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Starting Out: Shanghainese and Taiwanese 1

2013/07/12 8 comments

Oriental Pearl + Taipei 101Documenting my first forays into a new language!

I just started looking into Shanghainese and Taiwanese. Here’s how I’ve been starting out. I still can barely use Cantonese, but I want to try picking up at least a little of these other languages. Now, why am I doing this? Well, I’m trying push myself (I’m really pushing common beliefs / misconceptions, rather than myself, I think) in a different way now. Is there really a limit to how many languages you can tackle at once, or is it really all methodology and attitude, as I suspect? I should point out, though, this is will not be a project of primary focus. Rather, I want to see if it’s possible to learn them on the side, with little effort, and still retain them – especially if they’re similar in some way.

So, why these languages? Here’s a little about them to explain why I chose them.

Taiwanese

Montage of Taipei, Taiwan’s capital, from Wikipedia

A lot Chinese dramas and pop songs known internationally come from Taiwan, and it’s been pretty common for me to meet Taiwanese and people from southern Fujian. Yes, that’s right, with it, I will also be able to communicate with people from southern Fujian province in China, including people from the city of Xiamen. In this sense, it is called Minnanyu or Minnanhua in Mandarin, with the “Minnan” meaning Southern Min. A small issue: Fuzhou, another big, famous city whose emigrants I seem to keep running into in America, is just a bit too far north. They speak Mindong, or Central Min. Hopefully it’s close enough for SOME level of comprehension, but some people seem to say it’s closer to Minbei (Northern Min, if you didn’t see that coming) than Minnan. Oh well. It would still serve me well for talking with Taiwanese people. Variants are also spoken in Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, and I’m sure other places as well.  Read more…

Learning the Korean Alphabet, Hangul (Part 2: Learning the Vowels)

2013/02/07 Leave a comment

jalNote: There are lots of lessons out there for learning the Korean alphabet, but they all seem to miss something or other, so here’s my attempt! Use it to learn from scratch, or as a guide if you’re stuck on some letters. By the way, a PDF version of this is upcoming, which will look nicer and less cramped than this.

Part 0: Introduction | Part 1: Consonants | All parts in one article

Learning the Vowels

Kinds of Vowels

Group 1, basic vowels: Can be seen as hinting lip shape and tongue position / space in mouth:

ㅏ  ㅓ  ㅗ  ㅜ  ㅐ  ㅔ  ㅡ  ㅣ

Group 2: adding  the /j/ [y] sound: Contain an extra small line:

ㅑ  ㅕ  ㅛ  ㅠ  ㅒ  ㅖ

Group 3: adding W – like sound: Compound vowels that start with , , or .

ㅘ ㅝ  ㅙ  ㅞ  ㅢ  ㅟ  ㅚ

Vowels: Letter by Letter

Basic Vowels

Small horizontal line, meaning the tongue is low and the vertical space is quite open. In fact, your lips stay neutral and relaxed.

  • ㅏ- A: Shape is pushed toward the front of the mouth, so a vowel sounded in the front, with tongue low? /a/
  • ㅓ- EO: Tongue is still low, but opposite placement in the mouth; this is in the back: /ʌ/.

If you’re not too certain of this idea of front and back vowels, try it yourself! Sah “Aaah” and then say “Uhhh,” and then go back and forth “Ah Uh Ah Uh”  etc. Feel the difference? Feel how the Ah is in front while Uh is in the back?
Moving on, we can double the small line to do what? What does an extra line mean? The concept of more force. With a vowel, we do that by adding a Y before it.

