This Darn Korean Language

Today is a beautiful day, and my family is out and about shopping for Christmas, but I am here studying Korean.  (OK, well I took some time out to write on my blog.)  I stayed here by choice.  Our second Korean language progress test is next Tuesday, and I need all the preparation I can get.  My wife is taking the same course, but she doesn’t need to study as much as I do.  She is a natural when it comes to learning languages.  She is also a native Chinese speaker, and it definitely helps her when Korean uses so much Chinese vocabulary.  About 60% of Korean words are derived from Chinese.  What sets Korean apart from Chinese is the grammar and structure.  Chinese is a Subject-Verb-Object language, whereas Korean is Subject-Object-Verb (as is Japanese).  Korean, like Japanese, also uses numerous levels of speech politeness, whereas Chinese uses far fewer levels.  In this respect, Chinese is much closer to English.  In Korean the grammar patterns used when speaking to an elderly person is far different (and longer) than patterns used with children (short and blunt).

Unlike my wife, I am struggling in Korean.  Much of it is plain old rote memorization.  Word association (using English to easily remember a word) only goes so far, and after awhile all the words start looking and sounding alike.  Fortunately, the Korean language system is alphabetic, so it’s much easier to write than either Chinese or Japanese.  Nevertheless, Korean pronunciation may among the most difficult for native English speakers.  The U.S. government classifies languages by level of learning difficulty vis-a-vis English, and Korean is one of the four most difficult languages for English speakers to learn (as well as Arabic, Chinese, and Korean).  It requires you to contort your voice in ways you may have never done before.  That, and the pronunciation of a word changes depending on what word follows it.  For example, water is pronounced “mul” by itself (물).  If it is a subject it is pronounced “muri” (물이), and if it is an object it is pronounced “murir” (물을).  Speaking Korean is a verbal gymnastics exercise for a native English speaker.  I have even more respect now for those who master Korean and Japanese.  I often whine about learning Korean, but I know I’ll make it through.  I just want to be able to communicate adequately once we’re in Korea.  I don’t need to be a Korean scholar.

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Humdrums and Investing Strategies

I didn’t feel well today.  In fact, our whole family caught a bug brought home by our son last Sunday.  He was sick for a few days, but he’s been doing better since last Wednesday.  On Thursday both my wife and I came down hard with the same illness–probably the stomach flu.  I don’t know if it’s the same infamous flu related to the flu-shot shortage people have been panicking about.  We ate some canned soup that didn’t sit well with us, and we wondered whether we had come down with food poisoning.  It now appears to be a stomach flu because my mother-in-law is also experiencing the same symptoms, and she didn’t eat the soup.  I had an awful night last night and left work a bit early today.  Thank goodness I’m here in VA in training and not working full time in Korea.

I started doing some miscellaneous tasks this week to get ready for our move to Korea.  Just 2 1/2 months away!  I can’t believe how much there is to do.  Moving to another city is one thing; moving overseas is a completely different dynamic.  We set a date of February 11th.  Our pack out will be on the 9th and 10th, so I put in 60 days’ notice at our apartment and requested a furnished apartment on the night of the 9th and 10th.

November’s U.S. jobs report came out today much lower than expected.  The economy added 112,000 new jobs, much lower than expected by analysts, who forecast around 200,000 new jobs.  Still, the overalll U.S. unemployment rate decreased from 5.5% to 5.4%.  These mixed messages are a symptom of what’s really going on in the U.S. economy–the economy is doing fine but not outstanding.  Don’t believe the economic doomsayers or those who always wear rose-colored glasses.  For example, the dollar is now around 1 euro:$1:32, but the dollar is still up against 40 other basket currencies, making it harder for the U.S. to narrow the trade deficit by depreciating the currency.  The economy is improving but not where it should be.  Germany recently announced an unemployment figure of 11%, twice the U.S. figure.  Imagine if the U.S. jobless rate doubled.

The markets took it in stride buoyed by rosy forecasts from Intel, and stocks were up slightly to end the week.  I’ve been chasing a couple of good prospects but I just missed purchasing them on some downward trends.  I bought Blue Nile and Overstock.com, two Internet retailers, this week.  Why these two?  Blue Nile is niche, profitable, recently came down from the IPO stratosphere, and it has an average buy rating.  Overstock.com is a small Amazon.com competitor with a much lower P/E ratio, a strong buy consensus, and is on the cusp of profitability.  I’ve also had my eye on a couple of other tech outfits–InfoSpace and an upstart called eBay, but the price just isn’t right.  eBay is very pricey.  I think eBay is a must-have for any portfolio, but the run-up in the last couple of months has made it less attractive.  InfoSpace is a strong buy.  Its current price is around $47 with an analyst consensus price target of $63 and a strong buy average rating it appears to be a good buy.  I had a chunk of change to invest, and I thought about letting it ride on a single stock but ended up splitting it into four portions to invest in four promising tech stocks.  If you’re interested in investing, check out The Motley Fool for some good recommendations.  I didn’t take their advice on my purchase of Google at IPO or DreamWorks Animation, but I do think they have some great recommendations.

Our New Blog

Today I signed up to join MSN’s new beta blogging site.  It looks like a pretty cool tool so far.  Free is good.  It’s yet another way for Microsoft to compete by extending products (e.g. MSN/Windows) with cool new features.  Considering that the word “blog” was just nominated as the word of the year, it’s probably good that Microsoft is riding this wave. I’ve been putting my journal online, but it’s a static one.  Over Christmas, I’ll migrate over this blog so I can easily add entries.

World Adventurers Magazine IconEnjoy, Dear Reader!

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