View Full Version : Ideograms in English?

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08-11-2004, 11:43 PM
I've recently been studying the Japanese language as my second (third, if you count Latin) language and like any alphabet using reader the idea of having to master the Chinese ideograms seems kind of daunting at one point or another. In many ways it seems so foreign, in not only language but in its very nature. However, I recently came across something that I had saved on my computer a while ago and I thought it would be worth sharing. It gives a new perspective to the idea of ideograms, showing that in a few ways, the English language isn't quite as different as one might think; the use of an alphabet isn't so cleanly separated from ideograms. Without furthur ado, I present the following passage:

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae.
The rset can be a total mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm.
Tihs is bcuseae the huamn barin deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the
wrod as a wlohe.
Fcuknig amzanig huh?

While alphabets still lend themselves to pronunciation of unknown words (well, maybe only loosely in the case of English), this just reminds me that all words are just a series of lines and curves and the brain can be trained to look at them in any number of ways to the point that the orientation and/or order no longer matters, at least compared to a mental reference. I would assume that this ability to recognize the whole also ties into speed reading and stretches into visual puzzles.

Hope you find this as interesting as I did. At the very least it gives hope that one day I can master Japanese and progress from gaijin to henna gaijin :).


08-13-2004, 12:53 AM
Wow, the aobve is exteremly amzanig. Tanhks Eirc Spnileli.


08-16-2004, 10:41 AM
Good point, Eric.... my wife once made a comment to me about reading J vs. reading English which suggested that she thought that, while the J were "gestalting" the kanji images, that English readers were essentially scanning the letters of a word linearly left to right (albeit at high speed) and building up the words in their heads from that.

I had to tell her... um, NO :) Your anecdote shows that not only do we view words in writing as whole visual units, but that the brain is amazingly good at high-speed descrambling.

While I'm here I'll make a recommendation to you: if you're serious about learning to read Japanese and are the type to sit and read dictionaries (guilty :D), you should have a copy of The Modern Reader's Japanese-English Character Dictionary, by A.N. Nelson. This fat book (known to many gaijin students of Nihongo affectionately as "Nelson") was like my bible for many years. And you can use it to impress your Japanese friends, who will flip through it and tell you "oh my g*d, I can't read half of these kanji" :)

Good luck.

10-06-2004, 10:09 PM
Can anyone translate the phrase, "The universe is one family" into Japanese?

10-07-2004, 12:32 AM
May I ask why you want to know? :confused: :D

If you say how you'll use this knowledge, we might be able to come up with a more appropriate translation. Another issue would be whether you want something that is understandable to the average Japanese when only spoken and not seen in writing. That may sound strange, but you can do neat things with kanji which are understandable when seen, but which are essentially incomprehensible when only heard (due to the high incidence of homophones/homonyms in Japanese).

Finally, for future reference, this sort of thing would normally be best started as a new thread rather than tacked onto an existing thread.