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Monday, December 24, 2012

Essential Phrases and Body Language #9

Gesture #9: Showing Agreement with a Statement
Actual Gesture: Slamming the pinky side of a closed fist into an open palm
It's Function?: To express that the person just said something that agrees with your values/logic/etc or makes the point you've been working towards, but perhaps couldn't put it the way the speaker did
Any Associated Phrase?: Yes, and the one most often use with this one is 納得なっとく(Exactly!), which you can also use to discuss the concept of consent
Anything else?: If you rotate your closed hand while it's in the palm, you imitate the gesture of grinding sesame seeds in a mortar and pestle(known in Japan as 胡麻ごまり), which implys that someone is buttering someone up in anticipation of getting something in return, or what some folks would call brown-nosing
Phrase #9: よくできました
Literal Meaning: "You were well up to the task at hand"
Intent: "Good Job!(and similar meanings in translation)"
Usage: To tell someone they did good after they finish a task, in order to let them know how well they did and encouraging them to keep up the good work(which can change in tone, if sarcasm is in the air).
Notes: This also applies when you see the different variations in this phrase, such as 大変たいへんよくできました, which tells then they did very well at something, and the more informal version of this phrase, よくできた(which can also be used as an adverb to show something is solidly built/written/etc).
Example: このスパ? 大変よくできたね! よくできたスパんだ!
(you cooked this spaghetti? You did super awesome at it, man. Really well made Spaghetti!)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Essential Phrases and Body Language #8

Gesture #8: Minimizing a Compliment
Actual Gesture: With palms facing the person, shaking the hand from side to side

It's Function?: It's meant to increase the politeness by showing that the thing you did for them isn't as great as they're making it out to be, much like a “It was nothing”

Any Associated Phrase?: Yes, and a couple of them are 「いいえ(No, but here, intending something like “It was nothing”)」and 「そんなことないです (Oh, it's not like that at all)」

Anything else?: You can also do this with two hands for emphasis, either one showing modesty and letting the other person you really do appreciate what they did for you or what they said

Phrase #8: ご機嫌きげんよう
Literal Meaning: "Your condition is well"

Intent: Take care, now

Usage: It's much like the phrase 'Aloha', in that in can be as both a greeting and a parting phrase, communicating good and
very formal vibes to the listener in either usage

1. This likely comes from the archaic way to say this phrase 「ご機嫌ようございます」.
2. 機嫌, itself, is a noun discussing someone's mood, with a phrase to express someone is either in a good or bad mood(good mood being 機嫌がいい and bad mood being 機嫌がわるい)

Example: あら、リナさん。ごきげんよう。
(Oh hey, there, Lina. Aloha, to you.)
(Mm, Aloha, there. How's the job treating you?)

Friday, September 7, 2012

Essential Phrases and Body Language #7

Gesture #7: Humbling Up for a Favor

Actual Gesture: Bowing the head (and possibly doing a bow along with that) while clapping the hands together

It's Function?: To show remorse for taking up the person's time/something you did while asking for whatever it is you're asking for

Any Associated Phrase?: ごめんくださいですが(insert favor here)
Anything else?: It's rather formal-and perhaps feminine?-, and short of actually groveling, is one of the most humble and polite ways you can ask someone to help you out in a pinch. If you're feeling desperate, a more pressing alternative to the Associated Phrase presented is 「おねがい(I beg of you!)!(insert favor here)」, e.g. when you're lost somewhere, you need help finding your way to the nearest subway station and the other person might be shaky on helping you because they feel their English sucks. When you need to cut through the nonsense, you'd wanna use the gesture and say something like 「お願い!ちかいのえきはどこにありますか?(Please, sir! Where is the nearest train station?)」

Phrase #7: よろしくお願いします

Literal Meaning: "I request that you make it so"

Intent: "It's a pleasure to meet you(and similar meanings in translation)"

Usage(s): 1. To show you wish to create good relations between yourself and those you're speaking with
2. At the end of an introduction when 1st meeting someone
3. As a parting phrase in a formal setting(both this and the 2nd usage implying you want to establish long lasting relations, much like the phrases 'Nice to meet you' and 'It was a pleasure to meet you')
4. In asking favors

Notes: 1. 宜しく, by itself, is a casual way to say the phrase (some even say it's the preferred way in casual settings)
2. It can be used to show appreciation for an action, most often in the phrases 「(thing you want someone to do for you)を宜しくたのみます(I'd appreciate your help with X)」& ○に宜しくおつたえてください(My compliments to X/Please give my regards to X/Say Hi to X for me) [○に宜しくおつたえてください also has a shorthand form, ○に宜しく, which implies the verb from either one]).
3. To increase the politeness factor, add どうぞ before 宜しく(also applies to its more casual forms!)
4. It's also used in the phrases ひとつよろしく-which is the parting phrase used in business calls and translates into something like "Handle it, man"-and あとはよろしくする-which is used after someone (most likely someone higher up the ladder than you) asks you to cover for them and they explain what you're doing for them, translating into something like "Handle the rest the way you think's best"

Example: (1) ねぇ、むっちゃん! ともはなしたいんだよ。 こっちだね。 Hey Doug, おいで!
(Hey, Muchichi. My friend wants to talk to you! *English*, c'mere!)

あのう。。。えっと。。。はじめまして。 わたくしはダッグジョンサンでございます。宜しくお願いいたします。
(Umm...uhh...salutations. I be Doug of the Johnson clan. I do humbly beg your indulgence)

...Okay, this is some bullshit. First off, you are an asshole for getting this poor guy to think we all talk like that, 中島なかじまくん。 Second of all...ダッグ, was it? You obviously learned the formal style of our language my friends say they drill in you over there. If you are talking to a politician or whatever, fine, but when you talk like that in a casual setting, you come off as seriously uptight. You would not talk to your president and your friend the same way, would you? Did not think so. Please learn the other ways to speak our language so you are not lead to make yourself look like a fool, as 中島くん seems to enjoy doing, and can chat with people with the proper level of politeness. All that said...こちらこそ、よろしくおねがいします。 ダッグさん。 あたし、上川かみかわむちこです! I am not a pen.
(*speech*I am also pleased to be meeting with you, Doug. My name's Muchiko Kamikawa! *English school English*)

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Essential Phrases and Body Language #6

Gesture #6: Covering the Mouth

Actual Gesture: Covering the mouth with the tips the fingers, whether it's the front, back in a cup shape

It's Function?: To hide your teeth and cover up while you hold back the chuckles

Any Associated Phrase?: No, but the implied one is “Sorry I find your current state hilarious”

Anything else?: It's a rather formal-and perhaps feminine?-gesture, and back in the day, flashing the choppers meant either showing the person in front of you a crack in your armor or that you weren't that serious of a person, either implying poor form on your part; in addition to that, women had to deal with the fact that pearly whites meant you weren't hitched yet-and possibly never would be, since married women had theirs painted black, the practice known as 御歯黒「おはぐろ」. These days, though, it's more likely they think they got a bad case of the yuck-mouth, and would prefer you not see them on display.

