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Do Japanese can read English but can't understand its meaning?

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May 10 in Society & Culture by Dan (5,288 points)


2 Answers

Rooster May 10

Probably for the same reason that Japanese is so hard for people to learn. English words don't always have the same meaning in Japanese. It is really hard for them as they don't get taught enough in their schools. Japanese is a very hard language to learn and then to comprehend. So saying the words and reading them and comprehending them are two different things.

Why do Japanese have trouble learning English? | The Japan Times

Virginia May 10

Dan, what I see as a parallel to that, is some of my friends who are artists will paint Japanese or Chinese characters on their artwork. And you have to be careful, because sometimes when the characters are translated they mean something different than the artist intended!

Virginia, as a teenager, I read some of Ezra Pound's poetry, and was surprised once when a large Chinese character appeared on a page. "What am I supposed to do with that?" I thought to myself.

It turns out that Pound had done some translations of Chinese poems and plays, depending on someone else's notes. Pound himself knew no Chinese, so I thought the whole thing was more than a little bit pretentious.

Virginia Virginia May 10

O'Kay, O'Tink...a bit of "devil's advocacy" here...what I would do with the Ezra Pound stuff is viewing from an alternate perspective...

...because every once in a while, I just go to some haiku and its accompanying philosophy for a few days or hours, to immerse myself (as much as possible) in a non-Western way of thought. Coz that is what I am guessing is going on with Chinese calligraphy! Here is a link I located for you, something to do with a calligraphy exhibition in San Francisco in 2013:

"Out of Character: Decoding Chinese Calligraphy, which closes this weekend at San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum, is a sprawling, gorgeous arrangement of fine historic Chinese calligraphy from. To set the tone, it starts with a quote from calligrapher Sun Guoting’s Treatise on Calligraphy (687 ACE): 'Truly, [fine calligraphy] may be called the result of wisdom and skill achieving joint excellent (sic), of mind and hand acting in harmony.' " 

https://hyperallergic.com/63334/the-beauty-of-chinese-calligraphy-from-the-ancients-to-today/

And then, same article, here is a photo of The Sutra on the Lotus of the Sublime Dharma, done by some fine fellow around 1300 A.D....very special ink and paper, no doubt, in a package with the calligraphy all contributing to the overall message of love/wisdom/compassion beyond the reach of the mind/mental process.

image

Yes, Virginia, that exhibition was indeed beautiful, but I note that the reviewer also wished for more explanation.

In Pound's case, it was his use of Chinese characters that he himself could not know the meanings and subtleties of that I found pretentious. However, I must admit that his renderings of the Chinese poems he was translating by proxy into English, were certainly better as English poems than other translations I've seen.

Virginia Virginia May 12

Interesting comments, Tink, food for thought...and I find myself doing that (ie, pondering) so may come up with more later...but for now I am recallng that many of the Eastern "root texts" and other great art do not even carry signatures, nobody is certain of the authorship now...a tradition that allows mystery to just be, originating from and belonging to all of humankind, and not contain it within authorship...

I know you have studied some of the great Western mystery texts, I have seen you post from them magnificently; perhaps you also have an interest in Eastern thought?

Yes, I do, Virginia, but I don't know much of it. This, from the Rig Veda, was quoted by Carl Sagan:

"Who verily knows and who can here declare it, whence it was born and whence comes this creation?
The Gods are later than this world's production. Who knows then whence it first came into being?
He, the first origin of this creation, whether he formed it all or did not form it,
Whose eye controls this world in highest heaven, he verily knows it, or perhaps he knows not."

http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/rigveda/rv10129.htm

Virginia Virginia May 15

Oh Tink yes, Carl Sagan! One of the atheists (so-called) who imo is not an atheist at all, except in a pedantic and limited definition...

I still recall from his novel CONTACT, I laughed with delight...he has his characters discussing Buddhism, and one of them saying; "Their God is so great He doesn't even have to exist..."  ;) :D <3

You heard anything from Marianne lately? She okay?

Yes, even strict materialists who think the Universe has always existed, or that it suddenly sprang from nothing 14 billion years ago have the Universe as their god... an uncaused first cause, so there really is no such thing as an atheist.

No, I haven't heard anything from Marianne.  I'm worried about her.  :(

Virginia Virginia May 15

Just to let you know I was here, Tink...

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