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Japanese and dyslexia

Dyslexia is a learning difficulty. Wikipedia will, no doubt, explain it in lots of long words, but essentially it is a failure to interpret letters - both with reading and writing. As with any problem of the brain, the degree of inability varies from person to person - however in general it manifests primarily in a poor ability to read, often a dyslexic will read a sentence syllable by syllable and by the time they have reached the end they have invested so much concentration on getting the syllables correct that the content of the sentence is lost to them; and additionally a poor ability to write, often spelling is poor and mirrored letters are commonplace.

I, myself, am not dyslexic. I enjoy reading and as you can tell am capable of writing and in fact better able to express myself this way than by speech (although I take considerably longer to write than to speak and have the luxury of rereading and pondering alternative words - things not possible in spoken communication). I am, however, afflicted by dyscalculia which is basically the same thing only with numbers. Performing fairly simple addition/subtraction is tedious and requires a lot of effort. For irregular amounts, I multiply like a computer (repeated addition). Division is, mostly, beyond me.

I have sympathy for dylexics because for me the problem is not one of knowing numbers - I can count to ten and such. It is more that the numbers have no inherent meaning. A two is a two. When it is the price of a piece of fish, or the model of an iPad, or even something in a EAN is still a two. That you can combine a two with a five and end up with a result that is neither a two nor a five but something else entirely, is bizarre. I can assign a visual nmemonic to a two (say, the famous "Twitter" bird), but this fails when it comes to mathematics.

It is much the same with dyslexia. Happiness is a state of being, an emotion. As a word it begins with an 'H', ends with an 'S', and has a bunch of letters in between. Hell, a rather less happy place, also begins with an 'H', as does Hermione, a less-common (until Harry Potter, perhaps) female name. Words ending in 's' are commonplace but since it tends to be the plural suffix, there are many words ending in 's' that don't normally end in 's'. Confused?

As you can see - we have chosen for our language a set of squiggles where the characters are even more abstract than representing syllables or even phonemes. As I said a long time ago, the variety of sounds represented by "ou" (rough, through, house, ought etc etc) means that to codify the rules of English pronunciation would be a difficult task, hindered even more by regional differences, not to mention a whole pile of exceptions-to-the-rule.
Remember, English is an accent-free language, so while European languages may suffer likewise from reading impairments, we English speakers don't even have the luxury of 'e', 'é', 'è', or 'ê' to guide us in how something is to be said.

This brings me to Japanese (although for the purpose of this discussion, Chinese would count as well). I would like to know if anybody has comparative statistics on dyslexia in Japanese. For the basic way of writing (the kana), directly represents a sound in speech - for example the animé "Robotics;Notes" is written as "ロボティクス・ノーツ", which breaks down as:
ro, ボ bo ティ tikusu(new word) ノー nō (long 'o')tsu

Then you get further. You throw away the linkage between speech and writing and suddenly it is a completely different way of looking at language. It is a way where a diagram represents an idea. For sure, there are thematic elements to kanji, these are called "radicals". Imagine, if you can, the hell that would be introduced if the kanji were arbitrary in nature. There is a lot that a Japanese person must learn and remember, basic fluency is familiary with some three thousand of the little squiggles and their different ways of "reading" them. However, it is a very interesting concept of a language where (kawa) is 'river'. 幸せ (shiawa se) is 'happiness' (all Rika Furude ever wanted :cry: :cry: :cry:), (ko) is a child.
(hashi) is a 'bridge', while 橋梁 (kyōryō) is also a 'bridge' but is said completely differently despite one of the kanji being the same, the second kanji meaning 'girder' or 'beam'. I suspect the first version is talking about a bridge as a concept (a way to cross from here to there; you would say to take the bridge across the river) while the second is talking about the bridge as a physical object (ie, pointing at it and saying kyōryō). But I reserve the right to be utterly wrong. ☺
For what it is worth, the radicals for 'bridge' are:

Bridge in Kanji explained

The radicals for "happiness" make even less sense - unless you are likely to enjoy pleasure from eating raw wasabi. I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader to look this up.

All of this leads me to want to ask if there is an influence on dyslexia when the "words" represent concepts rather than being arbitrary fragments of a language as in latinate languages?


Steins;Gate DVD

Lollapaloosa! I wasn't certain, being an eBay seller based in Malaysia, if I'd ever see the DVD I ordered on the 20th of January.

It arrived today (Saturday 2nd February).

I suppose to be truly post-modern I should make an "unboxing" video.
I'm not that sad.

Here's the package. You'll have to do the "unboxing" in your mind. Go "oooh" or something. Kudos for some pretty stamps.

Steins;Gate DVD box set - package
Here is the front cover:
Steins;Gate DVD box set - cover


Steins;Gate DVD box set - inside

Back cover:

Steins;Gate DVD box set - back cover

The DVDs appear to be the genuine article:

Steins;Gate DVD identification

The proof, however, is in the playback. The disc goes straight to a menu giving a choice of subtitle and whether to play all or specific episodes. No fluffy animated menus and such. No piles of adverts either. They at least got that right, I bought "Steins;Gate" to watch it, not a bunch of other things.

Steins;Gate DVD - main menu
Steins;Gate DVD - episode menu

As for the image quality - I can see some banding on the low-texture areas, but that may be my video encoder (it has been a really long time since I watched animé via the composite path). However, I should note that there are about 600 minutes of video on two DVD-5 discs. About five hours per disc, roughly a gigabyte per hour. For MPEG2, that's a little on the low side.

Steins;Gate DVD - screenshot

There is also some jerkiness on panning. This strikes me as a possible issue of the video being 30fps NTSC (the box doesn't say) being transcoded to 25fps PAL by a €20 budget DVD player.

Steins;Gate DVD - screenshot

I plan to rip these to XviD so I can drop them on the SD card and watch without the necessity of having all the DVD playback stuff set up. That ought to sort out the jitter (as XviD isn't limited to PAL refresh) plus the banding (if still there) will be traded off by the enhanced quality of not shoving the video across composite video. Not to mention XviD will introduce its own artefacts...

Steins;Gate DVD - screenshot

All of that aside, however, we can't overlook that the whole thing (including postage) came to less than twenty euros. I can get a comparable product from (which I note comes on nine discs!), however it probably isn't subtitled in English and its prerelease price is about €100 with another €20 on top for postage. It is a very nice product. But so far out of my price range that it isn't funny...

Steins;Gate epic DVD box set on

It is a good solid series (I'm afraid Robotics;Notes isn't living up to it as yet), it is no surprise it gets a lot of five-star ratings. I am very much looking forward to watching this.



Just happened to be passing the trolley park at my local supermarket, whipped out my phone and took a quick photo. Blurry 'cos it was night and I was moving, but you can see what I am referring to...
Itty bitty trolley, neatly parked.


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