Sunday, October 10, 2010

하루살이

There is an insect which Koreans called '하루살이'. Translated literally, it means 'one-day life'. This insect, which holds the record as the shortest-living insect, is commonly known as Mayfly. Its existence as a sexually mature adult can be as short as 30 minutes and as long as a day, although its nymph stage (immature stage) lasts much longer, from several months to several years in freshwater. Mayfly exists for only one sole purpose which is to reproduce and one-day life is more than sufficient for it to fulfill that purpose. To human, one day may be too short to achieve anything or is it?

I knew an acquaintance who is a Korean. We were on the same bus trip and by chance, we sat beside one another. Somehow, we had a lot to talk about even though we just met. I have forgotten most of what we talked about but there was one topic I remember vividly.

There was a Korean language problem which I could not overcome. I could not pronounce 'ㅅ' correctly. My teacher pointed out during class that my 'ㅅ' always sound like 'ㅆ'. Strangely, I was able to pronounce consonants like 'ㄷ', 'ㄱ', 'ㅂ', 'ㅈ' correctly, without making them sound like their double consonant relatives. Everyone in my class had no problem pronouncing 'ㅅ' except me. I was an oddball. It was embarrassing as I was already an advanced-level student. My classmates tried to help. One said, "You should pronounce 'ㅅ' with very little force." Another said, "You should pronounce 'ㅅ' with a short tongue."  Despite their help, I still could not figure out the correct way of pronouncing.

The acquaintance I met on the bus was very interested in learning English. I helped her with some of her English expressions and in return, she wanted to teach me Korean. So I asked her to teach me the difference in 'ㅅ' and 'ㅆ' pronunciation. She turned to face me and said, "Look at my tongue." So, I observed her tongue movement carefully. When she pronounced '싸', her tongue was fully extended forward and as a result, her airway was unblocked. '싸' sounded forceful. When she pronounced '사', her tongue was pulled back, making it seemed shorter and the back of her tongue blocked her airway partially. '사' sounded weaker because of partially blocked airway. I knew from that moment,  my problem with 'ㅅ' pronunciation was solved forever.

Our ephemeral meeting lasted for only a day and we never met after that. The meeting was short but meaningful, just like the short life of Mayfly.  하루살이같은 짧은 만남이였다. 그래도 의미가 있는 소중한 만남이였다.

3 comments:

  1. LET ME GIVE YOU MY OPINION WHAT MAKE IT DISTINGUISHED ㅅ FROM ㅆ, THAT IS THE DIFFERENCE OF VOLUME OF PRESSURE INSIDE YOUR MOUTH. SUPPOSE THAT INSIDE SPACE OF YOUR MOUTH IS A BOTTLE, THE SOUND IS CLOSER TO ㅆ AS NARROW AS THE BOTTLE NECK IS. IN THE SAME WAY, THE SOUND IS CLOSER TO ㅅ AS WIDE OPEN AS THE BOTTLE NECK IS. WHEN THE AIR IS PRESSED HEAVILY JUST BEFORE IT IS ABOUT TO BURST-OUT, THE SOUND BECOME THICKER AS ㅆ SOUND LIKE. ^^

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  2. Thank you for your teaching. I believe I am better with my 'ㅅ' and 'ㅆ' pronunciation now.

    By the way, perhaps you may not be aware, writing in capital letters is like 'shouting'. Not quite desirable.

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