Tag Archives: Culture

Learning Language Like A Baby

IMG_1004.JPGLearning a language is easier than people think. Just look at yourself now, you are reading an article written in English by someone probably very very far away from where you are. You most likely learnt this language as a young baby – as your native tongue – or perhaps you learnt the language later in life.

Baby Amy
Me as a baby

Regardless of whether it’s your first, second or sixth language, it got in there. The hard part about learning a language is the getting around your own mind to allow it in. Most of us learnt a language growing up that serves to comminicate with our community in both a written and spoken form (however, some are not so lucky, due to physical or psychological issues) We learn it as we grow for one reason: survival. If we want to get fed, we have to communicate that we are hungry. If we are scared, we need to be able to explain the danger that is facing us.
As a baby, your parents were probably quite good at understanding the babblings and cooings you made as a kind of personalised pre-language to know when you were hungry, sleepy, scared or needed changing. Parents and guardians are very good at picking up on the needs of the people in their care. But you had to be able to communicate better. If you wanted one of the toys in front of you, it would help you acheive getting it if you said ‘Ball’ or ‘truck’, so the listener would know exactly what you wanted.
You aquired language as a necessity for your survival, pleasure and comfort.
Learning a second language requires a bit more work as we try so hard to learn it through our first language. It is very normal to say “What is this in English?” or “So ‘____’ is just like ‘___’ in English?”
When it is a language that is similar to your langage it is okay, but when it is two entirely different languages it gets confusing. One of the biggest problems I am finding in learning Korean and Japanese is that it is so hard to learn it through the context of English, because they are so vastly different. At times, I even find it a lot easier to learn Korean through Japanese, because they are at least slighty similar.
When you were a baby, the only way you could work out what something meant was through context. You would see and hear how it was used and learn from that.
A Korean baby can’t hear the word “비행기” and think “I think that’s Korean for ‘airplane’.” But they hear it said, maybe the parent points at a toy plane or a picture of a plane as they say it and the child will eventually put two and two together.
It can be a slow process, but it’s the best proven method to make you both natural and comfortable in that language – It made you fluent in your native language!
I know it is incredibly tough to learn another language without referencing your native language, but there are a couple of ways that you can try to work around your native tongue.

 

Go Sub-free

Copyright (C) SBS
Copyright (C) SBS

It’s so easy to watch television programs in the language you are studying and always have the subtitles on. It’s the safer and easier option which means you can take everything in as easily as if you were watching a show from your home.
But, you can find that you’ve watched an entire series and barely looked up from the words on the screen!
I love watching Japanese and Korean dramas without subtitles because I can really watch the performances and it’s a great way to test what I know and try to figure out the stuff I don’t know from other sources (i.e how it’s said, the context of the scene and the relationship between the speaker and listener).
It can be tough and you may miss some details, but it really does help (and gives you an excuse to watch it again later)!
Sometimes, as you improve, you will also find ways that the subtitle writers didn’t get it totally right or misunderstood and you can get an even clearer understanding of what the character is saying. I remember watching a Japanese drama where the subtitles consistantly made a mistake that confused me for ages until I watched it without, actually listened to the actual Japanese dialogue and suddenly it all made sense!

Stick to it

sticky note 1One method I use is to put up sticky notes around my bedroom and office space that have words in Japanese and/or Korean that have pictures to describe what the word or phrase means! I don’t put a single word of English on it so that I learn to recognise and appreciate it in that language. It’s a bit like pictionary, if you think about it!

sticky note 2Try to leave sticky notes or flashcards around for yourself so you learn to recognise them with ease. If you’re feeling tricky as you boost the difficulty, perhaps write a description of what the word or phrase means IN the language you’re learning. If you have friends who speak that language fluently, get them to write some of the words and answers for you so that 1) you can’t cheat (because, if you wrote it, you might remember it) and 2) you’ll know for sure that it’s right!

Read it and weep (or don’t weep)

Try buying a book in the language of your choice. Try reading a bit of it from time to time and see how much of it you understand or just try to look at the grammar and sentence structure to get a better understanding of that. Reading an original book in the language will give you a good feeling for how it is consumed on a day-to-day basis and help you really immerse yourself. Don’t worry if the book makes absolutely NO sense to begin with, just keep studying and soon enough you’ll start to pick stuff up.
I bought myself a book of Korean poetry (which was a difficult first choice) and I’m finding with time that I can pick out more and more that I understand. I’ve got a long way to go, but it really helps to have that as a marker of where I’m up to!