Phrase #6: ようがある

Literal Meaning: There is business

Intent: I got a thing do to

Usage: Much like the phrase "I got a thing to do", it tells that there's something else that needs our attention without specifying what it is, thus insuring that your private and public lives stay separate.

Notes: This phrase also has few interesting variants to it, like 用がない(it and any variant of it saying you either don't have anything to do or that you have no need/use for something) and 用をす, which is a polite way to say you gotta do what you do in the bathroom (e.g. I'm gonna take care of some business)

Example: (用がある)「用がある」って?かったね。それじゃ。
(So you 'got something to do,' eh? I get you, man. See you 'round)

(用がない) 用がなかったら、廃棄はいきしてはどう?
(If it's not useful to you, why not just throw it out?)

(用を足す) 失礼しつれいしますが。用を足しますので。
(Pardon the interruption. Off to go take care of business)

Friday, July 13, 2012

Essential Phrases and Body Language #5

Gesture #5: Catching someone's attention/かたたた

Actual Gesture: Tapping someone 2-3 times on the shoulder while you're behind them

It's Function?: To get a moment of their time and tell/show them something, whether it's letting them they dropped something, pointing something out to them that might be interest or even just to start a conversation

Any Associated Phrase?: No, but one I recommend is 「失礼しつれいしますが」, or something similar in intent

Anything else?: If you're feeling joke-y, you can bust out the old gag of sticking out your pointer finger while they turn to you; if they get/are in on it, you might get a 「いたっ!(Ouch!)」 out of it, but it's more likely something worse will come of it, so bust it out with caution. Another thing to take note of is an association it carries in professional climates, where it's followed up by getting canned

Phrase #5: 大変たいへんです
Literal Meaning: It's awful
Intent: This is horrible
1. To point out that something is an emergency/the stuff has hit the fan(like the phrase 'This is serious!'),
2. To show that something is a shocking situation(like when you hear your best friend is about to try mountain road drifting just after learning how to drive, and the first thought that crosses your mind is 'This is serious'),
3. When people are in tight spots(like when your friend says they had to write up and get an A on a 10 page paper by the next day, or they wouldn't be passing the class, and you tell 'em "That's tough")
4. To show sympathy for people going through rough patches(like when that same friend missed the passing mark by 1 point because of 1 typo, and you tell them "That's rough")
Notes: 大変, itself, is a な adjective carrying the connotations and usage in the contexts seen above(plus one more: pointing out there's a lot of whatever it's in front of)
Example: (expressing something's an emergency) 大変じゃねぇさ。デートだけで、ゆっくりしてね。心臓発作しんぞうほっさこってねぇ。
(This thing ain't serious, man. You're just going on a date, so slow your role and breathe. You're not exactly having a heart attack, now)
(a shocking situation) 大変だ!くまとおりをとおってますよ!
Oh my word, there's a bear walking down the street right now!
(when something gets serious) ’「結婚けっこんしましょうか?」って!?大変でしょう。
Did he really say “Will you marry me”!? This just got real.
(showing sympathy)「赤点あかてん」って? しまったね。 大変だよ。 おい、MOS Burgerにおうぞ。 持て成してくれ。
(You got failing marks? Oh crap, man. Sucks for you. Yo, let's meet up over at the MOS Burger, my treat)

Friday, June 29, 2012

Essential Phrases and Body Language #4

Gesture #4: Showing appreciation for the meal
Actual Gesture: Holding both hands together and lightly bowing your head
It's Function?: It's as the name says, specifically, for all the things that had to happen just for the meal to appear on the plate (which, when you think about the farming, packing, cooking and so on, is quite a lot); for a frame of reference, think about the folks who say grace before a meal(and like saying grace, this is mostly done in the home, and among company)
Any Associated Phrase?: Yes, and this one has two; 「いただきます(Thank you for the meal)」for before the meal begins and 「ご馳走様ちそうさまでした(Thanks for the hospitality)」after it's done
Anything else?: The bow and each phrase are done at the appropriate points they ask for in order to show your gratefulness for the grub, whether each is done at all is up to what the context and the mood call for.

Phrase #4: みません
Literal Meaning: I didn't finish the task at hand
Intent: I'm sorry
Usage: This actually has 2 uses: as both as apology for something and a humble way to thank someone for doing something, like telling you co-worker, "Thanks for picking the slack" when you forget to do the dishes before you jet, and they cover your six by doing it before they head home for the day.
Notes: This comes from the verb to express you did finish doing something, 済む, and all the stuff you just learned also applies when it's used in it's more casual negative form, 済まない(this also includes variations of this, naturally). To specifically say you're sorry for something, you'd use ごめんなさい(the others, you'll pick up as you go)
Example: (saying sorry) パーティーにぎて、済まないな。ひさしぶりのでさけよわいこと わすれたんだ。
(Sorry about getting too blitzed at your party, man. It's been a while, so I forgot I'm a lightweight with the booze)
(saying thank you) たすけて済みません。本当ほんとうありがたい。
(Thank you for the help back there. I really appreciate it)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Essential Phrases and Body Language #3

Gesture #3: Showing something is wrong/you don't know something
Actual Gesture: with the thumb-side of the hand held near the mouth, waving it back and forth
It's Function?: It does as the name says, specifically when there's nothing the person doing it can do to help you out
Any Associated Phrase?: 2 main ones, the one for something being wrong, 「ちがいます」and the one showing they don't know something/can't help you out, 「っていません」
Anything else?: You might see this paired with a shake of the head, just so you understand how little they can do for you. In addition, this can also used, as it is by folks in the West, to demonstrate the presence of disagreeable scents in the air-or in other words, that something stinks to high heaven(though it's not exactly in good taste to do it so blatantly). The context will tell you which is which, so be sure to check your scent, so you can start crossing off reasons the person might be making that gesture
Phrase #3: 失礼しつれいしますが
Literal Meaning: What I'm doing is in bad form, but...
Intent: "Excuse me(and similar meanings in translation)"
1. To pardon yourself when you're something that interrupt what someone's doing(I.E. not being home when someone calls or leaving during the middle of meeting)
2. To excuse your when you have to go somewhere
3. To politely get someone's attention
Notes: 失礼, itself, is a な adjective that describes someone as being rude or impolite
Example: おきゃくさまがいるので、失礼しますが
(There's a guest waiting for me, so pardon the interruption)
(What does she mean by 'guest'?[note: in Japan, “Guest” can also carry the same connotations as 'Aunt Flo,' make of that what you will])

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Essential Phrases and Body Language #2

Gesture #2: Pointing to yourself
Actual Gesture: Pointing to the tip of your nose
It's Function?: It's meant to clarify if the subject of conversation is, indeed, you
Any Associated Phrase?: More like word, that word being 「わたし?(Me?[this also includes any variant of the word you happen to pick up on your travels])」
Anything else?: In contemporary usage, you're more likely to see the version folks in the West use(where someone points to the chest to achieve the same end), and the version first discussed is the more old fashioned iteration; inversely, when the speaker wants to point out who they're speaking with, they point to them, context showing whether or not they mean to be jerks when they do it.

