Caveat: el arco y el Arquero

Año nuevo

A las doce de la noche, por las puertas de la gloria
y al fulgor de perla y oro de una luz extraterrestre,
sale en hombros de cuatro ángeles, y en su silla gestatoria,
San Silvestre.

Más hermoso que un rey mago, lleva puesta la tiara,
de que son bellos diamantes Sirio, Arturo y Orión;
y el anillo de su diestra hecho cual si fuese para

Sus pies cubren los joyeles de la Osa adamantina,
y su capa raras piedras de una ilustre Visapur;
y colgada sobre el pecho resplandece la divina
Cruz del Sur.

Va el pontífice hacia Oriente; ¿va a encontrar el áureo barco
donde al brillo de la aurora viene en triunfo el rey Enero?
Ya la aljaba de Diciembre se fue toda por el arco
del Arquero.

A la orilla del abismo misterioso de lo Eterno
el inmenso Sagitario no se cansa de flechar;
le sustenta el frío Polo, lo corona el blanco Invierno
y le cubre los riñones el vellón azul del mar.

Cada flecha que dispara, cada flecha es una hora;
doce aljabas cada año para él trae el rey Enero;
en la sombra se destaca la figura vencedora
del Arquero.

Al redor de la figura del gigante se oye el vuelo
misterioso y fugitivo de las almas que se van,
y el ruido con que pasa por la bóveda del cielo
con sus alas membranosas el murciélago Satán.

San Silvestre, bajo el palio de un zodíaco de virtudes,
del celeste Vaticano se detiene en los umbrales
mientras himnos y motetes canta un coro de laúdes

Reza el santo y pontifica y al mirar que viene el barco
donde en triunfo llega Enero,
ante Dios bendice al mundo y su brazo abarca el arco
y el Arquero.

-Rubén Darío (poeta nicaragüense, 1867-1916)

[daily log: walking, year to year]

Caveat: The Calculus of My Stay in Korea

Last night at work there was a bit of an emotional conflaguration. It wasn't that pleasant.

When things get intense and unpleasant at work, I always retreat into a kind of "well, I can always leave if really want to." I return to the eternal, tenuous calculus of my stay in Korea, and my never-ending, simple dilemma: should I stay in Korea, or should I return to the US?

Of course, I was struggling with this problem even before I got cancer. When I got cancer, that felt like a kind of fate – it made the decision for me, at least for a substantial period. Many people here showed me great kindness and loyalty, too, and that kept my heart here, even with the many frustrations and difficulties.

Lately, I feel like my frustration with my goals and life in Korea has become intractable. I continue to fail to learn Korean. I feel great despair about the project, and shame, because I am supposed to be a linguist and a language teacher. I continue to be be a poor teacher with respect to the hagwon environment. I am dissatisfied with curriculum, but I lack the talent and capiticity to bring to reality any alternative. After all these years, I doubt I really understand the business environment of an English hagwon very well.

So I have great dissatisfaction with what I decided (during my hospital stay) were the two most important goals in my life: trying to become a better teacher, and learning the Korean language. The reason I nevertheless continue at Karma and in Korea is really because of my sense of loyalty to the people around me, and also because of a kind of laziness: no change is easier than change. Finally, there is an aspect which I tend to emphasize in conversation but which isn't actually as emotionally important as I make it out to be: I continue to stay in Korea because I feel a lot of fear about the healthcare system in my home country – American healthcare is quite chaotic and unreliable, and very expensive, compared to Korea.

So to simplify the above, I can identify five reasons to stay in Korea:

  1. learning Korean and my love of Korean culture
  2. becoming a better teacher
  3. loyalty to my coworkers and to the Karma community, and the kindness shown to me
  4. laziness about changing my life
  5. fear of not finding good healthcare

Taken together, these are good enough reasons. But items 1 and 2 in the above list are not feeling particularly compelling, lately, and experiences like last night's cause me to question whether my loyalty (item 3) is perhaps misplaced or substantially irrelevant.

And so that leaves items 4 and 5. But in fact, don't you think that laziness and fear are poor reasons to do anything? Including, am I really only staying in Korea, at this point, out of laziness and fear? That seems pretty stupid.

Somewhat relatedly… 

In a moment of weakness and frustration, I forgot my facebook boycott. Perhaps I will start my blog cross-posting here, again – but I haven't decided. I don't like feeling OBLIGATED to keep track of facebook, or misleading people into thinking that I am paying attention to it – which was a major problem with the automated cross-posting from my blog: people thought I was looking at facebook because my blog posts were appearing here, and became upset when I didn't "notice" their comments.

So perhaps I will turn on the automated cross-posting to the facebook again. Let me know (not on facebook but via my preferred contact methods) if you think this is a good idea.

[daily log: walking, 6km]

Caveat: 2015

I continued living in Ilsan.
[This entry is part of a timeline I am making using this blog. I am writing a single entry for each year of my life, which when viewed together in order will provide a sort of timeline. This entry wasn’t written in 2015 – it was written in the future.]

