Tips for learning the Korean Language…

Here are some tips that will help you learn and progress in the Korean language…

1. Watch Korean Dramas: Watching Korean dramas is a good way to get exposure to the language and observe a situation being played out while listening to the Korean.  When you can watch some activity going on it helps to give context to what you are hearing.

2. Learn Korean Pop Songs:  Write out the lyrics to your favorite K Pop song.  Listen to the song and everyday look over the lyrics and sing them to yourself.  There is something amazing about the way a song can help unlock the key to learning a language.

3. Listen and Repeat:   First you will need to find a Korean movie on dvd that has Korean subtitles.  I found lots of these movies in Yongsan in the heart of Seoul.  Yongsan is a big venue for electronics in Seoul.  As you are watching your movie, first watch it without subtitles and find a sentence you would like to practice.  Listen to the sentence on your laptop and then pause the movie and try to repeat what was just said.  Listen again to the same sentence and try and repeat.  Do this about 10 to 20 times.  Then write down what you think you heard.  And then go back and listen again and check what you wrote down with what they are saying, until you think are almost totally accurate.  Now you can turn on the subtitles and check what you wrote down with what they actually said.  Now listen and repeat the actual sentence after hearing it.  This will strengthen your comprehension.  Next, get a Korean friend to translate the sentence and tell you its meaning.

4.  Get a grammar book:  Find a good Korean grammar book and start learning some grammar and practice it with your Korean friends.  If you check my previous posts, I recommend some really good books for learning Korean.  If you already have a grammar book, keep reviewing it, but find some new material to study.  It is always a good thing to learn something new.  If all you are doing is reviewing old material, you will start getting stagnant.  Its amazing how your brain starts using old things you learned, when you start introducing new things to it.  Keep your learning fresh and new.  If you don’t understand some grammar, don’t stress.  Let is go, and it will come back to you…

5.  This is the most amazing online resource for learning that I have ever found.  Visit this site often!

6.  Translate a Korean book into your native tongue:  Find a simple novel or a storybook with pictures and translate it.  Then get your Korean friend to check your work.

7.  Learn new vocabulary:  When you are out on the town with your friends or just by yourself, bring a note pad with you and write down words you see that are unfamiliar to you.  Then, if your Korean is already good enough get a Korean friend to explain it to you in the Korean Language, not your native tongue.  This is very effective.

8.  CONVERSATE!:  The most important thing you can do in Korean is to speak it!  If you don’t practice speaking what you know, you will never progress.  Even if you are incorrect in your sentences, start speaking anyway.  GET IT OUT!  It is okay to fail and it is okay to make mistakes!  How did you learn to walk when you were a baby?  You got up and fell down again and again, until finally one day, you stood!

9.  This is a website where you can study a lesson, practice writing a Korean sentence and get your sentences checked by native speakers.  Excellent resource!~

10.  You cannot succeed until you FAIL!:  You cannot succeed until you fail over and over and over again.  So let go of your fears and worries.  No body is perfect.  Accept your short comings and be free to make mistakes.  It is the best way to live life.  Get out of your cage and live!

How to cut an Asian Pear…

Koreans love to eat fruit after a meal.  It cleans the palate.  Koreans love to fellowship over food and anyway to make the meal longer is better.

Spring is approaching and the fruit markets are starting to pop up.  Get out and go find some delicious fruit!

Today I’m going to show you how to cut an Asian pear.

Start with your standard Asian pear…
First wash the pear under water.

And start by cutting around the top of the pear.
Cut in a spiral direction around the pear
Until you have completely removed all of the skin
Next, remove the top and bottom where the stem is
And cut the pear in half
Now you have two halves
Cut out the middle of the pear

Now cut the pear halves into slices…

Now the pear is ready to be served.
What a delicious Asian pear!

When you go to the Korean bakery, what is your favorite thing to eat?

When you go to the bakery in Korea, what is your favorite thing to get?

I love those steamed rolls filled with red bean paste called “JJin BBang” 찐빵.

What do you like to get at the bakery?

Retro K Pop from 1995! — 영원히 내게 – 안상수


Here is one my favorites.  I actually saw the artist perform in a department store in Myeongdong.  The first time I heard this song was shortly before my girlfriend and I broke up in Korea.  Sometimes the painful memories are the most beautiful ones.

