Skip to content

Learning Korean

January 6, 2010

Every few or several years, I decide to study a new language. When I was young, it was an easy way to get an “A” in school. Now, studying a new language is part of my Neuron Retention Program. And I have selected Korean as the guardian of my neurons.

Korean poses a few physical challenges for me. For one thing, Dragon NaturallySpeaking, my voice-recognition software, cannot interface with Hangul, the Korean alphabet. I suppose it could, if I said “press key X.” for every key to correspond to the template, but that is too attenuated from the thought flow. So, when I e-mail a Korean friend, wishing to impress him with my brilliant progress, I write the Korean by hand, scan it, crop it into a manageable JPEG, and insert it where needed in the note. The triumph of my life is that, having studied Greek and Hebrew, I now have terrible handwriting in four alphabets.

I am beginning Korean with an enthusiasm with which I have never studied another language. For one thing, I will be able to use it immediately with local friends and in local stores. I have people who can help me and are very happy and eager to do so. For another thing, everything about the language: the sounds, the writing, and the organization so far as I can perceive at this early stage, communicate an efficient beauty that strongly attracts me.

While awaiting the arrival of my Rosetta Stone Korean Level I course, I have been working with this website and a set of Declan’s Korean flashcards that have audio, written, and word recognition training. I downloaded the flashcards from a link at the above website, and have them for a 15-day free trial. Rosetta Stone will replace them but they will last until it arrives. I have been learning some very basic phrases, and between the grammar of the Learning Korean Language website and the flashcards, I am already able to expound profound ideas and opinions as I walk about the house. “There is a cat.” “I have a pencil.” “Long time, no see.” “See you again.” “Thank you.” Usually I am intoning these deep thoughts to the Cat, but lately I have brought my husband in on it, too. I hope to stir his interest to join me in learning Korean. Korean is very infectious, and I have no doubt he’ll catch it. He’ll need it when we attend a Korean church.

My aspiration for the year is to be able to read a Korean 1st grade level primer. One of my friends who is in Korea right now is looking for something appropriate for me. Unfortunately, since my Cat’s health keeps me under house arrest and my own health poses limitations as well, travel is not on the day’s horizon. By immersing myself in Korean, I am entering a new world while remaining within my own.

Oh the things that I’ll learn,
and the people I’ll meet,
and to think that Korean is my Mulberry Street….

  1. Laura K permalink
    January 6, 2010 1:21 pm

    I have a hunch that about half my neighbors are Korean. Will you teach me to say, “Hello, how are you?” to an older woman (I assume Korean has the whole honorific system like practically every language besides ours?) and then, “No, that is all the Korean I speak”? :D

  2. January 6, 2010 1:30 pm

    I bequeath you the links as I have received them. They will get you this far!

    I hate Romanized Hangul, but a friend of mine bought a phrasebook that has phonetic equivalents of common Korean phrases so that she can talk to her Korean neighbors. The book is called, “Korean in Plain English.” And yes, Korean is huge on age status and polite forms. Nearly every language of the civilized world but English is.

    When you run out of vocabulary, just smile and smile. It’s worked for me everywhere in the world.

  3. Laura K permalink
    January 6, 2010 6:09 pm

    Oh, I missed the link in your post. That site sounds *very* promising: “There will not be many cute pictures to take up space and distract you from the learning, but if you can deal without all the cute pictures that do not teach you anything, and simply wish to learn the language as fast as possible correctly then this site is perfect for you.” I like the no-nonsense approach. :)

    At first I thought the elderly neighbor in question was cold and uninterested in any interaction, because the first couple times we passed each other I gave a timid smile, but she just stared back with the utmost aloofness. It occurs to me now that maybe her sight is not good enough to discern a “timid smile.” But another day I grinned at something her dog did, and she grinned right back! Also, I’ve seen the younger Asian people who live above her do a sort of mini-bow as they walk by. Now I try mimicking this while smiling broadly and it has good results. Maybe she is sort of laughing at me under the returned grin.

    I am excited to learn a few phrases. I just hope she does not turn out to be Japanese or something else. That would kind of be a major faux-pas.

  4. January 6, 2010 6:20 pm

    I can almost promise you that if she is Korean, or even from somewhere else in Asia, she will be touched beyond measure and effusively warm and friendly at your attempt. I would not be surprised if she became a friend and tutor for life, or at least for the duration of having you as a neighbor.

    Here’s a link to a YouTube of how to say hello in Korean. But I think you’ll find it a lot more satisfying to learn more than that, and to learn Hangul, and read and write and speak and listen, because that is what language is, and you are a lover of language.

Comments are closed.