Caveat: Love Lost

What I’m listening to right now.

Neil Young, “Old Man.” I suspect that the line in this song, “Love lost, such a cost,” was the origin or source for the recurrent word “lovelost” in some poems I wrote when I was 18 years old – I was certainly listening to Neil Young quite a bit during my freshman year in college.

Old man look at my life,
I’m a lot like you were.
Old man look at my life,
I’m a lot like you were.

Old man look at my life,
Twenty four
and there’s so much more
Live alone in a paradise
That makes me think of two.

Love lost, such a cost,
Give me things
that don’t get lost.
Like a coin that won’t get tossed
Rolling home to you.

Old man take a look at my life
I’m a lot like you
I need someone to love me
the whole day through
Ah, one look in my eyes
and you can tell that’s true.

Lullabies, look in your eyes,
Run around the same old town.
Doesn’t mean that much to me
To mean that much to you.

I’ve been first and last
Look at how the time goes past.
But I’m all alone at last.
Rolling home to you.

Old man take a look at my life
I’m a lot like you
I need someone to love me
the whole day through
Ah, one look in my eyes
and you can tell that’s true.

Old man look at my life,
I’m a lot like you were.
Old man look at my life,
I’m a lot like you were.

picture[daily log: walking, 6km]

Caveat: Moving On

Last night I had my final class with my HS-M cohort (9th graders). They will be moving into the High School prep classes and I don't think I will be teaching them any more. I will miss this class. I never had a "bad" class with them. They were as unruly and sometimes as lazy as any other group of middle-schoolers, but they were remarkably intelligent and good-natured, and in the end, they are one of the best debate classes I've ever taught. They wanted to "play" during the last class, but I made them do a debate exercise where I gave them difficult propositions and randomly assigned PRO or CON positions, and with only a few minutes to prepare, they had to give little position speeches. The fact that they did pretty well with it tells me that they must have learned something. I wish I had taken video, but I'd removed the camera from the equation to help them feel less like this was a test and just show the skills they'd learned.

I've had some of them for 2-3 years now. I told them that they were a great class. I will miss that class. When I was having a bad day, having them as my last class was always a nice experience. Now my last class is likely to be the quite difficult successors to this HS-M cohort, the up-coming 8th graders.

Life goes on.

[daily log: walking, 6km]

Caveat: el que en todo es contrario de sí mismo

Es hielo abrasador

Es hielo abrasador, es fuego helado,
es herida que duele y no se siente,
es un soñado bien, un mal presente,
es un breve descanso muy cansado.

Es un descuido que nos da cuidado,
un cobarde con nombre de valiente,
un andar solitario entre la gente,
un amar solamente ser amado.

Es una libertad encarcelada,
que dura hasta el postrero paroxismo;
enfermedad que crece si es curada.

Éste es el niño Amor, éste es su abismo.
¿Mirad cuál amistad tendrá con nada
el que en todo es contrario de sí mismo!

– Francisco de Quevedo (poeta español, 1580-1645)

[daily log: walking, 6.5km]

Caveat: 自暴自棄

The other day was the first time I ever used a “four character aphorism” appropriately in conversation.
I said to Curt, “한국말을 배우할 수 없으니까 나는 자포자기가 됐어요.” He understood what I meant, so that’s a sign I must have used it more or less correctly. It wasn’t entirely spontaneous – I’d been pre-composing some sentences involving the idiom, and suddenly the context made one of the sentences I’d worked out appropriate.
Roughly, this means “Because of being unable to learn Korean, I feel despair.”
The four character idiom is:


I made some kimchi fried rice today, because I received a large amount of home-made kimchi from a co-worker, and some years ago, I used to make dish quite often. I stopped making it, because it hasn’t been so easy to eat since my surgery, but sometimes I crave things I used to eat, even though it rarely is very rewarding to actually eat them. It ends up being a kind of eating-for-nostalgia.
Notes for Korean (finding meaning)

  • 까맣다 = to be black, to be dark-colored; to be far away (I  think, also, to be “burnt to a crisp”)
  • 대표 = representation
    so 대표부 = a mission (e.g. to the UN)
    대표단 = a delegation
  • 허락 = consent, approval, assent
    허락하다 = to consent to something, to grant permission, to allow, to permit
  • 방법 = method, way, procedure, means, process

[daily log: walking, 1.5km]

Caveat: The Social Construction of Fun on Christmas Day

I have blogged before about the social construction of popular feelings and emotions. I had fun yesterday, for Christmas, but I was acutely aware that "fun" is a social construct, and I could have been miserable, quite easily. This alternate interpretation lurked around the edges.

