Monday, July 17, 2006

바람난 한국어

A week ago I picked up 바람난 한국어 by 곽상흔 (Gwak Sang-heun) at the "Korean language for foreigners" section at Kyobo bookstore. Ms. Gwak's apparently an experienced teacher of the Korean language to f0reigners, and in this book she's assembled her favorite tidbits from her classes, along with her commentary on Korean culture.

To be honest I'm not sure if this book was written more for foreigners or native Korean speakers. Still, right now it's my main object of study - it's written all in Korean, but not Korean that's so difficult I need to use a dictionary more than 3-4 times per page, on average. (It's way easier than Yonsei University's level 5 Korean reader.) So by rereading it a few times I feel I can retain vocabulary. And Gwak ties everything to her own observations of Korean culture.

In just the first half of the book, Gwak:

- properly explains 근사하다, an excellent example of a word that Koreans do not use the way dictionaries say they should.

- clarifies differences, like between 미련이 있다 (be emotionally attached to) and 미련하다 (be stupid), so that the reader remembers that they look/sound similar but mean different things.

- ties vocabulary to culture, like when she deals with 어리광 부리다, 애교 부리다 and 교태 부리다, all 3 of which have something to do with a woman acting cute or deliberately immature to appeal to men.

- talks about social problems, like when a student complains that a doctor was rude to her. Gwak admits that a lot of Korean doctors are lacking when it comes to relating to patients, and just to remind them of their duty she prints a Korean translation of the Hippocratic Oath (though I had to refer to my dictionary ten times to get through it!)

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