Phrase #2: 大丈夫だいじょうぶですか?
Literal Meaning: "Is your health great?"
Intent: "You alright?(and similar meanings in translation)"
Usage: To ask someone how they're doing, particularly if it doesn't look like they're in good shape, much like the phrase, "Are you OK?"
Notes: It-and other variations of this phrase-can be used to ask both if someone is OK(i.e. If you see someone trip and fall flat on their face in front you, you can ask 「大丈夫ですか?」 to ensure they haven't kicked the bucket), as well as ask permission to do something; it's like when you wanna grab the last donut, but aren't quite sure if everyone else has had one yet, so you ask "Can I grab it?" (いい, in a question, can function the same way)
Example: クリスさん、大丈夫?大山おおやまさん葉「じ自転車てんしゃからちた」といいましたのでっ。
(Are you doing alright, Chris? Oyama told me you fell off of your bicycle, so-)
(Yeah, I'm doing alright, Ms. Wakayama. I mean my leg kind of aches, but other than that I'll be muy bueno, for sure.)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Essential Phrases and Body Language

In learning a language, we're often blitzed with grammar and vocabulary and expected to use only that to get our point across; obviously, this approach glosses over much of the other elements that decide how what we want to get across gets across, the most neglected being unspoken communication. The nod of the head, the thumbs down, the middle or pointer finger used to make a point are all among the gestures we use in communication, and without them, we find it much harder to complete the message the way we want to. Japan's society is no different, with not only its own interpretation of those gestures, but also those unique to the culture and their day to day interactions, of which you'll be treated to a sampling of, along with phrases to help you get by and dip your toes into the language.

Each entry aims to break down the gesture/phrase and give you the background info needed to use it well and in the right context-including video examples, where available. By the end of the 20 entry series(10 phrases/10 gestures), you'll have a solid base to work from and that much more ability to interact how you want to and make sure your message rings loud and clear. With all that established, we'll jump right into the first of each, starting with a gesture made famous by a random cat who helped a traveler avoid a bad end with a simple wave of their palm.

Gesture #1: The Beckoning Wave
Actual Gesture: the palm of the person's hand faces the ground and the hand waves inward towards the body

It's Function?: It's meant to signal the person on the receiving end to come closer, similar to the palm-up version used in many Western countries, but much less of a tough guy vibe

Any Associated Phrase?: Yes, and with this one, one of them is 「こっちにおいで!(Over here, please!)」

Anything else?: If you've seeing the waving motion go outwards from the body, it means they're pissed off at the recipient and are telling them to piss off.

What's this about a cat and a traveler?: One possible origin of this gesture and the cat itself, known in Japan as まねねこ, is that a loaded feudal lord, seeking shelter from a thunderstorm, ducked under a tree; that tree happened to be near Gotoku Temple in western Tokyo, home of a broke priest and his cat. The cat made the gesture at him and he, probably curious about what the cat wanted, approached it; not a moment later the tree was struck by lightning, which might've made him a think twice about what do to with his riches after speaking to the priest and learning of his situation. In time, the priest and he became buddies, and the temple prospered as their friendship prospered, perhaps prompting the feudal lord to have a sculpture of the cat made in its beckoning pose when it passed on.

Phrase #1: ありがとう

Literal Meaning: It's tough for this to exist

Intent: Thank you

Usage: Like 'Thank You', it's used when someone does something for you and you want to express appreciation for it, like when you find you don't have money for the last train home, and someone pays your fare

Notes: One possible origin for this phrase is from the full, formal version of this phrase, ありがとうございます, itself derived from the adjective describing being grateful for something, ありがた

Example: 色々いろいろありがとうございます。ごおんけっしてわすれません。 (Thank you for everything you've done. I certainly won't forget the kindness you've shown me)

Monday, May 7, 2012

How to Teach Yourself a Language [part 7]

Constructing the Method Made for You
It's no secret that when something appeals to the way we do things, we're more likely to give it the time of day, and when it comes to learning something new, this aspect is crucial to getting it down solid. Unfortunately, many teachers don't allow the flexibility needed to apply what what's taught outside the classroom and often insist on injecting themselves into the whole learning experience, turning it into a static, unchanging object. In my view, the difference between whether that knowledge becomes a part of a student's day to day grind or goes right in their mental shoebox is in how much the teacher steps out of the way and allows them to apply it in a way that not only get them to identify with it, but also to think about what they're doing. When you're young and still building your conception of how the world works, lack of that creates what some like to call the Ophelia Syndrome.

The Ophelia Syndrome and You
Named after Ophelia, the young lady from William Shakespeare's Hamlet, it encapsulates the concept of basing your thoughts, feelings and acts purely upon what you think people higher up than you want, as Ophelia did, when she was conflicted on how to feel about Hamlet and her dad, Polonius, told her “I'll teach you. Think yourself a baby...(and yes, that is exactly what you might be thinking)”. Of course people have to do this to some extent when they're still building the box they need think outside of, but there comes a point where people can't just let older folks determine the best course of action.

            Given enough years, they soon become those older folks the next generation looks to for guidance, and if they just do that for the rest of their lives, it'll just be everybody asking everybody else what they should do next, creating a never ending cycle of the blind leading the blind until someone- regardless of they can weigh the needs of the many of not-guts up and says “This is the way things are gonna be” Whether it's in the entertainment, sports or political arenas, the Ophelia Syndrome is what allows one to control to the lives of those around them, even if they're as stable as a guy running on a six pack of Absinthe, so to help you break the cycle, I'll give you a few pointers in how to ease off of relying on the higher ups (myself, included, admittedly) for what you want to know.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

How to Teach Yourself a Language [part 6]

Tempering the Knowledge by Letting Yourself Cool Off
Everyone has the moment of frustration, the one where it feels like no matter what we do to make something work, we just can’t make it work, and everyone responds to it in their own unique way (mine? Lots of raging and possible throwing of things like some sort of petulant child *laughs*). Quickly, can it cause you to do things you’ll regret later, so the three best things you can do for yourself in such tense moments are to just put it down, do something else for a while and sleep it off. Why those things?

            When you don’t let yourself get caught up in the moment, you can see a situation for what it is and approach it from a more objective perspective, thus giving you a better chance at finding the roots and changing what needs to be changed. In addition, once you come back, you can zero in on where you went haywire and get through the obstacle in front of you, however long or short that process may be. They may not be the easiest thing in the world to do, more so if it seems like something needs to be done right away, but as someone who has a short fuse for lots of little things, I know how much it means to not let those emotions sway the next things we do(which are often the things we later regret the rest of our lives).

            Similarly, when you do something else, your mind has a chance to piece things together in the background and make connections the heat of the moment didn’t let you do before, which is often the source of many ideas we get while we’re out and about and getting things done; this same process goes for when you hit the sack after your studies and get into a deep parts of your sleep, this portion referred to as Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. That principle is what drives the “learn while you sleep” tapes they peddled back in the day (which don’t work that well unless you were learning that stuff while you were awake).

