Daum’s Easy English (금상첨화!)

So much about language learning is about individual perspective.  For example, my own mother tongue, culture, and the values I was brought up with influences how quickly I learn certain Korean phrases or bits of Korean culture.  Needless to say, the things I can identify with, I learn more quickly.

That being said, although I use Marathi and my Indian background to connect to Korean, English is clearly my stronger language.  And as my Korean inches beyond the intermediate stage, I find myself reading more and more about English in Korean and I’ve actually learned a lot.  I began to pick up so-and-so Korean phrase is equivalent in meaning to blah-blah English and that’s really helping my writing and communication.  A fair warning though:  I’ve looked at a few “teach yourself English”-type books in Korean and am often baffled by the expressions and example sentences in the books.  Most of them are just BAD.

Now, I’m a steadfast Daum user (pretty sure I’m in the minority, but I can’t stand Naver) and I love the Daum 어학사전.  Recently(?), I found even greater reason to love it.  Daum’s Easy English series (which you can find on the 어학사전 home page) features some of the best and simplest explanations of English phrases and idioms I’ve seen to date.  The Korean explanations are easy to understand and the examples, for the most part, natural in both English and (I think) Korean.  The best part is they provide a really great Korean counterpart to the English phrase being defined – that means I usually learn something too!


I recently learned a very relevant 사자성어 from one of the Easy English posts.  I’ve been kind of… skirting around learning these four-character idioms but my language partner Kwang-im actually uses them a lot (she also insists that I should know them because I’m a graduate student and thus should use ‘high-level’ Korean heh).

Anyway, the phrase is in the title of the post:  금상첨화 [錦上添花] basically means ‘the icing on the cake.’

Breaking down the Hanja we have:

  • [비단 금]:  silk
  • 上 [위 상]:  on top of
  • [더할 첨]:  to add/increase
  • 花 [꽃 화]:  flower

Together, you get the Korean definition of the phrase:   ‘비단 위에 꽃을 더한다는 뜻으로, 좋은 일 위에 더 좋은 일이 더하여짐을 비유적으로 이르는 말.’  (Adding flowers on top of silk – that is, having something good happen on top of something that’s already good in the first place.)

Flowers on silk, icing on cake.  Same meaning, different metaphor!

I’ve always liked Daum but the fact that it has this really great series, 진짜 금상첨화이다!

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?