that horizontal feeling

The Yomiuri Shimbun reports, “A series of classic works by renowned novelists is proving popular due to innovative designs and the fact the text is printed using lateral text rather than the vertical columns usually used for Japanese novels.”

The first two books in the Meisaku Bungaku (Masterpiece Literature) series are single volume editions of Soseki Natsume’s “Kokoro” (Heart) and Osamu Dazai’s “Ningen Shikkaku” (No Longer Human), both published on Aug. 1.

The venture by the publisher, Goma Books, is aimed at getting young people to read classic fiction in a similar manner to the way they read novels on mobile phones.

The two books feature photographs of actresses on their front covers, and the type is not the usual black, but features colors such as orange and bright green to give the books a casual feel. Such designs, coupled with the horizontal text, have helped the publisher sell more than 50,000 copies of the novels since they were put on sale.

The two books were among 60 novels made available on the Goma Books mobile phone Web site in April last year. They were selected due to their great popularity.

Copyright on all the site’s books has expired because at least 50 years have passed since the death of their authors.

Some site users said they found it easy to read the masterpieces when they were written horizontally rather than vertically. The site attracts about 100 million hits a month, prompting the publisher to put out printed forms of the works.

As well as the switch from vertical to horizontal text, other ideas also were adopted.

Reading ease was taken into account, with the publisher using fewer words per page and more space between lines. Kana syllables are also frequently printed alongside kanji to aid readers.

My favorite bit, in part because I wonder if the first sentence had ever been uttered before, comes next. Or is this a topic that has been hotly debated among the Japanese literati?

“The emotions [of the work] are not lost with lateral writing,” said Yutaka Akiyama–a former editor at publisher Iwanami Shoten–who was responsible for compiling the complete works of Soseki. “Soseki himself wrote his notes horizontally.”

The second batch of three works, which include Ryunosuke Akutagawa’s “Kumo no Ito” (The Spider’s Thread), came out Friday.

source: Laterally printed classics prove hit, Daily Yomiuri Online, August 23, 2008

US post-secondary enrollments in foreign languages and the position of Mandarin

graphs showing the enrollments of Japanese and Mandarin over time, with Italian thrown in by way of comparisonFrom the way the U.S. media talk about the boom in Mandarin classes, it’s easy to get the impression that Mandarin is about to become the most studied language in the United States. So I offer the following overdue reality check.

The data come from the results of a large survey of foreign-language enrollments in U.S. post-secondary schools. The survey was conducted by the Modern Language Association. I started work on this post when the results were released in November 2007; but, well, I got distracted.

This post has lots of tables and figures, so for those who don’t want to scan through everything I offer some basic points up front.

  • Spanish has more enrollments than all other foreign languages put together.
  • By far the biggest enrollment boom since 1990 has not been for Mandarin but for American Sign Language.
  • The boom in enrollments in Arabic also surpasses that for Mandarin.
  • Mandarin is indeed growing in popularity — but in recent years only at the undergraduate level.
  • Japanese continues to be more popular than Mandarin, though by an ever-smaller margin.
  • Mandarin is the seventh most studied foreign language in U.S. post-secondary schools, behind Spanish (which leads Mandarin by a ratio of 16:1), French, German, American Sign Language, Italian, and Japanese.
  • Relatively speaking, enrollments in foreign languages are much lower than they were 30 years ago.

A few summary remarks of my own:

  • I don’t expect the high growth rates for Mandarin to continue for many more years unless the programs are dumbed down (in which case they wouldn’t count for much) or Pinyin gains a much more prominent role in Mandarin pedagogy (and not just at the introductory level). The difficulties of Chinese characters will help keep numbers down, as will the eventual realization that learning Mandarin isn’t an easy ticket to riches (or even a ticket to riches at all).
  • Japanese received a big boost in the 1980s, when the media cranked out story after story about the power of Japan’s rising economy and the need to learn the language. Yet Japanese didn’t become the next big world language. I predict a similar path for Mandarin.
  • A high percentage of those taking Mandarin classes in U.S. high schools are students who are both ethnically Chinese and already familiar with the language. The MLA didn’t provide figures on that for post-secondary students. But I would be surprised if such “heritage” students don’t represent a higher percentage of those in Mandarin language courses than heritage students in most other language classes.

