Monday, October 17, 2016

What was the Defense Language Institute (DLI) like?

I started studying Korean in January 1976 at the Defense Language Institute (DLI) in Monterey, California. I had joined the navy in 1975 with the intention of going to DLI to study Spanish and becoming a Spanish linguist. My recruiter had essentially guaranteed I would be fluent in the language by the time I finished the intensive course there. I started boot camp in October 1975 and sometime near the end of my basic training I got my orders to go to DLI to study “KP,” an abbreviation I did not recognize. “What does ‘KP’ stand for? Shouldn’t it be ‘SP’ for Spanish?” One other guy in my company in boot camp was also going to DLI to study Russian, which showed up on his orders as “RU.” His orders made sense; mine did not. Then it dawned on me: “KP, KP? Oh-no, ‘Kitchen Police’?” Were they really sending me to Monterey to learn to cook and wash dishes there? I must have failed my security clearance. Damn! I shouldn’t have told that guy investigating me that I had experimented with marijuana six or seven times in high school. When he responded, “Experimenting is one or two times, not six or seven,” I should have guessed it. (By the way, don't tell my mom.)

It took a few days, but I finally found out that “KP” stood for “North Korea,” which was almost as bad as Kitchen Police. “North Korea? Where’s that? Don’t they speak Japanese or Chinese over there? You mean I signed up for four years in the navy to learn Korean? Where am I going to use that in Texas? Just wait until I see that recruiter again.”
By the time I fly into Monterey, I have figured out where Korea is and have decided to try to make the best of it. I still do not know anything about the Korean language, though. We are told that instead of the normal 48-week Basic Korean course, we will be the first training group to go through a new 36-week course that will focus on listening instead of the unnecessary skills of reading, writing, and speaking, thereby, saving the government time and money. Wow! Our government people are geniuses, aren’t they?
Sixty people are in my training group, which is divided into three classes with three different Korean instructors. My instructor is an old guy who is originally from North Korea and can barely speak English. The first thing he does on the first day of class is to take a pointer and point to a picture of an animal on a chart. He says its Korean name and tells us to repeat it. After doing that for about a dozen animals, he points again to the first animal, expecting us to remember and say its name. When none of us say anything, he says it again, and we repeat it again. He goes to the next animal and does the same thing. Eventually, some people in the class start to remember some of the animal names, but it is hard for me. I need to see things written down. I need to see an alphabet, learn its sounds, and see the sounds put together to form words. For me, hearing “koggiri” without any visual association is like hearing “blah, blah, blah.” We spend the first hour of our first class playing “listen and repeat,” and I am already hating my teacher.

I do not remember when we finally learn to read and write “hangeul,” but learning it finally gives me some hope. I can now write stuff down and look stuff up in a dictionary. I do not remember learning much grammar. I just remember listening to tape after tape and studying word list after word list without any of it really sticking in my brain. I can make no sense of the language because there is not enough grammar explanation, and the old guy teaching us is a terrible teacher who cannot explain the grammar, anyway. The books for the course are still being written as we are studying, so they are poor quality and not much help.
The other two classes seem to have better teachers because our class is considered the worst of the three, but even people in those classes are dropping out like flies, people who are much better than I am. The classes include people from all the military services. Sailors are encouraged to study by signs on the wall that read, “You Fail, You Sail,” which implies they will send us out to the fleet to chip paint for four years if we fail the course. We finish our course in 32 weeks, 4 weeks early, not because we are ready, but most likely because they had not finished writing the material for the last four weeks.

Out of the 60 people who started in my group, only nineteen graduate, and I am number 19. The only reason I graduate is that I would not give up even though my teachers were telling me I should. After all my begging and pleading, they must have felt sorry for me. So, two-thirds of our group fail a language course that tries to cut corners by teaching just the listening part of the language. We and the group that followed us were the guinea pigs in a failed experiment. After seeing the results of our group and the group that followed, they ended the experiment and went back to their 48-week course that included teaching reading, writing, and speaking. After 32 weeks at DLI, I learned how to look up words in a Korean dictionary and not much else.
However, Monterey was beautiful.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

What does 草綠同色 (초록동색) mean?

When I was studying Korean Language and Literature at the University of Hawaii, my literature professor, Peter H. Lee, had us read the English translations of "The Nine Cloud Dream" (구운몽 - 九雲夢)" and "The Tale of Chunhyang" (춘향전 - 春香傳). Later when we were asked to give our opinions of the two stories, I said I really enjoyed reading "The Nine Cloud Dream," but I was not very impressed with "The Tale of Chunhyang." My professor told me that if I were to read the Korean version of "The Tale of Chunhyang," I would probably change my opinion of it.

