Stuck on the Plateau

Learning another language is an unavoidably humbling experience. Either you find yourself humbled by how stupid you feel but push on with the dream of some day expressing yourself to the fullest – or the feeling of stupidity crowds out everything else until you give up. Continue reading


Bad Language Days™

It’s time to talk about Bad Language Days™.

We all have them. And no, I’m not talking about swearing. I’m talking about the days when, seemingly out of nowhere, your brain shuts down and refuses to function in your second (or third, or fourth) language.

If I’m being completely honest, I’ll admit Bad Language Days happen in my native English, too. Cannot compute. Cannot English. Cannot Korean. Words come to a full stop, and if I’m lucky, this happens before I’m halfway through a word or sentence that I’ve forgotten how to say. A word that I’ve never had a problem pronouncing becomes a mouthful of pain. Continue reading

A Street Named Freedom

my daneo jjang


I’m working my way through the bestselling book, 언어의 온도, aka The Temperature of Language, and not everything is as it first seems. Take this excerpt:

“몇 해 전, 봄을 알리는 비가 지나간 스산한 저녁이었다. 출판도시에서 일을 보고 차를 몰아 자유로에 진입했다.”

자유. Ja-yu. It means freedom, it means liberty; it’s a word with a relaxed approach to things. In translating this line, I calmly attributed this word to the author’s description of her driving style, but I was still confused by the usage of ~로 and ~에 at the end of 자유.

When my S.O. checked my work and left a corrective comment, I couldn’t stop laughing.

Apparently 자유로 (自由路) is a famous road in Korea, one that runs from Seoul to Paju, which is a city ripe with publishing companies and considered the publishing capital of Korea, just south of the demilitarized zone. It’s known for being a place where ghosts are spotted, and it’s quite literally called Freedom Road. It never occurred to me that it was the name of a street, even though I’m familiar with 로 denoting a road rather than being used as a grammatical marker.

“A few years ago, the passing rains spoke of spring, and it was a bleak evening. I had work at the Publishing City, and I entered through Freedom Road, driving my car.”

There’s even a Liberty Street near where I live, and it’s a common enough name for a road; isn’t it interesting that my mind couldn’t make that seemingly obvious conclusion? This is why I love translation; this is why I’ve served as a translator for Humans of Seoul for two years now. There is always some new nuance to be uncovered, like buried treasure hidden in the silt of everyday conversation.


지금 재생 중

2018년: New Year, New Goals

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. Continue reading

Where’s the Writer?


It’s been a few months since I’ve posted here, and if I’m completely honest, it’s been more than a few months since I’ve, you know, actually posted. My most recent posts were scheduled well in advance. Why?

At the end of April, I graduated undergrad. I graduated with High Honors on my honors thesis in Korean Studies, won a prestigious award for Korean Studies, nabbed a second major in International Studies, got a short story published in a college lit magazine, said goodbye to almost all my friends, and started working full-time a day after commencement ceremonies.

Adulting is hard.

It’s also terrifying because I’m doing two seemingly opposing things. One’s commended by everyone I meet. The other? Well, let’s just say not everyone understands why I’m doing it.  Continue reading

스핑 팬픽 에피 9: 너라는 꿈속

둘이 움직이지 않고 서 있었다. 뒤에서 온 기정이는
우연이를 껴안아서 우는 소리를 작게 내고 있었다. 우연이가 기정이의 머리를 쓰다듬자 기정이의 울음이 그쳤다.

“못된 안예림의 복수 땜에 난 널 또 다시 놓친 줄 알았어. 너무 무서웠어, 우연아. 널 또 놓칠 수도 있다는 생각에 진짜 죽을 뻔 했단 말이야.” 속마음을 털어놓고 있는 기정이가 우연이를 계속 껴안고서 말했다. Continue reading

스핑 팬픽 에피 8: 그리고 그는 왔다

 이제 일주일에 두 번씩 나오는 드라마가 3회까지 방송됐지만 드라마에 대한 인터뷰나 관련 기사가 나올 때마다 우연이는 반드시 찾아 봤다. 머릿속에서 키워 손으로 만들어 낸 그 이야기를 티브이에서 볼 수 있었다. 얼마나 좋은지 몰랐다. 그리고…기정이를 다시 보게 된 것은 생각보다 괜찮았다는 생각이 들었다.

이번에는 감독을 만나러 회사에 온 겸 우연이는 티브이를 보면서 우연이가 크로키를 하고 있었다. 지나가고 있는 스탭들은 보통 인사를 하고 계속 걸어갔지만 갑자기 한 명이 우연이 앞에 멈추었다. 어느덧 지나가고 있는 태신이었다. 잠시 후에 태신이가 우연이 옆에 앉았지만 우연이는 상관없이 계속 티브이를 보며 스케치했다. 바로 그 때 티브이에서는 기정이의 라이브 인터뷰를 방송하고 있었다. 태신이도 티브이를 봤다. Continue reading

Hungry for Korean Food? An Interview with Burger15

안녕하세요! I’m excited to introduce my fav new Korea-focused YouTubers and longtime friends who began their channel this year. Burger15 is an enticing new look at the tastiest food in Korea, at real restaurants and cafes, with real people and without gimmicks or glamour. Just two people eating delicious food and telling you about it.  Continue reading

스핑 팬픽 에피 7: 네 생각이 나

“아니, 대체 어떻게 내 방에 들어오게 됐냐? 제대로 대답 안 해? 우연아. 어젯밤 기정이 만났지?” 그린이가 침대에 앉아서 우연이를 바라보았다. 잠을 아직 자는 척하며 대답하지 않은 우연이는 설명하지 못한 채 입을 다물고 있었다.

“알았어. 대답하지마. 남똥이한테 물어봐야지…” Continue reading

스핑 팬픽 에피 6: 우리 돌아갈 수 있을까?

시간이 또 흘러갔다. 가끔 낮에 땀을 몹시 흘릴 만큼 더웠고 밤에 부는 봄  바람은 도시 길거리를 깨끗하고 시원하게 했다. 몇 주 전부터 촬영은 시작이 되었고 우연이는
대본 쓰기와 공부에 집중하느라 기정이와 키스했을 때 이후로 기정이를 보지 않았다. 당연히 매일매일 그 키스가 떠올랐다. Continue reading