Archive for June 2010

Title: Useful Chinese Characters for Learners of Korean
Author: SNU Language Institute
Paperback: 184 pages
Publisher: Darakwon (Apr 2007)
ISBN-10: 895995764X
ISBN-13: 9788959957644

Easily one of the best weapons to add to any Korean-language learner's arsenal is a good command of Hanja. This book helps to demystify the structure of Hanja and prompts the Korean language learner to recognize authentic examples in modern Korean. Like Latin and Greek roots to English, Hanja comprises of over an estimated 60% of the Korean language in use today and as such, presents itself as a possible speed bump to effectively learning Korean. While not nearly as prominent as it used to be, Hanja is still known to some degree by all native Korean speakers. If you are a student of Korean and you have even a passing interest in learning Hanja-based vocabulary, this is book to start with.

The text couldn't be easier to approach with its easy to follow baby-steps guide on how a single Hanja character is formed, brush stroke formation and how to recognize the sound and meaning of characters. If you've been looking for someone to hold your hand and show you the ropes but were frustrated that all available explanations are in Korean, this book remedies that nicely. Each chapter is arranged around a theme and therefore arranged slightly differently than the beginner books that native speakers learn by. Although increasingly difficult, the ten characters per chapter pace is not impossible to follow with some practice. Towards the end of the book is a step-by-step guide on how to recognize similarly rooted words by their main radical and how to look up words in a dictionary. I found the English explanation of radicals to be especially helpful.

The only true fault is the text's limited amount of space to practice writing. It does have an summary chapter practice cell sheet but the paper in the book doesn't lend itself well to being written on; it's too pretty. As a beginner, though, you have thousands of options out there. Plenty, and I do mean plenty of cheap low level practice books are geared for Korean children and are well-suited for rote memorization and muscle memory writing practice. Think of this book like a springboard and you're much better off. I used the textbook and wrote side-by-side in a blank notebook. For reinforcement, I ran through a few five dollar variously leveled practice books; 8급 being the most basic, 1급 the most difficult. This book is a good one to start with and it should already be in your collection.

- - -

If you have not clue what Hanja is, take a quick detour and start with a background. I've mentioned this book before and I want to emphasize how valuable it is has been for me. Far from a perfect text, it got me started in what I hope is a goal of lifelong learning. Although I'm not finished with it by any means, I had got a lot out of it and wholeheartedly recommend it.

Oh, and it's crazy hard to find outside of Korea. Heads up.

When expressing a duration of time, what does one use? I seem to see 쯤, 약, 정도, 동안 and the like pretty regularly but not exactly sure on how to distinguish them. To help clarify, 동안 is the only one that denotes a duration. All others are approximations of duration.

동안 : during (that time)

방학 동안 뭐할거야?
What are going to do during your vacation?

잠시 동안만 기다려줄래?
Can you wait for just a while?

두시간 동안 밥먹었어
I was eating for two hours (or, during two hours, I ate food)

정도 : about (approximately)

두시간 정도 밥 먹었어
I was eating for about two hours (but I'm not sure)

한 달 정도 일번어 공부했어요
I've been studying Japanese for about a month, I guess.

정도 is an inexact figure of time. It's used to indicate that you're not sure about the length of duration, but that it is approximate. Similar terms include 쯤 and 약 which also expressions relating to approximation as in:

2시 쯤에 광화문에서 만나자
Around two o'clock, let's meet at Gwanghwamoon.

3 시간 쯤 동안 있었어요
I was there for about three hours

is more of an approximation of not a set time, like a meeting, but an elapsed time as in:

약300미터 직진 후 좌회전입니다.
After about 300 meters, make a left.

약 10년전에 헤어졌어요
We broke up almost ten years ago

They are all pretty much the same thing. Approximately the same thing. Sort of the same thing. Kind of the same thing.

You've been there. Constructing a sentence and when pressed to spell "not" as in "안 했어요" you pause for a moment and wonder... should you spell it "않 했어요" instead? Which one is correct? You've seen both, haven't you?

Sort of. They have the same basic meaning but a different usage.
'안'한다 (don't) - 하지 '않'는다 (don't)

안 할게요
I won't

안 합니다
I don't

안 했어요
I didn't

안 잤어요
I didn't sleep

안 갈거야
I'm not going

아직 안 왔어요
She/he hasn't come yet.

안 먹어?
You're not eating?

않다 also indicates negation but in a different sense

제가 하지 않았습니다
I didn't do that.

그렇게 하지 않나요?
Don't you do it like that?

다시는 실수하지 않겠습니다.
I won't make a mistake again.

먼저 가지 않을게요.
I won't go first.

