My student Sophia is probably the only student I have who actually thinks in English at least some of the time. And maybe it is only in the context of being able to effortlessly switch what language one is thinking in does it really become common to see dynamic lexeme-level code switching, in the linguistic sense.
I was handing her a vocabulary quiz booklet, and she handed it back to me, saying, offhandedly,
that's 동현의 것's (i.e. that's Dong-hyeon-ui geot's)
"Dong-hyeon" is her classmate's name. Really it's not exactly code-switching, since it's a kind of "doubled-up possessive" – a Korean possessive (-의 것 [-ui-geot]) embedded in an English possessive – so more like "code layering." She was just covering her bases.
I just found it fascinating from a language-acquisition standpoint.
Last week, I gave a speaking test to my Newton1-M cohort. The topic I’d given them was the humorous “woodchucks should chuck wood” proposition that I’d had success with before.
Here they are, giving their own reasons why woodchucks should chuck wood.
Here are the texts of their speeches (since they are hard to hear). I made major corrections to the grammar of their draft speeches, but the ideas, reasons and examples are entirely their own. I had made the requirement that they each include the original tongue-twister in their speeches.
Hi, my name is Jerry. There is a question, “How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?” The answer is, “A woodchuck would chuck as much wood as a woodchuck could chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood.” I think this is wrong. I have a reason, too, which is that the woodchuck’s teeth are not strong enough to eat wood. A beaver has strong teeth, that’s why it eats wood. A woodchuck has weak teeth. If a woodchuck ate wood, it would get hurt. Do you want a cute woodchuck to get hurt?
Hi everyone, my name is Angela. The question is, “How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?” And we all know that the answer is, “A woodchuck would chuck as much wood as a woodchuck could chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood.” I think woodchucks should wood if they could. I have one main reason for this. Woodchucks like wood. Woodchucks like brown colored things. I saw a woodchuck. The woodchuck said, “I like wood!” So it’s a good situation. I think woodchucks should chuck wood if they could. Thank you for listening.
Hi, my name is Mark. We’re debating about woodchucks. “How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? A woodchuck would chuck as much wood as a woodchuck could chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood.” Personally, I think a woodchuck shouldn’t shuck wood even if they could, because wood is not delicious. According to a survey of many cute, furry woodchucks, 90% of the respondents said that wood is not delicious. Therefore for this reason I think a woodchuck should not eat wood, even if they could. Thank you for listening to my speech.
Hi, my name is Ysabell. My team is the PRO team on this debate, which has the question, “How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?” The answer is, “A woodchuck would chuck as much wood as a woodchuck could chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood.” I think woodchucks should chuck wood if they could, because their name is WOODCHUCK! I have a friend whose nickname is “Carrot.” She likes carrots. I disagree with my opponents, who say woodchucks shouldn’t chuck wood. It’s not true. How can the name ‘woodchuck’ not be true?
Hi, my name is Jenny. Some student asked the teacher, “How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?” The teacher said, “A woodchuck would chuck as much wood as a woodchuck could chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood.” I think this is wrong. I think woodchucks shouldn’t chuck wood. Today, when I went to school, I met a woodchuck. I asked, “Do you like wood?” The woodchuck said, “No, I don’t eat wood.” Look, everyone, the woodchuck said it, itself, and I heard it directly. Woodchucks shouldn’t chuck wood. They don’t want to.
Hello everyone, my name is Julie. We are debating about woodchucks. The question is “How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?” The answer is “A woodchuck would chuck as much wood as a woodchuck could chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood.” I am on the PRO team on this proposition, because if we try it, maybe wood actually tastes good. Some wood can be delicious. For example, sugar cane is a kind of wood. It is very sweet and delicious. So I think I agree with this idea. Thank you for listening.
1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God; 2 As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. 3 The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. (KJV)
But the Christian/Western allusion is to prophecy, while the Chinese seems to mean one of two things, neither of which is quite the same. First, it might mean a pointless exercise of proclaiming when no one is paying attention. Alternately, it might mean the way that deserted place becomes more welcoming when a sound is heard. Regardless, I don’t think it’s directly relatable to the notion of prophecy… I guess it comes down to one’s opinion regarding the efficacy of prophecy.
There is also the text by John Gower, a Latin-language poem written in the 14th century, bearing the title “Vox Clamantis.” [daily log: walking, 1km]
Today is the big day – the annual Karma Academy Talent Show. I've been really busy in the preparations leading up to this day, with 2-3 hours extra work most days for the last 2 weeks. Now we get to see just how badly it goes.