In the Korean version of "The Tale of Chunhyang," this is the dialog between Mong-yong and Chunhyang before Mong-ryong revealed who he really was:
몽룡너는 기생의 딸인데 본관사또의 청을 듣지 않았느냐?
Mong-ryong: “You are the daughter of a
gisaeng. Why did you disobey the request of the official of this post?"
춘향저는 기생도 아니고 이미 지아비가 있습니다그래서 사또의 청을 들을  없었습니다.
Chunhyang: “I am not a
gisaeng, and I already have a husband. Therefore, I couldn't accept the request of the official.”
몽룡나는 지나가는 어사이니 청도 거절하겠느냐?
Mong-ryong: “I am a passing Secret Royal Inspector. Will you also refuse my request?”
춘향‘초록은 동색이요가재는  편’이라더니 양반들은  똑같은가 보우차라리  목을 베시오!
Chunhyang: “Green is the same color, and the crayfish sides with the crab, so all yangban seem to be the same. I would rather be beheaded.”
In the last comment of Chunhyang, notice the expression "초록은 동색이요," which I translated here as "Green is the same color." I do not remember how it was translated in the book I read, but if it were translated as "Green is the same color," I would have thought to myself, "That's a weird thing to say," and just included it among all the other weird expressions in the story. Now, however, I can appreciate the expression because now I know what "초록은 동색이요" means.

초록 (草綠) means "grass (草) green (綠)" or simply "green." It is a combination of 초색 (草色) and 녹색 (綠色), both of which also mean "green," so "초록은 동색이요" literally means "grass and green are the same color" or "This green and that green are the same color."

When Mong-ryong asked Chunhyang if she would accept his request even though she had denied the request of the other official, Chunhyang assumed he, too, was going to request that she sleep with him, so when she said, "Grass and green are the same color," she meant, "All yangban are the same," implying they all want the same thing.

In Chinese, "초록은 동색이요" is written as "草綠同色 (초록동색)," which literally means "Grass (草) [and] green (綠) are the same (同) color (色)."

By the way, the expression "the crayfish sides with the crab" (가재는 게 편) is similar to the English expression, "Birds of a feather flock together." A crayfish and a crab look similar in many ways, so one would expect them to take each other's side against an animal that looks very different.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

What does "子曰、可與言、而不與之言、失人" mean?

In his book "Confucius Analects, with Selections from Traditional Commentaries," Edward Slingerland translates Passage 8 from Book 15 (15.8) as follows:
The Master said, "If someone is open to what you have to say, but you do not speak to them, this is letting the person go to waste; if, however, someone is not open to what you have to say, but you speak to them anyway, this is letting your words to go to waste. The wise person does not let people go to waste, but he also does not waste his words.
I purchased Mr. Slingerland's book mainly for the commentary because there are many translations of the Confucius Analects on the Internet, but I was still hoping for more precise translations of the words of Confucius, which often seem to be a play on words. Unfortunately, Mr. Slingerland prefers to paraphrase the words of Confucius, as he did with the above passage. Here is my more literal translation of Passage 15.8 of the "Analects of Confucius":
()()(), ()()()()(), ()(), ()()()(), ()()()()()(), ()()()()(), ()()()(). 
[If] permitted () to give () an opinion (), but () [you] do not () give () him () an opinion (), [you] lose () the person (). [If] not permitted  (不可) to give () an opinion (), but () [you] give () him () an opinion (), [you] lose () the opinion(). A wise man (知者) does not () lose () the person () nor () lose () the opinion ().
Besides meaning "to be possible," 可 (가) can also mean "to be permitted." Besides meaning "with" or "together," 與 (여) can also mean "to give." And besides meaning "words" or "to speak," 言 (언) can also mean "opinion." But what does 失人 (실인) and 失言 (실언) really mean?

Confucius was so popular and respected because he was a clever person, and a clever person in ancient China knew how to play on words. I suspect 失人 (실인) and 失言 (失言) meant more than just "lose the person" and "lose the words," respectively, which are the common translations for the two expressions. For example, the word 失意 (실의) means "to be disappointed," but it literally means "to lose (失) meaning (意)," so if the 失 in the above passage were translated with the meaning of the word 失意, then 失人 (실인) would translate as "disappoint (失) the person (人)," and 失言 (실언) would translate as "to lose the meaning of (失) the words (言)."

If someone asks for your opinion, but you do not give him one, you do not "lose the person"; you "disappoint the person." If someone does not ask for your opinion, but you give him one, anyway, you do not "lose the words," you lose "the meaning of the words" or rather "the effect of the words."

