Thursday, April 24, 2014

Japanese You Probably Shouldn't Use

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There are some bad words that cannot be included in a blog post of course, so with that said, these words and expressions are rude but not bleep-able. Here are some phrases that probably shouldn't be used very often, (at least if you don't want to be rude!). There are appropriate times to use a few of these without being "rude" necessarily, but it does depend on the situation. 

If this were to be said more politely, it would be something along the lines of ”知るものですか”, translating literally to "Is that something to be known?", close to the English phrase "Is that a fact?".  When someone says this, it can be considered equivalent to "How should I know?" or "Who cares?".  It could also be said less slurred as "知るものか", or said shorter as "知るか", or maybe "知るかよ" meaning, "heck if I know".

知るかバカ!そんなことより お仕事だ!]:  Who cares moron! Work is more important than that!
This is along the lines of "who cares" or "whatever", and literally translates to "anyway is fine" or "however is good", meaning you really don't care. It can be used in defeat or rudely.
「もうどうでもいいや.... 送別会なんかしたくない」: Whatever already... I don't even want to go to the farewell party.

I suspect most of you reading this already know this one, but it has to be included in the list. An interesting thing about ばか versus アホ (the next word in the list), is that depending on where you are in Japan, one or the other is a lot more rude. You probably shouldn't use either one, but ばか is said a lot more freely in some parts and not considered as rude where アホ is, and in other parts アホ is used more freely and ばか is more of an insult. (For those who don't know the definition, "ばか" means "stupid"). バカヤロウ is also a common insult heard to call someone.
 「ば~っかじゃねぇの!?」: Are you stupid?

Much like "ばか", this translates to something like "fool" or "idiot". As mentioned earlier it's used somewhat freely in some parts, where in other parts it's considered more insulting.
アホか きみTY。」: Are you an idiot?

Translating to "ugly", this one might be used a little stronger than ugly is in English.
「どうしたの?マスター?」: What's wrong, master?
「顔が赤くなってるよー?」: You're face is getting all red!
「うるせぇ!! さわんなブス」: Shut up!! Don't touch me, ugly!

This one means "fat", but more on the chubby side. Another word for fat is "太った".
「...君は デブは嫌いかね?...」: You like fat people?
 (lit: You hate fat people?)

This is the imperative form of the verb 退く meaning to "step aside", and is meant as "Get out of my way!", this is pretty much only rude.
どけよ バカ犬!」: Move it, stupid dog!
「ていうか こんな犬どこから...」: Speaking of which, where did this dog even come from?

This pronoun for "you" is often used by between male friends instead of "あなた" and isn't rude (if you're friends), however can be used in a rude way as well. 
「はぁ!? なにいってんの おまえ!?」: Huh?! What are you even saying?!

Abiding by こそあど (the ko-so-a-do demonstratives, like これ・それ・あれ・どれ), this is another colloquial or derogatory pronoun for "you", which can be used in a "joking" way and not necessarily meant to be rude. The root is "やつ", translating to something like "guy" instead of "that guy" or "this guy". Since it follows こそあど, as you might suspect you could say "どいつ", meaning "which guy", to which the answer should always be: "あのドイツ人". (Very bad Japanese joke). As long as I'm rambling, there are other 駄洒落 (だじゃれ; puns) or really 親父ギャグ (おやじギャグ; boring pun) along the same lines like: "オランダ人はおらんだ",  or ”イタリア人がそこにいたりあ!” .... のダジャレはつまんね~

「オイ オイ オイ」: Oi Oi Oi!
「死ぬわ アイツ」: That guy is gonna die.


Unlike あいつ, this is likely only meant to be rude, and is another derogatory pronoun translating to "you", meant to show disdain and often heard in anime/manga.

「誰だよ てめーは」: Who do you think you are?
「いきなり現れて好き勝手言ってんじゃねーぞ」: You can't just show up and say whatever you want.

Yet another "you" pronoun of contempt, this one too is likely to be heard in anime/manga, and is considered an archaic word.
「おのれ貴様ァ!!!!]: You!!!! (*&#$*#!!!)!

This is a derogatory suffix which gets it's reading from 目. It can be attached to the end of something to show your contempt, like "犬め", which is sort of like "scoundrel dog" or "blasted dog". Another word further in the list uses め as a suffix: 畜生め.
「バカ 寝たフリだ」: Idiots, I'm pretending to sleep.



