My Korean after 15 years

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

It's been 15 years since I first learned Korean, and 13-14 since I've known it to fluency, and since then I haven't spent a day without spending at least a few hours using it. When learning a language you not only learn a language but also create your own way of speaking it, in the same way you do with any other language including your first one, and I thought it would be interesting to jot down a few points on what characteristics my Korean has. They are in no particular order, and I think I'll update the post from time to time as others come to mind.

  • 가르치다 vs. 가리키다 - always make sure to properly use 가르치다. Same for 다르다 vs. 틀리다. It bugs me a little when I hear it used wrongly, but it's so prevalent that I won't ever mention it.
  • 너무 vs. 아주. 너무 when technically used wrongly in positive sentences (너무 더워) doesn't bug me. I think trying to correct people on this is a battle that has long since been lost.
  • ㅇ is cute. Words that have a lot of ㅇ in them have always and still do sound cute. 엉덩이, 비행기, 꽹과리, ~쟁이, even 약쟁이 and 술주정뱅이.
  • That might be why I don't mind seeing and writing 뱅기 for 비행기 even though I'm a purist otherwise when it comes to spelling.
  • On that note, I strongly dislike seeing words like 저나 (전화) and 시러 (싫어) and all the rest of these lazy spellings.
  • Of course spellings like 쬐끔 for 조금 and so on are completely fine as they change the meaning. You can almost see the person making the two-finger gesture when saying 쬐끔.
  • 가지고 - for some reason I still dislike using 가지고 where you connect it to a verb/adjective like 더워가지고 or 돈이 없어가지고. Feels whiny or unfocused, I always hear people using it when grousing on the phone with a friend or girlfriend in a low voice at a PC bang or somewhere and it doesn't make me want to do the same.
  • I like when phrases like 단언컨대 that are usually more literary than colloquial suddenly get popular and get used a lot for a while.
  • I'm not sure if I care that 부셔버리다 is incorrect while 부숴버리다 is not. Maybe I should.
  • Korean is a lot of fun when you get to the end of a sentence and your brain kind of wants to say two things at once and you end up with a mix of the two. I do this a lot when my mind is elsewhere. For example I saw my cat on the stairs the other day when I thought she was sleeping and wanted to say to her 오, 여기 있었어? But I also wanted to say 오, 여기 있었구나! So what came out sounded something like 여깄었크써? as my brain decided it would be a good idea to just mash them together in lieu of choosing one.
  • I never do any code switching (e.g. unnecessarily adding a bunch of English words into my Korean) unless I'm with a Korean who also speaks Japanese. Then it's code switching galore. It's so easy to switch between one and the other and sometimes the exact thing I want to say is in one language, not the other. Things like そう言われたくない! or 文句ある? or 平気 and so on just tend to slip out.
  • I still don't have a Korean name for myself. Just 데이빛 with that exact spelling. I've played around with the idea of 데이(day)빛(light) becoming 일광(日光) but that's an awkward-sounding name.
  • If I had to choose a surname for myself it might be 남궁. I have a tiny stuffed bear I got in 2004 that I've named 남궁덕전. He still travels with me in my pocket sometimes.
  • Apparently 이 is now preferred to 이빨 but I still stick with 이빨 most of the time because it's not a homonym for anything else.
  • I don't much care for the double 지 in phrases like 공부를 해야지 합격하지. I stick to 공부를 해야 합격하지.
  • Sometimes a phrase gets put on hold for usage in my head because I've only heard it used by a girl. Once I hear it used by a man as well then it's good to go. Phrases like 안봐도 비디오야, which feels a bit girlish but maybe that's just me. Outright 애교 of course is obviously girlish, but the possibly girlish phrases are the ones that get a question mark.
  • I use a certain amount of 막, but not too much.
  • Korean is the only language I talk to animals in. English just feels awkward now.


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