Interview with Jung Il Woo (Marie Claire)

Since I’m kind of obsessed with 49 Days‘ sassy Scheduler, I wanted to try my hand at translating an article about Jung Il Woo that I found in the April 2011 issue of Marie Claire Korea.  Well, clearly I bit off more than I could chew.  This was my first time attempting to read (and translate) a rather lengthy magazine article and I think I got the gist of it but there were A LOT of words I did not know.  I would say I had to look up about 10-15% of the words (around 170 words out of a total of 1200).  I would say I’m about 65-70% percent confident in my translation.  There were many things I was unsure of and probably could have phrased better… but this is only for my own personal practice.

Again, I cannot guarantee the accuracy of this translation.

Continue reading “Interview with Jung Il Woo (Marie Claire)”

기대하는 드라마

Only a few more weeks until I graduate and embark on my glorious FOUR-month summer vacation – filled with laziness, guitar, Japanese, Korean, and, of course, Korean dramas.  And the timing is perfect –  this summer looks like it’s going to be filled with some enjoyable dramas.  I’m not expecting all of these to be spectacular, but these are the ones I’m anticipating at the moment.

  1. 동안미녀 (Baby-Faced Beauty) – May 2
  2. 최고의 사랑 (Best Love) – May 4
  3. 내게 거짓말을 해봐 (Lie to Me) – May 9
  4. Romance Town – May 11
  5. City Hunter – May 25
  6. Ripley – May 30
  7. 넌 내게 반했어 (You’ve Fallen For me/Festival) – June 29

I’m probably looking forward to Lie to Me and You’ve Fallen For Me the most.  I’m on the fence about Baby-faced Beauty but I’ll keep an open mind.  City Hunter is the one I’m most skeptical about.  I know Lee Min Ho is a decent actor and I adore Park Min Young but in general the quality of Korean adaptations of Japanese dramas/manga are… uh… questionable so I’m going to be watching this with a critical eye.

Yoon Eun Hye, Kang Ji Hwan (Lie To Me)

Biology of the language-learning brain

A lot of my friends are neuroscience majors so, out of curiosity and because I had some extra space in my schedule, I decided to take an intro-level behavioral neuroscience course this semester.


I have never experienced a class so frustratingly boring in my life.  And it’s a real pity because I know that neuroscience can and should be somewhat interesting (it’s the brain, for heaven’s sake) but… it’s not.

Except for today.


We started talking about language and cognition and of course my ears perked up because I’ve always had a fascination for the science behind learning a foreign language.  How does the brain comprehend new phonemes and new grammar structures?  Where and how does it form a new “dictionary”?  How does it affect other parts of behavior?  To what extent is language a learned behavior and to what extent is it innate?

If anyone else is interested in this topic, I suggest NOT taking a neuroscience class.  Instead, try perusing The Language Instinct by Harvard professor, cognitive scientist, and linguist Steven Pinker.  What an incredible book.  It ties language to science to psychology in a neat, seamless fashion.  (That book really deserves it’s own post.)

Anyway, our class is taught by an MD which means we approach language from a clinical point of view, basically by asking questions like – if you have a lesion in this particular part of the brain, what happens to your language ability, what happens to your understanding?  For example, damage to the frontal lobe of your brain may lead to Broca’s aphasia where the patient can comprehend and analyze everything that’s being said but cannot express language (either spoken or written).  This makes sense because the “Broca area” of the brain is involved in speech delivery.  On the other hand, damage to the temporal lobe may result in Wernicke’s aphasia, which is characterized by an ability to express language but not understanding.  The “Wernicke area” of the brain is responsible for retrieving correct, meaningful words so any lesions in this part of the brain results in nonsensical speech.  Interesting.

We also talked about something that’s probably more relevant to me and other readers of this blog – how multilingualism works.  Most people know that the younger you are, the easier it is to learn a new language.  Precisely, 8-11 years or younger.  And this is because of brain plasticity, or it’s ability to change as a result of one’s experience.  It’s truly incredible how plastic your brain can be at a young age.  For example, my five-year-old cousin can understand and speak the six different languages she’s exposed to on a daily basis – Marathi (her mom’s mother tongue), Hindi (her mom’s second language), Telugu (her dad’s mother tongue), Kannada (the local language where she lives), English (which she learns in school) and Tamil (her great-aunt’s second language).