  • ㅑ – YA
  • ㅕ – YEO

Small vertical line, indicating the vertical space isn’t so much, so the tongue is higher, just above the middle, actually. Despite length differences, the lines are a little more balanced than with&ㅓ, so use this to remember ㅗ and ㅜ require your lips to be rounded, NOT relaxed. To help me remember, I like to imagine and surrounded by a circle, so that it looks like a steering wheel!
Read more…

Learning the Korean Alphabet, Hangul (Part 1: Learning the Consonants)

2013/02/07 Leave a comment

jalNote: There are lots of lessons out there for learning the Korean alphabet, but they all seem to miss something or other, so here’s my attempt! Use it to learn from scratch, or as a guide if you’re stuck on some letters. By the way, a PDF version of this is upcoming, which will look nicer and less cramped than this.

Part 0: Introduction | Part 2: Vowels | All parts in one article

Learning the Consonants

Kinds of Consonants

For study purposes, I felt it was best to put the letters into groups.

The most important grouping is on how they are pronounced. There are 4 such groups, which I am numbering arbitrarily (don’t bother learning my made-up group numbers; learn their characteristics):

  • Group 1: Steady, sustainable, unchanging:

ㄴ ㅅ ㅁ ㅇ / n s m ng

(Letters are purely visual representations, as shown before. You can HOLD or hum these sounds.)

  • Group 2: Begin stopped, and then release:

ㄱ ㄷ ㄹ ㅂ ㅈ / g d r b j

(Since all but ㅂare sounded with the tongue first pressed to the roof of the mouth, the roof of the mouth is signified or represented by a top line (or roof). Therefore, some of these are Group 1 letters + a top line)

  • Group 3: Begin stopped, tense up,** then suddenly release:

ㄲ ㄸ ㅃ  ㅆ  ㅉ / gg dd bb ss jj

(Held and tensed**, so it makes sense to double the letter, right?)

  • Group 4: Begin stopped, then release forcefully and noisily:

ㅋ ㅌ ㅍ ㅎ ㅊ / k t p h ch

(An additional line represents the extra air coming out ( is the exception). Note that all of these letters are previous ones with an additional line in the top or middle.)

There’s another way to group the letters: by where they are pronounced. There are 5 groups, based on two views of the mouth:

Read more…

Learning the Korean Alphabet, Hangul (Part 0: An Introduction)

2013/02/07 Leave a comment

jalNote: There are lots of lessons out there for learning the Korean alphabet, but they all seem to miss something or other, so here’s my attempt! Use it to learn from scratch, or as a guide if you’re stuck on some letters. By the way, a PDF version of this is upcoming, which will look nicer and less cramped than this.

Part 1: Consonants | Part 2: Vowels | All parts in one article

First, I’ll give you some of the best news you’ll ever hear when learning to read a language that doesn’t use a script you’re familiar with: Hangul, the writing system of Korean, is very easy to learn and if you worked hard, you could probably do it in a few of hours – seriously.

I don’t mean that after a few hours you’ll read any Korean perfectly, much less pronounce it perfectly (which will take much more time and practice). However, you can learn all the letters very quickly, and the extra irregularities and quirks you may have to learn are actually very natural things that happen in many languages.

I learned it in one week of relaxed effort on my free time, and it took one more week to learn all the correct pronunciation. I sincerely believe if you set apart a few hours to learn, you can get this over with in one day.

A Quick Look at Hangul

Consonants

  • 9 Basic Consonants: ㄱ  ㄴ  ㄷ  ㄹ  ㅁ  ㅂ  ㅅ  ㅇ  ㅈ
  • 5 Aspirated Consonants:  ㅋ  ㅌ  ㅍ  ㅎ  ㅊ
  • 5 of them can be doubled, but are considered / treated as single letters: ㄲ ㄸ ㅃ  ㅆ  ㅉ
  • In addition, some can be combined to create 11 compound consonants. They are also treated as single letters: ㄳ ㄵ ㄶ ㄺ ㄻ ㄼ ㄽ ㄾ ㄿ ㅀ ㅄ

Vowels

  • 8 Basic Vowels: ㅏ  ㅓ  ㅗ  ㅜ  ㅐ  ㅔ  ㅡ  ㅣ
  • 6 of them can be given an extra line: ㅑ  ㅕ  ㅛ  ㅠ  ㅒ  ㅖ
  • In addition, they can be combined to create 7 compound vowels. They are also treated as single letters:  ㅘ ㅝ  ㅙ  ㅞ  ㅢ  ㅟ  ㅚ

Complete set of letters (This list is analogous to showing the 26 letters of the Latin Alphabet plus ch, ph, gh, ou, ao, etc.)

