Posts tagged ‘Language’

도청한다 (Eavesdropping)

One of the blessings of being in a foreign land, surrounded by a language and culture you don’t share is the bliss associated with not understanding peripheral conversations. Although I know a fair amount of Korean, and can have conversations about “real” things, I rarely find myself understanding the people I pass on the street.

In a way it gives me a great excuse for ignorance. I can sit in a meeting at school, and not worry about what was said unless someone feels the need to translate for me.

This also means that when I overhear an English conversation, it is almost impossible NOT to eavesdrop. A few months ago I heard some other foreigners talking about taking a trip to Thailand, and one guy was whining about how he didn’t know what to do in order to get to Thailand. I really wanted to say: “Use the internet you moron!” “Call a travel agent you imbecile!” But of course, I really just had to mind my own business…

As far as the Korean I hear on the street, it is really very different from what I read in books or am taught in class. The real spoken language is another beast altogether. And since I have no context for their conversation, I find it really hard to parse what they are saying. However last night I wasn’t even thinking about it, and I heard this simple exchange. It actually caught me of guard, and I didn’t realize I was understanding anything until the 4th line, so the middle two I’m kind of guessing about.

Girl: 어마, 내일 오빠의 생일이야? (Mommy, is tomorrow big brother’s birthday?) (Koreans often refer to each other by titles, rather than names, even if speaking in the second person)

Mom: 맞아 (Yes)

Girl: 몇번 (Which one?)

Mom: 여섯번 (His sixth)

It’s the little things like this that tell me I am making progress.

October 15, 2007 at 3:53 pm Leave a comment

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