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School/Work

Learning Korean

태극기
태극기

Edit: I’ve put together a more comprehensive summary of Korean grammar here <-- please visit. 🙂 Recently I've taken up Korean lessons for fun. So why Korean? I always think of improving myself in various ways, and I think learning a language is definitely a good way to do that; this wouldn't be the first time I've learned a language by myself (Since my parents didn't speak Chinese to me, I studied it myself during my college years). Korean is not one of the most useful languages to learn. In fact, it’s only used by roughly 70 million people, only 48 million of which you will ever be in contact with (the rest is of course, North Koreans, who can’t leave their country). It is also an isolated language, meaning it has no roots to any other language. My main motivation comes from renewed interest in their culture. My old roomate was Korean, a lot of my friends are Korean, a lot of my fellow church goers are Korean, and I am part Korean myself (I identify as Chinese, even though I am only half Han Chinese). Korea’s culture is remarkably similar yet subtlety different than Chinese, and of course, there is the influence of Korean pop and Korean dramas, which are not as big motivators for me as for some others who strive to master this language.

Korean Alphabet
Korean Alphabet

So far, I’ve found Korean characters to be remarkably easy to learn, in comparison to Chinese at least. The Korean alphabet takes one day to learn, and you can pronounce almost all Korean words and figure out how to write the Korean words for different pronunciations after. This is because of the way Korean words are constructed. Each consonant and vowel are similar to how English is constructed in that there are certain rules when to place them before or after, but either way each Korean word is created much the same way as in English.

For example, the word for ‘hello’ in Korean is 안 녕  하 세 요 , pronounced annyeong haseyo. Let’s break it down. 아 is a and ㄴ is n, according to that alphabet chart. So, an is just those two put together, in this case the ㄴ coming below the 아 in the character, making it 안 (an). nyeong, is similarly constructed, using ㄴ (n) + ㅕ(yeo) + ㅇ (ng) =  녕 (nyeong). ha is constructed using ㅎ (h) +ㅏ (a) =  하. se using ㅅ(s) + ㅔ (e) = 세. And yo using 요 (yo). So the hard part is actually just knowing what the characters mean, not how to pronounce them.

Chinese works quite differently. It’s not like each stroke of Chinese is part of the alphabet, because in Chinese, all the characters mean something different. For example, knowing the character 木 (mu4), and 目 (mu4) isn’t going to help you with the pronunciation or meaning of their composite, 相 (xiang1,xiang4). That means learning Chinese requires learning thousands of characters, whereas in Korean, just knowing that alphabet is good enough for knowing how to write and pronounce 한글 . The most difficult part of learning Korean is in fact, everything else. The sentence structure is different (Subject-Object-Verb). There are different levels of honorifics used, so depending on who you are talking to, what you say may be different. And of course, all the exceptions in Korean in pronunciations and grammar construction.

Of course I am going to continue to practice with this, I think the only way to get what each word means is to practice it regularly with other Koreans, so thats probably gonna be one of my goals. To become semi-fluent in Korean! And then I can visit Korea next year without a translator as well as my hometown in northeast China. In any case, I think learning a language is certainly a nice way to be productive and improve your memory and exercise your brain :).

Yay! I recorded my first song in Korean.. a cover of the famous Wondergirls song, ‘Nobody’, hope I got the words right:
httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1VXn67zZiAg