My thoughts on philosophy, language learning, photography, theology, and life in general. All are welcome! I hope my random ramblings can somehow improve your life. I'm really only writing for my own benefit, as a journal of sorts. Hope you enjoy.
Some of you may know that I'm currently attending a special Korean language program in Korea. I'm studying at Kyunghee University (경희대학교) in Seoul. It's funny, even as I'm trying to type the name of the university in English, I'm having trouble, because I only see it in my mind's eye as 경희. Well anyways, I LOVE IT! One of the best things has been the friends that I've made already. I'll be honest, I could get the same classwork/teaching in Japan (on Okinawa), they occasionally have teachers come and they put on a great class! But, the real benefit of coming here to Korea is the chance to interact with it everyday and everywhere, especially as I make friends. If I were going to class on Okinawa, sure it'd be able to go home to my family every night, but my use of the language would be limited outside of class. While I'm here I have to use Korean all the time! I use it to do laundry, turn on/off the heater in my room, order coffee at the coffee shop (though they use a lot of English there), order food at every restaurant, at the grocery (that was tough, I don't deal with food that much in English, so it was much harder in Korean), etc. etc.
Really the best part though, is making Korean friends. The very first night I was here, I had eaten dinner and was looking for a bar that the waiter had recommended. I was lost, and as I walked I was looking for someone from which to get directions. I saw a young(ish) looking man walking my way and we made eye contact and I guess my face said I had a question before my voice did, because he stopped, pulled out his earphones and greeted me in English. I generally make it a habit to not try to talk to people wearing earphones so after telling him I had a question I appologised for interrupting him. I told him what I was looking for, and in true Korean style, he said that he would go with me looking for it. Well, quite easily, we found the bar and he came in with me, sat down and we talked for hours, even though he had been at work since early that morning. Turns out, he's a writer for a Korean newspaper the "Segye Daily [News]" ("세계일보"). We chatted for a long time, exchange contact information and went our merry ways, though we've gotten together again since at a beautiful little cafe that has more LPs than one could ever hope to finish, at which he introduced me to a friend from high school (or middle school I don't remember). Since that first chance meeting I've made many other friends, some of which replied (within minutes) to an ad I posted on Craigslist (odd, I know I've never used Craigslist before).
Which brings me to the point of this whole entry:
I was chatting with my newest language exchange partner (언어교환친구) and we started talking about communication. Let me tell you, this was really difficult with my limited vocabulary! Try communicating something like this:
In a different language! Talk about meta! Talking about communicating whilst communicating and dealing with the worst types of interference. It's not pictured on this particular diagram, but anyone who's studied communication knows that it's never this simple. There's so much interference between each step. The "sender" has interference in translating thoughts into words, or in my case into words in different languages. Then there's interference in the channel/media, maybe the "receiver" doesn't hear the whole message, maybe the receiver is seeing one visual/non-verbal message but receiving a different message, etc. etc. Well, I love this kind of thing and the only thing that I don't like about spending time here is the constant reminder/humbling I receive showing me just how much I don't know when it comes to expressing myself in Korean.
There are a few upcoming events in my life that I want to talk about. I've been thinking about this for a while and I'd like to air my ideas here.
First, (not in precedence in timeliness) is another trip to Korea. I was privileged to visit Korea some years ago for a language class, and I'm slated to go back in late January. Of course the timing could be better, what with it being winter and all my winter clothes are stored with all the rest of the stuff I didn't think I'd need living on a sub-tropical island. So, I'll be spending about a month in Korea where the average high temps in Jan-Feb is between 34°F and 40°F so, yeah, chilly. Oddly enough, last time I went to Korea it was in January. I'm excited though, I had a good time the last time I went and I'm sure I'll have a good time again. It'll be nice to be in a place where I'll be able to read the street signs. I know a few Kanji (漢字, pronounced hanja 한자 in Korean) and some but not all of the kanas, so I can read some of the street signs here but the vast majority are a mystery to me.
