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Spanish for leisure

Because leaning Korean kind of fries my brain, at the beginning of the year I decided to also learn something a bit more applicable to daily life and hopefully easier. I went for Spanish, as I had already planned travelling to Barcelona and it is a very common language. So far, I have not taken any classes but only studied on my own using text books and online courses. But it really is much easier than Korean. I even find it easier than French, but that might be because I learned French first. I simply love the spelling – it is very logical. There seem to be very few artifacts from the Olden Times. That being said, I need to practice speaking…

This morning, on my way to work, I was stopped by an elderly asian-looking lady, who was waving at me with her phone. She was talking to me in what I suspect was Mandarin while showing me an instant messager conversation on her phone. The problem was that it was all in Chinese except for one word which seemd to be the romanization of a Chinese word. My first suspicion was that wanted to borrow my phone, but that wasn’t it. Luckily, it was just the right time for my chinese colleague to pass by, so I asked him to help. Apperently, the old lady had missed her tram stop and now was completely lost. So my colleague offered to bring her to the good stop.
I suspect she was visiting her son or daughter who is living her. Her knowledge of English matched pretty well with my knowledge of Mandarin: She could say thank you!
So, now I have a new reason to learn Mandarin: To help lost Chinese travellers!

안녕하세요 ;)

This is how Koreans say hello. It is pronounced annyeong haseyo (eo is a closed o sound). I noticed that this blog contains no hint at all to the fact that I’ve been learning Korean for one and a half years now. And it is taking up quite a bit of my spare time, too. I even have a tutor with whom I have somewhat weekly Skype lessons.
Why Korean? Well, I can kind of read Japanese novels and follow TV shows without subtitles, so I guess I was up for a new challenge. So far, I think that Japanese is way easier! Why? Well, I personally think that Kanji make learning vocabulary easier – Chinese loan words in both Japanese and Korean all seem kind of similar to me. And Koreans have liaison. And it’s very frustrating because the pronunciation of a word or syllabe depends a lot on what follows it. And for me, s and d are two very different sounds. But in Korean liaison an s can become a d. But not always. It could also become an ss. So if you ever read one of these introduction to  hangul chapters in Korean textbooks and think that it seems rather easy, please remember that these chapters oversimplify things.
But is learning Korean fun? Of course it is! Would I continue learning it otherwise? Do I make progress? I guess so. I am by now finding my way around Naver (the Korean google) and I recognize more than just names and English words in the Podcasts I listen to for “immersion”.

The urge to write

As you might have noticed, there was a sudden increase in the number of posts during my vacation, and as soon as I went back to work I stopped posting again. This is not only due to my vacation being way more exiting than my every day live, but also due to the fact that I had nothing else to write. When I am at work there always at least a report or even a paper to write, so typically, by the time I done with work, there is no urge to write left ;)

There is of course an obvious solution: write blog posts in the morning!

Back to France

I am back in France for less then 24 hours, but I already miss Barcelona. Or at least, the nice sunny weather I got to enjoy the last few days. When I finally came home yesterday, only 2.5 hours too late, I was welcomed by heavy rain.
The 2.5 hours of delay were due to a stop and go of our train in the Rhone valley. We had been diverted on the ‘classic’ route due to an accident, and there was too much traffic on the classic route for normal speeds.
And because all the problems were out of control of SNCF there’s no compensation.

Yesterday I went to La Rambla and the historic city center.  La Rambla was already quite busy when I went there in the morning, so I can only imagine how busy it gets during the afternoon and evening. The cathedral was much less busy and quite interesting. The best part of the day was a visit to the Museum of the history of Barcelona which is basically a tour through an excavation site. It includes a cloth cleaning and dyeing factory, a garum factory and a wine factory.

After that I skipped the Picasso museum  – the queue was too long – and went straight to the cultural center of the Born. This is another excavation site, focusing on the time around 1700. The area near the Born was heavily affected by wars and then completely destroyed to make space for the citadel. It was quite a nice  but very empty museum.

Yesterday I visited the best known construction site of Barcelona: La Sagrada Familia. It really is huge. They claim it will be finished by 2026, but given that they will have to demolish a few currently inhabited houses, that seems very unlikely. I had booked a guided tour, which turned out to be mostly focus the architecture. It was very informative and pointed out lots of details I would have otherwise missed. Afterwards I went uphill to the modernist hospital of San Paolo and San Creu. By comparison, there were next to no tourists there. The hospital site is very beautiful,but I would have liked some more insights into how it was used as an hospital. Then I went even further uphill, through residential areas, to Park Güell. There were lots of great views on Barcelona along the way. In Park Güell, there were once again hordes of tourists. But Gaudi ‘s architecture really is unique and interesting! Afterwards I walked back to my hotel through the neighbourhood of Gracia which also has some really nice streets and plazas.

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