니홍고 감바리마쇼!

Oh, this is fun.

I know I’m not the first language blogger to stumble across these videos, but I thought I’d share them anyway.  니홍고 감바리마쇼! (만화로 배우는 일본어) is a YouTube web series that aired from 2010-2011 designed to (you guessed it) help you learn Japanese through Korean.

The videos basically run like a podcast, except with cute little comics depicting the scenario around which each lesson is built.  It would have been cool if the story in each video built on the previous one like an ongoing drama, but it’s still cute that there’s a cast of recurring characters.  There’s the bumbling protagonist Park-san, his girlfriend of sorts Sayaka-san, his younger brother in the army Hyunwoo, and their smart-aleck cat Gongnyangi.  I love how the hosts actually spent time developing their characters.  Speaking of whom, the hosts, Rin and Sho, have great chemistry with each other.  I’m proud to say I can mostly understand both their banter and their explanations!

Each video is centered around one word or phrase but the full dialogue is pretty complicated stuff for a beginner.  That being said, it’s not necessary to completely understand the grammar (nor is that the point) because the hosts do a good job of summarizing each line in Korean and only emphasizing the word or phrase that is the focus of the lesson.  In the later videos, they annotate the key vocabulary words in the dialogue at the bottom of the video and provide a quiz later at the end.  Again, the emphasis is more on learning vocabulary than grammar.

These videos are adorable but I’m not really sure how much Japanese I’m learning…  I seem to be absorbing more Korean, haha.  Be sure to check out these videos if you’re learning Japanese and Korean.  Props to G9 Languages for creating another great service for language learners.  If you make it to the credits, you may catch sight of some very familiar names right at the end!

Book Review: 옛것에 대한 그리움

Before I start, an extra special shout-out goes out to my loveliest of lovelies, Jeannie, who sent this book along with a stash of other goodies from Korea.  She’s forever spoiling me with gifts.  I am so lucky to know you, dear – and not just because you’re my Sugar Daddy.  Haha.

I have to admit, I distanced myself from Korean culture and history during my first year of studying the language because a part of me felt that if I learned too much about it, I might come across as a Korean “wannabe.”  As it is, I still keep my passion for Korean a bit under the wraps, but I’ve come to realize that one cannot divorce a language from its culture.  The better I get at Korean, the more I want to know about Korea itself.

And on that topic, a few weeks ago while I was watching 아랑 사또전, I decided I wanted to know more about 고수레, or food that Koreans put out to appease ghosts.  I googled it, browsed  few websites, and eventually came across an excerpt from a book called 옛것에 대한 그리움.  The same site had posted other excerpts from this book and all of them seemed to be about certain aspects of Korean culture.  It looked really interesting and informative!

Author Kim Jong-tae’s primary aim in writing this book is to preserve Korean history and tradition in the current day and age.  In the face of rapidly evolving technology, our fast-paced, modernized selves often forget the religious or cultural traditions of our parents and grandparents – which means they will be equally missing in our children’s and children’s children’s lives as well, perhaps gone for posterity.  This book means to save that on the behalf of present day Koreans.  In fact, the whole book can be summarized succinctly by the its tagline:  잊혀져 가는 거의 모든것의 아름다운 풍경.

The book is divided into five sections, each having a certain theme, and each section contains several different Korean cultural/traditional points.

Each topic gets about a four-page passage dedicated to it, explaining what it is, where it originated from, and what its significance is.  Below is a snapshot of the pages describing 고수레.

Some topics even have photographs accompanying them.  This one was from the passage describing 쪽 (a woman’s chignon).

Other passages include 장승, 소리 (an entire section about onomatopoeia!), 바구니, 봉숭아, 놋그릇, plus tons more.

This is such a lovely little book.  A good, informative read, and definitely a good way to spruce up one’s vocabulary.  I definitely recommend it to anyone who has an interest in Korean traditions.

Ethnic block

India is a great place to think about language.  Nearly each of India’s 28 states has its own regional language and culture.  There’s Tamil in Tamil Nadu, Kannada in Karnataka, Marathi in Maharashtra, Gujurati in Gujurat… I could go on.  Not to mention, Hindi and English is common to most states.  Imagine moving from New York to California and having to learn a whole new language and script!

