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Baewugoshipneun geotdeuleun (Things I Want To Learn)

The Friday Five for this week comes from the fingertips of the illustrious Adrienne:

If time and money were infinite, what are the five things you’d love to learn how to do? Which of these do you think you’ll do anyway, no matter what the economic and temporal restraints are?

It’s a tough question, because of course there are zillions of things I would like to learn. I hope I’m not cheating by the way I answer this. I’m going to assume a couple of things:

Given those points, I’d choose the following five things…

  1. About five or six languages, beginning with attaining fluency in Korean. I find the language an endless struggle to use, but it’s getting easier day by day. More and more words stick in my head, and are available to me; more and more grammatical and logical constructions become expressible to me month by month, and I’m at the point where I can flirt in written or spoken Korean, I can berate students and make mocking puns at them on the fly, when I am lucky—today, one guy was trying to explain to me that his homework and his friend’s homework was identical because they are neighbours (I think that’s what he was saying); “You’re freaky alright!” I retorted punnishly, because the word for “freaky” and the word for “neighbour” that he used sound quite similar. What was funny was that one or two of the students thought I was mishearing him, until they realized I was punning on purpose and that I was quite annoyed and mocking the student, who originally claimed that they’d done their work individually. I read identical (warped) sentences from the two workbooks and told him he was lying to me. Once his classmates caught on that I was understanding close to everything said to me, and responding not only in annoyance but also in mockery, using the student’s language, they were laughing and laughing about the poor student’s plight. I then reprimanded the class about how they have to do their homework individually, if they want to learn; and that if they don’t want to learn they should get the hell out of the classroom right away. All of that was in Korean so clear and comprehensible that they didn’t even comment on my saying it, they just all shamefully agreed and said they would do their work alone in the future.

    Wait, I got off-track there somehow. Well, anyway, I’d learn a whack of different languages, one by one, until I was fluent in all of them. As I am now, I’d choose the langugages in this order: Korean, Chinese, French, Spanish, Latin, ancient Greek, Arabic, and Russian. A lot of my choice has to do with my interests—I’d like to be able to read the Quran and enjoy the poetry of the book, which Arabic-speakers assure me is untranslatable; I’d love to be able to walk about Korea speaking transparent, perfect Korean and understanding everything said to or around me; I’d like to be able to use the little French I have, and appreciate all those Frenchpoets in the original (and that goes for the Latin and Greek poets who penned the classics). Spanish and Russian would be solely for traveling purposes. I leave off Hindi as you can get by with just English in India, as far as I can tell, but I wouldn’t mind learning Sanskrit as well.

  2. I’d love to be able to code software. I’d probably settle down and learn C++ or something, as that’s what most people seem to use. I don’t know if I would use the skill much, but it’d be nice to truly understand the way that people go from algorithms (which I’m naturally quite good at building) to the final implementation.
  3. I’d love to learn how to fix all kinds of mechanical stuff, like bicycles and cars and such. My bicycle gears crank at totally inappropriate times, like when I am going up a hill, or when I turn—I mean when I am not changing gears at all, and the chain keeps slipping off when I go into 3rd gear on the big front gears, and I haven’t the faintest clue of how to fix it. Which means I need to go to a bike shop on the other side of town to get it fixed. Which is a pain in the ass. I’d much prefer knowing how to fix it myself. I think it’s another thing I’d naturally be good at, as I’m usually good with fiddling with simple things that seem to confound others around me, and making them work, but things that are a little more complicated usually baffle me in the same way; I don’t clearly see the logic inherent in gears and posts and chains and levels, and I would like better to see it.
  4. I’d love to learn all about the way ecologies work. I’d bloody love to take five or eight years off during this hypothetically infinite lifespan and devote the time to learning about our scientific understanding of ecosystems and how the various species interact, how genes work at different levels shaping not only our bodies but the world our bodies inhabit, how climate and weather and food and all are interrelated.
  5. I’d learn to play the piano at least to the level I can play the sax, I think; I know enough people who can play the guitar, and there are always wonderful guitarists, but there are never, it seems to me, enough people who can competently improvise on the piano. More realistically, I’d learn to play a bunch of wind instruments… which is something I am, slowly, working on doing. I’ve got saxes, at least sort of, mastered, and I am working on the flute now; next on my list is bass clarinet, and then maybe the TaeBeyongSeo, a kind of Korean shawm (or oboe… forms of which can be found all across Asia, actually, and all the way into the Middle East). Shakuhachi would be nice too, but I’m not sure I have the lungs for it.

There are other things that crossed my mind: sculpture; playing the guitar as an added bonus; writing pop songs and fugues with equal skill; the art of seduction; and one mentioned in the Peter Brook production of the Mahabharata which I remember from my youth, a knowledge referred to as “the science of dice.” But if I could learn the above five things, I’d be more than content with my abilities and knowledge.

Funnily enough, of the five, I am working on only one (the Korean language), or perhaps, if you count slowly trying to teach myself how to make Flash animations and working on getting good at the flute, three of the five I listed above. As for the science and the mechanical stuff, it’s very haphazard and piecemeal, my way of learning. I know some stuff, but not so much as I’d like, and right now I’m not pursuing it all. But then, I don’t have infinite resources and time.

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