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Meet 佳奈 Kana and 艺 Yi: our new Japanese and Chinese Language Specialists

By Rob

5E0A9963佳奈 Kana – Japanese Language Specialist from Ōsaka, Japan

How has your experience of life at Memrise been so far?

It is like being a kid again! You need to jump outside the box and liberate your creativity. I’m a free kid in a playground again, playing with different ideas, and it feels great!

What got you into languages?

I was thrown into a local British school when my family moved to London when I was 5. Learning English was out of necessity rather than a personal choice, but I quickly started to enjoy it! My first experience of confusing English words took place at the dinner table. This was at the house of a boy I fancied back then. Now, I was a very greedy kid and finished my pasta dish very quickly. I went over to the boy’s mum and tried to ask if I could have some more. She asked me if I wanted “another helping”. I understood that to mean if I wanted to help the boy finish his dish. I was embarrassed by the idea of nicking food from a boy I fancied, and immediately replied with a strong NO, and so, I spent the rest of the evening feeling embarrassed and hungry.

What is the most interesting thing about your language?

Japanese is a very productive language; we are constantly making up new words and phrases, blending different words together to create new ones (like ‘chillaxing’ and ‘hangry’ in English), or abbreviating a whole sentence into a single word. My favourite at the moment is ハゲドー (hagedō), an abbreviation for しく意 (hageshiku i (meaning “I cannot agree with you more!”).

What would you recommend to someone learning Japanese?

I suggest learning one of the local Japanese dialects. My personal choice is the Ōsaka dialect – you’ll love how fun and melodic it sounds! To say “is not”, you would say “ちゃうちゃう” (chau chau), like the dog breed: Chow Chow.


Osaka person 1: あのチャウチャウチャウチャウちゃうか?/ Ano chau-chau chau-chau chau ka? / Isn’t that chow chow a chow chow?
Osaka person 2: ちゃうちゃう、あのチャウチャウチャウチャウちゃうで!/ Chau chau, ano chau-chau chau-chau chau-de! / No, it’s not; that chow chow is not a chow chow!


艺 Yi – Chinese Language Specialist from Henan, China

How has your experience of life at Memrise been so far?

Tasty! Seasoned dehydrated grasshoppers, gluten-free, high protein crickets (I’m not sure if that’s some kind of strategy called “a bug for a bug”), funky Chinese peanut butter, full on flavour Marmite biscuits, etc. Memrise knows what to eat to keep productivity high.


Do you like working at Memrise? Why? 

YES! Previously when asked if I liked my job, I used to ‘play tai chi’ (to ‘beat around the bush’ in Chinese) and say there’s part of it I like better than the other because, deep down inside, I knew the answer was no, but I didn’t want to admit the fact that I still needed it. But at Memrise, I’d say, without any hesitation, that I love my job because everyone here is so engaged at work and you just can’t help joining that fun adventure. And when we are really putting our efforts into making something great, it’s not just ourselves, but also our users who can tell the difference, and they genuinely appreciate our work. It made my day when a user wrote to me saying that what we are doing actually makes a difference to his life. The other day, we even got some fans visiting the office to take selfies with the Memrise team – so sweet!

What got you into languages?

My earliest memory of learning a foreign language was when I was still at kindergarten and my mum, who happens to be an English teacher, tried to teach me, or more accurately, nagged me with the English for “apple”, “pear”, “banana” etc. So I guess that’s how it all started.

Which languages do you speak?

Only Mandarin and English. I’m so jealous of those multilingual European people! I also speak the dialect of my hometown if that counts 😬 I also learnt a bit of Spanish at uni but I’ve forgotten a lot over time.


Which languages are you learning at the moment?

I’m still learning English by reading and using it more, and to be honest, I found one foreign language already has enough to learn if you want to master it at a higher level, but I’m also using Memrise to learn Swedish because I want to visit Northern Europe at some point.

What is the most interesting thing about your language?

That’s probably the confusion regarding the name of the language. Normally there is just one way to describe a language, for example, Korean, Russian, French etc. But when it comes to Chinese, there are many different spoken dialects, all with their own names, such as Mandarin, Cantonese, Minnan, etc. And when it comes to the written form, there are Simplified Chinese characters (e.g. 飞机 – aeroplane)  and Traditional Chinese characters (e.g. 飛機 – aeroplane). Once I had a client concerned about the fact that we were translating a document into Simplified Chinese because they wanted the document to be at business level, not just ‘simple Chinese’. I know it can be confusing!


Even in Chinese, people rarely agree on what to call it, for example, in China, Mandarin is often called 汉语 (hànyǔ; the ‘language of the Han people’) or 普通话 (pǔtōnghuà; ‘common speech’), and when you’re referring to the written language, you can just call it 中文 (zhōngwén; Chinese). As if that wasn’t confusing enough, in Taiwan and Hong Kong, people often refer to Mandarin as 國語 (guóyǔ; the ‘national language’), and in Singapore and Malaysia, people call it 華語 (huáyǔ; the ‘language of the Chinese people’).

If you had a language superpower, what would it be?

To be able to speak foreign languages more fluently in argument mode, so that I could avoid painful experiences like this one:

Pasted image at 2017_09_11 10_43 AM


Feeling inspired to learn a new language?

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