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Foreigners speaking Korean to Koreans...grrrr!

John
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Postby John » July 10th, 2008 1:59 pm

Sara I have the exact problem....I can comprehend Korean very well, ofcourse only the vocab I already know. But every time someone speaks to me my brain freezes so I understand where your coming from. :( :( :(

SiEd
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Postby SiEd » July 11th, 2008 12:19 am

sierras3 wrote: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 ^_^



Yes, it seems that for people who speak Malay, Tagalog, Indonesian, or any of the languages in that part of the world have an easy time with the Korean "쌍 자음", i.e. the tensed consonant series. This series is the closest in pronunciation to the plain voiceless consonants in many SE Asian languages = p, t, and k in these languages are non-aspirated, but they are pronounced with a bit of pressure in the throat. (In fact, being a speaker of Indonesian and Balinese myself, I cringe whenever other foreign speakers strongly aspirate their consonants!)

The f/p issue is also big in the Philippines and Indonesia - in fact there are jokes that center on mispronouncing these sounds:

"Use the word "deposit" in a sentence, please."

"Uh, apter you wahss your hands, mek syure you turn op de posit." :)
"I'm trying to make a pun, but it's not punny."
-Mas Widiyanto

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oussan
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More adventures in being misunderstood...

Postby oussan » July 11th, 2008 1:56 am

Something that always made me laugh was when I would approach a stranger and start speaking to them in Korean, and instantly they'd reply with, "영어 몰라요" or "잉글리쉬 노!" or something like that.

I'm a white American, but I knew that my Korean wasn't that bad. Slowly, I would reply something along the lines of, "지금 한국말 하는데요."

In these cases, the Korean listener was so not expecting me to speak their language, that they literally wouldn't hear or understand the Korean that I spoke. Once their mind made the switch, however, and realized what language I was speaking, the conversation flowed without problem!

I've done the same thing several times in reverse, too. A Korean will start speaking to me in English, and because I'm listening for Korean, I can't understand a word they're saying! :)

oussan
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Postby oussan » July 11th, 2008 3:20 pm

One more thing that I've noticed about language is that while we hear so much about the role of nonverbal communication (how it's like 80% of communication or something crazy), something we hear less of is how expectation plays a significant role also.

For my job I actually prepare transcriptions of recorded conversations and it is interesting to me how much language people use that really goes unnoticed. People listen for a few key words, and most of the rest is just filler. (Of course, this is probably less true of active listeners.)

You can quite often predict what people are going to say. Try finishing people's sentences for them. If you can finish their sentence, there's really not a big need to listen to every single word that they say. You've already got the gist, and that's usually good enough.

This partially explains why we enjoy good comedy - because it's surprising and unexpected.

I think it also partially explains why it is difficult for foreigners to understand each other.

oussan
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Postby oussan » July 11th, 2008 3:21 pm

matthew254 wrote:However, I offer a small bit of advice stolen from Austin (cause he jacks from me at least once a month :) ) He once said in an interview with the KC101 varsity team leader 현우씨 that he doesn't like to say the phrase "한국말 잘 못 해요". Why? because 1) he can speak it and 2) it shut down the conversation. Had he not said that, the speaker would have kept talking. Chalk one more experience of practicing your Korean!

I really like this advice. Even though I have a pretty distinct voice (read: bad central Texas accent) I have stopped saying 한국말 잘 못 해요 and sure enough I get more chances to speak Korean. Not only that, but the conversations last a bit longer each time. Imagine that?
I agree that people tend to shut down if they think they can't communicate with you. A trick that I learned to overcome this was to use more advanced phrases instead. Here is one:

낫놓고 'ㄱ'자도 모릅니다. (I don't know a sickle from a 'ㄱ'.)

This one is kind of fun because it allows you to feign humility and flex your Korean muscles at the same time - and you usually get a pretty good reaction from the listener!

Here's another one:

쥐꼬리만큼... (As much as a mouse's tail...)