This song is about a man who didn’t realize what he had until she was gone.  Now he is asking her to come back to him…

. . . . .

이 넓은 세상에
날 위한건
너 하나였어

밤새워 그렇게도
눈물 흘렸지
어려움 속에

어디에 있는지
모르는 채

나 또한 볼수 없는
거릴 걸었어
어딘지 모를

지금 내게
무엇도 필요치 않아
나를 대신하던 너였어

이제 너를
나없는 어둠 속에서
슬프게 할순 없어

다시와 내게로
널 위한건
새상에 나만이 알아

나에게 돌아와
이젠 내게 있어줘
영원히 내게…

지금 내게
무엇도 필요치 않아
나를 대신하던 너였어

이제 너를
나없는 어둠 속에서
슬프게 할순 없어

다시와 내게로
널 위한건
세상에 나만이 알아

나에게 돌아와
이젠 내게 있어줘
영원히 내게

나에게 돌아와
이젠 내게 있어줘
영원히 내게

[credit goes to Pops8090 for putting this video together]

소녀 – 이문세 (1985年) – “So-nyo” – Lee Moon Sae


This song is about a long lost love from adolescence…

. . . . .

내 곁에만 머물러요 떠나면 안돼요
그리움 두고 머나 먼길 그대 무지개를 찾아올 순 없어요
노을진 찬가에 앉아 멀리 떠가는 구름을 보며
찾고싶은 옛 생각들 하늘에 그려요

음 불어오는 차가운 바람 속에 그대 외로워 울지만
나 항상 그대 곁에 머물겠어요 떠나지 않아요

TTL (Time to Love) – T-ARA and Supernova


This is a really fast song and a difficult one to learn, but if you apply yourself everyday and spend at least 10 to 15 minutes going over it, you will make steady progress.  (Granted that you can speak and read a little Korean already.)

. . . . .

좋은 사람 너는 내게 첫사랑
사랑을 가르쳐 준 사람
never forget you
I remember you
기억해 너하나만

oh 혹시나 너를 볼까 니가 사준 옷을 입고
니가 좋아하던 짧은 머리를 하고
너와 함께 걷던 그길을 지나가기 위해서
굳이 먼길을 돌았어 혹시 니가 있을까봐
전화번호도 아직 그대로
혹시 나를 찾아올까봐 집도 그대로
내 미니홈피 속엔 너와 듣던 노래뿐
혹시 니가 올까봐 다시 돌아볼까봐

우리는 아직 잊지 못했는데
우리는 아직 서로 원하는데
우린 아직 사랑하는데
사실은 보고 싶은데
미치도록 노를 보고 싶은데
한없이 널 기다려 결국너를 기다려
혹시하고 멈춰서 제자리를 맴도네

좋은 사람 너는 내게 첫사랑
사랑을 가르쳐 준 사람
never forget you
I remember you
기억해 너하나만

yo 호시나 너를 볼까봐 보게 되면 흔들릴까봐
내 마음이 약해질까봐 말라 비튼 날 보일까봐
너와 함께걷던 그 길을 피하기 위해서
굳이 먼길을 돌았어 혹시 니가 올까봐
전화번호도 이미 바꿨어
혹시 니 생각이 날까 집도 옮겼어
하지만 입에선 아직 못한 말이 새
혹시 너를 볼까봐 다시 돌아올까봐

좋은 사람 너는 내게 첫사랑
사랑을 가르쳐 준 사람
never forget you
I remember you
기억해 너하나만

다시 시작해 말하고 싶지만
들리지도 또 보이지않는 너를 찾고 있어

쏟아지는 장대비를 맞은 채
우리 처음 만난 그곳으로 가는데
자신이 너무 나도 한심해
당신의 따스했던 자리 아직 가슴에
넌 더 견딜 수 있으니 거럼 나도 조금 더 견딜테니
하지만 힘이 좀 들꺼야 너무 사랑했잖아
참으려 애를 써봤어도 어쩔수가 없어

혹시라도 우연히 널 볼까봐
그대가 내 모습 볼까봐
거울을 보며 눈물을 닦죠
혹시나 너 올까봐

좋은 사람 너는 내게 첫사랑
사랑을 가르쳐 준 사람 [그대가 내인생의 첫사랑]
never forget you
I remember you
기억해 너 하나만 [너 아직 기억해 너 하나만]

Jump in! The water’s fine!

