Korean Buddhist artist

Here is a documentary of a Korean monk painting the Bodhisattva of Compassion for the Asian Art Museum in Seattle.  The monk artist Seol-min has dedicated her life to keeping the tradition of Buddhist painting alive.

“In Buddhist painting, preparation of the painting surface and the drawing are the most important aspects.  Preparing the multi-layered painting surface took 3 months.”

There is a consecration ceremony when the painting is finished.

In the article How Art Changes Consciousness, scientists have proved that “Visual art can heal us, inspire us, and alter our brain chemistry leaving us filled with inspiration and love.”

My own enjoyment of studying Korean is linked to art and calligraphy, with making flashcards or copying the Heart Sutra daily.

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Diabetes 당뇨 as common in Korea as USA

Diabetes is 당뇨.  Also, diabetes is 당뇨병 where 병 means illness.  


Korean is a thin-country, but has approximately the same rate of diabetes as USA.  The sudden change in the typical diet from vegetarian to eating lots of junk food, meat, and dairy certainly played a role in the Korean diabetes explosion.  Stress and lack of exercise from long work weeks is another factor.  Drinking and eating out with coworkers is a part of the culture.  Short sleep and smoking are other possible risk factors.

Diabetes and its complications have become a major cause of morbidity and mortality in Korea. The prevalence of diabetes in Korea has increased six- to seven-fold from 1.5% to 9.9% in the past 40 years. [The Epidemiology of Diabetes in Korea
Dae Jung Kim author, Korean Diabetes Journal]

나는 당뇨가 있다.
I’ve got diabetes.

그 남자는 당뇨병 환자이다.
He has diabetes.

당뇨 조심하세요
Watch out for diabetes.

인슐린 insulin

인슐린 주사를 맞다

get an insulin shot

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Hard work pays off

Check out the Economist article “The model minority is losing patience”. It quotes one study that says a reason why Asian Americans excel academically is they work hard.


“On average Asian-Americans are unusually well educated, prosperous, married, satisfied with their lot and willing to believe in the American dream”

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Hanja for Cimi: 苹 apple 사과

We learned 平 peace.  It also means flat, level, equal (picture a level scale).  We learned grass 艹.  Put them  together, and you get apple 苹.  Apple is one of the earliest Korean words I learned from Boys Over Flowers Korean drama.  Apple is  ‘sagwa’ 사과 ( 沙果).

果 means fruit.   It is a combination of field 田 and tree 木.  Picture a fruit on a tree.  Therefore, 苹果 means apple.

  • 我在吃个苹果
    I am eating an apple.
  • 苹果是水果 
    Apple is a fruit.
  • 水果以苹果为最佳。
    Apples are the best fruit.

Here are some other fruits:  mango 芒果 , apricot 杏 , peach 桃 , pear 梨, watermelon 西瓜, papaya 木瓜.


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September Song

My language exchange partner shared with me the lyrics to “September Song”.  Koreans have an appreciation for many American songs, and I feel such a flush of joy hearing classics again, brought to my attention by someone on the other side of the world.  Sung by many artists, such as Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, Willie Nelson, and Ella Fitzgerald.

5 월 수년 동안부터 12 월까지 아, 긴 시간입니다.

때 9월에 그러나 짧은 자란다.

언제 가을 날씨다에 잎들이 변한다.

하나는 기다리고 있는 게임 시간이 없다.


오, 일을 귀중한 소수자에게 행자부.

9 월, 11 월 그리고 이러한 몇몇의 소중한 날들을 나는 너와 보낼 것이다.

이 소중한 날들을 나는 너와 보낼 것 이다.
Continue reading

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Korean Bible

bibleReceived a gift of a Korean bible from the Korean woman I met in town.  Since the bible is organized by chapter and verse, it is easy to match the Korean to an English bible.

I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.  John 8:12

예수께서 또 일러 가라사대 `나는 세상의 빛이니 나를 따르는 자는 어두움에 다니지 아니하고 생명의 빛을 얻으리라’

Korean Bible Online

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Asian-American voters

Asian-Americans are the fastest-growing racial group in USA, but they’re also the least likely to vote. NPR published a story How Asian American Voters Went From Republican to Democratic.  The Asian-American electorate made up just 3 percent of 2012 voters.  The politicians haven’t given as much focus on courting the Asian-American vote in the past, but studying Korean has made me more sensitive to issues.


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Poem delighting in simplicity

A Korean master expresses delight in simplicity in this way.


Unaffected by the passage of time

I remain bright and quiet while I sit.

A bowl of porridge,

A plate of wild greens,

And a cup of tea:

I smile.