ㄱ  ㄴ  ㄷ  ㄹ  ㅁ  ㅂ  ㅅ  ㅇ  ㅈ  ㅋ  ㅌ  ㅍ  ㅎ  ㅊ  ㄲ ㄸ ㅃ  ㅆ  ㅉ
ㄳ ㄵ ㄶ ㄺ ㄻ ㄼ ㄽ ㄾ ㄿ ㅀ ㅄ
ㅏ  ㅓ  ㅗ  ㅜ  ㅐ  ㅔ  ㅡ  ㅣ  ㅑ  ㅕ  ㅛ  ㅠ  ㅒ  ㅖ
ㅘ ㅝ  ㅙ  ㅞ  ㅢ  ㅟ  ㅚ

So why is Hangul easy?

  • It’s an alphabet. People will count the letters differently, but I would say it is essentially 22 letters: 14 consonants and 8 vowels. From those letters, 6 of the vowels also have a version that signify their starting with a Y sound, some come together into 7 compound vowels / diphthongs which start with W or W-ish sound, and 5 consonants can be doubled.
  • It’s visual.* Mnemonics are always a good tool to remember things, and Korean has it built in, and the only thing up to you is to make the visual aspect as vivid and effective as possible for yourself. The consonants are pictures of your tongue, teeth, lips, or throat, while the vowels represents space and positions in the mouth. The latter is harder to visualize unless you understand linguistics, so you may have to tweak your memory aid as best serves you.

If you don’t feel very sure of the benefit of visual mnemonics, here’s this article: Any Phonetic Script can be Learned in Just a Few Hours.

  • It’s laid-out efficiently. Korean is written in blocks of 2 to 4 letters. Not only is this space-efficient, but it also separates parts of words such as syllables based on Chinese characters, and reflects certain aspects of Korean pronunciation. I will not be covering this aspect in this article.
  • It’s simple to draw. Not counting the compound and double letters, only one letter takes 4 strokes to write. All others require 1 to 3 strokes. Possible strokes are simply straight lines, two simple curves, and a circle.

Read more…

How To: Learn & Type the Korean Keyboard Layout

2013/01/30 18 comments

jalSetting up Korean input is greatNow what?

Any language’s script that doesn’t work exactly like the Latin alphabet you’re used to will present a tiny challenge when you learn to type it. Even in French- and Spanish-speaking countries, you may be surprised to find the keyboard layout slightly different!

While you must get used to character conversion when typing in Chinese or Japanese, it’s still relatively easy because the keyboard layout is virtually the same, and you type romanization: pinyin and roumaji respectively. Korean, however, DOES use an alphabet, so Korean letters, rather than Latin letters, are placed on the keyboard. That means you will have to learn where all the letters are.

Korean layout

Most common Korean keyboard layout

As I’ve mentioned in other topics, mnemonics is a great way to learn anything that could use the benefit of associations. Let me reinforce this point: don’t be afraid of the word mnemonics. The concept of mnemonics is simply: association: to connect something (usually more familiar) to what you’re trying to remember. It becomes easier to remember due to that familiarity, or because it makes a little piece of data “bigger,” and thus more “important” to your brain.

If you’re trying to remember a phone number that ends in 8125, you might think “ate (8) a (1) quarter (25 cents)” to remember it; that’s a mnemonic. If you remember the Korean letter ㅣis on the letter L because it looks like the lowercase L, then that’s a mnemonic.

