Korean Statement: The Review

When I started learning Korean almost 4 years ago, I thought it would be as simple as learning the writing system which is  항글 (Hangul) and studying meaning of words, then I would be ready to communicate in Korean.   So when I memorized those characters and bought a dictionary, I hurriedly looked for a Language Exchange partner only to find out I am far from being a decent speaker.

Since I don’t have time to attend a formal class I opted to buy a text book that will allow me to understand Hangul.  I learned my first big lesson, this language is not like learning English.  The basic structure of a Korean sentence is Subject-Object-Verb or  SOV in short.   No wonder I sounded like a fool putting up those words based on their dictionary meaning just how I would construct my English sentence.  The sentence  structure alone is a big difference.  So when we typically say ‘I love you’,  in Korean, the order would be ‘I you love’.  The order of words in a sentence also signifies their importance.  The first in the order is the least important and that the verb is the most important component of the sentence.  The first words in a sentence are most likely to be dropped.  This is because the subject or even the object  can be implied in a conversation.

Using the sample statement ‘I love you’, this is 나 너를 사랑해요 (na noreul saranghaeyo) in Korean.  Let’s dissect this simple statement.

  • 나 (Na means I)
  • 너를 (noreul means you)
  • 사랑해요 (saranghaeyo mean love)

You might have heard 사랑해요 (saranghaeyo) in dramas and songs which actually means i love you as well. The subject and object in the statement were dropped but the meaning stays the same.  This is why the role of the verb in a sentence is important.

Of course creating a clear statement doesn’t end with knowing the word order.  Although subject and object can be dropped in a sentence this should not be taken as a rule of thumb.  In the Korean language post-position and markers are used to emphasize the role of the word in a sentence.  Again using the example above 나 너 사랑해요, 너 which means you is marked as object in the sentence without it the sentence would be vague since the subject 나 (i) is not marked.

Can you just imagine how it is to create a compound or complex sentence in Korean?  I am not even at that level but I am trying =)

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Denying Obligation

Last time I learned how to express obligation by using the particle -야 (-ya) and 해요 (haeyo).   Now I learned how to deny such obligation something like the English expression ‘you don’t have to’ or ‘you may not’ or ‘you need not’.

This is not something really offensive, the tone is rather it’s all right even if <verb>.  The expression is formed by using a particle I just recently post, 도 (do) that is, added to a negative verb followed by 좋아요 (choayo), 돼요 dwaeyo) or 괜잖아요 (gwaenchanayo).   So it’s necessary to know first how negative verbs are formed to be able to make use of this new expression.

A quick recap verbs are made negative by adding 안 in front of it this is the short cut or the longer way which is verb+지 (ji)  않아요.

Here are examples of the practical use of this expression:

  • 밥을 안먹어도 괜잖아요. (Bapeul anmokodo gwaenchanayo) – It’s alright if you don’t eat the rice.
  • 내일 집에 가지 않아도 돼요.  (Jipe kaji anado dwaeyo).  You don’t have to go home tomorrow.
  • 아무선물을 가져오지 않아도 좋아요. (Amuseonmureul kajyeo.oji anado choayo).  It’s okay even if you don’t bring any gift.

Expressing Obligation with -야 해요

This new particle  I learned simulates the way English statements stress the need to do something from just doing it.  I will clean the room tomorrow is a  bit lax compared to saying I must clean the room tomorrow.  The latter sends out something like a higher level of   urgency or an obligation.    This ‘must’ or ‘need to’ message  I learned is expressed by using the particle -야 (-ya) then ending the statement with verb 해요 (haeyo).  The particle is attached to a verb’s infinitive form both for plain and honorific verbs.

  • 학교에 가야 해요 (Hakyoe kaya haeyo) – I need to go to school.
  • 내일 공부해야 해요 (Naeil gongbuhaeya haeyo) – I must study tomorrow.
  • 언니 이 책을 읽어야 해요 (Eonnie i chaekeul ilkoya haeyo) – My (older) sister needs to read this book.

야 attached to the verb gives it the ‘only if you <verb>” meaning and the 해요 as verb ending means ‘will do it’.  As such the combination of this particle and verb ending  therefore results to meaning  you have to <verb>.

나는  한국어 책을 읽어야 해요 =)

Presenting Options Using ‘Or’

This post is about two simple Korean words I learned which allows you to present two options.  This is similar to the English word ‘or’. These two words are 또는 (ddoneun) and 아니면 (animyeon).  Here are sample phrases:

  • 커피 또는 우유 (kopi ddoneun uyu)
  • 커피 아니면 우유 (kopi animyeon uyu)

Both phrases mean coffee or milk, the difference is that when you use 또는 you are presenting two contrasting ideas therefore  one of the choices will be excluded unlike 아니면 which presents two ideas that are both acceptable.