When God at first made man, Having a glass of blessings standing by, "Let us," said he, "pour on him all we can. Let the world’s riches, which dispersèd lie, Contract into a span."
So strength first made a way; Then beauty flowed, then wisdom, honour, pleasure. When almost all was out, God made a stay, Perceiving that, alone of all his treasure, Rest in the bottom lay.
"For if I should," said he, "Bestow this jewel also on my creature, He would adore my gifts instead of me, And rest in Nature, not the God of Nature; So both should losers be.
"Yet let him keep the rest, But keep them with repining restlessness; Let him be rich and weary, that at least, If goodness lead him not, yet weariness May toss him to my breast." – George Herbert (Welsh-English poet, 1593-1633)
Although I like the poetry, and in some ways I can appreciate the concept, too, I find this portrait of God deeply unsympathetic. Of course, as CS Lewis has observed, we're not supposed to like God, are we? That's not really the point. In a similar vein, I have always found the gnostic portrait of the creator God (i.e. of the Pentateuch) as an enemy of humanity compelling – a view which perhaps was more integral (implicitly rather than explicitly) to pre-modern Christian views of God, as suggested by the above poem. Anyway my own view remains that I appreciate all these stories as strong metaphors, but I remain militantly anti-transcendentalist.
I was walking. There was a whirr of wings.
A flash of black.
A raven spun and landed in front of me.
Some years ago I was in Japan, and I saw many ravens.
So ravens make me think about Japan in the Summer.
But also, I think about death.
Aren't there some traditional cultures that associate ravens with death?
I wonder about ravens. They are scavenger birds.
Carrion-seekers. They must know about death, after all.
That's why they tilt their heads like that.
People seem to know about death, too.
We are carrion-apes who know about death.
It's a matter of ecological competence.
Is that where clever consciousness comes from?
– some kind of free verse The picture shows some ravens (crows?) I saw at Hallasan, on Jeju Island, in February, 2011. [daily log: walking, 7km]
It's a tradition. Go to hospital. Snap a pic. Post to blog. Wait. Wait. More later.
Update, a few hours later:
With respect to my diplostome, the doctor actually said, "very good." That is good news. It seems to finally be closing up as it is supposed to.
There was some less good news, too, though. After doing some x-rays to look around the rest of my jaw, the doctor identified another spot where there was likely some necrosis-exacerbated dental problems, around the root of an upper molar. The molar was a spot where I had a root canal long ago, and because of this, the doctor shook his head, depressingly. He explained there was little we could do. "Wait for it to start hurting, then take it out. Meanwhile, keep using it." It is another case where any effort to cure it would be worse than the problem, so the medical procedure boils down to "wait."
As I've mentioned before, just sitting and watching Korean television on some random channel can often lead to seeing unexpected or unusual things, not necessarily of high artistic merit.
Yesterday I got home from work and it was very hot. Summer has arrived. I turned on my A/C for the first sustained run this season, took a short nap, and then vegged in front of the TV.
I watched a very bizarre Russian comedy called Dzhungli ("The Jungle", 정글), subtitled in Korean. Obviously my level of comprehension was rather low, but between my rusty two years of college Russian and my low-vocabulary but high-frequency Korean, I picked up more than I might have expected. Mostly pronouns.
Fortunately the plot was so facile that it sustained my interest. It was full of the kinds of social and cultural stereotypes that became unpopular in the west about half a century ago. Some married couple with relationship problems gets stranded on a remote tropical island. At first they're sabotaging each other's efforts to survive on the island, like a never-ending lover's quarrel devolved into a lord-of-the-flies scenario, but then these highly caricatured "natives" show up, who, despite wearing blackface, rather humorously all speak German (bear in mind that the Slavic term for "German" [nemets] means, roughly, "can't talk" – so this may be a kind of complex joke). The natives attempt to kill the couple, but they fight them and eventually escape the island and return to Russia and marital bliss.
Actually it reminded a lot of some lost episode of Gilligan's Island, with better special effects and marginally less coherent dialogue, and where Ginger and Gilligan finally become an item and have their own private adventure in the jungle somewhere.
I don't recommend this movie. Unless you're really bored watching Korean broadcast TV on a Saturday afternoon.
I have a 5th grade student named Jenny. She is pretty smart, but has a bit of a melancholic personality. In fact, I've known Jenny for a long time – she was, long ago, in one of my Phonics cohorts, when she first studied English. As a result, I feel like I know her pretty well. Nevertheless she surprised me a little bit, yesterday, by expressing what seemed to me to be some pretty deep ideas, in English.