Take it social

Again, the more you immerse yourself the more comfortable around the language you will become. I try to make myself unescapably surrounded by all of the languages I am trying to learn – and that includes online too!
On Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, I try my best to keep my exposure to language high. I’ll follow Korean and Japanese people on Instagram and Twitter and try my best to read their messages. Interacting with people is great because it’s a perfect opportunity to test your written knowledge and try have a chat with people.
(Of course, always be careful of who you talk to online. There are creeps everywhere and in every language, so always use your common sense when talking to strangers)
I always keep my ‘Trending Topics’ bar on Twitter set to either Japanese or Korean and I’ll make sure that every time I check Twitter that I am reading every trending topic.
On Facebook, I follow the Korean Huffinton Post, Korean stores like G Market and Retrip (a Japanese online magazine) which is great for a casual glance over the news and makes a nice buffer between quizzes and stressed-out revision statuses!

Listen up

Listening to audiobooks, like reading, gives you a subtitle-free and pure exposure to a text but also has the added benefit of being able to hear clear pronunciation, often totally uninterrupted by noisy surroundings or music that you would find in at TV show or movie.
There is a huge wealth of audiobooks available online, so have a look around and have a listen!
I’m currently listening to the Korean radio play adaptation of Don Quichotte by SBS that is available to listen to on Youtube!

I hope this piece is helpful to you! If you have any questions, please share them in the comments or over on Facebook or Twitter! Xx

Tattoos and Tattoo aftercare

As I mentioned in one of my recent posts, I have 3 tattoos that I love very much that all carry very strong meanings to me.  They’re important and I want to make sure they last well.

A lot of people ask me

“Wasn’t that really painful?!”

firsttattoo1Personally, if you are worried about pain, probably best to leave getting a tattoo for a while. When I got my first one, I was very scared of the thought of the pain and almost chickened out a bunch of times. Then I laid down on the tattoo bench, and when I sat up I had a tattoo — it really wasn’t that bad!

I will be honest, some points hurt a bit and different areas hurt more or less than others, the thought of the pain hurt more than the pain itself, and the sting of getting a tattoo disappears very quickly.

“Aren’t you worried about regretting it?”

In life, there are some things that we just know and I knew that all of my tattoos were good ideas. They all had very strong messages behind them and I went into the tattoo room absolutely confident in my decision. Trust me, I’m not going to mark myself for the rest of my life if I’m unsure about it.

tat2“Did you get that for a boyfriend/ex?”

No. Getting tattoos like that is a very dangerous idea. Even if you and your partner last a lifetime of love and commitment, you might not always want a tattoo of their name/face/starsign/whatever stuck on you forever!

I 100% recommend against getting tattoos for friends or someone you are in a relationship with. There are so many ways it can go wrong!

“Are you worried about employability?”

Maybe once upon a time, people in western culture couldn’t have tattoos that were visible in the workplace, but times have changed. As long as the tattoos aren’t offensive in any way, then there isn’t much to worry about.

Yes, in other countries tattoos can be an issue, but more and more countries are learning to accept tattoos, especially on those from a culture where they are commonplace.

“There’s this band I love and -“

NO! Please, stop right there. Regardless of how much you love a tv show, band or movie, you don’t need a tattoo from it. Again there are so many things that could go wrong.

You could decide that show sucked, a horrible revelation could be found about someone involved in it, the band could go downhill and your opinion could change — those are just to name a few!

If you are so pushed to get a tattoo of something entertainment or pop culture related, sit on the idea for a good long while before you go through with it.

“So, does that mean you aren’t an actor now?”

So many actors, performers and artists have tattoos. They are a form of self-representation and artistry which artists often can’t get enough of. So many actors, from Justin Chon to Jackson Rathbone to Angelina Jolie, have tattoos and love them! If they have tattoos and can survive as actors, so can I! 🙂

“How do you take care of your tattoos?”

tat3So, the best advice I can give for caring for your tattoos is

1) Don’t sweat it – Seriously, try not to sweat on it too much. Keep that sucker clean and dry(ish)

2) Don’t scratch it – Scratching is can really damage it and cause some serious irritation

3) Careful of allergies – When I got my first tattoo, I used Bepathen  the baby cream to soothe my tattoo. However, I soon realised that it actually felt a lot worse AFTER I applied it and later realised that I am allergic to one of the ingredients in Bepanthen (Lanolin). So, watch out for stuff like that and find something that isn’t going to make you itchy as heck later on!

4) Keep children away – I don’t know how or why, but children have the amazing ability to locate and exploit your weak spots. With every tattoo I have had, some kid (or about 20 kids one time) have managed to cause me eye-watering pain by punching, pinching or scratching my fresh and delicate tattoo. Until it’s healed, keep ’em away!

