Thursday, October 13, 2005

What do Koreans associate with spring?

I am now reading the elementary school, third grade textbooks on the Korean Lab site. I still enjoy the stories and poems, but I miss the audio that was in the first and second grade books. I really liked the voice of the woman who was reading them.

In one of the third grade textbooks, there is a cute little story called 즐거운 봄 동산, which talks about the coming of spring and some of the things associated with it. While reading the story, I realized that these kinds of children stories play a big part in shaping the thoughts of adult Koreans. When Korean adults hear the word, 봄 (spring), all kinds of images will probably flash before their eyes. They will probably see skylarks (종달새), heat haze (아지랑이), weeping willows (수양버들), butterflies (나비), azaleas (진달래), forsythias (개나리), and mountain streams (개울).

When Koreans hear 봄, they probably will not only see the above things; they will also see their movements, hear their sounds, and smell them. The skylark will be singing in a "thin voice" (가느다란 목소리), the weeping willow will be dancing "wavily" (너울너울), the heat haze will be dancing "waveringly" (하늘하늘)," the butterfly will be "fluttering" (나풀나풀) around, the pink azalea will be giving off the "fragrance of spring" (봄 냄새), the stream running down from the valley will be singing a "gurgling" (졸졸) song. They probably will also see a sunny "hill" (동산) where all these signs of spring come together. Koreans will probably see, hear, and smell all these things because of stories they remember from elementary school, because of stories like "즐거운 봄 동산."

Koreans have an advantage over you and I (non-Koreans) when they speak in Korean about spring. Of course, they have the advantage of Korean being their mother tongue, but they also have the advantage of having the images and descriptions of a Korean spring in their heads, images and descriptions that were planted there years and years ago in elementary school.

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