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~Chinese / 中文

~Japanese / 日本語

"Notes on Democracy" Arundhati Roy

~Korean / 한국어
《그렇습니까? 기린입니다》박민규
《소나기》 황순원

~Finished / 読了 / 已读
"Factory Girls" Lesley Chang
"Your Republic is Calling You" Kim Young-ha
"River Town" Peter Hessler
"Oracle Bones" Peter Hessler
"Country Driving" Peter Hessler
「火の鳥9」 手塚治虫
"Inside the Kingdom" Robert Lacey
"A Room of One's Own" Virginia Woolf
《倾城之恋 》张爱玲
「1973年のピンボール」 村上春樹
"One Foot In Eden" Ron Rash

[New Book] Murakami Haruki interviewed by Kawakami Mieko – “The Horned Owl Takes Flight at Dusk”

On April 27th, Shinchōsha will publish another book related to Murakami Haruki, called The Horned Owl Takes Flight at Dusk (みみずくは黄昏に飛びたつ), or Haruki Murakami: A Long, Long Interview). The book is a long, long interview (11 hours, 250,000 characters) of Murakami by Kawakami Mieko, herself an award winning writer from Osaka (her novella Breasts and Eggs [乳と卵] won the Akutagawa Prize in 2008). It will cost 1,620 yen and can be pre-ordered now.



Kawakami Meiko asks Murakami Haruki everything!

11 hours; 250,000 characters; “an entire book” of an interview


The secret story of the birth of Killing Commendatore, memories of boyhood, feminism, global fame, and what happens after death… An Akutagawa Prize-winning author and a passionate, avid reader since her teens asks Murakami Haruki everything.


Not just an interview


How do you come up with similes?

What does it mean to “descend to the second story underground”?

Is it true you can write without deciding on the ending?

What are “ideas” and “metaphors”?

Actually, a story about a man seeking a man?

Why is writing style important?

Aren’t women tasked with too many sexual roles?

What does it mean to accept your “shadow”?

Do you always write ten pages a day, no matter what?

Why did you return to the first person voice?

Why don’t you read your prior works?

What does it feel like to have your new work read by tens of thousands of people?

Now that you’re globally famous, are there critics you want to go back and respond to?

What happens after we die?

Will there be a “Murakami Haruki Prize”?


A precious record of the origins of creative works, and their bare faces, that everyone wanted to know but couldn’t ask, drawn out through vivid words

Source: Shinchōsha

Murakami Haruki’s New Novel Due Feb 2017 – Here’s how to get updates 

Publisher Shinchōsha has announced Murakami Haruki is going to publish a new novel in Feb 2017.

Promotional image from Shinchōsha’s website


The image says:

Murakami Haruki

First super-long novel in 7 years

 Publication set for Feb 2017

2,000 pages completed, 2 volumes total

He said it’s going to be “a very strange story, longer than Kafka On the Shore, and shorter than 1Q84.” Those novels sold more than 4 million & 8.4 million copies, respectively. (Source: Asahi Shimbun)

It’s been almost 4 years since his last novel was published, in 2013. That was Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage.

He published the short story collection Men Without Women in 2014.

Want ongoing updates (in Japanese)?

Below I explain how to subscribe to email updates from the publisher  about the novel.

– Go to the Shinchōsha website.

– Click the black button, or this link. It says, “Those seeking forthcoming information, [click] here.”

– Fill in your email in both boxes.

– Click the black button. It says “Send.”

That’s it!

I’ll aim to publish the updates here as they come out.


Other sources:

The Hindu

Response to Gerry Bevers: Learning Korean & Classical Chinese


Student practicing calligraphy at Susenji Elementary in Fukuka, Japan (福岡市立周船寺小学校).

Hi, Kieran. My name is Gerry Bevers and I manage the “Korean Language Notes” blog. Three years ago we exchanged comments when you pledged to learn Korean in three months. I expressed doubt that it would be possible, based on how hard it was for me to learn the language, but you had learned Japanese and Chinese very quickly, so I was somewhat curious to see if you could possibly do the same with Korean, even though I still felt it would be almost impossible. Today, I happened to see your post in the results of a search I was doing and decided to comment.

