October 06, 2018

Some thoughts on the reliability of 說文解字

Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=35309
Disclaimer: This article will be very technical and very probably very uninteresting if you are not
familiar with Chinese character etymology. My apologies in advance. 


I got into a debate with someone online under one of my videos recently. The video was about the 辡 character phonetic series. In the beginning of the video I argued that 辡 was a character formed by two 辛 characters. According to my sources, 辡  means 'litigation' and one of the older meanings of 辛 was 'criminal' and that 辡 'litigation' is a semantic compound character with one 辛 'criminal' and another 辛 'criminal' pointing to its meaning (two criminals litigating in front of a court).

Since 辛  doesn't mean 'criminal' today, someone correctly asked in the comments, what my sources were.

I wrote:

(I am) Inferring (that 辛 had the meaning of criminal) from the following:

《說文》《辡部》辡:辠人相與訟也。从二辛。凡辡之屬皆从辡。

And the existence and ancient interpretation of characters like 宰 辠 and 辜

《說文》《宀部》宰:辠人在屋下執事者。从宀从辛。辛,辠也。
《說文》《辛部》辠:犯法也。从辛从自,言辠人蹙鼻苦辛之憂。秦以辠似皇字,改為罪。
《說文》《辛部》辜:辠也。从辛古聲。

To which the person argued, that the 說文解字 dictionary is not a reliable source and that it regularly misinterprets characters, among other things also because it uses an extremely limited data set and that not a single entry in the entire work makes use of 甲骨文 data (due to it being unavailable).

A debate ensued which went on ad infinitum and produced enough material to be published as a small article:

August 27, 2018

Sun c' Umenie Vojny | Sun Zi Art of War (slovenský preklad)

Sun c’ - Umenie vojny


Preklad: Mgr. Bc. Vladimír Škultéty


Osnovanie plánov

Bambusová verzia knihy Umenie vojny zo zbierky
cisára Čchien Lunga
Sun c’ povedal: Vojna, je výsostne dôležitou záležitosťou pre štát, cestou prežitia a záhuby a jej zákonitosti musia byť podrobne preskúmané. Pri robení plánov a chápaní jej podstaty, je v najzákladnejšej rovine dôležité brať ohľad nasledovné: 1. Morálny princíp Tao 2. Nebesá 3. Zem 4. Generálov 5. Systém zákonov Fa.

Pokiaľ ide o morálny princíp Tao, vďaka nemu budú mať vojaci rovnaké ciele ako ich vyšší dôstojníci, budú ochotní za nich zomierať, ochotní pre nich žiť a nebudú sa báť žiadneho nebezpečenstva. Pokiaľ ide o nebesá, tie ovládajú Jin a Jang, chlad a teplo a štyri ročné obdobia. Pokiaľ ide o zem, pri nej rolišujeme to, čo je ďaleké a blízke, nebezpečné a bezpečné, široké a úzke, v čom je život a v čom nie. Pokiaľ ide o generálov, tí môžu byť múdri, dôveryhodní, ľudskí, smelí a prísni. Pokiaľ ide o systém zákonov Fa, ten sa týka organizácie armády, správneho nastavenia systému hodností a kontroly výdavkov.

Nemal by byť generál, ktorý o vyššie spomenutých zákonitostiach nikdy nepočul. Ten, ktorý ich pozná dobre, vyhrá a ten, ktorý ich nepozná, prehrá.

Pri robení plánov a našej snahe pochopiť podstatu vojny, by sme si mali klásť nasledujúce základné otázky: Ktorý vladár koná najviac v súlade s morálnym princípom Tao? Ktorý generál má viac schopností? Komu žičia nebesá viac? Kto dokáže lepšie vynucovať zákony? Koho armáda je silnejšia? Koho vojaci sú lepšie vycvičení? Koho systém odmien a trestov je prozreteľnejší? Ja osobne na základe odpovedí na tieto otázky viem povedať, kto bude víťazom a kto porazeným. Generál, ktorý bude počuť moje rady a použije ich, musí vyhrať. Takého generála si treba nechať. Generál, ktorý bude počuť moje rady, ale nepoužije ich, určite prehrá. Takého generála sa treba zbaviť.

July 05, 2018

Sorma by Sezen Aksu | Cover by Peter Jendrichovsky and Vladimir Skultety

Hello everyone,

I just wanted to share a little piece me and my friend recorded in his house in the north of Slovakia. It is our cover of the beautiful Sorma song by Sezen Aksu. It was impossible to play it as nicely as the original, but we tried :)

My friend used to be one of the best classical guitarists in Slovakia and it was an honor to have him as my teacher when I was young as well as playing this song with him now. I've been playing the guitar since I was 14, almost completely stopped at one point but I am slowly starting to practice again and hope to completely get back into it again someday.  

Have a nice day,

Vladimir

May 01, 2018

My student's key takeaways


Hello everyone,

even though I try hard in my videos and in the articles I write to explain how I am learning languages, I don’t always succeed:) The reason is I’m too deep in the whole process and have been learning languages for so long that everything seems natural and when someone asks me to tell that person what I do, I start explaining stuff from the middle, talk about things I find important and do not necessarily transfer the key premises or elements my learning is based on.

That is why I love when there is someone else who can summarize what I do :) There is a nice Chinese idiom for this

旁觀者清

“Those, observing from the side see things more clearly (than those involved in whatever they are doing).”

March 29, 2018

Interview for gaudeo.sk


We all know what the word polyglot means. Do you consider yourself to be a polyglot? When did you find out that you have a talent for languages? What is your motivation when it comes to language learning? Is language learning something that fulfills you?

A polyglot is a person who speaks several languages, so technically a polyglot is already someone who speaks two. In reality, since there are a lot of opinions on how many languages and at what level a person has to speak in order to be considered a polyglot, it’s more complicated. I think that the lower limit is six languages at a C1 level.