Used by tough guys who are trying to pick a fight, this translates to "do you have a complaint?", or "do you have something to say?", sort of like "got a problem?", and is pretty much used exactly the way that sounds. 
 文句あるのか!」: Got a problem?!

"死ね" is the imperative form of the verb "死ぬ", meaning this is a command ordering someone to die. To follow the anime/manga theme example, this could be said by someone during the initiation of their attack in a fight scene.  Other phrases related to this are"死ねばいいのに", or "早く死ねばいいのに” or maybe "死ねばいいと思うよ", translating to "I think it would be good if you were to die".  This is certainly not something that should ever be said, however is not extremely uncommon to be heard or read at any rate.  Not the most mature way to insult someone, but it should do the trick!
 「死ねっ!!」: Die!!
死ねばいいのにね」: I hope you die, k?


An adjective meaning "noisy", うるさい is often used in place of "shut up". Again though, it can be used to describe something is noisy or annoying. For extra rudeness it can be slurred as "うっさい", or "うざい". It's also common (for roughians) to say it as "うるせぇ", which applies to a lot of other words, like "めんどうくさい" (troublesome) as "めんどうくせぇ", or "つまらない" (boring) as "つまらねぇ". To use an example from earlier, "おまえ" (you) can be heard as "おめぇ".
 「これ危険!危険です危険!危険ですよこれ!気持ちはわかりますが危険ですって!危険!大変危険な危険です!危険!危険ですよ!」: This is dangerous! It's dangerous-- dangerous! This is dangerous! I understand how you feel but I'm telling you this is dangerous! Dangerous! This is extremely dangerous danger! Danger! This is dangerous!
(This one doesn't actually include "うるさい", but is a good example of when it might be used).


This is like the "stronger version" of うるさい, and is the imperative version of the verb 黙る (to be silent), commanding someone to shut their face. Another form could be "黙ってよ!".
だまれ」: Silence! (Shut up!)

Stemming from the verb "ふざける" meaning to "joke around" or "mess around", this is actually used much more seriously than that sounds, and is slurred from "ふざけるな", meaning "Don't mess around".
ふざけんな!!!」: Quit your #@*!*%&@$!!!


I tried to avoid using the words "damn it" to keep the wording here as polite as possible yet still convey the point, but "darn it" just doesn't cut it. This is used in both anger and defeat. It can be used as an insult towards someone else, by added the derogatory suffix "め" mentioned earlier, thus becoming "畜生め".
ちくしょう...!!! ちくしょおおーっ!!!!」:  Damn it!!! Damn it!!!

The imperative form of the verb くたばる meaning to "drop dead" or "kick the bucket", not very nice and on the stronger side of insults, translating to "drop dead" or "shove it", a word equivalent to the middle finger.
くたばれ!! ペテン野郎!!」: Drop dead, you fraud!!

This literally translates to "poop", but can be used as an expression close to "damn!". It can also be added to the beginning of words like "くそガキ" (stupid brat!), or "くそばばあ" (old hag!). It's also used as a suffix in the next item in the list as well: "下手くそ".
くそ!!」: Damn!
「あつがなついぜっ!!」: The summer is hot yo!
(this is bad a pun for 夏が暑い (なつがあつい))


The word "下手" by itself translates to unskillful or awkward, and "くそ" was explained in the previous item. The combination of the two means extreme clumsiness, and can be used as an insult translating to something like "You're hopeless!" or "Give it up!".
へたくそ。」: You suck!

Like the opposite of 格好いい, and sometimes spelled as ダサい, this translates to "uncool" or "lame". It could be used to describe somebody them self for instance, or perhaps their sense of style. As mentioned earlier on another word, this one too can often be slurred as "だせぇ" for added emphasis.
「やめなされ 無益な殺生はやめなされ」: Stop, stop the senseless killing
「うわあぁぁぁ 服ダセぇぇぇぇ」: Aghhh lame clothes!!
「めちゃダセぇぇぇぇぇぇ」: So laaaaaame!!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Skritter's New Team Member: Olle Linge

Get this man a cartoon avatar!

