[the palaverist]

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

[all the pieces of a language]

When you start to learn a language with the intention of really understanding it deeply, you quickly discover that there are many more aspects than the few taught by formal pedagogy. Most teaching systems will give you the writing system, grammar, standard vocabulary and a certain amount of listening comprehension. Beyond that, everyone wants to learn the slang and dirty words, which are rarely included in Beginning I textbooks.

But languages have further corners and byways, and one that is often overlooked is the handwriting of ordinary folks. In America, kids are drilled (or at least were when I was young) in cursive writing, which is disappointingly free of any curse words, but which is helpful when you're trying to scrawl notes fast enough to keep up with someone speaking.

Korean has its own cursive writing, but unfortunately I've been unable to track down any books on the subject. As it is, my Korean handwriting is slow and laborious and earns compliments from people here in the office for its tidiness — like a second-grader's, basically. In an effort to change that, I downloaded some Korean handwriting fonts and have been attempting to parse and apply them.

For now, I'm stuck with a bit of a hybrid style, one that allows my writing to flow more easily, but that doesn't change the shapes of the letters so much that I can't read them easily. After all, part of what makes a morass of loops identifiable as a word in English is our ready knowledge of English vocabulary and grammar, and even then, we regularly find ourselves squinting at scribbles as we try to decide whether that's answer or cursives.

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