From Korea with Love

"I carry your heart with me… always."

Why I’m Learning Korean Again

34 Comments

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Yup! I’m going to study Korean again. I finally got a lot of time and “some motivation” from my husband, and well, maybe from my in-laws who always tell me I’ve been in Korea for 3 years but my Korean is still “bad”. (T.T)

Being a language teacher, I know it isn’t that easy to learn a third language when you’re 30, but I can’t possibly make the in-laws understand this and I can’t keep using it as an excuse for my idleness and lack of interest in learning my husband’s language. I’ve had this wrong idea that being able to read, write and speak “a little” Korean would be enough to get me through life here, since hubby and I speak English all the time, and at work, I am not encouraged to talk in Korean… but a realization dawned on me a few weeks ago when I encountered three “mean” Korean women and I couldn’t defend myself because my Korean is “limited”.

I was shopping in Jamsil. The shop was crowded. I saw this pretty orange chiffon blouse and I was going to buy it, so I removed it from the hanger and held it for a while as I was looking for other items in the shop I might like. Just then, one of the ladies working there approached me and without a word, took the blouse from me. (This reminds me of the “ajumma” incident a year ago.) I told her I was going to buy it, but she said, “No, no, no!” I tried to speak Korean to explain myself, though I didn’t think I needed to do that. I was shopping, not shoplifting, for Pete’s sake! Two other ladies came. I’m not sure if they work in the same shop or they’re the “schizophrenic” lady’s friends, but though they weren’t talking, they were blocking the door! I felt so helpless like Andy Dufresne in “The Shawshank Redemption” ‘s shower scene.

Maybe my Korean wasn’t good enough, and they couldn’t understand what I was telling them. The more I spoke, the more the “schizophrenic” lady yakked, and people were already staring at us, wondering what was happening. I was also wondering what the fuss was about, wondering what to do, if I should call the cops or not; then I realized that the cops would not understand my “broken Korean”, too, so to make the long story short, I decided not to dial 112 (phone number for the police in South Korea), stop explaining myself and just pay for the blouse.

That has got to be the most humiliating moment of my life. I was so angry and frustrated that I couldn’t defend myself, because I couldn’t express myself well in Korean.

The story I have shared is not the only reason I am learning Korean again. I’ve always known it would be a problem not to be able to speak the language fluently when hubby and I raise our own children.  A couple of weeks ago, I visited a multi-cultural center. The head of the center, a Filipina, who happens to be a friend, showed me a group of children from multi-cultural families, who go to the center after school, to have tutorials and free Korean lessons. She told me that some of the children are having difficulties in school, because they can’t speak fluent Korean. This is more likely to happen when the mother can barely speak Korean to her child. I don’t want my children to go through the same dilemma. My husband is busy with work and I am certain that in the future, the task of teaching our children and helping them do their homework will be my responsibility.

My knowledge of Korean isn’t so bad, at least not how my father-in-law describes it… but I know that it isn’t enough.  I  stopped attending Korean language classes, because I thought they were irksome and confusing, or maybe this is just another excuse. The point is, whether or not I want to study Korean, I HAVE TO learn the language and be able to speak it well. I could name a gazillion reasons why, but mostly, it’s because that’s what I am expected to do.

At home, the in-laws understand most of what I say in Korean. In the market, at the mall, in restaurants, ajossis and ajummas try to understand me when I use Korean language. Most Koreans I talk to try to understand my “not-so-fluent” Korean that they even think it’s “cute”… but in the real world, there will always be people who will not try to understand you when you don’t speak their language.

In Korea, being a foreigner doesn’t exempt you from speaking Korean. Once you decide to live here, you are bound by this obligation.

Tomorrow is the first day of my Korean language class in Yeoksam.

Wish me luck! =)

34 thoughts on “Why I’m Learning Korean Again

  1. It’s always good the learn and improve ones self for the better, especially in countries like Korea, even though sections of the people understand English, It would be wise to speak the local lingo. And yes I’m not anti-western but I find them abit isolated from the general public in any asian country.