Hi! I'm Olle Linge, the newest member of the Skritter team. You might have heard about me, either in last week's newsletter or from somewhere else (I have been known to write about learning Chinese occasionally). I have joined the team in an attempt to improve the softer parts of Skritter, which basically means this blog, the newsletter and social media. There have been some great posts here over the years, but since everybody's busy improving other aspects of Skritter, the blog has been lying fallow for some time, something I hope to change, starting today. Therefore, if you want to help us improve the blog, the newsletter or our social media presence, this is a good opportunity to do so!

I would also like to take this chance to introduce myself. My name is Olle Linge (凌雲龍) and as you can see from the traditional characters in my name, I have spent most of my study time in Taiwan. I started learning Chinese in 2007 (I was 23 at the time) and I'm now in the second year of a master's degree program for teaching Chinese as a second language in Taipei. Bonus points to anyone who guessed that I'm in the same program as Jake! The program is taught in Chinese mostly for native speakers, showing that it's certainly possible to learn Chinese to a reasonably advanced level within just a few years. Apart from my native Swedish, I have also learnt English (without leaving Sweden) and French (with limited time in France), meaning that I have learnt languages in all kinds of different situations and settings. Currently, I'm doing research in phonology and tone perception, so it's not directly related to Skritter, but it's still awesome.

When I'm not engrossed in reading exciting research reports about different factors influencing perceptual training, I write about how to learn Chinese on my own website, Hacking Chinese. The ”hacking” here refers to gaining access to hidden information using a skilled method, so it's not about cybercrime and I have no idea how to hack your girlfriend's Facebook account to see if she's cheating on you (I'm not making this request up, I have actually received several such job offers). The tagline of the site is “everything you want to know about learning Chinese but no-one will tell you”, which sums it up pretty well, I think. I write about anything that I feel is neglected and needs to be brought out into the light.

It's actually a bit scary to think that the articles I've written about learning Chinese contain more words than two copies of Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment, but compared with novel, I hope my writing is slightly more optimistic and encouraging. I seem to like different articles than my readers, but if you want to get a glimpse of what I normally write, here are some samples that are popular with readers and that I'm fond of myself:
  1. Tones are more important than you think
  2. Kickstart your character learning with the 100 most common radicals
  3. Remembering is a skill you can learn
  4. Time quality: Studying the right thing at the right time
  5. The 10,000 hour rule – Blood, sweat and tears
You can also check me out on Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and Facebook! Enough about me, though, what about you? What do you think I should do to improve the newsletter, the blog or social media? What should I avoid? Of course, I have some ideas I'm eager to try out, but rather than giving everything away now, I intend to spend the next few months showing you instead. I'm happy to be a part of the Skritter team and I'm looking forward to interacting with you again!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The 2014 Sensible Character Challenge

author photoI just wanted a take a moment to let you all know that Olle Linge over at Hacking Chinese is in the process of organizing the 2014 Chinese Character Challenge. Last year he got over 100 people to participate and talked a lot about character learning theory in the process. I think that anyone looking to boost their character learning should give the 2014 challenge a go!

Update (2014/03/20):
Details about the challenge have now been posted on Hacking Chinese. Check out the link (here) for details about the challenge, prizes and more. Also, be sure to post your milestones, goals, and public commitment in the post comments!

What's the challenge about?

The goal of challenge is two-fold, and perfect for any level of language learner-- write a ton of characters, and go about it in a smart and sensible way. Participants will spend 101 days working toward specific milestones that are designed to reach a final goal.

Over the course of the challenge, Olle will be raffling off some cool prizes from Hanzi WallChart, and even giving away some extra Skritter study time for some of the top participants and those who meet their milestone marks. Not all the guidelines are live yet, but to kick things off he's got seven great articles about learning characters the sensible way, which include:

  •  How to learn characters as a beginner
  • Learning the 100 most common radicals
  • Memory aids and Mnemonics
  • Spaced Repetition Systems
  • Diversified Learning Strategies 
Unlike rote-memorization, all of the things discussed above focus on a more active and comprehensible approach to character learning, and relate a lot of studying Chinese with Skritter. Using a lot of these methods last year during the challenge, I saw some pretty excellent results and ended up putting a lot of characters into the long-term memory bank. For a summary of the main idea of each point, and a direct link to full articles, check out the Character Challenge post here.

When does the challenge start?