My mother tongue is Marathi but my ancestors settled in Tamil Nadu generations ago, giving rise to a small group of people whose Marathi evolved into an interesting dialect due to geographic separation; it’s basically old Marathi admixed with the local Tamil language.  Now, I speak my mother tongue fairly decently.  Not fluently enough to communicate complex thoughts and emotions (and basically no one in my extended family knows how to write or read it), but I can hold a decent conversation with my grandparents.  My parents also read, write, and speak Tamil fluently – but I can’t.  In fact, on this trip to India, I came to realize that the Korean I learned in 2.5-3 years is better than the Tamil I’ve been hearing on and off my whole life.  My listening comprehension in Korean and Tamil is about the same.  And I can read, write, and somewhat speak in Korean, but not at all in Tamil.

It’s odd.  I love language.  But I have never felt the desire to get better at Tamil or even Hindi, which you think I would want to learn at least as an Indian (and yes, I was raised in America, but I do consider myself Indian).  It would have benefited me to do so and certainly I had plenty of opportunities to learn, but in my head, I had already made up my mind to not learn it.

One of my good friends is of a mixed Japanese and Korean ethnicity, but speaks neither language.  She has said a few times, offhandedly, that she’d like to learn but something’s holding her back.  I think it might be the same something that’s kept me from ever wanting to learn Tamil, or Hindi, or Sanskrit seriously:

Pressure.  An ethnic blockage of sorts.

Learning French, Korean, Japanese, etc. is fun for a lot of reasons and one of them, for me, is because there’s no ethnic pressure.  I have no cultural ties to Korean or Japanese.  I can learn it when I please, how I please, and progress at my own pace.  I can also fail at my own pace.  I can hit plateaus.  I can make mistakes.  I can learn from those mistakes at my own pace.  I have this thing that defines me, makes me unique among my family and friends.

Not so with Tamil or Hindi.  The pressure is there; it is very tangible and it manifests itself as a mental block that prevents me from ever wanting to pursue those languages seriously.  I have this fear of failing and disappointing others or not progressing fast enough because, somehow, because it’s an Indian language, it matters more on a personal level.  Same with with my Japanese-Korean friend.  When I try learning Indian languages, it’s as though I’m affected more deeply by the normal trials and tribulations of language learning (making grammar mistakes, having bad pronunciation, etc.) because I somehow interpret my language difficulties as a failure to be a proper Indian.  And that just makes me feel shitty.

It’s sadly ironic.  If, at this very moment, I decided I wanted to learn Tamil, I would be completely inundated by family, friends of family, and random passersby on the street, every single one ready and willing to correct my pronunciation, criticize my handwriting, correct my grammar, quiz me on my “knowledge” of the language, instruct me about their culture.  Oh, if only I could have the same experience in my Korean-learning endeavors.  I would be so happy.  Instead, that fear of disappointing them and disappointing myself prevents me from even trying.  Amazingly, I still feel this pressure even when I’m in America.

I know this is all mental.  If only there was some way to divorce my everyday, culturally-conscious self from my language-learning self, at least for some period of time!

Shiseido UNO Fog Bar CM

Okay, so this is a completely useless post.  But really.  It’s not everyday you stumble across a Japanese CM starring four beautiful イケメン.  Hnnggg.

I was stalking my favorite Japanese actor Eita a couple days ago and found that he did a recent CM for UNO Fog Bar, a hair styling spray, along with Oguri Shun, Miura Haruma, and Tsumabuki Satoshi.  Ummmm, hello NOSEBLEED.  Looks like this particular F4 has been endorsing Fog Bar for a couple years now because I found this adorable CM from 2010.  (You can practice reading Japanese subtitles a little too!)

Hehe.  I love the all シュツ シュツ シュツ (the spraying sounds).  The katakana is fun to write too.

I think I have this funny thing where I get really attached to Japanese actors, more so than Korean actors, but I tend to get attached to the characters in Korean dramas more than the characters in Japanese dramas.  Take Eita for instance.  I’ve watched five, going on six, of his dramas and I think he’s brilliant in each one.  (By the way, I highly recommend Last Friends and それでも、生きてゆく.  Those two dramas may have changed my life a little).

As for the other イケメン featured in this CM, Shun’s lovely but I’ve only really fangirled over him in Rich Man, Poor Woman (SO! GOOD!).  Haruma is so cute it make me want to cry, but I feel kind of blahhh about the stuff he’s acted in (including  Bloody Monday, which I found laughably bad).  And I don’t know much about Satoshi except that he was in The Waterboys (which I’ve been meaning to watch anyway), a really popular movie that, coincidentally, had a drama spin-off starring Eita.  Haha.

