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Foreigners speaking Korean to Koreans...grrrr!

ddong_gae
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Foreigners speaking Korean to Koreans...grrrr!

Postby ddong_gae » May 9th, 2008 7:26 am

I have lived in Korea for about 5 years. In that time I have learned some Korean, but not a lot. :oops: That's why I'm here. I was talking to my wife one day about how frustrating it was to use the Korean language with Koreans and often times very discouraging.

If a Korean speaks to me using broken English, you know konglish, I can usually figure out what they are trying to convey by trying other vowels or consonants.

For example .. Talking about pizza.
한국사람: 피자 (pronounced peeja)
미국사람: Hmm, peeja? pictcha, pitcher? Do you mean picture(making the universal hand gesture for camera).
한국사람: no, no, peeja (making the universal hand sign for eating).
미국사람: Oh! Pizza! :P

But when speaking to Koreans and trying to use Korean it is a different world!

For example.. Talking about curry.
미국사람: 커리
한국사람: 커리? 커리? 커리? (making the sucking through the teeth sshhh sound and making the universal sing for I don't know what the hell your talking about).
미국사람: 삼...분?...커리?....거리?
한국사람: 커리거 없습니다
미국사람: 감삼합니다. (Going home empty handed) :x

Later I ask my wife "What is curry in Korean?
And she says "카레" (pronounced ka'lay.)

This kind of thing used to drive me crazy and I would sometimes be very disappointed or frustrated.

Then someone pointed out something I had never considered.

The US and other English speaking countries have a lot of foreigners who speak English as a second language. I think we are used to many different accents, grammatic mistakes, mispronunciations, etc, so our ears and brain are kind of used to decoding broken English.

However many Koreans have only heard their language spoken by other Koreans. They are not used to having to decode broken Korean.

So my point is, when your speaking Korean to Koreans and your having trouble try 3 or 4 ways of saying it and don't get frustrated.

javiskefka
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Postby javiskefka » May 9th, 2008 9:30 am

Haha, you just have to learn to speak with a Korean accent. When I would tell Korean speakers my e-mail address, I would have to say "에치 오 와이 에이 제이 에이 브이 아이 에스" instead of "h-o-y-a-j-a-v-i-s".

Don't ask me how Koreans distinguish 'g' and 'z'.

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shanshanchua
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Postby shanshanchua » May 9th, 2008 9:43 am

javiskefka wrote: When I would tell Korean speakers my e-mail address, I would have to say "에치 오 와이 에이 제이 에이 브이 아이 에스" instead of "h-o-y-a-j-a-v-i-s".


HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! :lol: That was really funny!!!!

ddong_gae
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Postby ddong_gae » May 9th, 2008 1:43 pm

Yes, when I have students spell things often b & v, z & g.

And likewise, I always tell the woman selling bus tickets "똥 서울"...She always chuckles when I go there.

mariefrenette
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Postby mariefrenette » May 9th, 2008 9:19 pm

I'm not really sure what the definition of Konglish is. But, 피자 and 카레 are now Korean words, no matter where they came from originally. Why should you expect someone to understand if they never learned English and maybe never even knew it was an English word?

I think the trick is to abandon your language as much as possible when speaking Korean. Learn the word as though it's not derived from English.

When I first started learning Korean, I had some trouble too. I was very stubborn about my pronunciation, thinking that I was right, and it was so strange that they couldn't understand me.


But then, when I wanted to say a Korean word, I expected them to understand my English interpretation of the word. Before I learned 한글 I would try to pronounce Korean according to the romanization (like for instance written on signs). Take... um, since I'm in Jeju, let's take the word 중문 ,that's Jungmun in English. I would pronounce it with the same "u" sound as... say flung. And that's how most foreigners here pronounce it, never knowing it should be an "u" like in "room" ( that's the best example i can think of). So, I would go around trying to talk to people about where I had been on the weekend, and I couldn't believe they couldn't understand the name of a place on their own Island. The most popular tourist resort! But now... I can see that my pronunciation was wayyyyyyyy off!

