Thursday, January 26, 2012

Shin nan da! I'm excited!

That is just one of the very few things I can say in Korean 신난다! "I'm excited!" or "How exciting!" I say this because I'm going to hang out with a real life Korean person next week to do a language exchange. The guy's name sounded familiar when he first sent me an email through Conversation Exchange... and then I realized that it was nearly the same name as that hunky Korean actor/pop-singer that I daydream about. The guy told me to call him by the American name that he chose, because his Korean one is "difficult to pronounce," but you know me... always up for a challenge:

We'll just have to see how hard it is to pronounce your name. I'm pretty good at pronouncing things, so you may be surprised. I just realized that your name looks and sounds to me very close to the name of that famous pop-singer guy, Kim Hyun Joong. If you ARE him in disguise, that's okay, too. I won't tell anyone.

A girl can dream, can't she? And man, I love how polite Korean culture is. It carries through in how delicately they word their English and how many times they tell you they are happy/thankful for something very small that you may not even be worthy of being thanked for.

I'm really glad to meet you. I really want to meet you in person. I think i will be a good Korean tutor for you and you will be a good English tutor for me.

I think it was good news that you can't speak in Korean a lot for me, because then i should speak in English, it will be very good for me.

I think it is also good for you that I can teach you not only Korean but also Korean culture and somethings.

I tell you I really want to meet you again.

That pretty much made my day last week. I mean, the kid's English is pretty freaking good... if you consider the fact also that I can't even say anything cohesive or sensical (my opposite of nonsensical, of course) in Korean at all.

Ya, pae-go-ppah! Chin-cha? Chin-cha. Ko-pee? Ne. Ara-sah.
Hey, I'm hungry! Really? Really. Coffee? Yes. Got it.

In other news, I wanted to share a couple of articles here:
9 Hard Languages for English Speakers (of which Korean is one)
9 Easy Languages for English Speakers (of which Spanish and French are listed)

And a fun video-learning source: How NOT to say "You're welcome," in Korean

Current KDrama:
시티헌터 "see-tee-hun-tuh" (City Hunter)
TV hours (City Hunter): 24
Total TV hours: 68 (432 left to goal)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Thanks for the great idea!...

I have a language-learning friend in another part of the world right now who gave me a fantastic resource. It's called Conversation Exchange, and it revolves around the idea of getting native speakers together to teach one another. Brilliant! I plan to use this to find some Koreans in Boston. Culturally, I think they are a bit shy/reserved, so it's maybe the only way I can speak with anyone without being totally presumptuous and embarrassing myself. I can't even fathom what sort of sentence might leave my mouth if I tried to find a Korean speaker on my own: Excuse me, I notice that you are Asian. Might you also be Korean?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

What I hear when I listen to Korean...

Sound waves. After only 60(ish) hours of listening to Korean, just merely the sound of it is comfortable and pleasant to my ears. I have grown accustomed to hearing the pronunciations and the rhythms. I say that I am understanding words here and there... so what exactly does Korean sound like to me when I listen to it?

Blahblahblahblah blah? Blah blahblahblaaaaah blah blah blah blahblah blah blahblah blah blah blah blah. Blah. Blahblahblaaaaah blah blah blah blahblahblahblah blah blah blah blah blah blahblah blaaaah blah blah blah blahblahblaaaaah blah blah blah. BLAH! BLAHBLAH! BLAAAH! Blahblahblahblah blah blah??! Blahblahblaaaaah blah blah blah blahblah blah blahblah blah blah blah. Blah. Blahblahblaaaaah blah blah blah blahblahblahblah blah blah blah blah blah blahblah blaaaah blah blah blah blahblahblaaaaah blah blah blah BLAHBLAH! Blah blah blah blahblah blah blahblah blah blah blah. Blah. Blahblahblaaaaah blah blah blah blahblahblahblah. Blah?! Blah.

Blahblahblahblah blahaseyo? No. Blah blahblahblaaaaah love blah blah blahblah blah blahblah blah blah blah blah. Blah. What?! Blahblahblaaaaah blah blah blah blahblahblahblah blah blah blah blah blah blahblahaseyo. Blaaaah blah blah blah blahblahblaaaaah blah blah blah. HEY! DAD! BLAAAH! Blahblahhowblah blah blah??! Blahblahblaaaaah blah blahaseyo. Blah blahblah blahaseyo. Blahblah blah blah blah. Got it. Thank you. Blahblahblaaaaah blah blah I'm hungry blahblahblahblah blah blah blah blah blah blahblah blaaaah blah blah blah blahblahblaaaaah blah blah blah BLAHBLAH! Blah never blah blah blahblah blah blahblah blah blah blah. I'm sorry. Blahblahblaaaaah blahaseyo. Blah blah blahblahblahblah. Really? Yes.