These words can occur at the beginning of the sentence.  As in the example below:

  • 기차로 갈까요?  아니면 택시로 갈까요?  (Kicharo kalkkayo? Animyon tekshiro kalkkayo?) Should we take the train? Or (else) shall we take a taxi?  In this sample, both options is of course acceptable to the speaker.
  • 영화관에 가지 않았어요. 또는 음악희에도 가지 않았어요. (Yonghwagwane kaji anasseoyo. Ddoneun eumakhui.edo kaji anasseoyo.) I have not been to movie theater [and I don’t like movies anyway]. Nor have I been [on the other hand] to any concert [and I do like concert].   This statement plainly states not being able to go to movie theater the second statement is the same  but with the use of 또는 in the beginning of the second statement the thought enclosed is considered in the overall context of the statement as such the second statement means not being able to go but would like to go.

Practical Tips on Learning Korean

I am writing some of my recommended activities in learning Korean.  This is based on my experience as Korean Language entusiast.  To learn this language really needs passion, so I just couldn’t imagine how challenging it is for someone who needs to learn Korean because it is simply required in their profession or job.

There are 4 things worth considering which I find helpful in my day to day learning of Korean.

  • Learn how to read Hangul.  If you really intend to understand the language you need to study their writing system and pronunciation rules using Hangul.  Romanization will not help you speed your fluency.  You will only be troubled by the way characters are translalated from Hangul to alphabet as there are different ways to romanize Hangul.  I remember in my earlier days of learning, i had language exchange partners who i wrote emails with in romanized Korean and they are so confused on what I mean.  Like the word 십팔 (shippal) which is actually eighteen, another word sounding like this means vulgar.  The word 씨발 (sshipal) means fu*k.  Although they are romanized differently since there is no single standard in romanization,  one should be cautious in using this word the romanized way.
  • Buy a book that explains the Korean language structure and use.  Instead of buying phrase book, get to know how sentence are formed.  How words are structured for conversational use.  I remember buying every phrase book that I saw from the bookstore simply because there are pointers from one book which is not discussed on the other book.  I ended up having 5 phrase book and it contains almost the same thing except for a portion or section.  Each of the book tells me how to say 안녕하세요, 반갑습니다 etc.  At the end of the day you will only memorize these words and never really know how each word is used.  You might end up wondering why nouns or verbs have different pronunciation (and later discover that there is such thing as particles or post-positioning in Korean). I suggest you invest on a book that explains the language the linguistics approach.  I am very much happy with my Elementary Korean Book.  I learned a lot from it.
  • Invest on a good English-Korean Dictionary.  Make sure you buy the one that has Hangul characters on it and not a pure romanized Korean-English dictionary.  If you are confused on word, search on my posting about dictionary entry =)
  • Watch Korean movies and listen to Korean songs. Reading the book may trouble you with the pronunciation so you can validate sounds when you listen to native speaker speacilly on the characters that become glutha rest or with dual sound (ㄹ-l/r; ㄱ-g/k).  There are likewise nuisance in the pronunciation of Korean words so this will help you.  Listening to music will also help you practice Korean translation. It likewise help you validate what you have learned on you own. 

I know it sometimes becomes a bore but you just have to be patient.  Try to read something in Korean a day may it be a lesson from a book, a post in the internet, etc. and if it seems to be tiring get hold of your dictionaty and learn at least 2 to 3 new words… this way you learn slowly but surely.  Happy Learning.

Honorifics

I think I have written on my previous entry that in Korean, the manner of speaking is very important and it depends on who you are talking to. This actually confused me when I was trying to learn Hangul — I am still trying by the way :-P.  Most of the phrase books are suggesting phrases in honorific style or at times the polite ones.  There seems to be pattern but nevertheless if you don’t read and read you won’t be able to understand.

Based from what I read there are 3 major ways of expressing thoughts in Korean:

  • Honorific – which is the style used when talking to someone esteemed (older than you, professional people , parents or those whom you have high regard)
  • Casual Polite – the style used when talking to a friend you usually call with sshi 씨 or if you are unsure of the person’s age who seems to have the same age as you.
  • Intimate – the style used when talking to younger person or someone who is very close to you.

It is very important to remember that honorific style is never used to describe your own deed or action. 

To give an example on these different styles, take the case of saying ‘let’s go’ or ‘go’:

  • 가세요 – Ka-Se-Yo, Ka means go and Se is an honorific marker then the polite ending Yo.  As mentioned in my earlier entry  its never an issue to drop the subject when communicating in Korean as such you will not find I or You in the sentence.
  • 가요 – Ka-Yo, this is casual polite just removing the honorific marker Se but ending using the polite way which is Yo.
  • 가 – Ka is actually the word in its infinitive.  When I was talking about base and dictionary entries for word previously, verb in its infinitive form can be used to express action or describe action (words in dictionary form is never used in a normal conversation — later i’ll post more on base words).  Dropping the polite ending Yo leaves you with the word 가 which is the infinitive form for this word which means go.