여러분 안녕하세요! 늦었지만 새해 복 많이 받으시길~
And just like that, another year has come and gone.
The latter half of 2017 was a terrible year for my Korean language studies, but the rest was fantastic. I was enrolled in my teacher’s specially-designed independent study to write nine-episode fanfiction (mine’s published here). I also started my honors thesis around this time last year, and for several incredibly intense, fast-paced months, I immersed myself in prose, poems, and dusty tomes from the university library.
My thesis centered on The Girl Who Wrote Loneliness by Shin Kyung-sook (famous for Please Look After Mom and I’ll Be Right There). While I mainly referenced the English edition, I had the Korean (titled 외딴 방) to verify which Korean words were used for what. The nuance of the translation of ‘factory girl’ from Korean words like 공순이, 여공, and 노동자 was a vital part of my analysis. The history and culture surrounding each word is different, and it makes a huge difference in contextualizing meaning and emotion.
This is the nuance of language, the nuance of feeling: the essence of the everyday.
Which brings me to my new year, new goals. Language is all about nuance, and nuance isn’t a strength of mine in Korean. Sure, I can easily read webtoons or chat with you in Korean. I can watch your generic TV show without subs. But understanding significant nuances?
In English, we often have numerous words for a similar concept. Take fear as a base concept. Terrified, horrified, petrified, frightened, scared, intimidated. As a writer, I know which word is the right one to use at a specific point in a story. Sometimes instinctually. Sometimes by fitting it together like a puzzle. It comes from a childhood overflowing with books. Nuance is indeed something to be learned. So, I’ve got English down all right.
As for Korean? Not so much.
I’ve floated around at about the same level of Korean for a solid two years as I haven’t engaged in a formal language class since junior year of undergrad. I also have only dabbled in active, self-guided study. I upkeep through novels, webtoons, the occasional drama (usually I end up rewatching Family Outing but these days I’m watching 화유기, I’m Not A Robot, and 사랑의 온도), and everyday conversation with my ever-patient S.O.
Upkeep’s a strange word. I love speaking, hearing, reading Korean. It’s an act of joy and love. So why is it so hard to dedicate time to active studying?
Now that I graduated, I work full time. An office job to pay my student loans and save, not a job I want for my career. I like to blame my job as the reason I don’t have enough time. How can I study Korean intensively AND spend hours every night writing, revising, and preparing to find an agent? I’m trying to become a published author, but I also need to maintain a regular study habit.
Here we go, 2018. Nuanced language learning. That’s my goal.
I plan to take TOPIK this year, so I armed myself with the 2017 한국어능력시험 books by 시대고시 (they consistently publish top-rated study aids for TOPIK, but read some reviews before you go buy your own set to see if they work with your learning style) and Talk To Me In Korean’s hanja guide*.
I love the hanja guide. I’m trying to learn etymology through hanja to increase my reading comprehension and help locate root words. Trying to recognize more Sino-Korean and use it to help me find nuance where I’ve failed before. That’s why this textbook is fantastic so far.
But before I delve into the TOPIK-specific resources this year, I’m approaching my enjoyment of Korean-language reading differently. I’d started reading 언어의 온도 last year after receiving it as a gift, and I love it to pieces. But while one page is easy to read, the next is choked with unfamiliar words. I can’t read for any length of time without Naver dictionary at my side. I’ve started dissecting it, meticulously, line by line, at the cost of it being a book I can simply enjoy as a book.
It’s a textbook of nuance for me, all the more so because it’s literally a book on the nuances of language. 언어의 온도. The Temperature of Language. I already highly recommend it, and I can’t wait to do a review here when I’ve read–and understood–it in its entirety.
Do my goals seem simple? Read a book and understand it. Study some hanja. Pick my way through the TOPIK study aids.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the nearly six years (good grief, has it been that long?) since I first memorized the Korean writing system, it’s this: Don’t underestimate simple. Don’t underestimate attainable. Take language learning one step at a time, take the steps in your own way, pick up the book in your own time, and even if you put down the book for a while, it’s okay.
It’s okay to pick it up again when you can.
What are your goals for language learning in 2018? Let me know in the comments!
지금 재생 중
P.S. I just started watching 화유기 (A Korean Odyssey) and lawdy do I like the OST songs. Two of my fav artists, no less! Bumkey’s voice just gets me, and Melomance is the artist that my boyfriend and I stumbled upon a few hours before we officially started dating. We’d gone to Yeongdeungpo Time Square to see a movie. On our way to the movie, we came across a live performance by Melomance and stayed to watch the whole thing. On the way out, there was a Sistar fansign event. Entirely coincidental, but also one of the many reasons why my friends joke that I’m the person to hang out with in Korea if you want to unexpectedly run into celebrities.
Hopefully my lucky streak doesn’t run out anytime soon!
Anyway, Melomance and Bumkey are phenomenal artists, and Hwayugi is shaping up to be a really fun drama. That’s why this post features not one, but TWO songs. It’s your lucky day, my friend. Enjoy.
*At this time, I am not paid to link to external sites. All recommendations are entirely my own!