 

To clean a tattoo, don’t use any drying or irritating product that contain alcohol. You want to keep your tattoo fairly dry, but you don’t want to damage or crack it. Just use gentle soap and water and then dab it try with a CLEAN towel.

If your tattoo shows any signs of infection, contact your tattoo artist and a doctor immediately and see if you need to be put on antibiotics. I have been incredibly lucky with all of my tattoos not to have had any complications, but it’s always better safe than sorry!

 

I hope this piece has been interesting and helpful to you. As always, we want to hear from you, so drop us a comment or send us a message on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #learnwithamy!

 

 

 

Cultural views on tattoos

So, I have 3 tattoos and the reaction to them varies from person to person. Some love them, some hate them and most don’t really care that much.

When I met my best friend, tattoos were one of the first conversation topics between us and I realised that the opinions of tattoos varies greatly from place to place.

tat1
My 3rd tattoo (wrist)

My best friend is Japanese and Japan still has very strong negative views on tattoos and the type of people who get tattoos. To them, tattoos are quite frightening and associated with criminality.

Similarly, but not as extreme, Korea is still not a big fan of tattoo-lovers. Many singers, actors and other creatives alike decorate themselves with tattoos, but they aren’t very common on ‘average’ people. Tattoos are considered a very big decision in Korea, and they should be treated very seriously (probably a good idea for anyone, to be honest).

Around Europe, there are many varying opinions of tattoos, but most are still influenced by the idea of ‘Tattoo=dodgy character’.

Here in Britain, tattoos are INCREDIBLY common and, while we know the understand the association with criminality, we accept that a lot of good honest people have tattoos.

In the restaurant where I work, all but one of the people who work in the back have tattoos and we don’t think that weird in the slightest.

tat3
Brand new! This is what a tattoo looks like for the first day or two.

So, my advice to people with tattoos visiting other countries (especially Asia) is to take care to be respectful and understanding of the culture. If you have a lot of tattoos, try to put people at ease by making your personality clear – and remember that it isn’t their fault that tattoos scare them! Perhaps try to covered your tattoos in some circumstances, just as a gesture of respect.

For those visiting countries where tattoos are commonplace, remember that tattoos are not an indication of criminality. While gang and prison tattoos can serve as warning signs, tattoos are so common and it’s best not to judge someone purely by their tattoos. Try to be understanding and not too judgemental.

 

I’ll be uploading a post and video (yes, a real-life moving video) on how to cover up a tattoo very soon!

As ever, if you have any questions or comments, please let me know in the comments or using the contact form below! X

Proper manners for Korean Learners

Proper manners for Korean Learners

Learning Korean is a fun, rewarding and a perfectly balanced challenge. However, it does come with some rules.

Evernote Camera Roll 120140625 002833Korea has a lot of manners and social rules to follow and, while you might be excused at times for being foreign, you still need to at least try and play by the rules.
So, in order to avoid any embarrassing situations, here are some tips to keep you out of trouble.
And now, setting a good example of what not to do when meeting Koreans, is CL of 2ne1 with “나쁜 기집애 (The Baddest Female)”

Respect your elders

This rule may not be exercised so much in the West these days, but it’s still a crucial part of Korean culture. Of course, not being Korean means you’ll be excused for little mistakes but you should still try to be as formal and respectful as you can.
Remember to address people respectfully, use as formal language as you know and remember that what you do with your body is important.
When sitting either in chairs or on the ground, always sit with your legs (at least your knees) together and try to maintain good posture.
When giving or receiving anything from an elder, always do so with both hands and a slight bow of your head.

Don’t show-off your extensive lexicon of Korean curse words

Many Korean learners like to find excuses to use Korean in everyday life, and that’s great… Until they get ticked off…
Now, in Kdramas and Kpop they use curses and expletives pretty liberally, throwing them in for dramatic effect and emphasis without really thinking about it. Normal Korean people, however, aren’t usually so quick to curse, especially in front of others.
So, with this in mind, try and hold back you ‘aish’es and ‘aigoo’s. It may be tough, but it’ll look better if you do.

That point also brings me to:

Don’t copy pop culture

We, as multi-cultural people, need to accept the fact that Korean Dramas, just like the dramas of our home countries, are fictional and not 100% accurate representations of real life. They’re dramas… Meaning dramatic portrayals… In other words, not real…
We all know Kim Soo-Hyun isn’t really an alien, so we can at least gather from that the fact that maybe we can’t totally rely on music and TV for accurate depictions of Korean life.
Try not to assume that all Korean people conform to the roles in TV dramas. All moms aren’t scary tyrannical helicopter moms. All guys aren’t rich. All rich guys aren’t a**holes. Sometimes the sweet guy does get the girl. And so on and so forth.

