All posts by alecrem

Presenting Japoneschan

This week I made public a new service I called Japoneschan. It lets you convert Spanish words into Japanese characters (keeping the Spanish pronunciation), get translations through the Google Translate API, and many other things. I made this service in order to connect the Japanese and Spanish languages in both directions. For more information on how to use it, please read the Japanese or Spanish help pages.

Japoneschan
The design and mascot character for Japoneschan are the work of Koga Takahiro

For the service to be comfortable and fast to use I’m using AJAX, but when you access a URL where you get the conversion results from the beginning (as the ones shared on Twitter, etc.) I’m reducing the number of AJAX queries, caching on the server side, etc. Many things I had never had the chance to build from zero.

I had a blast developing Japoneschan. Have I managed to get you curious enough to look up the Japanese characters for your favorite Spanish phrase? I hope I did!

Announcement: WordCamp Fukuoka 2011

Next February 19th WordCamp Fukuoka 2011 will be held. It’s an event about blog software WordPress, but this year it will be more focused on content than on technology.

They called to speak about how to make a podcast, and how to distribute it without pain using WordPress.

WordCamp Fukuoka 2011

Here’s a translation of an abstract to my lecture and my profile:

How to distribute a podcast with WordPress: the Escucha español way
You can distribute a podcast with WordPress using no plugins! It’s very easy thanks to WordPress and Feedburner, and I’ll teach you to do it. Once you know the way it’s your call to produce interesting content. From the idea to production and distribution, we’ll be covering the whole process.

Ale Cremades’s profile
I’m a Spaniard living in Fukuoka and spend my time making the podcast Escucha español, giving lectures about international understanding and culture, and developing web applications. I have been making websites for 15 years, and using WordPress for 5 years. I enjoy making heavy metal with Game Boy, and everything I do in life is about communication.

There will be many other interesting lectures, and if you’re interested in publishing content I think this will be an interesting event. I hope to meet many new people there!

Teaching kids of all ages

It’s been a while since I last wrote about the international education classes I do at some schools (I wrote about it here and here). Today I’d like to share some experiences and pictures. But not many pictures, as Japan is very protective of their children’s privacy and likeness.

I have talked to elementary, junior high and high school students, and the image they have about Spain and how the world or the people are outside Japan is quite limited and stereotyped (as one could expect). Also with all due respect, most teachers don’t have deep international knowledge or much experience. But this is not a problem and it’s what the Kokusai Hiroba program I work with is all about and I’m very happy to help with this.


Tenpai Middle High School

I spend a fair share of my time with the kids trying to break their preconceptions, maybe attacking directly the most common ones or giving them uncommon information to increase their field of view. For instance I usually stress the alphabet not being a character code strictly associated to the English language, but being shared by a number of languages (English and Spanish among them). So the fact that a word is written in Latin characters doesn’t always mean it is an English word. This is obvious to most English or Spanish speakers, but note that most Latin characters a Japanese person sees in her life are English words and also they have a thing for mixing the character set and language concepts (Chinese heritage, I would guess).


Sharing a stage with Mexican Manuel Medina

I also like sharing some music and dancing or playing with them some game where they can move their bodies. I’m not that confident about traditional music, but my rendition of España cañí played with a Game Boy is usually well received. Students often research or think questions for me, too. Sometimes they even have presents!

The kids at Tenpai Junior High School gave me this Maneki Neko.

And at Onga High School I got to taste some varieties of jam made by the students, with fruits they made themselves. I love this job!

Talking about podcasting @ WordPress 3.0 Kaigi

Last Saturday I joined an event called WordPress 3.0 Kaigi. I met a bunch of people (there were more than 60) and it was very interesting. About the end, I explained in Japanese how to distribute a podcast easily using WordPress and no plugins. Below is my presentation.

And this is a summary of my talk:

  • An RSS feed with links to media files is already a podcast.
  • You can upload your podcast from inside WordPress itself, through FTP or even using an external service such as blip.tv.
  • When linking different versions of your multimedia file you’ll want to put this attribute to the one you’d like to download automatically: rel=”enclosure”.
  • Now you have a good enough podcast, but iTunes will want more than that.
  • Using Google’s Feedburner service you can optimize your podcast so that you can have it show up at the iTunes Store.
  • Just configure the SmartCast option inside Optimize.
  • Now you’re ready to submit your podcast to the iTunes Store and wait for them to review it.

I’m looking forward to your comments and questions!

Summary of my podcast talk at Apple Store

Alecrem Escucha español Apple Store

The event at Apple Store last Sunday was a success thanks to all the audience and to organizer Motty! Below is a summary of my talk with some useful links.

