This summer has been full of preparations (mixed with far too much stress and madness) to go to Korea and almost no true, consistent studying of Korean. The one reassurance that my Korean abilities haven’t completely fled comes from my nightly manhwa time.
만화 (manhwa) – a glorious method of reading delightful comics for fun under the thin disguise of “studying Korean”.
When I began reading manhwa, I only really read Penguin Loves Mev because even that simple and sweet story was difficult for me to read in Korean. Each short sentence had a cute, comical illustration that helped me figure out the meanings of words I didn’t know – but I struggled through one chapter at a time, and I translated infrequently but with great effort, dissecting the grammar and asking my language partners about the usage of some words.
Sometime last fall, I got a new phone and discovered that Naver Webtoons has an app (I’d always read Penguin Loves Mev on my laptop). While I was exploring how to use the app, I became interested in trying other manhwa. As much as I loved Penguin Loves Mev, I wanted to challenge myself more (and I generally like fiction/fantasy/adventure). I bookmarked a few new manhwa to try and quickly became fascinated with 천년구미호 (1000 Year Gumiho).
There are lots of reason to read this manhwa. I absolutely love mythical creatures and legends, so anything about a nine-tailed fox (gumiho) from Korean myth – there are related legends in other Asian countries – is sure to grab my attention. I could also extol the virtues of the illustrations and plot….but this post is about language learning.
Time to put my study face on. And study James McAvoy’s beautiful face.
The other reason I love this manhwa is because of the language itself. It’s set in modern-day Korea, so there’s slang and modern colloquial conversations, but since it incorporates lots of ancient mythical creatures, these characters converse in old, historical Korean: very formal and often very different from what you’d hear a friend say to you. It’s an awesome mixture of old and modern Korean and I learn new things in every single chapter.
One of the best things about this manhwa is that the story is so interesting that I never can read just one chapter at a time. I often read at least five, even if it takes a long time, but this is a huge improvement from me struggling through one chapter a night (if that). I’m motivated to continue reading and practicing Korean because I want to know what happens next.
Don’t misunderstand; I definitely don’t understand everything in each chapter, but I’ve vastly improved since last fall when I began reading manhwa again. I can tell that my speed and comprehension has picked up enormously, and the more consistently I read, the better I am at Korean in general.
And, you know, it’s just so funny sometimes. The chicken is probably my all-time favorite character.
Yes that wondrously evil-looking face is the face of doom. A chicken. Technically a rooster. Ah, well.
There are beautiful moments of comedy that make me burst out laughing, scenes of angst and romance, and entire chapters full of action and danger. And then there are scenes where someone FINALLY MENTIONS that one of the evil guys has a hairstyle that makes his head look like a 송편 (songpyeon) which is a traditional Korean food. Check out the head of the guy on the left and compare it to the picture of songpyeon.
Do you read any manhwa? Let me know if you have a favorite or if you’ve also enjoyed reading 천년구미호. Woohoo for reading!
And 감사합니다 for reading this^^
지금 재생 중 (because 괜찮아, 사랑이야 (It’s Okay, That’s Love) is a fantaaaaaaastic new Kdrama that finally confronts the stigma about mental illness as not being worth the same care as physical illness. Also because this song is really pretty):