That morning the unknown was approaching and I could feel the wings of butterflies in my belly.  As I went through the rectangular doorway into the school and up the stairs the roar of children grew louder.  The smell of bread or cookies baking in the oven.  Where did it come from?  I could see myself in the granite tile.  Rectangular proclamations of triumph and praise hanging on the walls.  I hiked up to the third floor.  Removing my shoes and putting on red slippers and opening the door.  Why was there such a fanfare upon my arrival?  Was I a guest in their home?  I felt my identity was mistaken.  The owner of my school was a happy face and a generous soul.  Ready to overlook my faults.  She was cheerful and always padded the moment with laughter.  Her English was on the level of an infant, but she had plenty of servants to interpret for her.  She was the Queen and the school was her kingdom.  And I was a diplomat from a far away land read about in books, and seen in movies.  It was my first dive into Korea.
James and Jillian were rest stops along the way.  Places were I could stop and say, “what is going on? What does this mean? Why do they do this?”.  And I would get a Western mind’s explanation.  They were my fellow travelers.  James was a teacher from Tennessee and Jillian was a blonde from Oregon.  James gave me a small explanation of the schedule and a strategy for running the marathon.  After the brief in the war room, I was led into a class to observe how things would be conducted.After observing the teacher, it seemed like it would be a lot of fun and easy to manage.  After viewing several of these classes, I thought I would go out and explore unnoticed.  Soon I found a little monkey swinging on my leg….The morning classes I would be teaching were going to be fun: 6 – 8 year old students with a beautiful assistant helping in each class.
The morning was finished and our supervisor Mary wanted to treat us.  Nobly we rode in her car as honored guests.  Soon arriving at a Korean BBQ house near my apartment.  The restaurant had two sides: Western style tables and Korean style floor tables.  I voted Korean style, so we removed our shoes and sat on the square pillows.  It was painful sitting with my legs directly under my body.  Its a challenge if you have never done it.  Sitting on the floor is something Asians do naturally and is a healthy alternative to the chair.BBQ HouseMary called the waitress over and said something in Korean while we waited.  Soon an old face came to the table carrying a pink pile of pork and a metal tennis racket.  She turned on the gas and we waited for the red glow.  Mary laid the pork strips on the round racket as the smell of grilled meat filled the air.  Our mouths began watering- we were getting ready to eat Sam-gyup-sal 삼겹살.  This popular food is known as pork belly.  We took leaves of lettuce, placed a slice of garlic and dab of pepper paste inside followed by the cooked pork and ate like kings.  The rice was an excellent compliment.  We had seconds and thirds and then everything was gone.  I finished it all with a hot glass of water.  And like a stuffed turkey trying to stand up, I overcame gravity and balanced my way out the door.
We arrived back at the school and the leg of the race was about to start.  I thought it would be similar to what we had done in the morning, but I was simply introduced to the older class, given a book and the door was shut behind me.  Standing in a cage surrounded by chimpanzees, my thoughts were replaced with instinct.  I would stand my ground until the reinforcements arrived.  I looked for the lifeguard hoping she would see me…  drowning.  So I opened my book and began.
“What is this?! This is a cup!”, I proclaimed, hoping the sound of my voice would spell out authority.  Amidst the quiet roar of unfamiliar noises occasionally I was noticed and given a treat.  How could they be informed that what I came to bring to them was actually good and they should want it?  Hey kid, don’t you know that you’ll grow up someday and have to be responsible and learning to speak my language is good for you?!!  No response.  This mountain was big.  Where was my climbing gear?
Soon the referee burst through the door and sent the fighters to their respective corners.  We were given the rules again and then round #2 began.  I decided to put pencils in their hands and open their books in front of them, walking each child through the process of learning.  I asked a Korean teacher to have them draw their current state of emotion onto a piece of paper. I had taught boys gymnastics before and that was a joy and a challenge, but this was another level of difficulty that I had not encountered.  How do you direct them, if they can’t understand what you are saying?  Puzzled looks, needing hearing devices.  Leaning in to listen to me.  Soon breaking focus and continuing down their river of conversations.  How could I pull them safely to the shore?  This would be a process of learning and trying new methods and making mistakes and repeating them over again.  “You can’t succeed until you fail”, that is what they say…  when you find yourself in the midst of your problems, don’t leave–there is a solution.