Basically, these sorts of expressions allow you to communicate the fact that you're a not an expert, but you're also not a newbie!

rooraa
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Postby rooraa » July 12th, 2008 1:00 am

austinfd wrote:
holdfast wrote:i am not sure (so someone please confirm) but i think you could say:

한국말 잘 못 하는데 배우려고 하는 중이예요
or
한국말 잘 못 하지만 배우려고 하는 중이예요

does that work?


I think that they are both corrct, but perhaps ~는데 is a little more commonly used. To me, ~지만 gives the impression of not only "but"; also "although" or "even so".

Whereas ~는데 indciates you want to say more information. And after asmitting that you can't speak Korean well, you proably want to explain yourself... so 는데 fits the bill...just my thoughts though!


정말 고맙습니다 austinfd씨! Now, if I could just memorize it...... :roll:

ekevin
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Postby ekevin » July 12th, 2008 3:28 pm

It certainly seems like a self-defeating strategy to say 한국말 잘 못 해요 if anyone expects to continue any kind of conversation in Korean. Imagine if a Korean speaker says to you "I can't speak English" as soon as you approach them. (More likely it will be something like, "Englishi no" to avoid the trouble of trying to communicate with you, though.) This seems to be just as much an attitude as anything else, as has been mentioned.
The discussion here reminded me of an experience at my University here in Seoul. One Friday night I walked to the bus stop to go home when 3 young American students approached me and asked if I knew how to get to Itaewon. As I was going to Itaewon myself I said I could show them the way and they could come with me. I found out they were students at Beijing International School who had come to Seoul for a debating competition then tried to go to Itaewon but got on the wrong bus. They were now in Seongbuk-gu about an hour away from Itaewon. I asked how long they had been at the bus stop. It hadn't been long but they told me they had tried to ask Korean students – there were many at the bus stop - but no-one would talk to them – presumably as they had to speak English. This is despite the fact that every University student has had 6 years of English study at Middle and High school, plus a compulsory one semester English conversation course and one semester reading in English. All that memorizing and no strategies for saying, "sorry I don't understand you", or "could you speak a little more slowly please?" which might forward communication. Just an apparent fear of having to use the language in a real situation.
I have been in that situation myself when I have had to use Korean when I have been amongst Koreans who speak no English. But if I go to an English speaking country, the people there expect I will speak English (probably largely because most English-speaking countries are shamefully mono-lingual). In Korea, however, Koreans think they should speak English to 'foreigners' and rarely seem to expect that ‘foreigners’ will know their language. So generally from my experience they seem very appreciative when a 'foreigner' does make an effort to speak Korean. I have heard the phrase 한국말 잘 하 시는요 many times after giving simple directions to taxi drivers or in other, mostly commercial, encounters even though my spoken Korean is fairly poor compared to my listening and reading ability. Several times I have then found myself in the situation where the taxi driver assumes I have good command of Korean and starts a conversation. This is a good opportunity for me to practice but is also stressful as I am trying to understand what they say then work out a sensible response - the usual 2nd language scenario – and my processing ability is not up to it.
I worked in a Middle School for 9 months with 60 teachers. The only teachers who could communicate in English were the … English teachers (surprise, surprise). They were all women and I am a man so, because of the Korean social norms, we couldn’t eat lunch together too often and I had to interact with other (male) teachers. I found a group of the PE teachers who were of similar age to me who I could eat with and communicate with to some extent – primarily when I asked questions that I had been learning. The interesting thing was that I could have conversations with some of them (to a limited extent) but with others it seemed impossible to communicate at all. So my language ability was only one factor involved here. Other things like personality, the others’ listening, interest, willingness to understand seemed to be just as important.
Finally, despite all this, when I am teaching adult Koreans English I sometimes say a word in Korean to explain vocabulary. The other week the word, ‘prawn’ came up and I told my student it was 새우 in Korean. She couldn’t understand what I was saying. We were sitting a few feet apart across a table in a perfectly quiet room. I tried 3 more times but she still couldn’t get it so finally I wrote it for her. Ah, she said,’새우!’ Back to the drawing board!
Another Korean friend told me a story about their Canadian teacher who decided to try out his Korean in the supermarket. When he handed his purchase to the checkout operator he asked, '얼마이에요? ' She replied, “Sorry, I don’t know Englishi.”

