A new day, a new thing

My goal to learn something new every day

Day 42: “서두” is “preliminaries” in Korean

Today, I learned that the Korean word for ‘preliminaries’ is 서두 (seo-du).

OK, hardly the most exciting thing I’ve ever blogged about, but it’s more about how I came to learn it. While browsing through the English section of a second-hand book store in my city, I came across this book:

Concepts of programming languages

Not enough to excite most people, but I was pretty happy with the find, and it was only 11,000 KRW ($9.90). It looked in pretty good nick, and the spine wasn’t cracked. I had a flick through to check for excessive highlighting or underlining and was glad to see that the pages inside were pristine. My guess was that the book had barely been opened by its previous owner, and had probably gone unloved for several years seeing as it was published in 2008 and is three editions out of date.

When I got to my office, I opened it up to have a quick read through the beginning, and noticed something that I had missed in the shop. It turns out that the previous owner had opened it… once at least. On the very first contents page, I noticed this:

Concepts of programming languages contents

And that was it.The solitary mark throughout the entire book. He’s opened the book, looked at the first word and stumbled at the first hurdle.

I can only imagine what this poor student must have been thinking. He’s just shelled out $40+ on this book, written in a strange language, probably in his first year of university. Perhaps he started off with good intentions, bright-eyed and eager. I picture him sitting in the library, pens laid out neatly on the desk, electronic dictionary to one side. He turns to the first page, and panic sets in. Pre-lim-i-na-ries!?! :s “Quick. To the dictionary!”, he thinks. He quickly scribbles down the translation, and then he scans down the rest of the page: Orthogonal, Data Abstraction, Parsing Problems, Associative Arrays, Paramaterized Abstract Data Types, Encapsulation Constructs… *Gulp, sharp intake of breath*. “What have I gotten myself into?” he mutters under his breath. He closes the book wondering whether it’s too late to change majors.

Of course I’ll never know what the student was thinking, whether it was even a ‘he’. Maybe it was a ‘she’? Perhaps she’s gone on to be a very successful programmer, proficient in English? I do wonder though how much more of a difficult time students in Korea must have—with set texts written in a foreign language. I know I had still have a difficult enough time now reading through text books in English, and it’s my first language!

Whatever my new book’s previous owner must have been thinking, whether she ever did learn anything from this book, at least it gave me the opportunity to learn a new word today. It might not be much, but to her, I say thank you!

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This entry was posted on February 11, 2015 by in Korea, Language and tagged , , .

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