Monthly Archives: May 2013

Desperation Parenting – Too much junk food

You know you’re a desperate (or sleep deprived, or, insert frazzled parent description here) when you start bribing your children with junk food. No, not junk food. JUNK food.

Today, Unni was eating breakfast. This consists of one bite of food, then several trips to the refrigerator, the play room, the living room, or, if we’re lucky, the bathroom. Then another bite.

During one of these distracted forays (somewhat legitimate, Koma woke up so we all had to go say good morning!) there was a small piece of fuzz on the floor. Since Unni feels like a big girl when we ask her to throw stuff away, I asked her to go throw it away. She headed to the kitchen. The next thing I know, she is holding the item shown below – a chocolate covered raisins container, with about six of what appears to be 1/8 raisin parts, each covered in chocolate.


“We can’t throw this away,” she says, “there are still good raisins in here.” I was a little befuddled. Until I realized she had pulled this container out of the trash*! Instinctively, I said “you can’t eat those until you’ve finished your breakfast.” And mom backed me up (probably just an instinctive, self preservation move on her part, too).

So here we are, not only bribing, but bribing with junk food** in the most literal sense!

*today was trash day, so trash was “fresh” and no large chunks of rotting food or other debris was immediately observed on container

**to avoid sounding overly pious, we do regularly bribe or “set goals” using treats – but this takes it to a new level!

Background on Mom – Part II

So at the instruction of the ESL teacher, from kindergarten onward, English became my primary language.  My parents spoke Korean to us at home and we kids answered in English.  My Korean comprehension is decent, but expressive language is work.  Fortunately, back when I was in middle school, my mom gathered several Korean kids (children of her friends) who lived around us and taught all of us some basic Korean grammar.  We, now as adults, are grateful that our parents made us sit through Korean class every Saturday morning, and I, especially, am thankful my mom took the initiative to teach us.  At the least, I have a fundamental knowledge base on which to build.  I hope I can pass some of that along to our children, and I am trying to speak some Korean to them, despite it being imperfect.

Learning Korean with Rosetta Stone – Part 2

In my “first impression” review of Rosetta Stone, I mentioned that some of the first words I learned in RS were practically English (see bullet #4). It turns out this is not unique to Rosetta Stone. And I’m becoming convinced that it’s (1) not a big deal and (2) possibly a good thing.

For example, we have a Hangul poster for Unni. Check out some of the example words used to demonstrate the pronunciation of Korean letters.

Korean Hangul truck

Here we have the “eu” sound (say “uh” while keeping your mouth closed). The example word (since the photo’s kind of obvious) is composed of a hard “t”, then “eu”, “r/l”, “u”, and “k”. Sound familiar?

Ice cream in Korean HangulThis is the “ah” sound. The letters that look like o’s are silent when they come first, so this translates to something like: “ah-ee-ss-uh-c-uh-kk-uh-r/l-ee-mm”. I’m not sure about all the “uh”s in there, but that’s the gist of it.

So why is it not a big deal, and possibly a good thing?

(1) I’ve concluded it’s part of the modern language (unless the language resource you’re using is really horrible and they’re using transliteration instead of Korean that people actually use).

(2) I find it helpful for sounding out words and having a bit of instant confirmation. It may eventually be helpful for learning how to assemble the letter blocks, or for learning special cases (see extra “uh” sounds, above, perhaps?) where letters seem to be almost silent, or have altered pronunciation (this is a bit of a guess).


Who is Koma?

I am Koma!


Koma means “little one”.

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I furrow my brow when I concentrate.

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And seriously soak up whatever is going on around me.

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But I have a great sense of humor.


And I’m happiest when I can do what big sister does!

(Like riding Unni’s tricycle!)

Who is Unni?

I am Unni!

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Unni means “older sister”.

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I’ll pose for photos (chee-juh!), but not for long!

2012_unniI’ve loved my little sister from the day she was born!

National Train Day

 Sometimes she gets a little too much attention from mom, but I still love to entertain little sister.

fire truckMom and dad say they’re happiest when their kids are happy. I’m happiest when my little sister is happy and our whole family is “going somewhere” together!


Android App for learning Hangul

I mentioned in an earlier post that I’ve been using a finger-tracing Hangul app to supplement my Rosetta Stone regimen. That app is fun for adults or kids (as seen below)!

Hangul Android App

This week I’ve been working my way through a new app called TenguGo Hangul. I really like this app! In fact, it’s probably a good example of how adults actually have some advantages over children when it comes to learning language. Not only does the app give a brief history of Hangul, it also explains helpful concepts like the relationship between letter shapes and pronunciation. 

Korean language android app

I’ve been confused by the different pronunciations presented by different apps and/or alphabet charts found online. For the same letter, some charts show a p sound where others show a b sound. Another letter is alternately described as t or d. TenguGo helps explain this. Also, it’s very difficult to distinguish between the “e” and “ae” sounds. It turns out it’s not just my ear, as seen in the screenshot below. I find these kinds of details very helpful, and would recommend this app to anyone trying to learn Korean.

Hangul Android Korean Alphabet App


Fusion Fail

Do not try this at home.

Korean American Fusion Food

Actually it was ok, but just that. I even tried adding a little cheese, but that didn’t really solve the sweet+sweet problem.

