Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thanks, Google Translate!

I've certainly found a new reason to continue my dogged daily efforts with language learning.

Google Translate.

This morning, I was (as usual with my free time) studying some Korean. I wanted to look up the validity of a sentence I created, and... Well, here's what happened.

I opened Google Translate. Typed in 나는 색종이 한 장 쓸 게. I meant to say "I will use one sheet of colored paper." Considering that 쓰다 is a word that can mean both "to use" and "to write," I can sort of understand Google's translation attempt. (Click on image below.)

But then Google asks me if I meant to write 나는 색종이 한 장 쓸개. I figured, perhaps, that this might be a a more colloquial way of writing whatever it thought I was trying to say.

So followed the link. (Click on image below.)

Oh, yes. That's exactly what I was trying to say. Thanks, Google. Lay off the hallucinogens for a while, will ya? Wow. If there was ever a case for the old saying, "If you want something done, you've got to do it yourself," here it is.

I went with my original sentence.

And guess what? It was correct. A native speaker gave it her official seal of approval.

B.T.W... I just signed up for ($5.99/mo.) which is run by the same fantastic people who brought me countless Talk to Me in Korean lessons for free. There are people in South Korea employed to check grammar and spelling on sentences that I submit electronically. It's brilliant.

Goodbye! 안녕히 계세요!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Free Korean Class!

I am very proud to report that, after a month and a half break from my pursuit of polyglottenousness, I have jumped back in with both feet. Tonight, I attended a free Korean class at a local university. The classes were leveled "Beginner," "Elementary," and "Intermediate."

I missed the first two free classes and jumped in to the Elementary-level class, hoping for the best. Guess what?! Perfect level for me. Super challenging but not enough to lose me. I knew enough to follow, participate, comment, and ask intelligent questions.

This is how the board looked at the end of the lesson. I've been staring at it and marveling how far I've come that I understand everything written on it.

Even more noteworthy still, is the fact that the guy's handwriting was often a little... quick. Despite his scripty letters, I was able to read everything without a problem.

Soooooo pumped!

Friday, August 3, 2012

크리스티 어디 갔어? (Where did Kristy go?/Where is Kristy?))

나 여기있어! Here I am!

I haven't gone anywhere. In fact, I've been pretty steady with the Korean as well.

Also, Korean Friend 2.0 and I have been working out great. He's cooler than kimchi and smart as hell. One of the best things about studying with him is that he rarely thinks that we spend enough time on Korean. Just when I start to say, "Well, maybe we should start in on the English stuff..." he jumps in with, "No, let's spend some more time on Korean." Progress is slow, but steady.

He teaches me fun things to say. For example, today we covered, "That guy over there is handsome," as well as how to comment that someone has pit stains (a nice combination of the words "armpit" and "sweat"). You know, useful stuff.

And with his English, we are reading The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. He underlines the words that he has questions about and then we go over them and BUILD VOCABULARY! It's every teacher's dream come true, a student that wants to improve vocabulary. The words that he underlines are tough words. Many of them I've never seen. Many of them I have seen, but have no idea what they mean. Even more impressive, are the seemingly obscure words that he doesn't underline. Because he knows them. And when I quiz him on them just to make sure, he knows exactly what they mean. Smart man. 그 남자 진짜 센스있어. That man really has sense (smarts).

As for me, the majority of my study time has centered around watching Korean dramas. It's amazing, you know, how many words I am now able to pick up. Now whole phrases sometimes, too. The lessons that I've learned and written in my notebook come to life!

No pictures in this post. I'll try to make the next one much more colorful. Also, I will attempt to count the hours of TV I've watched. I wonder how many it's been by now...

안녕! Bye!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Goodbye to a dear 친구...

Tonight I said goodbye to my awesome, wonderful, sweet, modest, shy, quirky, funny (and often a bit flaky) Korean friend and language partner.

친구 = friend (pronounced "ching-goo")

After several tight hugs and promises to keep in touch frequently, we agreed that this was a "see you later" and not a "goodbye forever." We also realized (after both of us had gone home) that we never took a picture together after six months of friendship. I guess that's something we'll do when we meet again someday in Korea. A goal, if you will.

As may be readily apparent, (1) I'm a pretty big nerd and (2) I get sentimental (even if not teary) about goodbyes and see-you-laters. So I made my friend a parting gift to commemorate his six-month stay in Boston. This is the sort of wacky stuff that occurs when one develops a slight crush on her cute language partner.

It's okay. He knows.

So, he was all sorts of impressed and said he felt bad that he had not brought something for me--which I would never expect anyway, by the way. So, instead, he wrote a nice half-page of Korean for me to decipher, but it turned out to be way too hard to do without him anyway, so we translated it word-by-word together.

Here's what it said: I came to America and was delighted to meet Kristy. At first, I was nervous when we promised to meet. Even after I talked for only a few minutes with her, we were soon friendly. I was really delighted and thankful that she was my first conversation partner. I am going back to Korea soon, but I will not forget this memory. It will be a good memory. Therefore, I will keep in touch with her frequently from Korea. Please contact me if you come to Korea. We will then speak in Korean. Kristy Noona! (noona = older sister)

Noona (누나) has a nice ring to it.

Goodbyes are sad, but they clear ways for more new hellos. And they inspire really great hugs to happen. Goodnight. I guess it's time to start scheduling time with Korean friend 2.0.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Cute handwriting

I actually met a pretty cool new language partner (saying goodbye to my first one tomorrow, sniff). I'll give you some updates on how that goes moving forward. For now, I'll just say that it seems we will have a good time chatting. Let's call this guy Korean Friend Version 2.0.

Today, 2.0 and I met for the first time and sat around in the sun at Boston Common, chatting about how he wanted to improve his English, why the heck I was studying Korean, and a variety of other things. We made up some sentences to describe (in Korean) what was happening around us. Simple things like, "There are a lot of people here," and "Today the weather is nice," and even this whopper: "The sun is scorching, so we are sitting in the shade."

After being super impressed that I knew the Korean alphabet, as well as a pretty sizable collection of words, 2.0 told me that my Korean handwriting was not only just neat, but that it was actually really good (better than his), and looked just like a native Korean girl's "cute" handwriting.

I told 2.0 that I had no intention of writing in a "cute" way, that I only tried to write legibly, yet quickly. I guess it's bubbly. I don't know. I have a hard time knowing what Korean handwriting style is what. Anyway, here is my writing that inspired the comment (first image).

I would love to have another example of un-cute, manly Korean handwriting. Unfortunately, 2.0 refused to write anything into my notebook today, insisting that every time he said a word, I had to sound it out all by my lonesome. It was good practice and it kept me from being lazy. He says he's giving me a spelling quiz when me meet next time. Quiz?! Be still my nerdy teacher heart; I already like studying with this guy.

All I have to go by is the handwriting of my soon-to-be-departed Korean Friend First Edition (pictured right). You can see his handwriting after all of the Qs (questions) and all of mine directly below it (the answers). I've always really appreciated how small his penmanship is, since, with three letters piled atop each other sometimes, it's hard for me to squeeze some of them on just one line. He does it with the ease of someone who's been at it for years. Yeah, duh.

