Mornings

15 07 2009

Sharp readers will have figured out by now that on most weekdays, my mornings and early afternoons are as vacant as space (it’s okay…you can’t all be sharp readers *snicker*), which I try to fill with a variety of activities, trying to stave-off couch-potato syndrome.

Poor potato. Wherever did that moniker come from? Is it because potatoes just sit there? Well so do tomatoes…and pineapples…and durian fruit. Hmm…couch durian…

Anyway, when I am unable to go swimming (like these past few days, due to heavy rain), I often find myself imbibing unhealthy amounts of coffee while trying to go through my Suzuki Violin Method books. They’re all I’ve got in the form of pieces, so they will have to do. I’ve worked through the first three books and I’m now 1/3 of the way through the fourth. Those irritating double-stopped triplets in the 3rd movement of the 5th Violin Concerto by Seitz are so demotivating, though – not because they’re particularly hard, but because they just sound so illogical – dissonance for no reason at all. I’ll have to play through it a few more times, I suppose.

When the internet is down (as is wont to happen at least once a day) and I’ve fulfilled my daily practice quota, I do try to read through the Korean language textbooks I’ve downloaded – I have the alphabet more or less down and can read Korean words with a modicum (a very small modicum, to be sure) of literacy, but there are two obstacles that currently impede my progression from reading to understanding, which is absolutely crucial if I want to get around to speaking:

  1. Korean grammar (from my perspective, as a native speaker of English – we can argue that point some other time) brings to mind very high-end programming languages, with impossibly powerful compilers that can make sense of very loose syntax. To illustrate, using an example in English:

    “Andrew home-at lunch eats.”
    “Andrew lunch home-at eats.”
    “Home-at Andrew lunch eats.”
    “Home-at lunch Andrew eats.”
    “Lunch Andrew home-at eats.”
    “Lunch home-at Andrew eats.”

    all mean the same thing (figure it out!). If I am ever going to learn Korean, I need a serious upgrade to the firmware in my head.

  2. Korean is a context-oriented language. This means that what we English speakers understand as a phrase (an incomplete sentence fragment, so to speak) can actually be a complete sentence, given a certain context. This isn’t completely unusual, since we have sentences like that (“Run!” for example, is considered complete, and the subject – you, us, etc. – depends on the context) – what is unusual is that most of us are not used to perceiving contexts on the same scope as Koreans are. This leads to some truly mind-boggling omissions that are a part of day-to-day speech in Korean. For example, the Korean equivalent for “How do you do?” or “How are you?” (Annyeong hashipnida?) is literally translated as “Are peaceful?”. Imagine somebody greeting you like that in English, and watch the eyebrows go through the roof.I’m considering ignoring the literal translation altogether and just concentrating on direct equivalencies.

So is this report on my mornings geeky enough for you? Hehe. I think I’ll go and look for whatever it is I need to download so that this computer can display (and allow me to type in) Korean.

Hwaiting! – Oh, figure it out yourself.

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