Milestones in My Korean Education

Last night, half-drunkenly pacing our diminutive apartment’s living room cum kitchen cum bedroom cum office, uttering phrases like “I ate food so I pooped” (can’t remember how to say it now), and “mother in law came here so I was happy” (장모님 여기 왔어 행복해요), in order to practice a very common and very debilitatingly labyrinthine grammatical construction that involves, as always with Korean, jamming and smashing your verbs together, conjugating them (or declining them) in some ridiculous way, implying at least half the meaning from what is left unsaid, and then pretending—at least when the foreigner’s around—that people actually understand what is being communicated. I think when we’re not looking Koreans are probably very confused with one another, demanding that each person just speak proper English to be understood.

Yesterday, at dinner at a favorite restaurant (“Food Table”), two young women sat down near us, I eavesdropped on their conversation—and—miraculously—understood!!!! According to them, the weather was kind of cold yesterday, but today it’s supposed to rain. INCREDIBLE. Whereupon they must have launched into a discussion of Heidegger because I could not longer follow them. Nevertheless I was smiling like a muppet for upwards of five minutes.

Then, the night before, studying a news article about this popular animated character named Pororo, I understood several sentences, and didn’t have to read with a dictionary hand or by translating everything word-by-word through the google—I had my wife with me, and we worked through it all together, over the course of about 70 goddamn minutes.

I was half-drunkenly pacing the room because I had stupidly drunk a glass of wine before studying, just wanting some kind of good flavor in my mouth, and as a result with the exhaustion of it all I found myself falling asleep at the table, where we were studying. So, instead, to battle my exhaustion, I paced—and then, fifteen minutes later, collapsed.

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One thought on “Milestones in My Korean Education

  1. Ha! The other day, on the first day of presentations that my students had two months to prepare for, I overheard two of my students speaking to each other in Chinese:

    我没有! (I don’t have!)

    我也没有! (I also don’t have!)

    They laughed nervously, and I called them to present first. The first students was incredulous. He looked as though God, Fate, the Universe and possibly the entire world had conspired to make his worst dreams come true. What they didn’t have, of course, was their preparation for the speech.

    It may have been cruel, but I felt triumphant, although it was an exceedingly simple piece of Chinese.

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