mitcho Michael 芳貴 Erlewine

Linguist. Fifth year PhD student at MIT.

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Posts Tagged ‘Taipei’

The Most Beautiful Word

Sunday, June 1st, 2008

Purchased yesterday in Taipei at NET, the wannabe GAP of Taiwan.

Taipei find: a dictionary of Chinese-Japanese false cognates

Saturday, March 22nd, 2008

The fact that Japanese and Chinese both share the use of Chinese characters. The connection goes beyond simply sharing characters, though: many two- and four-character expressions in Japanese come from older Chinese (these are known as Sino-Japanese items in the [[linguistics|biz]]). This is how I can often “cheat” and use my knowledge of Japanese to guess what some Chinese words are saying, even if I have no idea how to pronounce them.

There are, however, many Chinese-Japanese false cognates—words which look the same and often do indeed have a shared etymology, but have quite different contemporary meanings.1 As such, I’ve often lamented to friends, especially learners of Japanese or Chinese, the lack of a dictionary highlighting these false cognates and how their usage differs between the Japanese and Chinese. A couple weekends ago I was browsing dictionaries in the Page One bookstore in [[Taipei 101]] and I found exactly that: 誤用度100%日語漢子.

Each spread shows the three sets of cognates, with an explanation of the Japanese use, in Chinese, on the left, and vice versa on the right. It’s a godsend.

By the way, here’s my favorite Chinese-Japanese false cognate:

勉強 (べんきょう)

one’s study (N), to study (V) ~する

勉強 (miǎnqiǎng)

  • V
    1. force sb. to do sth. | ¹Bié ∼ tā. Don’t force him to do it.
    2. do with difficulty
  • [[static verb|S.V.]]
    1. unconvincing; strained | Zhège jìhuà ¹hěn ∼. This plan may not work.
  • Adv
    1. reluctantly; grudgingly | Tā ∼ xiàole yīxià. He forced a smile.
    2. barely enough | Tā ∼ néng shuō jǐ jù Fǎyǔ. She can speak only a little French.

  1. In French, they’re “faux amis,” but I think that sounds more like a spy. 

Lantern Festival

Sunday, February 24th, 2008

The [[Lantern Festival]] (元宵节) is annually on the 15th day of the lunar year, this year February 21, 2008. Yesterday my Fo Guang friend Aaron and I, after buying textbooks for our upcoming [[classical Chinese]] course, met up with Michelle and Jerry in Taipei to check out the lanterns at [[Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall]]. Jerry took us first, though, to a casual but very authentic Japanese restaurant, famous for their eel. (Here’s Michelle and Aaron, below:)

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New phone! Sony Ericsson J110i

Saturday, December 22nd, 2007

My [[Motorola PEBL]] that I bought a year or two ago (used on eBay, of course!) has recently started to die, so I walked around the Guanghua (光華) Electronics District1 near [[National Taipei University of Technology]] and bought a new one. I asked around for the cheapest, simplest phones, and settled with this one: an unlocked Sony Ericsson J110i. It’s ridiculously simple, but that’s what you get for NT$1700 (≈$50). No pictures, and no [[Bluetooth]], but it does display Chinese and I can type in [[Zhùyīn fúhào|bopomofo (ㄅㄆㄇㄈ)]]. The phone is about the same size as the PEBL, but much lighter (and thus feels cheaper).

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The one single annoyance thus far is that it doesn’t have a little hook for the strap that was given to me. :(


  1. It’s [[Akihabara]], but in Taipei! Take Exit 1, the elementary school exit, at the Zhongxiao Xinsheng (忠孝新生) MRT stop, go straight, turn right after the school, and walk down a block or so. The district opens up on the right. The big shops line the main road, but the crazy little specialized bargain stands/stores are within a block or two north and south of there.

    One of my favorite places around there is Youth, the local Apple Authorized Reseller and Repair place (they helped me out earlier this summer…) and also have a cute café with free wifi on the second floor. In fact, I’m there right now! 

Family in Taiwan

Saturday, December 22nd, 2007

As all my visitors leave, I should take some time to document all the adventures of the past month or so: here’s a quick post on my family’s visit to Taiwan last month.

Day 1: Shilin night market

I met my mother, father, and sister at the Cosmos Hotel where we were staying Friday night. I took them out to the [[Shilin night market]], a Taiwanese tradition. We bought t-shirts, ate lots of things on sticks, saw a man pushing a cart full of guava, and people picking up their stands and running from the cops (technically, the “I’m going to set up a table on the street and sell stuff” part of the night markets are illegal).

