“Your Daily Shot of Soju” is my daily format for sharing random cultural thoughts, pictures and basically anything I want to in an easy to digest and read format. Expect to be updated Monday-Thursday, and probably once on the weekend.
Something for you to read:
There were three words. Three simple words, uttered not to me, slowly and sequentially, that led me to briefly think “wow, maybe I’m starting to pick up on this Korean language.” Then she rattled off, by my count, 300 words in the span of 10 seconds. I then begin to wonder “Does the itch on my left ankle constitute a valid excuse to leave?”
A group of women spoke to one another as I looked down at my plate of food. I pretended that the steam rising from their bowls of rice could capture their words the same way a can of aerosol can capture those red security light beams they use at banks. At the end of the meal one of the women looked at me looking down at my, now empty, plate of food. She asked me in Korean if I my food was delicious. I answered back, in Korean, that ‘yes it was.’
You know when you see a puppy do a trick you give it a treat and act really excited? That’s probably the closest analogy to describe the way I felt then. Only I probably received more ‘oohs’ and ‘ahs.’ Also, I didn’t get a treat.
She came into my classroom early in the morning, before classes started. She asked if I knew where my co-teacher was. I answered in Korean that I didn’t know. Stupid me.
I forgot that using one word in Korean signifies to the listener that you are perfectly fluent and are completely prepared to listen to their favorite story from yesterday. I wonder how many times I smiled and nodded before she realized I had no idea what she was saying? I counted to 6 then got distracted when she gave me a piece of candy.
Needless to say, learning Korean on the fly has been both humbling and humiliating. Rarely does it stray towards confidence building and a sense of pride or accomplishment. Without further ado, the 5 hardest things about learning Korean.
5 – A monotone voice. The Korean language puts no stress on any syllable. This seems like it would be easier than another language that puts the stress on different syllables but it’s not. Try speaking without changing the tone of your voice for a couple minutes and see what I mean. It’s boring as hell. The only way to spice up the language is to hold a syllable a little longer than others. This makes me sound like a 15 year old girl complaining that I need a new car on my 16th birthday because ‘I’m a good daughter, and I deserve it.’ Furthermore an inflection on a syllable means that what you’re trying to say will not be understood by a native Korean speaker.
4 – Taxi Drivers. These are a serious impediment to my self confidence when it comes to speaking Korean. Let me give you a snippet of an exchange I had with one the other day
me: Seongbuk Yok (Seonbuk station)
Driver: (blank stare)
me: Seongbuk Yok…um…Sangbuk Yok
me: No, Seongbuk…Seongbuk
Driver: OOOOOOHH Seongbuk
3 – Word changes. There are a million ways to change a word. You can shorten syllables. You can add certain syllables. You can combine it with other words. This makes it incredibly difficult to listen to what people are saying, even when they are using words/roots that you know. Of course, if they know you know the word Malhaeyo, they expect you should know how to say Malhadudae or Malulhada. They get upset when I don’t.
On a piss off related note: If you mis pronounce any of these syllables in the slightest they have no idea what you are saying.
2 – Double consonants. DD is different than D, but is pretty much the same as T, which also has it’s own letter. SSayo is different than Sayo, and constitutes 4 separate meanings between the two of them…one has a more breathy sound to it. L vs. R. We make fun of Asian people for mispronouncing them, they make fun of me FOR pronouncing them at all.
1 – This blog.
Special honorable mentions:
Sentence structure, which makes everything I say sound eerily reminiscent of Yoda.
Then the Subject vs. Object markers that go in the middle of sentences that are pretty akin to the female and male classifications given to words in the romance languages. Meaning that they have no rhyme or reason for going on certain words and they definitely make you sound like an idiot if you don’t use them correctly.
I was looking through my pictures and realized I’ve worn lots of funny hats here in Seoul. This can’t be a coincidence.
Piece of Pop culture I’m diggin today:
The fact that members of boy bands here live in the same house and are not allowed to have girl friends. This makes for a slew of amazing innuendos and some great t.v.
Also, it helped create this music video. I don’t even want to ruin it by making any comments. Besides, I don’t think the word Gay/feminine really covers it.
BUT PLEASE…FOR YOUR OWN BENEFIT WATCH THIS VIDEO…at least 4 times
Piece of pop culture I miss today:
Does having a sense of what the goals of my job are count? Cause I sure as hell miss having some of those.
A Slew of Education News:
For right now I’m also going to reserve comments on these because I think these deserve their own post.
An article discussing the failure of the Korean education system in effectively teaching conversation English.
More than 1/2 of foreign teachers in English schools lack proper teaching qualifications.
Maybe these qualified teachers aren’t coming here because Korea kind of sucks when it comes to helping foreigners adapt.
News not necessarily related to English:
Seoul is designating 6 spots as foreigner areas. Like a China Town or American Town.
The Chinese hate Koreans more than they hate the Japanese…and the Japanese tried to colonize the Chinese!?