Where I live, we don’t have four seasons.

In the summer, it gets very hot and stays warm until the end of November.  Then, out of the blue, in the middle of December we get sleet and ice.  It stays cold through February and then BAM one day in the middle of March it gets up to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 deg. Celsius).  Then it proceeds to get hotter and hotter through the summer.  While I was walking around in short sleeves last week, I heard (through Twitter) that it was raining and snowing in Korea. SNOW. IN MARCH.

My friend Jeannie said it was 꽃샘추위.  I wasn’t entirely sure what that was so I looked it up and found that it’s roughly translated as “spring frost.”  Well, I wasn’t entirely satisfied with that explanation so I found an article about on (the Korean) Wikipedia:

꽃샘추위는 초봄에 날씨가 풀린 뒤 다시 찾아오는 일시적인 추위를 가리키는 고유어이다. 꽃이 피는 것을 시샘하는 듯이 춥다고 해서 이 이름이 붙었다. 꽃샘추위가 오면 갑자기 쌀쌀해진 날씨에 사람들은 옷을 두껍게 입고 다닌다. 꽃샘추위는 시베리아 고기압에 의한 것이다. 즉 겨울의 한기는 시베리아에서 유입되며 겨울에 시베리아 고기압의 영향을 받는 곳(중국이나 일본)에서도 꽃샘추위 비슷한 늦한기가 있다. 일본에도 ‘하나비에(はなびえ)’라는 유사한 뜻의 단어가 있다.

꽃샘추위 (kkot saem chuwi) is a word native to Korea that refers to the brief spell of cold weather that comes around in early spring after it gets warm.  The name stuck because it was said that the cold is jealous of the flowers blooming (Translation note:   꽃 = flower; 샘 = jealousy; 추위 = cold). During 꽃샘추위, the weather gets suddenly chilly and people go out wearing bulky clothes.  꽃샘추위 is due to the high atmospheric pressure from Siberia.  That is to say, while the chill of winter comes in from Siberia, when it is winter in Siberia, the places affected by the high atmospheric pressure (China and Japan) also experience a later chill similar to 꽃샘추위.  In Japan, “hanabie” is a word of similar meaning.

Source:  Wikipedia

I am fairly certain we don’t have anything like the Korean “spring frost” over here, but this entire week is COLD. (Relatively at least). It was in the 70s and 80s last week and this week it’s 20 degrees colder, rainy, and windy. The weather has been really schizophrenic this year.

I supposed I should get used to the cold, though.  Chances are I will be in a much colder place come this fall, wherever graduate school might take me.

Reading & Writing in Hindi

Today I attended an Indian cultural concert and charity event in my home city.  Most of the songs were in Hindi, one was in Marathi, and all of it made me wish I had made more of an effort to learn about my own culture.  I go through phases of being obsessed with Bollywood and Hindi music (usually when I’m in India) but I’m weirdly self-conscious about trying to learn Hindi.  I feel more pressured because I’m Indian… but then when I watch Hindi films, I’m surprised at how much I can understand, just because Hindi is so similar to Marathi.  And then I feel like I want to start teaching myself Hindi again.  Anyway, I have made slight progress.  I do know how to read Devanagari characters and construct some very basic sentences.  Here’s an old post of mine from tumblr about reading and writing in Hindi.

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Idols on Twitter

Part of the reason Korean stuck with me more than any other language is because I don’t just learn from textbooks; I expose myself to the language (as best I can) in a variety of different ways.  Although my speaking practice is pretty much nonexistent, I get listening practice from dramas, music, TTMIK‘s 이야기 series and videos.  My reading practice I get from 만화책, short articles (usually celebrity gossip), Big Bang’s biography (AWESOME book, by the way), and Twitter.  Twitter is actually really great because you can practice reading, writing, AND learn how people use 속어.  I’ve tweeted with some native Korean speakers and learned a lot that way!  But, I have to confess – the reason I got Twitter in the first place was so I can follow all of my favorite Korean celebrities.

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My penpal

Compared with my reading and listening comprehension skills, my Korean composition skills are pretty much laughable.  I tried to translate a relatively simple English song into Korean and while I think I got the grammar right, I managed to suck all the emotion out of the lyrics.  Sigh.  Anyway, I’ve been trying to improve my writing ability by commenting on TTMIK, tweeting some native Korean speakers, and emailing my Korean penpal, Dina.