The challenge will be begin on Saturday, March 22nd and last through the end of June. Details for the challenge will follow on March 19th or 20th, and I'll try and update this post at that time as well. Participants will be able to sign up and commit to their goals on the Hacking Chinese. I've also made a forum post so Skritter users can submit their goals. The direct link to the post on the Skritter forum is here. I've still got to figure out what my goal will be, but I'm certainly looking forward to the challenge.

Best of luck to all and we hope you all learn a ton of characters in the process!

Friday, February 28, 2014

Expressions in Japanese ⑤

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 ...And even more expressions in Japanese leaving off from last time!

一期一会 (いちごいちえ)
Lit: One period of time, one meet
A once in a life time experience; an opportunity you should take advantage of because it might not come again. 

Ex: 出会いは一期一会だから大切にしないと
You only have one chance to happen upon this so you must treat it preciously.

誤解を招く (ごかいをまねく)
Lit: Inviting misunderstanding
To ask for a misunderstanding; to lead to/cause misunderstanding; This one almost reminds me of the expression "asking for trouble", used in situations where something probably shouldn't be done or said, because it would only lead to misunderstanding.

Ex:  そういう発言は誤解を招きやすい
Such a remark is open to misunderstanding.

お陰様で (おかげさまで)
 Lit: By (means of) the shadow of the gods/mystical forces; thanks (to); thanks to you; thank the heavens; This is an old expression used to show gratitude, not necessarily for something that someone has done directly, like how ”ありがとう” would be used. For instance, if someone asks if you are 元気, you could respond with "おかげさまで元気です。"

Ex: おかげさまで何とかやっていますよ.
I'm getting along somehow, thank you.

相変わらず (あいかわらず)
Lit: Without change
Just as always; the same as ever; This is used to imply that nothing has changed. For even more emphasis it can be said "相も変わらず”.

Ex: 相変わらずだね?
You never change, do you?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Mandarin Companion: Guided Readers for Chinese Language Learners

author photoAre you a beginning Chinese language learner who is tired of using traditional textbooks? Are you trying to find fun and interesting content that is targeted at your current level? Are you looking to simply read MORE Chinese? If you said yes to any of the above, we hope you'll be happy to learn that a new series of guided readers, a project between Mandarin Companion and AllSet Learning, has now been promoted to "textbook status" on Skritter!

Character updates add a more Chinese feel
Mandarin Companion was created by Jared Turner and John Pasden in Shanghai, China and aims to help increase the number of suitable reading materials written for beginning and intermediate language learners. You can read more about the project on the About page. Unlike many other intro-readers on the market, Mandarin Companion drew their inspiration from western classics, and made them their own by creating entirely new characters. Just take a look at their Sherlock Holmes story (Holmes is now the super 帅 Gao Ming), and you'll see what I mean . To learn more about why they chose a western classics with a Chinese feel, check out what All Set Learning had to say on its News Feed.

Books in the Series: 

All books in Level 1 (above) are "designed around Mandarin Companion's core set of 300 basic character ensuring that most vocabulary will be simply, everyday words, composed of characters that the learner is most likely to know." The books also include a Key Words index at the back, and story adaptation notes that help you jump right in to the story. Digital editions are available through Kindle, iBooks, and kobo, and run for $9.95 USD. To find out more, or purchase the books directly from the site here.

From the site--"Mandarin Companion creates books you can read! This series offers Chinese learners enjoyable and interesting reading materials to accelerate language learning. each book uses characters, words, and grammar that a learner is most likely to know at each level based on in-depth analysis of textbooks, education programs, and natural Chinese language. Every story is written in a style that is easy for a learner to understand and enjoyable to read."

Where to find them on Skritter:

Word lists for all five stories can be found in the Textbooks section of Vocabulary Lists by searching "Mandarin Companion," or by clicking the direct links on the book titles listed above. Each word list on Skritter was sorted in a descending order according to highest frequency and divided into 100 word sets. It should be a great way to add more context to your study sessions on Skritter, and increase enjoyment of the stories as you breeze past all the words you've just mastered!

The Skritter team is glad to help spread the word on these awesome, comprehensible study materials, and are happy to be able to provide our users with these wonderful, high frequency, vocab lists. We hope you enjoy! 

