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Learning the Language

Blog Entry 1

A great motivation for me to come to Korea was the opportunity to learn the Korean Language. Before leaving America, I knew it would be wise to get a good Korean-English travel book. Before going to the European continent in April 2008, I bought the great Rough Guide to French, German, and Dutch, although I had only needed the French book. But that was a great book as I could easily look up any phrase or word I needed before I needed it. Sadly, there is no Rough Guide to Korean. What I found instead was shit...
I bought "Survival Korean", but it misses the most essential phrases, such as questions "What is this/that?" (still looking for that and the quintessential "yes" and "no" (네, ne, pronounced "nay", which took me a few days to stop thinking meant "no"; 아니오, a-ni-o, while you put your hands or arms up into an X). Also determining that a Korean to English dictionary would be quite necessary, I had to buy a book by Lee and Lee. That is a book written by university professionals who seem to think anyone needs only read through the book once and then be fluent in Korean! It has a big section on Korean Grammar, listing ALL the Korean word endings. Sadly, though, that's quite useless while I do not know any vocabulary.
The Model Phrases in Lee and Lee are quite useless. They can only be applied to very specific situations and do not point out how you can replace any words when needed. Like a necessary question I've wanted to ask is "Do you take credit cards?" but the only phrase is "Do you take credit cards or traveller's cheques?" Well, if the Korean words for "credit card" did not sound like "credit card", I would be lost as to what to ask. Also the phrases involving large numbers of Won (money) neglect to point-out which words are the words and thus may be quite different than what you will hear, making you lost again.
And both books lack various necessary words. In the food section of Lee and Lee, they've neglected to add fork, spoon, knive, and chopsticks and, of course, how to properly ask for them. But I learned with my Rough Guide to French to simply write in the margins any necessary phrases and words where appropriate. A big word missing from the food section of Lee and Lee is "without", like "I'm allergic to onions, so can I please have a pizza without onions?" (-없이, -eopsi, as in "onions without")
A necessary phrase to use while shopping/eating when you don't know any vocabulary is "I want this" as you point to it, also missing in key places. (이걸로, igeollo, though Google claims that's just "I")
So a necessary phrase I quickly memorised before coming over was "안녕하세요" (Annyeong Haseyo, Hello). I had the hardest time looking for "Thank you" (감사합니다, Kamsa Hamnida) in my shitty books, but that too is quite necessary when a person has given you exactly what you were looking for in a store, restaurant, life.
This week, I realised with my constant shopping, eating, and bus riding, that it was time for me to learn the Korean numbers before I could focus on learning various nouns.
  1. 일 il
  2. 이 i
  3. 삼 sam
  4. 사 sa
  5. 오 o
  6. 육 yuk
  7. 칠 chil
  8. 팔 pal
  9. 구 ku
  10. 십 sib
  11. 백 baek
  12. 천 cheon
  13. 만 man
Actually, the numbers were quite easy to learn when you just repeat them over and over again :D
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12 May 2009