My advice to everyone out there, is that when you are learning a language, you often don't have an ear for it. You need to do loooots of listening, maybe even before you think about starting to speak. Then you can get accustomed to the sounds.

I believe it is most often not a problem with the listener, rather a problem with the speaker. Don't get frustrated. Just ask a friend what part of the word you are pronouncing strangely and let go of your perceptions of how the word is supposed to be said.

Marie

Bouks
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Postby Bouks » May 10th, 2008 3:27 am

Marie, that is very well said.

I think that my two-plus years of watching K-Dramas before even starting to learn Korean helped a lot with my pronunciation. Unless people are just being nice and not wanting to criticize, I have had lots of positive comments about the accuracy of my pronunciation. I don't believe I pronounce perfectly (intonation is especially an issue with me), but all that listening worked to my advantage. I will keep your comments here in mind as I continue practicing; you really hit the nail on the head.
On Skype, I'm nenuphar_ (just like that with the underline character ending)

I invite you to check out my new blog about linguistics, translation and culture:
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ddong_gae
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Postby ddong_gae » May 10th, 2008 4:02 am

Why should you expect someone to understand if they never learned English and maybe never even knew it was an English word?


I think you missed my point mariefrenette.

It not just loan words. My point was that often when I speak Korean to Korean friends, shop owners, family, etc., for some reason they do expect me to pronounce everything perfectly. And in a perfect world I should! But sometimes they don't get creative and think "ah this idiot doesn't seem to know the difference between 애 and 에 or ㄱ and ㄲ".

Ex..
My wife texted me "Why are you late?"
I text back "소퉁량" which has no meaning
She text me back ... "????"
I had meant to write "소통량" which means traffic

My frustration is not due to their inability to understand me, it's due to my inability to communicate fluently.

PS. Konglish is the representation of English words written with hangul. The Korean language does not have the same phonetics as English so they have to replace letters with a close representation from their own language. Many Koreans say "pish" when speaking the English word "fish" because ㅍ is as close to the English sound for F. That is Konglish.

javiskefka
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Postby javiskefka » May 10th, 2008 4:30 am

ddong gae wrote:It not just loan words. My point was that often when I speak Korean to Korean friends, shop owners, family, etc., for some reason they do expect me to pronounce everything perfectly. And in a perfect world I should! But sometimes they don't get creative and think "ah this idiot doesn't seem to know the difference between 애 and 에 or ㄱ and ㄲ".


I've come to the same conclusion as you regarding broken English versus broken Korean. It's a matter of expectation. English speakers are used to hearing many sorts of accents, because English is learned so widely. Koreans on the other hand would very rarely be exposed to the accents of foreigners who have the fortitude and temerity to make an effort to learn their language. That's right, we're a rare breed, so we face certain obstacles to being understood.

tormsen
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Postby tormsen » May 23rd, 2008 1:19 pm

I expect that if trends of low birth rate and increasing immigration continue, Koreans will slowly get better at discerning foreign accents. Though that'd probably mean they'll be fine with Phillipine, Mongolian and Pakistani accents but still have trouble with the rare Westerners who try to speak ㅋㅋ

Bouks
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Postby Bouks » May 23rd, 2008 3:58 pm

I got frustrated the other day, because I was talking to a Korean person on Skype, and he didn't understand me very well. It was the first time that happened, so I was surprised. I came to the conclusion that most things are understandable, but if your tongue gets tired and you mess up, it turns into gibberish for the Korean listener.

I was thinking a lot about why this is, and I don't have proof to back up my theory, but my guess is that so many particles, suffixes, and syllables that sound similar have multiple meanings, and this overlap makes it hard to sort out what the speaker wants to say unless everything is precisely in place - tone, context, pitch, etc. (even though it is not a tonal language).

