Learning Korea: Allow Myself to Introduce…Myself

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Growing up in New Hampshire there was really no need to learn to speak the Korean language.  There are no Koreans there!  Being the youngest of three boys, by the time I came around my mother had already given up on the notion.  It’s no different than learning, say Russian or Cantonese, or something like that.  If there’s noone to speak to in the language, it becomes a very difficult thing to stay interested in let alone master.  That was the case in my family.  My mother tried to teach my brother to speak but it just wouldn’t stick because there wasn’t anyone outside of the home to practice with.

Growing up in New Hampshire there was really no need to learn to speak the Korean language.  There are no Koreans there!  Being the youngest of three boys, by the time I came around my mother had already given up on the notion.  It’s no different than learning, say Russian or Cantonese, or something like that.  If there’s noone to speak to in the language, it becomes a very difficult thing to stay interested in let alone master.  That was the case in my family.  My mother tried to teach my brother to speak but it just wouldn’t stick because there wasn’t anyone outside of the home to practice with.

When my grandmother came to America, she stayed with my aunt in Florida.  My grandmother could only speak Korean – which made for very intriguing interactions between us!  Growing up, my cousin on the other hand would sleep in the same bed with her each night and speak with her throughout the day.  Because of this she became fluent in Korean.  It’s in this way that many become fluent in two languages growing up.  They have it consistently in the home or on the outside – or both.  Time and life went on and I never did learn to speak a lick of Korean.

Fast forward to today.

I’m living in Korea teaching English and though it is easy enough to get by in daily life without being able to speak Korean, it would be much better if I could speak it.  There are enough foreigners and English-speaking Koreans that can help with the difficult things.  For me though, it’s a bit of a different story.  I look very Korean so everyone here is shocked when they find that I don’t speak the language.  They assume I am one of their own as if from here.  It’s always funny to have an old Korean lady speak to me in Korean and then watch their reaction of disgust as the realization hits them that I can’t speak.  How dishonorable!

Well, everything came to a head when my friend’s youngest daughter (maybe 3-4 years old) approached me during Chuseok at their house and began speaking to me in Korean.  She just started speaking like everything was normal, that I would naturally understand her.  It was then that I realized I needed to get with the program while I’m here and pick up the language.

I had initially taken a free 10 week course provided by the City of Busan to foreigners learn Korean.  It’s an exceptional course and very high-paced.  All you pay for is the book – about 10,000 won which I believe you get back at the end of the course.  I never went back for the money though.  It’s taught in Korean since that is the common language.  Don’t be mislead by the term “foreigner”.  That does not mean western.  Foreigner means anyone not Korean.  In my class were people from Taiwan, China, Philippines, Vietnam, Canada, and America.  The class is very difficult and you do need to put time into it or you’ll fall behind and get discouraged.  At the time I was also studying for my TESOL certification, so I fell behind towards the end.  That was many months ago and I never revisited my notes or returned for the follow up class.

Well, the incident with my friend’s daughter got me get motivated.  I knew that I needed some sort of accountability to keep with the effort, so I decided to record myself speaking for my YouTube channel as I learn something.  This way if I stop, viewers will ask me about it and I’ll feel guilty!

So here we are.  At the beginning.  I put together a short introduction using some of the Korean I learned from this class as well as from the Pimsleur language learning software I have.  It’s a start.



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