Sunday, January 25, 2009

Japanese Learn English via Presidential Speeches

A new run-away best seller in Japan, “The Speeches of Barack Obama,” was released only two months before the Inauguration of U.S. President Barack Obama. It is being used as an aid to learning English.

More than 400,000 copies have already been sold.

"Speeches by presidents and presidential candidates are excellent as listening tools to learn English, because their contents are good and their words are easy to catch," said Yuzo Yamamoto of Asahi Press, which published the popular text book.

"Obama's is especially so. His speeches are so moving, and he also uses words such as 'yes, we can,' 'change' and 'hope' that even Japanese people can memorize," he said. “Speeches by President George W. Bush do not have the same appeal."

The problems with Bush’s speeches are innumerable, but I have listed the top five:

1. He inserts extra syllables into some words, such as "misunderestimate," "hispanically" and "subliminable."

2. He often removes syllables, such as saying "unceptable" instead of "unacceptable."

3. He tends to pluralize words, when he should use the singular. For example “Internets.”

4. He gives some words a southern pronunciation.

5. He makes other blunders, such as saying "new-cue-ler" and “tearist” instead of “nuclear” and “terrorist.”

In addition to the President Obama speech book, a Barack Obama rubber mask has also become a top-selling item in Japan. The Tokyo-based Ogawa Rubber mask factory has announced that it sold more than 2,500 Barack Obama face masks in the month preceding the inauguration.

Now, anyone can stand around in the Village of Obama, Japan, wearing an Obama mask, and correctly pronounce the village’s favorite “senbei” food in English - "wasp crackers."

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