            In addition, when you have some form of white noise in the background while you study (e.g. a show you like but already saw, songs you’re into and have heard many times before), your brain works double time to hold on to what you’re currently learning and makes it stick that much stronger once all is said and done, the same applying for when you change up your learning environment and apply the same info to different circumstances. If you’ve ever had to retell someone something else told you, you know you won’t often remember the whole of what they said and instead give them the essence of what was said; the same applies for when you keep changing up where you learn, in turn letting you develop the ability to apply it in any number of situations under any amount of pressure (and as you put this stuff to the real world test, this will become crucial to hitting the nail on the head).

            Naturally, this is becomes much more meaningful when it means to us and how we live our lives, but how can we make a method our method? (coming up next post!)

Monday, March 26, 2012

How to Teach Yourself a Language [part 5]

When you're developing a feel for riding a bike, it's not often you can just hop on, peddle forward and get going without falling over. For most, it starts with the training wheels, then having someone hold you steady while you build up your sense of balance, and work to point where they stop holding on and you're using your own balance to keep you up as the bike moves and you're in full control of where it's going. This process is called Scaffolding, and it helps people do things they couldn't before, which is what many, less charitable folks call coddling, especially when it's done in the classroom and there's no apparent progress in what the students can do.

            In your own studies, this can give you the legs you need to push onwards the more you learn about a language, but to do this well, you gotta be willing to set goals outside your comfort level, even if it's only a little; you learned how to walk, talk and much more from it, so why not use the process to help you learn? If you can find someone of equal or higher skill than you to help you practice, than Scaffolding can let everyone involved learn from each other and build up your experience and knowledge, perhaps even building more than that as you spend time with them.

            You may not notice it now, but the more you use Scaffolding, the more your capabilities will be pushed further and further out, like the woman who never noticed how much weight the incremental changes to her lifting regiment let her lift until she was able to sweep her lover off of their feet in a moment of spontaneous joy. Like her, the little ways you push your limits in what can do in a language will lead to big results down the road as you go from words to sentences or paragraphs to even speeches in the language you're studying.

            Get all that? What, not sure it's all sunk in, yet? No need to stress, that's where the next step in the learning process comes in: Comprehension.

Getting Familiar with the Hows and Whys
When you're picking up a book teaching a foreign language, you're probably expecting it to show you how to use it in different spots and why you'd say it the way the book teaches, and you might find that they go into it with the same of understanding as a student who just spent 4 days neither reading the material nor doing anything besides a young party animal(however you define that to be). To prevent that from influencing your way of studying the language, let's take a look what needs to be understood, first, in order to build a more human way of communicating, starting with the culture the language lives and breathes in.

Actor-style v. Normal-style
When we first learn a language, we often start by learning it the way an actor learns a script: line by line, matching the desired intonation and intent to the letter; for people who want to get around without getting too in over their heads, this is probably all they feel they need to learn (and in reality, you won't investing too time in going beyond this stage if all you're doing is traveling there once or twice for a few days or weeks).

            When it comes to long term communication, though, you'll quickly discover that your scripts are not one size fits all, and will leave you looking stupid in a hurry if you don't know what effects your words create or how they function in the environment you use them in. This is one of the key aspects to becoming fluid in how you use a language, you must develop a desire to understand both the person you're speaking with and the culture they do their 9-5 in, for those are what continue to shape how they interact with their world and with you.

            As you delve into different news sources, read different literature on the subject and speak with people from the country, you'll build a lens both to view the culture and it's people through and to continually refine with books, news and chats, so while you do that, examine and apply the upcoming techniques to help you better grasp what people are saying and give you a firmer base to work from when it's time to put that understanding to work.

Mirroring and Developing a More Listening-centered Approach
As you know from the way you and those close to you use language, it's far more than just a string of words and grammar used to convey a certain message, it's also in the words you use, the tone you use them in and what overarching message each statement us building towards. To better grasp that  overarching message, one vital technique is Mirroring, which is repeating the perceived message back to the listener in simpler terms to make sure you're both on the same page.

            Doing this well often means letting them speak their piece and not trying to insert yourself into it before they finish, using different sounds cues to show you're listening and, of course, listening and giving them your undivided attention-e.g. No txting while you talk to them, taking calls or otherwise doing something that takes away from you paying attention to their words; someone I know once did this while we were playing Street Fighter, and this made me quite unhappy, prompting me to beast on him hard while his eyes were otherwise occupied.

            This all may seem daunting if you don't know the nuts and bolts of a language yet, but the reward for your effort will be a deeper knowledge of what makes them and the things around them work, as well as a willingness for them to hear you out and be more curious about what you want to share; curiosity killed the cat, yes, and if you develop that with the people you speak with, you might learn something that might not feel comfy telling folks less willing to give them the time of day. Like what? Well, most time, to dig up the right answers, you'll need to ask the right questions, which can be a frustrating process. To keep that from minimizing the quality of your studies and chats, we'll take on the ways to take those moments and turn into something positive, or in other words, Frustration Management. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

How to Teach Yourself a Language [part 4]

Sow a Habit, Reap a Destiny
Do you remember the quote that basically said “Sow X; Reap Y” by Ralph Waldo Emerson? If you don't, it preaches that you're made by what you do, and this holds especially true for when you're learning a language and establish the way you absorb and use what you pick up; it's much like the feel you developed from learning to ride a bike, the feel that comes through when you hop back on it for the first time in however many weeks or months it's been since you swapped it out with a car for your primary means of getting around. 

            To develop that feel, however, you can't just do something right once, you gotta do it right several consecutive times and then do it until it feels breathing, then it'll be able to come back to you no matter how much time passes. (If you need a guiding principle in how many times,  try repeating the key info or skills in 3s/an odd number; for some reason this makes the info stand out when it comes time to use it.) After you get that down, the natural thing is to move on the next skill you'll need to nail on your way to the big end goal, which raises the question of which skill should be the next skill. To decide that, ask yourself if the next has any elements of the one just got down, and if does, that should be the next one you take on. Why?

            Let's say you just learned how to cook a piece of meat and wanted to keep the flow going. Would you rather go learn how to change a tire or how to cook a piece of fish? Because you have a good grip on the art of making dead animal tasty, you have more of the tools in your mind at the ready to deal with the fish and its unique challenges versus going right to the garage and trying to figure out how to use a wrench and looking for where the trouble spot is. You can certain learn how to change a tire if you stick to it, but if go with the stuff using your already learned skills, you'll learn something new a lot faster and a lot easier; if you want to, you can make each new thing you wanna learn even easier by applying Chunking, or breaking one big block of many bits of info into more manageable bits. Why Chunking? Let's find out!

