Cracking the Korean speaking nut — what to do when someone continues speaking to you in English?


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 More

유인나의 볼륨을 높여요 Monologue (대형 태풍)

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This is a longer monologue from 유인나의 볼륨을 높여요’s 12/08/27 podcast. It’s about the typhoon that came. The script (thanks to kind friends at Lang-8) is below:

음 대형 태풍이래요. 볼라벤
지금 제주도랑 남해안 쪽은 벌써 비바람은이 몰아 친다죠?
점점 확대되고 있다는 데요.
다들 피해 없어야 할텐데 걱정입니다.

오늘 아침에 보니까 인터넷 검색순위에는 이런게 급상승 했더라구요.
신문지로 창문 막는 방법.
젖은 신문지 붙여 두면 피해가 적대요
뭐든 준비할 수 있는건 해야죠. 음..
기왕이면 집 밖으로 나가지 마시구요.
내일 뭐 대부분의 학교 유치원이랑 초중고교 임시휴교령 내렸다면서요?
노는 날 아니에요 아시죠?
학교 안 간다고 좋아하는 날 아니에요 웅?
집에서 More

Korean pop & Anki?


I’ve been listening to Korean Pop the whole day with this Korean Pop Youtube playlist. I found them quite by accident but they have a pretty neat playlist of videos they’ve uploaded —  music videos with the Korean lyrics and the English translation all at the same time.

I haven’t listened much to Korean pop the last several months, spending most of my time on the bus listening to Hebrew pop instead. For Hebrew I had a lot of fun segmenting the popsongs line by line and putting them in Anki with the audio. However I’ve never done that yet (with the audio) for Korean popsongs. 

Whenever I can I always ask people how they have improved their pronunciation and intonation in a language they’ve been studying. The answer almost always mention songs as a important key. They were  listening to songs or singing them in any spare moment. The nice thing with Anki is that even if there isn’t time to listen to a whole song I can listen to (or repeat and get the pronunciation right) for just one line at a time.

Magical goodness. . . a turn of a phrase

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It’s the magical turn of a phrase. . . you know the ones that cause people to stop and listen. They’re idioms, slang, 유행어 (trendy words). . . proverbs that are used often, and just plain expressions and words that, when you start using them, will find out are anything but plain.

I’ve started making a list of some phrases I’ve come across with friends or in my reading and drama watching that have taken my fancy. Here’s a few to whet your appetite. . .

• 한번 칼을 뽑았으면 끝을 봐야지! If you start a job, you must finish it!

• 어장관리 When a girlfriend is trying to get several guys to lover at the same time she is guilty of 어장관리.

• 사래 걸렸어. What you say when something gets caught in your throat while you are eating. I’ve never been able to say this without being complimented on my Korean. . . people are rather impressed.

And there’s many more over at A Turn of a Phrase. I’ll keep adding more to this list as well.^^

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

My private language diary


When I started learning Korean I didn’t keep a blog. The first few months I didn’t even keep a journal. After seven months I started to keep a journal in a Google Docs document so that I could keep track of my progress and strategize about ways to learn language and culture better. Only a year and a half later did I finally start this blog.

A few days ago I found this old journal. It was very encouraging (for me) to read about the tripping and failing, the detours, discouragements (and successes!) that marked the the beginning portion of my road to Korean fluency. In the beginning I primarily used the Growing Participator approach to language learning — so it’s cool to More


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As I keep writing my strategies I’m a little discouraged because the first two ideas didn’t work. Of course I haven’t let the seeds grow very much, and you often don’t know people who can help off the bat. However, it’s a bit disappointing.

I had a 2hr session with M*. We covered a lot of Korean in Lexicarry but also there was too much talking in English. I think she is someone I want to start talking only in Korean with at least for part of our time, because sometimes we talk way too much in English. We did talk about a lot of useful things, and I learn a lot from her. Maybe our sessions are more useful than with her boyfriend. In either case there is too much English for my liking. I think with her now I’ll mainly do Lexicarry and maybe also reading help. We also worked on learning how to pray.

More Strategies
2.6. I have a new strategy for finding someone to record my textbooks. Stop by the public library, study some there and ask someone there if they can help me. I’m not sure how to ask anybody in Korean which makes strategy 3, 4,5 and this new strategy a bit more complicated.

3. Keep track of my hours better.