Audio Post #1

Jeannie’s audio post inspired me to make a recording of myself reading Korean as well.  In this recording, I’m reading a couple paragraphs from the first chapter of BIGBANG’s autobiography, 세상에 너를 소리 쳐, which is also the first Korean book I purchased.  (The narrator of this particular passage is G-Dragon.)  I do understand everything I’m reading but intonation and pronunciation are still quite difficult for me.  What do you guys think? ^^  I already know I mispronounced 흘러나오고 as 흘러너오고  >_<.

No more “mental translation”

If I’m being honest with myself, I haven’t really touched the Korean language books I bought back in April.  I do occasionally flip through them, but I can’t bring myself to take notes or work on the exercises.  I don’t know if it’s because I prefer the more dangerous route of context learning… that is, not really reading proper grammar explanations, but “inferring” them from reading and/or listening to A LOT of Korean.  The reason I consider this somewhat dangerous is that it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you know how to use a certain phrase or grammar point, but in reality you’ve failed to grasp its subtleties and proper usage.  Until recently, I felt like my Korean progress stagnated because I haven’t touched my grammar books.

But something has clearly changed in the past couple months.

I find that my brain is starting to comprehend Korean better.  I’m not sure if I’m expressing this the right way but… well, before, when I was watching a drama, whenever I came across a phrase I would understand, I would pause the video, mentally translate the Korean phrase into English, and then move on.  The same thing would happen when I read.   I’d come across a sentence in Korean, pause, translate and rearrange the phrases so it made sense in English, comprehend, and then continue onto the next sentence.

Now when I watch a drama, I can understand a lot of what’s being said without the need for this “mental translation.”  I can actually understand real-time Korean!  It’s amazing how my mind seems to go blank when I’m watching  a Korean drama, just like when I watch something in English.  What used to be an active language-learning endeavor for me is slowly becoming more and more passive.  Sometimes I don’t even notice that I’m not reading the subtitles.  Now if only I can learn words faster so I can do away with subtitles completely!!  My reading has gotten more fluent as well.  If I know all the words, I usually don’t have to stop and mentally translate whatever I’m reading.  In fact, my brain seems to have developed a contextual “sense” of some of the difficult-to-translate Korean words and phrases.  That is, I can read and comprehend certain phrases in Korean, without needing to mentally translate – because the mental translation itself would be weird in English.

As for writing, I think I only started writing longer, essay-type compositions after I did away with mental translation; before then, I just didn’t have the confidence to write anything because I knew my “ear” for Korean writing hadn’t developed yet.  Sadly, my Korean speaking is nonexistent so I have no idea how much I can think on my feet in Korean without thinking about what I want to say in English first.  I think I’d be really horrible at carrying a real-time conversation in Korean.

I’m still working on being able to comprehend Korean fully without having to resort to mental translation.  Sometimes, with more complicated words, I find myself going back to thinking in English and usually end up confusing myself.  I can only hope with more reading and listening practice, I’ll get better at this!

Fan Cafes

I feel like a bad student that needs to be punished.  Even though I’ve had this glorious four month summer vacation, I’ve completely forsaken serious Korean studying and have instead resorted to playing around in Daum fan cafes.

Before I get into that, I just want say that I like K-pop, but honestly I knew nothing about the whole idol… industry – shall I call it? –  until a few months ago.  For me, music is music; in America, music is pretty much the only thing that musicians do.  The whole concept of “training” idols and “raising” them into stars and building their popularity through variety shows and CFs and such was really odd to me, but I think I understand it much better now.  I’ve also come to understand the concept of “fan cafes,” which seems to be yet another way to build support and popularity for a celebrity.

Most celebrities, including idol groups, seem to have these official Daum fan cafes (fan clubs) where, if you register, you can write on various forums, make friends with other fans, write messages to your idols (and sometimes get responses back), see pictures, and sometimes get access to exclusive content.  Unfortunately, many of these fan cafes also require you to have a 주민등록번호 or a Korean social security number.

I’ve joined a couple of fan cafes that don’t require you to register with a 주민등록번호 (it’s quite simple, if you’re at an intermediate level or above in Korean) and, actually, I’m learning some new words by reading all the fan cafe rules and user posts!  Here are some:

  • 가입하다 = to join, to become a member
  • 공식 = official
  • 정보 = information, data
  • 공지 = announcement
  • 게사판 = forum
  • 등업신청 = leveling-up application (usually something you have to fill out and submit as soon as you join the cafe, so you’re able to post on the forums)
  • 운영자 = admin
  • 금지 = prohibition
  • 탈퇴 = secession, withdrawal (what you have to click to leave the fan cafe)

I’m only really active on rookie group HITT’s fan cafe because I adore HITT.  Adore isn’t even a sufficient word.  Dare I even say that they are the only group that’s ever come even close to rivaling my love for BIGBANG?  My HITT-induced fangirl spazzing is no joke because it takes a really long time for me to really get into a new group and I absolutely can’t like a group unless I’m blown away by their music.  HITT’s managed to turn me into such a huge fan with just their mini album that I actually want to do my part in spreading HITT love (corny as that sounds).  I’ve even gone so far as to suggest a fandom name for HITT (they were asking people to submit suggestions) and explain my reasoning in Korean as well as to write on the 친구해요 게시판, hopefully to see if I could make more Korean friends to practice Korean with.  See?  I’m doing all this 카페 활동 and still practicing Korean at the same time!  (/Tries to justify not studying) 

In addition, reading posts on the forum is giving me more insight into how young Koreans write on the internet. Personally, I enjoy writing long, essay-type entries in probably very “textbook” sounding Korean but um… I guess I’m now learning how to write shorter, but still natural-sounding sentences in Korean without sounding robotic or like a beginner.

It’s actually more complicated than it seems!  Or am I just making things too hard?  I think anyone learning a language will come to point where they have to learn how to write differently in different situations.  Writing a blog entry versus writing an essay versus tweeting versus writing in a forum… they all have their different styles and quirks, right?