March 27, 2010 | Korean
I Barely Left the Apartment
In which I complete four Pimsleur lessons, yet do not lose my mind.
Today was an all-Pimsleur kind of day: Level II lessons 17, 18, 19, and 20, with two repeats per lesson. I now have 10 lessons left for the four remaining days of March.
I didn’t leave the apartment today, except to get a pint of Häagen Dazs peanut butter brittle at Fairway for mental reinforcement. (Although Häagen Dazs has reduced the container size to 14 ounces, so it’s not really a pint anymore.)
It didn’t feel as though I didn’t leave, however. A lot goes on in these lessons. In one of them, I was talking at some length about my (imaginary) children: a son in high school and a daughter in college. Some of the details for my children were pretty specific.
For example, at one point the Pimsleur narrator explained about my daughter, “Because she started college after working for a while, she’s older.” I was then prompted to say, in Korean, that she is 32 years old.
That’s more than just “a while.” How she got to be 32 years old without going back to college earlier was not addressed. I found myself wondering what she was really up to all that time. I didn’t get the feeling that a family financial issue or a disdain for higher education was responsible. Perhaps drugs were involved, or an online gambling addiction.
Or perhaps she just had trouble figuring out what she wanted to do with her life, and getting on with it.
These Korean lessons have been very hard, and today, because of the time pressure I am under with all the lessons I have left, I had to go back to a totally purist routine, lying perfectly still on the sofa with my eyes closed. That way nothing else could get into my head and distract me.
The approach helped, though challenges remained. Among them: so many Korean words seem to begin with ch sounds. Is that true, or was it the luck of the draw in these Pimsleur lessons? Cha-JOO is “often.” Chong-jong is “sometimes.” I get those mixed up. Oh, yeah, and chul-chung is (I think) “business meeting.” And cha is “tea.” And there are many more ch words where those came from.
Also, some of the sentences are just plain funny-sounding to me. For example, “The pharmacy is not very close” translates as Ya-KOO-kee pee-ell-OH an ka-ka-why-OH. It’s also totally out of order by English standards: “Pharmacy very not near is.” (That kaka piece towards the end of the sentence, by the way, is exactly the kind of thing that can derail a high school language class, by inducing fits of giggling and various sophomoric comments.)
There was at least one strange conversation involving a woman whose husband became ill while the two of them were traveling. She went to the pharmacy to get something for him, and ended up having what struck me as an inappropriately leisurely conversation about non-medical topics with the pharmacist. I hope her husband was not all that sick.