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Day 2: Exploring Taipei

We went on a Japanese bus tour of Taipei, led by this older Taiwanese guy with great Japanese, though sometimes just a bit off (Bailey would have called him “precious”). We visited:

[[Longshan Temple]] (龍山寺);

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[[Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall]] National Taiwan Democracy Hall;

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a market with various traditional foods;

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a Taiwanese tea demo and explanation, which was really interesting;

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the changing of the guard at the National Martyr’s Shrine (kind of like [[Yasukuni Shrine]]), where the guards aren’t allowed to move or blink (I think) for about 40 minutes at a time, and then a guy comes up and covers their face and says some spell so they can move;

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and of course the [[National Palace Museum]], where we weren’t allowed to photograph anything. After the tour we went to the top of [[Taipei 101]] and got to enjoy a great night view of the city.

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Taipei 101 features an open view of its [[tuned mass damper]], which they’ve named “Damper Baby.” It’s neat, actually, how they took something that is normally only interesting to engineers and tried to make it cute and sexy. It even has a bio, complete with blood type (O, in case you were wondering).

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Day 3: Rainy day in Yilan

On Sunday we went to National Center for Traditional Arts (國立傳統藝術中心) near Luodong. We saw some crazy show with all different sorts of animals which I’m sure made more sense if you understood what they were saying and an exhibit on paper craft of all different sorts, including origami. The main attraction there is the traditional arts street, a red brick street with all sorts of stores selling traditional food and crafts. The leather shop had a pig mask.

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We then had dinner in central Luodong: some delicious hot pot while sitting on a glass floor above koi fish.

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We got some deserts and took them back to the hotel they were staying at. Naomi was excited by the 苺大福 (traditionally, mochi with strawberry and red bean paste inside) from 85°C.

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Day 4: Nanao and Jiufen

On Monday I took the morning off from school and showed them around Nanao a little bit. The weather kept getting worse as typhoon Mitag came rolling through. My family still got to see where I live, one of the schools I work at, and have a nice lunch before heading out.

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On the way back out to Taipei, my family (without me) stopped in [[Jiǒufèn|Jiufen (九份)]], a touristy town atop a mountain on the northeast coast of the island. The town, originally populated due to a gold rush, has some beautiful mountain alleys and tea houses. The city is now popular with Japanese tourists, as some parts of the city were used as models in [[Spirited Away]]. My family went to one tea house and enjoyed the tea and atmosphere.

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My family went back to Japan Tuesday (Day 5), with my parents leaving later back to the US. It was really nice to be with all of them, even for such a short time.

Weekend update: 師大 café, 南方澳, and 淡水

Monday, November 19th, 2007

Last Friday night there was a Thanksgiving dinner at AIT. Seeing as it’s a faux-embassy, we expected faux-turkey, but were instead greeted with a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner, albeit without any stuffing. Afterwards K80, Dale, Michelle and I, along with Ellen from the Foundation, went out to a bar/café near 師大. I ordered a “Mexican iced coffee,” having no idea what I was getting, and got a coffee with whipped cream and a raw egg on top. I wonder if they really do that in Mexico… somehow I seriously doubt it.

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It tasted alright… mostly like a sweet coffee drink, though K80 and Dale thought they could taste the egg. (I tried to stir the egg in.) My guess is that if it came with the raw egg stirred in the drink rather than sitting on top, I would have had no idea and would have really enjoyed it.

My next adventure was this past Saturday, when Michelle and I went out to 南方澳 (nánfāng’ào).1 We took Michelle’s scooter from Luodong, taking the better part of an hour to get there. Nanfangao is a port city, right next to the port of Suao. There’s a famous temple there and the weekend streets had many people walking around with incense.

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We also checked out a tourist spot, 豆腐岬 (dòu.fujiǎ), Tofu Cape. I asked some random tourist why it was called that and she said it was because the rocks cut off into square-ish pieces there, which made sense enough. However, my co-teacher Jennifer later told me that that was wrong and it was called that because some tofu-eating fish that can be caught in that area.

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The tofu, by the way, doesn’t taste very good. I also saw that other people take jumping photos as well.

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We then drove around, checked out the beach (and a temple nearby), ate some delicious seafood noodles, and finally went to see a lion on the hill.

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Finally, yesterday Jennifer took me with her son to Taipei to shop at CostCo. While I’ve never been a fan of CostCo, Wal-Mart, or any of those huge stores, this Taiwanese CostCo was both frightening and awesome. There’s something great and very comfortable about someplace where you can get gallon jugs of ketchup but also green tea, six packs of Pocky, and huge packs of udon noodles; with どら焼き right next to the pumpkin pie. Afterwards Jennifer’s sister and her husband took us to 淡水 (dànshǔi), a touristy port city north of Taipei, where we ate some great food (fish/pork-ball soup and deep fried shrimp rolls).

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  1. Not to be confused with 南澳, where I live. 