Secondly, I've been looking into Focus on the Family's introductory apologetics program, The Truth Project, and I'm going to host a small discussion group that'll be going through the program when I'm back from Korea. I've asked around and watched the promos and taken the host training program and I'm excited for this also. I've enjoyed my own personal studies (and the one introductory college course) in apologetics and it will be neat to get a chance to discuss these topics with fellow believers. The program is twelve lessons, each video about an hour long followed by discussion time. That's the only downside to it, the time consumption. Assuming some time to mingle and chit-chat, then an hour-long video, then discussion time. In order to keep the total time for each session only two hours I'll have to limit the fellowship time and the discussion time. I don't think everyone will want to sit around for hours discussing these things (I don't understand that, but I know it's common), but I'm sure there'll be enough good conversation that it'll be difficult to limit the discussion so people will be able to get back to their lives.
Third (and related to the second), I've been invited by a former coworker to start a Reasonable Faith apologetics group here on Okinawa. There aren't any in Japan, so that's kind of a cool idea, to be the first group in Japan and the first in Okinawa. I like Dr. William Lane Craig's apologetics lectures and his podcasts, though honestly his lecture voice is kinda dry, not unlike my own (main reason I don't do a podcast here, though I've thought about it). His logic is pretty clearly stated though at times a bit high level. This kind of group would be a great encouragement to deepen my own studies in apologetics. Which brings up two final points.
I'm thinking about two or three other potential groups in which I'd like to participate. I am always reminiscing about my high-school days when I ran with a cross country team and I was much faster and I think that if I could somehow get involved in a running club again, I might have more motivation and camaraderie to get some of my old speed back. I've also been thinking about finding a language club to practice teaching English, while at the same time practicing Korean and Japanese. And, I've recently discovered a chess group that meets on Saturdays. It's only three older gentlemen right now, but my boys enjoy(ed) playing and I could use some over-the-board chess experience to improve my overall chess skill. Maybe it's just rose-colored glasses but I've always felt that a group setting with encouragement and mutual support is the best place for training in a variety of disciplines. Are any of you involved in similar clubs that have really made your life/studies/hobbies/etc. that much more enjoyable? I've been in a variety of clubs and I hope that I can find/start some good groups while I live here in Okinawa.
Being a hippo is a rough life, especially at the zoo.
Plato's Cratylus again Plato shows his uncanny aptitude for inovation by discussing a part of philosophy that is generally considered modern. Once again, he's ahead of his time. Here's the two primary lines of argument. First, language is more or less arbitrary, words get their meaning based on arbitrary assignments or convention. Second, language comes from a source like nature or god and our use of it is an imperfect reflection of true language. In general, Plato, using Socrates' voice argues both sides of the issues and then ends up supporting neither.
Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, I pretty much side with Plato on this one. I don't think either side of the coin answers reality. I mentioned this before, this is a stereotypical giraffe:
What if I told you I have a beautiful giraffe that has short legs and a short neck and looks like this:
So, what say you? Is that a giraffe? What if lots of people all started calling this a giraffe? What if EVERYONE started calling this a giraffe? People in Korea call it a 기린 (gilin--kīrīn), people in China say 長頸鹿 (chángjǐnglù), people in Japan say キリン (kirin--kīrīn, not surprising that it's nearly identical to Korean), people call it kameelperd in certain versions of Afrikaans. If we're to subscribe to a source for our language why don't we all call it a kameelperd? We probably should, if there's some ethereal language source out there by which all languages are derived. If language is completely subjective and reliant to what people prefer then it makes sense that we now call that first picture a giraffe at least in English speaking places. Obviously it makes sense that that we use just the word giraffe rather than always saying, wow look at that nice long-necked, long-legged, 16-20ft tall, approximately 3,500lb, mammal, etc. etc. just to describe a giraffe. Obviously it's much easier to just use the word which apparently comes from Arabic, zarafa (زرافة).
I believe that God created human and taught Adam and Eve how to speak. Perhaps not the way we think of teaching per se, but rather like the Matrix where information is just uploaded into the subject's mind. I think (just an assumption, since the Bible includes Adam and God communicating) that God must have made Adam and thereby Eve with language. Though Adam may have taught Eve how to communicate. So, I believe the answer is both, God taught Adam language and that language has changed over the years since. Also, the verses in Genesis about the Tower of Babel are telling. Obviously God saw fit to use the power of language to enact change. Then, over the six thousand some odd years since language has changed. It's interesting that we seem to be following a cycle. According to biblical history humans all started out with the same language then everything changed so that there are many different languages but we seem to be heading towards globalization of a single language again. That idea happens to be prophesied in the Bible as well, though it seems quite a long ways in the future.
What say you? Is there some magical source of language? Is it merely convention? Is it both?