So, that’s all you have to do! I encourage you to create your own mnemonics, but to be honest, it’s a little bit of creative work and sometimes you wish you could easily find someone else’s to see if it’s good enough for you – especially if you just can’t come up with something for all of them. I myself couldn’t, which is why I had to make up a few for the list below. Well then, here is my list:

Mnemonic List for Korean Keyboard Layout

  • – Q: I have no idea. I just learned it without any help. Maybe, Q is at the Beginning of the keyboard?
  • – W: Just Wondering (the way I actually remembered it was lame: I imagined the middle peak of W hitting a ceiling).
  • – E: It’s the letter E without the middle line!
  • – R: It’s like a reversed lowercase r.
  • – T : T for teeth, since ㅅ is a picture of your front teeth as seen from the side.
  • – A: You should already know ㅁ represents the mouth (or know that’s also like the Chinese character for mouth), so say Aaaaah!
  • – S:  I just learned this by feel since I always hit it with the same finger.* How about, Never Ending Story? That was a decent Korean movie. ^^
  • – D: The D is also a circle-ish shape – or half-circle. Whatever.
  • – F: Funky-looking. I guess the letter F is also kind of Funky.
  • ㅎ – G: It you put the curve of the left-half of the G onto ㅎ, I think it will kind of look like a G, or an upside down lowercase g. Either way, they’re both bottom-heavy.
  • – Z: You may have seen Koreans type “zzzzz;” they really mean “ㅋㅋㅋㅋ“, sometimes seen as “kekekeke,” which is a laughing sound.
  •  – X: “E” (ㅌ) for eXtra!
  • – C: Because this is the “Ch” sound! C in Cello! Fettuccine!
  • – V: Both ㅍ and V look like roman numerals, don’t they?
  • – Y: “Yo” is on the letter Y. Easy! It’s also right above !
  • – U: It’s right above !
  • – I: It’s right above !
  • – O: Balanced shape, just like O.
  • – P: Unbalanced shape, just like P.
  • – H: “Half is the Hat!” (A mnemonics some of you might already know for musical notation.)
  • – J: Both letters have a straight wall on the right, and a thingy to the left.
  • – K: Both letters have a straight wall on the left, and a thingy to the right.
  • – L: Looks like a lowercase L.
  • – B: It’s right next to ㅜ. However, you can also think of how it looks like TT which is a shortened emoticon of a face with tears streaming down (T.T / T_T), so the person is crying () because he was beaten at a game? (The way I actually remembered it was a stretch: a letter B that fell to the right, but it uses two little lines to represent the B’s bulges.)
  • – N: Looks like a letter t as in Tina. And /or it’s pointing nose-down, going for a nose dive,
  • – M: Both letters kind of sound like humming or a sound you make while thinking.
  • SHIFT– on corresponding letters: Gives you the remaining letters: ㅃㅉㄸㄲㅆㅒ, and ㅖ.

Again, you should only use this as a guide for when you need some help. Making your own mnemonics is best, and you shouldn’t be making extra effort learning my personal set if you don’t need to. Without thinking, you will probably learn a few from straight-up / brute-force memorization anyway.

Hopes this helps you learn to type Korean. Now practice typing whatever you’ve learned!

““““““““““““““““`

*In addition, if you use a standard typing position, or begin using one / make up one for your Korean typing, you will associate some letters by feel, rather than which Latin letter is on it.

Learning the Korean Alphabet, Hangul (Complete Article)

2012/03/03 4 comments

jalNote: There are lots of lessons out there for learning the Korean alphabet, but they all seem to miss something or other, so here’s my attempt! Use it to learn from scratch, or as a guide if you’re stuck on some letters. By the way, a PDF version of this is upcoming, which will look nicer and less cramped than this.

(Would you prefer this in bite-sized chunks?)
Part 0: Introduction | Part 1: Consonants | Part 2: Vowels

First, I’ll give you some of the best news you’ll ever hear when learning to read a language that doesn’t use a script you’re familiar with: Hangul, the writing system of Korean, is very easy to learn and if you worked hard, you could probably do it in a few of hours – seriously.