Working Within the Brain's Memory Limits
The human mind can manage only manage 7 pieces of info at a time before things start getting fuzzy, so  Chuking makes something easier to both absorb and recall. For example, could you remember a phone number if it looked like this(13455764325) or like this(1-345-576-4325)?  If you get the first one down, great, but the second, broken down one lets the brain do more with it to try and make it stick stronger, like using it in a mnemonic(memory device used to strengthen how we remember things, like setting someone's phone number to a rhyme or song you know).

            In using a language, this is crucial to helping you speak the way you want to and weening you off of set phrases and scripts to express your thoughts and feelings, which means you can be more creative with your words and focus more the subtleties of what you want to convey instead of scrambling around in your brain for that one phrase you learned from that book that's right on the tip of your tongue, but just won't come out. When it gets tense and the next words out of your mouth could change the way things come to be, getting tongue tied is the last thing anyone would want, and chunking that info will make it that much less work to find, cutting down the chance you stick your foot in your mouth.

            For big info with lots of little things to remember, Chunking can be used  to condense related info together and make it easier to manage and pull from your Working Memory, which is the stuff that's immediately on hand and ready to go when you are. If you're getting a call from one of your buddies and they say “Hey, that guy from the Harvard lecture is coming at about 7:15-ish, be sure to have some grub ready. He really likes Chocolate bacon, so if you can, have some on hand for him-and maybe the rest of us to snack on,”  Chunking can prevent all that from overwhelming you.

            When you're on your way home from work and thinking about the stuff your friend said, your brain is working double time to get the details right, and with Chunking, each bit of info starts to come together and eventually gets connected like so:  Hey, that guy from the Harvard lecture is coming at about 7:15-ish, be sure to have some grub ready. He really likes Chocolate bacon, so if you can, have some on hand for him-and maybe the rest of us to snack on. While you may have a bit of a time getting Chocolate Bacon prepped, at least now you can have a little less stress on your mind while you get your place presentable for the impending company. As you get better at this, you'll feel more ready to take on the next big challenge, which, as a whole, can be very intimidating, but can be made less so with Scaffolding. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

How to Teach Yourself a Language [part 3]

The Generalized Others StageAs your Significant Other is the one who means a lot to you and is the closest, emotionally, Generalized Others are just the opposite, and are the basis on which you figure out how things work and what you need to do in certain spots and under certain circumstances based on previous interactions. Since this happens in a natural way, it doesn't often go noticed as you grow up and build your inner and outer circles, but when it comes time to interact with a new kind of culture, it comes time to start refining your conception of Generalized Others and allowing for multiple types of personalities, foibles and other little things that make people who they are.

If you were, say, planning a trip to London, the knowledge you built on how people act in wherever you're from becomes the basis on how you judge the way people in London act, which is what leads to that oh -so-common state of surprise and wonderment known as 'Culture Shock', e.g. 'Oh no, they're driving on the wrong side of the road!'. This decreases as you build up your knowledge of the ways locals do it, what their basic history is and get more familiar of the pace of life they set, which leads to a more solid foundation and lets you dip into the more probing questions revealing the depth it has to offer, including why Soccer violence is linked to the sport and how its fans carry themselves.

Got all that? Excellent. Now, with how you develop your learning established, it's time to get into some of the good stuff, particularly the 6 things you'll want to take with you as you work on your learning approach, starting with Motivation.
Getting Stimulated into being Motivated

The key to sticking to something is stimulation, and when the brain isn't stimulated, it's more susceptible to drifting off to things damn near completely unrelated to what you're learning, like when you get bored of learning how to play guitar and look up how to make the perfect French Fry, instead (the secret, by the way, is boiling the cut potatoes in a 1 quart (4 cups of) water for every 1 tablespoon vinegar mix, frying once for a minute in 350 degree oil, allowing a ½ hour for cooling and freezing over night before you cook it for consumption in 400 degree oil. Check it out, if you don't believe me)

As for how you can motivate yourself, the key lies in concrete goals that are hard enough that we have to put in some work, but easy enough for us to reach in a reasonable time frame. For example, say you want to learn a language and decide to set the goal of fluency and pour your energy into achieving it, only to find you haven't come close to this in the months of study, practice and gaining experience that ensued. If you keep on this way of doing it, you might achieve it, but it could be months or even years before you see this come to fruition, so instead of trying and failing to make the one big leap, why not break that up into several hops(known in psychological circles as Scaffolding or Shaping)? Low hanging fruit gives you the fuel to go the high hanging stuff, so unless you like repeatedly plummeting, I no see no reason not to.

Keep the big goal as the end goal, but alongside that, set little goals along the way that you can work towards achieving in fairly rapid succession, like learning a certain amount of words, then how to put them together in a sentence, then learning one sentence structure, then another, then another and so on until you can string 'em together to create a solid paragraph of coherent thought. Not only does this make the rewards more immediate, but also instills the needed foundation for going for the big leaps you'll need to make in your goal to the big end goal, like using all that stuff in a live, no reference conversation with someone you're meeting for the first time.

If you're looking to add some fun to this, try making a game of it. There are lots of Japanese language games out there, such as Shiritori(where you try to make a word from last Mora of the previously mentioned word), crosswords, tongue twisters and others, even if you make it up yourself(e.g. A Japanese-language game of HORSE, where you use Shiritori's rules to create an entire sentence from the word, and failing 5 times equals a loss). Why would a game motivate you?

Well when you're on the edge of losing, your brain enters clutch time and leads you think of the best, quickest way to get out of your current fix and get to the end reward, which will prep you for the real world test these skills will be put to and get you used to thinking on the fly (an actual reward for achieving victory increasing the quality of your brain's clutch time and making you that much better); that, paired with the natural incentive when you find something you like that uses what you want to learn, will make you willing and ready to endure the grind learning something new comes with, which leads to the next part of better learning: repetition

Something to chew on while you wait: What's one of your big goals you want to work towards?

Monday, March 5, 2012

How to Teach Yourself a Language [part 2]

Simple enough concept, right? Do something, learn how it's done by both where you excelled and where you didn't. It's the way people have done it for generations, even before history was ever recorded. For some, it's the peak of their enjoyment with it and may be the way they stick with all their lives; for others, it may be the bane of their existence, based on how often they failed at it before finally getting it the way they wanted. Both sides can agree, though, that it instills the knowledge at a level no book, classroom or application could hope to match(I mean really, would you rather sit there watching someone talk about the way a guitar works or get up there and see the sounds you can make with that knowledge?)

            Before writing it down was widespread, this is how info was passed on, and the immediacy and intimacy it creates is why it's lasted as long at it has and why people look to it when they're in a pinch and only have themselves to pass either on the knowledge or story they want to tell. True, it benefits many more when it's recorded for others to observe and add their own input, but to make that solid, it needs to start at the personal level.

            When you tell a joke, for instance, how you interpret the punchline and delivery play a huge role in how the listener feels after you're done and they have to digest what you've said, so if you don't really get it, neither will they; the more you do get it, the more you can alter or add to the story leading up the joke and perhaps hit even further out of left field than the the person you heard it from, in turn drawing out a bigger appeal to their sense of humor. In other words, when the teller connects to it at a deeper level, then they can help those they tell it to make the same connection, which is where the Game stage starts to influence how the info is processed. 

