Tag: Korean


As always, I’ve been trying to find more outlets to use Korean and Japanese and recently I started using Lang-8 for that very purpose.  Lang-8 is a social networking site for language learners where you can basically maintain a blog in the language you are attempting to learn.  Native speakers can then correct your entries and leave comments and you can do the same for others.  You can also have “friends” who you can message privately and whose entries show up on your homepage to be corrected.  Video introduction below:

So far, I’ve written two entries in Japanese and one entry in Korean and all of them were corrected by native speakers within minutes.  Corrections can be made by bolding and crossing out words or by add text in two different colors; there’s really no protocol on how to use these correction tools, although one Korean speaker who corrected my entry came up with this logical method:  Crossing out and red for incorrect words, blue for more natural sounding words/phrases.  I’ve also tried to help out a few of my friends with their English in a similar manner.  Another great feature is access to a dictionary and Google translate (which I avoid like the plague) right below the space for inputting your entry.

Honestly, I think Lang-8 is a great concept.  Whether or not it’s executed as well as it could be is another question.  The website was launched four years ago and, in that period, I feel like a lot of improvements could have been made.  It’s kind of unattractive, little unwieldy to navigate.  But then again I’m not a web-designer so it’s really not my place to say this.

Lang-8 has really made think about English from a foreigner’s perspective.  I’m extra careful when I correct people’s grammar or spelling and I never try to complicate matters more than I have to.  Sometimes  I find myself in a tricky situation.  For example, I came across a post that was basically a recipe for kimchi fried rice.  In the directions, this person had written stuff like and “heat water” and “put vegetables in pan.”  That actually sounds pretty natural.  Recipes and protocols tend to be written without articles BUT does the writer actually know that?  It’s difficult to tell.

And now I have a bone to pick with native English speakers.  I find that all of the people who have corrected me on my Japanese and Korean are encouraging, gracious, and, most importantly, reasonable with their corrections.   That’s not always the case with English speakers.  Even when it’s obvious the person is only a beginner in English, I still see tons of English speakers who leave long, detailed explanations (in English) after completely rewriting that person’s sentences using advanced grammar and vocabulary.  I even saw one person literally say, “I can’t even understand what you’re trying to say.”  That’s completely rude and unacceptable.

Although I haven’t corrected many entries yet, these are the rules I plan to follow:

  1. Gauge a person’s level in English. – Obviously, the more the advanced the level, the more nitpicky you can get.  You have to gear your corrections and explanations so that the person can understand and learn from them.
  2. Correct as little as possible. – It’s really discouraging for a person (especially a beginner) to see their entry marked over completely in red.  If it is grammatical and it makes sense DON’T CHANGE IT.
  3. Avoid “stylistic” changes. – As in, don’t change something that’s in passive voice to active voice or vice versa.  Most of the time, that’s a stylistic preference and the meaning of the sentence is unchanged.  It really frustrates me to see corrections like this.
  4. Do not change vocabulary. – Unless it is really incorrect or unnatural (in that case, I usually make sure to indicate that “so-and-so” is more natural.)  But changing out one word for a synonymous one is unnecessary and might confuse the learner.
  5. Avoid using slang. – Or at least make it known that it’s slang if you absolutely must use it.
  6. Make sure your OWN English grammar and spelling is correct. – How many times have I cringed when a person has misspelled something or misused a word in their own correction?
  7. Be encouraging. – Goes without saying.  Be nice about how you make your corrections and then leave a positive comment after you’re done.  Personally, I always feel good when someone says 잘 하시네요 to me, even if I’ve made tons of mistakes and they’re just being polite.
If you use Lang-8, feel free to add me!  (Link on the right.)


Yesterday, I finished watching Devil Beside You – which, quite possibly, might be the last Taiwanese drama I’ll ever watch.  For reasons I won’t go into here.  Heh.

