When I first came to Korea, I was among the disgruntled many when it came to the idea of studying Korean. Unlike some, I did learn the alphabet and had that mastered for a long time. When it came to learning words though, I barely tried. There are quite a few BIG reasons for this. First of all, Korean is difficult (duh). Secondly, you don’t *need* to speak Korean to live here fairly comfortably. Last, and I think most importantly, is the lack of positive feedback from Koreans.
I’m going to elaborate on that last point. When you first come to Korea (and even after), there will be some who are like…WOW you can say ‘hello’ and ‘thank you.’ This tends to rub me the wrong way because it comes off almost like praise for a dog. Okay, so beyond pleasantries…let’s say you’ve mastered some basic conversation. First of all…you MUST use the correct pronunciation and accent or else you get SO MANY blank/confused stares. Trust me; it’s not easy. The younger generation is nicer to talk to, typically. However, for a lot of Koreans, especially older generations, they seem to approach you speaking Korean as a test. So if you start out with basic conversation, they will keep upping the vocabulary and grammar (this is also to show that they are smart) until you stumble. So in summary, while most Westerners just try to understand you if you’re speaking English, Koreans will either look at you like you’re speaking Alien or they’ll try to test you’re ability to prove how much smarter they are.
Side note, did I mention the jerk of a teacher I had at my old school? He would come up to my desk and say hello to me (in Korean). I would reply back, and he would LAUGH IN MY FACE. It wasn’t like this fool did it one time. He did it for like a week straight. It only stopped when I would consistently keep my headphones in my ears and pretend to look busy.
Moving on… As I said, the younger generation is a bit nicer when it comes to speaking Korean but none of them are used to slowing down for someone. I’ve been self-studying Korean for about 8 months now; but I’ve really only been focusing for the last 4 months (as in studying daily). Anyway, in my self study, I have started to review words in Google Translate (instead of just relying on MS Word for spell check). I often mix up my vowels when I’m studying; like switching the ‘u’ (ㅜ) with ‘o’ (ㅗ). In English, this isn’t a big deal; you just spelled a word wrong and now you have word that doesn’t exist. Not the case in Korean. I was typing the word ‘mainly’, switched the ‘o’ and ‘u’, and ended up with the word for ‘premature ejaculation.’ Hahahaha…I’m just glad I learned it in typing before I tried to use it in a conversation.
Anyone else have a similar or different experience (or just gave up)? I’m definitely curious to know!