The day was over and I threw the weight off my back.  I flew out of that place and we took a deep breath.  The smell of cookies.  A woman in a cart frying chocolate cream pancakes.  How lucky was I?  The stress melted with hot brown oozing as I pulled it apart with my teeth.  I could eat these forever.  After the fourth one I felt sick to my stomach and woke from the dream. ^_^Street cartIt was good to have James around.  He had been there 8 months before Jillian and I had landed.  He was our flashlight.  He showed us where it was safe to jump in and places we should avoid.  Really, the amazing thing about South Korea is the crime rate.  It doesn’t exist.  Drugs are no where to be found and the culture of family is very strong.  Korea is an isolated place, cut off from the big bad world.  Its like going back to the 1950’s in America when you could leave your front door unlocked.  As we carried on, we found our way to a place called Grand Mart.  It was a competitor with other department stores like, E-Mart and Lotte Mart.  We wandered in and found interesting things:  A happy pig made of jade, a ring with a Buddhist cross, and Korean spam.  As well as a Korean tailor, Korean Tony the Tiger and a radio called “Pooty”.
iWe made our way back outside and continued our conversation about our personal experiences and what had brought us to Korea.  It was an exciting time in life.  We were living an experience and no matter what the circumstances were, it would not be mundane.

Cold wet noodles

Tree House Naengmyeon

It was a frigid Monday and a holiday!  I timidly put one foot in front of the other and slid out the front door.  Slowly crawling into this strange world, becoming suddenly aware of the dark ocean around me.  Like black mops swinging and bouncing as they flowed by.  I looked closer.  It was the hair of many Asians.  My white Texas face shouted, “I’M NOT LIKE YOU.  I STICK OUT LIKE A SORE THUMB!”  The walls of my room could no longer shield me from the eyes of the passers by.  Like the points of needles, I felt their stares as I swallowed the discomfort.  I grasped my way into a small restaurant squeezing out the words,”nang-myun chuseyo.” as if their ears were made of delicate ceramic.  I poured into the nearest chair.  Time seemed to stop, until a smile greeted me carrying a spicy bowl of noodles and ice.  She called it, “Nang-myun 냉면”, meaning “cold noodle”.  The circular bowl was unfamiliar. Inside of it, I found sesame seeds floating on ice, slices of green cucumber, half-circles of Asian Pear topped with a slice of boiled egg and a strip of meat.  Underneath it all, strings of noodles wrapped in a bun keeping everything afloat.
My stomach was going to burst as I hobbled around the block and explored more of the neighborhood.  I could barely speak to anyone.  If I got lost, I didn’t know the address to my apartment!  I didn’t know the name of my school!  I walked down blocks of gray square buildings laced with neon.  I must remember the path I had taken.  Loud music playing and smoky restaurants open to the street.  Coffee shops on every corner.  Asian faces warmly bundled.  Occasionally seeing the familiar.  A 7-Eleven!  O thank heaven!  The 7-Elevens were 24 hour, just like the West.  Soon upon entering, the familiarity was gone.  Things like black bean milk and squid jerkey hanging in the isles.  The bean drink was known as “Kaman-kong (까만콩)”.  It was refreshing!
I found the road back to my apartment after navigating the high seas, but upon returning, I noticed rectangular buildings lit up like Christmas trees.  Some were castles, some looked like alien space ships.  These buildings were hiding a secret.  I could see myself in the lipstick red tiles, as I stood outside, pondering in the glow of their radiance.  What was the intention of these bright buildings?  The structures beckoned me to come inside, but I played it safe and stayed warm in my bed that night.

Jumping into an ice cold pool…

The first thing I remember was the doorbell ringing.  My supervisor was here and it was Sunday morning.  I received a wonderful invitation to attend her church.  Like opening the refrigerator door we set off into the frigid air outside.  A thick fog blanketed the ground.  Rubbing my eyes, I followed this excited woman and her husband down a sidewalk lined with trees and little shops.  The surroundings were beautiful and the air screamed of freshness.  I remember the blinding sunlight playing hide and seek through charcoal trees.

We got to the church and there was an English service for foreigners.  The pastor was a missionary from Nepal.  He couldn’t really speak Korean either, but his English was perfect.  The service was so much fun.  Koreans have a childlike innocence about them and I could see it in the songs they sang.  There were three Koreans leading worship and they had choreographed dances for each song.  It was a lot of fun.