OK, now on to some details.

Look below at the growth for American Sign Language since 1990. If Mandarin had had that sort of growth (4,820 percent!) the pundits would no doubt be telling us that the Chinese had already taken over the planet and were going to rule the entire galaxy within the next decade. (And don’t get me started about the supposed Mandarin in Serenity/Firefly.) But American Sign Language just doesn’t seem to get the same sort of respect, despite the fact that it still has more than 50 percent more enrollments than Mandarin. Arabic, which has also had a much faster growth rate than that of Mandarin, hasn’t received the same level of hype either.

Growth in Enrollments: in declining order of growth from 1990 to 2006

Enrollments 1990 2006 % Growth 2002-06 % Growth 1990-2006
American Sign Language 1,602 78,829 29.7 4820.7
Arabic 3,475 23,974 126.5 589.9
Korean 2,286 7,145 37.1 212.6
Mandarin 19,490 51,582 51.0 164.7
Hebrew 12,995 23,752 4.2 82.8
Portuguese 6,211 10,267 22.4 65.3
Italian 49,699 78,368 22.6 57.7
Spanish 533,944 822,985 10.3 54.1
Japanese 45,717 66,605 27.5 45.7
French 272,472 206,426 2.2 -24.2
German 133,348 94,264 3.5 -29.3
Russian 44,626 24,845 3.9 -44.3
Total 1,125,865 1,489,042 12.7 32.3

Change in enrollments over time: in declining order of total enrollment for 2006

Change between Surveys 1995-98 1998-2002 2002-06
Spanish 8.3% 13.7% 10.3%
French -3.1% 1.5% 2.2%
German -7.5% 2.3% 3.5%
American Sign Language 165.3% 432.2% 29.7%
Italian 12.6% 29.6% 22.6%
Japanese -3.5% 21.1% 27.5%
Mandarin 7.5% 20.0% 51.0%
Russian -3.8% 0.5% 3.9%
Arabic 23.9% 92.3% 126.5%
Hebrew * 20.6% 44.0% 4.2%
Portuguese 6.0% 21.1% 22.4%
Korean 34.0% 16.3% 37.1%
Total 5.0% 16.6% 12.7%

* Modern and Biblical Hebrew combined

Below: Russian may not have the top number of enrollments, but it certainly has some motivated students, given the high numbers of them in advanced courses.

Enrollments in Introductory-Level Courses vs. Enrollments in Advanced-Level Courses

Intro Enr. Advanced Enr. Total Enrollment Ratio of Intro Enr. to Advanced Enr.
Russian 17,527 6,569 24,096 2.67:1
Portuguese 7,387 2,422 9,809 3.05:1
German 72,434 18,758 91,192 3.86:1
French 160,736 40,927 201,663 3.93:1
Korean 5,511 1,397 6,908 3.94:1
Greek, Ancient 13,250 3,176 16,426 4.17:1
Mandarin 41,193 9,262 50,455 4.45:1
Spanish 669,432 142,602 812,034 4.69:1
Japanese 55,161 10,585 65,746 5.21:1
Latin 26,787 4,383 31,170 6.11:1
Hebrew, Modern 7,665 1,250 8,915 6.13:1
Arabic 20,571 2,463 23,034 8.35:1
Italian 69,757 7,593 77,350 9.19:1
Hebrew, Biblical 7,854 705 8,559 11.14:1
American Sign Language 72,694 5,249 77,943 13.85:1
Other languages 27,836 3,478 31,314 8.00:1
Total 1,275,795 260,819 1,536,614 4.89:1

One thing I find particularly troubling is that the number of graduate students studying Mandarin has fallen. (Please click on the link in the previous sentence, since the relevant table is too wide to fit on this page.) The much-ballyhooed but also much-deserved increase in students studying Mandarin has all been at the undergraduate level. Given that the grad enrollment as a percentage of total enrollment for Mandarin is about the same as that for French (2.63 percent and 2.73 percent, respectively) it might appear that Mandarin has simply reached a “normal” ratio in this regard. But native speakers of English generally need much more time to master Mandarin than to master French. Simply put, four years, say, of post-secondary study of French provides students with a much greater level of fluency than four years of post-secondary study of Mandarin.