Obviously when you know that many languages, your brain has to have specific areas where it stores these language “dictionaries” (i.e. the vocabulary and rules of the language that you have to remember).  Otherwise, you’d be randomly using words from the different languages when you speak.  What is fascinating is that if you learn multiple languages when you’re at a younger age (<8 y.o.), your language dictionaries are stored in the same part of your brain.  But when you learn them when you’re older, your brain is less plastic and your foreign language dictionaries are stored in a different part of your brain, away from your mother tongue dictionary!

Now, knowing that, what if someone has a stroke?  Stroke happens when certain parts of the brain don’t receive adequate blood supply and, if that part of the brain has to do with language, stroke may result in the inability to understand and/or formulate speech.  BUT!  What if you are bilingual and you have your language dictionaries stored in different parts of the brain?  Then, a stroke patient could potentially lose the ability to communicate in one language but be perfectly fine in another language!  (So it’s a stretch, but yes, there are health benefits to learning languages.^^)

My neuroscience professor insisted that it is very difficult for “normal” people to learn foreign languages once they are an adult.  According to him, because the adult brain is less plastic, it constantly translates the language it is learning back into its native language.  Well, I disagree.  I was like that with Korean at first, but now I feel like I can read and listen to Korean and understand in real-time.  I used to think that anyone who wanted to learn a language can sit down and do it, as long as they had the time and the will.  Turns out that success is not entirely dependent on the amount of effort put in.  Success in language-learning as an adult is in part determined by genetics.

You know polyglots, those geniuses who seem to pick up foreign languages as easily as they breathe?  Turns out that’s genetic as well.  My mom’s been saying this for years – my grandfather is a polyglot and she insisted that I got my language thing from him but it wasn’t until I heard it in class that I really believed it.  Turns out that it’s possible the Broca area of the brain might be organized differently in those who are polyglots and in those who are not.

Whew.  I could go on and on but I’ll stop now before I write a book.  As a scientist and an aspiring (?) polyglot, I just get so enthusiastic about the link between science and language.  Check out Steven Pinker’s book for more about this awesomeness!!  XD

Graduate school

This is an off-topic post but it’s such a big part of my life that I have to blog about it at least once.  (If you follow me elsewhere on the web, you may already know about this, so apologies for repeating myself!)

Starting this fall, I will be attending Stanford University (School of Medicine) to pursue a PhD degree in Immunology!!

Graduate school application is a long and tedious process here in the States.  Let me briefly summarize the events that lead to this.  (I was, of course, very bad at planning and procrastinated a lot so the entire process was stressful.)

  1. September 2010 – Took the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) which is an annoying standardized test that everyone has to take to get into an American graduate school.
  2. October 2010 – Wrote my personal statement, which was basically an essay about my current research and how that ties into why I want to pursue Immunology in graduate school.  (Immunology = study of the immune system).  As a microbiologist, I’ve always been interested in host response to bacteria so I thought this would be a great field to pursue.
  3. November 2010 – Asked 3 professors to write my letters of recommendation.  Started the online application.
  4. Early December 2010 – Finished my applications for 6 universities (Duke, Johns Hopkins, Harvard, Stanford, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, and Brown)
  5. Mid-December 2010 – Received interview invitations from ALL the universities I applied too!  Duke and Harvard were my first interview invites (within 10 days of submitting my application) and Stanford my last.
  6. End-of-January to Early March 2011 – INTERVIEWS & ACCEPTANCES!  My first interview was at Harvard at the end of January and my last interview was the first week of March at Stanford.  Interview weekends were so much fun!  They lasted 3 to 5 days total.  Usually we had faculty interviews for 1-2 days with different professors.  I interviewed with just 3 professors at Harvard (fewest) but with 8 professors at  Duke (most).  The rest of the time was spent exploring the city we were in, going out for dinner with faculty members, going on housing tours, and going to bars with the current students!  It was so much fun and I made some great friends along the way.  I was accepted at 4 schools and waitlisted at 2!  (I was very grateful and lucky to not be rejected anywhere).
  7. March 2011-April 15, 2011 – After hearing back from all of the schools, it was time to decide.  April 15 is pretty much the standard deadline to inform most U.S. graduate schools about whether you’re attending or not.  Basically, you have to decide among your acceptances where you want to attend.
  8. April 15, 2011 – I decided to attend Stanford!  I can’t wait to move to beautiful California.
And now, some pictures of my future home.  (None of these pictures are mine.)
The Main Quad
Li Ka Shing Center
James H. Clark Center

One of my professors swore that it was the most beautiful campus in the U.S.  I think I’ll have to agree.