I was invited for a family fun day by my friend Curt and his family. We went to a sort of mall-slash-theme-park here in Ilsan, a few blocks from my home, called "One Mount." It has a a "water park" and a "snow park." The day being Christmas, it was logical to visit the snow park. Curt and I agreed that "snow park" is a pretty liberal interpretation. It is, mostly, a glorified ice-skating rink. Since the vast majority of Koreans had the day off, they did what Koreans do on holidays. They went shopping and out to a family-fun theme park. The place was so crowded, you sometimes couldn't see the ice.

I tried ice-skating. I've skated before, but I'm pretty rusty, and with grandmothers and small children on diverse sled-like-objects crashing into me constantly, I didn't feel very much like I was actually skating. 

Curt's kids tried skating. His daughter, a teenager now (suddenly), was sullen and teenagery, and quickly took off her skates went to sit somewhere and look at her phone. His son was all legs and arms flying around, but spent a good amount of time trying, gamely. I got sore feet (I think I'd put on the wrong size). We ate Christmas ramen at a food court, and went down a strange sort of waterless water slide, on the roof of the one-buildinged theme park. Overall, I saw a lot of people having fun, but I kept asking myself, why was it fun? Simply because they'd decided that it was. 


I took a picture looking toward my neighborhood from the roof (which is landscaped and full of rides and attractions).


I took a picture inside, looking down on the main skating area.


I took a picture of people having fun on the ice.


I finally felt tired and came back home.

[daily log: walking, for some not-well-defined distance]

Caveat: The point is Merry Christmas!

Xmascard1I received a very heartwarming Christmas card from one of my students last night. I think I felt especially touched by it for two reasons – it was clearly her own initiative and work, but also, she isn't the happiest student in the world, normally, so I felt glad that beyond her gloom-and-doom, laconic exterior she has some feelings and that I'd made an impression on her.

I am certain it was her own initiative, because no parent or teacher is likely to think it is a good idea to give a Christmas card on the theme of trash. She taped some scraps of paper on the front of the card (picture right), and labeled each one trash. This would seem strange if it weren't for a running joke in her class, where, to encourage the kids to pick up after themselves, I have told them repeately that I love trash, and that I have a special collection of it (in the trash can, of course). Sometimes when they leave the classroom they will hand me wadded up wrappers of scraps of paper and say "here is some trash for you, because I hear you love trash."

So she is just extending the story. Inside is some word play on the basis of my name.


Xmascard3Finally, there is this message (left), which I transcribe.

To. Jared teacher.

Hi! Jared! It's me! Narin. First, Thank you for te eaching me in Karma. I was bit of afraid cause I was afraid to new people. But, Now I'm more good at en glish, So I'm proud of myself. The point is Merry Christmas!

※ P.S. My grammer is awful, But please understand. Also, sorry for not doing homework, sometimes!

I really liked the phrase "The point is Merry Christmas!" When I shared this with my coworker Kay, Kay astutely observed, "that sounds like the same way you talk." It is definitely what you might call a "TOEFL-style" phrase, to say the "The point is…."

I also received some other touching and charming cards, but they weren't quite at the same level, having been clearly generated at the prompt of one of the other teachers, rather than a spontaneous, bespoke creation. Nevertheless, I was happy to have received them.



[daily log: walking, 4.5km, skating, 0.7km]

Caveat: Where do Bond Villains come from?

More hard, long days at work.

So, from my "stockpile" of entertaining student writing, I present the following.

In James Bond movies, where do Bond Villains come from? I mean, what social/cultural circumstances cause one to become a Bond Villain? I ask this, because I think my student Henry might be a future Bond Villain, with a bit of "meta" going on, too. He writes:

If I had one billion won I would buy 007 movie and sell the movie. than I
get lots of money. I buy fishing pole and I go to fishing and than I make
Aquarium. so people come Aquarium I lots of money. then I buy
boat and fishing go to the sea take a boat. then I make a very big
Aquarium. People come to the Aquarium I lots of money.
I make nuclear I nuclear boom the bank and bank is boom.
I make two nuclear I nuclear boom Earth!!

[daily log: walking, 6km]

Caveat: this debate is the archetypal type of aridity debate which sparks instantaneous aging process

Yesterday was a pretty horrible day at work. Very long, but also, a feeling that for all the polite listening to my ideas, they are fundamentally irrelevant to the decisions that are made. I ended up pretty upset by the time I left at 11 pm. 

The one highlight – in my HSM debate class (9th graders) we had a debate on the "absurd comedy debate" proposition, "This debate is boring." Last class, they chose the topic from a long list, and I explained that in fact, it wasn't such an easy topic. It is as hard to be deliberately boring as it is to be deliberately un-boring, and both are beyond the reach of most second-language-learners such as my students.

Nevertheless, Jihoon made a very impressive effort to actually write comedy in English, combined with taking to heart my suggestion to try to "use as much vocabulary from your vocabulary book as you can – use words you never used before." 

