[The American Years]

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Greetungs from Japan. Something struck me the other day (besides the top of the door frame going into the train).
Our kids have recently progressed past being spelled around. When we say "I want to go get some I-C-E-C-R-E-A-M," they now can understand it. So it's the end of an era.

The Japanese however, have no such spelling secrecy available to them. Their alphabet is phonetic. Meaning that the name of each letter is the sound it makes. The sounds (almost) never change. So Ice cream, in the phonetic alphabet used for foreign words, is "Ah-Ee-Su-Ku-Ree-Mu". Say it fast and it comes close to 'ice cream'. But they are without the ability to spell around their kids. The thing they could do is pass notes, or draw kanji characters in the air, or just give knowing looks to each other.

So either they are more open and honest with their kids, or they are more quiet with their spouses. You can guess which.


Giddy said...

You may be familiar with this already, but in case not, there's a PBS show about reading called "Between the Lions" (as in, the lions outside the NY public library) that features a lion family that works at the library....Your post reminded me of the occasional visits from famous country singer "Tammy Lionette" who frequently sings tunes about the many many woes of the English language, for example, "W Trouble," about the disturbing fact that the W sound is nowhere to be found in the name of the letter. ("You know, M makes an "mmm" sound,
And J just goes "juh,"
And S has a "sss" sound,
And D sounds like "duh."
But there's no "wuh" in "double-u"
And, tell me please,
Why a letter called "double-u"
Looks like two Vs.") (For complete lyrics: http://pbskids.org/lions/songs/w_trouble_qt.html)

Ya gotta love it. The show also features a bit called Gawain's Word, where two medieval knights, maybe Sir J and Sir ig, will joust and upon their collision, will do a JIG, or whatever. And then the announcer says "Gawain's Word! Party on! Excellent!" and so on. I think PBS has excellent programming all around, but this show tops my list for entertaining me perhaps even MORE than my kids. (Ella also likes the math show, Cyberchase, which L calls "chobbachase.")

Anyway, too bad for those Japanese parents. In my mom's youth, the trick HER parents used wasn't spelling--but speaking Russian. Dastardly parents always find a way.....

Angie said...

Did I tell you that I got Bob a "Japanese for Beginners" t-shirt for Christmas? One of the things on it is "isu-karemu".

Also "Used panty machine", which amuses Andrew to no end.

And Giddy's right: Between the Lions is awesome.

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