Food and drink
Today’s blog was all about food. That didn’t help me because, like you, I am trying to lose weight. I ate far too much over the Christmas and New Year holidays. There is one big difference between you and me, however, Soyoung: I am fat and you are not! Anyway, sorry to torture you with this photograph but I thought you might be interested in this beautiful chocolate tree I brought back from Paris, for my daughter, Lucy. She’s is definitely not on a diet – although, between you and me, I think she could lose a kilo or so, but PLEASE don’t tell anyone I said so. Actually, she’s just joined a gym – like almost everyone else in Britain in January – so I guess she’ll soon lose that little bit of extra weight she put on (like all of us) over Christmas.
You’re right, I do have a car. It’s a beautiful little open-top sports car with a super-charger – which means it goes ridiculously fast and I am too immature to drive it sensibly. You see, Soyoung, I am not cautious like you. When I was a young man I could never afford a good car. I still can’t afford one! But that didn’t seem to stop me buying it. In English we have an expression, ‘big boys’ toys’ to describe these kinds of things that only old men can afford but which most young men would like to have. You know, Harley-Davidson motorbikes, designer suits, hand-made shoes, all that kind of stuff. I’m afraid I have to admit that I do like lots of these ‘big boys’ toys’.
Even though I have a car I use public transport a lot. I never drive into the centre of London, for example, and I usually use the bus service even when I travel locally. So of course I understand how irritating your daily journey to work must be and how wonderful it is when the school holidays begin so that the buses are practically empty.
Back to food then. Thanks for the photographs. They remind me a little of the two years when I lived in Xi’an, in central China. I know that Korean food and Chinese food are sometimes very different but they are much more similar than European and Korean food, I think. Where I live, in west London, there is a very large Korean community. There are lots of Korean restaurants, therefore, and supermarkets, too. When I lived in Sweden (1973-1977) I taught a small number of students from North Korea. They were diplomats from the North Korean embassy in Stockholm. In those days it was very difficult to get Korean food in Europe or to find Korean restaurants here. But today, especially in our larger cities, it is much easier.
Tell me more, please, about soju. You wrote that it “is very traditional Korean alcohol”. What is it made from? Rice? Is it anything like Japanese sake or Chinese rice wine? Is it served hot or cold? Do you have laws about alcohol (and tobacco) in Korea? My daughter, Lucy, was 18 last November. To celebrate her birthday she took me to a local bar and bought me a drink because at 18 she was, at last, legally allowed to buy alcohol in a bar.
One more thing intrigued me in your blog. You talked about your friend and her boyfriend who are going to get married in March. They have only been going out together for three or four months. It’s not long, is it? You said that both their parents are very keen for them to get married as soon as possible because of their age. How old are they? Why is their age important to their parents? I think Lucy might be almost old enough to get married when she’s thirty, thirty-five, forty. I am exaggerating a little, of course, but why rush? What are the cultural norms and pressures in Korea? It could be very interesting to hear what you think. Incidentally, you didn’t say whether or not you are married. Perhaps you feel as though you are married to your job?
We can talk more about your job in future blogs. Meanwhile, here are some words and expressions to help expand your vocabulary, and then a little bit of grammar work. Don’t work too hard, and, of course, if I’ve written anything you don’t understand please don’t hesitate to ask me to explain it better.
Looking forward to reading your next blog.
SOME USEFUL WORDS AND EXPRESSIONS
to punish someone by causing him or her pain
between you and me
You can use this expression when you are about to tell someone a secret. It means ‘I’m only telling this secret to you, and no one else knows about it.’
she could lose a kilo or so
This is an idiomatic way of saying that a person is a little overweight.
Short for ‘gymnasium’ – a hall or large room where you can do physical exercise.
gain (the opposite of ‘lose’)
not very sensible; not very adult
have enough money
have to admit
am unwilling to agree (but it is true)
make me (or help me to) remember
very interested [It is useful to learn prepositions together with particular words. ‘Intrigued’ always takes the preposition ‘by’. EXAMPLE: I was intrigued by her comments at the meeting. ‘Interested’ usually takes ‘in’. EXAMPLE: I was interested in her comments at the meeting.]
If you exaggerate, you make some thing seem bigger, more important, better or worse, for effect. Here, I am exaggerating: I don’t really think Lucy should wait until she’s forty before she gets married. But by exaggerating I am trying to express my opinion that I think she shouldn’t get married too soon or too young.
SOME MORE GRAMMAR
Let’s look at your first sentence today.
1. You are writing about something (the winter vacation) which is happening right now. It could be useful, therefore, to indicate that, by starting with, Right now…
2. We use ‘it is’ (not ‘there is’) to indicate events, situations or states (it is winter; it is five o’clock; it is raining). So you could continue your sentence like this: Right now it is…3. Remember that ‘vacation’ (or ‘holiday’ as we might say in British English) is a noun. It is also singular. Singular nouns usually need an article. So, let’s go on: Right now it is the students’ winter holiday in Korea…4. Don’t forget that the apostrophe (’) comes after the ‘s’ in students because students is plural (it is the winter holiday for all students, not just for one).
5. There is a second idea in your sentence – the holiday continues until the beginning of February. You can join ideas in sentences with a simple conjunction such as ‘and’ or ‘but’. Sometimes it is easier simply to write two separate sentences. So your sentence could finish like this: Right now it is the students’ winter holiday in Korea until the beginning of next month. Or, you could have written two sentences, like this: Right now it is the students’ winter holiday in Korea. It will last until the beginning of next month.
6. There are two more things to remember (it’s tough, Soyoung, isn’t it?!). Firstly, don’t forget that ‘Korea’ must have a capital ‘K’, and that names, for example the names of department stores, also start with a capital letter. Secondly, ‘early’ is an adjective, not a noun. You could have written …until early next month and that would have been correct. You don’t need a preposition (‘of’) because ‘early’ is not a noun. However, if you wanted to use a noun (because you used a preposition) the correct noun would be ‘beginning’ or ‘start’ and, of course, you would also need an article: ‘the beginning of…’ or ‘the start of…’.
7. There is no number 7. I think you’ve probably had enough grammar for one day.
Don’t forget the interview questions. Ask me anything about myself. I will try to answer all your questions.
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