I think 만화 (Korean comics) is a great way to practice reading and build vocabulary at the same time. The grammar doesn’t get too complicated because 만화 writing is mostly conversational so it’s easy to focus on the adjectives, nouns, and verbs that you don’t know. Plus, if things do get confusing, you can fill in the gaps by just looking at the drawings. Granted, you should have a grasp of rudimentary grammar before giving it a try – maybe 6 months to a year of consistent study. If you’re at that level, I would recommend first starting with a 만화 that’s been made into a drama you’ve seen before (there are a surprisingly large number of them) so at least you’ll have a basic idea of the plot. Funnily enough, I didn’t do it this way. I started reading 매리는 외박중 (Mary Stayed Out All Night)
back in September 2010 BEFORE the drama started airing and I’m a good way through it – far enough to know that the 만화 is nothing like the drama (which was a complete train wreck, but I won’t get into that).
Obviously it takes more effort to read something in a foreign language and learn from it. I read through a single chapter about three times. The first time I read just to see what I can pick up – which is surprisingly a good deal! (Sometimes if I can understand enough to be able to fill in the rest with context clues and pictures, I’ll just continue reading the next chapter but this is a bad way to study). The next read-through, I’ll have my dictionary with me and I look up every word I don’t know and write it down in my vocabulary notebook. I’ll also occasionally look up some grammar points if I’m not sure of them. The third time, I mentally “fill-in” the words I looked up in the dictionary in their appropriate places and read for overall comprehension. It’s a very long and tedious process and, no, it’s not worth trying to memorize every word you looked up in the dictionary. But the great thing is that certain characters will have a distinct way of speaking and you start to pick up the words and expressions they use a lot. You’ll start retaining more and more new words and your vocabulary will grow.
One of the best things about 만화 is that a lot of them were originally webcomics, which means you can read them online for free! Check out these two that were also made into popular dramas:
Rote memorization would probably be the simplest way of learning a new alphabet. Take some flashcards, write the character on the front, sound on the back, and then drill yourself until it’s branded into your memory. I tried this with the Japanese syllabaries and it worked. I tried it with Hangeul and failed miserably. No matter how many times I went through it, I would get ㅏ and ㅓmixed up, ㅗ and ㅜ mixed up and, sometimes, if the cards flipped directions as I shuffled them, I would get all four mixed up with each other. With Hiragana/Katakana I could make a sort of visual-auditory connection because the letters looked so different but Korean was too difficult. So, I ended up learning Hangeul in a weird, roundabout, organic kind of way without really TRYING to learn it through rote memorization.
Continue reading “How I learned 한글”
That’s a question I get a lot these days, especially at graduate school interviews. Why Korean? I have no family ties to Korea, I don’t live in a place populated by a lot of Koreans (and those who are Korean prefer to communicate in English), and I don’t plan on visiting or living in Korea any time soon. Sure, there are K-dramas and K-pop which I love and obsess over 26 hours a day but that’s not the reason I started learning Korean. So what was it exactly? I’m not even sure I know myself.
Continue reading “Why Korean?”