it and get good at it!

So why then, do people insist on the “study English” or “study French” mind thinking? You don’t study it. You LEARN it!

You’re probably thinking ‘so what?’, but in Japan almost everybody understands the dynamics of English. If you ask them “what’s the ‘perfect continues passive’*?” they could make you a PowerPoint presentation about it. If you ask them “what’re you doing tomorrow?” however, you get “eto…. etto….I am going to shopping?”

If you want to get good at a language don’t think ‘study’ think ‘learn’.
It seems like a tiny difference, but it’s not. It’s a huge difference. Your brain has very different associations connected to the two words. That’s why they aren’t interchangeable in most instances.
When you study, you’re programmed to avoid that red pen that tells you ‘you’re wrong. You screwed it up you idiot’. But when you’re learning to snowboard do you care about making mistakes like falling down? Of course not – you get back up and keep screwing up until you get it right. If we didn’t nobody would be able to speak the language(s) they do, ride a bike or even walk.

*If you’re reaching for your dictionaries right now “the ball has been being kicked” is a nice example of this all-but-useless bit of English grammar

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[12 Aug 2010|05:47pm]
Getting audio up of me reading posts on my website. The idea is that people learning English can practise their reading and listening skills while also getting advice about how to learn.

Considering the amount of time it took me to do one reading and a few sentences, the results are far from great. At least now I have some idea of how to use audio editing software though, which is more than I did this morning! Once again, YouTube saves the day!


Next big job is to get some graphics sorted out. Probably just a small logo on the side bar though, and I think I'm going to reuse the ones that I had on my (now perished) children's site, (Thanks againvampy!) if I can make them fit - so it shouldn't take too long.
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[01 Aug 2010|12:54pm]
I know there are a quite a few people on my friends list are in the writing business, so a quick heads up on here first, before I take this over to e-lance or somewhere else.

I'm looking to get some writing work outsourced. basically what I want is a series of short mini-stories each based around a keyword. So for example, if the keyword were "have" I'd want a mini-story that contains at least one example of each usage of "have" (there are only six!).
I'd provide the key words and a description of usage. You'd just do the writing.

If anybody's interested, drop me a line so I we can arrange a trial story and then talk about the cost.
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[31 Jul 2010|04:19pm]
There was a sudden downpour of rain, which Yuuli loved, followed by thunder - which he didn't love so much.

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