Also, there is a great deal more work that needs to be done in terms of translations from Mandarin. I do not at all mean to belittle the work being done in French — or in any other language. In fact it pains me that the MLA’s list of languages being studied included neither Old French nor Provençal, both of which I have studied and love dearly. I just mean that Mandarin has historically been underrepresented in U.S. universities given the number of speakers it has and its body of texts that have not yet been translated into English. U.S. universities need to be producing many more qualified grad students who can handle this specialized work. And right now, unfortunately, that’s not happening.

Post-Secondary Enrollments in Select Sino-Tibetan Languages and Classical Japanese: 2002, 2006

Two-Year Colleges Undergrad Programs Grad Programs Total
Language 2002 2006 2002 2006 2002 2006 2002 2006
Cantonese 47 96 128 82 5 0 180 178
Literary Sinitic 0 0 56 101 18 12 74 113
Japanese, Classical 0 0 8 23 11 7 19 30
Taiwanese 0 0 34 21 13 0 47 21
Tibetan 0 0 43 56 35 64 78 120
Tibetan, Classical 0 0 8 11 20 33 28 44

The figures in the table above are probably too low. Literary Sinitic (“classical Chinese”) is probably especially underrepresented because often too little differentiation is given between it and modern standard Mandarin. But at least the numbers can provide minimum figures.

Enrollments in Introductory Classes: 2-Year Schools vs. 4-Year Schools

Language Ratio of Intro Enr. in 2-Year Schools to Intro Enr. in 4-Year Schools
Greek, Ancient 0.00:1
Hebrew, Biblical 0.01:1
Latin 0.04:1
Hebrew, Modern 0.07:1
Portuguese 0.11:1
Russian 0.15:1
German 0.20:1
Italian 0.23:1
French 0.24:1
Arabic 0.26:1
Mandarin 0.26:1
Korean 0.28:1
Japanese 0.39:1
Spanish 0.49:1
American Sign Language 1.47:1
Other languages 0.24:1

American Sign Language sticks out here as the only language that more people take at the introductory level at junior colleges than at universities. Roughly twice as many people take introductory Spanish in universities as at junior colleges. Introductory Japanese classes are surprisingly popular at the two-year college level, well above the level for introductory Mandarin, though Mandarin is not unpopular itself.

Course Enrollments in Some Asian and Pacific Languages

Language 1998 2002 2006 % Change 2002–06
Hindi/Urdu 1314 2009 2683 33.55
Vietnamese 899 2236 2485 11.14
Tagalog/Filipino 794 1142 1569 37.39
Sanskrit 363 487 607 24.64
Hmong 15 283 402 42.05
Thai 272 330 307 -6.97
Indonesian 223 225 301 33.78
Samoan 207 201 280 39.30
Cantonese 39 180 178 -1.11
Tibetan 80 78 120 53.85
Literary Sinitic 32 74 113 52.70
Pashto 14 103 635.71
Punjabi 32 99 103 4.04
Total 4270 7358 9251 25.73

Although more U.S. postsecondary students are studying languages other than English than ever before, that’s unfortunately not because U.S. students as a whole have finally embraced the study of languages. Rather, there are simply more students now. Relatively speaking, enrollments in foreign languages are much lower than they were 30 years ago.

graph showing that present US postsecondary enrollment in foreign languages is relatively much lower than it was in in the 1960s

If “ancient” foreign languages such as Latin and Ancient Greek were included in the graph, the imbalance between the 1960s and the present in foreign-language enrollments would be even greater.

source: Enrollments in Languages Other Than English in United States Institutions of Higher Education, Fall 2006 (PDF), MLA, November 13, 2007

Results of US AP exams: first year for Mandarin, Japanese

2007 was the first year that the U.S. College Board offered an Advanced Placement (AP) exam for “Chinese Language and Culture.” It was also the first year students could take an AP exam in “Japanese Language and Culture.”

