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Tokyo Governor Sued for Insulting French

kirei_na_me

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TOKYO - A group of teachers and translators in Japan on Wednesday sued Tokyo's outspoken nationalist governor for allegedly calling French a "failed international language," a news report said.

Twenty-one people filed the lawsuit at the Tokyo District Court, demanding that Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara pay a total of 10.5 million yen ($94,600) compensation for insulting the French language in remarks last October, national broadcaster NHK said.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20050713/ap_on_fe_st/japan_insulting_french

:box:
 

Glenn

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I think filing suit for that is a bit extreme. I also think that Ishihara is a bit of an idiot. It's a bit shocking that he's "one of Japan's most popular politicians."

When I first read the title I thought it was in regards to French people, and I was thinking that maybe Ishihara should hang out with Chirac and they could insult each other (not that Chirac insulted the Japanese, but it wouldn't be much of a stretch from what I've read).
 

bossel

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Well, if he really said that:
"French is a failed international language because it cannot be used to count numbers."
he has more or less insulted himself, by showing his lack of education.
 

kirei_na_me

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That's precisely what I was thinking, bossel. :eek:
 

Maciamo

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bossel said:
Well, if he really said that:
"French is a failed international language because it cannot be used to count numbers."
he has more or less insulted himself, by showing his lack of education.

Yes, I agree. However, has he just said that "French is a failed international language" (which he did apparently not say), he would be right, as French lacks the simplicity and flexibility of English, which I believe is why it has remained an 'elite language'.

Yahoo News said:
In French, some numbers can be unwieldy to say, such as 90, which translates as "four-twenty-ten."

I see, so Ishihara is making of French because there is no single word for 90. I can only laugh as Belgian and Swiss French use "nonante" for 90 (or septante for 70, instead of the French soixante-dix). In fact, it used to be the same in France until the French Revolution, and I heard it was changed because it sounded too "aristocratic". :? Or because French people are so "cartesian" that they needed those calculations in their daily life to keep their brain exercised. :D

Yahoo News said:
Japan's counting system can also be tricky. Adopted from Chinese, the Japanese numeric system ignores the western system of classifying large numbers every three digits. Though one thousand is the same, 30,000 would translate as "three-10,000," 4 million would be "400-10,000" and 4 billion would be "40-100 million."

Japanese counting system tricky ? Are you kidding me ? This journalist visibly doesn't speak Japanese. There is no counting system more simplistic as Japanese in the world, I believe. Whereas French, in a similar way as English, as unique words for 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 20, 30, 40, 50, etc., in Japanese "eleven" is said "ten-one", twelve is "ten-two", twenty is "two-ten", thirty is "three-ten", etc. This may sound ridiculously simple and unesthetic to speakers of English or Romance languages (among others).

I also disagree that the division in "10,000" instead of "1,000" (used not only in Japanese and Chinese, but in most Asian languages, including Hindi and other derivatives of Sanskrit) makes it more tricky. I have never had problems with counting in Japanese, but most Japanese people, even those speaking fluently English, still have to convert from to know what "hyakuman" (lit. 100 x 10,000) becomes in English. For me, "hyakuman" translates as "million" as if it were one word, and "oku" translates as "100 million", and "juuoku" as one billion. I think it is easier to calculate from the Western to the Eastern system that the other way round (or many Japanese can't count, I don't know). In fact, Indian people even use "lak" (10,000) in Indian English, even if they speak English as well as native speakers. I think it is because once your brain is wired with the "10,000" system it's hard to come back to the "1,000" system. When talking to Japanese people in English, I automatically say prices or numbers involving "x man" (x 10,000) in Japanese. It's easier for them to understand and I don't have to convert in my head too.
 

Shibuyaexpat

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Blinky (to use a term I think that Maciamo coined?) is truly amazing. How many French speaking countries are there? Well, according tothis, 27 countries (excluding France) have French as the national language. How many countries outside of Japan speak Japanese? Yup, you guess it. ZERO. Yup, French sure is a failed language. :p
 

Glenn

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There's a large Japanese-speaking community in Brazil, as well as certain US states (Hawaii, Washington, New York, Massachussetts). Of course, that doesn't necessarily qualify it as an international language, but I just thought I'd bring it up for the sake of balance. :)
 

Shibuyaexpat

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Glenn said:
There's a large Japanese-speaking community in Brazil, as well as certain US states (Hawaii, Washington, New York, Massachussetts). Of course, that doesn't necessarily qualify it as an international language, but I just thought I'd bring it up for the sake of balance. :)
Please don't take this in the wrong way, but having a community of speakers and having a language recognized as the official national language are very, entirely different things. Your example would then also apply for Chinese, which would probably have a much larger contingency, no? In the end, I'm just trying to point out how every time Blinky speaks, utter garbage and ignorance just spews forth. It's as if he's going for the "Most Ignorant Politician" title.
 

