Wednesday, March 14, 2012

About that whole 'learning Korean' thing.

I found a Korean class in downtown Cheongju, at the YMCA (I also discovered that Cheongju has a YMCA)! For me, this is rather exciting news, as learning a language generally works better when at least part of it involves actually listening to native speakers. I also learn best from listening. To celebrate, I thought I'd write a post about all the things I can do so far in Korean. It's not a particularly long list, but I figured it'd be good to write so I know where I'm starting from when I start this class.

*One reason I chose to teach in Korea is to learn Korean. It is considered a critical-need language by the US government, and is generally considered among the hardest to learn for native English speakers.*

I thought I'd just make a list of the exchanges I've had in Korean, because they are, after all, the whole point of learning a language. So far I have understood seven (that I can think of) different people asking me various questions specifically based off of what I have studied, and successfully responded in Korean when necessary. Plus one random Korean sentence prompted in English. As I said, not a very long list, but I'm proud of myself:

First, a little girl in my class asked where I was going as I rushed out of the room to grab something from across the hall. I responded in English, because they're not supposed to speak Korean in class.

Next, as I was leaving to walk home one day, another girl, leaving at the same time with her family made a big point of saying "Goodbye teacher!!" (in English), and I said goodbye back. I was headed off the property when I heard her grandmother ask where I was going. I was surprised by the question (and by understanding it), but I seem to have accurately portrayed where I was going, because they gave me a ride.

A couple days later, as I was walking down the side of the road a minute or two from school, a teacher at the school pulled up and asked the same thing. That communication was a bit more difficult, as she did not seem to know my destination (like a kilometer away), so she had to put it in to her GPS. I tried to tell her I could point and show her how to get there, but that point was not adequately portrayed.

I have also understood on two separate occasions when people (one grown woman, one student) have asked where I'm from, and have been able to respond appropriately.

One that is less useful but goes over well in the lunch room is understanding when people ask me if something is good/delicious. I, of course, always say it is delicious. *Note: I used this one again last night while out to eat :-)

Finally, my first somewhat un-prompted speaking of Korean happened this weekend, while out to dinner with some friends. One guy was talking to a random Korean dude whose English skills were rather lacking, and he was trying to say he had just gotten to Korea recently. I suddenly feel a twinge of  'oh, wait! I know that!' -When I first got to my school, it would be pretty much a daily occurrence that anyone who spoke enough English to do so would ask how long I'd been in Korea. After the third or fourth time, I learned the word 'came' in one of my lessons, and decided to make the sentence 'I/he/you came to Korea last week.' BINGO! I have a Korean sentence totally relevant in this random conversation with a random Korean.

I know these things are not huge conversations, but the fact that I am understanding native speakers (and they generally understand me in return) is very exciting to me.
My spelling still leaves a lot to be desired, maybe the class will help with that? And on the topic of the class: it's Saturday mornings from 10-12. I already missed the first two. I was told this is not a big deal, but I should really try to make it out this weekend. Which means I actually have to wake up on Saturday morning. Oh well, I think it's worth it.

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