Thanks for your comment! I apologize for my late reply.

You were very right that it was impossible (at least for me) to “learn Korean” in three months, and at the time, as now, I appreciated your healthy skepticism & sound advice.

In “years,” I think I learned Japanese & Chinese quickly. I knew virtually nothing of those languages at 18 years old, and by 20 I could speak colloquial Japanese, and by 23 I could speak Chinese. However, in “hours,” I don’t think I learned particularly quickly. I had 10 months in Japan as a student mostly devoted to learning Japanese, and 8 months in China. I spent untold hours trying various inefficient methods with each language, and eventually “learned” them both before I could figure out exactly what worked and what didn’t. Some things definitely didn’t work (like memorizing Japanese-English word pairs), while other things worked slowly (like rote memorization of sentences). With Korean, I have hoped to home in on efficient methods I can use in my spare time.

I am curious to know how much more difficult it has been for you to learn Korean relative to Chinese and Japanese. Did you find learning Korean to be much more difficult than you expected?

In a sense, I found Korean more difficult than I expected. I thought I could learn it to reading fluency in about one year, but has taken me 3 years to reach only intermediate reading level.

However, I don’t feel qualified to comment on the relative difficulty of Korean compared to other languages, because I learned Korean differently from the way I learned Chinese & Japanese.

Japanese & Chinese I learned while living in those countries. Thus I felt intense pressure to progress quickly. Also, I was a student, so I had lots of time to study. With that much energy & time put into the project, even inefficient methods showed results.

So, in another sense, Korean was not more difficult than I expected. Had I studied Korean for an hour a day for a year, I believe I would have achieved my original goals. However, there was no pressure for me to learn Korean quickly. Also, I was working and had little time to study. So, considering I studied it haphazardly but consistently for 3 years and can now read with some facility, I am satisfied with my progress.

What do you think is the most difficult thing to learn about Korean?

For me, I think the most difficult thing about learning any language is acquiring a large enough core repository of “chunks” of language that I can understand the gist of the spoken language. That requires motivation, as well as good materials & methods.

I can’t think of anything uniquely difficult about Korean. The grammar is difficult to master in production, but I don’t think it’s particularly difficult to read, or more difficult than Japanese.

Since communicating with you, I have had a chance to look through the textbook series published by the University of Hawaii entitled “Integrated Korean,” which was a project of the Korean Language Education and Research Center (KLEAR). I was impressed with the progressive series, especially the beginning texts. Not only are there English translations for all the reading material in the series, there are also comprehensive grammar indices and Korean-English/English-Korea glossaries in the backs of all the books in the series, helping to make them self-study friendly. You might want to check them out.

Thanks for the recommendation! I’m always hoping to find a really good textbook. Personally, almost all textbooks bore me. I think there are two main reasons for that.

(1) I want to engage with the real language, as used by native speakers with native speakers. I’m skeptical that a textbook represents real language (because native speakers often produce a simplified, idealized version of their language when teaching). There is so much existing content: why not adapt existing content for learners? For example, I really like the Talk to Me in Korean “News in Korean” textbook.

(2) I want to learn something more than just the language. Through the “News in Korean” book I can learn about the Ebola virus and dieting in Korea. Through reading Park Min-gyu’s (박 민규) novella “Is that so? I’m a Giraffe” (그렇습니까? 기린 입니다) in bilingual edition, I can experience quality Korean literature & learn about society.

For the past few years I have been trying to casually teach myself Classical Chinese, which I now find more interesting than just studying Korean, itself. I have not bothered to learn the Chinese pronunciations of the characters, but simply use the Korean pronunciations. I am currently creating a textbook that teaches Korean-language learners to read Classical Chinese sentences. That essentially means I am teaching the Korean pronunciation of the characters and explaining Classical Chinese grammar in terms of both the English and Korean grammars. Most of the time it is easier to understand Chinese sentences with English translations, but there are times when adding a Korean translation makes it even easier.