Yesterday, I finished watching Devil Beside You – which, quite possibly, might be the last Taiwanese drama I’ll ever watch.  For reasons I won’t go into here.  Heh.

Anyway, I watched DBY with little to no knowledge of Chinese, other than basic “A is B”-type sentences so I was intrigued by the way the characters addressed each other.  Why did everyone call Jiang Meng “Ahmeng”?  Why was Yuan Yi so offended when Ahmeng called him “Ahyi”?  Why did Qi Yue’s friends alternatively call her Qi Yue and Xiao Yue?  Why was Yuan Yi the only one who called Qing Zi “Xiao Zi”?  You see what I’m getting at.

Well, I kind of figured out through context that ah (阿) and xiao (小) were diminutives, basically forms of words (usually names though they can be other nouns) that are used to signify either smallness or endearment/intimacy.  In fact, in Chinese xiao (小) actually means “small.”  What is interesting is that some languages, like English, do not have a strict way of forming diminutives while other languages, like Chinese, Korean, and Japanese do.

A lot of diminutives for proper names English (i.e. nicknames) end with an “-ie” sound.  Examples:  Christine = Christie; Samantha = Sammy.  Some other nouns follow this pattern as well, like cat = kitty.  But English doesn’t really have set rules for forming diminutives of proper nouns (nicknames just are what they are, I suppose).

Indian languages (e.g. Hindi, Marathi, Tamil, etc.)
Of course, I can’t forget to address my own native language…  Most Indian names have diminutives ending in a u (or sometimes ee or ya) sound, unless they are very short.  Since Indian names are usually quite long, the nickname is most commonly the first syllable + u.  Examples:  Ramachandran = Ramu; Ashwini = Ashu; Namrata = Namu.  BUT names like Satya, Puja, Meera, don’t usually change.

I have to say, however, unlike English, Japanese, Chinese, and Korean, Indian diminutives are almost always reserved for very close family members and sometimes very very close family friends.  Of course, a degree of familiarity is a prerequisite for nickname use in all cultures… but I just feel that most Indian people would not have even their closest friends call them using their diminutive nickname.  It’s almost always reserved for parents and grandparents; and once you get older, people tend to leave it off anyway.  (As an example, my mom and dad call me by my childhood nickname but my aunts and uncles do not.  Incidentally, you might be able to guess what that nickname is from what I’ve said here!)

Suffixes like kun (くん) and chan (ちゃん) are usually added to male and female names respectively to make them diminutive.  Sometimes ちゃん can be added to other nouns to make them sound “cute” (e.g. 猫ちゃん = kitty)

Like Chinese and Japanese, Korean has a pretty standard way of forming proper name diminutives – add 아 (ah) at the end of names ending in a consonant and 야 (yah) at the end of a name ending in a vowel.  In the case of Korean (though not in the other languages I’ve mentioned), this diminutive is also the vocative case – this is basically the form of the proper noun that you use to call a person.  In most languages, the diminutive and can be used either as the vocative case or not but in Korean, the 아/야 diminutive MUST also be the vocative case.  Korean also has a diminutive that is not vocative –  for names ending in consonants, you can add 이 (i).  This is how I understand it:

  1. 혜원가 김밥을 먹는다. (O)
    [Adding 이 to 혜원 makes it diminutive but it’s still nominative – meaning, it’s the subject of the sentence and therefore marked by the subject marking particle]
  2. 혜원,  김밥을 먹어라. (O)
    [Adding  아 to 혜원 makes the diminutive now vocative – meaning you are calling Hyewon to come eat kimbap.]
  3. 혜원, 김밥을 먹어라. (X…?)
    [Now that I think about it, I wonder if this is really wrong?  It sounds odd to me and I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say something like this.  Hm.]
  4. 혜원 김밥을 먹는다. (X)
    [This is definitely wrong because you only use 아 when you’re calling someone, not when that person is the subject of a sentence]

Whoops, sorry for the grammar overload.  I just find stuff like this interesting.  One of my favorite things to watch in Korean dramas is when 2 characters go from addressing someone as “so-and-so 씨” or by the full name  to the diminutive.  I remember feeling all giddy at the end of Full House when 영재 addresses 지은 as “한지은.. 지은아…”

Just another thing I enjoy about the Korean language, I guess.