Although, because of his shortcomings in grammar, he doesn't quite pull off the kind of humor he is attempting (which demands near-perfection to be coherent, I guess), the intent shines through and over all it is some of the most subtle writing I have ever received from a student. His wordplay is clever, with a fine grasp of sesquipedalian excess in the PRO and playful alliteration in the CON. 


Hi, this is Jihoon. Debate needs logically intrinsic reasons to support. Maybe that correspond boring debate. As you know, spontaneous less debate can cause detrimental consequences, so to speak renounce to do debate but to have relentless equivocal time, like prodigious deviation. Maybe presumable reason that is straight forward to people can do the debate amusing. As a rule of thumb, what is too deep to understand can cause the fragmentation in everything. As you can see as I can see, what is seen in debate that we can see is that prerequisite of tedious debate is all in here, this class. So I think that this debate is the archetypal type of aridity debate which sparks instantaneous aging process and innumerable counterproductive facet.



Hi this is Jihoon. This debate is not as boring as some of you bored. I can prove that this debate class is not boring. Maybe the prove I provide can get approval. I hope to pose poser point to opposite’s point as a poser to point the possibility of positive point. Let me see your ayes from your eyes in the end. We can have useful usability in utility utilitarian use of perspectives about particular propositions properly after having a debate class. Some got bored to go down as a board behind me, and some got anxious that they can’t speak affirmatively as a mute like a mite in class. But think; How happy happening happens to us that we can talk, take a time together to think about topic? Have a sight and see the significant stuff of the specific side of speaking, I think this class is not that boring than we can learn from.

[daily log: walking, 6km]

Caveat: It turns out I’m an alien

My students in my Honors1 cohort made their own debate topic last week, I guess in reaction to some offhanded comment I'd made as a joke. The proposition: "Jared is an alien." Unexpectedly, the class took the CON position, i.e., that I was not an alien. I think the point was that they wanted to hear me argue that I was, in fact, an alien.

One talented 4th grade student wrote a pretty good (if error-filled) analysis of the CON position. 

Our debate topic today is ‘Jared is an Alien’. I’m in Con team with John and Narin.
We each have five reasons so I have five reasons, too.
Firstly, Jared is not like an Alien. I thought Aliens were UGLY. Then if Jared is an Alien, then why aren’t he ugly?? He’s not that hansome but he’s not so bad either….
Secondly, Aliens don’t wear glasses most of the time. Aliens have something special that humans don’t have. And that can be good eyes.. Good eyes don’t make them wear glasses. But Jared is wearing glasses. See?? It makes perfect sense..
Thirdly, Aliens do not have sugery but Jared had tongh sugery. I believe that Aliens are 10times healthier than humans. Because they’re Aliens. They are ALIENS!!!!
Fourthly, Aliens don’t have hairs but Jared have many and little hairs. I think Aliens are bald. Of course some Aliens can have hairs, but most of the time it can….
Lastly, Aliens can’t be a teacher from Earth. Aliens live in a different planet. But we have to have a passport to go another countries or planets. But if Jared’s passport says “I’m an Aliens”.Then he can’t even come to Korea or other countries.. I am kinda serious about how he got to America. Aren’t you serious like me??

I guess overall, it's a reassuring document.

[daily log: walking, 6km]

Caveat: 개를 훔치는 완벽한 방법

DogI was surfing around on the TV last night and watched this movie. It’s in Korean, and on broadcast television, of course, there are no subtitles. So when I undertake to watch a Korean movie on TV it’s more than just an idle undertaking. It’s work to understand. This movie is the sort that is easiest for me to make sense of, I think – family comedies. The reason why probably has to do with the prevalance of simple, day-to-day vocabulary, often stripped of the complex verb periphrastics that populate higher discourse. Perhaps this movie, with the child protagonists, was accessible because I find kids easier to understand, too. This may be because in fact, most of my Korean practice is with kids – i.e. my students.
It was a cute movie. It turns out to be based on an English-language kids lit book. The real mystery is why, of the three wikipedia articles about the movie that are available, besides Korean and English (both logical), the third is in Armenian. What’s that all about?
Notes for Korean (finding meaning)

  • 뭄추다 = to stop (doing something)
  • 하던 일 = “that thing [I/he/she/someone] was doing” … I’m not sure about this, because it’s a grammatical construction using -던 which is called a “retrospective modifier” (whatever that is) and a derivation of the verb+object periphrastic 일 하다 which seems to mean “to do some nonspecific thing” or “to work on something”

[daily log: walking, 1km]

Caveat: So Old

Yesterday dawned as the first truly cold day of winter – my phone reported to me that the outside temperature was -8°C (17°F). When the temperature drops, my sleeping is disrupted because of Korea's ondol heating system – the floors themselves are heated with hot water, radiator style. But, since I sleep on the floor…  well, when the floor becomes hot, that wakes me up – I don't understand how Koreans can sleep on hot surfaces, but they do: even when they use Western-style beds, they put heating pads on them for winter. I often have to migrate to my sofa in the winter for sleeping, because of the hot floor problem. I find sleeping on a hot floor unbearable.