Data for the results as a whole have just been released. The figures for Mandarin are remarkably lopsided.

A total of 81.1 percent of those taking the exam for Mandarin and Chinese culture achieved the top score of 5, a much higher percentage than with any other test. The subject with the second highest percentage of 5’s was Japanese (43.4 percent), followed by Electricity and Magnetism (33.8 percent), Mechanics (26.1 percent), and German (24.4 percent). In most other subjects a score of 5 was achieved by only about 10 percent to 20 percent of test takers.

Let’s look at those who achieved only the lowest score (1). Here, too, Mandarin stands out, with by far the lowest percentage of test takers with this score (1.5 percent). Next are Drawing, 2-D Design, and 3-D Design (5.8 percent); English Language and Composition (10.9 percent); and Calculus BC (13.5 percent). Most subjects have “1” rates in the 20s.

Comparison of Scores Across Language Exams
chart comparing how well test takers did in various language exams, with scores for 'Chinese' being far higher than all others; languages listed: Mandarin, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Latin, and Spanish

Comparison of Lowest Scores Across Language Exams
comparing percentages of test takers receiving the low score of '1', with all languages other than Mandarin falling above 13% -- Mandarin at a mere 1.5%

So, does this indicate Mandarin isn’t damn hard for students after all or that the perfect pedagogy for this subject has been reached? Of course not.

Only 11.1 percent of the 3,260 people taking the Mandarin exam did not indicate on their test that they “regularly speak or hear the foreign language of the examination at home, or that they have lived for one month or more in a country where the language is spoken.”

Percent of test takers who “regularly speak or hear the foreign language of the examination at home” or “have lived for one month or more in a country where the language is spoken”
chart showing that far more students taking the Mandarin AP exam are already speakers of that langauge

Thus, it’s no surprise to see that 89.4 percent of those taking the Mandarin exam identified themselves as “Asian, Asian American, or Pacific Islander.” Of all those across the entire United States who took the Mandarin exam last year, only 363 people did not identify themselves as falling within that category. This certainly does not match the hype about Mandarin as the foreign language being studied.

While I congratulate those who scored well on the exam (Chinese characters can certainly be a pain to learn regardless of your background), the test — and perhaps the curriculum, too — evidently needs considerable revision, which isn’t too surprising considering this was its first appearance. I’m a bit saddened, though, to see that more students from a wider variety of backgrounds aren’t taking up the challenge of Mandarin.

There doesn’t appear to be much of a gender imbalance, however, in AP Mandarin classes.

Percentages of students in AP language exams, by sex
chart showing the percentages of students in various AP language exams, by sex

Within a week or two I’ll be posting some interesting figures about U.S. post-secondary enrollments in Mandarin and other languages.

source: The 4th Annual AP Report to the Nation, College Board, February 13, 2008

Compensation for kanji-input basic technology subject of lawsuit

A Japanese man who says he invented the technology behind the context-based conversion of a sentence written solely in kana into one in both kanji and kana, as well as another related technology, filed suit against Toshiba on December 7, seeking some US$2.3 million in compensation from his former employer.

Shinya Amano, a professor at Shonan Institute of Technology, said in a written complaint that although the firm received patents for the technologies in conjunction with him and three others and paid him tens of thousands of yen annually in remuneration, he actually developed the technologies alone.

Amano is claiming 10 percent of an estimated ¥2.6 billion in profit Toshiba made in 1996 and 1997 — much higher than the roughly ¥230,000 he was actually awarded for the work over the two-year span.

His claim is believed valid, taking into account the statute of limitations and the terms of the patents.

“This is not about the sum of the money — I filed the suit for my honor,” Amano said in a press conference after bringing the case to the Tokyo District Court.

“Japan is a technology-oriented country, but engineers are treated too lightly here,” he said.

Toshiba said through its public relations office that it believes it paid Amano fair compensation in line with company policy. The company declined to comment on the lawsuit before receiving the complaint in writing.

Amano claims that he invented the technology that converts a sentence composed of kana alone into a sentence composed of both kanji and kana by assessing its context, and another technology needed to prioritize kanji previously used in such conversions.

