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Ideal Systematic Approach to Korean?

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nhk9
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Canada
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290 posts - 319 votes 
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 Message 9 of 18
10 January 2008 at 8:17pm | IP Logged 
Hi Jana

I was in a similar situation as you earlier. Although I am not a Korean language authority by any means, I hope I can still help you with your situation.

I had been studying Japanese for 5 years prior to my starting of Korean. I needed a change in my language studying habits, so I chose Korean. I found that I wasn't getting anywhere with my learning of very advanced vocabulary and idioms in Japanese since I wasn't getting enough use of the language and I felt that my time could be spent on learning other things instead of obscure kanjis. That was the spring of 2005. Ever since then, I have been studying by myself, with the occasion help from native speaking friends.

If you know advanced Japanese already, you will have a tremendous discount in grammar learning. Some expressions are exact mirror images of each other; e.g. に過ぎない = 에지나지 않다

However there are pitfalls and other differences when it comes down to grammar. For beginners, one of the most annoying parts is that for some korean verbs (ie. non Sino-korean), one must learn their causative and passive forms through rote memory. I remember a textbook stated that there are about 130+ of these causative forms, and that they should be treated as stand alone verbs. Nonetheless, what makes learning these forms confusing is the fact that for some verbs, the causative and passive are the same.

Other pitfalls including the differences in the usage of certain particles, particularly the object marker. One wouldn't say "旅行を行く" in Japanese, but in Korean they do exactly that. Some other notable points include the difference in how compound verbs are created. Most of the time, you expect the corresponding compound verb to work in the opposite way in Korean.

Style-wise, the passive voice is avoided at all costs in Korean, so something like "あたしが(だれかに)不細工だって言われ たの” would become "(だれかが)あたしが不細工だって言って の” in Korean.

Culture-wise, Koreans expect that, when invited for something, you give a clear and succint response; ie. a clear yes or no. They won't generally take offense for a no. This is very different from how the Japanese behave.


Although the above points are points that one must get used to, when someone reaches an intermediate stage, thats when one would feel Korean is indeed the difficult language that everyone has been talking about. If you are lucky enough to find native speakers who are willing to assist you with pronunciation, then you will find listening to be the hardest skill to acquire. Slang (and deviations from the standard slang) are abundant, not to mention that there are a gazillion ways to curse at someone. While you may not want to use them yourself, having a knowledge of these as passive knowledge is a must.

Darren C.


Edited by nhk9 on 10 January 2008 at 8:24pm

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janalisa
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France
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Speaks: English*, French, Japanese
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 Message 10 of 18
10 January 2008 at 10:00pm | IP Logged 
Hi Darren,

Thanks for the informative reply.

I've heard that listening comprehension is especially difficult for learners of Korean, because everything tends to get all slurred together so that it's nearly impossible to pick out individual syllables. That combined with a dizzying number of unusual sounds, some of which sound almost identical to each other, makes me think that I'd have to place a *lot* of emphasis on listening and speaking practice if I were to begin learning this language. I've also heard that Korean grammar is immensely complex, though when reduced to its most skeletal form it appears to be strikingly similar to Japanese.

Before I decide to dive in and start learning a completely new language, I want to be sure to do my homework and know exactly what I'm getting myself into. I don't want to start learning a language thinking it's going to easier or more difficult than it really is, or to focus my studies in the wrong areas and end up missing something important. (I made many such mistakes with Japanese, the first language I ever tried to learn.)

Darren (or anyone else on the forum), I wonder if you'd happen to know of any resources for learning Korean in Japanese? Or maybe a good Japanese website that gives a good introduction to some of the features of Korean and how it is similar to or different from Japanese? I'd like to find out more about what the Korean language looks like from the perspective of a Japanese speaker. I've heard it said that, for Japanese people, Korean is an easier language than, say, English... But I wonder how true this is, since it sounds like Korean presents a lot of difficulties that are non-existent in Japanese.

