March 31, 2010 | Korean
Goodbye to Korean, for Now
I visit a Korean enclave in Bedford Park, the Bronx.
Today, on the last day of Korean, I took a field trip to the Bronx neighborhood of Bedford Park.
I had read that there was a strip of Korean stores and restaurants on 204th Street between the Grand Concourse and Moshulu Parkway.
There was indeed, though it was quite a small one, and one that did not give the initial impression of full economic health.
On the subway to the Bronx, I redid Pimsleur lesson 30 and—it went fabulously! I hardly had to press the pause button at all, and I got almost everything right.
I was excited to see that I didn’t totally suck.
Once on 204th Street, I walked around taking pictures of various store, restaurants, and other establishments.
In one place, a Korean food market called Go Hyang Jip, as I approached the front counter to ask the woman standing there if I could take pictures, I accidentally whacked a display case with my bag. I was about to apologize in English, but caught myself. Instead of saying “I’m sorry” in English, I said it in Korean: “Bienamnida.”
She understood! And smiled!
And then said something in Korean that I couldn’t understand, but that’s okay; I’d already had my happy moment.
I ended up having a very pleasant conversation, partly in Korean, with her and her husband. (I assumed they were the owners, though I am realizing now I didn’t actually ask.) I think they understood everything I said in Korean. I, unfortunately, did not understand everything they said in Korean, but that’s just how it goes.
This is some of what I managed to convey (transliterations are as usual improvised, which is another way of saying they are probably wrong):
- Manasaphangapsanida - Nice to meet you.
- Kamsamnida - Thank you.
- Naishiga chosemnida – The weather is good.
- Onirin piga an wayo - It’s not raining today.
I was particularly proud of this last brilliant observation, which I learned how to say only yesterday.
What strikes me, at this early stage with a totally alien language, is how inflexible conversational skills are. If I am forced to depart from a particular line of questions and answers that I happen to know, I am completely without resources. I can’t just start talking about how I would like lettuce but no cheese on my chicken sandwich, or speculate out loud about why I never received a census form (true).
Their market is stocked with an impressive array of Korean foodstuffs, some of them pictured here.
By the way, the main other language I saw in this Bedford Park strip of stores was Spanish—a perfect lead-in for my transition to Spanish tomorrow!
Goodbye for now, Korean! Anyunghi kyeseyo!