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The ’I Hate Korean’ Thread

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United States
Joined 3471 days ago

1 posts - 4 votes
Speaks: Korean, English*

 Message 89 of 131
22 July 2011 at 6:48pm | IP Logged 
don't feel too down guys!
I'm a Korean-American and even I have trouble mastering Korean. I definitely feel your guys' pain :(

I've reached an intermediate-advanced fluency in Korean but it is so hard to get near that native speaking level for Korean... I'm a bit jealous of the masses of Korean exchange students who are native Korean speakers and become very fluent English speakers as they have a good foundation from years of studying English in school and a couple years of full immersion. :(
4 persons have voted this message useful

Joined 3469 days ago

3 posts - 3 votes

 Message 90 of 131
24 July 2011 at 9:25pm | IP Logged 
I'm still curious to hear from the gentleman Sprachgenie mentioned in this thread and how he learned korean. Any update on whether he would be able to post his comments on learning korean?
1 person has voted this message useful

United States
Joined 3826 days ago

73 posts - 172 votes 
Speaks: English*, Korean
Studies: Spanish, Portuguese, German

 Message 91 of 131
26 July 2011 at 10:22pm | IP Logged 
Seems like I'm incredibly late to this party, but better late than never.

To give my background real quick: 22 year old American from a monolingual family, recent college grad, entry
level employee at a local software start-up. Have studied Korean for 3 years to the month. I'm worker as a tester
right now, but the company's intention is to send to me to work at their office in Seoul, putting out fires from our
Korean partners and facilitating communication between the two languages. The first half of my interview was
conducted completely in Korean by one of the native Korean employees here, to evaluate my ability. After 15
minutes or so, we finished up and as he was passing the next interviewer coming in, I heard him say "He's like a

I studied in Korea for 10 months at Yonsei and at Korea National Sport University for Taekwondo. I can read
newspapers and novels, although I am no native reader. I can watch tv shows and movies, although Korean
subtitles help tremendously because of my lack of vocabulary and idiomatic understanding. I can watch the news,
though Korean subtitles and a native speaker nearby help tremendously. I'd say I am a little beyond a 2+ on the
ILR and just beyond a B1 on the CEFR. I received a 276 on the intermediate TOPIK, 4 points shy of a 4, with my
two best scores in listening and grammar, with reading and writing not too far behind. Speaking was not tested,
but I believe this would have been up there with my listening, for I speak much better than I formally write.

I've studied Spanish for many years (though not in a highly motivated fashion, nearly all through school, and it's
been 3 years since), and have dabbled in German, so I have experience with the varying degrees of difficulty the
process of language learning inherently has. Korean is a *hard* language, relative to any languages closely or
remotely related to English, for the native English speaker. The alphabet is easy enough, but beginning from 안녕
하세요, the amount of information packed in straightforward, everyday phrases is incredible and overwhelming.
While used as often as Spanish's "Hola" or "Qué tal?" for a greeting, easily equivalent to "Hello" or "What's up?" in
English, this Korean 5 syllable phrase already throws you into an strict, honor-based, hierarchical society with a
long and complicated history. 안녕 (annyoung), meaning peace, is a Sino-Korean word, based on Chinese
characters adopted over a thousand years ago as a writing system, but adapted evolved to fit Korean
pronunciation rules and thought processes. 하세요 conveys 3 ideas: 1) 하 is the most common way to turn a Sino-
Korean noun (like peace) into a verb. 2) 세 is an honorific attachment, letting the listener you know you honor
them (or whoever it is you are talking about). 3) 요 is a polite ending, recognizing that you and the listener have a
certain social distance.


And yes, you can be impolite (or use comfortable speech) while still honoring the person you are talking about,
and you can utilize social distance endings while omitting honorific markers - it all depends on where you are
and who you're talking to.

