Welcome to Learned, a resource for all of us who are trying to learn how words work. We’ve got links, we’ve got commentary, we’ve got a couple of pretty pictures. Let’s get to it.
What We’re Learning:
This week, we're learning Korean. Well, kind of.
I'm fascinated by languages. In a perfect world, I'd have the time (and ability) to just sit around and learn new languages all day. In this world, I barely have time to study and practice the language that is most useful to my daily life (Japanese.) But...
Something happened this week that set me on the path towards thinking that I might learn Korean someday: My daughter, who is three, couldn't sleep. Which meant that I couldn't sleep. So, I turned to Netflix. In searching for "cake" (Naomi's request) I came across a Korean drama called Let's Eat. It seemed intriguing and so I played the preview and then the first episode.
Naomi has had a habit for a few weeks now of "translating" between her mother and myself for her mother and myself. In other words, she'll say something like "Daddy, Mommy said [insert Japanese phrase here]." Which is great. She's learning the differences between her languages and how to express similar ideas in both. That she often translates the only things neither of us actually needs translated is neither here nor there.
However, when watching this t.v. show, Naomi began doing the same thing, telling me what the people on the show were saying. The astounding part to me was that, to my ears, she sounded like the people on the show. But, of course:
That’s what kids do. Anyone who's been around kids can tell you what sponges they are, especially for sounds and phrases. They have an innate ability to mimic that we lose as we get older.
I routinely have students who have lived abroad and who have spot-on American or English or Australian accents even if they don't actually speak English that well.
I know (and Naomi is becoming one) who can code-switch their pronunciation at the drop of a hat so that they will use "apple" when speaking English and "apuru" when speaking Japanese without ever being consciously aware that they're doing it.
Given that, it was still astounding to see it happen in real time with a language she has had no exposure to until now.
I began trying to repeat the things she said. It took about a minute and a half before she began correcting my pronunciation. Now, if I'm being honest, while the show wasn't bad, it wasn't really appropriate for small children. But I might try to find a kids show in Korean to watch with my daughter, just to see what happens.
Does this mean I'm going to learn Korean? Probably not. But, it got me curious enough to search for the resources I would need to go at it from point zero, which, to me*, meant starting with pronunciation and the Korean writing system, hangul. Here’s what I found:
The excellent “How to Study Korean” has charts and sound files that make it easy to see the structure underlying the writing system.
Blogger Josef Wigren posits that most people can learn to write Hangul in about 20 minutes.
There are several videos from Learn Korean with KoreanClass101.com at their YouTube channel, one of which promises to teach Hangul in 35 minutes.
I’ll have a few more thoughts on language learning and on learning Korean in particular next week, but for now, what language are you learning? How are you learning it?
*One reason languages like Japanese and Chinese are often cited as being so hard for Westerners to learn is that it takes so long to get familiar with the writing systems. If an English-speaker wants to learn French or Spanish, they’re already more-or-less able to read the language, which is a huge advantage to learning. Compare:
The telephone is on the table.
El teléfono está sobre la mesa.
Le téléphone est sur la table.
“One of these things is not like the other…”
What We’re Reading:
by Ronen Givony
I’ll admit that I missed the boat on Jawbreaker. When “24 Hour Revenge Therapy” debuted in 1994, I was more into Nirvana and Pearl Jam and other bands that had a more punk, less rock sound. Even so, the song “Do You Still Hate Me"?” made it’s way onto more than one mix tape.
Are you out there?
Do you hear me?
Can I call you?
Do you still hate me?
Fast forward 20 years. Just like most everyone, I still listen mostly to music that I listened to as a teenager. But, as 20th-anniversary re-issue after re-issue has come out, I’ve made it a point to pick up records from my teenage years that have found their way onto best-of and greatest lists. Like 24 Hour Revenge Therapy.
I’m glad I did. It’s plaintive, introspective, angry, disillusioned, and loud hard rock that has aged better than a lot of the stuff I listed to in its place.
When I read that the record would be getting the 33 1/3 treatment, I pre-ordered it without even bothering to read the description. After all, I’ve read approximately two dozen volumes out of this series (there are well over 100 books) and enjoyed every single one. The editors have chosen and guided their authors through the twists and turns of the recording industry with a deft hand, resulting in a fantastic series that is part history, part philosophy, part process, and all music.
If Jawbreaker isn’t your cup of tea, here are some others in the series I’ve enjoyed:
We're getting older but we're acting younger
We should be smarter
It seems we're getting dumber…
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Down the Rabbit Hole:
But did you know that t.v. shows also get re-made? Famously, the long-running and popular sitcom The Office is a remake of a BBC series, but the trend started much, much earlier than that: Three’s Company was a re-do of Man About the House, Whose Line is It Anyway brought over much of the cast, and Fawlty Towers got re-made twice!
Of course, it goes the other way, too. U.S. shows get exported all over the world: There’s the Russian “How I Met Your Mother,” the un-authorized Belarussian “Big Bang Theory” knock-off, and the wholly sanctioned Korean “Entourage,” just in case you weren’t fully convinced it was worth your time to learn Korean yet.
A group of cheetahs is called a coalition.
That’s it. Stay strong, stay healthy, learn something.