Big Bang SE Mini-album + Inkigayo

Hang on a sec, I need to collect myself.  *hyperventilates*

So I’m a huge HUGE Big Bang fan and I adored their mini album TONIGHT (check out my review here). Obviously, I was super excited for their special edition mini-album and I was blown away (I mean BLOWN AWAY!!) by “Stupid Liar” and “Love Song.”  (To be fair, I liked Daesung’s solo “Baby Don’t Cry” too except for the weird whirly sound effects randomly in the song).

And then… I saw their second comeback stage on SBS Inkigayo last night.

I have tears in my eyes.  I’m not kidding.  “Awesome” can’t even begin to describe how truly awesome the performances were.  It’s not even the performance itself per se; what’s incredible is how much Big Bang has grown over the years as musicians and performers.  Since I’ve only been a hardcore fan for a year (the longest I’ve ever fangirled over an idol group), through YouTube, I’ve seen their past four years in a very short time span.  In terms of music, they’ve gone from traditional hip hop and R&B, to electro-pop, and now to pop-rock while never losing their identity.  In terms of performance, who can forget their crazy outfits, their choreography, their inexhaustible energy?  Big Bang has an unmatched charisma that makes up for the fact that they sometimes slip up during their live performances.

That being said, their comeback stage last night might be the BEST live performance I have seen from them.  There is a sense of maturity, both in the songs and in the choreography and vocally, all of the members did very well.  Without further ado:


Source: 4everKPOPgirl01

The first word that comes to mind is – whimsical.  Everything from GD walking around like he’s drunk on stage, to the accusatory yet somehow still teasing chorus (which GD sings – how much do I love that!).  This is a really fun, upbeat song.  The melody seems to be at odds with the lyrics (it’s about a guy who’s been deceived by a girl?) but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable for me.  Supposedly, “Tonight” won out over this song for the title track and, while I think “Stupid Liar” is the better song (in terms of composition, creativity, lyrics, AND personal enjoyment), I can understand why “Tonight” was chosen.  “Stupid Liar” and “Love Song” both have a very different sound; “Stupid Liar” would not have meshed well with the overall sound of TONIGHT.  Personally I think it might have been better to package “Tonight,” “What is Right,” and “Somebody to Love” as one EP and “Cafe,” “Stupid Liar,” and “Love Song” in another, based on musical style.  (And, oh yeah, excuse the fangirling but TOP is looking so adorable in this performance!!  LOVE the hair.)


Source: 4everKPOPgirl01

I adore “Stupid Liar” but I think “Love Song” wins as my favorite.  There’s just something so fresh about the whole sound of this song.  Soompi’s review mentioned undertones of U2 and I have to agree; I actually thought it sounded more like OneRepublic (their style is also influenced by U2).  The pop-rock thing works well for them and, surprisingly none of the members, not even the rappers, got left out.  (Still bitter over the fact that Daesung got 1 LINE in “Tonight”).  In fact, TOP and GD’s mellow raps were probably my favorite parts of the song.  In some of their older songs (take “Goodbye baby” and “I Don’t Undesrstand” for example), I felt that the rap failed to blend in with the rest of the melody and just ended up sounding forced and awkward.  But in this song, the rap worked perfectly; I think it even held it together.  Of course, TOP’s intro was surprising and lovely – I never knew his voice could be so soft.  This performance was good (GD GD GD!!!! looked/sounded so FINE!  ahem) but there were some pitch problems… and I’m not going to say who, but I was surprised.  Hm.  Well, it didn’t stop me from replaying the video like a million times!

BIGBANG 화이팅! ^^