Tag Archives: kdrama

What is ‘Oppa’?

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Since Psy’s ‘Gangnam Style’ went viral worldwide in 2012, more people around the world have been aware of Korea and its pop culture. With that comes the typical questions that come with exploring a country with a completely different language and culture.

One part of Korea that a lot of people are still baffled by is the word “Oppa”. I see a lot of people asking “What is an Oppa?” and there is a lot of confusion about the word due to the cultural differences between us and Korea.
An Oppa isn’t a husband, actor, crush, classmate or a boyfriend, but at the same time it kind of is.
“Oppa” (오빠) means “brother” but is used by women to address older men of a close or similar status as them, so you would say it to an older brother, and older male cousin, an older male classmate or co-worker whom you are close-ish to, and older male friend, a boyfriend (some older women call their younger boyfriends ‘oppa’ to seem cutsy) a husband or even just an older man. You can simply call someone ‘oppa’ or attach it to the end of their name (For example, “Hyunseung-oppa”/”현승오빠”). One of the issues with understanding this word is that there isn’t really a direct equivalent in English, so it is a new concept. If you will, you can kind of imagine that words as like a much less formal “sir” that you can use throughout a whole conversation/interaction.
Photo 08-03-2015 02 19 10It has a lot to do with respect and friendship and knowing when it is and isn’t acceptable to use can be quite tough for non-Koreans to understand sometimes. When in doubt, you can simply ask whether it is okay to call them “oppa”. If you are learning about Korean and Korean culture, pay attention to learning good manners, but Koreans will often be understanding if you make a few errors, so long as they know that your heart is in the right place.
‘Oppa’ is one of 4 very commonly used words of this kind.
You are already aware of ‘oppa’ as the word for brother which applies when a younger female talks to an older male. Along this same strain, you have the word ‘Hyung’ (형) which is the equivalent for a younger male in addressing an older male.
And, if you switch the genders, a younger man talking to an older woman would use the word ‘Noona’ (누나) while a younger woman talking to an older woman would say ‘eonni’ (언니).
Make sure that you use these words with care. Some people don’t like being called by them and you should make effort to respect people’s preferences, especially when you do not have a deep and practiced understanding of the language to guide you.
Do you have any more questions about English, Japanese or Korean? Share your questions and I’ll do my best to answer them for you! Leave comments in the section below, or come join us on Facebook and Twitter! Xx

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

Using Kdramas To Learn Korean

©SBS
©SBS

Learning Korean is fun and rewarding, but it isn’t the easiest language there is to learn. This means that we need a helping hand where possible, and television can be really useful. As well as studying Korean in textbooks and online, I use Korean dramas to reinforce my learning. It is really useful to have a casual and native source of dialogue where there is little to no risk of being taught meaningless phrases – which has happened to me a number of times.
A lot of foreigners use British and American television for learning English, so it makes sense that it works in the reverse.

Really listen

I know it’s easy when watching the dramas to kind of glaze over the words being spoken (with the usual exception of ‘oppa’, ‘eonni’, ‘eotteoke’ and ‘jinjja’) and just watch the subtitles all the time. You’re going to have to curb that habit and pay attention to the dialogue. Listen to the words and try to learn the individual words and phrases.
If a phrase sticks out at you that you understand, write it down and try to listen out for when it pops up in future.

Compare

Korean books 2When you study Korean in the textbooks, try to listen out for each of the phrases you learn in the dramas you watch. Some of them, like “남대문 열려있다”/”namdaemun yeolyeoitda” (Translation: “The south gate is open.” Meaning: “Your fly is open”) will not occur very much, but listening out for the Korean you know will get you hearing and beginning to comprehend the dialogue you are hearing.

Turn off subtitles

When you are beginning to find your feet in the language, try turning off the subtitles and watching the drama without them and seeing, from the amount of Korean you know, how much you understand of what is going on in the story.
It might not make a ton of sense for a while, but you’ll start understanding more and more with time, practice and immersion.