Anyway, I watched DBY with little to no knowledge of Chinese, other than basic “A is B”-type sentences so I was intrigued by the way the characters addressed each other.  Why did everyone call Jiang Meng “Ahmeng”?  Why was Yuan Yi so offended when Ahmeng called him “Ahyi”?  Why did Qi Yue’s friends alternatively call her Qi Yue and Xiao Yue?  Why was Yuan Yi the only one who called Qing Zi “Xiao Zi”?  You see what I’m getting at.

Well, I kind of figured out through context that ah (阿) and xiao (小) were diminutives, basically forms of words (usually names though they can be other nouns) that are used to signify either smallness or endearment/intimacy.  In fact, in Chinese xiao (小) actually means “small.”  What is interesting is that some languages, like English, do not have a strict way of forming diminutives while other languages, like Chinese, Korean, and Japanese do.

A lot of diminutives for proper names English (i.e. nicknames) end with an “-ie” sound.  Examples:  Christine = Christie; Samantha = Sammy.  Some other nouns follow this pattern as well, like cat = kitty.  But English doesn’t really have set rules for forming diminutives of proper nouns (nicknames just are what they are, I suppose).

Indian languages (e.g. Hindi, Marathi, Tamil, etc.)
Of course, I can’t forget to address my own native language…  Most Indian names have diminutives ending in a u (or sometimes ee or ya) sound, unless they are very short.  Since Indian names are usually quite long, the nickname is most commonly the first syllable + u.  Examples:  Ramachandran = Ramu; Ashwini = Ashu; Namrata = Namu.  BUT names like Satya, Puja, Meera, don’t usually change.

I have to say, however, unlike English, Japanese, Chinese, and Korean, Indian diminutives are almost always reserved for very close family members and sometimes very very close family friends.  Of course, a degree of familiarity is a prerequisite for nickname use in all cultures… but I just feel that most Indian people would not have even their closest friends call them using their diminutive nickname.  It’s almost always reserved for parents and grandparents; and once you get older, people tend to leave it off anyway.  (As an example, my mom and dad call me by my childhood nickname but my aunts and uncles do not.  Incidentally, you might be able to guess what that nickname is from what I’ve said here!)

Suffixes like kun (くん) and chan (ちゃん) are usually added to male and female names respectively to make them diminutive.  Sometimes ちゃん can be added to other nouns to make them sound “cute” (e.g. 猫ちゃん = kitty)

Like Chinese and Japanese, Korean has a pretty standard way of forming proper name diminutives – add 아 (ah) at the end of names ending in a consonant and 야 (yah) at the end of a name ending in a vowel.  In the case of Korean (though not in the other languages I’ve mentioned), this diminutive is also the vocative case – this is basically the form of the proper noun that you use to call a person.  In most languages, the diminutive and can be used either as the vocative case or not but in Korean, the 아/야 diminutive MUST also be the vocative case.  Korean also has a diminutive that is not vocative –  for names ending in consonants, you can add 이 (i).  This is how I understand it:

  1. 혜원가 김밥을 먹는다. (O)
    [Adding 이 to 혜원 makes it diminutive but it’s still nominative – meaning, it’s the subject of the sentence and therefore marked by the subject marking particle]
  2. 혜원,  김밥을 먹어라. (O)
    [Adding  아 to 혜원 makes the diminutive now vocative – meaning you are calling Hyewon to come eat kimbap.]
  3. 혜원, 김밥을 먹어라. (X…?)
    [Now that I think about it, I wonder if this is really wrong?  It sounds odd to me and I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say something like this.  Hm.]
  4. 혜원 김밥을 먹는다. (X)
    [This is definitely wrong because you only use 아 when you’re calling someone, not when that person is the subject of a sentence]

Whoops, sorry for the grammar overload.  I just find stuff like this interesting.  One of my favorite things to watch in Korean dramas is when 2 characters go from addressing someone as “so-and-so 씨” or by the full name  to the diminutive.  I remember feeling all giddy at the end of Full House when 영재 addresses 지은 as “한지은.. 지은아…”

Just another thing I enjoy about the Korean language, I guess.

How I learned 한글

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”

Why Korean?

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?”