And if the conversation is formal, it sounds to me a bit like this:
Hello, blahblahblahblah blah? Blah blahblahblaaaaah blah blahsumnida. Blahblah blah blahblah blah blah blah blah. Blah. What? Blahblahblaaaaah blah blah blahumnida. Blahblahblahblah blah blah blah blah blah blahblahumnida. Blaaaah blah blah blah blahblahblaaaaah blah blah blah. Blahblahhowblah blah blah. Blahblahblaaaaah blah why blah blah blahblah blah blahblah blah blah blahsumnida. Okay. Thank you. Blahblahblaaaaah blah blahsumnida. blahblahblahblah blah blah blah blah blah blahblah blaaaah blah blah blah blahblahblaaaaah blah blah blah BLAHBLAHUMNIDA! Blah blah blah blahblah blah blahblah blah blah blah. Thank you. Blahblahblaaaaah blah blah blah blahblahblahblahumnida. Yes.

As my friend who goes on lots of business trips to Asia once put it, "You know you're listening to Korean when everything ends in umnida." It's true. It's the polite, formal ending... for verbs, I think.

Wonder what this will sound like in a few months if I keep up the listening practice?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

"This is so exciting, you can totally do it."

My sister has a friend who learned (as I recall hearing) Japanese by simply watching Japanese TV. I have been wanting to pry a bit into her process, as she eventually went to Japan and wound up being successful in her language-learning venture. Until I get anything close to a real interview, here is the majority of the conversation we had on g-chat today. It made me happy and hopeful:

Words in italics are words I have added to clarify things.

question for you...
or... in fact... many questions
you learned japanese mainly through watching anime?
how did that process go?
just curious
Friend: I would say that the J-Dramas (Japanese dramas) help a lot more than anime because you can see the people forming the sounds.
Me: just wondering about how you did it. subtitles?
Friend: Yes, I watched subtitled shows and I listened to A LOT of J-Pop (Japanese pop music).
Sometimes my roommate and I would make subtitles for music videos as well.
Are you going to start studying Japanese?
Me: nope. i'm sort of addicted to the idea of korean
because i love the alphabet system
Friend: It goes in circles!
I mean each character is read in a circle, right?
Me: not a circle per se
as a block
each block is a syllable
and very phonetic
really clever, actually
and very easy to read
Friend: Yes, I love that exact thing about Japanese.
Me: is it phonetic too?
Friend: Yup.
Me: oh, how come i didn't remember that?!
Friend: Well, they have three writing systems and two of them are phonetic.
Me: yeah, three--sheesh
well, technically, koreans have to learn a certain base number of chinese characters as well... just like the japanese
Friend: This is so exciting, you can totally do it.
Me: how proficient did you get?
just by listening all the time?
were you conversational before going to japan?
Friend: I got to the point where I could watch a drama without subtitles and understand almost all of it.
Me: nice!!!!!
how many years did that take? a whole year?
Friend: Yeah, about that.
But my speaking skills were only so-so until I went to Japan and started talking to actual Japanese people.

Friend: I'm told that the grammar of Japanese and Korean are very similar.
Maybe we can study it together sometime!
Me: nice
Friend: We shall reconvene on this topic.

While searching online for videos to show her of some K-pop (Korean pop music), I came across a video of one of my favorite Korean actors speaking Japanese. He looks a little out of his element, but I have no idea what he's saying. I wish I knew whether he is actually cracking jokes, or if his Japanese is so bad that everyone's cracking up. It sounds like he says "piano" around 3:22 and "fried chicken" a few seconds later.

It made me wonder if it is just as common for Asians living in Asia to know neighboring Asian languages as it is for Europeans to know neighboring European languages... or for Americans to know European languages, for that matter. I suppose I always thought that there would be more of a barrier in Asia, since the writing systems are all very distinct and not shared across languages. At least with European languages, they not only share writing systems, but they share much of the vocabulary (in the form of cognates) as well. Cognates (English/Spanish/French)= Enchanted (to meet you)! ¡Encantada!

Quite on the opposite end of the spectrum, I stumbled upon the blog of a man named Benny whose language approach is the opposite of the TV Method I am trying with Korean. He starts speaking right away! He's very dedicated and makes a lot of sense. I invite you to check out his blog, Fluent in 3 months, and watch his videos. He's learning Mandarin.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

City Hunter is awesome.

The good news is, I am more than one tenth of the way toward my goal of watching 500 hours of Korean television. Remarkably, I am picking out at least one familiar word per minute, if not more. They are fairly common words, and I definitely hear them better when the subtitles are off. My ears are in super listening mode then. I am starting to really like this language learning method.