Background on Mom – Part I

Looking back, my growing up years contradicted some Korean stereotypes and affirmed others.  Again, my experience as a Korean-American is simply my own, and my parents’ methods of raising us kids are simply theirs (obviously with the understanding that they, too, were influenced by their parents, experiences, and environment). The main theme of my parents’ parenting style is that we kids came first.  We never doubted that our parents stood with us, behind us and before us… and for that, I am grateful.

Anyway, the background story is that I was born in Korea in a “famous” hospital run by “the best doctor” who delivered many, many children.  (The quotes indicated the literal words used by my parents when they tell the story).  Decades later when we were already living in the U.S., my parents found out “the best doctor” was imprisoned due to not having documentation of her education and thereby practicing illegally.  Apparently, this wasn’t a shocking happenstance as much was destroyed during the wars.  But, it is a weird feeling to have been brought into this world by a possible quack, albeit a famous one. Might explain a lot….

We left Korea when I was about 20 months old and moved to a small island off the coast of Spain.  It is a vacation spot for Europeans.  My dad started a business there, but eventually ran into more headache than not. After a few years, my parents decided they needed to move on, the biggest reason being that I was almost five years old and going to have to start school which wasn’t too great there.

We ended up in the U.S. and my engineer-degreed dad found a job as a technician for the local county government.  We lived close to two of my dad’s sisters, although our cousins were much older than we.  (Nine years is a big deal when you’re a kid, but not as much now).  We briefly rented a house owned by some people we knew during which time my parents scraped together enough savings for us to buy a house in a neighboring town (which supposedly had better schools).  We moved the January of my first grade.  I do have memories of that year and half because of friends I made in the neighborhood, and being pulled out of kindergarten and first grade classes to go to ESL (English as a Second Language) class.  I remember a Greek boy named Nick and I playing Chutes and Ladders and Candyland with our ESL teacher. My parents recall her telling them that they shouldn’t speak any Korean with me to help me learn English.  I think that theory was common then.  Mom also remembers the teacher asking how we slept since I didn’t seem to understand the concept of “bed”.

Learning Korean with Rosetta Stone – Part 1

My friends have always had good things to say about Rosetta Stone. Written reviews, however, vary widely. In fact, as a good friend of mine would say, it’s almost a religious discussion.

I am a complete novice at learning languages, so I’m not going to try and get into linguistics or theory. However, my impression of Rosetta Stone (Korean) is a bit mixed at this point.

My first approach was using Rosetta Stone during my lunch at work. When I didn’t have an office mate it was great because I could take advantage of the listening AND speaking portions of the lessons. I have to admit, though, the speaking portions were a bit frustrating at times. It seemed that it would accept words I butchered, but other words I found nearly impossible to reproduce. I tried using the voice visualization tools, but couldn’t quite figure out what I was pronouncing incorrectly. Now that I have an office mate, I have the speaking function turned off. I find it less frustrating (ie, I’m moving faster through lessons), but I can tell that I’m not picking up on the words as quickly since I’m not forced to speak them. Maybe this experience is more Language Learning 101 than any issues with Rosetta Stone! There are some Rosetta-specific things I’ve noticed, though.

1.) For basic words, photos work well. But even within the first unit, I’m encountering more complex situations where I’m not sure what is happening in the images, so I’m not sure what I’m being taught.

2.) I’ve already mentioned voice recognition. I’m pretty sure it’s accepted some really poor pronunciation. Maybe what RS considers “correct” will change as I advance through the units.

3.) When I first tried the program, a native Korean speaker looked at it and was appalled that there was no alphabet being taught. At the time, I repeated the RS advice to “trust the system”, but I’m starting to agree more with this person. I know there are bunch of apps and other sources of information to learn the Korean alphabet. Learning a few vowels on my own has really helped my performance in RS. I know part of the immersion concept is to avoid memorization, but for the cost of the program, I would think they could provide some kind of fun way (it’s not memorization if you’re having fun, right?!) to learn some or all of the alphabet. I’m sure there’s a lot of complexity in the Korean language that I don’t know about, but knowing the vowels and just a few consonants I can already cobble a word or two together. That’s empowering for a newbie language learner.

4.) The cut and paste problem has been noted in other reviews of Rosetta Stone. In some cases, folks are practically offended that the true culture associated with the language are not fully conveyed in the photos, since the same photos are used in all the RS languages. I don’t have too much problem with that (maybe because some find it too Americanized, and I’m, well, American, plus I have other resources (people) for learning about culture). But I do feel the program loses value when I’m learning “Korean” words like “sand-wee-chee” (sandwich), “kuppee” (coffee), or “jooss-eh” (juice). These are some of the first words I learn and I think it may be a function of vocabulary being taught in the same order, no matter the RS language program.

sandwichee Rosetta Stone Korean

Despite the issues I’ve described, I’m generally enjoying Rosetta Stone. In part, that’s because I can work on it XX minutes per day and accomplish XX% of a module and feel like I’ve accomplished something. Overall, I just think the cost of Rosetta Stone and product literature raise expectations to a high level. If I forget the cost and continue using other resources, I think Rosetta Stone will have served its purpose (and will probably end up exceeding my current expectations). The most important lesson for me at this point is that no program is going to automatically teach me a new language – it’s really up to me to actively engage in learning.