Making the grade

What a day!  I took my Chinese language exam today, and I passed.  I know you’re probably thinking, "Wait, I thought you were studying Korean."  I am, but I decided that I needed to take the Chinese language exam to get my score on record in case I head to China, Hong Kong, or China in the next few years.  I did better than expected.  This qualifies me for any job in China that requires the Chinese language.  I’m very, very happy!  My Chinese is rusty now that I’ve been focusing on Korean and my in-laws returned to China.  My fluency is great, and I added enough technical jargon to do well when discussing subjects deeper than "What’s for dinner?"  I’m tired now–these tests are always so physically draining.  I’ve been offline for the last couple of days because I needed to get ready for the test.  Many, many late nights.  I will write more tomorrow, but in the meantime I wanted to update my neglected blog.

Now if I can just do the same with Korean.  We’ll see in 3 1/2 weeks!

A Long Break

I spent the time during the holiday break studying Korean.  The department was kind enough to let me work one-on-one with two instructors who came into work during the break.  It helped me substantially improve my Korean conversation.  I wasn’t able study outside of class as much as I would have liked, but at least on Monday when classes start again I’ll be better prepared.  I have one month to polish up this infernal language, and after four days of tutoring I feel much better about my ability to meet the language requirement.  I’ll never complain about learning German, Spanish, or Chinese again (until I start learning Chinese characters again).

The death toll from the tsunamis rose to 116,000 after Indonesia reported that over 80,000 people had perished.  What a tragedy!  This is the single worst event in world history since the 1976 earthquake in southern China that killed more than 500,000 people.  I’m my American mind these events are unfortunately measured by numbers of casualties; in reality the situation is much, much worse than merely the death toll.  This will have substantial repercussions for years to come throughout the Indian Ocean Rim–devastated families, lost livelihoods, destroyed villages and towns, ruined local economies, international economic recession, a huge debt burden for donor and recipient nations.  The prospects just don’t look good.  This event does not impact the average American like 9/11 did because it didn’t hit so close to home, but in the coming years it will have just as much impact on the world as 9/11 did.  What a tragedy.

I’ve been following the Washington State Gubernatorial race very closely.  The Secretary of State Sam Reed (R) just certified Christine Gregoire (D) as governor over Dino Rossi (R).  Gregoire won the second recount, a hand recount, by just 130 votes out of 2.8 million cast.  Rossi won the initial machine count and machine recount by 261 and 42 votes respectively.  It’s been 8 weeks since the election, and this may continue to drag out in the courts for weeks or months.  The GOP is now calling for a revote.  Based on all the potential irregularities, a run-off may be the best option.  Most countries mandate run-off elections when a candidate garners less than a majority vote.  Most Washington voters agree that a revote is the best option based on a recent Elway poll.  It’s a tainted race, and no one can know for certain who won regardless of who becomes governor.  I suspect Gregoire will be governor because Washington State is heavily Democratic, but she will carry a burden that President Bush carried for four years after the 2000 Presidential Election–she will have won the governorship based on state supreme court rulings.  It will be interesting to see what the Republicans do in the coming weeks.  This was the GOP’s best chance in decades to win the governorship, but if they aren’t careful they will come off as spoilers.  The Dems were spoilers when they insisted on a second hand recount, a method that is inherently less accurate than a machine recount and prone to divination to determine voter intent.  The Dems took a risk and won–so far.  It’s politics at its worst, unfortunately.  A run-off is definitely the better course of action than conceding in a tainted race or dragging the fight out in court.  The best results are that it will shine a spotlight on the Washington State electoral process and hopefully improve it before the 2006 election.

Korean test exhaustion

I took my second Korean language progress test today.  It was something I had been anticipating for over a month and worked hard to prepare for.  I did fine, and my test score was around where I thought I needed to be at this point in my testing–at the 1+ level in speaking at 24 weeks (on a 0-5 scale).  Overall I did OK on my exam.  I used complicated vocabulary well, and my sentence patterns were decent.  I made some mistakes.  My fluency is lacking, and I don’t have a large vocabulary.  My ability to talk about complex concepts is still very limited.  I also misunderstood some directions on the interview portion of the exam and took a minute to recover.  That was one of the lowlights.  On the other hand, my freeform conversation with the tester was great.

The testing observer confirmed these results with me, but apparently the tester did not think I did too well.  That’s a little disconcerting.  I know I need to buckle down and work harder–and smarter–but I don’t know what gave them the impression I didn’t do so well.  I haven’t have a chance to talk to them yet.  They talked to my wife, who was a bit alarmed because she did not talk to the observer who graded me and thought I had bombed the test.  I believe I’m close to where I need to be, but I also know I need to work harder because the learning curve will continue to grow steeper.  Unfortunately, I’m not gifted at learning languages.  I do fine, but I have to really work hard when learning a foreign language.  I have to work at learning technical subject.  Language development is very technical because all languages are built on a set of grammar and pronunciation rules.  Some universities compare the ability to learn foreign languages to learning mathematics.  I like numbers and languages, but I am not inherently a math person–nor apparently am I a guru at learning languages.  It’s a necessity though in my field and will help me communicate as I travel around the world.  I’ll learn, but it won’t be easy.

Tomorrow I’ll go to the tester and find out what’s on their mind.  I want to make sure I know their personal assessment of my Korean ability.  I also gave the testing tape to a third-party to review for their feedback.  I want to make sure that all instructors in the program know where I am in Korean and will give me the help I need to get to where I need to be before I finish the class.