Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Small successes....

Now that I've been going to Metro Korean Academy 8 hours/ week for a month and a half, I have definitely seen some improvements with my Korean skills.

A new teacher at my school is trying to find a good dance class to attend. Since I used to go to my hip-hop and belly dance class in Sangwangsimni (I quit because of Korean class), I took her by the studio to get some info. It was always a bit of a struggle to communicate over there, and communication usually took the form of a mix of Korean and English.. me speaking Korean, and the manager speaking English, since my comprehension skills were atrocious. This time, a different manager took us into the office to explain the classes to my co-worker. I'm so used to people just speaking English to me, but because I started out speaking Korean, she didn't try to speak any English. Somehow, I managed to translate all the important points... and I understood at least 60% of what was going on. A huge improvement on my usual 10-20%. I was able to communicate all the questions that she had for the manager. I felt that my Korean sucked while I was talking, but when I realized at the end, that I hadn't spoken any English.... that was quite an accomplishment. I was always frustrated that people always spoke English to me... but maybe as my Korean gets better people will realize that they can speak to me in Korean, and I will... at least get the gist of what they are saying.

Another small success was the dentist. While the dentist is perfectly fluent in English, all her staff are quite nervous about saying anything more than "thank you" and "sign, please". The first time I went in they jumped up and got the dentist before I even got a chance to speak, but I had to go in and reschedule and I didn't let them jump up this time. I just simply asked them if I could do my cleaning tomorrow at 5:30.... not hard (the word for cleaning in Korean is suh-kail-ring... like scailing). They seemed a bit relieved... but my Korean is still shaky and I couldn't get the times out right... I said 7 o'clock when I meant 5 o'clock.. fortunately I was holding up my hand to say 5... so they asked me again if I wanted to come at 7. Then the next day I dragged my boyfriend to get his teeth cleaned since it had been a while for him too. I went in and asked, in Korean, if it was ok if my boyfriend could make an appointment too. They told me in Korean to arrive together. Easy as pie....

The other funny story about that was that though my boyfriend is Korean, when other Koreans see me with him, they're not quite sure what nationality he is... he doesn't have the stereotypical Korean stature and face structure. When he walked into the dental clinic (I was already getting my teeth cleaned by the time he came) they got that same nervous look on their faces, since they figured he must be my boyfriend. Then he started talking, and they all breathed a sigh of relief. hahaha

Today I went to the bank, but this wasn't quite as successful as I would have liked. Because I was speaking Korean to them, they were speaking Korean back to me, but I don't have much of a bank vocabulary. I texted to my boyfriend frantically asking the word for remittance (송금하다). I was able to figure out when they needed to see my passport, but I had no idea for the word for ID card. Then evidently the bank clerk was trying to point out some thing strange about my ID card... someone made a mistake... but, I had no idea... he tried in English... but he couldn't get it out in English either. Guess it wasn't important.

Well... anway... I'll keep working.... I probably need to study more... but when exactly do I have the time to do that???


  1. When did you get a boyfriend? We need to chat.

  2. Hello! I'm just a random person who somehow found your blog and decided to comment ^^ I am also a female Westerner in Korea w/ a Korean b/f who has undertaken the daunting task of trying to learn 한국말. I'm about to start Level 4 of Sogang University's Regular program (20 hrs/wk of instruction), which supposedly means that I'm at an intermediate level of speaking ability.

    I just wanted to comment that in my experience, once people realize that you can actually communicate and understand a fairly good amount of Korean, they won't want to speak to you in English anymore. They will use English words with Korean grammar, though, if you can't understand what they're saying in Korean. Also, they become waaay more interested in talking to you ^^ So keep at it!