Journals from South Korea, Yonsei University
2009-08-31 Spring, 2009: Hangul - The Korean Language
One of my major goals in coming to Korea was to learn the language. Im Korean, and throughout my life, while I have learned a little, Ive always felt that to fully appreciate my heritage, I need to become more proficient in my mothers native language.
Needless to say, the Korean language class at Yonsei University was the first on my list of classes that I wanted to register for. I decided to start at level 1, even with my small background of Korean, because I wanted to make sure I had the grammatical rules down before moving onto more challenging aspects of learning the language.
I must say: learning Korean while in Korea is the best way to do it. Everyday Im being forced to push myself to remember new vocabulary, use new sentences, and become more fluent in my accent and pronunciation. I absolutely love it.
It also helps that my Korean class is amazing. Im in class 1-A, and my teacher"Lee Sun-sang-nim (Sun-sang-nim means teacher in Korean) constantly pushes me to expand my conversational skills. My classmates are also quite supportive, and as a class, we all have become very close. Most of us actually hang out outside of class time, as well as study together. Weve also have had a couple of dinners where we try to get as many of us together, which is difficult because of our busy schedules. Having such a supportive classroom atmosphere has been wonderful in helping my Korean, because Im not afraid to try speaking and experimenting with what I know of the language.
When I try to speak Korean out in the city, about 99% of the time, the reaction is positive. Most Koreans love it when I speak Korean to them, especially as they know it isnt such a popular language to learn outside of Korea"they have such strong national pride, that when they hear a foreigner speak Korean, they will almost immediately take a liking to you! Ive only had one partially negative experience when speaking Korean, since I am Korean, some elderly Koreans think that its a shame that I dont know the language fluently. Once I got chided when riding the bus because I admitted to not learning Korean completely when I was younger. At the same time, the elder Koreans werent necessarily blaming me"they mostly talked to me about how it was a shame that my parents didnt force me to learn Korean at a young age, but I should keep studying.
Overall, I love how the Korean language is constructed and sounds. The alphabet is very simple, and learning how to read it takes maybe a couple of hours (max). Grammatically, though, Korean is very different from English. Its a challenge, but I love it!
One of the best compliments that I get though, is when my accent (which is, admittedly, quite good) makes some Koreans think that I am fluent enough to hold more complex conversations. It shows me Im on the right track!
Until next time,
Jennifer Stewart, Anthropology and Education
Linfield College Semester Abroad Program in Seoul, Korean, Yonsei University