Thank you once again for your input,

Jana F.
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nhk9
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Canada
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Speaks: English*

 
 Message 11 of 18
11 January 2008 at 4:28am | IP Logged 
Hi Jana

Korean listening comprehension is notoriously difficult. But the good thing with speaking with Koreans is that they don't normally try to slow down too much simply because you're a foreigner, unlike many Japanese natives. In this language, it is much easier to express yourself than to understand what is being said around you.

Thankfully your hard work in learning Japanese will finally pay off. There are many high quality books written in Japanese regarding the Korean language. Many of these books are authored by ethnic Koreans who are fluent in Japanese. I have the impression that it's easier to learn Japanese as a Korean than the other way around... or maybe it's just that I haven't met enough Japanese learning Korean yet.

The best book that comes to mind is: "韓国語文法辞典” ISBN4-384-00224-6. by 백봉자. It is the reference book written by a true authority that covers almost all grammatical expressions that are not yet obsolete. The drawback is the price, since it costs almost 40$US. But this is a must have if you are by any chance going to be serious about learning this fabulous language.

Another book that I would recommend is the series "韓国語ジャーナル” www.alc.co.jp/kj
The books are about 1300yen each, and I've got about half of its 23magazine collection. Each magazine comes with a CD, with verbatim scripts (and full human translations), so you would never need a dictionary while reading them. What I especially like about this series is that they interview many different people; and by reading/listening through them, you really can get a feel of how each person's way of speaking is different from each other. This series is also a must have.

Note that there are many books that cater toward 専業主婦s. These are the books that generally tend to provide furigana to Hangeul, the Korean alphabet. AVOID THESE BOOKS AT ALL COSTS. The amazon.co.jp site has previews so you can check them out first before buying.


On a side note, actually the best bang-for-the-buck Korean learning books are written in Mandarin. For example, the version of the yonsei series texts (fairly famous textbook series) sold in China is only a fraction of the price offered in Korea (and you can't really tell the difference between the 2 aside from the cover, since everything is written in Korean anyway). If you have a chance to go to China in the near future, I'd say grab all the books that you can.

Darren

Edited by nhk9 on 11 January 2008 at 4:29am

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ProfArguelles
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United States
foreignlanguageexper
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 Message 12 of 18
13 January 2008 at 8:55pm | IP Logged 
As background information for those who might not know, Korean and Japanese are generally both considered to be Altaic languages by Korean and Japanese linguists, and thus inherently related, while Western linguists generally consider them to be unrelated and of unknown affinity. No one would ever suggest that Chinese is genetically related to either of them. In order to consider languages related, we generally look for both a) common core vocabulary and b) common grammatical structure, and we also certainly expect c) divergences, which must be explained by regular linguistic laws of sound change, etc., or by clear historical influence. The greatest historical influence on the linguistic scale in the Far Eastern Cultural sphere is the common etymological source of the written Chinese ideographs, known as Hanja in Korean and Kanji in Japanese. These characters provide up to 70% of the vocabulary in both languages. Thus, there are many terms that are nearly identical in both languages, but these are all words that both have borrowed from Chinese and not the core vocabulary mentioned in a) above, which does not appear to overlap to any meaningful degree at all. Hence the reticence of Western linguistics to regard them as related, although a mystery is posed by the fact that their b) grammatical structures parallel each other as closely as, e.g., two Romance languages such as Spanish and Italian, and this degree of affinity is hard to explain by mutual contact and common history.

At any rate, in answer to the question posed by Jana F., certainly someone who has already developed an advanced knowledge of Japanese will have a much easier time learning Korean than someone who has not. Your basic Mandarin will help as well, but more in terms of Hanja reinforcement, familiarity with general Oriental mentality, and overall language learning experience than in terms of the direct assistance in learning Korean that your Japanese will provide. Overall, while Korean is a Class IV language for most, for you it should be on the order of a Class I language. Darren C. has already provided the benefit of his direct experience and valuable specific references, so I will stick to the general level and say that you should expect to get Korean at a discount of perhaps up to 75%. As mentioned above, the bulk of the vocabulary in both languages overlaps, as does most of the grammar, although you always have to watch out for false friends and other individual twists and quirks. You two have already identified the main difficulty still to be overcome by someone in your position, namely Korean pronunciation. Perhaps this is a good place to stress a point that has recently come up elsewhere, namely that I believe the discount is even greater in the opposite direction, i.e., from a solid acquired knowledge of Korean to Japanese. That is probably on the order of 85%+. The extra 10% or so is due to the fact that when the grammar of one language is more convoluted, it is generally Korean, and that Korean pronunciation is a good candidate for the objectively difficult category, while Japanese pronunciation presents no particular hurdles for any Occidental.