Mine looks sort of blocky and awkward next to his. Like a seven-foot-tall person in a room full of genetically short people.

Blocky + Awkward = Cute Korean Girl Handwriting. Apparently.

Okay, it's 1 am, so it's already tomorrow. I should go to bed. More to come on handwriting, goodbyes, and language-partner-finding mishaps.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Glass half empty

So, I know I went on and on last post about the amazingness of finding yourself a language partner, but I've found a downside.

As with many good things in life that come to an end, my Korean friend is going back to Korea. I guess I didn't stop to think about what would happen were I to become really good friends with this guy. But it happened, and, well... now I'm pretty sad about him leaving.

I actually lined up meeting another native Korean speaker for tomorrow night. Already, though, talking to this totally un-shy, chatty guy on the phone--who seemed very enthusiastic and nice, by the way--all I could think was, "Yeah, but you're not (insert name of my friend)."

One of the beautiful things about learning other languages is that process' ability to open our minds, our lives, and our hearts to new people and new cultures. I've been through this before. Goodbyes and see-you-again-somedays are part of the process. I just never like it when the time comes around to say them.

I will have to post soon about how my actual language studying has been going. Nothing earth-shattering, but that's what I'm here to talk about. (^_^)V

Friday, April 20, 2012

Find a language friend

I have to say, making friends with a native Korean speaker (via was one of the best things that could have happened for my language learning process. I highly recommend finding a native language partner/buddy in your linguistic endeavors (preferably one who is learning English, so that the teaching and learning process is not one-sided). In case you aren't convinced, here are a few perks:

Perk #1: Having a Cool New Friend
Really, who doesn't like having a new friend? Unless you're a total grumpy old grandpa, the idea should sound at least mildly appealing. Furthermore, it is a friendship that might otherwise be unlikely due to cultural differences and/or language barriers. I stand by the notion that friends are like Jell-O: There's always room for more.

Perk#2: Instant, Interactive Language Feedback
A real live person is ALWAYS way more interesting than a language textbook, as well as way more useful and interactive than the glossary at the back of that textbook. For instance, a textbook probably won't tell which words you should be careful NOT to say (ex. The number 18 is a very bad swear word in Korean). And that kind of stuff is good to know so that you don't wind up making major social faux pas and ostracizing yourself from a culture you're trying to embrace.

Plus, if your language partner is up to speed with the technological world, you can do fun things like texting back and forth in the target language(s). See for yourself...

To the left is literally the first all-Korean text I've ever written. Very simple language, but boy was I proud!

Korean Friend: Hi Kristy! Are we still on today? Do you have time?

Me: Hello! Yes, I have time. What do you want to eat?

Me: (wow that took a long time to type out, hahahaha)

Korean Friend: Hahahahahahaha really? Hahahahahahahaha

Korean Friend: Um (um)... I want to eat spaghetti. What do you want to eat, Kristy?

Me: Ooh! You asked the right girl! There is an Italian restaurant in Harvard Square...

I have to thank my new smart phone for being smart enough to handle various languages. There is actually an option to turn on other languages' keyboards on the iPhone that you should use if you speak or text in another language. Very useful and cool.

To the right, is a text I sent today using THREE languages at once. Yes, you read that right. Three. What that heck would I call it? Span-kor-glish? En-spa-rean?

Two great things are happening here. (1) My friend is acting as an instant human dictionary who--by the way--is complimentary and encouraging of my risk-taking. (2) He is teaching me fantastic new smiley faces that I can use in future texts to American friends, so that I can wow them and make myself seem even more awesome than I already am.

Kristy Friend #1: Dude, where is Kristy learning about all these amazing smiley faces? She must be in on some trendy information loop that we're not aware of.
Kristy Friend #2: Yeah, I know. That chick is seriously rad. Seriously.

I mean, that sort of stuff definitely makes people cooler, right? Like when people roll down their car windows and blast music at red lights. I don't know about you guys, but I always think, Who's that cool guy playing Metallica? He has GREAT taste in music.

Perk#3: Interest Level
You're only kidding yourself if you think that a real live person won't inspire you to study on the days that you're not meeting up. I mean, it's not foolproof, but it certainly helps. As I sadly found out yesterday evening, if I don't study, there is nothing for my friend to help me with. So, we just sat around sort of awkwardly staring at my notebook while I made promises to him that I would study specific things for next week's practice session.

It reminds me of playing trumpet in seventh grade. I stopped practicing at home at one point. When it came time to play the songs in school with the other trumpet players, I had to fake it and move the valves, pretending that I was playing along. Surprising part was, I started to get nothing out of it. Who knew? Not long after (and much to the dismay of the music teacher), I quit band.

Perk#4: Plane Ticket Justification
This is, perhaps, my very favorite reason of all to make friends from different countries! Now I have a friend I can visit when I finally make a trip to South Korea. I'd like to aim for next summer. At that point, my goal is to be conversational and impress his socks off when I open my mouth and actual Korean sentences come out. Goals = good.

In Conclusion
If you are studying a language, want to resume studying a language, or want to start studying a new language from scratch, go find a friend! Trust me on this one. You don't have to wait until you know how to say anything. The plus side of knowing nothing is that anything your new friend teaches you will be helpful and useful.

It's a decision you will thank me for later. You're welcome.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The death of my enthusiasm

Well, here it is, ladies and gentlemen... I have hit a wall.

My studying for Korean has been suffering lately because of what I call the dreaded "shoulds." Now, "the shoulds" are pretty scary. Consider what they did with my ability to create artwork. I set these impossible goals and expectations for myself based on past successes. I expect so much from myself artistically that I fear I won't be able to deliver. I should make great things. I should inspire and impress others. I should be drawing and painting in my spare time.

So I don't bother to create. Too much pressure.

And that seems to be what has happened this week with my Korean. I stopped advancing through the levels because I was feeling this drag... this pull on me to go back and review and make flashcards of all the words I've been learning. I should be going back and reviewing. I should be studying in my spare time. I didn't have a place for "the shoulds" before because I simply didn't have to motivate myself to study language. Right now, though. I'm tired. I'm tired, I'm ready to be on work vacation, and what used to be fun for me (studying Korean) has become a task that I should do, but am too tired to enjoy or understand now.

How can a tired person even think to try reading stuff that looks like this? 보스톤에 현존하는 가장 오래된 공공 건물로, 신세계에서 최초로 선출된 의회가 활동을 시작한 곳이다. 지금은 보스톤 소사이어티가 사용하고 있으며, 프리덤 트레일을 따라 둘러 볼 수 있는 많은 역사 유적지 중의 한 곳이다. Aaaack. Blargh. Makes my head hurt more than it already does.

Here is the problem that I think led me to the sudden halt in funness (지금 재미 없어요. = Now it's not fun.):

Basically, I haven't been retaining anything because I'm not in a class with a teacher or anything, so all the nouns and the verbs I've been learning are getting stored in my short-term memory for the duration of a lesson, and then getting carried away in the current before they make it to my long-term memory. I feel like I have zero recall. And, really, why would I? When do I use Korean? Next to never.