Dina (her Korean name is 도희) and I have been penpals for about a year now.  She was actually my younger sister’s friend back when they were both in the 1st and 2nd grade here in the States, but she moved back to Korea at the end of 2nd grade.  She’d been in touch with my sister and when my sister mentioned my interest in the Korean language, she immediately said she wanted to be penpals with me.  So we’ve been emailing back and forth since then and it’s amazing how my emails have progressed from being half in English, half in Korean to almost 100% Korean.

We talk about random things.  Mostly about things like school, food, and the weather.  I also learn a lot of interesting words and slang and emoticons from her as well.  For example “바2” and “빠빠이” are both cute ways to say “bye.”  Once I tried to fangirl about boybands (i.e. Big Bang) with her but clearly she’s more mature than I am because she said:

나는 boyband에 관심은 없지만, 빅뱅이 좋아~~ 언니는 멤버 중에서 누가 제일 좋아?? 한국 친구들은 빅뱅 중에서 g-dragon을 제일많이 좋아해!

관심 없다고?!  How is that possible?  Haha.

I love being an 언니 to my Korean penpal and I hope we can stay friends for a very long time!

Learning Korean Through Translation

I’m a huge proponent of learning a language through translation.  In fact, most of the vocabulary and grammar structures I know now are thanks to my attempts to learn Korean by “translating” K-pop songs.  Not only did I learn new things, I also figured out what the song meant!  But, please note, these are all still amateur translations.  A successful translation captures both the meaning and style of a work and if you use translation as a means to learn a language, you can only hope to master one aspect at the beginner level (meaning).  Once you’ve mastered the language (if there is such a thing), you can learn to capture the style of the original work as well.

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Thoughts on Thai

When I’m feeling down, I go overboard on movies and dramas. Actually since I started watching K- and J-dramas my movie watching has slackened a bit but once in a while I do get around to watching some good ones (e.g. The King’s Speech!) Anyway, today I watched a Thai movie: สิ่งเล็กๆที่เรียกว่ารัก (A Crazy Little Thing Called Love) and it cheered me up considerably!

Aside from the plot (which is simple, sweet, and makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside), one of the best things about this movie was just the language it was in – Thai. It was my first time hearing the Thai language and I was pleasantly surprised. I guess I thought it would sound more like Vietnamese but to my untrained ear, the tones sounded more like Chinese? (I don’t know. I could be wrong – the only Vietnamese I’ve really heard is when my friends talk to their parents. Interestingly, I know that Vietnamese has a lot of words that have Chinese roots but a Vietnamese friend of mine said that Chinese was very difficult for her because the tones were different.) If I ever decided to learn Thai, the tones and pronunciation would be a big problem for me. Most native Thai words are monosyllabic and differ only in tone and distinctions in pronunciation.

Even though this is the only exposure I’ve had to Thai, I already feel attached to it because of its linguistic roots. The Thai language is related to Sanskrit, Pali (the “official” language of Theravada Buddhism – the Buddhism that originated in India from Hinduism), and Khmer (Cambodian, which also has roots in Sanskrit and Pali). The Thai script, which I think is one of the prettiest scripts I’ve ever seen, is derivative of Brahmic script – the “great grandfather” of many South and Southeast Asian scripts. Take a look at these examples:

മലയാളലിപി (Malayalam – spoken in Kerala, India)
ಕನ್ನಡ ಲಿಪಿ (Kannada – spoken in Karnataka, India)
อักษรไทย (Thai)

What is interesting is that the writing for all three of these languages is derived from “Southern Brahmic” script. And actually, Malayalam and Thai are actually one generation closer because Thai’s parent script Khmer shares a parent script with Malayalam. This might not be as surprising as it sounds; the spread of Buddhism from India to these parts of Southeast Asia probably facilitated the spread of its script as well.

I don’t know what it is about the history of languages that is so fascinating to me… It might be because the evolution of language is so similar to the evolution of science. They are both such interesting topics and they both take my mind off graduate school woes!

Drama: Biscuit Teacher & Star Candy

I like watching two dramas at the same time – a new one that’s currently airing and an old one to watch while I’m waiting for episodes/subs.  In the middle of Dream High, I started watching 건빵선생과 별사탕 (SBS 2005), which is literally translated as Biscuit Teacher and Star Candy but is often also known as Hello My Teacher.  Oh my gosh.  I love this drama so much.  I can’t even articulate how much I love it, especially the adorable, happily-ever-after ending.  It’s easily one of the best dramas I’ve ever seen!

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