I can't say enough good things about City Hunter. It's action-packed and the characters are easy to get attached to. Love it. I really appreciate that the bad attitude of the main male character didn't take the whole series to turn itself around. He was rude only for the first several episodes, and now he's actually acting nice to the main female character. If my expectations seem sadly low, I blame it on the first two dramas I watched. Why the main female characters stuck around as long as they did (and why I continued watching the storyline unfold) is beyond me.

In case I didn't mention this before, I have finally decided this: I am watching each scene twice. The first run-through, I watch without the subtitles and try to get the gist on my own, then I go back and watch it a second time with the subtitles. I decided that this is the way to go for a few reasons:
  1. On a sentence-by-sentence basis, the subtitles give me clues about what I should be listening for. They have, on a number of occasions actually taught me a word. The best example of this was the word for "I'm sorry," which is pronounced mian-he (and sounds a bit like "bian-aaaay" when they say it). I noticed the characters saying these words every time the subtitles said, "I'm sorry," so I very quickly put that together when I ordinarily wouldn't have on my own for quite some time.
  2. Using the subtitles, I go back and confirm my suspicions about the words I think I've heard from the first, unsubtitled run-through. Often, I find that I am right, which is great.
  3. Input is much more successful and comprehensible when the whole story background is known. Without the storyline information that the subtitles provide, I have very little knowledge about the goings-on in this drama. I suspect that would make me less successful in deciphering some things and in making sense of what I am watching.
  4. Interest! I lose interest in watching reaaaaaally quickly when I have no idea what is going on. For the sake of my continued watching and learning, I need to be engaged in the storylines that I am dedicating hours to watching anyway. I want this to at least be fun! And it is.
Current KDrama:
시티헌터 "see-tee-hun-tuh" (City Hunter)
TV hours (City Hunter): 19
Total TV hours: 63 (437 left to goal)

Blogs I want to make note of in case I'd like to look at them again:
Gorilla Teacher: Diaries of a Young American in South Korea
Korean Language Notes

Thursday, January 12, 2012

To the Korean language I say, "Sa Rang Hae"

Yeah, I'm rhyming in Korenglish. I just looked that word up. I figured there must be something along the lines of Spanglish, which is perhaps one of my favorite ways to write, ever.

"Sa Rang Hae" I mentioned in the last post, means "I love you." Looks like this: 사랑해.

I wanted to report about the effectiveness of the TV method and the things I've been noticing. First off, I can pick out quite a few words at this point, and have been noticing that I catch familiar words that I know while not reading the subtitles. I then go back and look to see if I was right, and sha-bang, it's right in there. I can see that this is a much different way than I learned Spanish. By listening to the language all the time, there is no way that I will become overwhelmed by the speed at which people talk. I will pick up words naturally in their contexts. Hurrah!

The horrible thing about learning a language by myself is, that I want to shout to the high heavens about all the things I'm learning. I want to talk to people about the dynamic characters in the shows I'm watching. I want to gush about how cool the words sound or the fact that the writing looks so beautiful when people scrawl it out or that I like wondering if my brain will take a long time to process a language whose grammar is flip-flopped from my own. It's so exciting!!! And no one to share it with.

Well, anyway, I'd be doing this in a notebook by myself (reflecting) if blogging never existed. I want to watch the evolution of this thing... this evasive thing that happens when languages charm us and start to take hold in our brains. I wish I could watch it happening. I wish I knew what makes words suddenly make sense, suddenly mean themselves. Like, at what point did mesa stop meaning "table" to me? At what point did mesa simply just mean mesa? There was a switch somewhere... that all of a sudden made the word itself. One day, mesa carried meaning to me without translation. It happens so slyly that I can't even see it happening when I watch for it.

With that, I'm going to leave you with a picture of one of the actors who I can attribute a great deal of my motivation to. Keeps me watching. Easy on the eyes. (Understatement.)

Current KDrama:
시티헌터 "see-tee-hun-tuh" (City Hunter)
TV hours (City Hunter): 12
Total TV hours: 56 (444 left to goal)

I wonder if by the time I reach 500 watched hours I will understand 25 percent of what I am watching, just like this other guy I read about online who was watching Mandarin TV. I sort of doubt it, but who knows? I'm curious to find out. I'm pairing the TV method with learning vocabulary and practicing writing words. I even make flashcards so I can practice reading. Love it.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A few links

... that I don't feel like keeping open in my browser window, but may be worth having handy:

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

TV Method Glitch

So, I suppose I should have anticipated that I would want to know what is happening in the dramas. Last night I kept peeking through my fingers and going back to see what they said. Maybe I need to watch each episode twice, once with the subtitles, and then again without? That would take forever. The problem is this: If I am watching with subtitles, I am able to know at least what the characters' names are. I'm not quite able to separate names from conversation yet, and that should be the easiest part, since they say the names so much. Occasionally, the subtitles tell me what I should be listening for.

