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A Whole Lot of Pointin Going On

Now that we've been spending time with other foreigners, I realise how LITTLE we actually know of the Korean language.

We have, for the most part, been able to get by with what we know (this seriously consists of 'thank you' 'hello' and 'yes') and I suppose one could continue down this path but I figure if people will take the time to speak English, the least I can do is try.

Numbers seem to be weird. There are two sets for two different types of numerical meanings. Great. So not only do I have to memorise the words that mean the numbers but I have to figure out whether it's talking about what time it is or what number of soju bottle I'm on.

The ignorant part of me thinks, hey, fingers work! 'I want 2 beers. Yes 2. See? I'm holding up 2 fingers. I can't imagine needing any more than 10 of anything at one time. I am blessed with 5 digits on each hand so I'm in a pretty good position to not have to master numbers.

But then the worldly part of me thinks no, A. You conquer your fears. You go near those numbers you avoid like the plague and you get em tiger. Maybe they'll make more sense in Korean! Maybe that's been the problem all along. These Asians are pretty darn clever with those numbers. Maybe it's easier to understand them!

Then of course there is the endings of words. I have now learned that how you end a phrase is actually expressing to the person how much RESPECT you think they are owed. I can't remember the endings, but one is highest and one is lowest (yes, this makes sense in a hierarchal system) and the one in the middle must mean you're not quite sure but don't want to offend.

Great. So not only do I have to learn how to say how are you? I will also have to guess how much I want to KNOW how the person is. And how nicely I want to ask. Just another thing to panic about as I'm already thinking of the sentence structure, sound emphasis and words: Whether or not Mr. Korean Man will be offended by what I've just tried to garble out.

I've been told learning the sounds is easy. That all of the characters have a sound and you simply LEARN the sound then string them together.

So if the symbols are 'shape-like-small-l' 'shape like t' 'shape like an E missing the top and the bottom' the sounds would be something like 'ta' 'ya' 'ree' and so if these three sounds are side by side on a billboard you can then say with confidence, 'Oh, that sign says ta'ya'ree' smile at your party trick and be none the wiser that you've just pronounced the word for whore house and are smiling and pointing about it in public.

Then you could buy the Tshirt 'I learned how to read Hangul and all that got me was some unwanted female attention'. Great.

This learning the language is sounding easier all the time.

Thank goodness for pictures in restaurants. Pointing rarely offends and certainly won't pronounce something incorrectly. And hey, two fingers always means two....or peace sign (which the Koreans love).

Although I guess in England, it's also another way to say f-off.

It's settled then. Learn Hangul. Or never order two of anything.


Anonymous said…
haha, you're so funny. This is me by the way ( I'm still trying to figure it all out. See you tonight I hope...(two fingers for ya)...:)
katrina said…
:-) yup. I'm a Canuck in Ulsan (friend of liz's) slowly learning the language myself. To order two of something, say the object and then use the "hana, dul, set, net..." numbers, and (usually) add "geh" to the end. So when I ask for 2 packs of smokes, it's "tambay, du-geh chu-seh-yo". "geh" is a particle that means "thing" or "object". There are different ones for different types of things, but "geh" seems to be pretty universal...
Anonymous said…
Hey A. I don't think you live in Belfast anymore...maybe you can change that one of these days? Seeing as you love to write about your adventures in Korea and all...;) It was great to see you guys last night. I busted my gut from laughing so hard last night. D. is a funny dude. Anyway, about that person hating me?, I don't think so anymore;) Talk to you later.

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