That’s great! After learning Japanese, I learned some Classical Chinese through Japanese, and then had the good fortune to take a class on Classical Chinese in college where we translated texts into English. Of course, you already know all of this, but Korean can help you learn Classical Chinese in two ways.

(1) You have a Korean pronunciation to attach to each character, so you can remember them.

(2) You have a hanja syllable to help understand the word that a character represents.

That said, I agree that Classical Chinese grammar is so similar to English, that reading English translations is easier than Korean (and fortunately there are places like where you can find translations).

Anyway, I wish you continued success in your language studies.

Thank you, and likewise, I wish you the best in learning Classical Chinese, and more Korean!

[Learning Languages] Developmental Stages of Language Acquisition

I’d like to share another tip I picked up from Gabriel Wyner‘s book Fluent Forever.

There are developmental stages in language acquisition.

Basically, both children and adults pick up certain grammatical forms before others. These stages are (ostensibly) universal, and can’t be skipped.

The order of developmental stages for verbs is thus:

  1. Progressive form – “she running”
  2. Simple past – “She ran”
  3. All other forms – “She runs”; “She has been running”, etc.

To me, there are some interesting takeaways:

  • These stages seem follow the ontological order of experience: (1) what is happening right now -> (2) what just happened -> (3) increasingly abstract explanations of habituality, temporality, etc. 
  • The order in which we are usually taught grammar in textbooks is fundamentally opposed to the order of developmental stages.
  • We can learn grammar & verbs much more efficiently by following the order of developmental stages.

For example, my textbook probably wants to teach me something like this:

to run – “She runs every morning for exercise.”

However, this is too abstract for a beginner, according to the order of developmental stages. It’s virtually impossible for a beginner learner to produce the grammatical construction “she runs”.

Instead, a better way to learn this would be to see a picture of someone running, and produce the correct answer: “running.”

I’d go so far as to say even “she running” is ok in the early stages of production (i.e. speaking/writing).

Then, we could memorize an example sentence using a cloze deletion test such as “She […] away from the tiger” (with the answer.

Developmental Stages in Learning Korean

For Korean, I’ve started changing the verbs in my example sentences that are often in the dictionary (aka infinitive) form into simple past tense, and using cloze deletions to learn them. I think this makes them more concrete, and useful.

Here’s an example (with translations for readers who don’t know Korean; there’s no English on my Anki cards):

Word: 기어오르다 (v. “to crawl”)

Example sentence: 마치 거미와도 같이 벽(壁)을 기어오르다 (“to climb up the wall just like a spider”)

Cloze deletions in Anki: {{c2::마치}} {{c4::거미}}{{c3::와도 같이}} 벽(壁)을 {{c1::기어올랐어요}} ({{c1::기어오르다}})

Cloze deletion test c1: 마치 거미와도 같이 벽(壁)을 […] ([…])

Translation: “[…] up the wall just like a spider. ([…])” (the answer is “climbed” + “climb”)

This format requires me to supply the simple past tense for the verb, which fits my developmental stage for learning Korean. Also, according to research cited in Fluent Forever, testing myself is 5x more effective than simple repetition.

I hope this is helpful to some learners! 😀

[Korean] Language learning check-in

My Korean Language Journey to date

I’ve been learning Korean since fall 2013. At that time, I had just finished a one-year study program at Fudan University, in Chinese literature. I was fluent in Chinese, having learned it since 2010, and Japanese (since 2007, with a year at Kyushu University 2009-2010). I decided to learn Spanish and Korean. I started with Talk to Me in Korean Anki sentence decks and reviewed a lot of sentences. I didn’t really catch on to either Spanish or Korean; I pledged to do the Add One Challenge (back when it was free) for Korean, and then for Spanish, but I couldn’t stick to my planned routine, and I didn’t complete either one. In summer 2014 I got a job that could have actually used some strong Korean ability, but I didn’t have it. Thus, I’ve been learning Korean consistently but slowly over the last three years, and not without progress–I can read decently with a dictionary–but I feel I haven’t really worked out a method that I feel is efficient enough. Lately, I’ve been taking 1:1 in-person lessons with a (great) teacher, and exploring how I can fast-forward this process.