Also, I am sooooooo excited to report that Professor Oh's KWOW videos are already helping me. I am able to hear "I love you" anytime it crops up, and "really?" "really!" anytime that crops up, too. I also hear the word for sorry, which I used to think was pronounced "bee-ah-nay," but apparently it starts with the "m" consonant, and should be said more like "mian-hay." (This is figured out with the help of subtitles.) The first word I ever understood through context sounds like "ku-ray" and means something like, "Yes, I agree/Yes, that's right/Okay/Fine."

So, see? The subtitles help a bit. Maybe I should half-count watching subtitled Korean towards my TV Method goal. Like one hour of subtitles equals thirty minutes of no subtitles. Sigh. I really want to understand what the plot is about. Now I'm just justifying laziness.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Being attention-challenged: Friend or foe?

As anyone who truly knows me can attest, my brain loves to splash around in puddles of "what if"s and jump from idea to idea like hopping on stones to cross a stream. It should, therefore, come as no surprise to you (or to myself) that I got lost wandering around in the grammar tide pools, even though I just spent yesterday deciding to forgo "usual" language learning and try the TV Method (see previous post).

Foreign grammar is so fascinating, though. I can't help it.

Less surprising still, should be the fact that a pretty face is often behind my greatest of distractions, as was the case today. I've gotten pretty hung up on this song, performed by Kim Hyung Joong (Korean-boy-band-pop-star slash actor), and especially love this live version. The dangerous part happened when I started imagining myself singing the whole song. I could, right? Well, yes. I could figure out how to memorize all the sounds with enough practice, for sure. But, of course, that's not good enough for me. If I'm going to try to sing along, I'm going to want to know what I'm singing. So what am I doing? I'm writing the whole thing in my notebook and color-coding the translation. Keep in mind that I do this sort of stuff for fun in my spare time. Here are my steps.

1. I look up the Korean Hangul version of the lyrics.

너 하나밖에 난 모르고

2. I open Google translator, then cut and paste the lyrics.

너 하나밖에 난 모르고 = You know I'm only one (Google translation)

3. I read the translation in the video to see if the Google one makes any sense. Generally speaking, I don't trust translators' accuracy at all. In this case, the Google translation is very different from the human translation. Opposite, in fact.

너 하나밖에 난 모르고 = I know of no one other than you (human translation)

4. I try to separate out the distinct words to see if I can figure out the syntax (word order) rules. I know that Korean is an SOV language, which means that the verb typically comes at the end of the sentence. In Google, you can mouse over certain words that will become highlighted in both languages' versions. That way, you can determine easily which part is which.

5. Sometimes it becomes necessary to search out the alternate meanings of what Google is telling me. Some words have multiple meanings or shades of meaning, so it is important to choose the best one.

6. Once I feel I have a syntactical translation that is true to the human translation (above), I write the rough English equivalents under the Korean Hangul and color-code it all.

하나밖에 모르고
you (are) the only one i know (Success! That looks a lot like "I know of no one other than you.")

7. I try to read along with Hyung Joong while he sings... and if I'm brave, sing too.

"Neo hanapakke nan moreugooooo..."

So that's it. I guess I have to stop for today and start doing a few responsible things like laundry and food shopping and such. I promise to watch an hour of unsubtitled Korean TV before falling asleep.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Trying the TV Method

For anyone who's ever heard me talk about it, I'm going to try to use "The TV Method" to learn Korean. Basically, that means that I have to watch an INSANE amount of TV in the target language without subtitles, with the intent of learning the way that babies learn... by observing and understanding nothing for much of the first year. This, seems to have both its pros and cons.

  • I don't have to concern myself with grammar or even trying to understand. It supposedly just happens after awhile and starts making sense.
  • I already watch too many hours of foreign movies on Netflix. Might as well be learning.
  • The sounds and rhythms of the language become familiar to me well before I start trying to speak or produce anything myself.

  • I like to know what's happening in the story.
  • I fear that I may get bored of watching so many hours of incomprehesible conversation and just stop.
  • I love learning about grammar. Nerd.
Here's another article about why listening to many hours of a language before trying to produce it is a great idea: "Listen First". There is a language learning approach/theory called Automatic Language Growth (ALG) that runs on these principles.

So, if I want to take this approach seriously and give it a shot, I need to watch anywhere from 500-800 hours of Korean television. I'm going to count the first two dramas I've already watched, even though I watched them subtitled.

Playful Kiss: 17 hours
Boys Over Flowers: 27 hours
Total: 44 hours of Korean
Left to go: 456 hours

Fingers crossed that this works. Fighting!