The Game Stage
When you hear the word 'game,' what pops up in your mind? Maybe you think about that game of Monopoly where you managed to make everyone broke as a joke through your strategic railroad and hotel purchases? Perhaps you think of the game of Halo where you got your team together to plan and execute your improbable comeback on the Hang 'em High map? Or maybe, just maybe, you think back to that game of flag football where you worked the Flea Flicker play to perfection and watched as the other side was juked out of their shoes while your ball carrier ran it in for the game winning touchdown? However you get your kicks, you know that success at any kind of game demands that you're able to manage doing different things at once as well as managing different people at once, and this is referred to as the Game stage of development. Whether you know it or not, though, it's games like the ones mentioned that sharpen your ability to do the same when you're in the daily grind and work alongside the folks around you to get things done and make sure everything flows fairly smooth until it's quitting time, and you get to head home and kick up your feet. In learning to use a language, this is a skill sure to help you see the deeper connections at work when you communicate and ensure that everyone is on the same page, which is when a relationship truly blossoms and amazing moments have the proper conditions to take root.

            Nowhere is this a more pivotal aspect of your personal life than in how you regard their significant other. The better you can manage all the different facets of what you know about them and what they do everyday, the more in tune you become with how they think and feel, which gives you ample opportunity to show what you feel about them and help them get through their trials and tribulations, such as what the best present would be for their birthday or whether or not they should take that promotion for more pay and hours, but with much less time to spend together. In the game of life, this is where you fly high or face-plant, and an unseen but ever present factor guiding these decisions is the concept of Generalized Others. (coming soon!)

Monday, February 27, 2012

How to Teach Yourself a Language (or anything else, really[part 1])

When I was gathering my materials for the blog, one of the things I came upon was that for everything language teachers do to try and better their students, they leave typically leave classes with the same level of ability to absorb info as they came in with, which, when someone's trying to better their ability to learn a language and the info is flying at them a mile a minute, is not a good thing. I knew that a student should be able to bolster how they absorb new info, but for the life of me, I couldn't put any method onto the page that didn't require the kind of time sink most people just don't have(e.g. reading and researching book after book until everything suddenly clicks, which is how I got started).

Some time later I came upon some info about how the brain absorbs info, then later how the stages of learning people go through to get it down solid, which I began to organize into the best, most easily connectable and most quickly applicable form my skills would allow. This next series of articles is the result of all that, and is built to help you trim the fat in how much of the grind you'll have to go through, because if there's one thing I know people want to maximize, it's how much they get back from the time and effort they put into what boils down to relearning how to express yourself in every facet of the word. All that said, let's kick it off with some of why someone should improve the way they learn.

Why Learn Better?
One of the most important and least taught skills you'll ever learn is how to learn better, which of course raises the question of “What do you mean 'Learn Better'? Isn't reading and all that crap enough to get something down?” It can be, but when you improve the way you absorb info, all those seemingly impossible tasks you couldn't approach before take several steps back in difficulty, thus letting us grasp and apply what we learn that much faster. I mean would you rather learn the method to cooking rice in a way you understand or the way someone who doesn't know the way you best learn wants you to? It certainly is possible, but I can guarantee that learning it in a way you connect with will make it more fun and make it stick much, much longer. To start building towards learning your way, here are the 4 steps in the basic development process, the process many will naturally go through when they make first contact with something new.

The Process in Brief
The super condensed version of this starts with the Preparatory stage(basically copycatting) , goes to the Play stage (learn by doing), then the Game stage (managing lots of relationships and things we do at once) and goes right to the Generalized Others stage(learning how things are done in a given society). If you, for instance, were amazed by how Michael Jordan handled the rock, you'd probably start by copying the way he plays the game, then getting on the court and getting comfy with how the ball feels in your hand as you run up and down, building your rhythm from dribble to jump to shot.

After a bit of practice with that, you'll probably want to get into a real time game of basketball, where you learn how to apply what you've been practicing when someone's in your face and trying to swat it out of your hands. The more you do that, the more you get to know both what to do and what not to do in certain situations, such as getting used to passing to teammates when you're being doubled teamed and they have an open shot, which starts to bring you from a kid shooting J's at the plastic hoop in their room to a kid shooting J's over hapless defenders. I know that sports isn't everybody's things, so if you need a bit more meat to how this stuff works, then allow me to detail each step, starting with the Preparatory stage

The Preparatory Stage
One thing people often forget when they learn something new is that no matter how talented, rich, sharp, connected or experienced you are, everyone starts at the bottom and has to work their way up from zero. How do you get started when you basically have next to zilch to draw from when you take it on? You could jump right in and learn it step by step by step and get frustrated with every face-plant you make trying to learn it and get it down, or you could look at what the guy with their stuff together is doing and copy them 'til you find your footing.

When you do that, a crucial process takes place: you lay the foundation on which everything else you learn is built, refined and tested by the stresses of how it's applied to the real world; can't think outside the box without a box to think outside of, right? Once you build it, though, you can do any number of things to change its shape and how it's meant to work, even question whether or not you need a box and perhaps would like a circular container, instead. Say, for example, you never got behind the wheel of a car before and wanted to learn how to drive-and the person who taught you the basics also happens to love driving like they're trying out for the next Fast and Furious movie.

After you picked what they have to teach, their style becomes your style, which you then become free to modify however you please to suit your needs(that is, unless you plan to get tickets every time you get behind the wheel), and part of doing that lies in playing around with it, in turn letting it show what it can and can't presently do, so you can find where it needs work; this is where you enter the Play stage of development(coming soon, I promise!)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Sorry, I Don’t Speak Manglenese: Pronouncing Foreign Terms through Japanese Phonetics (part 11)

Ideally, slang and foreign terms should compose 10% of an average conversation, even where they heavily influence the local culture (e.g. tech stores, skate shops, ranches and so on). On top of that, the nature of these terms is very volatile, which makes them susceptible not only to falling out of use in mere days of their invention, but also weeding out those not in the know and barring them from ever becoming part of the inner circle.

     Why, then, should anyone bother to employ something so fickle and exclusionary?

     Well, for one, it strengthens the bonds between us and those we speak with, as well as encapsulate concepts that'd take paragraphs to describe (such as Salty, the sports term to describe bitterness over an unfavorable situation, typically losing at something); like wise, using foreign terms can help you when you know the word you wanna use, but don't know it in Japanese yet-which will be quite a bit in your initial experiences with the language and long after. Most importantly, there will always be terms the language doesn't have that everything you've learned will help you express. Like what, exactly?

     Names are the area they'll make an immediate impact, specifically if they don't fall in line with traditional Japanese phonetics; same goes for terms tied to certain lifestyles and ways of doing things, terms that come with their own history and weight, terms that tell the listener the speaker thinks they know enough about the culture behind it to embrace all that and use it in a conversation. The best way to discover whether you have enough of that to use terms like Grinding or Mixing is the same way you can get all you've learned-as well as stuff I might've overlooked-down pat: chattin' with folks; that single act can teach you more about slang and how to use it than anything or anyone-myself included-could ever dream of doing.