All in all, I would not change the prescription that I gave for an ideal systematic approach to Korean. I would merely say that someone with strong Japanese should expect to go through the whole “treatment” a great deal faster and with a great less effort than a complete beginner. I would not recommend bypassing any of the components altogether off hand, but you will probably be able to breeze through some of the stages (Hanja and general vocabulary), and you can thus focus even more upon pronunciation.

Now that the main topic has been discussed, I need to point out that even English has different registers of speech, and you will probably have an easier time handling the many speech levels in Korean and Japanese if you develop greater sensitivity to those that exist in your native tongue. Your posts contain much valuable information that can be a great resource for others who come along and find this thread in months or years to come. However, they read like informal chat between you, and this is just not appropriate here. May I please ask you both to read the general guidelines that the administrator has set for this forum, and the specific ones that I have set for this room, and then to go back and edit your own posts to give them a more formal and neutral tone so as to make them a more respectably valuable academic language learning resource? Thank you!

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janalisa
Triglot
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France
janafadness.com/blog
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Speaks: English*, French, Japanese
Studies: Russian, Norwegian

 
 Message 13 of 18
14 January 2008 at 1:31am | IP Logged 
Dear Professor,

Thank you very much for your detailed response, as always. I'm very glad to see you've confirmed my hope that my knowledge of Japanese will make learning Korean a lot easier.

I deleted my last response to Darren C. according to your request. I do not see anything inappropriate in the rest of my posts here, though I apologize if I've missed something. With all due respect, I must admit I personally disagree that a "chatty" tone will necessarily detract from the quality of the information in these posts, but even so I will comply your request as the administrator of this forum. I am certainly not unconscious of the fact that there are different registers of speech in English-- Western culture simply doesn't present as many situations in which we are expected to be formal. It seems I misunderstood the exact level of formality you were calling for. Please know that I intended no disrespect.

Sincerely,

Jana F.
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qklilx
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United States
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Speaks: English*
Studies: Korean
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 Message 14 of 18
06 June 2008 at 6:02am | IP Logged 
Professor,

This topic has been long neglected and a recent endeavor of mine has inspired me to return it to the list of active topics. I hope you do not mind offering some assistance for me and any other learners of Korean.

As of this Tuesday, June 3, I have begun an intensive study of the Korean language on my own time. This intensive study will continue on a regular basis of no fewer than 4 days a week, and no fewer than 2.5 continuous hours during each session. Increasing these numbers depends on my work schedule and the content that I study. I must add that I spent 7 months last year studying Korean for at least 15 hours a week in the classroom with 6 other students, so I am certainly past the absolute beginner stage. The final 4 months of the study was conducted in Daegu, South Korea.

The following are my materials:

Korean Grammar for International Learners (2004): Textbook & Workbook
Sharp SD-S90 electronic dictionary
A novel directed at 5th- and 6th-graders, "마당을 나온 암탉"
3 notebooks. One for the novel, one for the textbook/workbook, and one for vocabulary
Several Korean native friends who have agreed to aid me

And here is my current study plan for each session:

Scriptorium. I read one sentence aloud from the novel, then write it in a notebook while reading aloud as I write. I then translate the sentence as best I can, usually with little interpretation. I read the Korean sentence aloud once more. I skip lines in between each pair in case I need to make notes in the future. All unknown words are written in the margin. All unknown grammar is underlined. Once I fill up one side of the sheet, I set the materials aside and look up the underlined grammar in the textbook. I read the explanations and find the grammar in the workbook, and proceed to do scriptorium for the exercises, including translation, all done in a second notebook. Once all exercises are finished I write all new words from both notebooks into a third notebook. The Korean words are on one side of the page, their English translations are on the other side. I review them and repeat the entire process until all 32 lines of the third notebook's page (or close to it) are filled will new words. I review the words until 2.5 hours have passed.