The “Fluent Forever” Method

I’ve been a fan of Gabriel Wyner for a while; among other things, he introduced me to using core Word Lists with Google Images Basic Version on his blog. His content has only gotten better over time, and I’m going to try every approach in his 2014 book Fluent Forever. I’ll try to cover this as I go along.

Hangari Bajirak Kalguksu – Korean Restaurant Review

Hi everyone,

I’m planning to return to blogging now. For a while, I’ve felt unsure what to blog about, but now I’m going to try to get some ideas out and see how it goes.

For this post, I’ll just share a picture I took of some good food.

This is Hangari Bajirak Kalgooksoo restaurant in Koreatown, Los Angeles.

  • Hangari (항아리) is spelled and pronounced hang-a-ri (not Han-ga-ri) because the first syllable comes from Chinese 缸 (gāng), meaning a jar or container for liquid. Hangari means “jar.”
  • Bajirak (바지락) means clam.
  • Kalgooksoo is nonstandard Romanization for kalguksu (칼국수). Kal means knife, and guksu means noodles, so Kalguksu means knife[-cut] noodles, akin to Chinese 刀削麵 (dāoxiāomiàn).

The red part says “Hangari” and the black part says “hangari kalguksu. ”

A bowl of bajirak kalguksu (clam knife-cut noodles).


  • I recommend this place.
  • The kimchi were fresh, and everything was tasty.
  • I must have had +40 clams in my soup. If I went back I would order mixed seafood.


Mark Zuckerberg Speaking Mandarin Chinese [Full Translation]

Mark Zuckerberg made his first public appearance speaking Mandarin Chinese today at Tsinghua University in Beijing. I’ve translated the entire interview below. He tackled a broad range of issues and even fielded student questions. Enjoy!

NB: has an alternate translation of some of the key passages. You should be able to find a transcription of the Chinese with a Google search. If there are mistakes in my translation, please don’t hesitate to point them out!

Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management

2014 Advisory Board Meeting

Tsinghua Students’ Dialogue with Board Members [of the Advisory Board]

Tsinghua x-lab Session



Host Wei Xiaoliang (魏小亮):

(in English) Now let’s introduce the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg.


Mark Zuckerberg:

(in Mandarin) Hello everyone. I’m happy to be here. (applause) I’m happy to come to Beijing. I love this city. My Chinese is terrible, but today I’ll try speaking Chinese. Ok? (applause) I might need practice.



Mark, everyone is really surprised that you can speak Chinese. Why did you want to learn Chinese?



Really interesting. (laughter) There are three reasons. Second… First, my wife is Chinese. (applause) Her family speaks Chinese and her grandmother speaks only Chinese. So, I want to communicate with them. Two years ago, Priscilla [Chan] and I decided to get married. So I told her grandmother– in Chinese. She was very surprised. (laughter)



Priscilla is your wife?



Yeah. Second, I think it’s that I want to study Chinese culture. China is a great nation. I think learning the language helps me study the culture. So I study the language. Third, Mandarin is hard. I only speak English, but I like a challenge. (applause)



So, how about tonight we challenge him? I’ll speak in Chinese. How many times have you been to China?



Four times. I’ve been to Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Tianjin…



Tianjin? Why did you go to Tianjin?



When I’m in Beijing, I have to ride a fast [unclear] train. I also have to see Huo Yuanjia’s hometown. I really like this movie [the 2006 film Fearless《霍元甲》]. So I will see his hometown.



I see, so you’re a big fan of Huo Yuanjia, so you will go see his hometown. So which city do you like best?



All of them [unclear]. Maybe I like Beijing the most. In all China… it has a lot of history.



So this time in China, what’s your plan?



Pardon? (laughter)



This time in China, what’s your plan?