     Books are static, blogs are static, people aren't and damn sure don't talk that way. As I see it, conversation is a living ocean with its own ebb and flow, never the same way twice and always demanding the focus of those riding it, lest it swallow them whole (though you can always try again, unlike actual ocean travel). Don't think this the only sure shot method to learning it, but since auditory memory sucks when not in use, you'll wanna reinforce what it gives you by pairing it with other methods-taking cell shots of where you parked your ride, for example, decreases the chance you'll need to comb the lot just to find it again.

     It's not guaranteed to make it stick(as guarantees are as real as tasty, hearty and cheap vegan cuisine), but all you've picked up will steady that initial voyage and give you the tools to plot your language learning course, wherever the destination might end up being. Safe travels, and may this info make your journey more like sailing these oceans instead of swimming across them.

Special thanks go out to Tomo Akiyama, who's assist during the planning phase played a major role in setting this thing off proper. Without it, this would've been a research nightmare. Greatly appreciated, Akiyama-san(orz). 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Sorry, I Don’t Speak Manglenese: Pronouncing Foreign Terms through Japanese Phonetics (part 10)

If you've caught a glimpse of the ひらがな or カタカナcharts, you'll notice there's nothing for Ye or Yi, primarily because there isn't a way to render the full sound; there is, however, a way to get an approximation of each-which you'll see again for the other sounds in this section.

     Yi sounds, as normally heard, use イ to render them, the harder version heard in Yipe and Yikes using ヤイ; for Ye sounds, the common way is to use イエ, in some instances using イェ to represent the actual sound. If you wondering how often you'll be able to practically use this, so was I when I started doing research and discovered how few words in the dictionary even have these sounds or the onescoming up. At least now you have something to refer back to and thus be less confused over the next time someone lets out a cheer of “イエイ(japanese rendition of "Yay")!” in celebration.

     Now then, on to 'W' sounds, in particular the sounds that either don't exist or are likely to cause a double take,starting with the 'wo', 'we' and 'wi' sounds. 'Wo' sounds come in 3 distinct varieties: medium (like in work and wonder), High (like in Wok and Woe) and low(like in wound and wolf); medium 'wo' sounds are rendered using 「ワ」, high ones, 「ヲ」, and low ones, 「ウ」. Low ones are likely the ones you'll need to spend some time before it really sticks, so don't get to flustered if you don't get it right away, just keep at it(note: the info 'bout low 'wo' sounds also apply when it's written as 'wu').

     Similarly, 'Wi' sounds comes in two types:soft(as in winter and withdraw) and hard(as in Wipe and Wise). Soft 'Wi' sounds are made using 「ウ」mora + イ + appropriate mora, where hard 'Wi' sounds use 「ワイ」 + any appropriate mora to form it.

'We'sounds (such as those in Wet and Well), similarly, also come in two varieties: short(rendered using「ウ」mora+ エ + appropriate mora) and long (extended「ウ」mora+ イ + appropriate mora). All these together will lay a solid foundation and let you grasp for possible words and names these sounds a reconnected to, like when your friend tells the tale of ワイルド・ウエンディー・アヴ・ザ・ウインズ, the girl who lassoed anyone foolish enough to pronounce her family name, 'Whip' as hwip(note about names: in Japanese,foreign names and strings of terms are typically separated with this dot(・), produced with the key that makes this (/) when the keyboard's set to Japanese). Get all that? Alrighty then, time for the next level of 'W' sounds: those using 'Wh' somewhere within them.

     In English, those sounds can be spoken one of two ways: the way normal 'W' sounds would be and the form which gives it a unique sound, e.g. saying 'Whip' as hwip. When this sound is rendered through Japanese phonetics, folks often use the latter way and base how they say it on that, so that's where the next section will be aimed, starting with 'wha'sounds.

     'Wha' sounds-heard in whack and wham-use ホ + 「ア」mora, long 'Wha' sounds using  ホ + extended「エ」mora; should one of your Japanese-speaking friends ask you what 「ホアック・ザ・ホエーラーズ」means, this knowledge will let you understand what they're trying to convey and tell them the implications of such a statement(which, if you can interpret the intended meaning, is very potent). 'Whe' sounds-heard in whet and when-apply the general principles you've picked up with 'E' sounds, utilizing ホ +「エ」mora for short sounds and ホ + extended「イ」mora for long ones, the same going for 'Whi' sounds and what you learned from 'I' sounds; to be more specific, 'Whi' sounds-used in which and the previously whip-use ホ +「イ」mora, while long versions of it use ホ + ア + イ.

     The only 'Wh' sound where previous knowledge won't do you much good is with 'Who' sounds-short versions using just ホ and long versions using フ(bear in mind that the sound associated with フ in either formlies somewhere between the sounds made in words like hula and fool). Now that I've topped off your knowledge of how to say foreign terms through Japanese phonetics, you may still be wondering how much use this all has in the long run, after you've built up your vocab, grammar and other related knowledge. Sit tight, 'cause in the next part, I'll show you a taste of what you do and how all this can let you make the Japanese you pick up yours and yours alone, which is really what you want out of learning to use a language, right?

Key Takeaways!

ñ  Soft 'Yi' sounds →  イ(EX:Yiddish → イヂッシュ)

ñ  Hard 'Yi' sounds →  ヤイ(EX:Yipes → ヤイプス)

ñ  'Ye' sounds → イエ (EX:      Yes → イエス)

ñ  Medium 'Wo' sounds → 「ワ」(EX: One Pattern(word used to say someone/thing does things the same way over and over again and is boring to be around) → ワンパターン)

ñ  High 'Wo' sounds → 「ヲ」(EX: Wozniak →  ヲズニアック)

ñ  Low 'Wo' sounds → 「ウ」(EX: Woozy → ウージ)

ñ  Soft 'Wi' sounds → 「ウ」mora + イ + appropriate mora

(EX:Week → ウイーク)

ñ  Hard 'Wi' sounds → 「ワイ」 +appropriate mora

(EX:Winans → ワイナンス)

ñ  'We' sounds → 「ウ」mora + エ + appropriate mora

(EX: Wedding → ウエディング)

ñ  Short ‘Wha’ sounds → ホ +「ア」mora(EX: What → ホアット)

ñ  Long ‘Wha’ sounds → ホ + extended 「エ」mora

(EX: Whale -> ホエール)

ñ  Short ‘Whe’ sounds → ホ+「エ」mora (EX: Whey -> ホエイ)

ñ  Long ‘Whe’ sounds → ホ+ extended 「イ」mora

(EX: Wheezy ->ホエージ)

ñ  Short ‘Whi’ sounds → ホ+「イ」mora (EX: Whisper -> ホイスパー)

ñ  Long ‘Whi’ sounds → ホ +「ア」mora+イ (EX: White → ホアイト)

ñ  Short ‘Who’ sounds -> ホ (EX: Whole -> ホール)

ñ  Long ‘Who’ sounds -> Extended フ (EX: Whodunit -> フーダニット)

Extra Credit!

