“To have another language is to possess a second soul.” ~ Charlemagne
Over the last few weeks I’ve attended an intensive four hours a day Korean class . In that time I have come to a conclusion. Grammar is a horrid concept to learn, regardless of the language. For example, the other day in class, I tried to say “I ate with my friends.” However, I incorrectly applied the object marker suffix 를 and the meaning of the sentence became “I ate my friends.” (친구 먹었다 vs. 친구를 먹었다.) It really does makes more sense if you see it in Korean for you to fully understand the error.)
There is a marker for the object of the sentence 를/을, the subject 는/은 or 이/가 based on the sentence. Dependent on the absence of vowels and consonants you use certain ending markers. These are ways to identify what the sentence is about. Sounds completely confusing right? (I won’t even get into to all the different versions of “And”)
(Learning how to cognate verbs both negative and positive)
Here is the thing, English is just as confusing. We use a small swipe of ink at the bottom of the word to denote the sentence meaning. The coma. (,) With out that little guy, sentence meaning gets incredibly complex and not in a good way. There are also no capitol or lower case letters, which help in showing what is important in a sentence. This is another reason ending markers are important.
(Sejong the Great (r.1418-1450) King during the Joseon Dynasty. Super cool guy. )
한국어를 (Korean, or Hangul) has been spoken for centuries, but until the 15th century there was no written language. They used the Chinese characters for any written documents. Then along came this bloke, King Sejong (r.1418-1450) or Sejong the Great. He was a really cool guy and thought that Maybe now since Korea was an kingdom united under the Joseon Dynasty having their own writing system might be a really good idea. So he made one up.
Then he thought, maybe an alphabet that didn’t just represent sounds, maybe having them literally show how the tongue looks in the mouth when making the sounds would be even cooler. The Alphabet has 24 letters: 14 consonants and 10 vowels. The letters are combined together into syllable blocks.
(Consonants: The hardest thing is learning the sound in between an L and R. )
That should clear some of your questions up. Now, here is the other fun thing about Korean. The words look really long and complicated, but once you learn a few basic sentence endings, your quickly realize that words are much shorter then originally thought. You learn to recognize what are endings, many of which are verbs and signals of past present or future tense. Then there are the polite endings that can be added for politeness. Keep in mind that all of the endings, have several variations that denote how formal. If speaking with someone the same age as you you would use one type of ending, as opposed to a teacher or boss. Then there is one even above that reserved for public functions or other formal arenas.
Challenging it may be, it has been a lot of fun learning to understand Korean. At times I grow frustrated that I cannot learn faster. I often remind myself that I spent 12 years in school learning to read and write, another 4 at college learning to perfect what I knew and the years before the age of 5 were spent learning to speak, listen and understand English. In 3 months of language classes I will be happy to know what I have learned and continue to want to learn more, knowing I have a long way to go.
(Fellow YAVs and one student from Vietnam during a class field trip to the Hannam University Museum.)
And lastly, if you want to learn how to say the Alphabet! Just listen to this song on repeat!