Personal taste

Just like anywhere in the world, people’s voices can differ hugely and that can be a big help to hear and identify little details in the language that you many not have noticed before. Listen for the way individual actors speak as a way of helping your comprehension and pronunciation. Lee Min Ho speaks Korean quite differently from his former ‘Heirs’ co-star Kim Woo Bin and Kim Soo Hyun’s voice isn’t the same as Bigbang’s T.O.P (Choi Seung Hyun).
Also, pay attention to the little bits of emphasis in the words. Those could go a long way to helping you remember the meaning, the way to convey emotion in the voice as well as help you to hear every sound in the word (which comes in very handy when you’re learning to write in Hangul)

Getting it right way ’round

One of the things that listening to Korean dramas helps with the most is sentence structure. Because the speaking is so natural, but slower than the usual conversation between Korean people (which is incredibly fast), it is easier to hear which order the words come in for more complex sentences than you are often taught in textbooks. In textbooks, the phrases you are taught are often very basic, but dialogue is a lot more complex, and thus great for learning practical skills needed for natural conversation.

Overall, try to focus on the language with as little relation to English as possible. It is its own unique language, and the less you try to understand it with regard to a totally different language, the better grasp of it you will develop in time. Understand that also a lot of words and phrases don’t directly translate to English. For example, the phrase “힘내요” is used to say “It’s okay” or “Don’t worry”, but often it is translated as “Cheer up”, which can mean that it is often misused and seems weird when used in the correct context, because it doesn’t match up with the English “meaning”.

I really hope this piece helps you to improve your Korean study (and perhaps give you a good excuse for more Kdrama marathons). Let me know what you think of this piece in the comments below and come join us on the Facebook and Twitter! X

How to Read Hangul!

So, I’ll be uploading a lot of Korean lessons and dialogues for you guys, but I first wanted to teach you how to read Hangul, the Korean writing system, so that you know it and can progress with the lessons. Personally, I have never been great at reading the Romanized Korean and think it’s way simpler to just learn Hangul so if you learn it sooner, it’s better for you.

It looks quite scary to start with but once you have it down you’ll be just fine! And, seriously, it doesn’t actually take as long to learn as you think – I learnt it in like 6 hours!

Quick note: You’ve probably noticed from looking at Korean words that they don’t write stuff out in a long string of characters like we do. Instead of the string of letters we use in English, Korean characters are stacked into syllables. Take the informal casual word for thank you: Gomawo.
As you can see, in English it’s a string of letters g-o-m-a-w-o. But, in Korean, it’s broken in to syllables and then the characters are stacked to match. So gomawo becomes go-ma-wo or 고마워.

First things first!
In Korean, syllables always begin with a consonant! If a syllable begins with a vowel then the character ㅇ、which looks like an o with a stem at the top, and the vowel goes to the right or below it.
And remember that there’s always at least one consonant and one vowel to every syllable.
Consonants!

ㄱ [g/k]
ㄱ is spoken like a g sound, however it’s a ‘harder’ sound so it sounds like a mix between g and k.

ㄴ [n]
This n sound is a lot like the sound for ‘nose’, ‘never’ or ‘nope’. However, one important difference is tongue placement. In English when making the ‘n’ sound we often put our tongue to the roof of our mouth, just behind the front teeth. But, in Korean, you should put your tongue between your front teeth – almost like biting your tongue.

ㄷ [t, d]
This sound is kind of a mix between a ‘t’ and a ‘d’ sound. With the sound 다, it is pronounces almost like ‘tda’ with a very subtle ‘t’ sound before the ‘d’.

ㄹ [l/r]
This one’s a little tricky as it’s sometimes ‘l’, sometimes ‘r’ and often a mixture of the two.
For example, 2 in Korean is 일 ‘il’. That’s pronounced like ‘l’.
However, one common particle you will use in Korean is ‘를’, which is pronounced like ‘reul’

ㅁ [m]
This one is simply just a ‘m’ sound.

ㅂ [b, p]
This is said like softer ‘b’ sound. Think of the common Korean word ‘오빠’ it is written in Romanized Korean as ‘oppa’, when it is more of a softer ‘b’ than a regular ‘p’. Soften your be and you’ve got it!

ㅅ [s, sh]
This one changes depending what other characters it is combined with, but you will naturally pick it up as you listen to more spoken Korean (get watching those dramas!)
For example 사 and 소 are pronounced ‘sa’ and ‘so’ (a soft ‘o’, like in ‘sorry’), but 샤 and 쇼 sound like ‘sha’ and ‘sho’. You’ll naturally get a hang of the pronunciation with time, so don’t fret too much over it.