I will meet with a bilingual Korean native friend every so often, hopefully once or twice a week. S/he will correct translations, identify idioms, proverbs, or expressions, explain any important connotational differences between words, and read aloud to me. I also hope to have conversation practice based off the words written in the third notebook so I may better ingrain them into my mind.

This routine shall continue until the end of August, which is when I am moving to Asan City to study for two semesters at Soonchunhyang University. My only goal this summer is to learn and retain as much Korean as I can. Please note that I do not have the money to purchase any language programs past the ones I currently have, particulary ones emphasizing audio. I have grown to dislike walking around with ear pieces, and I prefer speaking with a real Korean to listening to audio recordings.

What I ask of you, Professor, is to evaluate my routine and offer advice on how to improve it by means of altering study methods. I would like to ask for tips on memorizing the vocabulary, as currently I will be looking up at least 120 words a week. I cannot possibly hope to retain a substantial amount with my current plan. I am open to adding 1-2 extra hours of study time dedicated specifically to vocabulary.

Thank you in advance for any help you can provide me, and thank you to anyone else as well, as all input is appreciated.

- Evan McKinney

Edited by qklilx on 30 June 2008 at 2:27pm

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Gon-no-suke
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Japan
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 Message 15 of 18
18 June 2008 at 4:03pm | IP Logged 
I would like to build on this thread with a question for professor Arguelles that I had planned to ask somewhere and that I believe is relevant in this context. I am learning Korean through Japanese, and when perusing material on the internet I came across the following page (that is part of a site that Jana F. might find informative). The author talks about a way to classify Korean verb patterns that is modelled on Japanese grammar, and he is introducing the concept of "語基", which are equivalent to the Japanese 活用形/stem forms. Coming from Japanese, I found this explanation very intuitive. The author mentions that this concept of 語基 is not part of traditional Korean grammar, and my question for professor Arguelles is if this is really the case?

It was some years ago since I found the above home page, and I hadn't seen this concept of 語基 used in any linguistic literature until lately, when I bought the book "韓国語を自由自在に組み立てる本", where they mention 語基 in the introduction and use them in some tables. I do recommend this book for Japanese speakers that would like a compact overview of Korean grammar patterns.

Another recommendation for Jana F. is the book "今すぐ覚える音読韓国語". It has the dreaded furigana in it, but if you can concentrate on the Hangeul, it comes with two CDs with more than one hundred dialogues that seem to be both very authentic and also are spoken in what is to me breathtakingly fast native speed from page one. The price is also a quite reasonable 1700 yen.

Tore Eriksson

Edited by Gon-no-suke on 18 June 2008 at 4:05pm

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ProfArguelles
Moderator
United States
foreignlanguageexper
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 Message 16 of 18
03 July 2008 at 7:02pm | IP Logged 
Mr. McKinney,

Your plan sounds quite solid. Be flexible in its implementation without being lax in its application. Given that you are in-country, there is no reason to use audio materials at this stage. You ask for suggestions on ways to memorize vocabulary. I must say I do not see why this should really be necessary, for given that you are as immersed as you are, if you simply make a point of consciously using the words that you look up, they should soon become part of your active repertoire. However, I can see why you might really want to do some systematic vocabulary building beyond simply making lists of words that you happen to encounter in speech or in print. The best way for you to do that would be to add a through study of Hanja to your program—indeed, this is the one element that seems to be missing. You might not see Chinese characters very much, but they are still there are the roots of most of the words in the language, and if you know the etymology, retaining the meaning is much easier.

And that brings us to Mr. Eriksson’s question. I am sorry, I have never encountered the concept of 語基 before. Looking it up, all I could find that it was basically synonymous with 語幹 or 語根, and I cannot ever recall having a conversation with a Korean linguist about Korean grammar without these terms being constantly repeated, so I fail to see how they could possibly not be a part of traditional Korean grammar.

Alexander Arguelles



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