Alecrem Escucha español Apple Store

Characteristics of the podcast format

  • A podcast is an RSS feed which includes links to audio or video files attached to every post.
  • Unlike radio or TV, podcasts aren’t broadcast live.
  • Once downloaded, a podcast episode can be watched as many times as wanted.
  • Many audio podcasts take the radio format as a reference.
  • Video podcasts are shorter because of more costly editing and watchers needing to concentrate in watching.
  • If you subscribe using iTunes or other podcast-friendly software, new episodes will be automatically downloaded.

Making your podcast

  • Escucha español is edited using iMovie.
  • I recommend a short opening sequence, or people will get bored.
  • Also try to cut boring or slow parts so you get a good tempo.
  • Pay attention when using music and sound effects so you don’t have copyright problems.
  • Use resources with permissive licenses such as Creative Commons.
  • Compress the video. For Escucha español we use MPEG Streamclip.

Distributing your podcast

  • Just by uploading the file to your server and linking it from your blog you would have a podcast.
  • You can also use one of the services that will host your podcast. For Escucha español we use blip.tv
  • YouTube doesn’t work for podcasts as it won’t allow people to download videos, but it’s still worth it to upload your episode and embed it in the podcast’s blog.

Promotion

  • Treat well anyone spreading the word about your podcast on their blog, Twitter or Facebook.
  • Join events, or organize one every now and then.

My favorite podcasts

  • GFF Creators Blog: Interviews and speeches directly from Fukuoka’s biggest video game developers. Very recommended if you’re interested in this area!
  • Kafelog: Three guys talking in Spanish about three sections: internet and phones, video games, and movies. Much fun and explicit language!

Internacional culture class, with music

I’m very happy because last month I got two chances to teach children. Today I’m writing about the first one: an international culture class at a High School called Fukuoka Joshi Kōkō, where I had 30 middle school girls between 12 and 15 years old. The teacher who called me asked me to do something where the girls could move, so I thought about singing a well-known song with Spanish lyrics. Using a song they already know, I had them singing my lyrics in no time.

The teacher suggested I used the song Matsuken Samba. It’s a strange Japanese samba song and, while the samba genre has little to do with Spain, the original lyrics already included some Spanish words. The song itself is a product of international culture! So I got ready my Game Boy to play Matsuken Samba karaoke, and thought the following words:

¡Olé! ¡Olé! Quiero ir a España
¡Olé! ¡Olé! Quiero ir a España
Hola, amigo
Hola, señorita
Olvidemos todo y
Vamos a viajar
España, viva España
Quiero ir a España… ¡Olé!

I also thought some simple dance, and I talked a little about Spain and the world while the girls were practicing the lyrics. Although the girls were from all middle school years, the general mood was great and everyone was following. Also, when the class ended, some girls came to ask many questions. Thank you everyone!

The way I study Japanese

Since I get more translation and interpreting work lately, I wanted to share my method for studying Japanese.

When one’s been working mostly in Japanese for almost five years, one’s Japanese level is more than OK. And when I say I have JLPT level 1 most Japanese think my Japanese must be awesome, but JLPT’s top level isn’t actually that high. In contrast with other Japanese language qualifications, JLPT is only for people who don’t have Japanese as their mother tongue. This means most Japanese people haven’t ever heard of it, and also its aim is set to certifying one’s ability for communication in Japanese up to a regular employment level.

Some books I use as Japanese textbooks
Some books I use as Japanese textbooks

But knowledge areas appearing in any job are limited and without motivation and interest in many different things your Japanese learning could stall. That’s where I was saved by this studying method.

First, once we’re in this level we have to stop thinking as a foreign student and think about someone who understands Japanese. We probably need to use books made for Japanese people. The ones in the picture above explain useful bits and pieces of Japanese which you won’t find at exams.

Mondai na Nihongo by Yasuo Kitahara

For example, Yasuo Kitahara‘s Mondai na Nihongo show us many expressions and usages that aren’t perfectly correct but more or less widely used in nowadays Japan. I think it’s not good to ignore them, but it’s not good either to adopt them without even noticing. I prefer learning to understand and detect them, and not using them myself.

Otonago no Nazo by Shigesato Itoi

Shigesato Itoi‘s Otonago no Nazo is a compilation of corporate and business jargon, explained with some criticism and even sarcasm. If the previous book was a bit serious, this one is quite fun to read.

There are many books like these, but I think it’s also important to read fiction and manga. Lately I’m hooked on Bakuman, a comic which gives us the perspective of the people making manga.

And before finishing, I’d like to ask you to disregard possible imperfections in my redaction in Japanese and English. When I work with translations I always have a native specialist to check the texts, so quality is guaranteed. But I like writing this blog on my own as a way to practice and learn.