introducing “Things to Entertain you.” This is going to be my daily format for sharing random cultural thoughts, pictures and basically anything I want to in an easy to digest and read format. Expect to be updated Monday-Thursday, and probably once on the weekend.
Something for you to read:
I suck at speaking Korean and people generally can’t understand my mis-pronounced Korean language based on context. At least in my experiences so far.
So far, if I mis-pronounce a word, even in the slightest I might as well be speaking with clicks and baseball signals. For example, if I try to say the word “Shi-ja” (start) but instead say “Chi-ja” nobody has any idea what I’m saying.
I’ve taken some linguistics classes and the sounds of ‘ch’ and ‘sh’ are not that far apart. Differences in pronunciation are common. It’s like ‘th’ and ‘d.’ The sounds can be almost interchangeable. And regardless which way you say those sounds in English, I can probably figure out what you are saying based on context alone.
I once asked somebody if there was a word that was similar to “Chi-ja” that people thought I was saying only to find out there isn’t.
I guess you could make the argument that an equivalent in English would be “who” vs. “how.” A small change in diction makes a big difference in the word. I would understand the lack of understanding if I was saying a different word, or something that sounded like a different word. But when there’s absolutely no other word that sounds like it? This continues to mystify me.
Today I tried to say the phrase “this is my favorite song” in Korean to my class. Although I said all the words correctly, I said a few words out of order. Again, nobody understood. If someone came to me and said something like “Go Restaurant, where is?” I could figure out “oh they want to know where the restaurant is.” Here, no such luck. I either say something 100 percent perfectly or I don’t say it at all.A problem with this is that if you say something perfectly, then people assume you are fluent. Then they speak really fast and use words I don’t know.
I’ve spent many hours wondering why this is. And I could spend some time writing up my theories, but really, you wouldn’t care. Basically, I think people here just aren’t used to hearing their language spoken by a foreigner. Why should they be adept at deciphering my basic language skills?
Furthermore, if I were to see a white guy, I would not expect the words out of his mouth to be Korean. It would totally catch me unexpected. Maybe they think I’m speaking English words they just don’t know…I’m not sure.
One last story regarding the word “Shi-ja.” When I first learned the word “Shi-ja,” it was in a classroom setting. When the teacher wanted students to start doing something she would say that. I asked her after she said it “what does that word ‘Chi-ja’ mean?”
Blank stare. Even after asking her what the word meant literally 30 seconds after she just said it, she had no idea what word I was asking her. I finally said to her “the word you said just 1 minute ago that makes the kids do thing.”
“Oh, you mean SHI-ja.”
I am going to take a certain sadistic joy the next time a Korean person asks me where “DUH Bus stop is,” and I can stare at them blankly.
Jean Claude Van Damme fights a giant penguin in a kitchen.
Piece of Pop Culture I Miss Today:
People who give you correct directions.
The general, cultural hierarchy here is one that assumes older people are pretty much better while those younger should look up to them. All well and good. This has created some situations where I was around an older Korean man who refused to speak to me because he could not speak English that well and he was afraid of looking foolish in front of me. Again, I understand.
But one part about this that bothers me? Say I wanted to ask an older person for directions. Then say they did not know where this place is that I’m looking for. This person would still give me directions so as to appear like they know what they are talking about.
I once asked somebody where “exit 7” was located. He pointed up. Unless I am asking you the question “where is the ceiling,” or “where does rain come from,” you should never point up to answer a question. At least in this case it was fairly easy to guess he didn’t know the answer.
Piece of Pop Culture that I’m Diggin on Today:
The bus system. Normally, I don’t ride the buses here. The subway system is so convenient and easy to follow, where as the bus system is complex and even natives get it mixed up.
However, if you like roller coasters than these things are for you. Barreling their way down tiny side streets at speeds that send pedestrians outside the bus running in terror, while the passengers inside hold on to anything for dear life. Something about the insanely brash way bus drivers operate around here is charming to me. It’s a million lawsuits waiting to happen back in the states, but here it’s just a normally accepted part of life.
Fun with nothing:
can you tell them I’m a little tired and in need of a break?
No, I’m not cranky at all.
I did learn the word “Bihjaso,” which means “quiet and upset,” or something like that.
This was a hot button political issue for the upcoming election:
Finally, did you check out that video clip of Van Damme beating up a penguin?
That was really the only reason I posted today…