Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Nikki's Konglish with North Koreans

[My friend Nikki recently wrote this article about her life in Korea and her volunteer work with North Korean refugees.  Check it out.]

As I was on a plane traveling to Korea for the first time, I remember studying some “learn Hangeul” print-outs that I had with me, desperately trying to get some of this new writing system to stick in my mind. I had a list of “Konglish” words to sound out for practice, which I suppose was meant to build confidence, but did little to calm my nerves when I tediously sounded out a word like “pi-ja” and was still unable to connect it to the English word “pizza.”  
What match would I be for the language barrier if I couldn’t even understand Koreanized words from my native language? How would I overcome linguistic and cultural obstacles, and learn not only to adapt but also to thrive in this foreign land?

Thankfully, I encountered many friendly people to help me along the way. I have gradually learned more and more Korean. Sometimes I enjoy the convenience of English loan words if, for example, I want to take a “tek-shi” (taxi) to the “bus-seh tuh-mi-nuhl” (bus terminal). Sometimes I just get entertainment out of Korean pronunciation, like the lack of “r” in “ma-teh” (mart) or the “sh” in “shoo-puh” (super(market)).

Other times I feel frustrated with loan words like these. For instance, my students may not understand my pronunciation of “suh-tuh-di room” (study room), or might laugh at my attempt to spell a word like “saen-deh-wi-chi” (sandwich) in Hangeul. 

Sometimes life in Korea can give me so much “suh-tuh-rae-suh” (stress), yet I am grateful that our languages do overlap in some instances. Otherwise, how would I ever navigate the “in-tuh-net” (Internet) on my Korean “com-pyu-tuh” (computer)?

With my blond hair and blue eyes, I never fool anyone into thinking that I am Korean, and this generally earns me the benefit of the doubt along with some extra help. I fit very well into Korea’s conception of a “way-gook-in” (that is, a foreigner). Yes, I am a foreigner, but I am not the only type of foreigner in this country.  ...

Read the rest of this article, here.

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