Obama at Hiroshima: American English listening practice

My judo friends cry at Hiroshima, and they are a hell of a lot tougher than I am.

I know some really, really tough young people.  Guys and girls, they all are, or recently have been, nationally-ranked judo players.  These are kids who have, for most of their lives (typically they started at 5 years of age), spent two hours straight, three times a week, getting pounded into a thin tatami.  They spend their weekends going to tournaments where they walk onto a mat with a stranger who will try to slam them into that mat again–hard.  These are the bravest, toughest, strongest people I know–and also probably the kindest.  At some point in their studies, we try to send them to Japan to study for the summer.  While they’re there, they go to visit Hiroshima.  When they visit Hiroshima, they do the same thing that I did in Nagasaki–they cry.

The “hold” of a ship is a big empty space belowdecks where you can transport things in bulk–see the compartment labelled 10 in this illustration. Picture source: https://forshipbuilding.com/ship-types/cargo-ship/

When I was a child, I didn’t have books of my own–so, I read my father’s books.  He has always been into first-person accounts of survival in conditions of crisis, and we had piles of relevant books around the house, so that’s what I grew up reading about.  Consequently, long before puberty I knew about the two philosophies of how to manage the limited resources of your once-a-month Red Cross package in a German prisoner of war camp; the mechanics of soup distribution in Soviet gulags; and what it feels like to watch a buddy die of dehydration in the hold of a Japanese prisoner transport ship.  My point: I know what happened in that war, and I know who did what to whom.  I also understand that dropping the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki prevented the almost inconceivable bloodbath that an amphibious invasion of Japan–and the nationwide bombing that would have preceded it–would have brought to the world.  And still: I cried at Nagasaki.  My judo friends cry at Hiroshima, and they are a hell of a lot tougher than I am.  Life is complicated, people are complicated, the world is complicated.  Be as zen as you like: anything of interest is still going to be complicated.  Simplistic bullshit is just that: simplistic bullshit.

Of the four language skills–speaking, listening, reading, and writing–none is harder than listening.  Want to practice your American English listening skills?  You could do worse than this beautiful, complex, and subtitled speech by former President Barack Obama.  The vocabulary is quite advanced; in recompense, his pronunciation is clear and beautiful.  I checked the subtitles up to 8:20, and they’re quite good.  It’s pathetically depressing to contrast the infantile rants of Trump with the nuanced thought and articulate self-expression of President Obama; it’s even more depressing to think that your own country could have experienced an Obama, and then turned around and elected a Trump, a king of simplistic bullshit…  French notes after the video.

French notes

La cale d’un navire est l’espace où sont entreposées les marchandises, le produit de la pêche ou autres entités transportées (lest). Elle se situe sous le pont et est recouverte par un panneau de cale s’appuyant sur des hiloires.  (Wikipédia)

entreposer: to store, to stock; to put in a customs-bonded warehouse (I don’t know what that means, but Word Reference says it’s so)

le lest: ballast.  The is pronounced, so don’t confuse this with leste…

3 thoughts on “Obama at Hiroshima: American English listening practice”

  1. I doubt that all Obama voters were motivated by long and profound assessment and cogitation, though. There are hundreds of reasons (whims?) for choosing a particular candidate. My partner despaired so much after hearing his family’s rationalizations of their recent political affiliations that he’s leaning towards approving disenfranchisement of all barring an intellectual elite. (I think he’s joking. I hope so.) In essence, I’m not particularly surprised by a turnaround in the electorate from a rational moderate towards a hot-headed, erm… /searches for something not perjorative and inflammatory… divisive candidate.

    Liked by 1 person

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