Okay, well, that’s it.  This has been a Fangirly J-actor Post by yours truly.  I even made a new category for it, see?  XD

Ten Korean words I can never remember

As you guys might know already, I dislike memorizing vocabulary words.  Most of the Korean words I know are from reading articles and books, listening to podcasts and songs (especially rap – I’ve learned so many great words from Epik High), and watching variety shows and dramas.  I’d rather learn words slowly and naturally through context than force myself to study stacks of flashcards.  It might be slower but the retention rate is better, in my case.

There are some words that I hear once or twice and remember forever because of the particular context I read them in.  For example, I will forever remember 고구마 = sweet potato because of 우결 and I learned a lot of entertainment industry-related vocabulary by reading celebrity news.

But there are some words that I see over and over and over and over again in different contexts that I have to look up EVERY SINGLE TIME.  I don’t know why they refuse to stick.  I write them down over and over again, to no avail.  Some of these words stump me because they have so many definitions to them; others are just verbs or adjectives that I find difficult to learn through context.  Maybe jotting them down here will help?

1) 파악하다 (타동사)(사람이 어떤 대상의 내용이나 성질 따위를)충분히 이해하여 확실하게 알다.

2) 넘어가다 (자동사) = 쓰러지다; to set, sink, go down; 옮아가다; 속다; to be swallowed; to be turned over

3) 겪다 (타동사)to undergo, experience, suffer

4) 딱히 (부사) = (not) necessarily, (not) always, (not) exactly, (not) completely

5) 유쾌하다 (형용사) = (사람이나 그 기분이)즐겁고 상쾌하다.

6) 대상 (명사) = the subject, object, target (of study)

7) 살짝 (부사) = 남이 모를 정도로 재빠르게; 심하지 않게 약간; 힘을 들이지 않고 가볍게.

8) 개념 (명사) = 생각; 철학

9) 흩어지다/흐트러지다 (자동사) = (한곳에 모여 있던 무엇이)각각 떨어지거나 퍼지다.

10) 흥미 (명사) = 흥(fun, interest, merriment)을 느끼는 재미; 어떠한 사물에 대해 느끼는 특별한 관심.

Oh man, they look so simple now that I’ve listed them out!  (Of course the list itself isn’t exhaustive.)  Haha.  My vocabulary is so bad. :(

What are some words YOU find difficult to remember?

Interview with Jo Jung-seok (Singles)

Any fans of The King 2 Hearts’ heart-melting, swooniest of swoony, squeal-worthy Eun Shi-kyung out there?  I’ve been keeping an eye on actor Jo Jung-seok since I first saw him What’s Up, where he plays a nerdy kid with a great voice but terrible stage fright; all I can say at this point is GIMME MOAR.

Jo’s actually a well-known name in musical theater, but this year he found his way into the the realm of TV and film and I can only hope he has plans to stay.  I came across his interview in Singles magazine last month and wanted to have another go at translating longer articles, so here goes.  (Disclaimer:  All copyright belongs to the original writer.  I’m not profiting by this translation and I can’t guarantee its accuracy.)

Look! At! That! Face!

Continue reading “Interview with Jo Jung-seok (Singles)”

Greetings from the motherland

Hello, Blogosphere.  I’m currently in India, visiting my extended family.  And sobbing because of the bad internet.  Sadly, I don’t have a proper wifi connection at my grandparents’ house so I’m using this PnP USB Modem which lets you access “India’s Superfast Wireless Broadband” with speeds up to a shocking 10-20 Kbps.

I know.

When I was younger, I could go 2-3 months without the Internet but at this point in my life, I can’t afford to be offline for more than a  couple days.  It’s not me being spoiled; I need it for work (especially since this is kind of an obligatory vacation my parents forced on me when I still have things to do.)

So I guess I will be taking a little bit of a break from K-studying for the time being, though I do have a couple drafts which I may get up in the next few days (or nights, depending on how bad my jet lag is.)  Till then, let me leave you all with one of my favorite Bollywood songs.  They just don’t make ’em like this anymore… (or do they?  I haven’t watched a Hindi movie in ages haha.)