Have questions or comments? Be sure to leave them below. Until next time, happy skrittering!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Expressions in Japanese ④

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Yet again here are more Japanese expressions, this time all following a similar theme. 始めましょう!

瓜二つ (うりふたつ)
lit: Melon two

To resemble each other, for instance a kid and his/her parent; This is a lot like "two peas in a pod". The origin is said to be that when you cut a melon in half, the two sides will be resemble each other. Why a melon was chosen is unknown since other fruits can be the same way, but it is what it is!

Ex: 見れば見るほど瓜二つ。 
The more I look at them the more they look alike.

馬が合う (うまがあう)
lit: Horse fits/matches

To hit it off well with someone; To get along well; Like a horse being a good match for it's rider. The origin comes from horseback riding, where a horse would kick the rider off if they didn't suit each other well (for instance breathing not in sync), and the opposite when they did. It later became an expression used for how people get along with one another.

Ex: 彼らはぜんぜん馬が合わない。 
They don't get along at all.

以心伝心 (いしんでんしん)
lit: By means of heart/mind transmit heart/mind

To think a lot alike; to understand (each)others feelings; to be able to finish (each)others thoughts/sentences; telepathy; If you know someone that you connect with really well and seem to think the same way, often with a mutual unspoken understanding, you share "以心伝心". As a note, 心 means "heart" but can refer to the "mind", which is interesting since westerner's usually point to themselves in reference towards the chest/heart, versus when Japanese point to themselves towards the face/nose, (which is close to the mind)!

Ex: 以心伝心って知っている? 
Do you know of ishindenshin?

意気投合 (いきとうごう)
lit: Feelings/idea spirit agreement

To hit it off with someone; To have a mutual understanding; This is  much like 以心伝心, describing how you get along with another. I wasn't able to learn the origin of this one, so if you happen to know it please fill me in!

Ex: 初対面から意気投合した。 
We hit it off since first meeting. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Culture Corner: 革命尚未成功,同志仍須努力

author photoOften times the new year comes with lots of self-reflection, the desire to do more, and to be greater. Once the ball drops and we start scratching out 2013 to write 2014 in our checkbooks something magical happens. Almost without skipping a beat, the airwaves are filled with the battle cries of change and success... otherwise commonly referred to as New Year's resolutions. With any luck, this will be the year to eat healthy, exercise more, and (finally) learn Chinese.

Making a resolution is easy. Keeping a resolution, however, can be tough work. So where do we turn when the going gets tough and we need some inspiration? One place we can look is 1911 China. On the brink of ending 2000 years of imperial rule, Chinese revolutionaries fought for the Republic and the Three Principles of the People. It was during this time, that Sun Yat-sen (孙中山) said these famous words:

Gémìng shàngwèi chénggōng, tóngzhì réng xū nǔlì
The revolution isn't over yet comrades, keep making great efforts

Keep fighting they did, and in 1912 Sun Yat-sen took his place as president of the Republic of China. A New Year's resolution isn't war, but it be revolutionary to you, and these are certainly words we can appreciate and live by. Against all odds and all hardships, we can face and meet our goals and resolutions but not giving up, and by fighting for the things we want in life. 
Sun Yat-sen's famous words beautifully written in his memorial hall in Taipei, Taiwan. 
This phrase is beautifully balanced and complex enough to make a Chinese teacher smile if one can find the right time to use it. Don't think that because of the subject matter, you can't use this for daily events. Don't be afraid to joke around. I've certainly used it in a joking fashion and gotten laughs from my classmates. Got a report coming up? Filling out job applications... you get the idea, right? Have fun with it, and be sure to practice speaking the phrase in a deep, booming voice for best results! In order to better understand what we're dealing with, let's take a look a word breakdown below:
  1. 革命:gémìng::revolt; revolution
  2. 尚未:shàngwèi :not yet
  3. 成功:chénggōng :succeed; success
  4. 同志:tóngzhì:comrade 
  5. 仍須:réngxū :still require
  6. 努力:make great effort
Now that you're armed with the perfect phrase for 2014, we want to know what your resolutions and goals are. Post them in the comments below and stay tuned for more from the Skritter blog. 

A (late) 新年快樂/新年快乐 to all and happy skrittering!

Have questions, comments, feedback, or a topic you want covered on the Skritter blog? Please send them to: