More Korean! Wow, has 3 months flown by already? 진짜? (Chincha? Really?) If you don’t know, back in January, I started to learn Korean. Well, since my initial weeks of reading, writing, and typing in the Hangul alphabet, I’ve expanded my learning to conversational speaking lessons. Although the Pimsleur audio method might not fit everyone’s style, I love that I can listen and speak while driving!
Interestingly, while I didn’t plan it this way, January focused on identifying the Hangul symbols, February focused on recognizing and pronouncing the subtle Korean sounds, and March finally led to associating or linking the two. Naturally, linking sounds-to-symbols and symbols-to-sounds meant getting more books. Not e-books or Kindle books, but real books made of paper. Yup, imagine that!
Hi, my name is Jay, and I’m an IBM TRIRIGA information developer at IBM. But you might be asking: Why not electronic? If you’re a developer, why did it naturally mean physical books? Actually, it’s simple. If you’ve ever done research for a term paper, a short story, or in this case, a foreign language, the fastest way to compare a half dozen resources at once is to flip through printed books, isn’t it?
What do I mean? No electronic tools?
Nope, I’m not saying that I’m avoiding electronic tools altogether. In fact, to generate quick Hangul transcriptions of my Korean pronunciations, the Google Translate mobile app is both incredible and indispensable. On the other hand, to compare the various Korean romanizations whether I’m on the floor, couch, or bed, the printed format is still the quickest, cheapest, and most flexible format.
That’s the core of the situation: Korean romanizations. Unlike structured product documentation, which strives for a single, centralized, and synchronized source of reusable content, there is no single standard for official Korean romanizations, let alone unofficial phonetic transcriptions. As a result, instead of looking for a single answer, I’m collecting, comparing, and contrasting many perspectives.
To illustrate the variety, many letters in the Hangul alphabet can be interpreted multiple ways in English. For example, the letter ㄱ (giyeok) can be pronounced with a softer “g” or a harder “k” sound depending on its placement in a word. Similarly, ㄷ (digeut) can sound like a “d” or “t”, ㄹ (rieul) can sound like an “r” or “l”, ㅂ (bieup) can sound like a “b” or “p”, and ㅈ (jieut) can sound like a “j” or “ch”.
Naturally, one major goal is to read enough Hangul directly without the need of intermediate English interpretations. But until then, I’ll have to depend on this variety of romanizations and transcriptions.
What are my final thoughts?
As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t plan it this way. Three months ago, I didn’t expect to start a collection of Korean paperbacks. Back then, I imagined that I’d spend most of my time online, learning the language from my desktop, laptop, and smartphone. But I’m glad that it hasn’t stayed that way at all. Instead, I’ve acquired more printed books in the last 3 months than I’ve acquired in the last 3 years!
I also mentioned that the Google Translate mobile app is indispensable. To be clear, my Samsung Galaxy Note 2 and Samsung Chromebook 2 are exceptional learning tools, especially when their Hangul keyboards are installed. But due to their screen-based constraints, they are exceptional only when combined with differing audio-based and print-based learning tools, methods, and formats.
Finally, I mentioned one major goal to read enough Hangul directly. Of course, another major goal is to speak enough Korean fluently. Luckily, I’ve been able to practice some random words and phrases at a couple of my favorite lunching spots. Yup, face-to-face with actual Korean owners! For example, 내일 일이 있어요, and 토요일 일이 없어요, and 만나서 반갑습니다. Funny to see their surprised looks!
So what does this all mean? Well, if I was a new reader, I might think that someone who tackles a new language from his couch, his car, cyberspace, and face-to-face, is a bit obsessed. But in a good way.
- Korean BBQ & Rolls (www.yelp.com)
- The Pimsleur Method (www.pimsleur.com)
- The Korean Language (www.tuttlepublishing.com)
- The Google Chromebook in South Korea (www.rjkoehler.com)
- Chromebook Help: Choose keyboard input methods (support.google.com)
- How to change the language on Samsung Chromebook (www.youtube.com)
- Korean Non-Transparent Keyboard Stickers on Black Background (www.amazon.com)