Adding another language to my pitiful repertoire

I post four times in one week, and then I disappear for a week [ETA: whoops, I guess it was two weeks]. Yep, I’m like that. And next week I’m disappearing again, this time not just online but IRL: I’m heading off for a camping trip. I’m looking forward to getting out of the city.

So what’s been happening, everyone? As for me, as any of you who are on Facebook know—because FB is really good about getting the word out about birthdays!—it was my birthday this last weekend. Friday was a Summer Friday for me, as well, so I had a nice long, relaxing weekend involving bike riding along the Hudson River, eating Korean food with friends, watching Cowboys and Aliens, and learning Korean.

That last one: Yep. I’ve been putting off actually learning it for over a decade. I first had an interest back in the late 90s when I roomed with two Korean girls in succession, who were both here to learn English before going to college. Hyun Mi was a culinary arts major who was always bringing us home desserts from school but who never cooked at home. “Cereal,” she’d say, “is the food of the gods.”

We hung out a lot with the Korean student community in Provo back then, and I tended to only get half the conversations because, of course, the other half were in Korean. So I’ve wanted to learn it ever since, but assumed that learning it would be way too hard for me, who didn’t do well even in German and whose grasp of Spanish still involves more understanding than an ability to form coherent sentences.

But with all these Korean TV shows I’ve been watching lately, I’ve decided it’s time to actually do more than mean to get to it someday. And you’d be surprised how much you can pick up when you’re reading subtitles and start to notice repetitions in what you’re hearing. Usually of the melodramatic variety, of course—sorry, I love you, please forgive me, those sorts of phrases and words.

So I bought a very basic book and CD set that teaches some very 101 Korean, and after a week of working on it, I’m already able to start reading a few names in Hangeul (Korean writing)! I can recognize the letters that form the syllables kim, seung, jeon, and a few others. I can now not only say hello (which is the only thing I’ve remembered all these years) but also goodbye and have finally figured out why sometimes Koreans say “annyeong” and sometimes they say “annyeonghaseo.” (The first is informal and only happens with friends and others close to you, the other is the polite way to say hello to strangers/those of higher stature/elders.)

Hey, it’s a start! I’m having fun.

And I can practice a little at lunchtime—I work not far from Koreatown, where I often eat lunch, so it’ll be fun to eventually be able to parse out the signs in Hangeul.

And who knows? Maybe next year I might top off this latest kick with a trip to Korea.