Plug into the Korean Paradigm

What if Koreans were really just a bunch of robots, specifically designed to give pre-programmed responses? Would they give short and direct answers to questions, searching for the lowest common denominator? Would different people be programmed differently so as to give the appearance of diversity?

If the characters of Mo Han Do Jan are any indication, they have a program that makes Koreans talk like Looney Tunes Characters. Perhaps that is why they are considered funny. When everybody else speaks like a robot, fart jokes and slapstick were probably programmed to be funny. I think my programming was different.

Not that I know how Korean people talk, for all I know there are a wide range of styles to speaking.  I’m just basing these ideas on observations of intonation, and some logical “point a to b” that I’ll talk about later.  But, In fact, if history is any indication Koreans are just as individualistic as any other culture…yet just manifest it in different ways.

Let me make one thing clear first, I am not talking about every day language.  Giving directions and ordering food are one thing, but telling stories and exchanging ideas are a completely different robot altogether.  It’s this second robot that I am trying to dismantle.

The English Language is tricky in that you can say anything you want as long as the spirit of what you are trying to say gets through.  It’s simultaneously it’s greatest strength and it’s most puzzling weakness.  How often does exactly what you want to say make it to the listener. Language is the ghost in the wind that appears and disappears at a whim to whomever it likes. Meaning is even more vague.

So it would seem robotic, but practical none the less to have a language where there is one correct way to speak. Why shouldn’t it be Korean? The fact that Science and Math are emphasized in schools while the Korean language is not seems to uphold this idea. But then is this a case of the egg and the chicken or a case of Bugs Bunny vs. the science textbook? Mo Han Do Jan is definitely Bugs Bunny-esque.

To me there are three discernible styles of speaking in Korean.

1. The robot business style – Used not only in business, but by the majority of all people I listen to. Even when out at restaurants and drinking, the tone of voice sounds like it would be just at home in an office. The only noticeable differences being slurred of speech and some yelling.

2. The Looney Tunes/ Mo Han Do Jan style – Used in comedy. It’s louder, silly, and almost sing songy.

3. The way girls speak – Especially to their boy friends. It’s the kind of whiny, I’m so girly I’m cute thing that would get annoying, but they’ve had a lifetime to perfect it.

Random piece of info, I have learned most of my Korean from girls…so guess who I sound like when I speak Korean?

4. Something else – I’m leaving the door open for numerous possibilities, because I don’t know enough of the language to make any sort of judgments.

Language would be simple if it was a 1 to 1 pattern. A simple substitution of words. A math problem where this equals this, and that equals that. But language isn’t just a changing of the words, it’s a changing of the mind. The way you think, the way you speak, the way you act are all tied into language.

By this logic it would seem the way a person acts is indicative of the way they speak. So if Korea works as a society of the whole, rather then the individual, then wouldn’t they speak the same as well?

Beware the Robot Wars!

1 Comment

Filed under Culture, The foreigner experience

One response to “Plug into the Korean Paradigm

  1. snowflake

    When Japan colonized Korea the thing that the Koreans most wanted to keep and pass it onto their next generations was the language, Korean. In fact, Korean is one of the most subtle, complicated and scientific languages even though it doesn’t have as many vocabulary words as English has. In my perspective, you can only learn foreign language at the deepest when you know your own language. But is there anyone who really cares whether one has the sensibility towards words or not? Whether it’s in the U.S. or in Korea as long as you’re ready to sell yourself and as long as you’ve got a college degree, no matter how bad your GPA is, and as long as you’ve got the look, you’re taken more, a lot more, seriously by the society than an average looking person with a 150 IQ.
    Letting out your true feeling and thought is too much of trouble and time consuming, especially, for the Koreans whether they’re young or old. The women, well into their adult-hoods, talk like little school girls because that’s what the Korean men buy and being just truly WHO YOU ARE isn’t considered very attractive: They know the short-cuts. And they don’t have much of the brain to figure out what they’re doing is obviously childish and apparently stupid to begin with. A lot of them don’t have the ability to reflect themselves or they’re just simply smart enough to realize to have a friction of conscience isn’t going to help them. Moreover, people, both men and women, are even scared by you if you happened to be one of the very few with individualism and are trying to criticize or analyze in methodical manner.
    Things happen in the spur of moment and you fix things as you go by…No problem! Nothing is explained and examined. Nobody is observing about the life itself while they are obsessively hawking on material goods. Flesh and brandish. All in all just cheap and momentary. You lose your identity when you lose your own language because language is evolved from the culture that you inherited. Voluntarily losing your language is a form of self-destruction and self-denial that only lead to reversed-self prejudice. I wonder whether Koreans will try to protect their language if the U.S.A one day invades the nation and prohibits the usage of it. And wonder whether Lee Myung Bak, the newly elected president, would give a damn. When the Japanese started making Kim-chi of their own and began generating $s by exporting it to the U.S., the Koreans hit the roof; so I guess, in a way, the Koreans, should thank to Japan for making them to realize how good and valuable our own thing was. Is Korean less important than Kim-chi to the Koreans?

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