Tuesday, August 10, 2010


My family recently came and visited me for about a week. Parents, sibling, sibling-in-law, sibling's unborn tumor-spawn. All but the pets. (insert 개고기 comment here).

I'm not going to talk about that. Partly b/c most people reading this who are interested in my family probably already read about it via the sibling's much more frequently updated blog and partly b/c I don't like talking about identifiable people here. I like to maintain a bit of abstraction. I probably haven't been 100% consistent with that, but it's part of the reason my posts have become so rare. The more my stories involve other people, the less inclined I am to share them. I believe my sibling would refer to this as being 'super sneaky' or some other such alliteration to that effect.

But enough rambling about my vaguely defined view on privacy and the internet and social media and all that nonsense. I will instead ramble about my vaguely coherent thoughts on my progress towards learning Korean.

I've been in Korea for almost 1 year now. Upon first arrival, I knew nothing about the language. I took lessons most mornings during my internship and by the end of the summer could 'read' (more or less make the correct noise associated w/ words) and spout off a few key phrase. "I'm from America", "Beer is good", "No I don't have a girlfriend", "I don't know why not", "Stop asking weird questions, every weird Korean person in a bar"...the basics.

Since then, I've taken 3 rounds of classes. 2 hours a day, 3 days a week for 8 weeks per class. Since the 2nd round of classes, I've been pretty good about going over flashcards during my commute and studying a bit. I'm not as dedicated as I could be, but I haven't exactly been slacking.

This has gotten me to the point that I am now capable of having a relatively dumb conversation w/ someone patient enough to decipher my terrible accent (It's weird that I don't really grasp how my accent sounds. Like to me most Koreans sounds like they're just talking fast and slurring things a lot. I recognize I don't sound like that, I sound like I'm saying weird jibberish slowly. It just doesn't have an accent to me. I guess that's what an American accent is like to an American. This probably doesn't a lot of sense, but trying speaking w/ a French accent. Maybe it's bad, but you can probably do it. Try speaking w/ a Korean accent. Now you probably sound like you're making fun of Chinese people at best. The problem lies in there somewhere)

Sometimes it's really frustrating to see how slowly I progress. Day to day I don't feel like I'm making progress. This does not sit well with me. I've been out for 2 years, but I'm still very much in a school mentality. All things should be learned in 4 months. I should excel at learning them and be validated w/ an A. This is how it worked for years. It is how it should be.

However, my family's visited clued me in that while I may not be particularly proficient at speaking Korean, I've become quite good at Konglish. While it may not seem like a huge feat to learn a bastardized version of one's own language, it is at least useful. Requesting a 'lemon' will get you a blank stare. However, getting a 'leh-mone' is doable. All the times of feeling like a retard when ordering an 'egguh mic mah pin' at McDonald's paid off.

Showing off my Konglish skills for the family is only part of it though. I've also applied the skill during a conference call to translate between my coworkers' English and American English. The weirdest part is that both sides of the conversation made perfect sense to me, but neither understood the other. Again, maybe that sounds like nonsense, but I think it really just underscores the difficulty of really mastering a language. The grammar and words only get you so far.

So here in another couple weeks I'll be starting up another round of Korean classes. I will try to remember that the finer points of the language really are secondary to the purpose of communicating. Forget the tests, all I ever really wanted was to be able to make a phone call and have someone deliver fried chicken and beer to my house.

1 comment:

  1. Super Shady is what I would call you.

    And I think your Korean skills are pretty fracking amazing, actually. I guess kids in the states don't become proficient (let alone fluent) in more than one language because we're not going to school 12 hours a day. Let that be a lesson to you.

    The tumor-spawn says "Hello, Uncle Brandon!"