One of the nice things about an evening ballgame on the radio is that KEST and KVTO carry Japanese and Mandarin programming against each other, so I can switch back and forth between innings. (Small of me, I know, but that's the way I work.... ;-)
Anyway, I realized some differences this week between listening to Japanese and Chinese:
- Sentence structure carries significant implications... the verb endings, particles, and fewer homonyms in Japanese make it much easier to hear the overall structure of a sentence. I may not understand the verbs, nouns, and modifiers in Japanese radio, but I can definitely hear how the pieces fit together. On Mandarin or Cantonese radio I might understand some phrases, but I still can't hear how the whole sentence fits together. The use of particles in Japanese lets me put each phrase into its proper place.
- Speaker variability, uh, varies. In Chinese radio or video there can be a great variety of voices, and each takes me a little bit to get acclimated to. Spoken Japanese, on the radio or television, takes a homogenous formal form, where if you understand one speaker you can understand another. On the other hand, a wider range of Japanese speech takes you into a wider variety of actual languages, where the phonemes and sentence structure can vary depending on the relationship between the speaker and the listener. Chinese, despite its regional variations, is more homogenous across social situations. I'm not sure I described this distinction accurately, but Chinese radio has more variation among speakers and less variation among situations, while Japanese radio has less variation among speakers, but differs more from non-radio Japanese. For me, at least. ;-)
On another topic, one study book I've added to my routine lately is Sun Tzu's "Art of War". I'm using an edition which has the original Chinese on the left page, and an English translation on the right page. I haven't had many study sessions here yet, but have gotten a lot out of it so far... seeing how ideas are constructed, seeing how writers try to expand the Chinese into longer English wordcounts. It's also pretty cool to think about reading a book in the original like this.... ;-)