Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Cream and Sugar? Eyelash?

A few months ago, I might not have understood her. But, as I study Korean and learn to recognize more "English" words that have been adapted to Korean phonetics, I'm understanding more. My adult beginner class was learning how to describe people - hair color, eye color, etc. They wanted to know the words for "eyebrow," "eyelashes," if there was a special word for hair on one's arm, and so on. So far so good. Then one of them has a flash of comprehension, or so it seems. She exclaims, "Ah, eyelash coffee!" For an instant I'm puzzled, then I understand and cannot control my laughter. They join me, but have no idea what's so funny.

The problem? Korean has no "R" or "L" sounds, rather one phoneme that's somewhere in between the two (which is rather hard for foreigners to acquire). Thus, they have difficulty hearing whether a word has an "R" or "L" sound in English. What was she trying to say? Irish coffee. Try saying "Irish" with an "L" sound, and indeed, it's very close to "eyelash." Fortunately, last week we were learning the names of countries and nationalities - Korea/Korean, America/American, etc., so it was easy to explain Ireland/Irish.


AuntNem said...

I am not sure I am replying, Susan and Gordon. This will be short, but I hope will do better later. I have to clean up here to move, but most have spoken English. And even, when it is broken, I do OK. I like the "Eyelash soup." It remonds me of the man who yelled at the waiter, "There's a fly in my soup!" The waiter, evger calm, said, "Please be quiter...or everyone will want one!

I was in Ithaca for the Fourth of July. (I know, there is a 4th of July in Korea, between the 3rd and 5th, you just don't celebrate!) Brandma and Grandpa could sit on their deck and get a great view. Quick trip to Loch Cameron, which is vgery much the "Loch" with all the rain.

My thoughts and perayers - always and in all ways with you two and your frinds. Aunt Nem

Gord said...

The r and l Susan is talking about is quite interesting. I have actually found 5 distinct pronunciations of the one letter in the country, whereas in English we generally have only 3, 4 in some dialects for both letters (l, r). These liquid sounds have always been of interest linguistically to me.