This week I’m joining the Advisory Board of the Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management. I came to take part in the Advisory Board meeting. I think Tsinghua students are great. Facebook has more than 140 Tsinghua alumni. You are one! (indicating host) Every year, we recruit the best engineers in China. Just last week we recruited 20 Chinese students.



Right, just last month we recruited 20 Chinese students and soon they will come over to Facebook to work. So, could you talk about why you wanted to join the Advisory Board of the Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management?



First, I have to thank Dean Qian [Yingyi 钱颖一]. Yeah, and, I’m honored to join the Advisory Board of the Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management. I’m very interested in education. In the USA, I’ve done a lot of things to support education. I wanted to take part in this committee [because it’s] a great opportunity for me to learn about and support education in China.



Great. Mark wants to support Chinese education. (applause) This month, you also went to quite a few different countries. What is the purpose of this trip?



I’ve been to India, Indonesia, Korea, and Japan. We want to help more people use the Internet. Today, most of the world–65% or about five billion people–don’t have Internet. Some people–about 15%–don’t have a network. About 35% of people have never used a network. But most people who don’t have the Internet don’t have it because they don’t know why they [would] want to use the Internet. If you asked me–sorry, if I asked you, if you don’t have a computer, a phone, or the Internet and I asked you, “Do you want to use the Internet?” You might ask me, “Why would I want to use the Internet?” So there are lots of problems. But we need to connect the world. The Internet creates job opportunities and economic development. It’s very important.



Connecting the world is something Mark takes very seriously. You want to connect the world. When did you begin to want to connect the world?



In 2004, I created the first version of Facebook because I wanted to connect all the students at Harvard. I have always thought there should be a product to connect the whole world, but I thought other companies [would] do it. I remember when I was a college student, every evening my friends and I would eat pizza and talk about the future. Long ago, after I created the first version [of Facebook], I told my friends, “I’m really happy we’ve helped connect students, but [there should be] a product to connect the world.” But we [were] just students. I thought another company [would] do it. I thought perhaps Google, Microsoft, or another company. They had more than ten thousand programmers and more than one hundred million users. We [were] just students. However, we’ve always believed that social media are very powerful. Other companies didn’t believe it. We’ve believed that all along, so we built one. Now, we have 1.3 billion users.



So in the last ten years, Mark built a truly amazing company. Mark, there are a lot of students here who want to start companies. What kind of advice to you have for them?



Start a company? I think the best companies are started not because the founders want to start a company, but because the founders want to change the world. (applause) If you decide that you want to start a company, you might start to develop your first idea. You might recruit a lot of employees. But you might have lots of ideas. You don’t know which idea is the best. If your first idea is bad, then your company is bad. But, if you decide to change the world, shouldn’t you come up with many ideas? If any idea is good, then you create a company.



Great advice. Wait until your idea is good, then create a company. So, in the process of creating Facebook, what was the secret to your success?



I think the best thing is that you can’t give up. Developing a company is hard. Most things won’t go smoothly. You will need to make difficult decisions; you will need to fire some employees.



Are you saying you’re going to fire me today? (laughter)



So, if you don’t believe in your mission, it is easy to give up. Most entrepreneurs give up, but the best entrepreneurs don’t. So believing in your mission and not giving up are very important.



It’s safe to say you are one of the most successful entrepreneurs. What thoughts do you have about innovation in China?



I think China has many of the world’s most innovative companies. Last night I had dinner with Lei Jun from Xiaomi. Right?



Yes, yes, yes.



Xiaomi is a very innovative company. They are developing quickly and have lots of different products. They’re cheap. (laughter) I think Xiaomi will grow quickly. Tencent’s WeChat is also huge. Most Chinese people use WeChat or QQ. Taobao is also very innovative. Taobao creates job opportunities. I think China has many of the world’s most innovative companies.



So Mark really has a good feeling about innovation in our China. Speaking of China, I’m going to ask Mark a relatively difficult question. Will I get fired today? So, what’s your plan for Facebook in China? (applause) A difficult question.



