March 24, 2010 | Korean
Nice Weather, Lost Hats, and Korean Writing
In which I experience strange word associations.
With Pimsleur, words and phrases you learn in early lessons tend, after lying dormant for a while, to resurface in later ones. When I am asked to recall things from past lessons, I have noticed that surprising non-verbal memories sometimes accompany the language memories.
For example, often what bubbles up along with the actual word or phrase is a visual memory of where I was when I learned it. So even now, months after my two-month Arabic segment, if I hear a particular Arabic expression, I recall the particular point on Circle Drive in the south end of Central Park where I was walking when I first encountered it. I picture the actual trees and the bridge and the paths that were around me at the time.
Today in one of my Pimsleur lessons, I was asked to translate the phrase “The weather is good.” And instantly I thought of my lost hat. That’s because I learned how to say “The weather is good” (quite a few days and Pimsleur lessons ago now) when I was heading to a bookstore in Koreatown and I mistakenly left a beloved hat on the bus I took there. The reason that happened is that I cannot wear the giant headset I use for Pimsleur with anything but a close-fitting knit cap, and this hat was considerably more substantial. So I had taken it off and put it on the seat next to me while I practiced Korean.
Now, some people might think I am better off without this hat—I know because I have gotten comments—but I loved it. Anyway, the point is, every time I hear or say something now in Korean about nice weather, along with the sunshine and blue sky that pop into my head, I also think of my lost hat. Which was, by the way, bought on sale at Saks during the most insane markdown in Saks history, at the nadir of the recession. It was a bargain that will probably never be seen again during my lifetime.
On another subject, I did a bunch of Pimsleur today, but also finally returned to written skills.
It was such a relief.
Doing only oral work gets me stressed out. I am such a visual and also analytical learner that if my brain fills up with too much oral information that I don’t know how to write and/or whose grammar I don’t understand, I become uncomfortable. So the tension had been building for several days, and now I feel much better.
For the first time this afternoon, I cracked a previously uncracked workbook that had been taunting me from its resting place on our coffee table. This event occurred at a local coffee shop, where I re-studied the alphabet and practiced some basic words over a large latte.
As it turned out, I liked this book a lot; it is a companion to the big orange Elementary Korean textbook I have talked about previously. I did a bunch of alphabet practice, and thought of first grade, with the attendant workbooks, and tracing paper, and pleasures of trying to write perfectly formed letters over and over and over again. That kind of thing gave me so much joy, both aesthetic and literary—or a first grader’s version of those things, anyway.
Everyone learns differently, and for some people Pimsleur audio lessons alone might work. but I really need different and complementary sources. I find it exciting when they intersect. Today, for example, Pimsleur had me practicing more sentences containing the word “milk,” pronounced oo-yoo. And then this afternoon, in the newly opened workbook, I saw the word in writing for the first time!
Here it is, in the accompanying image. The letters in the Korean version of “milk” look like young children to me—hence visually appropriate.
Also included here is the two-syllable Korean word for “ouch,” which makes me think of a game of Hangman.