[learning korean]

Topic: Korea

Yesterday I had my first Korean language class at The Korea Society. I’ve decided to start at the Basic level, despite my prior dabblings in Korean, because it’s always easier to go over the basics with a language than to try to catch up when you’ve missed something important. That being said, yesterday’s class was almost totally unnecessary for me, as it mostly covered hangeul, the Korean alphabet, which I already know quite well.

What was most interesting, then, was the part of the class when we all introduced ourselves and explained why we were taking Korean. Out of the twenty students, six were there because they had Korean spouses or fiances and wanted to be able to communicate with their in-laws, three were Korean-Americans (including one who’d come with her fiance) who hoped to be able to talk to their own families, and one woman had an adopted Korean daughter. Then there were those of us who were learning the language for professional reasons, like the Japanese woman who works as a news translator and sometimes has to deal with articles from Korea, or the young man who wanted to get into the military or other security work. Beyond that, there was a guy who is thinking of living in Asia, a woman who decided to take the class because her daughter is also learning Korean, and a couple of people who just love languages.

The teacher, Shin-Hark Suk (pictured above), began teaching Korean in 1984 and has been giving classes at the Korea Society for 9 years. Having tried my hand at teaching language, it was interesting to watch a veteran go at it. Considering how little there was for me to learn during this first session, it’s difficult to judge how well she taught, but I was impressed by the packet she handed out to help us learn the Korean alphabet. She’d designed it herself, creating mnemonic pictures for each Korean letter, in which the letter formed part of an image of something that begins with the same sound. She has a curious habit of punctuating her speech with the word “yes,” drawn out and extended: “This letter — ye-e-es — makes a ‘guh’ sound — ye-e-es — looks like goose — ye-e-es.” But she seems friendly enough, and I expect that she’ll be a perfectly serviceable guide to the Korean language.

I’m sure I’ll have more to say as the class progresses.