SiEd
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Postby SiEd » July 12th, 2008 4:35 pm

ekevin wrote:In Korea, however, Koreans think they should speak English to 'foreigners' and rarely seem to expect that ‘foreigners’ will know their language. So generally from my experience they seem very appreciative when a 'foreigner' does make an effort to speak Korean. I have heard the phrase 한국말 잘 하 시는요 many times after giving simple directions to taxi drivers or in other, mostly commercial, encounters even though my spoken Korean is fairly poor compared to my listening and reading ability. Several times I have then found myself in the situation where the taxi driver assumes I have good command of Korean and starts a conversation. This is a good opportunity for me to practice but is also stressful as I am trying to understand what they say then work out a sensible response - the usual 2nd language scenario – and my processing ability is not up to it.

Another Korean friend told me a story about their Canadian teacher who decided to try out his Korean in the supermarket. When he handed his purchase to the checkout operator he asked, '얼마이에요? ' She replied, “Sorry, I don’t know Englishi.”


I must be an exception here - I could pass for either Latin American or some type of Asian (but not East Asian), so I rarely got the "English - no!" while I was in Korea. Instead, I got the really puzzled look, like "he's some type of Asian - I think - but I can't exactly figure out what he is". :? And the first night I was there, I was in a unique predicament - I was looking for my friend's place near 석계역, forgetting which exit I had to go to... (I learned the hard way about how important it is to get the correct exit.) And then this middle-aged couple (who must have seen me as someone who lost their way) stopped and asked me "어디 가세요? 주무실 방 필요하세요? 저기 있는데..." All I could respond with is "친구 아버지가 계신데요..." However, I did not know how to say "But I don't know what this friend's father looks like" (true story). 제 친구가 아버지께 제 사진 보냈는데 저는 친구 아버지 사진 안 바닸거든요. So, I'm in a pretty unusual situation. Luckily enough, my friend's father pulls up in his car, points at me, and says 에드?! Boy, that was a relief! After this, though, I did not feel that I really had a problem making my self understood or vice versa, compared to the other conference participants.

One strategy that I've adopted, in addition to others that have been suggested on this thread, is to speak out but not stare/look at the person you're addressing. It gives the illusion that the voice speaking Korean is not immediately associated with a foreign speaker, thus lessening the pressure for the native Korean speaker to react as if s/he had to immediately respond somehow in "English". It's just my personal experience, though, so I can't tell if any of you had tried this strategy already and had different results altogether.
"I'm trying to make a pun, but it's not punny."
-Mas Widiyanto

ryans_class
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Korean cultural background and speaking to foreigners

Postby ryans_class » July 17th, 2008 9:36 am

I am an English language teacher in Sydney where about 70% of my students are either Korean or Japanese. In my experience I would feel that there are some fairly deep cultural variations that prevent a even a well studied Korean speaker of English producing the fluency that westerners might expect.

Compared to my European or south American students (who are happy to shoot first and ask questions later) my Korean students will feel an embarrassment if they do not produce a perfectly formed sentence. In fact they often will feel, that if they are not equal to their counterpart in terms of ability then they are better to remain silent until they have attained an comparable level. - it is better to be silent and let people think you are an idiot, that to open your mouth and prove it....

I would suggest that this could be one of the resons for the reluctance of many Koreans to speak with a foreigner even though they might have been studying the language for many years.

Remember that humbleness and humility is embedded into (probably) all of their relationships with each other, perfect evidence being the importance of polite levels of language in Korean.