I don’t mean that after a few hours you’ll read any Korean perfectly, much less pronounce it perfectly (which will take much more time and practice). However, you can learn all the letters very quickly, and the extra irregularities and quirks you may have to learn are actually very natural things that happen in many languages.

I learned it in one week of relaxed effort on my free time, and it took one more week to learn all the correct pronunciation. I sincerely believe if you set apart a few hours to learn, you can get this over with in one day.

A Quick Look at Hangul

Consonants

  • 9 Basic Consonants: ㄱ  ㄴ  ㄷ  ㄹ  ㅁ  ㅂ  ㅅ  ㅇ  ㅈ
  • 5 Aspirated Consonants:  ㅋ  ㅌ  ㅍ  ㅎ  ㅊ
  • 5 of them can be doubled, but are considered / treated as single letters: ㄲ ㄸ ㅃ  ㅆ  ㅉ
  • In addition, some can be combined to create 11 compound consonants. They are also treated as single letters: ㄳ ㄵ ㄶ ㄺ ㄻ ㄼ ㄽ ㄾ ㄿ ㅀ ㅄ

Vowels

  • 8 Basic Vowels: ㅏ  ㅓ  ㅗ  ㅜ  ㅐ  ㅔ  ㅡ  ㅣ
  • 6 of them can be given an extra line: ㅑ  ㅕ  ㅛ  ㅠ  ㅒ  ㅖ
  • In addition, they can be combined to create 7 compound vowels. They are also treated as single letters:  ㅘ ㅝ  ㅙ  ㅞ  ㅢ  ㅟ  ㅚ

Complete set of letters (This list is analogous to showing the 26 letters of the Latin Alphabet plus ch, ph, gh, ou, ao, etc.)

ㄱ  ㄴ  ㄷ  ㄹ  ㅁ  ㅂ  ㅅ  ㅇ  ㅈ  ㅋ  ㅌ  ㅍ  ㅎ  ㅊ  ㄲ ㄸ ㅃ  ㅆ  ㅉ
ㄳ ㄵ ㄶ ㄺ ㄻ ㄼ ㄽ ㄾ ㄿ ㅀ ㅄ
ㅏ  ㅓ  ㅗ  ㅜ  ㅐ  ㅔ  ㅡ  ㅣ  ㅑ  ㅕ  ㅛ  ㅠ  ㅒ  ㅖ
ㅘ ㅝ  ㅙ  ㅞ  ㅢ  ㅟ  ㅚ

So why is Hangul easy?

  • It’s an alphabet. People will count the letters differently, but I would say it is essentially 22 letters: 14 consonants and 8 vowels. From those letters, 6 of the vowels also have a version that signify their starting with a Y sound, some come together into 7 compound vowels / diphthongs which start with W or W-ish sound, and 5 consonants can be doubled.
  • It’s visual.* Mnemonics are always a good tool to remember things, and Korean has it built in, and the only thing up to you is to make the visual aspect as vivid and effective as possible for yourself. The consonants are pictures of your tongue, teeth, lips, or throat, while the vowels represents space and positions in the mouth. The latter is harder to visualize unless you understand linguistics, so you may have to tweak your memory aid as best serves you.

If you don’t feel very sure of the benefit of visual mnemonics, here’s this article: Any Phonetic Script can be Learned in Just a Few Hours.

  • It’s laid-out efficiently. Korean is written in blocks of 2 to 4 letters. Not only is this space-efficient, but it also separates parts of words such as syllables based on Chinese characters, and reflects certain aspects of Korean pronunciation. I will not be covering this aspect in this article.
  • It’s simple to draw. Not counting the compound and double letters, only one letter takes 4 strokes to write. All others require 1 to 3 strokes. Possible strokes are simply straight lines, two simple curves, and a circle.

Read more…