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  2. Ako nga, I used to weigh 100 lbs lang dati (45 kg), tinutukso na akong fat ng husband ko. Koreans prefer “skinny” women, ung halos anorexic na (kidding)… no, but seriously may konting bilbil ka lang or medyo chubby lang, sasabihin na dito na fat ka… pero dipende din sa body type mo. Besides, di ka naman sasabihan na “You’re fat.” Kaka-disappoint lang pag namili ka ng damit and most of the nicer ones pang-sexy ang sizes. ^^

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  3. I have another question…is it true that you’re considered fat if you’re over 110 lbs? I’m 5ft. tall and 124 lbs. so would I be considered fat in SK? :S

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  4. Hi, Anne. =) Though discrimination still happens in SK, most Koreans are friendly and kind once they get to know you. They are not “hostile towards Southeast Asians”, but there are Koreans who think they are superior than Filipinos or other Southeast Asians.

    I don’t think you will be discriminated against just because of your tanned skin. In fact, a lot of Koreans find Pinays beautiful because of their round eyes and exotic look. Act confident. Smile a lot. Just be yourself.

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  5. Hello! I’m just curious: I’m a Filipino living in Canada and would like to visit South Korea some time next year as a tourist. The thing is, I’ve heard that Koreans can be a bit hostile towards Southeast Asians. I don’t want to think of Koreans that way but would I face discrimination in SK for having a bit of tanned skin or are Koreans generally friendly towards tourists/foreigners of Southeast Asian descent?

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  6. Thank you for the tips, Aricosta. =) Sometimes my husband and I talk in Korean, but we are never serious about it. We always end up kidding around. Now that I’m learning Korean again, he helps me out with spelling and pronunciation, and he checks my homework. =)

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  7. Thank you, Maria. ^^ Why don’t you try to study? You can buy books or visit sites that teach Korean language. =)

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  8. Hi again, Hana. ^^ I know that site. ^^

    SOGANG SERIES ang ginagamit sa Yeoksam Global Center eh. Ang dami kong Korean language books sa bahay my husband purchased for me and ung mga hindi ko natapos na books sa private tutor ko noon, pero di talaga ako nag-aaral. Now lang ako nagka-time and na-motivate. =)

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  9. I was born and grew up here.Hindi lang ako marunong magsalita pero nakakaintindi . I recommend this site for Korean learning http://www.talktomeinkorean.com (I have a feeling alam mo tong site na to😀 ) I wonder why Sogang ang binili mong Korean learning books…Yan ba ang gagamitin sa class nyo?

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  10. Ay hindi job po. Hehe :’) Sa pag aaral po, naghahanap po ako ng scholarship sa iba’t ibang schools. Hehehe.🙂 TY po.

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  11. Practice makes perfect thus Id say try to immerse yourself much with korean drama or even talking to your hubby in Korean at least on the weekends. Cheers

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  12. Natawa naman ako, ang bata mo pa pala to be thinking about finding a job in Korea. Pagbutihan mo, iha. =)

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  13. BTW po, mag gr-grade 8 pa lang po ako. Salamat po.

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  14. Thank you po!🙂

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  15. Hello, Kim. ^^ Visit this site: http://www.studyabroaduniversities.com/Study-in-South-Korea.aspx

    Maraming Korean universities na naka-indicate dyan na nag-o-offer ng scholarships.

    GOOD LUCK. =)

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  16. Hi! I am also a Filipina. I really want to study there, my mother allows me to do so. The problem is, hindi ko po alam kung anong school ang pwede kong mapasukan. Can I ask for your help po since wala akong ibang kilalang Pinay sa Korea, kung may alam po ba kayong scholarship po in any school. Salamat po ng marami! :’)

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  17. Oh~ too sad.. I’m attending the 1:30pm class since that 5pm class was already full when I registered from the first semester. In my class, we’re almost women except for one guy from canada. It would have been perfect if you could be in our class..^^ Anyway, we’ll all have the same teacher and she is really nice and professional, so I enjoyed her class so much..