Asbest as you can, render the words Yenta, Wolverine, Smartphone, Wheedle and Whimper into Japanese phonetics

As best as you can, render the words イエルプ,ウインナー, ウマン,ホイットル and ホッパーinto English phonetics

Monday, January 9, 2012

Sorry, I Don’t Speak Manglenese: Pronouncing Foreign Terms through Japanese Phonetics (part 9)

'X' sounds are an interesting case within Japanese, since they, like the others you'll see in these last few sections, require you to 'expand your mind' in terms of how they're sounded out(lucky for you, you've been doing just that all throughout the Manglenese installments, so this shouldn't be much of a stretch). As for how it's done, let's review how the letter 'X', itself, is rendered: エックス. Simple, right? It and another, upcoming method are the foundation for the sounds this letter creates, so keep 'em mind as we move on to the two ways to render them.

     For 'X' sounds at the end of a word, like Max and Flex, the formula is an appropriate mora + + クス; when they're somewhere in the middle of a word, as in Mexico and Foxy, the normal approach is mora before the X sound + or + the appropriate mora(s); since I'm assuming you want to build up to the tricky stuff, let's start off simple with the sounds made when X ends the word.

     'Ax/Ux' sounds are rendered using 「ア」Mora + + クス, 'Ex' using 「エ」Mora + + クス, 'Ix' using 「イ」Mora + + クス and 'Ox' using 「オ」Mora + + クス. As the time you put in with germinate consonants has shown, these alone can open a world of words you can now express in Japanese, and since I'm sure you picked up a lot of how to apply this from studying that stuff, I'll take off the other kid glove and plop you into the sounds X make when they're somewhere in the middle of a word, including Xa, Xi, Xu, Xe and Xo.

     One part of what make the formula for these sounds [mora before the X sound + or + the appropriate mora(s)] so tough to use is that it allows a lot of variation, with the choice between using  or hinging on the speaker's tastes and experiences.

For the most part, is the go to choice, as reflected in テキサス being the common way to say Texas and メキシコ, the one for Mexico, but the fact that most folks say sexy as セクシーand Mixi-Japan's response to Facebook-as ムクシーdoesn't help those still trying to get down what the words are for Up and Down. Time and experience will help you refine how you decide which one suits the way you want to talk, and since it's mostly applied to casual matters, folks won't be as likely to jump down your throat or give you the cold shoulder if you get it wrong; just relax, let it happen naturally and everything will be made clear(maybe). 

     Another reason to take it easy? 'Cause trying to match this with the multiple languages that use these letters in their words will drive you nutty. To keep it from getting too complex, this section will focus on the sounds found in English-origin words, but you know enough to render any names or words in the accent you feel more comfy with(e.g. Xavier as said in Spanish phonetics v. the English rendition of it), so just apply what you've picked up and let your skills handle the rest.

     Moving on to the aforementioned sounds, 'Xa/Xu' sounds-such as those in Roxanne and Nexus- use any mora before Xa/Xu + / + + any additional mora(s) to sound the word out, 'Xi' sounds-like in Lexicon and the previously mentioned Mixi- using any mora before Xi + / + + any additional mora(s). Similarly, 'Xe' sounds-heard in Execution and Lexington-are rendered using any mora before Xe + / + + other mora(s), 'Xo' sounds-used in Roxor and Toxic-using any mora before Xo + / + + other mora(s).

     If a word uses the harder versions of these, it's a simple matter of altering the formula to voice it, hard 'Xa/Xu' sounds (e.g. Alexandra and Luxury swapping / + with / + . For hard 'Xi' sounds (e.g. Exile), you just need to swap  / + with / + , hard 'Xe' sounds (e.g. executive) swapping  / + with  / + and hard 'Xo' sounds(e.g. exodus) swapping  / + with  / + .

     It's not likely you'll be using these or the W and Y sounds coming up after this too often, but I'm sure lots of people will tell you the same about using Japanese outside of Japan or the communities that frequently use it, like those in LA, NYC, Oregon and other places. You know what, though? So what? You have own your reason for wanting to up your ability to interact with and understand another culture, which has always been the aim of this and the rest of the articles here. As long as you enjoy what you learn and grow because of it, why should it matter whether or not something's 'useful'?

     As long as you keep the humanity of those you use the language with close to your heart, I could care less if you're learning all this so you can navigate the world of Japan's geeks, want to date a Japanese speaker or seek to order auto parts from a hook-up in Japan. I say have fun and enjoy using what you learn, because you get one shot to live life well, no need to waste it trying to make every little thing 'mean' something(whatever that means). 

Speaking of those applications, though, hang tight, in addition to the sounds I mentioned, I'll also give you a peak into how you can use all your knowledge of saying foreign terms through Japanese phonetics, including the best way to use these foreign terms in your style of speaking Japanese. Stay tuned!

Key Takeaways
ñ  Ax/Ux Sounds → 「ア」Mora + + クス(EX: Max → マックス/Flux → フラックス)
ñ  Ex Sounds → 「エ」Mora + + クス(EX: Rex → レックス/ Dexter → デックスター)
ñ  Ix Sounds → 「イ」Mora + + クス(EX: Kix → キックス/Mix → ミックス)
ñ  Ox Sounds → 「オ」Mora + + クス(EX: Vox → ヴォックス/Cox → コックス)
ñ  Xa/Xu Sounds → Appropriate Mora(s) + / + + Additional Appropriate Mora(s) (EX: Alexa → アレクサ/Lexus → レクサス)
ñ  Hard Xa/Xu Sounds → Appropriate Mora(s) + / + + Additional Appropriate Mora(s)
ñ  Xi Sounds → Appropriate Mora(s) + / + + Additional Appropriate Mora(s) (EX: Lexi → レクシ/Auxin → アクシン)
ñ  Hard Xi Sounds → Appropriate Mora(s) + / + + Additional Appropriate Mora(s) (EX: Exile → エグザイル)
ñ  Xe Sounds → Appropriate Mora(s) + / + + Additional Appropriate Mora(s) (EX: Axel → アクセル/Execrate → エクセクレート)
ñ  Hard Xe Sounds → Appropriate Mora(s) + / + + Additional Appropriate Mora(s) (EX: Executrix → エグゼキュートリックス)
ñ  Xo Sounds → Appropriate Mora(s) + / + + Additional Appropriate Mora(s) (EX: Buxom→ バクソム/Luxor → ラクソー)
ñ  Hard Xo Sounds → Appropriate Mora(s) + / + + Additional Appropriate Mora(s) (EX: Exotic → エグゾティック/Exorbitant → エグゾービタント)
Extra Credit!
As best as you can, render the words Klaxon, Sexcetera, Mixology, Moxie and Suxurious into Japanese phonetics

As best as you can, render the words ブラクスプロイテーション, メキサキューショナー, キックスター, ロクソー and タクシド into English phonetics