Also in my experience, the average korean student who has done many years of English study, probably can tell you anything you would like about English grammar, but very little else. It appears that their English education doesn't adequately prepare them to actually USE English. - Kind of like reading about driving a car, but never actually driving one.

Enough from me
Ryan

John
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Postby John » July 17th, 2008 2:02 pm

Sara how did the visit to the Church go?? I want to do that at my local Korean church. I want to know how you went about doing that. :?: :?:

shanshanchua
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Re: Korean cultural background and speaking to foreigners

Postby shanshanchua » July 17th, 2008 3:50 pm

ryans class wrote:I would suggest that this could be one of the resons for the reluctance of many Koreans to speak with a foreigner even though they might have been studying the language for many years.

Remember that humbleness and humility is embedded into (probably) all of their relationships with each other, perfect evidence being the importance of polite levels of language in Korean.


That's a helpful insight, Ryan... I never thought of it that way, but now that you mention it, makes a lot of sense. It's quite an Asian thing actually (I think!). In a class with a mix of Asian and Western students, it's quite often that the Western students would be more participative and talkative, while the Asians tend to be more shy. In my church in Singapore, when we have a class, sometimes the teacher would ask a question and no one would answer, but if there's a foreign (western) visitor in our midst, he would often not hesitate to contribute, even though he's a visitor!

Bouks
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Postby Bouks » July 17th, 2008 4:10 pm

There was an interesting article on Korea Beat the other day, about English teachers and their, uh, varying abilities. I wanted to post a link, but when I tried to go back there, Google started shouting at the top of its lungs, "Malware has been found on this site! Proceed at your own risk!" So go Google the site and topic, and infect your own computers without my help :lol:

Unfortunately I'm a lot like Koreans are when trying to practice a foreign language. I get over it after a period of time (at least I hope I still do), but it is a roadblock to learning, I'll admit. Of course it's very frustrating that Koreans don't recognise our broken attempts at their language...there's this hard-to-attain "exactness factor". I'm even pretty good with accents and imitating sounds, but it's still extremely difficult to be understood.

That having been said...the other day I was on Skype, and a Korean contact I hadn't chatted with for a very long time just called me out of the blue. (I'd never even spoken on the mic with him.) He could barely speak any English, but held onto that conversation like it meant his life. He kept trying to put sentences together and talk, and failing most of the time. I did the same for him in Korean...it was hilarious. The end result...lots of confusion and laughing. But good on him for just up-and-calling like that. I don't have the courage to try that. Bad me.
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I invite you to check out my new blog about linguistics, translation and culture:
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John
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Postby John » July 17th, 2008 4:29 pm

I have had that conversation myself 줄리아 ...It was difficult and we haven't spoken since....lol

Enkiae
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Postby Enkiae » July 19th, 2008 5:50 pm

I can sort of understand people who don't want to talk English when they feel they can't express themselves properly. If I don't know what to say I kinda...don't wanna say anything. :lol: Maybe the person just needs more exposure to listening...

It's a little frustrating. I would much rather listen to people speak and passively enjoy the conversation (I'm a believer in input-first!), but well intentioned people start pushing and forcing me to say something, and it kills the desire to speak. :S

Also forcing people to talk about topics they're not interested in is hard enough in their native language, in a foreign language it's much more difficult. I don't like "small talk" in English, why would I want to do it in Korean? : lol : :lol: But I guess that's why my speaking is still really bad...

Bouks
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Postby Bouks » July 19th, 2008 5:59 pm

That's an important point, Enki - the topic does have to interest us or it's no use at all.

I remember one of my French classes in college -- we had to study the artist Miro. Who knows why! I was in pain having to watch the film about him over and over again to answer questions. When it came time to do the final test on the unit, for one of the questions, I simply put, "I don't know. I'm not interested in this person or his work." I'm not even rebellious or flippant like that, normally. I guess I just cracked under the strain of boredom! Needless to say I didn't score well.

Sorry, Miro fans, please don't take it personally. :wink:
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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