The only good news is that I wound up watching a YouTube video today and reading a random sentence (image at top of post). I heard the sentence read aloud and read the words. I actually didn't realize that I had fully understood the sentence as is (untranslated) until the video put the English translation below it a few seconds later: "I am twenty years old." I then thought to myself, "Why are they telling us what it means a second time? We already know." Then, I realized, that it was the first time the video was telling me what it meant. I had easily read and understood the sentence by hearing and reading it. Nice.

Okay, I'm going to bed. I hope I regain my language gusto. One more day at work and then I can sleep in for a week. Almost there.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Are you a bad speller or a good speller?

I think we've all known some bad spellers in our lives. Perhaps you are a bad speller yourself. In English, the spelling rules all willy-nilly as they are, I believe we have a certain amount of leeway that is acceptable as far as spelling slip-ups are concerned. It's not our fault! Truthfully, I admit it's a hard freaking language to master, even when it's your own. (By the way, let me know how good of a speller you are in the comments section below.)

These mistakes, in my opinion, can be chalked up greatly to the variation of letters and letter combinations that can stand in for one sound or to the letters themselves that can sometimes represent multiple sounds (just watch this I Love Lucy clip to see what I mean).

For a moment, I'd like to draw a parallel between sounds and colors. Once, I was in a linguistics class with a girl who did a report on a language (I remember it being related to Dutch) that did not have a word to distinguish between green and blue. Namely, they were considered variations of the same color. While this seems odd to us, it shouldn't be too hard to see that the names we give colors are far from black-and-white (pardon the pun). What we consider "red" has a very broad range. For each person, there must be a varying range of colors that would classify as "red."

All you have to do is go to any paint store and listen in on a conversation. You will quickly gather how up-for-interpretation color really is:

"I like that red over there."
"That one looks orange to me."
"Well, it's not red-red. It's more like an orange-red. But it's still red."
"Really? I see the red in it, but I still think it looks closer to being orange."

The same is true for sounds. Let me elaborate. Consider the English letter "s." In some cases, the letter has a soft sound, as it does at the beginning of the words "soft" and "sound." In other cases, the letter has a hard "z" sound, as it does at the end of the words "as" and "does." And, in many words, the letter "s" can take on two personas all together, as in the word "cases" and "personas" (first "s" has a soft sound, second "s" has a "z" sound). In any case, both sound variations are represented by the same letter. That leads to native English speakers occasionally arguing about how to pronounce or spell uncommon words. Again, I insist that it's not our fault that so many of us are awful spellers. It's our crazy language.

Well, the same stuff has come to haunt me with my Korean studies. In Korean there are letters that allow for certain acceptable variations in pronunciation that are different from the acceptable variations in English. This has been difficult to adjust to. Let me illustrate...

Hangul Spelling:
Romanized Spelling: m
Variations in Sound: In the middle of words, ㅁ sounds like "m," but at the beginning of words spoken at regular conversation speed, this ㅁ sounds more like a "b." The word "sorry" that is supposedly pronounced "mian-he" sounds a lot like "bian-he."

Another example...

Hangul Spelling:
Romanized Spelling: n
Variations in Sound: In the middle of words, ㄴ sounds like "n," but at the beginning of words, ㄴ sounds more like a "d." The word "yes" which is "ne" often sounds like "de."

This happens A LOT... it happens in Korean that the following sounds are variations of each other and are represented by the same character:

ㅁ = "m" or "b"
ㄴ = "n" or "d"
ㄱ = "k" or "g"
ㄷ = "t" or "d"
ㅂ = "p" or "b"
ㅈ = "j" or "ch"
ㄹ = "l" or "r"

The thing is... THEY don't hear it. Native Korean speakers, that is. When I protest and say that "mian-he" sounds like "bian-he," they don't hear what I hear. Therefore, I have had some low spelling self-esteem with my new foreign language. Despite the fact that the spelling system is faithfully true to the phonetics of the spoken language, I have a difficult time knowing which silly little characters to use after simply hearing a word. Sigh. Practice, I suppose will iron this out.

As a teacher, all I can do is tell your students to keep reading and learning from mistakes. And use spellcheck for goodness sake! Your welcome.*

How good of a speller are YOU?!
(*Bonus points if you noticed that "your welcome" should be "you're welcome.")

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Pronunciation... 참 잘했어요! (Very good job!)

"Your pronunciation... it's like a native," my Korean friend told me the other day, as we sat in a small cafe in a local square. Before you become overly impressed, let me give you the context. He was giving me nouns and verbs and I was forming them into Korean sentences that he would then read aloud word-by-word with me trying to parrot him.

(Note: Purple stamp to the left is a famous "VERY GOOD JOB!" stamp in Korea that teachers often put on student papers.)

"Subject is Kristy..." he would say, pointing to a section of my notebook in which his beautiful handwritten Korean said '침대 (bed), 자다.'

"Okay." And I would painstakingly write,

크리스티침대에서 잤어요
(Kristy-subject bed-in slept.)

Then, what happened next sounded roughly like this... (my friend's speech in bold italics and mine in regular italics)


Chim-daay-eeh-saw jaah-saaw-yo.
Chim-daay-eeh-saw jaah-saaw-yo.

Chim-day-eh-saw jah-saw-yo.
Chim-day-eh-saw jah-saw-yo.
Chimdayehsaw jahsawyo.
Chimdayehsaw jahsawyo.
Keu-ri-seu-ti-neun chim-day-eh-saw jah-saw-yo.
Can you say that again?
Keu-ri-seu-ti-neun chim-day-eh-saw jah-saw-yo.
Keu-ri-seu-ti-neun... chim... day... Wait, again?
Keu-ri-seu-ti-neun chim-day-eh-saw jah-saw-yo.
Keu-ri-seu-ti-neun jim-day... eh-saw jah... saw-yo.
Chim-day. Chim. CH-im. Chim. (Pointing motion to lips .)
Okay. (Sigh.) One more time?
Keu-ri-seu-ti-neun CHim-day-eh-saw jah-saw-yo.
Keu-ri-seu-ti-neun CHim-day-eh-saw jah-saw-yo. (Sigh.) Holy crap, that was hard to say.
Cham chal-haess-eo-yo! Very good! Your pronunciation... it's like a native.

And so it goes. Strangely enough, even when the sentences are ones that leave my own pen, they still have very little meaning to me as they leave my mouth. My brain still processes them as combinations of meaningless sounds that grow increasingly familiar with repetition.

Nonetheless, it was a nice moment. I do have a gift for mimicry. So much so, that I have a hard time finding my own singing voice, as I tend to copy the voice quality of anyone's song I am singing. This skill also comes in handy when singing karaoke.