I still appreciated the experience of not being understood, though, because it will make me try harder next time to get it perfectly.
On Skype, I'm nenuphar_ (just like that with the underline character ending)

I invite you to check out my new blog about linguistics, translation and culture:
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Sarah
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Postby Sarah » June 8th, 2008 9:39 pm

So my point is, when your speaking Korean to Koreans and your having trouble try 3 or 4 ways of saying it and don't get frustrated.


that's a good point
8)

well when i wanna talk in korean , i must twist my mouth as well as my toung to prounounce a word

yeah, it is hard language, but with practicing every thing goes easy

sarahk
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Postby sarahk » June 8th, 2008 11:31 pm

My biggest frustration is that I am Korean, born & raised in America. So I have a Korean face, but every other part of me is American. I rebelled growing up & lost the opportunity to learn to speak Korean from a young age.

Now, when I am in Korea, I am gun-shy to speak because Koreans expect me to speak fluently and correctly... when my caucasian friends attempt to speak, their mistakes are "cute"...

I'm worried that my "mistakes" will create a ruckus for being impolite!

My comprehension is WAY better than my ability to speak... so when someone asks me a question, I have to search my brain for the vocabulary words...then try to figure out what verb conjugation to use...then try to piece the sentence together... by the time I come up with something, most people don't have that kind of patience to wait... so they either ask me again in English, or they give me the answer in Korean before I can come up with my Kindergarten version...

I am watching K dramas...listening to my Kclass 101 podcasts...and trying to practice in every way possible whenever I can... when I write emails to anyone Korean, I am writing at least a part of it in hangeul...

I am determined to be fluent by March 2009... K-Class101 is definitely helping!

8)

mariefrenette
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Postby mariefrenette » June 9th, 2008 2:45 am

Sarah,

You certainly are in a difficult position, but I think you should just feel proud about taking time to learn about your roots. Anyone who knows a little about you will understand about you not speaking Korean well. And the great thing is, if you work hard, someday you will speak Korean quite proficiently, and then people won't be always exclaiming "foreigner" when they come across you. haha.


Be patient and keep on working hard, it'll get easier as time passes!



회이팅!

마리

sierras3
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Postby sierras3 » June 21st, 2008 3:13 pm

Well said, mariefrenette. Don't feel too bad, Sarah. I'm Chinese, and while I can hold conversations in Chinese, I can't read Chinese. I can only write my own name, and numbers... haha!

Korean is actually easy to pronounce for me, although a native Korean would be able to spot my foreign accent, but I've been told that I can come close enough to the original ^_^ I think it's because I speak Malay. The issue with my Korean now would be that while I know lots of words... I can't form sentences... hehe!

Native Malay, Indonesian and Tagalog speakers would find Korean a bit easier to learn than native English speakers because there are some similarities in how words are pronounced i.e. the 'u' in their language sounds like 'oo' . But the f/p issue would almost be unique to the Korean language ^_^

Practice definitely makes perfect. No matter how much dramas I watch, and how many songs I learn to sing, nothing can compare to being able to practice speaking the language with someone. If you can find the courage to try to speak as much as possible, even if you make mistakes, I think you will be able to perfect your Korean in no time ^_^ I'm still shy... And like you say, Sarah... if I went to Korea, I might have your problem since I look Asian... Chinese and Koreans look almost alike ^_^ People might just peg me as a Korean who can't speak Korean... :oops:

I've met a few Koreans... at work and at restaurants... and I agree with the point that while we have no problem deciphering their Konglish... they have problems with our foreign Korean... hehe!

HighTreason
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Postby HighTreason » June 22nd, 2008 10:21 am

I definitely get frustrated by this as well. You are right, however, that it's just a matter of them never having had to listen to foreigners speaking Korean. I meet Koreans all the time who have never spoke with a foreigner before in their entire lives. Seriously.

I have some good Korean friends who speak little to no English but have gotten used to listening to me speak Korean. They can usually pick out what I'm saying; first of all because they're actually putting in some effort toward understanding me, and second of all because I am around them enough that they get used to how I speak Korean, what mistakes I am prone to, my accent, etc. It happened just the other day, however, that I was hanging out with only Korean friends for a whole weekend, speaking mainly Korean the whole time, then I walked into a coffee shop and the person couldn't understand me well enough to order a glass of iced tea with light ice. The Korean I was with actually had to translate from badly pronounced Korean to correctly pronounced Korean so they would understand what I wanted. Now that was frustrating!

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