We were having more-or-less free conversation during class, talking about how to get motivated to prepare for our up coming talent show event. Several of the kids complained that they felt too shy and didn't want to do it, including Jenny. Then she said, "I wish I had a machine."
"What kind of machine?" I asked.
"A machine if you click it, it changes feeling." She made a gesture of operating a computer mouse.
"What do you mean?"
"If I am shy, I can click it, and I am happy. If am sad, I can click it, and I am OK."
"That would be a pretty good machine," I agreed. "I think everyone would like a machine like that."
I saw this four-character idiom in my building’s elevator the other day. It was really hard to figure out a meaning for it – my online search and linguistic skills are either declining or this was an exceptionally difficult and rare one.
Breaking down the individual hanja:
文 문 = 글월 letter, writing, sentence
過 과 = 지날 fut-part pass, elapse, spend [time]
飾 식 = 꾸밀 fut-part ornament, fabricate, affect, make, embellish
非 비 = 아닐 fut-part not be
Maybe literally, then, something like “[despite time] spent writing, [there is] no embellished effect” (?).
I searched a lot for a translation, and found nothing. I was having too much difficulty translating the one Korean definition I found. I tried a trick that sometimes works for these four-character idioms: you can put the idiom into googletranslate as Chinese instead of Korean. In this case, the meaning seems clear: “to pay lip service to.” I am not certain that the Korean usage of the idiom retains exactly the same meaning, but the Korean meaning given at naver’s dictionary is:
허물도 꾸미고 잘못도 꾸민다는 뜻으로, 잘못이 있음에도 불구(不拘)하고 뉘우침도 없이 숨길 뿐 아니라 도리어 외면하고 도리어 잘난 체함
It was taking me too long to try to figure out an idiomatic translation for this definition, but the gist seems to be in vein of “it is a mistake to try to hide ideas through embellishment, etc.” I’m not really confident, but it seems to semantically connect enough to the direct translation of the Chinese as to make me think that meaning applies to the Korean usage as well. [daily log: walking, 6.5km]
One of my new classes is a Tuesday special "activity" class for our lowest-level, youngest class, a combined "Basic" cohort. These kids are essentially "pre-Phonics" and I'm mostly focused on getting them comfortable with a classroom conducted in English and doing fun games and vocabulary review for the online materials we're using.
There is one girl, a 2nd-grader, who has a quite distinctive personality. Her English name is Hailey. She has a preternaturally deep voice for a child of any gender, and sometimes hearing her talk can be disorienting, as she can sound almost like an adult if you pay attention to the tone of voice and not the content of her words. This dissonance is augmented by her tiny stature.
Either because of this, or for whatever other reason, she is also fairly behaviorially mature for her age, and a little bit bossy with her peers, but strangely staid and polite with adults. She actually likes to sit and pay attention quietly in class. When we were playing a game, yesterday, she was copying down words from our last exercise, practicing her English Alphabet letters. She suddenly raised her hand and asked to go to the bathroom (in Korean). After making her repeat the request in English, I let her go.
After she came back, she resumed her writing, and I let her – I run a fairly loose classroom anyway, and far be it from me to force a child to participate in a game when she'd rather practice writing.
Then suddenly my coworker Helen popped her head in the classroom and said the class was too noisy. I assumed this was because there were some prospective customer-parents in the lobby, and having a loud, raucous classroom is not a great sales pitch – at least not in Korea. So we ended the game and went on to a more structured and quieter activity.
Later, Helen told me that in fact, Hailey had stopped by the front desk on her way to the bathroom, and had complained to her about how noisy the class was, and had requested Helen to come tell the class to quiet down.
I found this truly funny. I have never had a 2nd grader complain about a too-loud class, before. I didn't even think it was possible.
It was a really long day yesterday, with six classes back-to-back and essays to score. I'm feeling gloomy because I made a mistake with last-month's grades. Just a stupid mistake in the spreadsheeet, but the sort of mistake that unnecessarily and negatively impacts the impression parents have.
What I'm listening to right now.
Garbage, "You Look So Fine." This is from Garbage's Version 2.0 album, possibly one of my most favorite and most listened-to albums of all time – one of those albums where I like every song on it.