Apart from the mindless repetition of practice sentences, the only words I can say with any real confidence and conviction are the ones I've heard countless times uttered by Korean drama actors and actresses. Questions like, "Oh my god, are you okay?!" or desperate pleadings like "Please don't go! I love you." I brought up the idea with my friend of recording his voice saying the sentences he's taught me. After all, it's only an audio recorder. There is nothing attaching his face to the words. Alas, he is shy. Perhaps I can bat my eyelashes at him next time and make my voice all whiny like a Korean actress. It's too bad he's younger than me, or I could drag out an appropriate, O-ppaaaaah! (+ pouty face)

I'm about THISCLOSE to buying a $10 monthly subscription to KoreanClass101 dot com because they have audio, time-spaced flashcards. It would be like having my own handy-dandy native Korean speaker to parrot anytime I wanted. For ten bucks. Good deal.

Some more interesting stuff (non-Korean).

Qué Onda Spanish. Practice your verb tenses and conjugations here! I'm going to have to do this with some of the trickier ones.

Boy am I glad I didn't decide to learn Chinese.

Monday, March 5, 2012

오모! Omo! (Oh my!)

I first watched the drama Playful Kiss in October. It was the first Asian drama I had ever watched, and it was well before I made the decision around Christmas time to actually learn Korean. Since it was long enough ago, there is really no way that I would remember what any of these characters said verbatim.

That's why I could not believe today that I almost completely followed part of a YouTube scene compliation without subtitles. Whaaaaaaaaat?! Really?!!! I actually owe a lot to the amazing teachers at Talk to Me in Korean dot com. I'll explain why after I talk about the dialog.

Here's the video (funny name): White Girl Falls in Love with Korean Guy.

Here's what the dialog sounded like to my brain. The words in italics are the words I heard and understood, the other ones I guessed from context. It helped that I knew the background story on the characters because I had seen the scenes before.

I... want to eat [name of food]. Please give me [name of food].

Then she's eating and exclaims, It's delicious!
The man motions to the guy in the kitchen and probably says something like "he made it," to which the girl exclaims again, It's delicious! And adds something that likely means "well done!"

When the girl is sitting by herself at the table, she asks the guy, Bring me a fork, please.
And he replies with, A fork?! and then, by his tone, clearly tells her that she shouldn't use a fork, but needs to use chopsticks instead. He then puts a pair in her hands and says, Here, take these.

Then there's a little musical interlude and when the speech comes back, she uses the words, drink and friend, trying to get him to try the drink. And he responds back negatively using the word friend. Like, "I'm not your friend," or something to that effect. She replies with something shocking that makes him turn around and say, What?! And then she answers boldly back with, I like you.

The rest of the scene is lost to music.

Yessssssss. In the words of Charlie Sheen, I am winning.

Now, I'll tell you why those awesome people at Talk to Me in Korean dot com deserve a giant round of applause or a big hug or something. Over the last month or so, I have been very studiously dedicating myself to listening to their leveled podcasts, reading their leveled PDFs, and watching their YouTube videos (which are fantastic and hilarious and entertaining, as well as any other positive adjective you can think of). Not only is all of this material free, but the teachers are dedicated to answering questions and comments posted to all of the lessons, even if you post today on a lesson that was created two years ago. They are amazing.

Over the course of 18 lessons, I have learned how to say, Please give me ______, I want to eat _______, It's delicious, as well as the words drink, friend, what, and like. Nearly every word that I encountered in this scene was something they created a lesson about. 멋있었어요! Meo-si-sseo-sseo-yo! (It was awesome!) I am nothing less than floored.

Now I just have to figure out why the comments are so hard to post after the lessons... one step at a time.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Not too rusty, thank goodness

Signs that my Spanish is not getting too rusty through disuse:

1. At parent-teacher conferences last week, a parent asked me if I was from Spain. (1)

2. In a cab ride home Thursday night, I noticed a Spanish typo while reading an outward-facing window sticker. Backwards. While buzzed.

3. I can read this:

(1) For all the times I've been asked if I were Spain-Spanish, I don't think I'll ever be mistaken for Korean. Just a guess.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Went to the Super88... 맛있어요!

So, on Saturday (and today after work as well), I decided to make a trip into the Super88, which is an Asian foodstore near where I used to live. I figured I'd go there to, you know... reconnect with my Asian roots.

(Joke.) You can laugh now.

Anyway, I imagined that I could put my new-found language interest into context by poking around in the Korean section of the store (which is huge, by the way). Actually, let me clarify. The store is huge. The Korean section... is non existent. Or, in other words, "Korean section eop-seo-yo." There was a Chinese section. There was a Japanese section. There was a Thai section, There was a Southeast Asian section. No Korean section. Jin-jjah? (Seriously?)

Jin-jjah. (Seriously.) No word of a lie. So, instead, I had to hunt and peck around the entirety of the store (warehouse size) and have occasional ah-ha! moments where I would realize something was Korean. A lot of dried seaweed was, so I bought that. Didn't get any kimchi because I thought the sodium content would stop my bodily functions. A jar of that stuff... 40 servings of two tablespoons? Give me a break. Who eats only two tablespoons of anything worth eating? That jar would have lasted me three sittings, tops.

What I did find (but didn't buy), was this bag of twisty-somethings. I can't begin to tell you what this says since the rest of the bag is in Japanese, but the part in red that looks like 맛있어요! is a new word I just learned two days ago. Ma-si-sseo-yo! (It's delicious!) I was so excited to recognize this word that I literally did cartwheels in the aisle.

The other Korean find that made me whip out my camera was the pack of Tako Chips below. They are (get this) octopus flavored. Blows the multi-colored shrimp chips I used to eat at my friend's house as a child clear out of the water.

When I looked up the word 자갈치 that is up at the top of the bag of chips, the Google translation is either literally Jalgalchi (apparently, Korea's largest seafood market), or the word "gravel." Eating octopus flavored chips might be right up there with gravel in the list of things I won't be eating anytime soon. Amen.

Talk to Me in Korean: Level 1 Lesson 14 / What do you want to do? / 뭐 하고 싶어요?
Talk to Me in Korean on YouTube: Level 1 Lessons 13 + 14
Korean Word of the Week #11:
How to say PLEASE in Korean

Current KDrama:
시크릿가든 "see-kuh-rit-gah-duhn" (Secret Garden)
TV hours: 16
Total TV hours: 106 (394 left to goal)

Thursday, February 23, 2012


This is a huge milestone in my language acquisition process. I have listened to (drumroll):
one hundred countable hours of Korean input.

My method of countable native speaker input has been largely via Korean dramas, which--thanks to Netflix, YouTube, and a variety of other streaming video sources--are ridiculously easy to come by. Since I am not including time I spend listening to audio podcast lessons on constant repeat, this is a gross underestimate.

I am testing out the worth of the TV Method as a language learning approach, although I am not being super scientific about it, as it is not my only approach. I can only vouch, then, for its usefulness in aiding language acquisition, and not as the sole tool in my toolbox. I have 500 hours as a first goal, but I think even 800 to 1000 might not be out of the question. I certainly love this method, as it gives me permission to watch hours and hours of cheesy romantic plot lines with attractive male actors. Don't dismiss an attractive face as an outstanding motivator. Whatever carrot you need to dangle from the string is up to you.