Glenn

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I know, and that's why I said that I was bringing it up for the sake of balance. Then again, what's the difference? Could it be possible that there are communities of speakers of a certain language larger than languages recognized as the national language in some countries?

All in all, I agree with you about Blinky's ignorance, and in no way am I trying to defend it.
 

Mike Cash

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Maciamo said:
Japanese counting system tricky ? Are you kidding me ? This journalist visibly doesn't speak Japanese. There is no counting system more simplistic as Japanese in the world, I believe.

While the counting system might be simplistic, the counters have been known to give foreigners fits.
 

Maciamo

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mikecash said:
While the counting system might be simplistic, the counters have been known to give foreigners fits.

Do you think that the counters in English (for all the uncoutable words) are easier to learn for the Japanese ? At least they are limited in Japanese, and when you don't know one you can usually use -tsu (hitotsu, futatsu...) or -ko (ikko, niko...). But in English it goes well beyond shapes and type of life beings. We say a carton or bottle of milk, a bottle, can, glass or pint of beer, a mug or cup of tea, a jug, flask, bottle or pitcher of water or other liquid... That was just for drinks. What about a herd of cows, a flock/clutch of birds, a school/shoal of fish, a swarm of bees, a pack of wolves... We say a sheet of paper (ヒ?ェ窶凪?。), a slice/loaf of bread (ヒ?ェ窶凪?。 vs ヒ?ェナ津?, a game of tennis, a piece of music, a grain of rice, a bunch or banana, a fit of anger, a bowl of noodles, a lump/cube of sugar, a pinch of salt, etc., etc. ad nauseam.

Japanese has maybe a dozen counters, and although some are irregular, the difficulty to remember them is no match for the thousands of counters existing in English, some of which are unknown of many native speakers (it could make a good theme for a TV quiz => what animals do we count in clowders ? ....................... cats ! In what do we count lions ? ........................................ in pride ! Yes, a pride of lions, but a clowder of cats. What is this language !? Not had enough ? What counter is exclusively used for grouses and partridges ? ......................... "covey" !).
 

Mycernius

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I'm probably in a minority here, but I found the article quite funny. They should sue the entire British nation, because we have been insulting the French and its language for many years.
 

den4

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Blinky at it again :D

At any rate, Blinky comes from a long line of politicians that keep making outrageous statements....he's just one of the few that manages to remain in office despite them. :D
 

den4

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Blinky and Chirac would have a nice exchange of words, I'm sure :D
 

Mike Cash

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Maciamo said:
Do you think that the counters in English (for all the uncoutable words) are easier to learn for the Japanese ?

Short answer: No

Long answer: That is entirely outside the scope of my comment.
 

Maciamo

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Little update : Mainichi Shimbun : French teachers hand Ishihara language set after controversial comments

Mainichi said:
A group of French teachers from Meiji University visited the Tokyo Metropolitan Government offices on Tuesday to hand Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara a French language learning set following controversial comments he made about the language.

The presentation of the learning set, which contained a textbook, dictionary and calculator, followed Ishihara's comments that French failed as an international language because it was a language that couldn't count.
...
"If you study hard, you can count numbers. If it's difficult, we will teach you personally," a member of the group said. Members said the presentation of the gift was not designed as a protest.

I am a bit disappointed that they didn't tell Ishihara that the words for 70 and 90 are different in Belgium and Switerland than France, and that Japanese language has no unique words for 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 20, 30, 40, etc. like French. I really want this guy to feel deeply ashamed and repent for his stupidity.
 

Glenn

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What gets me about the whole situation is why he made the comment in the first place, and exactly what relevance it could possibly have to anything important.
 

Horizon

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Shibuyaexpat said:
Blinky (to use a term I think that Maciamo coined?) is truly amazing. How many French speaking countries are there? Well, according tothis, 27 countries (excluding France) have French as the national language. How many countries outside of Japan speak Japanese? Yup, you guess it. ZERO. Yup, French sure is a failed language. :p

If those other 26 countries are anything like Canada, then not too many people there know French in those places either, except, perhaps, for the bit they can get off the back of cereal boxes! :p

As for the original topic here, if the guy wants to diss the French language, let him damn it! It's not like everytime someone insults anything to do with the French a small village in Africa gets blown up nor do angels lose their wings in mid-flight type of thing. Or, at least, I don't think so...But, anyway, basically, it's not hurting anyone and every single person is allowed to have their own opinion (as frightening as that just may be). It's really nothing that should be taken so seriously, let alone be charged for, especially THAT much.
 

