Pippi Longstocking is one of my literary heroes. She’s street smart, funny, and sassy. And she lives alone and doesn’t go to school. At nine!
So it should be no surprise that I own several copies of the book. I own two in English (the one I got in second grade…and the one I bought in Korea), one in Swedish (Pippi L?ngstrump), and one in Korean (삐삐 롱스타킹).
Pippi was written by Astrid Lindgren, a Swedish author, so the English is a translation of course (by Florence Lamborn). And I find it very interesting to see how the translators deal with this book.
In chapter 4 (“Pippi b?rjar skolan,” “Pippi Goes to School,” “어린이에게 학교가 팔요한 이유 단 한 가지”), Pippi goes to school.
In the Swedish version she learns the letters i and o with the words igelkott (hedgehog) and orm (snake). When she’s shown the o/orm, she’s told that the snake is in the shape of an o. (There’s even a picture to go with it in the book.) She says the i looks a streak with a fly over it. She says the o reminds her a time she dealt with a snake in India…
In the English version she’s shown an i for ibex and s for snake. The S is in the shape of a snake, as you can imagine. She says the i looks like a fly speck and the snake reminds her of India…
Of course, Korean doesn’t use the Latin alphabet. She’s shown a ㄱ with the example of 고슴도치, which is hedgehog. (No, I did not know that word before reading this book, and it’s not a word I will bother memorizing.) She’s shown a picture of a snake to teach ㅂ (뱀). Pippi says ㄱ looks like a rod with fly poop (똥) on it. (I don’t get why it’s fly poop…maybe Brian’s theory that Koreans like poop is true.) And for ㅂ, she goes on about the Indian snake.
In the Swedish version, when talking about a math problem, the monetary unit was kronor and ?re (of course). The English version uses quarters and cents. The Korean version uses kronor and ?re with a translator’s note.
I wonder how other non-Latin alphabet languages make a letter look like a fly and a snake…
Paul has an interesting discussion about journal writing in a foreign language going on in the comments section of a recent post.
One of the comments left was that the writer tended to write simple sentence in Japanese that he knew were correct. I wrote that I’ve read that students don’t get much benefit from corrections (whereas reading seems to improve writing). And Paul (and a few others) commented that keeping up a journal can be hard in any language because sometimes you just don’t know what to say.
One of the reasons I included writing in my Korean study plan was because I think writing is important. And when I write in Korean, I can post it on my Cyworld page and share it with Good Man’s family. But I limited it to one page a week (though I usually go over that) so as not to force myself to write more than I can really think of. And I write simple sentences.
I used to try and use new structures and I used to try and make sentences with complicated structures. Now I write what I think it right (even though it’s not always right). And despite the studies that show corrections don’t help, I post my writing on Lang-8. I do so more to get feedback on how understandable my writing is, rather than to get corrections. Of course, that feedback often comes in the form of corrections. But the most useful feedback is the form of the feedback itself.
“I don’t understand. What do you mean?” means I have obviously failed at communicating. “I think I understand, do you mean…?” means I’ve mostly failed. “You need X instead of Y” is a correction but I was probably still understood.
“I understood X but we usually say Y” is a correction. “You could say X instead of Y” is showing another way to use the language. “괜찬은데 위에는 계속 반말로 하다가 여기서 존댓말 쓰니까 이상합니다. 그냥 ‘식당을 알아?’ 라고 쓰는게 자연스럽습니다” is a “that makes sense but sort of sounds funny in Korean because you just changed tones completely” point. My usage was not wrong but it wasn’t exactly right.
These various corrections show me how well I’m using what I think I understand. I’ve found that the more I use structures I think I know (instead of using structures I think I should know, or structures that look fancy) the more of those really useful, “you could also…” corrections I get. And those sorts of corrections make my reading clearer…which in turn makes my writing clearer, which…
I’ve been reading in Korean nightly for about three weeks now and I’ve realized that 20 minutes at a time is my Korean reading limit. It doesn’t matter what I’m reading—a graphic novel, a children’s book with illustrations every few pages, a newspaper article, something online—and it doesn’t matter the time of the day or night. After about 20 minutes my brain stops understanding what I’m reading. I’ll try to force through it only to realize I didn’t get a word of the last half page I was reading.
I’m starting to accept it. As I learn more Korean and study more consistently and get used to reading in Korean, my endurance will increase!
(Actually, the 20 minute limit it nice. I read 삐삐 in bed and I know in 20 minutes I’ll be sleepy!)