As with all language learning materials, and especially with most Korean ones, there is a large gap between
textbook Korean and colloquial Korean. This gap is even more present with regards to listening materials. So I
am not surprised that Kitchen_Sink has complained about the blurry word boundaries. On top of this, Korean is
an agglutinative language, characterized by particles and makers attaching to nouns, and verbs to signify the
subject, object, preposition, adverb, intransitive/transitiveness of a verb, etc. Having a weak understanding of
how these particles work, and having an undeveloped sense of the rhythm with which these markers are used in
real-time (literally, how they sound sprinkled in a natural sentence) will make something like listening to the
news nearly impossible.

Kitchen_Sink, you have studied Japanese right? You are probably aware that Korean functions just like Japanese,
except that Korean particles easily double (if not triple) Japanese particles in number in some respects, and that
the grammar is to an extent, that much more convoluted. On top of that, if you take into account the sheer
precision of a lot of vocabulary in context (thus ballooning the size of a working vocabulary), the fact that most
words are derived from a 2 syllabe format, and the high frequency with which Korean newscasters use idioms,
and without (at least!) basic conversational listening skills and a concrete study plan that includes analyzing
scripts and repeating 30 second news clips over and over and over again, trying to listen to the news is like a
little leaguer trying to hit an infield single off Randy Johnson's 102 mph fastball. And so I am curious - why do
you feel so discouraged because you can't understand something that any self-respecting 9 year old Korean can't
understand his/herself?

As I said before, Korean *is* hard, but it is not impossible, and surely not thankless. I am beginning my career
based on 3 years of hard work and nice opportunity all with Korean. If anything, I have much gratitude for my
closest Korean friends, mentors, and girlfriend, who have helped me get to this point, and who I will depend on
to help get me to the next level, and eventually some sort advanced fluency.

BTW: check out if you would like to try an organized try at Korean again.
13 persons have voted this message useful

Senior Member
United States
Joined 4132 days ago

1419 posts - 1765 votes 
Speaks: English*
Studies: Spanish, Korean, Japanese

 Message 92 of 131
27 July 2011 at 4:07pm | IP Logged 
jtdotto: Absolutely. I'm just about to hit the 2-yr mark for Korean myself (though I wasn't working very efficiently at it for the first several months of that) and you've described the language well. Korean can be difficult, but it is far from impossible.

That said, while Korean is technically more difficult (for an English speaker, anyway) than Spanish, I would take Korean verb conjugation over that of Spanish in a heartbeat. Korean conjugation can be somewhat complex due to the variety of available endings but at least it is extremely regular (unlike many Romance languages). Even the verbs/adjectives that are classified as "irregular" often simply follow exception rules rather than having conjugations that are truly unique to that one verb/adjective. The copula ~이다 (to be) gets a bit unique in some speech levels, but even it reverts to being regular again in the higher speech forms. I've still yet to see a verb or adjective in Korean that is even remotely as baffling as Spanish's "ir" (to go).
2 persons have voted this message useful

Senior Member
Joined 3465 days ago

1181 posts - 1912 votes 
Speaks: German*, EnglishC2, Korean
Studies: Persian

 Message 93 of 131
28 July 2011 at 11:18pm | IP Logged 
I've been studying Korean for 1 and 1/2 years now and I definitely think it's a difficult language regarding the amount of work I've invested to get to my current level. I've passed TOPIK 2 in April and would probably be classed as low intermediate.

While I'm not very proficient at Korean yet, my listening skills are actually better than my ability to speak, write and possibly even read. So I thought I'd share my "method". I don't have much difficulty to tell words apart and don't find the differences in writing and pronunciation troubling.