deadhippo

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Maciamo said:
Japanese counting system tricky ? Are you kidding me ?

well, i see your point about 11, 12 etc. but for large numbers i think english is much easier that japanese
by large numbers i mean anything in and over the billions and by easier i mean easier to read not to say

the reason i think this is i have met many japanese who pause then start to count up, sen, man, jyuman etc. and then when they figure out how long it is they say the number
but for me, in english, i just start reading the numbers and i can tell at a glance whether i am going to have to use trillion, billion or million

not that im trying to say that japanese is difficult regarding numbers but to be honest french is pretty easy too
 

Maciamo

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deadhippo said:
well, i see your point about 11, 12 etc. but for large numbers i think english is much easier that japanese
by large numbers i mean anything in and over the billions and by easier i mean easier to read not to say

the reason i think this is i have met many japanese who pause then start to count up, sen, man, jyuman etc. and then when they figure out how long it is they say the number
but for me, in english, i just start reading the numbers and i can tell at a glance whether i am going to have to use trillion, billion or million

I don't think so. I seems like you often talk English with Japanese people and they have to translate 1,000-based numbers into the 10,000 based numbers. The Japanese I know don't have problem counting big numbers, except if they are not good with numbers in general (e.g. if they can't divide 64 by 8 in 1 sec. and start counting on their hands). Even I have no problem using the man, oku, cho system. One just needs to get used to it, and when speaking English to Japanese people whose English isn't perfect, I even find myself to use "man" (10,000) or oku (100,000,000) instead of saying the numbers in English (so that they don't have to make the converstion and understand immediately).

Don't forget that you cannot judge the difficulty of a language based on your own ability, but on how difficult it is for native speakers. For numbers, don't forget that some people may not be good at maths in the first place (NB : I don't know if the japanese are bad at maths in average by international standards, by I rarely found people doing mental calculations as fast as me, while there were many among my European acquanitances - as limited as this portion of Europe might be).
 

deadhippo

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im not quite sure what your point is
or what you dont think
or whether you get my point or not

but youre in japan you can test this,
tell your japanese acquaintances you are going to show them a number and ask them to read it to you as quickly as possible
then show them a 12 digit number (you can include commas to make it easier)

to tell you the truth i know the result because i have done this test several hundred times
and this is not a question of maths
there are no calculations to be made
this is simply about reading numbers

regarding talking to japanese people with numbers, i dont think about it too much, it is simple to convert
 

Mike Cash

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The thing that throws them off, dear deadhippo, is the existence of the 窶毒 unit.

Try writing a 12 digit number with the commas every 4 places instead of every three and then see how easy it is to read it in Japanese.

123,456,789,012
versus
1234,5678,9012

1234窶ーツュツ 窶售窶啅窶啖窶啗窶毒督 窶唸窶唹窶啀窶啣

See?
 

lexico

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Glenn said:
What gets me about the whole situation is why he made the comment in the first place
Here is a wikinews article with a bit more detail about the original context in which he made the statement(s); it looks like this was not his first offense.
wikinews: Governor of Tokyo is sued for insulting French language ref. 3 links
ツ「ニ稚ニ停?ーニ停?愴湛ナ津ェ窶堙債坂?伉催崘津ェナスツクナ?iツ」窶敖ュナ陳セ窶堙?静芝陳エ窶徭窶冦ナス窶凪?堙ー窶凖ア窶亙 ref. 8 links
ツ出窶弋:ツ『ニ脱ニ達ニ鱈ニ男ニ停?ヲツーニ湛ツ』ツ(ニ遅ツーニ耽窶敕?) ツ静芝陳エツ慎窶伉セヒ弸ツ(窶ーEツ)ツ【2005窶扼7ナ椎ス17窶愿コツ】

and exactly what relevance it could possibly have to anything important.
As is evident from the various articles, both French and Japanese individuals who had been teaching French or doing research on the French language as a profession were denigrated which would have had a negative impact on their job. Furthermore if any of the researchers had suffered a cutback on their research funding or if the language school owner experienced a decrease in student enrollment due to Mr. Ishihara's speech, they have every right to sue and receive compensation for 1) defamation 2) loss of income for however long the insult affected their profession. I am surprised they only sued him for 1) but not 2). Perhaps they will later on when the losses become well documented, and significant enough to go through the hassel/expenses of a full-fledged civil lawsuit. In that sense, this may be only the beginning of a number of lawsuits to come as a result of his 'slip of tongue.'
 
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