You look so fine
I want to break your heart And give you mine You're taking me over
It's so insane You've got me tethered and chained I hear your name And I'm falling over
I'm not like all the other girls I can't take it like the other girls I won't share it like the other girls That you used to know
You look so fine
Knocked down Cried out Been down just to find out I'm through Bleeding for you
I'm open wide I want to take you home We'll waste some time You're the only one for me
You look so fine I'm like the desert tonight Leave her behind If you want to show me
I'm not like all the other girls I won't take it like the other girls I won't fake it like the other girls That you used to know
You're taking me over Over and over I'm falling over Over and over
You're taking me over Drown in me one more time Hide inside me tonight Do what you want to do Just pretend happy end Let me know let it show
I wrote these little poems. They are attempts at the Welsh traditional short poem form called englynion – specifically, the englyn unodl crwca, or crooked one-line englyn. (Poem #24 on new numbering scheme)
looking now out the window,
solid gray clouds, drawn just so -
i lie down to read. let go of winter,
wishing for rain, but no.
the puddle of water shines,
the morning sun's brightness finds
streaks of mud and small cracks; signs like a map's
matching patchwork of lines.
These forms are quite restrictive, in the technical sense. I seem to prefer trying to write inside such constraints, sometimes. [daily log: walking, 7km]
I don’t wanna be, with anybody else If I wanted someone like me I’d hang out with myself
I’m stuck here, in the middle of winter I feel a bit bitter about what you said to me Well you never talk about it Instead you scream and shout it Never let nobody into let them know what you been through
You love drama I believe in karma I’m struggling and might see a shrink I never thought that I would think that
I, no I don’t wanna be With anybody else but you Can you come with me [x2]
We’re so different you and I I think that’s what first caught your eye I’m your mistake, you’re my escape
You suggest the theatre I go just to be with you It’s not something I like to do I hate musicals, I know I’ve been to a few
I, no I don’t wanna be With anybody else but you Can you come with me [x2]
I don’t wanna be, with anybody else If I wanted someone like me I’d just hang out with myself
I, no I don’t wanna be With anybody else but you Can you come with me [x2]
I have a set of tarot cards, which I have owned for over 30 years now, and they remain in good condition. I had misplaced them during my move in 2013, but they later turned up.
Sometimes I do "tarot readings" in my middle-school classes if I have a few minutes to kill at the end of a lesson and they express some interest. Yesterday in my 8th grade HS2A cohort, they weren't that interested, but I gave a tarot reading yesterday because those kids are just zombies as far as I can figure out.
I have one of the students ask me a question, then I will "read their future" with the cards and booklet of interpretative meanings that I compiled. Some kids find it fascinating, and I can justify it since of course I'm conducting the "readings" in English.
One boy asked "What will I do tomorrow?" Perhaps he cynically hoped to get me to make a prediction he could invalidate. I don't mind this. I read the cards and told him, plausibly enough against their standard meanings, that he would have to make a choice tomorrow, and that he would make the right choice. I was pleased with this, since it seemed the kind of reading that would be impossible to invalidate.
The next question, from a girl, was about university. The cards were kind of dark and negative, on that one, but I told her - a shy and timorous girl – that the cards showed that although what university she attended seemed important, she shouldn't worry so much about it – her life could be good regardless of where she went. There was at least some support for that reading.
Finally, another girl asked, cynically, "When can I leave this classroom?" I laughed at the passive-aggressive cleverness of this question.
I pulled a card, and turned it over. It was the 8 of wands, inverted. The meaning of this card is "delay" – really, look it up yourself. "Your leaving this classroom will be delayed!" I announced, triumphantly. I showed them the booklet page under the appropriate card, to prove I wasn't tricking them.
This was such an impressive result I could see the kids were either a bit surprised, or else still thought I was tricking them somehow.
The girl who'd asked the question rolled her eyes and looked at the clock on the wall again.
Last night we had a 회식 (work dinner), that Korean institution where coworkers periodically and essentially obligatorially participate in an after-work dinner and drinking experience. I am not much of a drinker these days, and furthermore my medication contraindicates alcohol, but something made me have a couple cups of beer last night, which, given my normal abstention, left me feeling completely discombobulated.
Anyway, it was at a seafood reastaurant, one of those places where there are servings of raw, still-wiggling, chopped octopus tentacles among other less-identifiable delicacies. I have never been a fan of still-wiggling octopus tentacles, although I'm fine to eat them cooked, when they have a kind of "ok to swallow whole" texture such that they are more bearable than many other things. I had some issues with bits of clam and mussel shell in the food getting caught in my undexterous mouth.
Perhaps the pleasing aspect was that, although I didn't talk much – I never do – I was finding my level of comprehension through the evening fairly high. I followed a number of conversations more-or-less successfully, although if I let my attention wander I would become lost. As I've always commented to my coworkers, for me, hweh-sik is harder than work, not easier, and not really relaxing. It's like an intensive Korean listening comprehension class, always held late at night after a long day at work.
