Archives for August 2011

In Which I Opine On Various Matters Of Great Importance

A collection of news stories and my take on them from the past month or so.

1. Bribes are growing quickly in Russia. Their average sizes, that is. It was reported by the MVD that they increased by 5x from a year earlier to $10,000. The usual Russophobe suspects wasted no time declaring this to be further evidence of the uncontrolled, unstoppable Blob-like growth of corruption in Russia. But let’s use common sense for a minute. If average bribe amounts are increasing by such huge percentages, surely it means one or both of two things: (1) Investigations are moving higher up the chain of command, where quantities are bigger; (2) Paying bribes is becoming riskier, so – as with illegal drugs – the margins providers demand also increase. Either are good developments, no?

2. Russian readers, e.g. at Inosmi, were shocked to discover Russia renting out agricultural land to Asian farmers to grow food. Talk of “colonial takeovers”, “resource appendages”, etc. What many studiously ignore is that colonialism in the true sense consists of settlers with guns taking over the lands of aborigines with spears. This is patently not the case with Russia. To the contrary, it is a relatively easy and excellent way to earn foreign currency and create development in rural places – and a practice that will become increasingly prevalent in the decades ahead as agricultural yields in the south plummet due to the advance of climate change.

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More On Learning Chinese

So today I finished my intensive Chinese class, which I celebrated by drinking lots of 啤酒 (and silently toasting the heroic oppositionistas struggling against UK bourgeois state tyranny). Here is my third set of observations.

1. Most other languages now look really easy, especially Spanish which I’ve long planned to learn but never really found myself sufficiently motivated to do so. The time it takes to memorize one Hanzi is probably sufficient to memorize 5-10 Spanish words.

2. Speaking of Hanzi, this test estimates that I know about 700-800 of them. This puts me about half-way to becoming a barely literate Chinese peasant. Or, in foreign language acquisition terms, either a high Low Intermediate or a very low High Intermediate.

3. There’s an extremely useful I found called Remembering the Hanzi. As I already figured out for myself, the most effective way to do so is to memorize stories specific to Hanzi (the more graphic, funny and/or obscene the better). This book provides stories and templates for stories for the 1500 most frequent Hanzi. Now that formal classes have ended I’ll probably be systematically working through it.

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