We’re already in China. (laughter) We help Chinese companies get more overseas customers. They use Facebook ads to find more customers. For example, Lenovo uses Facebook ads in Indonesia to sell new phones. I forgot, Lenovo’s [unclear]. Yeah, that one. In China I also see economic development. We’re very impressed. It’s amazing. So we want to help other places in the world connect to China. Like great cities, national parks… Hangzhou and Qingdao also have great pages on Facebook. We work with these cities to develop pages and share Chinese culture.



Great, and this difficult a question Mark answered with just one sentence. Let’s give him a round of applause. (applause) After a difficult question, let’s take it easy a bit. I’ll ask Mark some personal questions, easier questions, so he can give us some details of his [personal] life. So how about we ask you some questions about your personal life?






First question: what colors do you like?



I can’t see red or green, because Facebook is blue. (Note: Mark is red-green colorblind.)



What kind of Chinese food do you like?



When I’m in Beijing, I always eat Beijing street food (lit. hútóng xiǎochī), but I also like Beijing roast duck.



No wonder you like Beijing so much, you like Beijing street food and Beijing duck. So, outside of work, what kind of activities do you do?



I have no time outside [of work]. (laughter)






Ok, I cook with Priscilla.



I recall you also have a pet?



We have a dog. His name is Beast. He’s a [Hungarian] sheepdog. He’s really short. I love him.



You also made a page for Beast.



I develop Beast’s page. Beast has 2 million fans.



The next question is also hard. Between you and Priscilla, whose Chinese is better?



In Mandarin, I can say more words, but she also speaks Cantonese. Her listening comprehension is better than mine. My listening is really bad. One day I asked her, “Why is my listening so bad?” and she told me, “Your listening is bad in English, too!”



Thank you so much Mark. We still have some time, so why don’t we invite one or two students to ask some questions?


Female student:

Should I use English or Chinese? Chinese? (asks a question in Mandarin, translated below)



How did you start Facebook, and…



You asked me…


Female student:

(translates her own question into English) How did Facebook establish a competitive edge toward other social network sites and what was the biggest challenge? And the second question is at what moment did you get a leap of faith and decide to leave school and devote [yourself to] your enterprise?



(in Mandarin) Second question: I was really fortunate. I never decided to leave. Harvard students can take temporary leave, so I created the first version of Facebook, and the second year it was too much to develop Facebook and go to class, so I was really fortunate in that I just took temporary leave and didn’t go to class. I’m still a Harvard student. From time to time, Harvard’s leader asks me, or tells me, “You can come back.” But now I can’t go back.

First question: the biggest challenge. Our biggest challenge perhaps was in 2012, when we needed to make Facebook a mobile company. Before, we weren’t one. In 2012, our growth was very slow, and our monetary growth was very slow, and everyone was unhappy. However, we made Facebook into a mobile company, and now we have more than one billion users using Facebook on their mobile phones.


Male student:

(in English) My name is Yang Zhilun, from the school of social work, and also a member of the x-lab. I’m very glad to ask a question. From the Internet and mobile Internet, we know that the progress of science and technology has greatly accelerated our human society, especially the revolution [sic]. From your perspective, what is the next big advance in technology?



Very interesting. This year Facebook is ten years old.



Ten years? (Note: “Ten” sounds a lot like “four” in Mandarin.)



So I ask, in the next ten years, what should we develop? I decided what are the next things we will develop. First, we need to connect the whole world. We need to help all people use the Internet. Second, we want to develop “artificial intelligence.”



(in Mandarin) Artificial intelligence.(人工智能)



I don’t know [that word in Chinese]. I think ten years from now, computers will be better than humans at seeing, listening comprehension, and language, so we’ve developing that. Third, once everyone is using mobile phones, I believe the next platform is “virtual reality.” I don’t know how to say that [in Chinese] either.



(in Mandarin) Virtual reality. (虚拟现实)



Oculus is the first product, but we want to have many products.

(End of video.)

Kieran Maynard

Kieran Maynard

Writer, translator, researcher, traveler specializing in Japanese and Chinese literature.

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