Besides meaning "to lose," 失 (실) can also mean "to hurt," "to offend," or "to spoil," so 失人 (실인) could also be translated as "to offend (失) the person (人)," and 失言 (실언) could also be translated as "to spoil (失) the words (言)" or "to spoil (失) the opinion (言)."

Finally, besides meaning "to lose," "to offend," and "to spoil," 失 (실) can also mean "to mistake," so, the Korean word 실언 (失言) literally means "to mistake (失) the words (言)," but translates as "misstatement" or "improper remark."

The meaning of the passage: "A wise man knows when to speak and when not to speak."

Saturday, October 08, 2016

What does "吾力足以舉三千斤" mean?

In the clause "吾力足以三千斤 (오력족이거삼천근)," why does () come between (), which means "to be enough," and (), which means "to lift"?

Some scholars explain this 以 (이) by saying that it is used with such “special” adjectives as () and () when and are followed by intransitive verbs and by transitive verbs being used in the active voice. They further explain that is omitted when and are followed by transitive verbs being used in the passive voice. Though that may be the result of using such adjectives, I suspect the ancient Chinese were not thinking about transitive and intransitive and passive and active when they wrote their sentences, so here is my simpler theory:

() follows adjectives like () and (), it is being used with its verbal meaning of “to use.” Therefore, the clause “吾力足以擧三千斤 (오력족이거삼천근)” literally translates as follows:
“My () strength () is enough () to be used () to lift () 3,000 (三千) pounds ().”
Whether or not my theory is correct, it seems to work, and can be used without much explanation or thought, and I think the ancient Chinese would agree. Here is my translation of a passage from the "Analects of Mencius," from which the above sentence came:
()()(), ()()(), ()()()()()()()(), ()()()()()()(), ()()()(), ()()()()()()(), ()()()()(), ()()()(), ()()()()()().
Mencius (孟子) said (), “[Suppose] someone (有人) were to say (), ‘My () strength () is enough (足以) to lift () three thousand (三千) pounds (), but () is not () enough (足以) to lift () one () feather ()’; [would] your Majesty () believe () him (之乎)? It would be obvious (可知) the one () feather’s (羽之) not () being lifted () would be because () [he] is not () using () [his] strength (力也). This () [is] his () not-doing (不爲), and () not () his () being incapable (不能).

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

What does "三年無改於父之道, 可謂孝矣" mean?

Today I was reading Edward Slingerland's book "Confucius Analects, with Selections from Traditional Commentaries" and came across the following translation of part of Passage 11 in Book 1 (1.11):
"If for three years he does not alter the ways of his father, he may be called a filial son."
In the commentary to the passage, the following was written:
Three years (usually understood as into the third year, or twenty five months) is the standard mourning period for a parent. As Kong Anguo explains, "When his father is still alive, the son is not able to act as he wants [because he must obey the father's command], so one can only observe his intentions in order to judge his character. It is only once his father has passed away that the son can learn about his character by observing his actions....
Even after reading the commentary, the translation of what Confucius supposedly said did not make much sense to me. What does "alter the ways of his father" mean, for example? Anyway, I looked up the original Chinese and found that Mr. Slingerland did, indeed, mistranslate the passage or, at least, fudge on some of the details. Here is the Chinese and my translation:
()()()()()()()(), ()()()().  
Three () years () without () altering () duties to [one’s] father (於父之道) can () be called () filial (), indeed ().
孝道 (효도) means "filial (孝) duties (道)" or "filial (孝) obligations (道)." According to Confucianism, a father and son have certain moral obligations or duties to each other. The father's obligations are called "父道 (부도)," which means "a father's (父) duties (道)," and a son's obligations are called "子道 (자도)," which means "a son's (子) duties (道)."

The above passage was referring to a son's "filial (孝) duties (道)" to his father, which included performing all the required rituals for mourning his father for three years after his father's death. Mr. Slingerland mistranslated "於父之道 (어부지도)" as "from the ways of the father." Instead, he should have translated it as "duties to [one's] father," with the 於 (어) meaning "to," and 道 (도) meaning "duties." In other words, the son would be altering his "to-father duties." But why didn't Confucius write 孝道 (효도) instead of just 道 (도)? Because Confucius wanted to save the filial (孝) description of 道 (도) for the climax of the sentence, which was, "[such duty] can (可) be called (謂) 'filial (孝),' indeed (矣)." In other words, Confucius indirectly and, I think, cleverly formed the word "孝道 (효도) with his sentence.

By the way, "altering one's filial duties to one's father" could include skipping certain time-consuming or expensive mourning rituals.