If I were to guess, I might say that I understand about 5% of what I hear.

Tonight I had my fourth meeting with my Korean friend. I'm trying to think of how best to use him as a resource. This will be my task this week. How can I squeeze the most from my time with him? The good news is that he will be moving to a new apartment that is one stop away on the subway from me. That will make meeting more than once a week a possibility.

Talk to Me in Korean: Level 1 Lesson 11 / Please give me / 주세요
Korean Word of the Week #4: BROTHERS & SISTERS in Korean

Current KDrama:
시크릿가든 "see-kuh-rit-gah-duhn" (Secret Garden)
TV hours: 10
Total TV hours: 100 (400 left to goal)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Useful stuff I can say in Korean: A Comprehensive List

Well, this is actually just a small section of my comprehensive list. This is only a comprehensive list of the common Korean phrases I've picked up since the end of December, and does not include lists of nouns, verbs, adverbs, and question words that I know... nor does it encompass the extent of my grammar knowledge. Looking at this, however, I'm surprised by how much I have learned! Studying is paying off.

Please leave a comment below about what other phrases you feel I should learn right away. Funny or serious.

Hellos and Goodbyes
안녕하세요. Hello.
만나서 반가워요. Nice to meet you.
이름이 뭐예요? What’s your name?
자는 크리스티 예요. My name is Kristy.
가지마. Don’t go.
가자! Let’s go!
안녕히 가세요. Goodbye (other person is leaving).
안녕히 계세요. Goodbye (other person is staying).

Being agreeable (or not)
나 도. Me, too. / Me neither.
그래. I agree. Okay.
네. Yes.
네, 밎아요. Yes, that’s right.
아니요. No.

Being a considerate human being
화이팅! Good luck!/Cheer up!
괜찮아요? Are you okay?
죄송합니다. / 미안해. I’m sorry.
저기요. Excuse me.
잠시만요. Just a second.
감사합니다. / 고마워. Thank you.
아니에요. You’re welcome.

Levels of understanding
압니다. I know.
몰라. I don’t know.
진짜? Really?
알았어. Got it.

진짜? Really?
아이씨! @$#&!
아이고! Oh my god!
야! Hey!
가자! Let’s go!
진짜 멋져요! Wicked awesome!

배고파. I’m hungry.
잠시만요. Just a second.
찾다. (Let’s) find it. (I’ll help.)
찾아. (You) find it. (I’ll watch, biatch.)
재미있어요. It is interesting.
재미없어요. It is not interesting.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

It's really working!

I'm about ready to leap into the air with joy. Shin-nan-da! How exciting! I just re-watched the first three and a half minutes of episode 13 from City Hunter (I've previously watched this drama). In those three minutes, I was able to piece together so many familiar words in the course of the characters' interactions, that I was following the conversation. Of course, it helps that I have a lot of background knowledge coming into the scene. It was AMAZING, though.

This TV method really works.

I've been using the subtitles, but they definitely teach me a lot of words. Every time I watch, I have my notebook next to me, making notes of commonly heard sound combinations and match-ups that I notice between the subtitles and the words leaving the actors' mouths. Today alone, I picked up on how to say, "Find it," "I know," and "fine." I recognized the questions "Where is it?," "What is?," "Where are you going?," and "Why? Why not?"

I've been combining the drama-watching with audio lessons from Talk to Me in Korean dot com and video lessons from KWow (YouTube).

The more words I learn, the more I recognize. It's like this gargantuan puzzle that's slowly coming together before my very eyes.

I have to recommend this very quirky romantic drama Flower Boy Ramyun Shop. It was easy to get sucked into and fun to watch.

Meeting with my Korean friend tomorrow. Yay!

Current KDrama:
시크릿가든 "see-kuh-rit-gah-duhn" (Secret Garden)
TV hours from last drama (Flower Boy Ramyun Shop): 12
Total TV hours: 90 (410 left to goal)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Bombarded by emails: I'm popular!

Just a heads up that if anyone wants to learn any language at all and be tutored for free, all that person needs to do is make a profile on Conversation Exchange. I swear, I've never met a single Korean in my entire time living in Boston by simply roaming the streets, but, man, are they coming out of the woodwork to learn English! I'm being bombarded by emails of people (some from outside of Boston, too, actually) who want to learn English and teach me Korean. And it's all free. It's all about helping each other out. How cool is that?!

Of course, I've already got a Korean teacher/English student/new friend. I texted him to ask if he did his language homework for me (I did mine!). He texted back and told me how dismayed I will be over the pages and pages he has written for me to correct. i think you will say me "Oh too many diary! can you reduce it?" I told him to bring it on. I ain't scurred. In fact, I'm flattered to have a student who does his homework so diligently. Probably the best one I have.

It is not lost on me--I promise--the irony that I'm chuckling a bit at his text message, although I'm fairly certain I've butchered his beautiful language in my own (Korean) homework ramblings. We'll see what the verdict is on Wednesday. Odd grammatical errors, accidental misinterpretations, erroneous word substitutions, and funny accents. These are the parts that make the language learning process so pricelessly amusing. And we should never let the opportunity to enjoy and celebrate that awkwardness slip by.

In the meantime, enjoy some pricelessness from my favorite Korean actor: You're my eeeehbree-tiiiiing.

졸려. (Jol-lyuh.) I'm sleepy. 잘자! (Jal-jah!) Goodnight!

Saturday, February 4, 2012


Just finished watching the last episode of City Hunter and I've finally stopped sniffling and started breathing normally again. I'm a bit sad it's over, actually. If you like action, political scandal, revenge plots, gratuitous fight scenes, spy technology gadgets, and true love stirred into your afternoon tea, I'd highly recommend checking this one out (p.s. it's currently streaming on Netflix). Here... check out twelve minutes and seven seconds of it here. Don't say I didn't warn you about the intensity level. Oh, and everyone in the entire series uses an iPhone.

As of this week, I was only half-way through the episodes and decided I couldn't wait any longer to see how the plot played out. It was taking far too long to watch each scene without subtitles and then go back with subtitles and watch them all again. So I watched the second half with subtitles. In the end, I understand that only watching with subtitles does interfere with my ability to pick out some of the words on my own, but I am willing to cheat a little. Input is input.

Actually, the subtitles helped me get no less than 20 new words into my working vocabulary. Well, into my notebook, anyway. As for their entrance into my long-term memory in a useful way, we'll have to see about that.

Two exciting things have happened with my Korean listening skills: I have enough vocabulary words that are familiar to me now that (1) I am able to recognize several words as synonyms of each other in context of speech. Also, (2) I have just started to hear combinations of familiar words. It's pretty cool.

Example: I know two words that can mean "really": 진짜 (jin-jah) and 정만 (jeong-mal). I have heard the latter used with the word 미안해 (mian-he) which means "I'm sorry," to form 정만 미안해 (jeong-mal mian-he) which means "I'm very sorry." You can also say 죄송합니다 (joe-song-hap-ni-da) to mean "I'm sorry." Hoorah for synonyms!