Using theories of artificial intelligence, the two technologies developed in 1977 and 1978 are still used today in most Japanese word-processing software, he said.

source: Word-processor inventor sues Toshiba over redress, Kyodo News, via Japan Times, December 9, 2007

China shifting its position on traditional Chinese characters?

Many Web sites in China are running the story that Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Taiwanese scholars have reached an agreement on unification of Chinese characters — and that this involves using many traditional characters.

If any “agreement” has indeed been reached, it probably won’t mean much, if anything at all — certainly not to the government of China. But the number of sites running this story and the prominence of some of the members of the PRC delegation make me wonder if this might just be a little more than much ado about nothing.

Zh?ng x?n w?ng 11 yuè 5 rì diàn jù h?iwài méit? p?lù, sh?yú Hànzì wénhuà qu?n de Zh?ngguó, Rìb?n, Hánguó S?nguó hé Zh?ngguó Táiw?n dìq? de xuézh? juédìng zhìzuò t?ngy? zìxíng (wénzì de xíngzhuàng) de 5000-6000 ge chángyòng Hànzì bi?ozh?n zì.

Hánguó “Cháoxi?n rìbào” k?nz?i wénzì jí shìpín bàodào ch?ng, dì-b? jiè “guójì Hànzì yánt?ohuì” shàngzh?u zài Zh?ngguó B?ij?ng chuánméi dàxué lóngzhòng zhàok?i, huìyì yóu Zh?ngguó Jiàoyùbù y?yán wénzì yìngyòng yánji?su? hé guóji? Hàny? guójì tu?gu?ng l?ngd?o xi?oz? bàng?ngshì zh?bàn. Huìyì jìhuà ji?ng Yuènán, M?láix?yà, X?nji?p?, Xi?ng G?ng, Àomén x?sh?u wéi x?n huìyuán, kuòdà Hànzì sh?yòng guóji? huò dìq? de c?nyù fànwéi. Huìyì juédìng zhìzuò gè guóji? dìq? Hànzì “b?jiào yánji? cídi?n”, zhújiàn t?ngy? gèguó sh?yòng de zìxíng. Huìyì hái jiù míngnián zài sh?u ?r j?xíng dì ji? jiè yánt?ohuì, gèguó f?nbié shèzhì 3 míng liánluòyuán (yánji? fùzérén) dáchéng le xiéyì.

Jù bàodào, “guójì Hànzì yánt?ohuì” yú 1991 nián f?q?. Qí mùdìzàiyú, yùfáng D?ngyà guóji? y?nwèi sh?yòng Zh?ngguó Táiw?n de fánt?zì, Zh?ngguó de ji?nt?zì, Rìb?n de lüèzì d?ng bùtóng xíngzhuàng de Hànzì ch?nsh?ng hùnluàn, quèdìng chángyòng Hànzì de zìshù, tu?jìn zìxíng bi?ozh?nhuà (t?ngy?).

B?njiè huìyì y? 2003 nián zài Rìb?n D?ngj?ng j?xíng de dì-q? jiè yánt?ohuì xi?nggé 4 nián. Jù bàodào, b?n cì huìyì tíyì, 5000 du? ge chángyòng bi?ozh?n zì ji?ng y? “fánt?zì” wéizh? jìnxíng t?ngy?, rúgu? gèbié Hànzì y?u ji?nt?zì, jiù jìxù b?oliú.

Ch?xí c?cì huìyì de Zh?ngf?ng dàibi?o y?u Wáng Ti?k?n (Jiàoyùbù y?yán wénzì xìnx? gu?nl? s? fù s?zh?ng, Zh?ngguó Wénzì Xuéhuì fùhuìzh?ng ji?n mìsh?zh?ng), Huáng Déku?n (?nhu? Dàxué xiàozh?ng, Zh?ngguó Wénzì Xuéhuì huìzh?ng), S? Péichéng (B?ij?ng Dàxué jiàoshòu), L? Dàsuì (B?ij?ng Dàxué jiàoshòu); Hánguó f?ng dàibi?o y?u L? Dàchún (Guójì Hànzì Zhènx?ng Xiéhuì huìzh?ng), L? Y?ngb?i (Sh?u’?r Dàxué míngyù jiàoshòu), Ji?ng Xìnhàng (Chéngj?ngu?n Dàxué míngyù jiàoshòu), Chén Tàixià (Rénj? Dàxué sh?uxí jiàoshòu), J?n Yànzh?ng (G?olí Dàxué jiàoshòu); Rìb?n f?ng dàibi?o y?u Zu?téng Gòngyuè (Zhùb? Dàxué jiàoshòu), Q?ngyuán Chúnpíng (q?nshàn bù huìzh?ng); Zh?ngguó Táiw?n dìq? [sic] dàibi?o y?u X? Xuérén (“Zh?ngguó Wénzì Xiéhuì” l?shìzh?ng).