ETA-ROC and Another Weekend in Taipei

Monday, November 12th, 2007

I spent this past weekend in Taiwan, attending the English Teaching Association of the Republic of China (ETA-ROC) conference. While the original intention was for a number of us ETA’s to go, it ended up that I went alone. I saw a number of talks Saturday… I went to a number of the more theoretical or quantitative talks and had a great time. I saw Krashen talk again, this time on the Comprehension Hypothesis. I have to say, he’s a fabulous speaker, and the case studies he looked at for this talk were fascinating: a Mexican immigrant who worked in a deli and learned Hebrew before he knew it, a culture where the rule is that you can’t marry someone who speaks the same language as you, etc. ^^ I also saw Andrew Cohen from Minnesota which made me miss Minnesota a bit.

The conference was held at the Chien Tan Youth Activity Center which has a beautiful pond and great view of the Grand Hotel, on the site of an old Shinto shrine.

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As I recently did a little editing for a journal on English teaching here, I was invited to the presenters’ dinner Saturday night. While it was slightly awkward at first, not being a presenter myself, I soon met two representatives from the Korea and Philippines TESOL organizations who were very kind to me and we had some great conversations and laughs. (They are the two on the right in the first photo. The second photo is with the Filipino representative, Bernard Spolsky and me.)

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I stayed overnight Saturday at the Eight Elephants hostel. Less than a year old, Eight Elephants is stylish, clean, and comfortable, though not the cheapest hostel in town. My experience there was great… I made a friend, a student of Special Education from Kaohsiung, and we went out to the nearby Shida night market. After randomly running into Kate who was in Taipei with her host family, she took me to a cafe she knew and we had a great time talking. While her English is great as well, we were talking completely in Chinese. After spending the day thinking about comprehensible input, it was great listening to her, understanding about 80%, and chiming in once in a while. As her interests were teaching and learning languages (including Japanese), we hit it off well with some great conversation. I look forward to seeing her again when I visit Kaohsiung in the near future.

On Sunday morning I saw another talk by Andrew Cohen, had lunch, and met up with a couple of the interns at the Fulbright Taiwan foundation who showed me around Taipei. We went to the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall and randomly ran into Dr. Wu Jing-jyi, the director of the Foundation, on the plaza. We then went to check out the Taipei Modern Art Museum (with the first .museum address I’ve ever actually seen), which was super cheap and very enjoyable, albeit being relatively small. (The last photo below is at the Taipei Story House, which is a historic building—we just took a picture outside without going in.)

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We had some Hong Kong-style 燒臘 preserved meat for dinner. I came back to Nanao Sunday night feeling fulfilled and blessed by the people I’d met all weekend, at the conference, at the hostel, and around the city.

A Saturday in 台北

Saturday, October 27th, 2007

This Saturday Jeannie and I went to Taipei to take the paper-based GRE.1 We took it at National Taipei University (台大)—the gorgeous weather complemented the beautiful campus. (The last photo in the bunch here is Jeannie, post GRE.)

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I walked around and successfully found 台灣e店 (Tâi-ûan ê Tiàm), the bookstore with everything Taiwanese. If you ever want to learn Taiwanese, learn any of the other languages of Taiwan, or learn about her native peoples, this is the place to go. Edith Aldridge recommended the store to me for finding some Atayal resources, and I picked up a Beginning Atayal book and a reference grammar both by Lillian Huang (黃美金). The dialect described is Mayrinax, a subdialect of C’ioli, rather than the Squliq that I’m studying, but it should still be a useful reference and starting point for studying the morphosyntax.

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Afterwards, we met up with some other girls (Katie, Kate, and Meg) and walked around Taipei 101. I also checked out the local Muji, but quickly realized that what was borderline expensive in Japan wasn’t getting any cheaper with my Taiwanese sense of money. :( In the same vein, there’s Katie saddened by the roughly-equal-to-the-U.S. Coldstone ice cream prices. As consolation, though, we got some gelato gently and carefully served as perfect pyramids on our cones, thanks to a perfectionist gelato stand owner.

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Here’s a poster I saw for the new Hero movie coming out in Taiwan in November! I’m there!

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We then checked out the (relatively) new Sogo department store, built across the street from an older Sogo.2 I’d heard about this huge new Sogo from a couple Taipei friends, but had yet to check it out. The whole building is in a gorgeous blue glass. While the inside is like any glamorous Sogo (Fendi bedsheets? Why, yes!) the top floors house an open courtyard area, complete with Japanese zen garden and tea house. We spent some time taking pictures, especially looking down at the intersection.

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We walked around and found a nice little faux-Western restaurant to eat at and got some desert. Afterwards we went to a bar decked out in Halloween decor, as many of the bars seemed to be.

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It was an altogether great (albeit long) day!


  1. While the GRE is normally computerized (and adaptive, at least for the time being), it is offered in paper form in select countries. Score! 

  2. Sogo is a major Japanese chain of upscale department stores—this reminds me of the “New Starbucks built in bathroom of existing Starbucks” Onion article I remember reading.