Saturday, June 09, 2007


I read a comment on a forum somewhere about whether or not it was beneficial to memorize vocab/grammar from your target language (TL) to your native language (NL) or from your NL to your TL. In other words, should I study that an elephant=象 or should I study that 象=elephant. Tough question.

A lot of people associate this problem with the differences of active learning and passive learning. Specifically, that by forcing our NL programmed brains to think of a word in a foreign language is far more active and therefore more efficient than doing it in the other direction. I disagree. The degree of activeness or passiveness in the learning process depends on the presentation. It takes just as much thought process to translate a word to your NL as it does from your NL to your TL. In addition, learning from your TL to your NL is far more practical (assuming you are living in an area that speaks your TL) in the sense that everything you read or hear will be in your TL. TL to NL best reflects the process your brain goes through when immersed in an environment that uses your TL.

There are also many who argue that studying from your TL to your NL inhibits your speaking ability. To some extent, I do agree with this since the process runs reverse when we translate what we want to say before we speak. However, the words we use in conversation is only a small percentage of the total words we know. In addition, that small amount we know can cover a lot. In other words, since my NL is English, I would like to know the meaning of scarlet, crimson, ruby, flushed, ruddy, etc. when I read or hear it. But for all intents and purposes, just saying red when speaking is good enough. The same applies to foreign languages.

So far, the only exception I've come across is the Heisig process. For the purpose of learning to write Chinese characters, he makes valid points. I mean how can you learn to write Chinese characters from memory if it is write there in front of you to copy? I know first hand that this works because if given the keyword, I can write from memory 2042 characters. But AFTER learning to write, I found myself having trouble recalling the keyword when I come across the character. Of course I could work out the story, but that takes a little too much time when I'm trying to get through some reading. I just prefer not to think about rabbits jumping out of holes and running around trees when I'm reading a news article. I'd rather have my brain recognize the character as fast as possible. I really do think that in the case of characters, it is better to start off with NL to TL but then finish with TL to NL.

In any case, whatever the direction, any study is better than no study. If you do it often enough, retention will happen. However, when the dust settles, I believe you get more out of studying from your target language to your native language to better train your mind for the environment you are in.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Sticks and Knives

Last week, I joined a kali/arnis/eskrima club in HK. For those who don't know, it is a Filipino martial arts where beginners start with sticks, advance to knives, and then graduate to bare hands. I've been interested in this for a long time and have been trying to find a place to learn for quite some time. No luck in Korea and Japan where Filipinos are not exactly very high on the totem pole. I finally found a place in Quarry Bay. Filipinos in HK are not exactly treated well here either and most (including Thais) are hired as domestic helpers or laborers. But during the weekends, when they have their day off, they all gather and you might as well be walking in Manila (or Bangkok) no matter where you are in HK. So it wasn't surprising that out of all those thousands, at least one guy was teaching Arnis.

Anyways, I went down there with a buddy of mine to check it out. It was a HOT day and I just came off of a business lunch so my clothes were way to heavy to be practicing in and I was soaked in sweat in no time. Anyways, he introduced us to several weapons, my favorite being the wiked little kerambit. Afterwards, he taught us a few locks and drills with the baston and for some reason I was the guy he was demonstrating on. I'm guessing it is because I was relatively taller than everyone else so it offered more of a challenge from a technical point of view. Anyways, it wasn't easy being on the receiving end of a bitch-be-good stick. Hits were hits, choke holds choked, and joint locks extended those joints a few degrees more than they should in the opposite direction. But I guess that means this club is not watered down which is cool. After all is said and done, I had a hell of a good time and will keep going with this.

Monday, June 04, 2007


I pride myself on being able to eat everything. I've tried live squid, lung, grilled intestines, chicken feet (the little ones AND the big claws; you can also pick your teeth with the nail), snails, alligator, etc. Nothing gets you closer to a people then being able sit down and share a beer over bowls of whatever the local flavor is. Except for insects, I have never backed down from a meal.....until I came to Hong Kong.

At first, I wasn't all that daunted. I had the obligatory dinner where the locals try to get you to try stuff. Noodles with octopus ink? Give me seconds. Chicken feet? A good swig of beer will help that down. While I am admittedly not a fan of chicken feet, I can still handle it and I wasn't fazed.

After living here for awhile, I start noticing things. At the supermarket, they were selling live turtles. That in itself didn't bother me as turtle soup and turtle shell are considered pretty good. I've even had jelly made from turtle shells. What bugged me was the live toads I saw in the next bin. Now some of you will probably say that eating frogs is quite common and is a delicacy in France. However, if, like me, you think frogs and toads are pretty similar, one look of these nasty critters and you will see that they are worlds apart. While frogs are small, cute, (usually) green, and give you warm nostalgic feelings from when you were young playing along with Kermit on TV, toads are big, ugly, warty creatures who's appearance justifies their place among the ten plagues of Egypt. Looking at these things, I couldn't help but think of Chet's demise in "Weird Science". Anyways, looking at these slimy gobs of nastiness jumping and climbing over each other and imagining them stewed on someones plate, I felt a new sensation. My stomache was churning.

However, it was only a couple of weeks ago that I met my biggest challenge. Some friends invited me out for some hot pot. Among the ingredients, chicken testicles. I'm not one to back down from a fight, but there was no way I could handle chicken nuts. I've had chicken hearts before and these nuts were easily two or three times bigger. I'm not a chicken expert or anyting, but the chicken could be the one animal in the world who's nuts are bigger than their hearts. Those things were almost as big as mine and, not to brag, I'm the proud owner of pretty impressive pair.

Anyways, any delusions of grandeur I may have had about my ability to stomache anything have been shattered. Hong Kong has humbled me.