So the monkey has decided that he’s Korean.
Somewhere he got the idea that Korea is the place that monkeys come from, or at least it’s the place where he came from. This is not to say that he has any thoughts about Korean people one way or another (he’s not a racist, just a monkey), just that good ol’ Pan Troglodytes is asian.
That’s the best I’ve been able to puzzle out, anyway. When he gets drunk — which is more and more often lately — he’ll go over to the world map I have up in my office, point to Korea, and make the sign for “home”. At least I think that’s the sign he’s making. He kind of slurs his signing when he’s had a few drinks so it’s either “home” or “mailbox”. “Mailbox” makes even less sense, so I’m guessing that he thinks that Korea is home.
How he came to live with me is a story for another day, but for now just take my word that I wasn’t aware that Korea had played any part in his travels. I’m pretty sure that he was born in Nigeria (although at one point we were convinced that he was from Cameroon, so we’re not really 100% sure).
Whatever the reason, he’s completely focused on Korea lately and genuinely seems to be pining for the place. So to cheer him up, I’m taking him to there for a week in early June.
Don’t laugh. I can’t claim to understand what this Korea thing is all about, but it’s affecting his work. If a trip to Korea is what it takes to raise his spirits, then a trip to Korea he’ll get. Besides, he’s great to travel with. He’s small and strong, mixes a mean drink, and if you think that puppies get chicks then you’ve never seen my monkey in action. He’s a babe magnet. People take to him right away when we go out, and he’s he’s had all of his shots. When he bites, it almost never get infected.
Anyway, I don’t speak any Korean so I looked around for lessons that I could get online. I’ve spent a depressingly large fraction of my life in airports, and I’ve seen those stalls selling yellow boxes many times. The company that makes them is called “Rosetta Stone“, and I figure that if they’ve been around for that long selling such expensive software, they must be at least pretty good. Turns out that you can sign up for aceess to their lessons on a month-by-month basis, so I decided to give it a try.
The way that it works, for the early lessons at least, is that they show you a set of pictures and then play a recording of a native speaker saying some words that identify one of them (“the boy is under the table”, etc). You are supposed to pick the one that matches. It’s done entirely in the language you’re working on, and doesn’t have any explicit vocabulary or grammar lessons.
Sounds pretty cheesy, but so far it’s worked surprisingly well. I’m not going to pretend that I have learned Korean, but I do feel like I’ve learned more than I would have if I’d followed a more traditional approach. In the past I’ve studied French, Spanish, German, and Hebrew with varying degrees of success. I was reasonably fluent in French, but languages have always been extremely painful for me. This is the first time I’ve ever tried to learn one that wasn’t an exercise in frustration.
I’ll post an update to let you know how well I’m doing before my trip, but I’m optimistic.
PS – Twenty five points to the first person who can identify the quote that I used for the title. And yes, I’m keeping score.
PPS – Actually, I might not be so quick to say that he’s not a racist. He does seem to hate the Irish, and usually ends up doing something I have to apologize for on St. Patrick’s day.
UPDATE: andiscandis was first to identify “language lessons” as the connective tissue linking the title to the post. She not only earns the promised 25 points for this, but also an extra 5 for that thing that only she and I know about. This gives her a total of 30 points and places her solidly in the lead.