Tips for improving Korean essay writing

After more than a year of attending advanced Korean classes and regularly writing and reviewing 500-800 character essays with my teacher, I’ve accumulated a few useful tips for improving long-form writing that I thought I’d share here.

I’ll preface this by saying few people write well in any language, even among native speakers. I’m a writer and storyteller in both my professional and personal life and I know just how hard it is to build compelling rhetoric using effective, engaging language on any topic. So, following these “quick tips” won’t make you a good writer in Korean — that will take years of practice reading and writing, just as it would in English. But it may help you get started on the road to sounding more natural.

Caveat: This is only one language learner’s experience (mine) and one language instructor (my teacher)’s advice, so take with a grain of salt.

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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?