I've watched Korean dramas for about a year before I started studying the language and can say that it has helped me immensely. When I read a new word, I usually already remember how it's pronounced, so that's not an issue at all. Knowing about the phonetic rules that govern the syllables is helpful (I learned them from the Introduction of the Integrated Korean Beginning 1 book, it gives a very good overview).By now I also don't have much trouble anymore in distinguishing the different consonants (I even see the difference of ㄲ and ㄱ, ㅉ and ㅈ, ㄸ and ㄷ). Besides, if you have trouble seeing where a word starts and ends I'd look out for the endings, because usually you can spot them easily in the sentences.
2 persons have voted this message useful

Joined 3523 days ago

47 posts - 61 votes 
Speaks: Spanish*, English
Studies: Japanese, Korean

 Message 94 of 131
31 July 2011 at 3:35am | IP Logged 
I am studying japanese right now, but when I reach at least a high intermediate level in japanese I`m planning on studying korean. I love watching korean dramas and by doing so I have learned a few words and expressions. I think one of the most important thing when learning a language is to have a strong interests in its culture. I think watching subbed korean dramas could be a interesting way of improving the listening abilities if you use this resource in the adecuate way. But the most important thing is to enjoy what you are doing while learning a language. If you get frustrated over something particular, then try to do it in differents ways until you feel you are starting to enjoy and then the frustration fades away. I think when you are capable of enjoying what you are doing, is the perfect time for learning from what you are doing because you have a very receptive actitude while you enjoy something.
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Korea, SouthRegistered users can see my Skype Name
Joined 3289 days ago

70 posts - 115 votes 
Studies: Korean

 Message 95 of 131
21 January 2012 at 7:26am | IP Logged 
I haven't read the entire thread but I entirely agree with and sympathize with the OP, KitchenSink, about the difficulties of comprehending spoken Korean. Even though I haven't spent as long as the OP on studying Korean - I started 6 months ago - I have been spending much time listening to it. I have the TV on a lot of the time and I have been watching dramas on my computer, and I find that after six months of doing this, listening, I have improved my listening comprehension by almost nought.

Doing this further will not improve my listening comprehension much at all, considering the rate of progress I have made.

This is quite different to French. I learned French in high school and found I could understand a lot of the words that were spoken, well at least, could make out what individual words were said, even if I did not always understand their meanings.

This is not the case with Korean, and I think I know why. It's because of conjugations AND the lack of intonation in Korean speech.

It is hard to recognize individual words when there are endings tacked onto them changing their sounds as happens all the time in Korean speech.

For example, "ga" can sound like "gamyeon", "gadeongunya", "gadaga", "gassayo", "ganda go" "gago" and so on. Your brain has to be able to recognize very quickly whether you have heard two separate words or a conjugated word. Is it "ga" and "sayo", or is "gassayo"?

Also, the lack of intonation makes it hard to work out when a word ends and a new one starts. A typical Korean sentence sounds like a row of twenty-odd syllables that sound exactly alike in rhythm, stress and inflection. English is different because there is quite a lot of intonation in the language. In Korean, every syllable is given the same weight. So the effect is rather like a computer speaking - there is a staccato-like quality to the speech. Think of robots talking and you will know what I mean. The speech sounds very flat.

Plus, unlike Japanese where words always have the same consonant-vowel pattern, Korean words can have two vowels together and two consonants together. This adds to the difficulty in distinguishing separate words.

Plus there are many sounds in Korean that are very close to one another. Eg. "eo" sounds like "o", and "ye" sounds like "e", and "oo" sounds like "yoo", and "ke" sounds like "kye", and "hi" sounds like "hui", and "chae" sounds like "choe", and "eu" sounds like "eo" and "eui" and so on ...... This adds to the overall confusion and difficulty.

Plus Koreans tend to speak fast - very fast.

News broadcasts are the worst. The newscasters speak in a very unemotional and even tone which makes the problem of distinguishing separate words even more problematic.

Because of the lack of intonation, you only know they have finished the sentence when they have actually finished it. With many other languages, there are clues that the sentence is coming to an end - a rise or a drop in pitch etc.

And Korean is very very hard on the ear. It is a grating language very different to say French or Farsi which have very soothing and elegant sounds that draw your ear to it. Korean is even more harsh sounding than German - actually that's not a good comparison - I like the sound of German, it is very pleasing to the ear - there are very nice sharp precise sounds that make it easy to listen to, a bit like the Japanese language which has these sharply defined syllables and a delivery which is precise and rhythmic.