Anyway, I had strange dreams because of my hot floor, before I woke up. 

I was in some global-warming future, I guess. That makes sense – the hot weather part. I was amid some sort of cluster of industrial warehouses, looking for a way home. I was lost, but I didn't feel any anxiety.

I was dreaming that I was very old. I was so old, it was the future. Buildings had forgotten the ground, and engineers had become heroes, who were remembered in parades. Televisions knew my name. I was so old that the future thrummed above me in the sky like a drone, and so old that my death was planted in the ground beneath my feet on the street, like the cracks in pavement that come about as the roots of trees burrow beneath. There were white plastic faucets sprouting from the walls, but they had no water. Only poetry would flow from the white faucets. I was so old, that the president was a child, so I finally was allowed to leave school. I stood in the street. I remember that I was wanting to make one last poem. I lived in all the cities, but all the cities were only one city, and their maps streamed and sparkled like liquid around me, like raindrops in beams of sunlight.

I woke up and tried to write it down, but even as I wrote it, it was like the end of 100 Years of Solitude, and it all faded away.

[daily log: walking, 6km]

I used to post, on This Here Blog Thingy™, a little item I called "Notes for Korean" – these were just an effort to record vocabulary I had run across or had some difficulty in puzzling out, and so I wanted to record it, mostly for my own future reference. I stopped doing it, first because of laziness but also because it didn't really seem to belong in a "blog." But I have decided that it was sufficiently useful to me, in the context of this blog's role as a personal aide-memoire, that I shouldn't worry about the latter, as long as I can overcome the former.  Hence, with very minimal fanfare, I resurrect my… 

Notes for Korean (finding meaning)

  • 뻔하다 = to almost do something, to barely escape doing something
    e.g. 달려오는 자전거에 부딭칠 뻔했다 (from my TOPIK in 30 Days vocab study book)
  • 보복운전 = retaliatory driver (meaning, a road rage person?)
  • 쩍벌남 = a "manspreader" (a guy who hogs space on a bus or train through a blatent open-legged posture – learned from my H2 class)
  • 편 = lit. side, but used in a periphrastic, "… to be on the side of…" to mean "… to tend towards… " or "… to lean towards… " in the sense of behavioral inclination, e.g. 나는 친구에게 서운한 일이 생각면 바로 이야기를 하는 이에요 = If my feelings are hurt by my friends I tend to tell them right away. (found my TOPIK in 30 Days vocab study book, but not explained there – I found explanation, of course, in KGfIL, the best Korean grammar book in the universe)

Caveat: Some People Just Can’t Learn a Language

The other day, for an 11-hour work day, because I attended a "training" meeting for some new teaching software the Karma is investing in (called "Cappytown").

When I went back to review my notes just now, I found this written in the margin: "Sitting in this kind of meeting makes me want to quit my job."

Indeed, it was one of the most frustrating moments I've had in recent work experience, because, of course, the training, and all the software's administration documentation and online management framework is in Korean. There is nothing at all wrong with that – this is Korea, after all. But it hammers home to me just how inadequate my Korean language skill is, how little it seems to be progressing, and how utterly useless I am, outside the classroom, at my current job.

I guess, fortunately, I am considered to be valuable in the classroom. Nevertheless, it makes problematic my desire to be a true member of my workplace team, and it also is a grim reminder that for all my enthusiasm as a language teacher and as a lifelong observer of languages (i.e. as a linguist, by training and avocationally) am an utter failure as a language-learner, in this Korean incarnation.

[daily log: walking, 6.5km]

Caveat: More Meditations on Neo-Jaredites

With my recent discovery that a large Mormon church is being built in my neighborhood, I became curious about Mormonism in Korea. The more I learned (most of which confirmed my preconceptions), the more surprised I am that this church is even being built.
The Mormons actually are not doing well in Korea, in comparison to other non-mainstream, exogenous religious movements (e.g. Jehovah’s Witnesses). I found a very detailed, academic analysis of the situation at a Mormon mission-supporting website called Cumorah. As I already suspected, Mormons are not being very successful at converting Koreans, who, perhaps because of their own plethora of home-grown fringe-Christian sects (see Moonies, et al.), are inured to the promises Mormonism. Indeed, Koreans have a long history of domestic, Mormonesque cultural phenomenon (Cheondoism, Won Buddhism).
Furthermore, the previously fairly successful Korean Mormon community (which arose in the wake of proselytizing by US military personnel and by converted returnees from the US, in the 1960s and 70s, and was sufficiently large that a Temple was built in Seoul in the early 80s), is apparently emigrating en-masse to Anglophone countries, where they can find larger and more cohesive Mormon communities, less overt discrimination and social stigmatization, and better economic prospects. Thus, in fact, the Mormon church in Korea is shrinking.
So is this church being built in Ilsan as a kind of stopgap or anticipatory effort, to increase support for a moribund or imagined community? Or is Goyang bucking the regional trend? Certainly it is true that I see Mormons on mission tromping about almost every day, in Ilsan. Is it the area’s American-style suburban cultural ethos, high relative socioeconomic status, and thus somewhat un-Korean in character (what I call the “Ilsan bubble”), that draws them?
I guess I’m just curious. I am not, per se, pro-Mormon or anti-Mormon. I find their theology absurd, but I find the sociology of the group interesting. I just have a weird fascination for the group, for reasons I’ve explained before.
picture[daily log: walking, 6km]

