Speaking Korean I don’t know


I had a rather fun experience speaking Korean two days ago. I was mainly listening for a couple hours to a friend. I was tired and headachy so I’m not sure how good a listener I was but afterwards when I started to talk suddenly all the words and what I wanted to say flowed out very naturally and fluently. And the strange thing was I found myself using loads words and phrases that I really didn’t know on a cognitive level where I could give a dictionary definition or even know the English translation. But I knew them on an emotional level and knew they conveyed my meaning.

I kind of felt like I was watching my mouth speak without  knowing exactly what I said or why suddenly my mouth was using all these  words or sentence patterns. Then again at night in my dream I kept hearing myself continue to talk and talk in Korean.

I have had this experience before, but it felt rather more extreme than usual this time. I wonder though if this is eer how we often speak our first language — using words and phrases that we havent consciously learned or remembered and for which we often (when we think of it) can’t cognitively define. Nevertheless we eerily know what thoughts and emotion they convey.

Persuade and convince. . . .

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Ask a Korean had an interesting post a while ago. . . but what struck me most was the last paragraph. He writes:

Which brings us to the Expat’s last question: “Do I have to become fluent in order to properly debate?”

The answer is: OF COURSE! To be sure, even if someone are a racial minority immigrant, she can go on with her life without necessarily having to learn more than basic language and customs of her newly adopted home country. But if she, for whatever reason, do not become fluent in the language and assimilate into the society, there is no way in hell her opinion will be taken seriously in that country. That is true in any society. Being able to persuade and convince others in your society is a powerful function – it is a way in which you impose your will upon that society. It will never come for cheap. (bold mine)

I want my Korean to at such a good level that I can convince people, that I can persuade people. The last year even though I’ve been out of Korea (or perhaps because I’ve been out) I’ve got much much better at both of those skills. Since reading this paragraph earlier this fall I’ve been trying to think of how I can further my ability in these areas. One answer is lies in learning and mastering magical words. . . what are some other tools?

What’s the magic word? 형 & 오빠


What are some of the magic words in Korean? I started thinking about magic words here.

Perhaps my most favorite are the 호칭어[呼稱語]. What are 호칭어? Words used to call someone.. Most (or perhaps all) of these 호칭어 related to family relations are magical. . . because they invoke a familial relation between you and the speaker when they are used. Once you use these words you are no longer strangers, but family. Use this word and familial bonds, duties, and privileges are (almost) automatically granted.

오빠 (Oppa = older brother, girl speaking) is one of these words. If I’m called 오빠 by any of younger friends . . it’s rather hard to not to give in to anything they might want to ask me. Girls know that is a magical word they can use for any guy who is older (usually only a bit older though).

Another magical word is More

What’s the magic word?


Of course all words are magical.

However, some words are more magical than others.

All words can convey meaning and emotion and sway your listener sometimes. Magic words you can do this much more often. To really learn a language well its not enough to just learn vocabulary lists and grammatical endings, but to learn which words are special and why. More than learning just whether  a word is positive or negative its crucial to learn More

Poet telling life story part II

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Here is the second part of poet 도종환’s life story.

Script Part II

그리고 그것들이 뭐 그렇게 행복하게 풀어지지 않았어요.
나이 들어서까지도 계속 이런 이런 아버지가 크게 실패하고 난 뒤에
나중에까지도 이 어려운 음~ 그 가정 상황은 해소가 되지를 않았어요
그래서 중학교를 졸업을 하고 고등학교 갈 때,
늘 보고 싶다고 그랬으니까
저 인제 따로 혼자 나이도 됐으니까 공부할래요가 아니라
가고 싶은거죠 어머니 아버지 곁으로 가고 싶은 거죠
그래서 지금처럼 뭐 학교,, 부모와 학교와 성적을 가지고 상의를 해서
진학을 하는 결정하는 형태가 아니고 저의 경우에는
이렇게 고등학교도 일단 부모님 계시는 곳으로 가자
무조건 가자!는 거였어요 근데 그래서 단칸방 같이사는 그1년간은
그렇게 행복했어요
구멍가게를 하고 아버지가 국수 구멍가게하면서 아버지가 국수틀을 돌리고
직접 만들어서 팔기도 하고 어머니가 멸치장사를 하시고
그렇게 그렇게 사는 생활이 행복했어요

Poet telling life story part I

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Here is the first part of the poet 도종환’s life story. The actual speaking starts at 1:06. As soon as I can I’ll upload the audio separately.

Script Part I

나한테는 문학이라고 하는 것이, 음, 그, 비유를 해서 표현하라고 그러면
음, 이렇게, 길과 같은 것이었다. 이렇게 편하게 이렇게 비유해서 말을 할 수 가있어요. 저한테는 문학이 길과 같은 것이었어요. 내 인생의 길.

제, 에, 문학이라고 하는것이, 제가 쓴 시라고 하는 것이 지금까지 살아오면서 어디로 가야 좋을지 몰라서 멈칫 거리고 방황하고 갈등하고 절망하고 그럴때 마다 그럴때마다, 음, 이쪽길로 가야한다, 이쪽길로 가는 것이 옳다라고 말해 준 것도 문학이고 그래서 그 길을 함께 걸어오면서 그 쪽방향으로 가면서, 문학이 가르키는대로 가면서 거기서 다시 만난 것이 또 그 다음에 씌여진 시이고 문학이고 살아온 삶을 돌이켜 보면 거의가 다 내 인생의 길이었고 길이 가르쳐 주는 것이었고 등대였었고 나침반이었었고 이정표였었고

그런게, 길이었던게 나한테 문학이 다는 생각을 합니다

문학을 왜 하게 되었을까? 언제부터 문학을 시작하고 가까이 하게 됐는가?