Because there are so many registers that you must use to address different people in Korean, I am finding that synonyms are many and varied. It's a little intimidating, but the cultural nuances of how they're used are amazing. I guess with a language that has two completely different systems of numbers to count, you have to assume that there will be a few other duplicates ready to spring out and surprise you later, as well.

Just so you know the kind of stuff I'm dealing with here... if you want to count to 10, you can write the numbers out like this, just as we do in English: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10. But the actual word forms (one, two, three, etc.) can be as follows:

Native Korean Number System
하나, 둘, 셋, 넷, 다섯, 여섯, 일곱, 여덟, 아홉, 열
(ha-na, dul, set, net, da-seot, yeo-seot, il-gop, yeo-deol, a-hop, yeol)


Sino-Korean Number System
일, 이, 삼, 사, 오, 육, 칠, 팔, 구, 십
(il, i, sam, sa, o, yuk, chil, pal, gu, sip)

Pretty exciting stuff. Looks like I've got my work cut out for me.

Most recently finished KDrama:
시티헌터 "see-tee-hun-tuh" (City Hunter)
TV hours (City Hunter): 36
Total TV hours: 78 (422 left to goal)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Way better than YouTube...

What?, you might be saying. Better than YouTube?! What on earth is this girl talking about? My new Korean tutor. Yes, a real person. And a fairly normal-seeming one at that. No longer must I google search all of my pressing questions. This means that I have actual human interaction as part of my language learning! Hooray!

So, his English is pretty great (although he won't fully take my compliment). This turns out to be good news for both of us because otherwise we would just be staring at each other blankly. I know about thirty Korean words... forty tops.

When I tell him how good his speaking is, he brushes it off modestly. His accent, he says, is too strong and a lot of people have to ask him to repeat himself. So, during our little language exchange, we mainly worked on his pronunciation of the American English /r/ and /l/ sounds. In Korean, both the /r/ and the /l/ are just variants of the same consonant, ㄹ. That funny little letter that looks like a number two sometimes sounds more like an /l/ and sometimes closer to an /r/, depending on its position in the word and its juxtaposition with either consonants or vowels. If that confuses you, consider s in English. Sometimes it sounds like an /s/ (like at the end of the word "plants" because it follows the consonant t) and sometimes it sounds like /z/ (like at the end of the word "bees" because it follows the vowel e).

Anyway, I love teaching people how to change their /r/... Okay, make an 'aaaaaah' sound, and then slowly curl your tongue towards the back of your throat like this (miming with hand) 'aaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrr'... goooooood. The both of us were sitting in the cafe making aaaaaarrrrrraaaaaarrrrrrrraaaaaaaarrrrrrrraaaarrrrrr noises. It probably seemed like we were suffering from food poisoning simultaneously, but I think he got the hang of it.

Then he announced that it was time for some Korean and proceeded to write these fantastic sentences in hangul (the Korean alphabet) for me to schlepp through ungracefully like a first grader sounding out Hop on Pop. I did, however, get a compliment from him that my pronunciation is very good on the words that I do know. That is my specialty, after all... mimicry. Don't know what I'm sayin', but boy do I say it well!

As far as him actually being Kim Hyun Joong in disguise (very good-looking Korean actor/singer, to refresh your memory), he shot down that idea pretty quickly via email last week.

I'm sorry that i am not Kim Hyun Joong, he is tall and handsome man, but i'm not. Don't look forward to appearance like him. i'm sorry about that. kkkk

But you know? He had nothing to be sorry about. Really. It was a win situation.

Looking forward to next week's session when I get to show off my pronunciation prowess and marvelous memorization skillz. It's all I've got for the moment. Thirty words, flashcards, and excessive optimism.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Shin nan da! I'm excited!

That is just one of the very few things I can say in Korean 신난다! "I'm excited!" or "How exciting!" I say this because I'm going to hang out with a real life Korean person next week to do a language exchange. The guy's name sounded familiar when he first sent me an email through Conversation Exchange... and then I realized that it was nearly the same name as that hunky Korean actor/pop-singer that I daydream about. The guy told me to call him by the American name that he chose, because his Korean one is "difficult to pronounce," but you know me... always up for a challenge:

We'll just have to see how hard it is to pronounce your name. I'm pretty good at pronouncing things, so you may be surprised. I just realized that your name looks and sounds to me very close to the name of that famous pop-singer guy, Kim Hyun Joong. If you ARE him in disguise, that's okay, too. I won't tell anyone.

A girl can dream, can't she? And man, I love how polite Korean culture is. It carries through in how delicately they word their English and how many times they tell you they are happy/thankful for something very small that you may not even be worthy of being thanked for.

I'm really glad to meet you. I really want to meet you in person. I think i will be a good Korean tutor for you and you will be a good English tutor for me.

I think it was good news that you can't speak in Korean a lot for me, because then i should speak in English, it will be very good for me.

I think it is also good for you that I can teach you not only Korean but also Korean culture and somethings.

I tell you I really want to meet you again.

That pretty much made my day last week. I mean, the kid's English is pretty freaking good... if you consider the fact also that I can't even say anything cohesive or sensical (my opposite of nonsensical, of course) in Korean at all.

Ya, pae-go-ppah! Chin-cha? Chin-cha. Ko-pee? Ne. Ara-sah.
Hey, I'm hungry! Really? Really. Coffee? Yes. Got it.

In other news, I wanted to share a couple of articles here:
9 Hard Languages for English Speakers (of which Korean is one)
9 Easy Languages for English Speakers (of which Spanish and French are listed)

And a fun video-learning source: How NOT to say "You're welcome," in Korean

Current KDrama:
시티헌터 "see-tee-hun-tuh" (City Hunter)
TV hours (City Hunter): 24
Total TV hours: 68 (432 left to goal)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Thanks for the great idea!...

I have a language-learning friend in another part of the world right now who gave me a fantastic resource. It's called Conversation Exchange, and it revolves around the idea of getting native speakers together to teach one another. Brilliant! I plan to use this to find some Koreans in Boston. Culturally, I think they are a bit shy/reserved, so it's maybe the only way I can speak with anyone without being totally presumptuous and embarrassing myself. I can't even fathom what sort of sentence might leave my mouth if I tried to find a Korean speaker on my own: Excuse me, I notice that you are Asian. Might you also be Korean?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

What I hear when I listen to Korean...

Sound waves. After only 60(ish) hours of listening to Korean, just merely the sound of it is comfortable and pleasant to my ears. I have grown accustomed to hearing the pronunciations and the rhythms. I say that I am understanding words here and there... so what exactly does Korean sound like to me when I listen to it?