For me personally, the word polyglot was always also associated with praise and to this day I have a problem to talk about myself like that. 

When it comes to when I realized I had a talent for languages, again, it’s a complicated question, because to talk like this about yourself is not easy, but I think I discovered it very early. Probably when I was about 6 or 7 years old. My motivation is most probably interest in foreign languages and foreign cultures in general.

How long does it take you to learn a new language? Lets say an easier one. How do you choose which language you are going to learn next?

February 04, 2018

Never give up

Two years ago, when I was probably at the lowest point in my life due to my back injury a friend of mine, Alex Voloza, asked me to answer a few questions for his project about motivation. He was probably hoping to get a lot of positive answers to questions like how to be and stay motivated and just overall long-term dedication, but I was very sad at that time and couldn't give him answers like that even if I tried. 


I was in a situation where I wasn't able to walk for 4 months, immobilized in bed, it was winter, I was home alone most of the time and all I did was think about everything I had learned about my life to that point. 

To give you some background on the injury, I was suffering from chronic back pain for about 10 years. I was gradually giving up on more and more of my activities that were bringing me so much joy, to one day when I completely tore my intervertebral ligaments and couldn't walk without excruciating pain. Doctors were sending me to invasive surgeries resulting in a very decreased quality of life and an almost certain inability to do sports later. Furthermore, the outcome of these surgeries was questionable and I wanted to take my time to make the decision. 

February 03, 2018

Understanding Chinese Characters

Learn to recognize 70% of Chinese characters you encounter in a few weeks.

Maybe you want to learn Chinese characters but don’t know where to begin. Or maybe you’ve started studying Chinese characters but found them difficult to remember. Or maybe you would like to have deeper knowledge about Chinese characters that is historically accurate but not overly academic.

Understanding Chinese Characters helps you understand Chinese characters for what they really are, combining the best modern Chinese character academic research with the best learner experience.

This book will give you a firm foundation in how Chinese characters are put together so that you have a deep understanding not only of the characters in the book but also countless other characters that you are likely to come across. You won’t be memorizing endless mnemonics to master each character—you’ll understand how each character sounds and what it means, based on its structure and history.

Books about Chinese characters are either very difficult to read, because they've been written by researchers and are not intended for the everyday learner, or are very reader-friendly and appealing like Chineasy, but are also very imprecise, incomplete, impractical and just frustrating.

Understanding Chinese Characters is easy to read and yet as accurate as the latest academic research allows.

November 11, 2017

Word sculpting

What is word sculpting?

Word sculpting is a way of learning words from top to bottom, slowly removing layers of difficulty on all levels. I started calling it like this for the lack of a better name, but it is pretty accurate actually. 

Imagine you're somewhere at a beginner - intermediate level in Mandarin Chinese and you'd like to learn the word 'situation'.


You ask your friend and they say the word situation in Mandarin is: qíng kuàng

You could either stress your brain and try to remember everything about the word perfectly on your first try - every sound, every aspiration, intonation, tones, word usage etc., or you could break the process down into steps:

Relax and just remember whatever you can in the first step. Lets say, you will only remember that there is an 'i' in the first word and an 'a' in the second:

Step 1: .i.. ..a..

The next time you have to say the word maybe you'll have an easy time recalling the 'i' and the 'a' and in addition you will think: Oh yeah, the first syllable was starting with an aspirated q sound:

Step 2: qi.. ..a..

November 04, 2017

List of UN country names in Chinese and their meanings

Recently I made a video which was a part of my Experimental Chinese videocourse teaching Mandarin Chinese without characters and without tones to complete beginners and someone asked a question about the story behind the word 美国 (the Chinese name for USA) in the comments. A discussion followed and since I love etymology, I thought it would be a good idea to write an article about the names of all countries in Chinese. (All UN member countries to be precise)

There are 4 types of country names in Chinese:
  1. Names that have a meaning in Chinese (中國,日本,冰島)
  2. Phonetic transcripts with no meaning in Chinese (斯洛伐克,捷克)
  3. Names that are a combination of 1. and 2. ( 安地卡及巴布達, 白俄羅斯)
  4. Abbreviations 
    1. Abbreviations of longer 2. type country names(印尼, 阿根廷)
    2. Abbreviations of longer 3. type country names(美國,德國,法國,澳洲 etc.)
1. Names that have a meaning in Chinese

中国  China (Zhōngguó)

中 means 'center' and 国 means 'country'. The most common way of translating this name is Middle kingdom, it is however not entirely correct. The term 中国 originally referred to kingdoms (plural) on the central Chinese plain in Ancient China that were collectively related to each other through the same Ancient Chinese culture and related languages. Equally, they were labeled Central kingdoms as opposed to the barbarian states and nations around them. Only later the name shifted from Central kingdoms to Middle kingdom.

October 17, 2017

Experimental Chinese - Lesson 1 | No characters, no tones


Translation

Hi, hello,
I am a Law school student,
My name is Wang Yinghong,
but you can call me A Hong.

Vocabulary

Hai = hi
ni hao = hello
wo = me, I
shi = to be
falü xi = department of law, law school
de = apostrophe "s", of the kind
jiao = to call
jiu keyi le = it's good like that

One of the reasons why Mandarin Chinese is so difficult to learn is that there are too many things students have to deal with as beginners. We have the structure of the language which is very difficult in itself, but then in addition to that, there is the very challenging pronunciation, especially tones, Chinese characters, a ton of words students have to learn, unpredictable syntax, cultural aspects of the language etc. All of this makes the language very challenging. It's almost as if a person who's never been to the gym before would be asked to benchpress 150 Kg on their first try.