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Friday, December 5, 2008

I'm going to set a new record. Please help me avoid it!

I've got to sit for an exam on Sunday.
We can all agree - unanimously - that exams are useless and a waste of time, money, energy and everything else one could ever imagine, right? But still I can live with that, if this were anything but what it is. I'd rather sit for a PhD in Astronomy exam than this, cos this is a Japanese Language Exam.


I really suck at Japanese. Maybe I can speak fairly OK - not great, but I can manage - but reading and writing, now that's a different story. Why, do you think?

Let me take a few minutes to tell you a few things about Japanese.

To begin with, they have three alphabets. Yes, THREE. One is a normal alphabet, like in any other language. Second, well I'll explain in a minute. And the third is so called Kanji, and nobody really knows how many of them are there.

How stupid is that?

Now, this first alphabet which is called Hiragana is quite like any other, maybe not as efficient as Sinhalese, but I can live with that. The second is Katakana, which is used to write the words that Japanese has taken from other foreign languages such as English (mostly), French, German etc. Why, I do not know. Those words can be written in Hiragana without any hassle, but they chose to have another alphabet. OK, I can bear that too. The real pain is Kanji. Now this is where things go really out of control. As I said before, nobody really knows how many Kanji are there but it is estimated to be somewhere around 50,000. Oh yeah you read it correct and no, I didn't add a zero or two accidentally. It is fifty thousand.

The irony of it is that with three alphabets and over 50,000 letters, still there are some words they can't write.
Would you believe that?

There is no L, T or D in Japanese. And no ඇ, මැ, කැ etc either. They are turned into අ, ම, ක etc.
L is replaced by R.
T is by ත.
And D is replaced by ද.
So, Tokyo should be pronounced as තෝක්යෝ, not ටෝකියෝ as many of you would do.

You think it can't get worse than that? Hang on, I only just begun.

Now a bit more about this Kanji. They were inherited from Chinese and are primarily 'word-art'. That is, pictures turned into letters which has evolved later into what it is now. All's well except for the small matter that there could be hundreds of different Kanji with the exact same pronunciation, but carrying different meanings! For example, the sound 'ක' could probably be the most common of them all. There are hundreds, if not more different Kanji that are pronounced that. Just imagine, having to remember all that!
OK, I don't need to remember all that - for this exam I need about 300 - but still it's a lot of remembering do to. And my memory being what it is - only this morning, while making my coffee, the small milk packets that you're supposed to add to your coffee, I opened one and poured the whole thing into the coffee bag instead of the cup - I'm facing a huge uphill task, if not impossible.

So let's get back to the topic.
The record is, everyone who works here with me - that is to say all the Sri Lankans - take that exam every year and nobody had failed thus far. And I can see myself going down the history books as the owner of that unbreakable record. And see, the point is, being the first means nobody can 'challenge' your spot. I'm going go be a celebrity!

Gee I can live without that.

So guys - and girls - help me avoid that and wish me some luck.
I'm going to need it.



  1. hahahahahaaa!!! i really dont mean to dis the japanese language - but wtf - "There is no L, T or D in Japanese"????????? with OVER 50,000 LETTERS?? ya think they missed a little something huh? :S
    well - GOOD LUCK.
    hope some other unlucky bastard fails instead of u!! haha! ok - i agree. that was mean. :P

  2. Heh, good luck! :D

    ...Wonder what it'd be like if there was a japanese version of the 'YMCA' dance...

  3. damn, just bow a lot to the examiner and i think u shud b ok !

  4. should have thought about this before you move to Japan

  5. had I known, would I have? maybe I would have... :P

  6. Hey, don't worry, you'll be OK! Since you see and hear Japanese day in and day out, there is much more in your brain than you realize. Just answer as many questions as you can, as fast as you can...

    I laughed at the milk incident. I've done the same thing, but with sugar. Poured the sugar stick into the milk powder (bottle) instead of the cofee cup. Didn't notice until I tasted the coffee...

    All the best for Sunday!

  7. Oh diss them Black, diss them as much as you want, cos I do the same! :P
    Definitely a stupid language.. LOL...

    Jerry, thanks. And yeah you got a point... it would be an endless song...

    Damith I doubt it...

    Serendib-san, arigato ne...

    nethdeco... you never know...

    Anon, I hope so, I hope so...
    Oh yeah the milk, that kinda thing happens to me most of the time.
    Thanks mate...
    Btw, I get a feeling you could be someone I know.. am I correct?