A picture, looking across the table – a low table, everyone seated on the floor – you can see new teacher John, Curt, and newish middle-school subdirector, Sunny (who, like many Karmaites, is an L-Bridge refugee, and thus someone whom I've known on and off for quite a long time).
What I'm listening to right now.
Télépopmusik – "Breathe."
I brought you something close to me, Left for something you see though your here. You haunt my dreams There's nothing to do but believe, Just believe. Just breathe.
Another day, just believe, Another day, just breathe Another day, just believe, Another day. just breathe.
Im used to it by now. Another day, just believe. Just breathe. just believe. Just breathe. Lying in my bed, Another day, staring at the ceiling.
Just breathe. another day. Another day, just believe. Another day. Im used to it by now. Im used to it by now. Just breathe. just believe. Just breathe. just believe. Just believe. just breathe. Just believe. Another day, just believe. Another day. Another day, just believe, Another day, just breathe, Another day (I do believe). Another day(so hard to breathe) Another day(not so hard to believe) Another day. another day.
There is a website dedicated to "satirical linguistics," called SpeculativeGrammarian. There is an article called "Nursery Rhymes from Linguistics Land," which is a collection of humorous, linguistics-themed re-writes of traditional nursery rhymes. Given my fondness for tongue twisters, combined with my interest in parsers (that was the subject matter, broadly speaking, of my undergraduate honor's thesis) and my fascination with palindromes, this particular rhyme was particularly impressive:
Peter’s parser parsed a paragraph Of paraphrastic palindromes; A paragraph of paraphrastic palindromes Peter’s parser parsed.
If Peter’s parser parsed a paragraph Of paraphrastic palindromes, Where’s the paragraph of paraphrastic palindromes Peter’s parser parsed?
My coworker taught me this expression, in the context of my trying to explain what I had done over the weekend. “I did basically nothing,” I had said. “I was a zombie.”
She found this expression somewhat funny, and offered the Korean equivalent: “시체노리 했다” [si.che.no.ri haet.da]. The meaning, roughly, is “[I] played at being a corpse,” but apparently it can be used just as I used the “I was a zombie” expression, or other colloquialisms for doing nothing, like “I was basically dead.”
Not much else to say. [daily log: walking, 7km]
Every now and then I run across something where I think that – if I didn't already have a good name for my blog - it would make a good name for a blog.
There is an ancient Greek expression, γνῶθι σεαυτόν("know thyself"). Recently I ran across something I think I'd seen before, which is an interesting, skeleton-themed mosaic from an ancient Roman villa (see at right, but note the Greek in that mosaic is missing the "ε").
This was in the context of news about a different, recently-discovered, skeleton-themed mosaic near Antioch in Turkey, below, whose inscription apparently could be translated as "Be cheerful and live your life" – although there are more pessimistic readings, too. I was unable to find a clear transcription of the original Greek, a language which I have occasionally pursued as a kind of low-key hobby – I won't even attempt to transcribe it here.
The reek of butterflies and dust woke me
from winter's complacent pessimism
and showed with grave determination
that true intentions are both made and found.
Uninteresting. I put my arm out
to touch the bookshelf behind my pillow
and unindexed archives of better sleep
unfolded into gold and copper flags.
I counted seven breaths while I focused
on disregarding things: body, pain, mind
the myriad irrelevancies of being
and that bit of twisted string, felt crouching
in that spot on the shelf where I'd seen it;
imagine it was another whole world.
I had one of my "low tech" Sundays, I guess. I was tired of looking at the internet and tried to avoid it today.
What I'm listening to right now.
This morning, anyway, when I started to prepare this blog-post, the internet let me down. I was listening to this song, and was going to post it. But the song is completely missing from the normal places where such things can be found – e.g. youtube, vimeo. Not even the pirate-riddled Chinese site I've used a few times. So. No online track available. I guess they want you to buy it. How antiquated.
Epsilon Minus, "Lost."
My sadness seeks out comfort Where are you now I just had to express these feelings My regret overwhelms me I feel you now I just had to show you what remains
You said that I would never change Just a frozen thought in your mind I'm destined to remain You embody everything I am And I thought I would tell you all this As I watch you slip away And the hope built up inside Told me this would be the time I would cry no more goodbyes You gave the world to me
My loneliness astounds me I've lost you now I have no one to blame for these things
You fought to keep them all away But desire overcomes me And that's something new to me I've known longing I've lost something
And the hope built up inside Lied to me a thousand times I've cried one more goodbye The world I had destroyed And these feelings I won't hide When the tears slowly subside I've lost everything today When you took the world from me