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Campus Now

March

A WASEDA Miscellany

YANG Da

This theme: The Last Science of Man

YANG Da
Professor, Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences

Q. Please tell me how you came to Japan.

A. I have a Japanese grandmother and came to Japan with my family when I was 13. I grew up in Japan since then and after graduating from Waseda University and then working for Seijo University, I have been specializing in the research of Chinese grammar and teaching methods at School of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Waseda University since 2000.

Q. What are you tackling under the specialized themes of Chinese grammar and teaching methods? What is your current theme of study?

A. Conventional teaching methods of Chinese have been mainly a kind of craftsmanship owned by individual teachers.I am dealing with the development of new teaching methods, with the thinking that such know-how can be made into something universal. From the Edo Era to the present day, the speed of spatial transport between Tokyo and Osaka has experienced a drastic evolution. This is because technology is involved. On the other hand, the speed of learning Chinese hasn't really changed since the Edo Era. I am concentrating on making mastering of the language more efficient, using computers for repeated practices and listening, and to do what can only be done in the classroom such as the correction of pronunciation. An iPod application to learn Chinese is under development and a free trial version will be available in February. It is called, "Mr. Yang's Chinese". In the study of foreign languages, "understanding" and "being able to use" are different. I am targeting "being able to use" the language.
Right now I am studying the "theory of information domain". For one thing, humans identify what is in nature through invisible information processing. In addition, depending on the quality of information and the counterparts of conversation, man uses different sentence patterns. This is called the "theory of information domain", which is applicable to every language.

Q. Please tell me what you want to achieve in the future?

A. I want to create a robot using the "theory of information domain". We are experiencing the so-called revolution of robots now, with robots about to play a part in human life. However, human life has certain rules and manners, and languages change through the establishment of human relationships. When meeting someone for the first time acceptably polite terms are used, and when you get more familiar with that person, more frank terms are used. Unless we can equip robots with such intelligence, the difference between humans and robots will never be overcome.
Language can be considered signs of thoughts and is referred to as "The Last Science of Man". Ultimately, I think it comes down to what mankind is, but this is something we do not have to make clear. We do not need to know something like that. This is the reason it is called "The Last Science of Man". I want to communicate the profound joy of language.

Q. Is there anything that you enjoy doing in your private time?

A. I have always loved eating delicious food. If I compare it to movie theaters, I prefer small theaters where minor but quality movies are running rather than large ones where major films are presented. The same goes for restaurants. I go to good out of the way restaurants and enjoy not just tasty Chinese food but also cuisines from many different countries.

Q. Please tell me about your impression of the students.

A. They are very serious and absorb things well. I do not want to let them waste four years. It would be ideal if they can develop the power to think on their own and apply it to life. I hope that they act on the basis of global standards and develop themselves into people who are chosen in a global context.