Caveat: EKS

I have been slowly working my way into a very dry and dense textbook called Task-Based Language Teaching, by David Nunan. When the intensity of work goes up, I tend to spend even my free time thinking about more work-related things. I'm not sure why this is – it strikes me as counter-intuitive.

Actually, I think it's about trying to assuage the feelings of insecurity about my teaching abilities that tend to arise during periods of work stress.

I think that the idea of "task-based language teaching" is mostly irrelevant, in the Korean EFL context – at least as conceptualized by the author and by other practitioners in the field. That can be best explained by examining this short aside that I found in the introduction to the book:

It [i.e. the just given definition of a "target task"] describes the sorts of things that the person in the street would say if asked what they were doing. (In the same way as learners, if asked why they are attending a Spanish course, are more likely to say, 'So I can make hotel reservations and buy food when I'm in Mexico,' than 'So I can master the subjunctive.') – page 2

In fact, most Korean learners will say something similar to the latter, if asked why they are studying English (i.e. not specifically that they want to master the subjunctive, but some other similarly abstruse grammatical concept). The reason is that most Korean students study English because they want to do well on certain standardized tests (e.g. 수능 [Korean SAT]). Those standardized tests are far from having been in the remotest way touched by concepts like "task-based language learning" or communicative language teaching strategies.

Farther along in the book, the author mentions the field called "English for Special Purposes" (such as English for Business, or English for Engineering) as being an outgrowth of the task-based language teaching movement.

In that vein, I'd like to propose a new "English for a Special Purpose": namely, English for Korean Students (hereby written 'EKS'). This particular special-purpose English is characterized by a slavish focus on the ancient "grammar-translation" style of language learning, and targets a profoundly non-communicative, decontextualized use of language. Just like any other special-purpose English, EKS is a real necessity for the millions of Korean students who need it. This being the case, we could have a sincerely task-based language instruction curriculum, true to the methodological philosophy, that focuses on grammar-translation and on preparing to take these tests. This is because "passing the tests" is the real-world "task" in question.

It leads to a bit of a methodological paradox… If our goal is a progressive desire to give students real-world utility from their language instruction, we should teach them using the grammar-translation style from 100 years ago, because that's what's useful to them – much more useful than teaching them how to speak communicative English as tourists or travelers or workers at large, international companies.

[daily log: walking, 6km]

Caveat: A scattered chapter, livid hieroglyph

At Melville's Tomb

Often beneath the wave, wide from this ledge
The dice of drowned men's bones he saw bequeath
An embassy. Their numbers as he watched,
Beat on the dusty shore and were obscured.

And wrecks passed without sound of bells,
The calyx of death's bounty giving back
A scattered chapter, livid hieroglyph,
The portent wound in corridors of shells.

Then in the circuit calm of one vast coil,
Its lashings charmed and malice reconciled,
Frosted eyes there were that lifted altars;
And silent answers crept across the stars.

Compass, quadrant and sextant contrive
No farther tides … High in the azure steeps
Monody shall not wake the mariner.
This fabulous shadow only the sea keeps.
– Hart Crane (American poet, 1899-1932)

[daily log: walking, 6km]

Caveat: to grammaticalize from the preposition “to” to the infinitive particle “to”

Recently I had a "special" class that I taught to 7th graders for a few weeks, in the context of the test-prep period. It was supposed to be a grammer-focused writing class, and because most of the students were fairly low level (although it was a mixed group and there were some high level students too), I decided to basically focus on a single grammer object: the "to" infinitive forms of English, since they are used in a lot of ways and in a lot of different expressions. 

As part of this, I found myself wondering about the etymology of the "to" particle, which is most definitely not the same as the homonymous preposition by modern linguistic descriptions, but which seems to bear some weird traces of what one might call "prepositionality." Was the origin of the "to" particle related to the preposition "to" or was it a coincidence (a linguistic merger)? 

It was actually a bit difficult to research, but finally I found some text that confirmed that the infinitive "to" is, in fact, derived from the preposition "to." That is interesting to me, and because it was so hard to find out, I decided to blog about it, so if I want to go back and look it up again in the future, it's in my aide-memoire blog thingy.

