Update: Learning Korean

Update: new, more indepth korean grammar post here.

So a couple posts back, I described how I was beginning to learn Korean, an exciting new language that is both similar yet different from Chinese. So far, I’ve found that although I’ve progressed, I haven’t progressed as quickly as I had when I first started.

The biggest difficulty I have with Korean is that there are just so many particles, so many verb conjugations, and so many ways of saying something using different characters. Its easier when I read Korean, but orally, when someone is speaking Korean fast (like at my church), it becomes very hard to determine what they are saying because first I have to process the context and then what sounds they are using. The double consonants (ㅃ,ㅉ,ㄸ,ㄲ,ㅆ) are very hard to differentiate for me from the single ones. And some words can be completely different if they are using double consonants or single consonants.

And there are alot of particles. The straightforward particles are the topic, subject and object particles. 저는 is the normal way of saying ‘I’ the first time you introduce yourself (‘는’ being the topic particle). But this is a rather formal way of doing it. 나는 is the more plain way of saying it. Of course some Korean words are only used in writing, rather than speech. ‘와/과’ is used more often than ‘하고’ in writing for the word ‘and/with’. And verb conjugations. There are so many irregular verbs, verbs that have silent letters in them, etc. I pretty much just have to memorize which ones are which. The conjugations can be fairly simple like 먹다 -> 먹어요 for the polite form of ‘to eat’ or more irregular like 크다 -> 커요 for ‘to be tall’, with one of the consonants, 으, removed when its conjugated.

And here is a general list of particles I have to remember:
-subject particle: -이/가, to denote subject noun.
-topic particle: -은/는, to denote topic noun.
-plural particle: -들, to emphasize plurality on a noun.
-object particle: -을/를, to denote noun being acted on by a verb.
-case particle: -으로/로 , to denote a noun is being used (by,with), or direction, or selection, or change.
-possession particle: -의, to denote possession between two nouns.
-location particles: -에, which can denote place, time or quantity. -에서, which indicates a dynamic location or source of action.
-conjunction particles: -와/과,-하고, to link two nouns together.
-special particle: -도, which adds the meaning of also/too/even to a noun.
-special particle: -만, which adds the meaning of just/only to a noun.
-special particle: -이나/나, which means something similar/or/as many as/about.
-special particle: -부터,까지 which means from a time/place to another time/place.

Verb particles
-으면/면, which adds the meaning ‘if’ to a verb.
-고, which adds the meaning ‘and’ to a verb.
-거나, which adds meaning ‘or’ to a verb.
-지만, which adds meaning ‘but’ to a verb.
-는, which turns a verb into a present noun modifier. (-ㄴ/은 for past, -ㄹ/을 for future).
-ㄴ/는, which turns an adjective into a present noun modifier.  (-ㄴ/은 for past, -ㄹ/을 for future).

See, that’s a lot of particles. Chinese only has a few (的,得,地,着,被,给,对,向,跟,和,与). In addition, I don’t have opportunity to practice Korean alot. But anyways… here’s hoping I can improve enough to go to Korea next year.


2 responses to “Update: Learning Korean”

  1. Stephanie Avatar

    To me, that seems like an insane amount of particles. The more I learn about grammar, the more I love grammar in Chinese. Chinese grammar is just so simple and logical (from a perspective of a native Mandarin/English bilingual…), with few exceptions. I don’t know if you’ve studied any of the romance languages before, but the irregular verbs are all over French. In fact, the more often you use a verb, the more likely it will be irregular. ‘Tis frustrating.

    Keep practicing! I hope that you’ll find someone to practice with, and that you’ll get to go to Korea soon! Do people in Korea speak enough English to get you around?

  2. Michelle Avatar

    I’m learning some simple Japanese and I’m finding it tricky…. words can’t describe how complicated Korean looks to me. I’m sure over time you’ll learn it and it will come easier to you 🙂

    Good luck and have fun!
    Have an awesome weekend 🙂

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