ㅇ [silent]
This is an interesting character, because if it comes at the beginning of a syllable, it is silent. It is only paired with a vowel for grammatical purposes and doesn’t make a sound.
The only time ㅇ makes a sound is if it is at the end of a syllable. When placed at the end of a syllable, ㅇ makes the ‘ng’ sound.
For example, the word 응 uses ㅇ in both ways. The first one is used to allow the vowel ㅡ to make a sound (‘uh’), while the second one adds the ‘ng’ sound on the end making the word ‘ung’ (This is a very informal word used to say yes, to convey interest or to say like “Go on”, to show you’ve realised something or when hanging up the phone. This is bit of a tricky word and you need to know how to use if- if you want to know more here’s a link to the Youtuber ‘ChoNunMigookSaram’ talking about the word 응)

ㅈ [j, ch]
This character sounds like a hard ‘j’ or a softer ‘ch’ sound, depending on what characters it is partnered with.
For example, 자 and 저 are pronounced quite differently. The first one if ‘Ja’ while the second one sounds more like ‘cho’.
I know these changing sounds can be quite confusing at first, but with regular listening you will naturally start to pick up on the differences quickly!

ㅊ [ch]
While the last character was a little dubious whether it made a ‘j’ or a ‘ch’ sound, this character is a lot simpler – It’s just a stronger ‘ch’ sound than before.

ㅋ [k]
Is like ‘ㄱ’, but instead of being a soft k, it’s a hard ‘k’ sound.
So, while 기 is like ‘gi’, 키 is ‘ki’.

ㅌ [t]
Remember ㄷ? Well this is the same again, but this time it makes a strong ‘t’ sound.
In Korean, the word for note is 노트 “No-tu”. And the reason it’s ㅌ instead of ㄷ is because ㅌ is a hard T sound.

ㅍ [p]
This is like ㅂ, but this time it is a hard ‘p’ sound (sorry, that sounds dirty XD)

ㅎ [h]
This one is very easy as this sound doesn’t change much with different words and uses. This one is, quite simply, just the usual ‘h’ sound that we are very used to already in English.

Vowels!
아 [a]
This vowel makes the sound ‘a’, like ‘and’ or ‘harp’. Say it like ‘ahh’ rather than ‘ay’ or ‘ar’, as it’s quite a soft breathy sound.

  • 야 This is just like 아/a, but the addition of another stroke makes it ‘ya’

 

어 [eo]
This particular one used to catch me out all the time as the Romanization is really deceptive, in that it leads us to think that we are supposed to be making an “ee-oh” sound, when it’s really more of an “uh”.
The proper use of this one is one that you will naturally become more comfortable with as you listen, read and speak more Korean.

  • 여 is like 야, as in that the additional stroke adds a ‘y’ onto the beginning.

So 어/eo becomes 여/yeo (pronounced ‘yuh’)

우 [u]

This one can be one of the trickier to pronounce as it’s so tempting to fall into the trap of pronouncing it as “oo” (like “moo”). It is a little like the “oo” sound, except it is cut short. Listen to the pronunciation of the work “Hanguk” (Korea) and listen to the short “u” sound. You’re aiming for that kind of clipped sound.

  • Add another stoke and 우 becomes 유/yu!

오 [o]
This character makes an ‘o’ sound. It’s not a long sound, but quite a clipped ‘o’.

  • Again with the last three, adding an extra stroke to 오 makes it 요/yo.

으 [oo]
Like 오 this character does make and ‘o’ sound, but it is elongated and pronounced more like ‘oo’.
Unlike the others, this one does not change with the addition of another line (In circumstances that you would need that, I believe 유 would suffice)

And finally

이 [i]
This one is nice and simple. It’s just an ‘ee’ sound. Possible the easiest one there is, 이 just so similar to I in English, that there’s not much to get confused over!

I hope you’ve found this piece helpful in learning Hangul.
If you have any further comments, questions (or corrections), message me using the form below and I’ll get back to you!
감사합니다~!

Real Talk: Kpop and Self-Image

Kpop is a lot of fun. The catchy songs, the expression of emotion that isn’t stopped by language barriers and the charismatic and beautiful artists are just a few of the appeals of Kpop.

