Thinking about Korean speakers who don’t want to speak in Korean to language learners, I was reminded of a post Samier wrote at Gamcho a while back. Samier wrote in part:

Every time I meet a new Korean person, we end up chatting and continue to stay in touch. But even so, no matter what language I end up speaking, they never fail to reply in English unless they are unsure of the English word/phrase. It’s not because my Korean speaking skills are horrible… in fact every Korean person I’ve met has been taken aback from the way I talk. They even respond back withe ease… but in English. Being so, I’m usually forced to speak English with them. And the most annoying part is that they’ll speak Korean with each other… in front of me… :P

In the comments section, Shanna from HangukDrama commented:

 I’m not too sure how it’s like in America, but the Koreans that have been in Singapore for a long time (more than 6 months) usually don’t speak in Korean to me. I have Korean friends who are attending the same university as me. We dont speak in Korean at all even though they know that im pretty ok in it. It’s just somehow awkward. But they do speak in Korean among themselves. O.o

Is this partly a demographic problem? Or a ‘who is more insistant problem’? I’m not sure. Or is it a bilingualism problem? I’m not sure but I think even in these kinds of situations it’s possible to switch the language into Korean. It just takes a bit more work. I wrote Samier in the comments:

Interesting. This is actually extremely common frustration for Korean learners. I would recommend just keeping to speak only Korean even if they speak to you in English. I had one friend who six months after this lop-sided conversation switched to Korean.
(The only time when it might be impossible for you to speak Korean is if they are a lot older than you and are pretty adamant in speaking English — in that case to be ‘polite’ you might have to not speak Korean. I’ve only once been in that kind of situation though and even in that situation I tried to speak Korean as much as I could).
If they never here any English come out of your mouth it will sound very weird if you suddenly speak in English so the more you can discipline yourself (in only speaking Korean) the better it will be for you in the long term.
Another useful strategy I use quite a lot is to rephrase what they said in English in Korean and ask them if I heard right. This kind of confirmation questions is quite normal in regular conversation. . . and then it really gets the point across that you know the relevant vocabulary and can adequately hold your own in the conversation.
It does definitely get better the better your Korean gets, and then if you can hold your ground the first few minutes or so. I have quite a few friends now that even though they speak very good English (including several English teachers) we only talk in Korean.
Most English speakers don’t know Korean so if they want to practice English they really don’t have to look that hard. Don’t feel guilty about not helping them. (I know I felt tons guilty when I first started speaking Korean (and still do actually TT)).

Good luck! 화이팅!

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