Friday, July 03, 2009

This is a week of firsts. On Monday, I took my first Korean test, a TOEFL-style test of Korean proficiency. It started well but things fell apart when I had to read and understand sentences. My mangling of verb forms was familiar to me as an English teacher. The amusing and disheartening part is to be told that you actually said the complete opposite of what you want. Funnier than all that is, as I've found when writing tests for 7-year-olds, instructions for a test are impossible to write in plain language.

"Fill in the blanks?" What does fill mean? What's a blank? (In Korean grammar: "Fill meaning is what? Blank is what?") The last thing I'll come to understand in Korean will be the instruction page that came with the test, which is actually supposed to be the first thing.

After all that, I saw my first Korean movie in a theatre, having seen a few on TV. This was a typical Northeast Asian horror movie, featuring high school girls wandering around their large high school with the ghost of a dead girl appearing at random intervals. I understood a few words in each sentence, but on the whole, I don't think I understood any better than someone living in Cuba, with the exception of a key plot turn where a girl says she's pregnant.

Here's the trailer:

I think horror movies are scarier when you don't understand them.

Finally, this weekend, I get to travel into the greener pastures of South Korea's countryside, actually its mountainous northeast. That lets me cross three of Korea's eight provinces off my list. I can add that to six Canadian provinces (and one territory), about a dozen US states and all but one of Pakistan's four provinces.

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