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Tag: Japan

The topic of promoting tourism seems to come up pretty frequently in the papers. Due to the fact that it’s an island, and that there are much less expensive options nearby, I don’t really think it’s that likely that Taiwan will ever be a top tourist destination for westerners. It already is a top tourist destination for the Japanese, but the vast majority of its tourism promotion is aimed at westerners. Here is a video from Taiwan’s “Touch your heart” campaign:

In contrast, China’s “China Forever” video is very focused on natural scenery, history and culture:

Korea’s new “Dynamic Korea” is pretty impressive all around:

The Japanese “Yokoso!” (welcome) campaign is split into three separate branches.

Beautiful Japan:

Cool Japan:

Delightful Japan:

Of all of the videos, I think the strongest are Delightful Japan and Dynamic Korea. They really got me to thinking about what exactly I would want to experience as a tourist somewhere.

Hat tip to Fili for digging up the first three videos. He’s also written about Israel’s unique tourism campaign.

John’s observations on Malaysia’s “truly Asia” campaign are worth a read, too.

Reading the Taipei Times today, I came across an article that highlights yet another aspect in which Japan is returning to its nationalistic roots– education. The education minister, Ibuki Bunmei (伊吹文明), is a reactionary. In various speeches, he has stated that most young Japanese are incapable of writing or speaking well and that they need to “learn the rules of society” in elementary school before spending time on foreign languages. Fair enough. Now, though, he’s pushing into more disturbing territory:
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MSG must be one of the most maligned and misunderstood food components of the modern world. Superstition and fears about it are ubiquitous in the west, and yet, as Jeffery Steingarten, the great American food critic once put it,

“If MSG is bad for you, then why doesn’t everyone in China have a headache?”

Or perhaps a better question would be, “How is it that the inventors of it, the Japanese, outlive everyone else on the planet?”
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It’s often said that history is written by the victors. Most of the time, when people say this, they are referring to victors in war, not politics.
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One thing I love about Taiwan is the near lack of xenophobia. Pictures like these make me thankful to be living in a comparatively open and accepting Asian country.
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One peculiarity about Chinese ESL learners is that they usually want “English” names. Back when I was learning French, I didn’t take to calling myself Jean-marc; when I was learning Japanese, I didn’t call myself Taka. I just used my English name phoneticized into Katakana. I saw no need to change my name to learn a new language. Maybe I’d change the pronunciation, but no more. Most of my foreign friends from back when I was in the states were the same. Try telling my Japanese buddy Tomohiro that he should adopt an English name, like Tom and he’ll tell you he’s Japanese and that Tomo’s his name. The same went for my other friends, Yoshi, Naoki, Tadashi, Tomohiko, and even the notoriously unpronounceable Ryuta.

Chinese people aren’t like that. To suggest to a mother that she just allow her child to be called 專文 (zhuān wén) in my class, is blasphemy. She’ll insist that without a proper “English” name, the chance to “soak American culture” just won’t be the same. I’ve heard this opinion from dozens of parents. Heck, I even saw one kid who didn’t want an English name get in a yelling match with his dad over it. Nearly all the kids want English names, though. Some even want two.

Naturally enough, a lot of the “English” names they pick aren’t very English at all. I don’t think I ever met or heard of a single Coco before I came to Taiwan (though I did know a dog named Cocoa), but I must have taught or met at least 30 Cocos since coming here. The same goes for Kiki, Yoyo, Mimi, and several other popular “English” names here. I’m not really a big fan of these names, since they AREN’T going to familiarize the kids with commonly used English names. But, hey. If it makes them happy, then why not?

There is one kind of “English” name, though, that I can’t stand. It’s the mis-spelt name given by Taiwanese teachers from the public schools. My new students of this type have included an Anterny, a Cynphia, an Avy, a Jesper, a Weever, a San, and a Weanston. The problem with these “English” names, beyond the fact that they aren’t English, is that English speakers (including myself) always think that the kids are mispronouncing real names. I already have a lot of names to remember, and it really sucks trying to remember if Jesper is the one who insists that is name is pronounced as “Jeesper” or if it was Cynphia that insists she’s “Seenvia”. Worse yet, after practicing with each other for a few years, the kids will have the exact same problems with real English names. I don’t really want to be some sort of “cultural imperialist”, but there is a point at which I can’t take the Engrish. I sat the parents down and explained that their kids’ names were the result of letting non-natives with really screwed up phonics try to remember real names. At first they were incredulous. “Are you sure Weanston’s not a popular English name?” Fortunately, by the end, I got Cynphia to become Cynthia, Avy to become Amy, Jesper to become Jasper, Weever to become Webber, San to become Sam, and Weanston to become Winston. Anterny isn’t budging, though.

There are tons of ways to try to absorb American culture. Aside from Hollywood, there’s great access to US video games, children’s stories, American restaurants, American music… the list goes on. I’m not sure if picking an “English” name will help students assimilate any more of the culture or not, but I’m positive picking a name like “Weanston” won’t.

It’s no secret that the Japanese suck at English. Even though it’s compulsory for them to study it from elementary school on, and even though many study it in cram schools starting as soon as kindergarten, they suck. I don’t just mean a little, either. Even compared to Korean, Chinese, and Arabic speakers, the Japanese really suck at English. (Please don’t take offense at this, Kei, Ryuta, or Kazuto. You guys are are all the more impressive for overcoming what so few of your countrymen could.) It was in Japan that Engrish was born.

There are many theories as to why the Japanese struggle so much, such as geographic isolation, having a language with so few syllables, or cultural barriers to truly using foreign languages. I am far from qualified to weigh in on such an issue. However, I believe I’ve found the answer: All of their problems stem from programs like Surprise English.

Rewards and Punishments

Overwhelmed by Cuteness

I Can Speak English

I’ll Have This One Please