Learned #6: Still Eatin'

In Which Our Heroes Continue to Learn Korean


Welcome to Learned, a resource for all of us who are trying to learn how languages language. We’ve got links, we’ve got commentary, we’ve got a couple of pretty pictures. Let’s get to it.

Photo by Jerome Warburton on Unsplash

What We’re Learning:

This week, we’re still learning the Korean language.

It's strange to say but I had forgotten the sheer joy of learning something completely unexpected and unanticpated. What I mean is, one of the reasons I started this newsletter is because I enjoy trying new things and learning new things. But, out of the five issues thus far, the things I've covered are things I was already studying.

This attempt at Korean is brand new. Never attempted it before. Honestly, never really even thought about it much before. I'd always thought that if I took on yet another new language it would be French*. But, no, this is a whim and, man, how much fun is that? It's been a long time since I studied something new; it's been a long time since I studied something without an ulterior motive - I have no use for Korean. There's nothing I want to do. No new project, no new plan, no new idea to implement. It's just fun to watch some silly t.v. shows with a better understanding of what's going on.

There's a lot to be said for just pure learning. It's something I don't think enough of us make enough time for in our lives. As I said above, when we learn something as adults, there's usually a goal attached: If I become more proficient with database management software, I can get a promotion. If I become conversant in Spanish, it will help me network and reach more people. If I learn how to do basic webdesign, it will save me production costs. And so on and so forth. But when was the last time you picked up a subject - a hard, serious, requiring of effort subject - just for the fun of it?

It's been a while, hasn't it.

But, back to Korean. I tried out the Hangul learning resources I posted last issue and I can now confidently screw-up the reading of whatever it is I’m trying to read eight out of ten tries! Of course that means that there are two attempts in that set of ten where I get it right and that feels pretty good.

I started the Korean course on DuoLingo; for anyone unsure of DuoLingo, it is an easy way to just jump into any language they offer without having to worry about the niceties of formal study. You can just start, anytime you want, for however long you want. And that’s what I’m doing right now. About 10 minutes a day of Korean study including reading Hangul. It’s been a nice break in the daily routine and one I recommend - a few minutes before work or at lunch can break up a day in a way that feels good and productive without being overwhelming or burdensome.

If DuoLingo’s not your thing, here are a couple of alternates:

  • Coffee Break Languages - While they don’t have a Korean course (yet), I enjoyed the Spanish and Italian courses I did through the Radio Lingua network.

  • Ba Ba Dum - Choose a language, choose a game, and play along until you get bored enough to go back to work! Really, this is a great utilization of game theory to practice vocabulary for over 20 languages.

  • Memrise - Probably the closest to an actual DuoLingo competitor; this app is easy to use and mainly free, for at least the beginner levels.

As I said in the last issue, I'm not sure how long I'll stick with this. Maybe just long enough to learn how to say "please" and "thank you." Maybe not even that long. But, I want to remember this, that it is fun to learn for learning's sake. Maybe that should be the theme of this blog. Learning for learning's sake.

So, what are you learning now?

*As an aside, French is second only to Spanish for teaching English to Second Language Learners. What I mean is, English is such a mishmash of other languages, with words, phrases, and the odd grammatical structure "borrowed" from other tongues, that having a solid grasp of the pronunciation and basic grammatical structures of one or more Romance languages can really help when trying to explain why the "t" in "valet" is silent and the "ll" in "tortilla" is pronunced like a "y."

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What We’re Reading:

It’s All Relative: Adventures Up and Down the World’s Family Tree

by A.J. Jacobs

If I’m being honest, it’s mostly A.J. Jacobs’ fault that I started trying to turn my blogging hobby into something bigger. In fact, this blog-via-email owes at least 80% of its existence to Jacobs’ writing*, which is clear, funny, vivid, and educational without being pretentious. So much so that I thought, “well, if he can do it…” Famous last words, indeed.

But, for those who don’t know, Jacobs’ made a name for himself by making himself the story, i.e., he performed experiments like trying to follow every rule in the bible for a year and following the advice of every health expert he could find in an effort to become maximally healthy, and wrote about it all.

This time out, Jacobs is into genealogy and trying to compile the world’s biggest family tree.

Like a lot of people, I’ve acquired a bit of an interest in my own family tree as I’ve gotten older and attempted to place various relatives into the correct branches and byways of my family tree. I’ve used software and listened to interviews and read personal narratives and I’ve been flummoxed by the sheer scope of the project.

I’m curious to see how it goes for Jacobs; I suspect I’ll come out the other side of the book with a renewed curiosity for my own lineage and perhaps an account at yet another online genealogy database. But, at the very least, I know that it will be a good read that makes me wonder why I didn’t write it first…

*The other 20% of the blame should be shared equally between Chuck Klosterman and David Sedaris, both of whom make it seem so !#@$& easy to write a witty essay about the oddest things.


I'm Joel.  I've got a website.  Another website.  And a twitter.  And an instagram, too.  Sometimes, even a byline.

I’ve been experimenting with the Steemit Education community this week. Follow me there if you’re so inclined.

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Down the Rabbit Hole:

We all know that songs get covered over and over again. As do movies and t.v. shows, but how about books? John Scalzi re-wrote H. Beam Piper’s mid-century classic, Little Fuzzy into Fuzzy Nation and Gregory Maguire re-wrote L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz into Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West.

Which is not the first time Oz has been re-written. Of all the adaptations, certainly the oddest is the case of Alexander Volkov, whose unauthorized translations of Baum’s books ended up becoming so successful that they became a series unto themselves, eventually being re-translated back into English.

And how about toys? In the early 1980s, Hasbro’s Transformers toy line was so popular that they grabbed any transforming toy they could get their hands on to fill out the ranks of Autobots and Decepticons, including the egregious transformation of a Super Valkyrie Fighter from the anime Super Dimenion Fortress Macross into the Autobot Jetfire.

Oh, and that Super Dimension Fortress Macross? You might know it best as the first third of the greatest American cartoon ever made: Robotech.

Advice We’re Following:

Photo by Vittorio Zamboni on Unsplash

From Warren Ellis’ Orbital Operations:

Go to Twitter. Find an account you consider interesting. Click the three dots next to the Follow button. Select Add Or Remove From Lists. Create an appropriate list. Add them to it. Continue until you've had enough. Go to Tweetdeck. Log in. Click on the three lines over your Home column. Click Add Column. Click List. Add one of your lists. Continue until you're done. Delete your Mentions column. Twitter is now calm and interesting.

Random Fact:

In Japanese, the words for “father” and “bankruptcy” are homonyms.

That’s it. Stay strong, stay healthy, learn something.