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.