3 mistakes to avoid when learning korean

Sunday, 14 December 2014

It is always fun and exciting when you start learning a language. You want to absorb it all at once but soon enough you realize that you have to follow certain steps in order to be successful, plus you can't 'learn it all at once'. The same applies to Korean.

Each language has it's own unique characteristics and in most cases patterns to follow whilst studying, along with it is some mistakes that should be avoided. Over the course of my learning Korean, I have unfortunately falling prey to some of these mistakes. I hope I can help you to avoid them or to not repeat them.

1. Translator apps are not your friend


I think one of the biggest mistakes to avoid is translating sentences from one language to another. First of all, the grammatical structure of Korean is completely different to English, more often than not you end up with a grammatically wrong sentence, or in worse cases sentences that do not make sense or are awkward. 

Take for instance the English pronoun 'You', In Korean, a close equivalent would be '당신~ Dangshin' but Korean people rarely use the pronoun 'You' in sentences especially in formal conversation. However when 당신 is used in conversation, it has a rude connotation except if you are speaking to your spouse or in some very rare cases. The translator unfortunately doesn't apply these rules. Soit is best to avoid it in general, instead when you want to refer to a person in conversation you use the person's name followed by 씨 or 님.

Just like the English language, Korean also has words with the same meaning but which applies to different contexts, this is also another situation that your translator does not always take into account. One time, I was writing an email to my language teacher and I wanted to write 'I am excited' so I used a translator app and I ended up with the word '흥분' which means excited but commonly in a very inappropriate context. Luckily I googled the word to get acquainted with it and find sample sentences, only to realize the major faux pas I would have made.

You best bet is to use a dictionary such as Naver where you get different context of words and sample sentences for each. Plus it is a better learning tool!

2. Not "Speaking" Korean

You would think this one is pretty obvious but I find most Korean learners struggle with speaking Korean. Take me for instance, I have been studying this language for close to two years now but I have a phobia for actually speaking Korean, especially if I am put in a situation where the other person can speak English, I automatically choose the safer option which in my case is English. This is usually the case with a lot of people.

It might be difficult at first to speak Korean, because our brains tend to stick to the comfortable, so it is up to us to consciously try and speak and practice Korean. Otherwise you will end up with all this knowledge without an active outlet for it. The best way to retain all that we have learnt too is by practicing it in conversation. I cannot emphasize how important this is!

The moment I started challenging myself to speak Korean I realized first of all how cool it feels but also that I am retaining what I've learnt quicker. Although it can be hard, but you have to stick to it, only then can you be comfortable in the language and improve fluency. One thing that works really well is if you find someone who cannot speak English or whose English is pretty basic, you find that your brain goes into survival mode and you end up actually making conversation. And you learn new vocabulary, I can now mention a lot of sport terms in Korean because I met a girl who was into sports. This wouldn't have been a topic I would necessary learn in a textbook or researched on my own but there we have it. A bonus point is that you acquaint yourself with all the word endings and conjunctions you have been studying.

Besides, there is no point studying a language if you don't use it!

3. Avoiding a topic because you think it's too hard

You will eventually have to learn it so putting it off isn't the best idea. I had to remind myself of this recently, I have always had problems when it comes to giving directions and using numbers  I found out from my Korean studying friends that it is a common problem and unfortunately I have had situations where I needed that knowledge and I was in a bind. Regardless, there are very important topics which I will make use of a lot when I visit Korea or if I ever meet a Korean speaking person who needed my help. So learning it is a must. I have put it off for so long it has started affecting other aspects of my studying and now I am forced to learn it. This might be the case with you too.

So the next time you think of skipping the chapter on Money because the numbers are hard, remember that you are bound to go shopping when you visit Korea and knowing how to count your money will be a huge help.  Or if you perhaps get lost on the streets of Seoul, if you know your directions then asking for help will be easy breezy. At least that is what motivates me.

I hope these tips will be of some help to you! 

Do you have more suggestions of mistakes to avoid? please share it with us in the comments :)


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