Blahblahblahblah blah? Blah blahblahblaaaaah blah blah blah blahblah blah blahblah blah blah blah blah. Blah. Blahblahblaaaaah blah blah blah blahblahblahblah blah blah blah blah blah blahblah blaaaah blah blah blah blahblahblaaaaah blah blah blah. BLAH! BLAHBLAH! BLAAAH! Blahblahblahblah blah blah??! Blahblahblaaaaah blah blah blah blahblah blah blahblah blah blah blah. Blah. Blahblahblaaaaah blah blah blah blahblahblahblah blah blah blah blah blah blahblah blaaaah blah blah blah blahblahblaaaaah blah blah blah BLAHBLAH! Blah blah blah blahblah blah blahblah blah blah blah. Blah. Blahblahblaaaaah blah blah blah blahblahblahblah. Blah?! Blah.

Blahblahblahblah blahaseyo? No. Blah blahblahblaaaaah love blah blah blahblah blah blahblah blah blah blah blah. Blah. What?! Blahblahblaaaaah blah blah blah blahblahblahblah blah blah blah blah blah blahblahaseyo. Blaaaah blah blah blah blahblahblaaaaah blah blah blah. HEY! DAD! BLAAAH! Blahblahhowblah blah blah??! Blahblahblaaaaah blah blahaseyo. Blah blahblah blahaseyo. Blahblah blah blah blah. Got it. Thank you. Blahblahblaaaaah blah blah I'm hungry blahblahblahblah blah blah blah blah blah blahblah blaaaah blah blah blah blahblahblaaaaah blah blah blah BLAHBLAH! Blah never blah blah blahblah blah blahblah blah blah blah. I'm sorry. Blahblahblaaaaah blahaseyo. Blah blah blahblahblahblah. Really? Yes.

And if the conversation is formal, it sounds to me a bit like this:
Hello, blahblahblahblah blah? Blah blahblahblaaaaah blah blahsumnida. Blahblah blah blahblah blah blah blah blah. Blah. What? Blahblahblaaaaah blah blah blahumnida. Blahblahblahblah blah blah blah blah blah blahblahumnida. Blaaaah blah blah blah blahblahblaaaaah blah blah blah. Blahblahhowblah blah blah. Blahblahblaaaaah blah why blah blah blahblah blah blahblah blah blah blahsumnida. Okay. Thank you. Blahblahblaaaaah blah blahsumnida. blahblahblahblah blah blah blah blah blah blahblah blaaaah blah blah blah blahblahblaaaaah blah blah blah BLAHBLAHUMNIDA! Blah blah blah blahblah blah blahblah blah blah blah. Thank you. Blahblahblaaaaah blah blah blah blahblahblahblahumnida. Yes.

As my friend who goes on lots of business trips to Asia once put it, "You know you're listening to Korean when everything ends in umnida." It's true. It's the polite, formal ending... for verbs, I think.

Wonder what this will sound like in a few months if I keep up the listening practice?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

"This is so exciting, you can totally do it."

My sister has a friend who learned (as I recall hearing) Japanese by simply watching Japanese TV. I have been wanting to pry a bit into her process, as she eventually went to Japan and wound up being successful in her language-learning venture. Until I get anything close to a real interview, here is the majority of the conversation we had on g-chat today. It made me happy and hopeful:

Words in italics are words I have added to clarify things.

question for you...
or... in fact... many questions
you learned japanese mainly through watching anime?
how did that process go?
just curious
Friend: I would say that the J-Dramas (Japanese dramas) help a lot more than anime because you can see the people forming the sounds.
Me: just wondering about how you did it. subtitles?
Friend: Yes, I watched subtitled shows and I listened to A LOT of J-Pop (Japanese pop music).
Sometimes my roommate and I would make subtitles for music videos as well.
Are you going to start studying Japanese?
Me: nope. i'm sort of addicted to the idea of korean
because i love the alphabet system
Friend: It goes in circles!
I mean each character is read in a circle, right?
Me: not a circle per se
as a block
each block is a syllable
and very phonetic
really clever, actually
and very easy to read
Friend: Yes, I love that exact thing about Japanese.
Me: is it phonetic too?
Friend: Yup.
Me: oh, how come i didn't remember that?!
Friend: Well, they have three writing systems and two of them are phonetic.
Me: yeah, three--sheesh
well, technically, koreans have to learn a certain base number of chinese characters as well... just like the japanese
Friend: This is so exciting, you can totally do it.
Me: how proficient did you get?
just by listening all the time?
were you conversational before going to japan?
Friend: I got to the point where I could watch a drama without subtitles and understand almost all of it.
Me: nice!!!!!
how many years did that take? a whole year?
Friend: Yeah, about that.
But my speaking skills were only so-so until I went to Japan and started talking to actual Japanese people.

Friend: I'm told that the grammar of Japanese and Korean are very similar.
Maybe we can study it together sometime!
Me: nice
Friend: We shall reconvene on this topic.

While searching online for videos to show her of some K-pop (Korean pop music), I came across a video of one of my favorite Korean actors speaking Japanese. He looks a little out of his element, but I have no idea what he's saying. I wish I knew whether he is actually cracking jokes, or if his Japanese is so bad that everyone's cracking up. It sounds like he says "piano" around 3:22 and "fried chicken" a few seconds later.

It made me wonder if it is just as common for Asians living in Asia to know neighboring Asian languages as it is for Europeans to know neighboring European languages... or for Americans to know European languages, for that matter. I suppose I always thought that there would be more of a barrier in Asia, since the writing systems are all very distinct and not shared across languages. At least with European languages, they not only share writing systems, but they share much of the vocabulary (in the form of cognates) as well. Cognates (English/Spanish/French)= Enchanted (to meet you)! ¡Encantada!

Quite on the opposite end of the spectrum, I stumbled upon the blog of a man named Benny whose language approach is the opposite of the TV Method I am trying with Korean. He starts speaking right away! He's very dedicated and makes a lot of sense. I invite you to check out his blog, Fluent in 3 months, and watch his videos. He's learning Mandarin.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

City Hunter is awesome.

The good news is, I am more than one tenth of the way toward my goal of watching 500 hours of Korean television. Remarkably, I am picking out at least one familiar word per minute, if not more. They are fairly common words, and I definitely hear them better when the subtitles are off. My ears are in super listening mode then. I am starting to really like this language learning method.

I can't say enough good things about City Hunter. It's action-packed and the characters are easy to get attached to. Love it. I really appreciate that the bad attitude of the main male character didn't take the whole series to turn itself around. He was rude only for the first several episodes, and now he's actually acting nice to the main female character. If my expectations seem sadly low, I blame it on the first two dramas I watched. Why the main female characters stuck around as long as they did (and why I continued watching the storyline unfold) is beyond me.

