Studying Korean…It’s Not About the Guys

A lot of people think it’s the cute boys, but it’s not.

It’s not the cute guys.

I assure you that the deliciously handsome Korean men who act and sing and make audience laugh and cry among other things are not the reasons I’ve fallen so thoroughly. It isn’t the reason why I decided to learn Korean.

It’s about the literature.

I approach songs, movies, plays, television series, and similar works  and their adaptations as literature. Frankly, I had gotten quite bored of American tv. I’d been watching multiple shows simultaneously for years without missing a beat for any of them. Really, think about watching four shows that you haven’t watched before or heard of, flipping between them despite the fact that they go to commercial break a minute or two a part, and being able to predict the what would happen next for each of the shows but also how they would end. Watching television was becoming rather boring.

And then along came a Korean drama, Rascal Sons. It was not perfect. It was not superb. But it was good. What surprised me about the drama, which I would label as average in terms of its overall plot, was the thoroughly developed characters. Each character who came onto the screen had such depth it was captivating. This gave the drama an added dimension which was much more tangible than the tv series I’d been expose to. I enjoyed it…a lot.

Having had more time with Korean dramas I can also add that the Korean culture imparts another element to the dramas which is lacking in that of American series. In most American series the main characters are the sole focus, and their focus is generally work with very few inclusions of home life, and attempts at the inclusion of family is usually flimsy. This I credit to the American society which is filled with broken families and individuals who put more of themselves into work, and less into their own lives.

On the other hand Korean dramas even those which are work-oriented tie in and into the family and home life of the characters – and they always have lives outside of work even if they are the most uptight, or the most carefree character. The importance placed on family by the Korean society is always evident. And it is always welcomed.

In addition the morals of both societies are vastly different when it comes to intimacy as well. For America and much of the western world sex is everything. It sells, so why not? But in Korea cute is King. It is still in a very real way another play on sexuality but it is much milder and I am not bombarded by ass here, naked bodies there and frenching everywhere. It’s a bit more modest. And the modesty is welcomed like a cool breeze on a scorching afternoon.

And yet, I had somewhat of a dilemma on my hands.

The odd thing is that, as I watched the drama with a friend who knew a little Korean, she pointed out translations which weren’t true to the nuances of the Korean language, and at times words were translated out of context. When either the context or nuance are neglected they subtracted from the story and the characters themselves. This made me anxious to know exactly what was being said. The language barrier became a burden, and in an effort to remove it I began to learn the language.

Studying Korean has been one of my greatest pleasures over the last two years.

Learning Korean has been different from any of my other encounters with languages: Spanish, German, and Japanese. I can speak of Spanish more than the others, since I studied it for a longer period. Its structure was not exactly the same as English. However, the structure holds more similarities than differences. Korean on the other hand at this moment is an entirely different story with a strong focus on verbs, and with verbs at the end of sentences, and with verbs being made adjectives, and vice versa, and a whole ton more that I’m still trying to grasp and take in at the same time. But I love it.

Studying feels like an adventure and recapping is so much fun, as I understand and find more meaning in lessons done long ago. It is a beautiful journey, and the goal is being able to fully interact with a culture that is different from my own and still similar.

I feel oddly at home in the language even though I am still new, and I am anxious to finally delve into its literature to find more of the languages intricacies I know exist…like that of Old English. I am excited. I am impatient. I am learning…excitedly.

It has opened my eyes to a culture that I envy, and a way of writing that I hope to emulate.

I’m a good distance from being fluent despite having begun two years ago. But I intend to continue with the assistance of the TTMIK team, other native Koreans, and fellow students of Korean. And of course, there’s Learning Korean with the Procrastinating Poet, the blog I’m running as a means of keeping myself in check.

If you are thinking of leaning Korean, join me. 아주 재미있고 많이 좋아요. (It’s very fun and, I like it a lot.) If you’d like to watch a Korean drama. Drama Haven, a blog dedicated to reviewing Korean dramas, may be helpful.

 See you next week Tuesday, when I’ll tell you a bit more about my reading adventure.
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