Meandering the web, I discovered this poem on a Buddhist teacher’s website that included an article The life of a zen buddhist nun in South Korea.

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Hanja for Cimi: 味 taste 맛

I take great thrill in my fortune cookies, now that I am learning a little Chinese.  This one taught me the word “taste”.  Imagine in ancient times, you are a king who can’t eat yet until the food is first tasted.


The compound for Taste (味) is comprised of Mouth (口) and Not yet (未).


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Hanja for Cimi: 天 sky 천

天 sky, heaven, day 천

I chose the character 天 because of a Zen poem “An Answer on Behalf of Heaven and Earth”  代天地答.  We learned soil/earth is 土.  See 土 (earth) in the character 地 ? 答 is answer and 代 is on behalf of others.

An Answer on Behalf of Heaven and Earth
The myriad and thousand differences
Are all born of false thought.
If you can abandon these distinctions,
There is no creature that is not equal.
萬別千差事 皆從妄想生 若離此分別 何物不齊平
Seon Monk Muujia (1178–1234)

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Hanja for Cimi: 永 eternal 영

When I first saw this character, I thought it was water 水 until I noticed the extra dot.  It is a character used as a warm up for calligraphy because it has so many types of strokes.


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Intention and Results

What does it take to change intention to results?

Here are some things that help.

  1. Clearly define your intention.
  2. Schedule a specific time to work on the goal.
  3. Identify possible obstacles and solutions.
  4. Know why you want to do this.
  5. Choose a reasonable goal, based on all factors including finances, time, family, and obligations.
  6. If possible, devote a specified area just for study.  Remove distractions.  Set your tools in the same place, so when you sit down, you can get directly to work.

I set a goal:  Spend 2 weeks focused completely on Korean language learning.

Actual results fell short of what I had intended.  I’m looking deeply into myself to understand what happened.  I had a strong desire, but I let other things in life take precedence.  I’m not sure if that was the right or wrong thing to do.  I do know I made progress in restarting my Korean studies, but I need to apply more energy and time in that direction.

Rob Julian reminded me that the important thing is to keep making progress.  Slow and steady, that’s my speed.  Cram everything back into my head in 2 weeks plan was too ambitious.  However, it felt great to be writing sentences and even speaking to a Korean in person this week.  The passion for learning Korean is still there.




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Japanese garden path

Anyone who has enjoyed Japanese gardens will have noticed how carefully the pathways are planned.  As you walk, the paths slow you down and make you pause to enjoy a view.   A garden curator from Portland’s Japanese Garden describes their paths to the tea house in this informative video.

Here is a video that describes planning the paths and views in a Japanese garden.



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Hanja for Cimi: 民 people 민

Let’s see some Korean words that use 민.

 the people
 a nation, a people
자유 a free citizen
족 a race (ethnicity)
유목 a nomadic race
poor people 貧

Cimi smartly pointed out that some of the words we have learned are Chinese surnames. Mín is one example of a Chinese surname. A Chinese kin, lineage or clan, is a patrilineal group of related Chinese people with a common surname sharing a common ancestor.

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Frequently used tools


When I first started Hanguk Babble, I was on the hunt for any and all tools that I might use to learn a language.  I did not know how to teach myself Korean, so I was grasping at everything.  A browse back over the more than 1000 posts on Hanguk Babble will show you my scattered journey.

More isn’t always better.  I had a ton of ideas.  However, what has worked the best for me is Korean Digital Academy and having a language exchange partner or tutor.

The worst advice I was given when I first started is get lots of different material that cover the same topic.  Maybe the tool you are using isn’t a good fit.  If that is the case, try another.  But I would have made more progress if I wasn’t listening to so many different websites/language learning software/books/audio/polyglots.

I had this crazy idea that I wouldn’t find enough Korean material to learn from.  I didn’t know what I didn’t know, and wondered if I was missing something obvious and extremely helpful.  So I wasted a lot of effort searching.  I bought a LOT of books, maybe more than I will ever read.

With the wisdom of a year of language learning, here are the key tools I use now.

Korean DramaDrama Fever

DictionaryNaver Korean Dictionary

Korean Language BlogsTalk To Me In Korean (TTMIK)

Korean Class: Korean Digital Academy

Korean Grammar:  Korean Wiki ProjectKorean Grammar Dictionary

TranslationNaver translate

Verb ConjugationDongsa


Chinese charactersChinEasy,  YellowBridge Mandarin Chinese-English Dictionary

Language ExchangeMindpasta

Tutoring:  iTalki

Korean BooksHanbooks

Libraries:  Boston Public Library,  C/W Mars



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