Monday, April 2, 2012

Korean Lessons

Our class materials
I can hardly believe that I am learning an Asian language, but here I am. In Korea. Taking language courses.

Before we started last Monday, everything looked foreign. I mean, sure, French or Italian or Spanish are foreign languages, but you can usually make out a few words by breaking words down or have taken some form of those languages in the past. Most people at least can pronounce quesadilla properly or have had lasagna :) But what about 안녕하세요? Yeah, didn't think so.

Here, not one word is familiar or can be guessed from reading a sign. Until last Monday, we could not read any signs that were in Korean. After the first day, we could read most of the characters and after day two, we could read all of them! Now, after a full week, we are learning how to introduce ourselves, tell where we are from and our profession and how to order in a restaurant. We have learned a fair amount of vocabulary so far and now Nicholas and I act like 5 year olds who have just learned how to read. Every sign we stop and try to read out loud and then we try to figure out the meaning. Some words are direct English translations, such as banana, tomato and coffee. Others will just take a lot of memorization.
Nicholas and the other Spanish-speaking guys explaining Korean in Spanish
Last week, we also learned how to count. Not just in Korean but in Chinese, since they use both ways. For certain things like how much things cost, like your bill in a restaurant, they use Chinese. But to order a certain number of beers, they use Korean... The counting system is also interesting. There are many ways to count things and from my (lack of) understanding it seems to be based on size and shape, at least so far.
Numbers in Korean and Chinese
It sure is not easy, but it is doable. I cannot believe we are learning a language that does not have letters. It feels like we are getting the key to a secret world. I hope that we stay eager and focused. The more you learn in a language the more you realize you don't know and it is easy to want to give up. There are many expats here who have told us they gave up on learning because they know enough to order food and get home in a cab. They figure they will never use Korean again once they leave. For me, I feel differently.

First, I always find when you say something like "when will I ever use/need... x," you always do. For me, it was my high school French that I never learned properly and therefore led to me starting all over in Switzerland. You just never know when a new skill may come in handy. Second, Nicholas and I are happy here. We want to make Korea feel like our home and to do so we want to be able to communicate in the language to understand the culture and the people.

So far, we are well on our way to confusing every taxi driver and waiter in the city with our dangerous level of Korean :)

1 comment:

  1. such a good point about learning the language - I truly agree with you, it makes all the difference and enables you to feel more at home, to assimilate more..all good things that will enrich your experience. good for you guys!