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  18. Wow, congratulations… I wish I could study the language too for business purposes and at the same time for me to understand kdrama better🙂 Good Luck!

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  19. Hello, Maya. ^^ Thank you for your interest in the blog. ^^

    You said you are graduating soon. I suppose you are in your 20’s? You are still young and I’m sure there are a lot of great opportunities out there for you… not just here in SK, but in other countries as well.

    Like I said in my previous post (https://chrissantosra.wordpress.com/2012/04/10/filipinos-seeking-jobs-in-korea/), it isn’t easy to find a teaching job in SK if you are coming from the Philippines… no matter how “American” your accent is or how good you are as a teacher. Koreans would rather hire native-English speakers, and they would even finance their airline tickets and provide housing for them once they are here; however, if you come to Korea to study, you can get a part-time job here or work as a registered private tutor. If you come here as a tourist, you can stay here for a short period of time (of course) and you won’t be allowed to work.

    I have met Pinoys who are working in SK as engineers, computer programmers or office employees under a working visa, but the teachers I have met are either student visa holders or spouses of Koreans or Caucasians/Filipinos working here.

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  20. Hi, Hana. ^^ Capampangan ka din? Good luck on your studies. ^^

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  21. Hi!I’m Karla.Filipino din.I live in Angeles City.Nice to meet a fellow Korean learner.

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  22. Good for you, Lourdes. I don’t have that kind of motivation to study by myself. ^^ Good luck on your studies. =)

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  23. I’m also using the same books. I self-study 한글🙂

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  24. I have the same problem in speaking Korean. Ugh, the accent! I took up pronunciation class with a private tutor, but my Korean accent is still very “foreign”.

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  25. I did learn it in Marrakech. I must have learned it well enough because in Fez they made fun of my Marrakech accent! But then when I tried to talk to Arabs from the Middle East we could barely understand each other at all.

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  26. Hi I l really love your blog! It’s very refreshing, I read it all the time. I’d wish to work there right after I graduate, could you give me some advice? I just don’t know where to start…I dunno if I should study korean there, then get part-time job(is that legal?) or try to get a job from here,I plan to just apply online. I’m so sorry for asking you these random things, but i am just clueless,I’m a fellow pinoy by the way. Any advice would help, I probably sound like a hopeless case too but. I just really wish to work abroad, it’s sounds fun, although I know maybe it’s not, but I luv to experience for myself…my friends have worked abroad, in the us. but I dunno I’d really love korea, but I don’t know anyone who’s been there😦

    Goodluck on your korean class by the way :))

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  27. Thank you. =)

    So you also learned their native language in Morocco?

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  28. Thank you, too. God bless. =)

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  29. Hi, Stephanie. ^^ My husband told me the same thing. He said even if he can speak English, he won’t talk to our children in English… ONLY KOREAN. ^^ Koreans are very patriotic, as you know. =)

    Hubby and I speak English all the time, another reason I wasn’t interested in learning his native language. =)

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  30. Hi, JC. ^^ I’m attending the TTH class at 5 PM. ^^ What time is yours?

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  31. 열심히 공부해요!! ^___^ I’m happy for you & it’s good to know that multi-cultural children have a hard time in class because they don’t speak fluent Korean. I really want to learn a lot of Korean so I can speak it with my kids (the boyfriend said that even though he knows Chinese, he’s never going to speak to our kids in Chinese -_-!)

    Does your hubby speak Tagalog?? (Is that what you speak??)😛

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  32. What time will you be attending the class? I’m currently learning in that center now. It would be great if there will be a pinoy classmate in my class..^^

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  33. Good luck! 행운을 빌어요. Thanks for linking to my blog posts.

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  34. I wish you very much luck! I think that there are lots of good reasons to learn Korean. I lived in Morocco and I had to defend myself from people trying to take advantage of a foreigner. I did ok🙂

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