After the service, everyone in the entire church met for lunch.  The church was 5 stories tall and everyone met on the 4th floor.  We had Kimchee, rice and a hot soup.  It was getting cold in Korea and the soup hit the spot.  I met a few faces and joined them downstairs for coffee and cinnamon tea.  The amazing thing about Korean church is that it goes on all day.  There is an early service that starts around 5am and then several more services spread out throughout the day.  Attendance is optional, but most of the members are there all day.  In addition to this, there is an early morning prayer service at 5:30am every morning Monday through Saturday.  I was amazed to find out that the ministers in the church attend the 5am prayer service 7 days a week!  When do they ever sleep?  And yet, they never seemed exhausted, but always healthy and happy.  The 5am service is called Sae-byok-ki-do (새벽기도) which means, “dawn prayer”.

While visiting with new faces and unfamiliar accents, we shared a cup of cinnamon tea called Su-jong-gwa (수정과) near a warm gas heater.  The best cinnamon tea ever!  They drink this hot tea during the wintertime keep warm.  The ingredients include: dried persimmons, cinnamon, brown sugar and ginger.  It really opens up the nasal cavities.  And it can also be served cold as well in the summertime.  One of my favorite teas.  I even learned how to make it in my apartment.  It took a couple of times to get it right, but I am now a brew-master.

After the service I did a little exploration.  Down the street from my apartment, in the opposite direction, there was a big building called E-Mart.  This E-mart could be the equivalent to a Wal-mart in America.  The building was about 6 stories tall and several blocks long.  The first floor was a department store and the remaining stories above were a parking garage. Upon entering, you could find your way to escalators in the back going down further.  The second basement floor had sporting goods, electronics and goods for the home.  The third floor basement was where all the food was located.  It was down here that I could find fruit and canned tuna and bottled water, etc.  On Sundays, just like America, there are grocery clerks everywhere handing out free samples of food.  A little pinch of squid here and some interesting spicy vegetable dipped in a sauce over there.  And the milk was so good!  There was even a bakery where you could find bread balls stuffed with sweet cream.  I made myself sick eating too many!  There was an isle for dried ramen noodles of all kinds.

I couldn’t believe I was in another country and that I would living here for a year!

On the plane, on my way…

English: Road leading into Incheon Airport

Incheon International Airport, South Korea

I remember that night so well.  Driving off to the airport.  My family, standing in the drive way, saying goodbye.  As if they would never see me again.

I made it to the airport, boarded the plane and took a deep breath.  This was it and there was no turning back.  Could it really have taken me 2 years to make this decision?! Sometimes hurdles in life seem a lot bigger than they really are.  The biggest hurdle is our own doubts.

The flight was long and it gave me a lot of time to put my thoughts down on paper.  The plane finally landed in Incheon International Airport.  I grabbed my bags from the overhead cabinet and made it out of the plane and headed to customs.  It didn’t take too long and soon I was outside of the airport.  I noticed the ratio of dark headed hair to blond had changed and how the air was much cooler.  The school had already arranged for a taxi to pick me up from the airport and it was there waiting for me.

It was a long, quiet ride to the city with Korean radio softly playing in the background.  Occasionally my driver would attempt to practice his English.  I knew a little Korean as well, so it was a warm-hearted exchange.  Koreans are very ambitious to learn English, so they are taken back when an American knows how to speak their langauge.  Even if it is only a simple greeting, they are always pleasantly surprised.  So don’t be afraid, give it a try!

The school was eager to greet me.  It was night and my new boss and her supervisor had stayed at the school waiting for my arrival.  It felt so good to finally meet them.  I didn’t feel like I was an employee, but more like a guest visiting their home.  They gave me a tour of the classrooms I would be teaching in and the school’s amenities.  I was pleased.  Uncertainty turned to relief.  I had made a good decision.  It was going to be a good year.

After seeing the school, I was went to see my apartment that I would be living in.  It was an efficiency about 10 minutes by foot from the school.  Kitchen, drier, and stove were included.  The floor even had a heating system that used hot water running through tubes inside the floor, so the floor itself heated up from the inside.

The supervisor took me to the nearby bread shop and I loaded up, then went back to my apartment and got ready for the next morning.  It was a Saturday and tomorrow would be Sunday.  Monday was a holiday and work would start on Tuesday.

. . . . .