Sunday, November 17, 2019

What the Heck is Konglish?

The first time I heard the word "Konglish" the first thing that popped into my mind was "Congolese English?" But alas, Konglish (콩글리쉬) is the beloved merger of Korean and English, where loan words are attempted with varying degrees of faithfulness to the original meaning and then spread far and wide.

Here are a few examples:

  • Notebook (노트북): A laptop computer, not a notebook. What we call a "notebook" is kongchek (공책).
  • Dress (드레스): Not just any dress, but only fancy, formal dress. It may also apply to men. See next bullet for what we English-speakers would call a "dress".
  • One piece (원피스): A dress more generally, not a swimsuit. I still have no idea how to say swimsuit, and summer's a long way away so I'm not prioritizing it.
  • Eye shopping (아이쇼핑): Window shopping.
  • Hand phone (핸드폰): A cell phone.
  • Meeting (미팅): Usually a blind date, not a meeting. "Meeting" is hwoe-ui (회의). (It does not sound how the romanization standards make it look.)
  • Open car (오픈카): A convertible. I mean, it's not wrong. (To be completely fair, convertible [컨버터블] is also used.)
  • Manicure (매니큐어): General term for nail polish.
  • Fighting (파이팅 or 화이팅): This is the most famous Konglish word of all, and you'll see it in pretty much any modern Korean drama (K-drama). It does not have anything to do with actual fighting, but it's more an expression of encouragement like "You got this!" or "Go, team!"

Are these false cognates? I don't think they quite fit the definition because they don't have different etymologies. They all ostensibly come from the English language, but their meaning has changed somehow. I will also say that there are plenty of true loan words that have maintained their meaning (looking at you, ice cream [아이스크림]), but I found the different ones way more entertaining. Did I miss any in Korean? Do you know of words like this in other languages? Please feel free to share in the comments below!

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Learning a Language, 40 Hours a Week

What's it like to spend 40 hours a week learning a language? Well, it depends on whom you ask. (Though I recommend not asking M, who just doesn't enjoy studying foreign languages very much.) Each day, I'm in language class for five hours (at the Foreign Service Institute, also known as FSI) and I'm expected to study about three hours outside of class on my own. I usually squeeze in at least two hours between homework and vocabulary study, so I've stayed relatively on track so far. It helps that I'm ahead of the curriculum because I've studied Korean before, but I'm still learning an immense amount of vocabulary (about 100 words per week, and yes the first photo of this post is a typical sheet of my vocab notes from class).

At this stage, it feels pretty similar to me as some of the times I spent intensively studying Arabic abroad in Oman. There, I had about four hours of classes at most and then about two hours of homework each night. But on top of that, I also had to use the language more in "real life" to communicate with my Omani friends. Thankfully, I have my mom and others to help offer me free Korean practice--but my Korean still has a long way to go to get to that more complex conversational phase!

To be honest, I'm having a pretty good time in Korean class so far. The teachers are very knowledgeable and organized and the students have strong camaraderie. Moreover, the Korean department has incorporated a lot of cultural and linguistic immersion activities, like the Chuseok celebration I described in a previous post.

Probably the single biggest factor, though, is the fact that I simply love learning languages. I know not everyone does, so a lot of folks in language training are definitely not having as good of a time as I am. I find it to be a refreshing break from the typical grind and pace of work I've done in the office lately. I also enjoy challenging different parts of my brain that could use the exercise. I still struggle with mixing languages, and I deeply admire the polyglots who can flawlessly switch between many languages. (They are definitely my #goals.) For now, I'm accidentally dropping or thinking Korean words when I'm looking for French or Arabic, but hopefully with enough practice I can overcome that particular hurdle.

Two months in, I'm pretty impressed with my FSI language learning experience. My classmates are hard-working, the teachers are great, and the language training supervisor is good about setting clear expectations. To be honest, at first I was really disappointed that there wasn't space in the Korean department to create a more advanced course or to allow me to pursue a more in-depth self-study. (All the Korean classes at FSI start from 0 and go up to level 2, which is certainly not the case with other, larger language departments like French, Spanish, or even Chinese that can accommodate multiple levels simultaneously.) Now that we're past the alphabet (a grueling two full weeks) and the lowest-level basics, though, it's become much more interesting and fun. I'm looking forward to learning more and hopefully not burning out before I'm finished next year.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

First RV Camping Trip

M has definitely broadened my horizons in a number of ways by sharing the things he loves with me. He got me into cruises, after all. So I finally decided to try something he has enjoyed for a long time for the first time: RV camping (recreational vehicle camping)! I already really enjoy tent camping (on the condition that there is a toilet at the campsite, and even better if there is a shower), so I wasn't really sure how RV camping would compare.

We went camping with M's family in Bull Run Regional Park, which was surprisingly close and easy to reach. The park included a mix of locals and travelers, tents and RVs, families and couples and singles and friends. The park was preparing for the Festival of Lights, which looked like a fun holiday experience to try later in the season.

The RV was much more comfortable than I expected, to be honest! M and I slept on one of the couches that converted to a full bed, and all six of us on the trip could lounge comfortably by or in the RV. The campsite even came with a water hookup so we could use the bathroom inside instead of having to walk to the camp's shared bathroom, which was very convenient especially at night.

Although the weather was a little chilly that weekend, it was nice enough that we took a very leisurely hike together on one of the trails. We opted for a shorter route, but according to the trail map there are some loops that could take all day. Apparently, there are also nice bluebells to enjoy there during the spring, so we might have to come back for those next year.

The camp also had communal events planned where you could meet others who were staying at the park. We went to a bonfire where the camp staff provided cast iron griddles and we made grilled cheese sandwiches in the fire! It was so tasty, even if it didn't have much nutritional value. When we got back to our campsite, we also enjoyed a few rounds of s'mores. (Would it even be camping without s'mores?) M always toasts a perfect marshmallow, while I prepare the graham crackers and chocolate. We have our s'mores technique as a couple down at this point.

It was pouring rain the morning that we left, which is probably the single moment for which I was the most grateful to be in an RV instead of a tent. It did feel more like glamping than camping, though. All in all, I enjoyed my first time RV camping. It was different in a lot of ways from sleeping on the ground, but I would be happy to camp either way again. Feel free to share which type of camping is your favorite and why in the comments below, and thanks for reading!