Korean repels one's ear in general though I know many people like the sound of Korean (many are K pop or drama fans and are probably biased as well). As I am learning it, it is getting less jarring to my ear and actually I am getting to like the sound of Korean more than I did before. However, I do recognize that compared to many other languages it does not sound smooth and relaxing, but rather jangles the nerves, especially to someone who is not familiar with the language. In contrast, I like listening to Japanese and German though I have no idea what is being said.

I think Korean sounds like this because it has many borrowed words from Chinese. Chinese is a very different language to Korean which is Altaic. So the admixture of Chinese words to the Korean language produces a very discordant-sounding spoken language. For example, you have the 'ong' sounds with the "ch" sounds mixed with the hard guttural sounds of native Korean like the "ha", "da", "ka" and "kyo" sounds. So you end up with a word like "Kyodongdo" or "jeonjaeng" which don't sound exactly pleasing to the ear.

And with English too there are clues that a word has finished and a new word is being started. For example, many words have the ending "tion" or "ing" or "ed" or "ral" or "ance" etc. In Korean, because of the conjugations and because of the mixing of two very different languages like Chinese and Korean, the pattern of endings is not very well-established.

I think the best way to learn listening is to work in a Korean-speaking environment.

3-D workers are famous for picking up spoken Korean fast and the main factor is their exposure to Korean speaking and the necessity for them to speak in Korean and understand spoken Korean.

I have lived in Korean for seven years and have learned very little Korean. Not only because I had very little need to learn it but also because of the work environment. There was just no pressing need for me to communicate in Korean at my job.

When I went for an interview recently, I fudged a bit and said my Korean was intermediate. Well, my grammar is intermediate though my speaking and listening are pretty lousy. The interviewer could not speak much English and therefore felt comfortable when I told her this, and she started to speak in Korean to me. Well, I had just been learning for three months by then and mostly just grammar and vocabulary so I panicked a little. However, because this was important to my career I tried my best to understand what she said and I responded in Korean to the best of my abilities. Even though I was hesitant in speaking I could give answers that she was able to understand. For example, she asked me what hours I normally work and I replied "ahop shi butto tasot shi kajji" or something like that.

I believe I got more practice in that twenty minutes of being interviewed than I did in the fifteen hours I spent practising Korean conversation with people I had paid to speak Korean to me.

I think this was because there was a focus or a purpose to our conversation in that interview. We weren't fishing around for topics to discuss, nor were we talking about the same old conversational subjects that come up when learning conversational skills such as introductions, ordering from a menu, talking about what you did on the weekend and so on. We both had a goal in our communications and we sought to understand each other and in turn be understood.

But I recognize that getting a job like this is difficult for most of us who are not 3D workers.

The next best thing then is to listen to mp3s where you have the translated script before you. Listen and repeat countless times, first with the mp3 file playing slowly and then faster or at normal speed. After a while your pronunciation will sound more like a native speaker's.

So just stick to translated scripts when listening and attune your ears to Korean gradually. What your ears miss, your eyes won't, and in time, your ears will miss fewer and fewer sounds. This is basically the shadowing technique that Prof. Arguelles recommends.

After doing massive amounts of listening (and repeating) this way (I am going to get Koreans to read aloud (translated) scripts and I will record them), you can try your hand at listening to different materials. For me, I would listen to Korean dramas as I enjoy watching these. The news, documentaries and variety shows on TV are too hard to follow right now and will be for a long time, I am guessing. So go from what's more easily comprehensible to the harder stuff gradually.

4 persons have voted this message useful

Senior Member
United States
Joined 5034 days ago

663 posts - 941 votes 
Speaks: English*
Studies: Japanese, Korean

 Message 96 of 131
28 January 2012 at 6:57pm | IP Logged 
vientito wrote:
She is straight out of the show "미 수다". She's from Finland. Her Korean skill is one
of the very best out there.

Check out her commercial

She is good.

It is very rare to see foreigners speaking Korean on TV without being subtitled.

1 person has voted this message useful

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