Here is the authoritative quote I found:

The English so-called 'infinitive marker' (or 'infinitive prefix', 'infinitive particle') to derives from the dative-governing preposition used with an inflected infinitive to express purpose. In this sense, it can be considered to represent the universally well-known grammaticalization path 'purpose > infinitive' (Haspelmath 1989; Heine & Kuteva: 247-248), whereby the preposition is desemanticized and acquires distributional properties not found with, or not typical of, noun-governing prepositions. - from John Ole Askedal, in Grammatical Change and Linguistic Theory: The Rosendal Papers, page 63.

[daily log: walking, 1km]


Caveat: 白面書生

I learned this four character phrase from my building’s elevator.


Basically, I guess, a bookworm. Maybe a kind of pre-modern nerd. Googletranslate suggests “teenager” but that seems too broad. I don’t really know – I haven’t heard in use.

Quite unrelatedly, what I’m listening to right now.

Ministry, “So What.”
The lyrics are quite profane, such that in fact I hesitate to post them on my PG-rated blog. But… well, it is what I’m listening to right now, after all. You can click the “x” in the upper right.

“You have had all that money can give you, but that wasn’t
enough. You became a thrill-seeker. Kill for the thrill.
(assassin) This thrill-seeking became the one great thing in
your life, planning one thrill on another until the murder. Kill
for the love of killing. (guilty) Kill for the thrill. The
thrill-seeker comes from all walks of life. He comes from the
home, a home where the parents are too busy to treat their children
with respect.”

Die! Die! Die! Die!
Scum-suckers! Debility divulged!
Anal fuck-fest, thrill Olympics
Savage scourge supply and sanctify
So what? So what?
So what? So what?
Die! Die! Die! Die!

Die! Die! Die! Die!
You said it!
Sedatives supplied become laxatives
My eyes shit out lies
I only kill to know I’m alive
So what? So what?
So what? So what?
Die! Die! Die! Die!

“Kill for the thrill. (assassin) Some people think newspapers
exaggerate juvenile crime. All that is defined mostly to the
large cities, juvenile delinquency is underlined. Thus parents
think something is going wrong with the environment. Adults
create the world, children live it. Juvenile delinquency is
always rooted in adult delinquency. And in this process, parents
play the key role when children grow up among adults who refuse
to recognize anything that is fine and good, or worthy of

Die! Die! Die! Die!
So what, it’s your own problem to learn to live with
Destroy us, or make us slaves
We don’t care, it’s not our fault that we were born too late
A screaming headache on the promised age
Killing time is appropriate
To make a mess and fuck all the rest, we say, we say
So what? So what?
So what? So what?

Now that I know what it’s like,
I’ll kill them all if I like
Only time will decide
No one listened to reason,
it’s too late and I’m ready to fight
So what? Now I’m ready to fight!
I’m ready to fight! [x4]
Fight! [x4]
So What? [x6]

picture[daily log: walking, 6km]

Caveat: (with)drawn

During an exceptionally frustrating staff meeting yesterday, I wasn't understanding much that was being said, and misunderstood at least one important point. This is due to my linguistic handicap (i.e. not having mastered Korean). 

So I withdrew and drew on the margins of my new class schedule. Here is what I drew.


[daily log: walking, 6.5km]

Caveat: you cannot escape from reality

My fifth-grade student who goes by the English nickname Allen wrote an imaginary letter of condolence to my Minneapolitan rainbow monkey. Below, I cut-and-paste verbatim from his essay (which he sent to me via email).


Hi, Monkey.Iheard that you are in the hospital.Because you cut your brain yourself. So you can only use one fourth of your brain. I hope you die. I think you can't read this letter. Because you don't have any reading skills now. Oh My God!!!!. I think it's very terrible thing. But you cannot escape from reality. I think it will be the last thing that I say to you. Good Bye~~~~~~~Monkey

Although most of the writing is mediocre, his perfect use of the phrase "But you cannot escape from reality" was striking and impressed me a great deal, from a fifth grader. I asked him if he had read it or heard it somewhere, but he refused to elaborate. Regardless, he got the pragmatics correct with it.

[daily log: walking, 6km]


Caveat: Who is we?

I was listening to an interview on NPR the other day, with the actress Niecy Nash (who I'm not familiar with, but anyway). This quote made me laugh.

"I had one of my children ask me, when they were younger, 'Mommy, are we rich?' I said, 'Who is we?'"

I think this is a strikingly American attitude that crosses ethnic and class lines, although it is hardly universal. But regardless, it would almost not make sense in a culture like Korea's – I think I would have difficulty successfully explaining the meaning of this quote to my coworkers or students. The "we" of the family takes total primacy over the individual "I," to the extent that one uses the plural possessives exclusively when talking about family (e.g. "our mom" 우리어머니) – a singular possessive (e.g. "my mom") is a grammatical error. 

