Sunday, July 06, 2008

Learning Korean

Let's backtrack a few weeks, when I found this t-shirt in the thrift store. Hmmmm, I did recognize that the language was Korean, but I have to admit that I had no idea how to read it. Not to mention that I did wonder how this t-shirt would show up in a thrift store in New England, in the middle of nowhere.

So I bought it anyway to ask my Korean go teacher about it. He translated it for me, and said 'Have you ever thought about learning Korean?' Well, yes, I had, but I was starting on Chinese first, which frankly is not going so well with too much life going on.

He told me about the Korean characters being very easy and totally phonetic. He told me about King Sejong who allegedly designed the alphabet in 1446, so that every Korean could learn to read and write easily. He was quite successful and nowadays, Korea has one of the highest literacy rates in the world.

He stated that I should be able teach myself how to read the characters in a few hours. Frankly, I knew he must be overestimating me, because I had seen Korean script, and it looked quite overwhelming to me. No way I could learn that in a few hours!

I set out to prove him wrong. I mean, I had been studying Chinese, I knew what a steep learning curve there is for the Asian languages. Of course, I wouldn't be able do it.

Watch me finding this web site and starting on it. Hmmmm, this isn't too bad. I got more and more interested and lo and behold, at the end of the afternoon I was able to sound out any Korean text (as long as they use hangul, that is).

No, I don't know the meanings yet, but at least I can read Hangul phonetically now. It's a start, right?

Of course, once I learned to read, I wanted to understand too, and I am studying vocabulary and grammar now. In my spare time, yes. It is quite enjoyable. I have learned important phrases like 'Hello', 'Thank you', 'Good move', 'Stupid move', and 'You got lucky this time!'

And the best thing, Jane saw me study and got interested and taught herself how to read Korean too! She knows some basic phrases and I am just amazed how easily she picked it up! Very impressive. I love it.

Funny how a thrift store find can lead one to Korean studies.


Wendy said...

Excellent teaching by example on your part!

So, what does the shirt say?

Meritt said...

Ummm... but what does the shirt say?

Mosaica said...

..yeah, what does the shirt say?!

WillowBrow said...

As you may remember, I was a PhD student in linguistics about the same time you entered the US for the first time. One of my favorite linguistics profs (of Scottish descent) is fluent in Chinese and Spanish, and proficient in Japanese and Korean. He used to hold three parties a year, Hangul Day (because all linguists should celebrate this day, since Hangul is the only written system developed by professional linguists); St. Cecilia Day (because St. Cecilia is the patron saint of music. The prof was an excellent classicial musician, as were many students in my era); and Bastille Day (because it is very easy for anyone to bring a dish from a place ruled by the French at some point in history. Think Vietnamese to Francophone African to New Orleans.)

Oh yes, by the way, the same prof said that Japanese was "baby Korean" in terms of grammar. Japanese and Korean are languages in the same language family. So, even though the alphabet is regular and easy to learn, the grammar isn't.

Languages, food, and music, are still my first loves.

NannyOgg said...

oh yeah, i guess i should tell what the shirt says. Literally, it says 'go over there!' which we decided could be translated as 'Get lost!'.

Willowbrow, languages food and music seem perfect to love. And nice to see you here again!

My korean teacher says it will be easier to learn Japanese once I know Korean, because the grammar is very similar. So I guess that will be my next project in a few years ^^