Koreans are regular people with normal lives, so respect and appreciate them for who they are, not who television makes them out to be.

Also, don’t trust copying what people in dramas and music say and do. That can go really badly. So, make sure you’re studying correct and polite Korean, rather than going off what people say in that song or drama. That’s why I made today’s song CL’s “Baddest Female”, because that song (or actually most kpop songs) is very arrogant, and you could get some weird looks or lose friends by being (even unintentionally) arrogant.
One thing that my boyfriend (who is Korean, for those who don’t know) really hates is when people call “야![Ya!]” to get someone’s attention. While it’s used every two seconds in dramas, it’s quite rude and can piss people off, so try to refrain from using it, unless you are very close to that person and are 100% sure they don’t mind.

Remember your 씨s, 님s, 아s and 야s

This point might not be vital for a foreigner to use, but it could earn you Brownie Points with people you meet (especially if you’re meeting your other half’s parents).

씨 [ssi]

This is a formal but familiar suffix that you put after a person’s FIRST name to show respect. You use this with someone that you are not particularly close to. You may say it to a stranger or a friend of a friend, but it sounds weird if you say it to a friend. It is the Korean equivalent of saying Mr. David or Mrs. Helen.
So, for example, to address me, you may say “안녕하새요 애이미씨!”
The first word is ‘annyeonghasaeyo’ meaning ‘hello’.
The second word ‘애이미’ is my name, and you can see ‘씨’ [ssi] on the end. It’s fairly polite while still being casual.

님 [nim]

Nim is a much more formal honorific suffix that you attach to the occupation of a person, not their first OR last name[!!].
You can also put this on the end of the words for Father or Mother to add extra formality. So you have 아빠님 for Father and 엄마님 for addressing a Mother.
For example, you would be expected to address a teacher by ‘선생님’ [seon-saeng-nim]. So, in a formal setting:
[Occupation]+님= Good!
[Name]+님= Bad! Avoid.
“야! 아저씨/아줌마!”= VERY BAD! Like ‘hankering for a scalding’ bad!

아 [ah] and 야[ya]

아 and 야 are very casual ways to address someone very close to you. I’m explaining these two at the same time because they have the same meaning, but are just applied differently.
아 is used as the suffix when the last syllable block of a person’s first name has three characters.
For example, the name 예빈 [Yebin] has three characters (ㅎ, ㅣ and ㄴ) in the last syllable, so someone close could refer to them as ‘예빈아’[Yebina]
But 야 is used when the final syllable only has 2 character! So, the name ‘승리’ could be called ‘승리야’ by someone very close.

In situations where you aren’t sure about which suffix to use, go for the more formal option and, if you get an opportunity, gently ask the other person “제가 어떻게 불러야 될까요?” [jae-ga eo-tteoh-kae beol-leo-ya doe-kka-yo], which means “How can I address you?”.

Kdramas can help you learn

Exposing yourself to the Korean language will do wonders for your learning. Even if you use subtitles, hearing it spoken will help your listening, comprehension, pronunciation and vocabulary. And, it also means that you will soon be able to understand meanings in the character’s words that perhaps the subtitles cannot express!
Put a drama or a Korean podcast (such as the BRILLIANT Talk To Me In Korean or Korean Class 101 podcasts) on as you go to sleep at night and your subconscious will keep listening as you drift off, causing you to subliminally learn. Trust me, this works! I also do this to help me learn lines for plays and films, so it’s a pro tip!
And my final (and slightly conflicting) point:

Don’t JUST study Kdramas

Like I said, Kdramas can do wonders for your learning, but only as a supplement to your other study material. You’ll still need to get your textbooks out and knuckle down every so often – there’s only so much Lee Min Ho can help you!

If you only use the language learned from Kdramas, you will find yourself at risk of being labelled a ‘Koreaboo’ and Koreans may feel a little insulted (rightfully) if you take their language and culture for granted and limit it to only what you see on TV. Respect the culture, not just the TV shows, and you’ll be fine! 🙂

Have fun!

Korean, as I keep saying, is SO MUCH FUN, is a true delight to listen to and it sounds great to speak it. So don’t let it just become something you have to study or something you’re slogging though learning. Have fun with it and make it an adventure. You’re much more likely to learn it well if you approach it with passion, enthusiasm and a willingness to go through the steps, be willing to try, willing to make silly mistakes and ready to try. Keep learning and keep at it!

Also, Koreans are generally very helpful people and if they see you earnestly trying to learn their language, they will be compassionate and helpful. Show them how invested you are in learning their language and they will feel both respected and more encouraged to help your learning.

You’ll do great! Just remember to keep working at it and don’t be afraid to practice, practice, practice! 🙂
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