January 11, 2010

On Failed Bilingualists

My son is now 6 years old if you count age the way they do in the US of A. When he was first born I was super gung ho to teach him Korean and have him grow up bilingual. When he was a mere 3-months old, we went to Koreatown in New York City where I bought all manner of Koreaspeak language aids: Hangeul puzzles, word books, flash cards, you name it. I put Post-It Notes on everything in the house with both the English and the Korean word for it. I was committed.

At first it seemed to work well enough and it was quite the novelty to have him show off his Korean words for friends and family. It even got to the point where I had to provide his pre-school with a short list of Korean words that he used regularly so the teachers would know what he was talking about.

Sadly, my commitment to my son's bilingualism went the way of Seven Card Stud and the proverbial Sunday drive. I lost motivation, it was hard to keep the Korean up with the amount of English he was learning, and there was nobody else besides me to help. My only Korean friends at the time suggested I put him in their church's Saturday Korean language program. I came up with all kinds of excuses not to do so. My primary reason against it, if you can believe this, was that the church was too far away. Google maps says the distance is 8.6 miles (13.8 KM). Pitiful.

Anyway, what's done is done and my son has forgotten all but a few words of Korean. Of the few Korean words that do remain, you'll most frequently hear him refer to his manpart as his "gochu." (Imagine the confused look on the faces of the other first graders at recess when those thugs Donovan and River are trying to convince my son that it's called a "wiener" and my son insists it's a "gochu.")

My sweet angel of a daughter recently finished potty-training. After a particularly successful visit to the toilet she proudly announced: "Daddy, I went pee-pee on the big potty and wiped my own gochu."

What have I done?

January 03, 2010

Haaaaaai, high life!

The New York times today writes about the plight of unemployed Japanese who have come to find that a capsule hotel forms the last barrier between them and homelessness. It discusses, for example, the high rate of poverty experienced in Japan despite the comparatively low unemployment rate of five percent, which is where Canada's unemployment rate sits in good times.

The new goverment of Prime Minister Yukio (625?) Hatoyama has vowed to combat both poverty and homelessness, but meaningful solutions are unlikely without improvement in the economy, which is basically where it was twenty years ago when capsule hotels first came about as the cheapest place to spend a night for businessmen. These days, the local government has gone as far as to allow these hotels to be registered as permanent addresses.

The price is shocking, even for Japan. The hotel featured in the article charges about $640 in rent, a expense that is lessened by the absence of deposits or utility fees. I would question the need to live in Shinjuku and not with family or alone in the suburbs when in such dire straits, but that's another topic entirely.

Speaking of Japan, I have been enjoying these Japanese Mac commercials lately:

If anyone (kushibo?) speaks Japanese, can they let me know if these commercials are as funny in Japanese as it is in English subtitles? Also, I realize that they're quite old, so my apologies if this has already made the rounds of the Internet.