When I first got into kpop and kdramas, I was astonished at how seemingly naturally beautiful the men and women were – even the ones considered to be ugly! It all seemed fine for a while, but soon it started to affect me. I felt insecure how artists younger than me were so much more beautiful (and I’m only 19). And I started to hate my own appearance. I got so caught up in the ideals of beauty in Korea and almost obsessed with the idea of fitting in with those demands.
This is an issue that many people have faced. To outsiders of Korea, like myself, it looks to us like idols are born totally stunning and were always wearing minimal makeup (with exception of perhaps some eyeliner for effect). It was frankly depressing and I found my desire to live up to those ideas and my inability to do so actually made me depressed and it almost ruined Kpop and Kdramas for me!
If you find yourself in the same position as I was in, there are a few things you need to know:

They are constantly modelling

Idols and stars aren’t just at work when they’re on set or in the studio, they are at work all the time. And that means that any time you see them, any time a camera is on them or they are getting attention, they will be wearing makeup, someone will have done their hair (and will be keeping it neat all day) and their outfits have been designed for them. They might be naturally swag people, but their entire appearance has been designed for the public to look at them and go ‘wow’.

Someone is always thinking about how they look

They don’t just get their clothes from a store like normal people or just put on any mix of clothes in the morning. They, or someone else, always has to think about their appearance and looking their best and modelling the products they have to.
Even if they are wearing a store-bought item, the chances are that it’s been altered to perfectly compliment them or chosen specifically to look perfect. They have tailored outfits and everything is coordinated. All. The. Time.
I personally feel bad that they can’t just go out or take a flight without having to be put in some outfit. It must get really uncomfortable and it probably makes it very hard to relax, but it’s part of their job.

Chances are they’ve had cosmetic surgery

Cosmetic surgery is a huge deal in Korea and these days it’s even become normal for surgery to be given as a gift for birthdays, graduations, weddings, etc. It isn’t healthy and only feeds into the beliefs that the beautiful faces our genes gave us aren’t good enough. While I’m at times tempted by the idea of fixing up things I’d like to change about my appearance, I don’t understand the obsession.
But if even the normal person on the street is getting surgery, then celebrities definitely are as, just like everywhere else, they have to be the epitome of beauty and style. Just a few seconds of Googling with find you hundreds of ‘Before/After surgery’ pictures of celebrities and interviews where artists let slip the procedures they’ve had done.
Ever wonder why the members of some kpop groups look scarily similar? It’s the Gangnam face, baby!

Everything is tailored

Do the poorest kids in Korea really have the best phones and clothes all the time? Is everyone in a Korean school really as gorgeous and rich as Lee Min Ho? Can women seriously stay a size 0 while guzzling down ramen 6 times a day? If a guy is in love with you, will he really be constantly yelling at you and insulting you? Are Korean parents really all terrifying evil people who want to control you or send your boyfriend/girlfriend out of the country? No.

Kdramas are fantasies. I know many people who will be upset to hear that, but it’s true. And it doesn’t make them any less enjoyable to accept that and it’s better for you if you do. Dramas, no matter what country you are in, are fantasy, because people like to escape from reality.
The clothes, makeup, characters, technology, lighting, sets – even the actor’s heights (!)- are manipulated to show you an industry crafted ideal that you are supposed to crave and invest a lot of money in pursuing. It’s the same in media everywhere.

You can’t assume their feelings

Just because you see an idol smiling and having a good time on camera, doesn’t mean they are happy. Their lives are controlled by their contracts, managers, schedules, paycheques and diets. They have little to no freedom to do, dress, date, spend, eat or speak as they want.

The life of an idol in Korea is very difficult and sometimes they are treated very poorly by the companies they work for, but they still have to be able to hide it all and perform for the camera as if they are the happiest person in the world, especially within performing groups, who have to give the appearance of being best buddies with each other (just look at the falling out in T-ARA as an example).
The life of an idol is hard and they have to be the appearance of perfection at the same time, so don’t just take their smiles as truth. They’ve got a tough lot.

So remember that no-one is perfect and being the industry standard of beautiful isn’t as wonderful as it may seem. The artists that you look at have had to suffer a lot, from dieting to fit their tiny outfits to cosmetic surgery that changes their faces permanently. It isn’t easy and the more you work to fit the criteria, the more work and pressure it becomes.

The world would be a happier and more confident place if we accepted and were accepted for our natural beauty. So love yourself, love each other and know that your beauty isn’t determined by your makeup or clothes. As G-Dragon said, “It isn’t about having the money for the expensive clothes, it is about how you wear them.”