tangleweeds wrote:I just wanted to say that I've enjoyed your recent posts about your Korean learning process. I've been purposely staying away from Korean myself for fear of linguistic overload, though both my brother and my roommate are both studying it (in their very different ways).
So anyway, given that Korean is being learned all around me, it's been extra interesting reading your evolving reflections on your own learning process.
Thanks for reading and the compliment, too!
I've been trying to reflect as a way to vent my frustrations, because I know I want to be fluent, but as Korean is the first language I've tried to teach myself, it's quite the bugger of a time.
Your roommate has the right idea. Reading labels is good practice because if you're determined enough and have a dose of ability (not necessarily intelligence), you can pick up those pesky spelling patterns I mentioned... the ones that always trip me up. Do it enough and you'll be reading fluently in no time. I hope if you do decide to learn Korean in the future, you'll have fun with it. It's sincerely very beautiful.
Veo que al principio de este log escribías a menudo en castellano, no he leído tu log entero así que no sé a qué punto dejaste de hacerlo pero supongo que no te molestará que te escriba en castellano
¡Ánimo!, es un viaje largo y lento pero no tienes que llegar al final para empezar a disfrutar de los frutos de tu aprendizaje.
I did write in Spanish, you're correct. I realized I probably needed more practice, though, to make a truly readable Spanish log despite being pretty decent at writing, so I stopped. That's why I took about 15 italki lessons over the summer, some of which included writing intensive sessions. But I still don't think my writing has become magically wonderful. If anyone wants to rate my Spanish composition ability, feel free.
In hoity-toity newspaper articles, Korean journalists put hanja (Chinese characters) next to any uncommon or 5-dollar words. I remember reading somewhere, though I can't find it at the moment, that Korean repeats verbs and nouns wherever possible whereas in English we'd opt for a different set because the repetition grinds our gears. A cultural thing, I suppose. But I could be wrong and misremembering.
I'm doing my best to remain positive. There are a lot of things I like about Korean.
Which leads us into our next segment...
I know the past two times I sounded quite like I'd given up. But I'm not ready to give up just yet. I like Korean as a whole.
There was a lot that went into my decision-making process for learning this language. I tried to start out with no pre-conceptions.
My friends liked k-pop and they were slowly introducing our whole friend group to the scene in high school. I'd heard a few songs and decided I liked the music, but not necessarily the language yet. It was a bit too foreign for me at the time. I didn't hate it or feel prejudice toward it, I just thought I had no use for it.
Then, when I got some time, I decided to investigate it further. I started out with my friend's favorite group, SHINee, which I gradually fell in love with as well, but mostly for their music and the personality of a particular member although even through the veil of marketing I found all of them funny. It was from them I began to learn Korean, using the techniques I described in my earlier posts. I didn't want to be a crazy fan, so I didn't obsess over them. But I paid attention to their personal use of words and grammar because I remembered that all humans have particular speech patterns, and as you'll remember, I'm using the same idea with my friend right now. It was here I first started to focus on different dialects, since in school with Spanish, we were made aware of such a concept, but it remained abstract and disconnected from the reality of actual people's experience.
I had a great time with getting an introduction to this sub-culture over the summer, even though I was convinced I wouldn't like it for a time since my friends had been shoving it down our throats for a long while. I even found a way to connect with a group of my choosing, BTS. In 2015, BTS wasn't as big as they are now. And you can tell, as their music has changed rapidly to accommodate the common man and average taste around the world. BTS made me further interested in Korean rap despite their idol group nature, and I got into some really great songs that way. Most people who get into k-pop rarely branch out from its bubble, but I managed to pop it, and after memorizing my favorite idol songs over this long time frame, I've started to foray into classic, "pure" pop. I'm also interested in trot (traditional pop), indie, and more hardcore rap.
It's my view that South Korea isn't seen as a big player for its music scene, and I could see several reasons for why that's a possibility. 1) Unlike in America, music and arts are used as a cultural asset, but one used as a primary money maker and economy sustainer instead of something you skip on Spotify. 2) This is because until the recent modern era, Korea was an impoverished country and needed to make money any which way in order to move forward. Despite their relative economic success, I suppose they still feel the need to keep fighting to push off that image.
However I find a lot of its songs comforting even if they suffer from over-production and come from labels where the groups are mistreated. That's a source of splitting for me. How can you like something if you know someone was abused to make it? Idols don't make a lot of money--looking at J-Hope of BTS' relative earnings compared to his fellow members, he's been allowed to keep $12 million and that's his net worth. And he's made the most in BTS! It's a bit astounding, seeing as the company they're under has created a billion-dollar enterprise. Of course, I don't know the specifics, but that's just an observation.
BTS and its label produced some of the most lovely and timely songs then. I was going through a dark time, and while I didn't want to fall for the "I was saved by BTS" bullcrap flying around at the time, I allowed their music to soothe me, and I allowed their native language to lift me up and out of a pretty severe depression that around its height, had me dropping out of school and failing classes, completely convinced I was a useless sack. BTS wasn't an escape; rather, it was the opposite. They reminded me I could be something. They re-kindled my interest in language and guided me forward when I couldn't remember a reason to learn Korean since I had no one to turn to, to let my feelings be known. My family aren't language gurus. They only know the little bit of Polish they learned in childhood.
But there's a BTS member that carries the team when it comes to speaking English. He messes up quite a bit, but has a native accent that sounds as if he's actually fluent in AAVE instead of Standard English. He learned through American rap and that type of music inspired him to keep going with his professional career as an idol, even if his heart was a rapper's. He in turn taught me that I could learn from him, and that all was not lost just because I didn't like the idea of college. His IQ is much higher than mine, but his grit and passion really hit home for me. Each man in that group shows a different talent, or as the Koreans like to word it--color. And it's a pleasure watching all those colors come together to make a rainbow of unity in dance, song, and interaction.
The boys are older now, and if I read correctly, their current recently renewed contract expires in 2026. If one happens to leave early or the whole thing falls apart before then, I wouldn't mind since at least I got to experience what I'd consider the best part of their career, incidentally titled The Most Beautiful Moment In Life
Of course, all that is Korean doesn't fall under the BTS moniker, but as an introduction to what makes the language special and getting a taste of the culture and people on an individual basis, this k-pop group is quite fine. Their lyrics are noted for social consciousness and their older work has a decent amount of more original-sounding melodies, so it makes for fun listening and study.
We all come from humble beginnings. Mine was trying to become a mature ARMY (BTS fan) and culture connoisseur. Looking back, I gave it my best shot, but now there's so much more to learn yet. Korean makes me happy for it's beauty of expression, the nuances in the culture, and the nostalgia of my late teens. Some might have a long and wonderful war with their languages, but I only look forward to long walks on the beach with them.
Instead of crying or throwing my phone when I can't compose a sentence in Korean to my friend, I do the most fitting thing at the time to communicate and at least say something
Instead of becoming a sasaeng, I tried to understand idols' feelings and discover their true nature, paying them respect and offering them dignity they would not get elsewhere, even if they never met me.
Instead of ignoring culture's validity in people's self-expression and personal identity, I made it my mission to understand Koreans from a holistic view, even if it was just in a microcosm.
In short, I tried to become a language learner.
And indirectly, my fangirling did help, because the men in the k-pop groups extended the olive branch. Now I have a whole new world before me to explore, with kindness and love.