Thursday, January 31, 2013

Practical Games

     After a month of just hanging out with my dad, when I arrived in Korea, I was sent to work.  The real life experience started as I was quite far from my dad's place.  I knew nothing about this country.  Their currency, its value, the places, the  culture, and most of all, their language.  All I can do is read and write their characters... albeit very slowly.

     The first time I took a bus back to my dad's place, I tried to memorize a couple of places or landmarks.  Knowing nothing about this country, I believe it was important to get familiar with these spots, just in case I made a mistake of taking the wrong bus.  In time, I got very familiar with the route.

     Back at my dad's place (after 2 months), I figured I could make learning a bit more fun.  Since there's not much problem about my one and only bus route, I could  try to read whatever is written wherever, as the bus passes by it.  The thing is to keep up with the bus's speed.  Building after building, store after store, it was frustrating at first.  I usually end up successful only when reading the bus stops.  But in time, I got better.

     Bus rides got me able to read Korean faster.  But there's a difference between reading silently, and vocalizing (more on that on a future blog).  3 months in Korea, there's not much point on trying (although really hard) to have small talks with the locals.  Yes, I can read.  But I don't know what they mean, and I don't even know how they're pronounced (again, to be written on another blog).  I figured, one way to solve this privately is to get familiar with at least one song.

     Now, I'm not really fond of Kpop.  But I like their older pop songs.  One particular song caught my attention.  I got familiar with a part of the song.  Then I went around humming the tune, as I asked for the title and singer.  Luckily, it was a popular song among the ajumas.  It was 전재의 예유 by 김종한.  I wrote those myself and have them correct it.  Again, a lot of times, pronunciation is different from how it's spelled.

     I found one music store nearby.  I was also lucky that the attendant was quite exposed to the English (or Konglish) language.  So I was able to ask for the album of the singer, with the particular song I wanted.  I was also able to ask if his copy has the lyrics of the song.  The CD didn't have lyrics but the cassette tape album has all the lyrics of each song... and yes... cassette tapes exist during that time.

     Since I can read fast enough, singing along with 김종한 was a breeze.  Yes, there are some Korean words that made me wonder why it was pronounced that way, but at least, I get to verbalize those words now.  And as I slowly understand what each line means, I also get to learn more about their grammar.  I achieved a lot of things by doing this.

*** After a couple of years, I re-read some of those old songs, and I observed a couple of things.  Line by line, I noticed that the lyrics are mostly grammatically correct.  The writers do not color the words to make it poetic.  They do not jumble them to fit a standard line.  Nor are there re-invented words, or words mispronounced, just to rhyme.  It's as if these songs started as essays then superimposed on tunes.  Pretty old school which to me is impressive.***

     Back then, there were cellphones (not smart phones) with physical keypads (the company I worked for actually make them).  No SIM cards, no external memory, and no touch screen... and no color.  But if there's one thing in common with the phones of today, it's the the ability to send text messages in Korean characters.  It's a good thing most of my friends entertained the idea.  I send text messages in Korean characters but it's Tagalog (I'm Filipino after all).  It could be done in English too but I didn't have English speaking friends that time.  But since it's a different language, accurate spelling is irrelevant.  What matters though, is the ability to read and write (or text) in Korean.  My friends and I had a lot of fun with this as well.

     There are many ways to get some extra help in learning the language.  All the above mentioned are from my experience, and what I thought at that time.  It helped me a lot.  Although it doesn't fit everyone.  Reading while riding the bus, would be frustrating for those with poor eyesight.  I get car-sick often during my first year here, and I think that's one of the causes.  Music may not be a thing for everyone.  And text messaging in Korean is not for a speedy communication.

     I think the next thing I could do is to baby sit for a day.  If I get to learn their version of "ABC" or some other kiddy song/game that talks about body parts and whatnot, I think it's worth a day.

     I wonder though if many of my foreign friends thought about this.  Or made up other (personal) games for them to learn Korean a bit better.

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