All posts filed under: Other Languages

Cécile Corbel & songs in foreign languages

Good music makes me so, so happy. I’ve been listening to a lot of “experimental” electronic, indie rock, and singer/songwriter type music these days.  When I listen to music in a language I can understand (English, Korean, and some Japanese), lyrics are often the most noticeable element of song for me and vocals tend to stand out against the backdrop of instrumentals.  But in other languages, vocals become mere morphemes without meaning, indistinguishable from the other layers of sound in a song.  A friend and I were discussing how sometimes we prefer to listen to songs in languages we don’t understand – for me, at least, it’s because it lets me interpret and feel the song in my own way without being hindered by semantics. Recently, this friend introduced me to a singer who, as she described it, has “the voice of a siren.” Cécile Corbel is a Breton singer and harpist who, in addition to having the most enchanting voice I’ve ever heard, also composed the score for the Studio Ghibli film 借りぐらしのアリエッティ (The Borrower Arrietty).  That’s …

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 …

Maa, tujhe salaam.

My knowledge of Hindi is zilch, unless you count the few words I know from similarities to Marathi and from Bollywood films.  I’ll probably never learn Hindi to the extent that I’m learning Korean.  But I go through cycles (usually brought on by stress/anxiety) of intensely longing to connect more with my culture and heritage.  Hearing Hindi/Urdu somehow brings a bit of that back into my life.  Plus I’m homesick. >< यहाँ वहां सारा जहाँ देख लिया, अब तक भी तेरे जैसा कोई नहीं. yahan vahan saara jahan dekh liya, ab tak bhi tere jaisa koi nahin I’ve been here and there and seen the whole world, yet  there is no one like you anywhere.

Fishing for compliments

No matter what language you’re trying to learn, if you’re learning by yourself, you’re bound to get discouraged at some point – especially if it’s a language that you don’t get to practice on a daily basis.  Unless you have the opportunity to communicate with a native speaker, there’s still a degree of unreality, a sense of “foreignness” associated with that language that I feel has to be overcome before you can aim for fluency.  For example, when I first learned Hangeul, typed my first Korean sentence, and submitted it as a comment on TTMIK, I still felt like I didn’t know what I was doing – until one of the teachers replied back.  It’s really hard to describe the amazing feeling of being understood by native speakers of the language you’re studying.  That, in itself, was a powerful motivation to learn more and to keep improving. I don’t live in Korea nor do I really live in place populated with many Koreans but still, as I learned more Korean, I kept trying to find …

Diminutives

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, …

Voici ce que j’ai trouvé!

Yesterday, I was perusing my old copy of Le petit Nicolas by René Goscinny, which I bought a couple years ago to brush up on my French, and started feeling nostalgic.  I studied French for five years before I abandoned it in college and now I really wish I hadn’t.  I used to be kind of good at French composition (winning some contests here and there) but now… I can barely string together a sentence.  My reading abilities haven’t deteriorated to that degree yet but I really need to practice more so I don’t forget everything.  First things first:  acquire a decent grammar book because I can’t seem to locate my notes from high school.  I think I’m going to get myself a copy of Bescherelle – La grammaire pour tous which I heard is sometimes used by French students and/or students in French immersion programs.  The book is completely written in French since it’s for native speakers but I don’t think that’ll be a huge problem (I also have a fat Larousse dictionary in …

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.

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 …