In case I didn't mention this before, I have finally decided this: I am watching each scene twice. The first run-through, I watch without the subtitles and try to get the gist on my own, then I go back and watch it a second time with the subtitles. I decided that this is the way to go for a few reasons:
  1. On a sentence-by-sentence basis, the subtitles give me clues about what I should be listening for. They have, on a number of occasions actually taught me a word. The best example of this was the word for "I'm sorry," which is pronounced mian-he (and sounds a bit like "bian-aaaay" when they say it). I noticed the characters saying these words every time the subtitles said, "I'm sorry," so I very quickly put that together when I ordinarily wouldn't have on my own for quite some time.
  2. Using the subtitles, I go back and confirm my suspicions about the words I think I've heard from the first, unsubtitled run-through. Often, I find that I am right, which is great.
  3. Input is much more successful and comprehensible when the whole story background is known. Without the storyline information that the subtitles provide, I have very little knowledge about the goings-on in this drama. I suspect that would make me less successful in deciphering some things and in making sense of what I am watching.
  4. Interest! I lose interest in watching reaaaaaally quickly when I have no idea what is going on. For the sake of my continued watching and learning, I need to be engaged in the storylines that I am dedicating hours to watching anyway. I want this to at least be fun! And it is.
Current KDrama:
시티헌터 "see-tee-hun-tuh" (City Hunter)
TV hours (City Hunter): 19
Total TV hours: 63 (437 left to goal)

Blogs I want to make note of in case I'd like to look at them again:
Gorilla Teacher: Diaries of a Young American in South Korea
Korean Language Notes

Thursday, January 12, 2012

To the Korean language I say, "Sa Rang Hae"

Yeah, I'm rhyming in Korenglish. I just looked that word up. I figured there must be something along the lines of Spanglish, which is perhaps one of my favorite ways to write, ever.

"Sa Rang Hae" I mentioned in the last post, means "I love you." Looks like this: 사랑해.

I wanted to report about the effectiveness of the TV method and the things I've been noticing. First off, I can pick out quite a few words at this point, and have been noticing that I catch familiar words that I know while not reading the subtitles. I then go back and look to see if I was right, and sha-bang, it's right in there. I can see that this is a much different way than I learned Spanish. By listening to the language all the time, there is no way that I will become overwhelmed by the speed at which people talk. I will pick up words naturally in their contexts. Hurrah!

The horrible thing about learning a language by myself is, that I want to shout to the high heavens about all the things I'm learning. I want to talk to people about the dynamic characters in the shows I'm watching. I want to gush about how cool the words sound or the fact that the writing looks so beautiful when people scrawl it out or that I like wondering if my brain will take a long time to process a language whose grammar is flip-flopped from my own. It's so exciting!!! And no one to share it with.

Well, anyway, I'd be doing this in a notebook by myself (reflecting) if blogging never existed. I want to watch the evolution of this thing... this evasive thing that happens when languages charm us and start to take hold in our brains. I wish I could watch it happening. I wish I knew what makes words suddenly make sense, suddenly mean themselves. Like, at what point did mesa stop meaning "table" to me? At what point did mesa simply just mean mesa? There was a switch somewhere... that all of a sudden made the word itself. One day, mesa carried meaning to me without translation. It happens so slyly that I can't even see it happening when I watch for it.

With that, I'm going to leave you with a picture of one of the actors who I can attribute a great deal of my motivation to. Keeps me watching. Easy on the eyes. (Understatement.)

Current KDrama:
시티헌터 "see-tee-hun-tuh" (City Hunter)
TV hours (City Hunter): 12
Total TV hours: 56 (444 left to goal)

I wonder if by the time I reach 500 watched hours I will understand 25 percent of what I am watching, just like this other guy I read about online who was watching Mandarin TV. I sort of doubt it, but who knows? I'm curious to find out. I'm pairing the TV method with learning vocabulary and practicing writing words. I even make flashcards so I can practice reading. Love it.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A few links

... that I don't feel like keeping open in my browser window, but may be worth having handy:

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

TV Method Glitch

So, I suppose I should have anticipated that I would want to know what is happening in the dramas. Last night I kept peeking through my fingers and going back to see what they said. Maybe I need to watch each episode twice, once with the subtitles, and then again without? That would take forever. The problem is this: If I am watching with subtitles, I am able to know at least what the characters' names are. I'm not quite able to separate names from conversation yet, and that should be the easiest part, since they say the names so much. Occasionally, the subtitles tell me what I should be listening for.

Also, I am sooooooo excited to report that Professor Oh's KWOW videos are already helping me. I am able to hear "I love you" anytime it crops up, and "really?" "really!" anytime that crops up, too. I also hear the word for sorry, which I used to think was pronounced "bee-ah-nay," but apparently it starts with the "m" consonant, and should be said more like "mian-hay." (This is figured out with the help of subtitles.) The first word I ever understood through context sounds like "ku-ray" and means something like, "Yes, I agree/Yes, that's right/Okay/Fine."

So, see? The subtitles help a bit. Maybe I should half-count watching subtitled Korean towards my TV Method goal. Like one hour of subtitles equals thirty minutes of no subtitles. Sigh. I really want to understand what the plot is about. Now I'm just justifying laziness.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Being attention-challenged: Friend or foe?

As anyone who truly knows me can attest, my brain loves to splash around in puddles of "what if"s and jump from idea to idea like hopping on stones to cross a stream. It should, therefore, come as no surprise to you (or to myself) that I got lost wandering around in the grammar tide pools, even though I just spent yesterday deciding to forgo "usual" language learning and try the TV Method (see previous post).

Foreign grammar is so fascinating, though. I can't help it.

Less surprising still, should be the fact that a pretty face is often behind my greatest of distractions, as was the case today. I've gotten pretty hung up on this song, performed by Kim Hyung Joong (Korean-boy-band-pop-star slash actor), and especially love this live version. The dangerous part happened when I started imagining myself singing the whole song. I could, right? Well, yes. I could figure out how to memorize all the sounds with enough practice, for sure. But, of course, that's not good enough for me. If I'm going to try to sing along, I'm going to want to know what I'm singing. So what am I doing? I'm writing the whole thing in my notebook and color-coding the translation. Keep in mind that I do this sort of stuff for fun in my spare time. Here are my steps.

1. I look up the Korean Hangul version of the lyrics.

너 하나밖에 난 모르고

2. I open Google translator, then cut and paste the lyrics.

너 하나밖에 난 모르고 = You know I'm only one (Google translation)

3. I read the translation in the video to see if the Google one makes any sense. Generally speaking, I don't trust translators' accuracy at all. In this case, the Google translation is very different from the human translation. Opposite, in fact.

너 하나밖에 난 모르고 = I know of no one other than you (human translation)

4. I try to separate out the distinct words to see if I can figure out the syntax (word order) rules. I know that Korean is an SOV language, which means that the verb typically comes at the end of the sentence. In Google, you can mouse over certain words that will become highlighted in both languages' versions. That way, you can determine easily which part is which.

5. Sometimes it becomes necessary to search out the alternate meanings of what Google is telling me. Some words have multiple meanings or shades of meaning, so it is important to choose the best one.

6. Once I feel I have a syntactical translation that is true to the human translation (above), I write the rough English equivalents under the Korean Hangul and color-code it all.

하나밖에 모르고
you (are) the only one i know (Success! That looks a lot like "I know of no one other than you.")

7. I try to read along with Hyung Joong while he sings... and if I'm brave, sing too.

"Neo hanapakke nan moreugooooo..."

So that's it. I guess I have to stop for today and start doing a few responsible things like laundry and food shopping and such. I promise to watch an hour of unsubtitled Korean TV before falling asleep.