Sunday, October 30, 2011

Korean 101

2 years ago, I started working at a Korean company that teaches English to Korean children.

The kids are smart and adorable. However, one of the usual problems that we encounter are beginner students who can not express themselves well in English. So, the solution we had was to speak very basic teaching expressions to them just so they would understand and follow us.

Also, I am really into watching Korean dramas and movies. It's not that I don't support my own but there's something that they do to their dramas that make it really great. I'm guessing it because the characters are always almost close to being perfect so people easily fall in love with them and with the story. Watching their dramas, however, sometimes give me headache because I can not focus because I need to read subtitles...

So the solution I had in mind? Study the Language! :)

Disclaimer: I am not trying to be a Korean nor am I neglecting my own language. I just appreciate their culture, the language and some people. And I thought, having a little more knowledge wont hurt. Also, I didnt go to any Korean speaking academy. The extent of my knowledge now is just based merely on self-study and a little help from some Korean friends. :)

I first started studying 한글 (Hangul) or the Korean writing.
The best website that I could recommend is The text is big enough for beginners to grasp and they made their lessons easy to understand and follow.

Here's the photo of my first ever Korean alphabet writing:

I wasn't really good at writing and reading Korean at that time so I had to write the expression first in English, then write it in Romanization and then in Hangul.

I studied basic expressions first because those are what you'll really use more often when you try to speak to a Korean person.

A good website to learn basic Korean expressions is
What's good about this website is that the lessons are in video format, so you can learn how to read and write while listening to the correct pronunciations as well.
The teacher has clear voice so understanding the lesson is always very easy.

And then, after about 3 months of studying the Hangul , I finally got better at reading words so I stopped writing Romanizations.

And then, I found out a really good website that teaches modules in Korean language for elementary level.
I think is one of the best free Korean learning website there is. The lessons are divided per module and they did a good job placing the levels of each lesson. They also teach all the important lessons like sentence endings, present and past tense, etc.

Here are the notes I jotted down from that site:

For a beginner, one of the hardest things to learn is the difference between this, that and that(over there). It's funny because I really had to illustrate how to use each word.

One of the fun lessons was learning how to turn a verb into past tense. Just like in English, their verb are irregular so you must really master each word by heart.

When I finally learned how to differentiate the use of present tense and past tense of the verb, I felt like I was really learning and I could speak confidently in no time.

One of the most difficult to learn, however, was how to tell time. If you are not aware yet, Korean has two sets of numbers. And I have yet to master the difference of each set.

And just like in studying any other language than you own native one, vocabulary will always be one of the most difficult. For you to be able to converse fluently and confidently, you must really know a handful of their vocabulary words. And I am telling you that memorizing their words could take time.

Are you aware of the Korean cable channel, Arirang? They also have one show that teaches viewers how to speak Korean. They also teach the basic expressions. What's good about this show is that the two teachers are Korean (but speak fluent English) and they have an American student who tries to learn Korean. It's educational and fun at the same time.

Here's what I learned from them:

If you look into my stuff, you will often see random papers with Korean words or expressions. Those sentences are either told to me by my students or phrases that I heard from a TV show that I just had to jot down just so I could remember.

And here's the very first quiz I had in Korean. I got 10 out of 15 items, not bad, eh? The test was also from Click the link for some Korean language exercises.

On Twitter, there is an account that tweets helpful Korean expressions. Follow koreanwords for useful Korean tweets.

If you also follow some K-Pop stars and you want to reply to some of their tweets then you might also want to follow KoreanEveryday. They tweet mainly for the purpose of giving useful expressions that you could send to your favorite star.

Here's a photo of the expressions I learned from them:

One Korean told me that another best way to learn their language is through songs. SHINee is my favorite Korean group and one of their greatest hits is their debut song Replay. So, I tried translating the song word for word and then wrote the meaning of each line across it.

Here's a closer look. Never rely on word for word translation because the pink words are what you're going to get. lol!

I also asked one of my bosses to translate some phrases for me. He was very kind to give me some of his time. He was a really a good teacher! Here's our paper:

And this is me trying to be a teacher to one of my friends. She wanted to learn Korean,too. And I tried to teach her. This is what she wrote:

Some random expressions that I wrote down:

I could say that I am quite good in reading and writing now.

But I still have a loooong way to go before I could actually sound like one of them.

When I try to speak, they go like "Ehh?!" or some children actually laugh at me.. I think if only I enrolled myself at a Korean academy then I would have been so much better than what I am now, in terms of speaking Korean. But, I also don't want to spend money on that. I just consider this as my hobby now and I just want to take one step at a time.

But, I am glad that I understand them now. And I can focus on the drama without having to multitask reading subs. When I see Koreans at the mall or anywhere and I actually understand what they are talking about, I actually feel good and smile at the same time. I feel good because the effort was worth it. I smile because they think no one but them understands what they are talking about, which they are wrong if they have me around. lol

* * *

How about you? What languages can you speak?

Comment down below and share your story, too!