Why Korean?

When I had finished my last computer science book (Modern Compiler Design, 2nd Edition (2012)) I had only one project left, a computer project named Teckel. Not wanting to spend all my time programming, I thought I might learn yet another language, in addition to the ones I speak well: Dutch (from birth), German (from growing up in Enschede, on the German border), English (from school and life), and Hebrew (from having lived in Israel). So the question was, what language.

Having seen and partly studied quite a number of languages apart from the above (see f.e. my language summaries) , I thought a good criterion would be “the most exotic language that one can still reasonably learn to proficiency”.

That immediately eliminated languages like Russian and Hindi (Indo-European, so not exotic),Yoruba or Navaho (no way to reach proficiency), and Klingon or Loglan (not reasonable). I don’t think that at my age I’d still be able to learn a tone language, which again eliminated another bunch. Next went languages like Indonesian (too easy), Hungarian (I learned some from a colleague 30 years ago), and Arabic (I know Hebrew (closely related) already).

So in the end I was left with three contenders: Georgian, Korean, and Japanese. Georgian was attractive: it is a well-studied ancient language with a complicated and very interesting synatctic structure, Georgia is an upcoming nation, and the president is married to a Dutch woman (Sandra Roelofs). But it isn’t half as exotic as the other two. The choice between Korean and Japanese was easy: Japanese writing is clumsy and a huge and definitely no fun obstacle, whereas the Koreans have taken the logical step and designed an alphabet that “a clever man can learn in a morning and a stupid man in a week”.

There was another reason. When we visited Israel over the last ten years, we saw that visitors stayed away, except busloads of Koreans. They were the ones that were not afraid, and I liked that.

So now I am studying Korean at the Korean School of Amsterdam, which is actually in Amstelveen. A side effect of this process of elimination is that I am the only one in the class with no relation whatsoever to anything Korean.

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