Although I’ve done a post about why Korean is easy, it’s now time to talk about why it isn’t easy. Here are some reasons why Korean is hard to learn.
Korean has a hierarchical language system, how you speak depends on your relation to the person you’re speaking with. If someone is in a higher position than you, or older, you’ll need to use more formal language. Generally, this is really very easy. You just add -yo to the end of your verbs. That’s it.
When you go to the higher levels of formality, however, it gets a tad more complex. Luckily, it’s highly unusual for me to be in a position where I would be speaking this way, so I’ve decided to skip learning it. It’s generally for if you’re speaking to a boss, or in a job interview, etc. I’m not going to need to speak Korean in this capacity, likely ever. The one caveat to this is that, for some reason, a lot of textbooks and courses insist on using this higher level term. Duolingo, for instance, uses a lot of these forms. It’s entirely unhelpful, since I don’t care about it. So I have to go to other sources. Additionally, I need to avoid historical K-dramas (one of my favorites) because they’ll often use these forms over-much.
Two Number Lines??
Additionally, Korean has two number lines. One is the traditional Chinese number line which only goes to 100, and those is the native Korean one which goes on forever. It’s not always intuitive, however, which one to use. For instance, “two weeks” is “du weeks” whereas “two months” is “ee months.” I struggled with this while in Korea and I’m clearly still struggling now. But I’ll get there.
It doesn’t stop with the two number lines, most nouns in Korean (and even some verbs) have both a Chinese-derived and Korean-native option. While it doesn’t really impact your ability to speak like the two numberlines does, it does impact your comprehension. Much like Latin words (which are often bigger) in the English language, Chinese words have a certain amount of prestige. When you’re reading newspaper articles or watching higher level shows, you might not know a word because they’re using the Chinese version.
What I’m Doing
I’ve made up my own weekly vocab sections, for words that I think will be most useful. For instance, last week I learned body parts, as I know they’re often the base for jewelry-related words and other things. My Italki sessions are going great, and are now taking place with a lot more Korean speaking. After some calculations, I’ve probably learned about 100 new words a week since I started this project, which is pretty impressive.
I took a test online and I look to be around the end of the A1 level, bordering on A2. This sounds about right to me, and my goal is to get at least part-way through B2.