source: Zh?ngguo, Rìb?n, Hánguó y? Zh?ngguó Táiw?n dìq? xuéjiè jiù “t?ngy? Hànzì” dáchéng xiéyì (?????????????“????”????), November 5, 2007

variant Chinese characters and Unicode

A submission to the Unicode Consortium’s Ideographic [sic] Variation Database for the “Combined registration of the Adobe-Japan1 collection and of sequences in that collection” is available for review through November 25. This submission, PRI 108, is a revision of PRI 98.

This set “enumerates 23,058 glyphs” and contains 14,664 tetragraphs (Chinese characters / kanji). About three quarters of Unicode pertains to Chinese characters.

Two sets of charts are available: the complete one (4.4 MB PDF), which shows all the submitted sequences, and the partial one (776 KB PDF), which shows “only the characters for which multiple sequences are submitted.”

Below is a more or less random sample of some of the tetragraphs.

Initially I was going to combine this announcement with a rant against Unicode’s continued misuse of the term “ideographic.” But I’ve decided to save that for a separate post.

sample image of some of the kanji variants in the proposal

Indian influence on Chinese popular literature: a bibliography

Sino-Platonic Papers has rereleased for free another book-length back issue: A Partial Bibliography for the Study of Indian Influence on Chinese Popular Literature (10.8 MB PDF), by Victor H. Mair.

Here are the contents:

  • Journals and Works Referred to in Abbreviated Fashion
  • Catalogs of Tun-huang Manuscripts and Bibliographies of Studies on Them
  • Chinese Studies, Texts, Translations, and Dictionaries
  • Japanese and Korean Studies, Texts, Translations, and Dictionaries; Southeast Asian Sinitic Dictionaries
  • South and Southeast Asian and Buddhicized Central Asian Texts, Translations, and Dictionaries (Includes Indic, Tibetan, Uighur, Indonesian, etc.)
  • Near and Middle Eastern Texts, Translations, and Dictionaries
  • Studies and Texts in European Languages (Other than Translations from the Above Groups)
  • Films, Performances, Lectures, Unpublished Manuscripts, and Personal Communications
  • Articles and Books Not Seen

The introduction is also online in quick-loading HTML format.

This was first published in March 1987 as issue no. 3 of Sino-Platonic Papers.

names of love hotels in macho kanji and other scripts

Donald Ritchie’s recent review of Japanese Love Hotels: A Cultural History, by Sarah Chaplin, has the following interesting section:

The contemporary love hotel is now much more kawaii (cute) than kinky.

Among the the reasons offered for this is that there has been something of a power shift in love-hotel choice. It used to be the male half that decided. Back then the places had hopeful macho monikers — Empire, Rex, King. Then the female half began to choose. Love hotels started calling themselves “fashion hotels” or “boutique hotels,” and began to have lavish lobbies with theme-shops, colors like beige and lavender, and decor like Laura Ashley.

This change can be documented in the Meguro Emperor (still in Meguro), which began in 1973 as a he-man fort before it slowly metamorphosed into a romantic Disneyland castle. The interior has been several times revised to segue from male- to female-friendly. Even the name has changed. It is now Gallery Hotel.

In most love hotels “macho” kanji has been replaced by “feminine” hiragana, trendy katakana or, more often, romaji, that romanized script that carries no male/female associations at all.

source: It’s ladies first now in Japanese love hotels, Japan Times, August 26, 2007