Journey/ Journal

Why Learn Foreign Languages

First, let me quickly go through the reasons that people commonly list for learning a new language.

1. You gain a new perspective.

Each language you speak alters the way you view and interact with the world, especially if they are from regions that are culturally very different. For example, I know for a fact that I become more respectful and cautious when speaking to older Korean adults. Obviously, the custom in each region plays a huge role, but the language itself does as well. For example, I saw a Korean TV program that showed footage of married couples getting into arguments while one was teaching the other how to drive. A therapist recommended using the formal tone (in Korean, using the formal tone changes not only the vocabulary, but even the grammar) while conversing in the car. The couples became much more considerate and stopped snapping at each other over time. It’s not difficult to understand how language can evoke completely different emotions. Think of freedom fighter vs terrorist, advance vs invade, chat up vs holler, etc.

Knowing Before Being Aware of Knowing

The Iowa Gambling Task was a psychological experiment in which the participants were presented with four decks of cards that were turned over. Depending on the cards that they chose at the top of the deck, they either gained or lost money. The people who designed the experiment made some decks more rewarding than others, which the participants figured out over time. However, one of the interesting findings from the experiment was that long before they were fully aware of which decks were favorable or not (and quite early into the experiment), their bodies showed signs of stress as they chose the bad decks.

Teaching these Spaniards Spanish

Ok.. I think I can leave Spain now. My Spanish is good enough. I’ve taught two Spanish words to two grown Spanish men. haha In case you were wondering, they were

A Summertime Quote by Hemingway

“As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.” -Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast
I smiled as I read this quote, because I experienced something very similar in Portugal, where I stayed the past week. Pictures to come soon..!

Lucia Graves and Her Nostalgia for Mallorca’s Past

In my last post, I mentioned that Lucia Graves was nostalgic about how Mallorca was before its tourist boom. Here are some quotes from her book, A Woman Unknown: Voices from a Spanish Life. The following excerpts take place in the 1950s, which is quite remarkable, considering how advanced the rest of Western Europe was at that time.

If I close my eyes, I can almost feel the soft warmth of the winter sun on the nape of my neck, and hear the sheep bells and the occasional shouts of the shepherd somewhere up in the olive groves above our house, and the long silences between his shouts- back in the quiet days of my early childhood. I find it easy to enter that uncluttered memory chamber.

Mallorca Photos

Mallorca (often spelled as Majorca among English speakers) forms one of the four Balearic Islands between mainland Spain and Italy. Along with Formentera, Ibiza, and Menorca, it attracts many tourists, especially from Germany and other Northern European countries. In fact, I am not exaggerating when I say that I heard more German than Spanish while I was there. Mallorca is absolutely stunning. Although I’m sure the natives are nostalgic about its days before it became so touristy (quite recent, actually), I thought that the Mallorquins did a great job with balancing the pressure of modernization from the tourists and foreigners with preserving its culture and natural beauty. But what would I know? I was only a visitor for four days. Some advice if you plan on visiting Mallorca:

Interesting Facts and Quotes about Time

  • Time is not absolute, but relative because it is intertwined with space. If the Big Bang Theory is true, time was created with the Big Bang. If interested in the relativity of time, start out by reading about time dilation or the Twin Paradox (There are identical twins. One hops on a very fast rocket, and the other stays on Earth. When the one on the rocket returns, s/he will be younger than the one who stayed.)
  • Everything we see if technically the way it was in the past since it takes time for light to reach us. When you look at the moon, you’re seeing it as it was over a second ago, the sun, eight minutes ago, and Polaris (North Star), 680 years ago.

How to Make a Difficult Decision

Decision making, along with motivation and time, has always been a fascinating subject matter to me. Here is my advice and guide for making difficult decisions:
    • Imagine what decision your role model would make.
    • Imagine what decision you as an older person would make.
    • Be honest to yourself. Write down how you feel. Create a list of pros and cons.

Surprising Similarities between the Spaniards and Koreans

  1. 99% of guys are mama’s boys.
  2. They live with their parents until they have their own kids.
  3. Easily impressed and generous with compliments.
  4. They’re very observant. It’s impossible to hide anything from them (any emotion, weight gain/loss, etc).
  5. Street vendors sell roasted chestnuts, corn, and sweet potatoes in the fall/winter. Yum!
  6. Like garlic, and don’t mind the smell of it.
  7. They now realize the importance of marketing; French brands (wine, cheese, tourism) overshadow Spanish brands even though the quality is similar, and Japanese products are better known than Korean products (ginseng vs insam, kimono vs hanbok, mochi vs dduk), although the latter are becoming better known recently (Taekwondo, Samsung, LG, etc).
  8. Must be a bit daring to cross the street in big cities in Spain and Korea, even if it’s your green light. If you stand on the curb, waiting for the cars to stop, you will never be able to cross.
  9. Most spend 10+ years studying English, yet they can’t speak a word of it.
  10. Families include third cousins once removed- holidays are never boring.

Riot in Barcelona

There was a nationwide strike in Spain to protest labor reforms that weaken the rights of the employees (easier dismissal, prolonged trial period, etc). I think the riot in Barcelona was the most violent.

To avoid trouble, I got permission to work remotely, but after having connection issues, I gave up and walked to work. Paseo de Gracia, the central street in Barcelona, was blocked, so there were just pedestrians. I actually quite enjoyed the walk- I wasn’t stopped by traffic lights after each block, and I didn’t have to tailgate tourists who just casually stroll down the street.