Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Korean in Japanese


I've wanted to visit Korea for years. There's a story that goes with that, but let's just say it involves a Korean girl and really it's not too hard to work out the rest. I've never been too interested in learning the language – it wasn't offered at my Canadian university, and all my self-study energy goes towards Japanese – but I was kind of forced to change my attitude when I thought I might be going to Busan, where I would naturally take classes as part of the package. Jumping ahead a bit, when I first moved into this dorm I kind of noticed that, oh hey, everybody here speaks English, and they speak their native language, and they're learning Japanese, and some of them speak other second languages as well. And that made me feel kind of embarrassed with my wimpy two languages, even if they're both comparatively advanced.

But still, I thought, I'd like to add another trick to my bag. Speaking Japanese is a pretty rare and impressive skill in Canada; in Japan, less so. I'd really like a little something to bust out when I feel like impressing Japanese people. I should take Korean here! So that's what I'm doing, and I think it's going to be hilarious, because Busan is basically the Oosaka of Korea, so I'll be trying to learn the Busan dialect on my own time. In other words, I'll be a white guy, speaking Korean, in the Busan dialect, with a Japanese accent. With any luck I'll confuse the shit out of people.

My first class was this morning, and I thought it would be fascinating to learn Korean in Japanese. It would be eye-opening; it would re-frame my language faculties; it would not only give me new insight into the process of learning Japanese, but language-learning in general. So far this hasn't happened, but it was only the first class, so maybe I'll strike an epiphany later in the semester. Today we just talked about the syntactical similarities between Japanese and Korean, and how words are constructed in hangul, some of which I already knew by osmosis from deeply trolling the K-blogosphere. I was, thankfully, able to keep up with the explanation without problems, perhaps in part because I've deliberately chosen the least serious class available, 「楽しく学ぶ韓国朝鮮語」、which manages to imply that the other Korean classes are not enjoyable while simultaneously sounding very stupid.

Next I had History of Japanese Thought, with the same teacher as last semester, except now it's the other half of the course. The first half, in fact. Whatever, you don't really have to take them in order. Even without Philosophy and Hikikomori Girl to lean on, I kept up with the lecture and was moved to contemplation at all the right moments. My reading has even improved in the last few months, so although it will be some time before I'm able to casually read through printouts of of hundred-year-old documents, I was able to follow along much more easily than I once was. Getting better!

In both classes, I got a comment from the teacher and a couple of double-takes, but otherwise went unacknowledged. Not like yesterday, when a couple of girls caught sight of me and almost had a heart attack. I like it. I see the other koukan ryuugakusei moving about the campus in groups, while I cut a lone path, because I've got my own stuff to deal with, of which they have no part. I wondered if that made me an arrogant prick, and then I decided that I don't care. It makes me feel more strongly a part of the society in which I live. It makes me feel like I've arrived in a whole new way.

My third academic class of the semester was choukai, which, as far as I'm concerned, is kind of a joke. It's just sort of a lame concept for a class, and the fact that last semester I put by far the least effort into choukai but got an A in that and a B in everything else should tell you what a waste of time it is. I guess maybe it'll help me understand my real classes more effectively, though, which would be pretty damn exciting, I must admit. I can also justify it to myself by saying that the latest reports put choukai as the most critical part of the modern JLPT, which I'm hoping to take in the summer. Although the real reason is that I have to take at least four Japanese language classes and nothing else fit with my schedule.

Finally, Literature again. Same as before, contemporary short stories, taught in English, with class time focussing on discussion. I seem to remember this being an awfully work-intensive course, and having it does not help my degree in any way whatsoever. But it was fun, the teacher was interesting, and besides, I really wanna up my knowledge of Japanese literature, just cause it seems like that's the sort of thing I should have.

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