[daily log: walking, 6km]

Caveat: Hungry makes me grammar mistakes

The other day, my student Sophia was talking (and talking and talking), and said something like "… If everyone don't did it… " (by which she meant "If everyone didn't do it").

So I interrupted, and said, "Wow, what was that? 'don't did'?" because normally her grammar is pretty natural sounding.

Without pause, and laughing, she said, "I said I'm hungry. Hungry makes me grammar mistakes!"

In general, Sophia is the only student I have ever had , who, despite her age, seems to be essentially learning English as a native speaker does – meaning she has no ability whatsoever to articulate any concepts of English grammar, but for the most part she gets it right. Most elementary students in Korea who study EFL, if they are good, are good because they have managed to develop some kind of explicit grammar model in their minds. From a language-developmental standpoint, the only way to develop an implicit, embedded grammar is to start at a younger age (i.e. preschool). In this sense, Sophia has a rare and exceptional linguistic talent, for which I am envious.

Unrelatedly, what I'm listening to right now.

Sun Kil Moon, "Pancho Villa." Note that the Koreanish name of this non-Korean American folk-indie singer is not an accident, but rather a reference to Korean boxer Sung-kil Moon. 


Salvador Sanchez arrived and vanished
Only twenty-three with so much speed
Owning the highway

Mexico City bred so many
But none quite like him sweet warrior
Pure magic matador

Pancho Villa would never rest
'Til 1925 he closed his eyes
'Til Manila stars would rise

Gozo of the Philippines, choirs and angels sing
Ukulele strings play for his legend
Italy had a king

How have they gone
Fell by leather
So alone
Bound together

Benny "kid" Paret came a good way
Climbed to the grey sky to raise his hands
Stopped by the better man

Eyes of Los Rios cry for suns
Lost on distant shores, unforeseen horrors
Struck and delivered him

How have they gone
Fell by leather
So alone
Bound together

Why have they gone
Fell by leather
So alone
All bound together

[daily log: walking, 1km]

Caveat: NASA휴먼어드벤처展

Nasa-sign-1The other day I saw this banner hanging from a pedestrian bridge (picture at right). It was linguistically interesting to me because it does something I have almost never seen in Korea – it combines “konglish” and “hanja” in a single phrase. Both “konglish” (English vocabulary adopted into Korean and written in the Korean alphabet) and “hanja” (Chinese vocabulary adopted into Korean but still written using Chinese characters) are quite common in Korean, which is a voracious borrower of words. It’s one of the things that fascinates me about the language.
Nevertheless, it’s very rare to see konglish and hanja in the same sentence – in this case, in a single compound noun. NASA, of course, is NASA. 휴먼어드벤처 [hu.meon.eo.deu.ben.cheo] is “human adventure.” And then the trailing hanja is 展 [전=jeon], and means “exhibition.” So the entire title is: NASA Human Adventure Exhibition. But it uses 3 different writing systems. It’s for a show at the local giant convention center, Kintex.
[daily log: walking, 6.5km]

Caveat: an economic depression of astronomical proportions

If you enjoy academic discourse qua academic discourse, this economics paper is fascinating – it is both an exercise in serious macroeconomics and a weird kind of satire of serious macroeconomics. It applies some recent ideas of macroeconomics, as developed in response to the most recent global economic crisis (2008) to the Star Wars universe, and imagines the economic dilemma confronted by the victorious Rebel Alliance. The concluding two sentences of the paper:

In this case study we found that the Rebel Alliance would need to prepare a bailout of at least 15%, and likely at least 20%, of GGP in order to mitigate the systemic risks and the sudden and catastrophic economic collapse. Without such funds at the ready, it likely the Galactic economy would enter an economic depression of astronomical proportions.

[daily log: walking, 6km]

Caveat: Robot vs Giraffe

RobotvgiraffeThis drawing evolved on the whiteboard in my Betelgeuse반 the other day. The girls insisted that the robot was fighting the giraffe, although I hadn’t really intended that to be the theme of the drawing. To me, it looks rather like the robot wants to fight the giraffe, but the giraffe is calmly uninterested – above the fray, so to speak.

What I’m listening to right now.

MC Frontalot, “I’ll Form The Head.”

picture[daily log: walking, 6km]

Caveat: Y en un laberinto me encuentro perdido

La plaza tiene una torre

La plaza tiene una torre,
la torre tiene un balcón,
el balcón tiene una dama,
la dama una blanca flor.
Ha pasado un caballero
-¡quién sabe por qué pasó!-
y se ha llevado la plaza,
con su torre y su balcón,
con su balcón y su dama,
su dama y su blanca flor.

Para tu ventana 
un ramo de rosas me dio la mañana. 
Por un laberinto, de calle en calleja, 
buscando, he corrido, tu casa y tu reja. 
Y en un laberinto me encuentro perdido 
En esta mañana de mayo florido.

– Antonio Machado (poeta español, 1875-1939)

[daily log: walking, 6.5km]

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