쉽지 않아요
It's not easy

So in the first example, it is indeed 안 했어요 but do keep in mind that 않다 is its own thing and that it has a place. When I'm questioning it, I think to myself of the placement of 안 or 않. If it's in front of an action verb like 하다 or 가다 I use 안 as in: 공부 안 했다 or 학교 안 가. Where it gets fuzzy is situations like "aren't you tired?" where the message can be conveyed two different ways:

안 피곤 해요?

just watch your 안s and you'll be fine. More examples:

안 먹어요
안 자요
안 예뻐요
안 추워요

먹지 않아요
자지 않아요
예쁘지 않아요
춥지 않아요

Thus concludes another Korean Grammar You Should Already Know.

I think Korean toilet ads for funny. Deal with it.

This one was easily one of the most fun to translate. At first, I thought the second line was saying "In the future, tears come gradually" but it's really more like "take a step up to the toilet and let it all out there". Again, like the secret-keeping toilet, this sign is intended to motivate those using the restroom to use it cleanly.

남자가 흘리지 말아야 할 것은 눈물만이 아니죠
한발만 앞으로 오세요. 기분까지 좋아집니다

Tears are not just the only type of water that mustn't be spilt
Step slowly up to the toilet. It will make everyone feel good

흘리다 is a doosey of a verb. Naver defines it as: cry, shed, sweat, perspire, bleed, drool, slobber, spill, drop

한발한발 gradually, step-by-step

What? toilet humor is funny, right? Anyway, try to keep the giggling down to a minimum. I just like the idea of the toilet giving me advice and, what's more, promising to protect any of my mistakes as a secret between me and Mr. Crapper.

당신의 실천이 모두를 행복하게 합니다
당신이 저를 소중히 다루시면 제가 본 것은 비빌로 하겠습니다~ 쉿 -변기올림
Your practice makes everyone happy.
"If you cherishly handle your business, anything I might see I'll keep as a secret" - From the toilet

The first part reminds me of a stitching that my mother made and posted up in one of the bathrooms. It politely stated "Be an adult not a kid / Hit the toilet not the lid".

Saw this a few months ago near 강남 at a place that served small portioned southeast asian fusion foods. I found it suprising that they would even mention this because I left hungry and wondering why I paid more than 15 000 for something that I'm pretty sure was a side dish at a normal Korean place. Anyways,

우리업소는 먹고 남기지 않을 만큼 적당한 양을 제공합니다

At our establishment, after eating, please leave an appropriate amount of leftovers.

Which, of course, is a long winded way of saying "Take all that you want but eat all you take."

안 vs 못

The great divider.

답장을 안 보내서 미안해요
답장을 못 보내서 미안해요

How would you literally define these two sentences?

"Since I didn't send you a response, I'm sorry."
"Since I couldn't send you a response, I'm sorry."

But, the former is most natural in English, right? "Sorry I didn't respond to you sooner" is the feeling you want to express. However, it may not come off like that in Korean. Dare I say it would make matters worse if you chose the former instead if the latter.

안 means "not" as in 안 했어 I didn't (숙제 안 했어 I didn't do my homework)
못 means "can't" as in 못 했어 I couldn't (중국어 목 해요 I can't speak Chinese)

But, in Korean, these don't translate exactly over 1:1. They don't always mean that.

안 carries the feeling that you had the opportunity and yet you chose not to do so. 못, on the other hand, feels like the choice was not up to you and that outside powers prevented you from doing whatever it was you were supposed to do.

문자 못 보내서 미안 would be much more appropriate to a significant other than saying
문자 안 보내서 미안 would would indicate that yes, you could have sent her a text message but you chose not to. what of it?

Culturally speaking, it's a bit different. In English, unless someone holds a gun to your head, no one makes you not do something. So, if you didn't send her a text, you could say with solemn regard that although you chose not to, you are sorry. No one made you not send it, right? You were having fun with your friends and you lost track of time. No biggie right?

In Korean, it is a whole lot sweeter to say that you were unable to send it. It carries that same feeling that you are indeed sorry for not touching base but think not of it like "I was physically unable because the phone was broke" instead, think of it as "I totally lost track of time" or "정신 없어요". So, although it doesn't mean the exact same in English, the difference is enough to point out.

Another example that is even more curious is 아직 못 봤어요. This seemingly means "I was not able to see it yet" but it really means "I haven't seen it yet." The situation: a coworker asks you if you have seen the new summer blockbuster movie. You casually reply that you haven't seen it yet. Of course you've had time to see it. It's been out for a week or so. You have time after work but you chose not to go see the film. No harm in that. However, replying "아직 안 봤어요" while not grammatically wrong, is not as common as saying "아작 못 봤어요". The idea is that you do want to see it but you haven't had the chance yet. You'll see it soon enough, though.

In summation, Koreans lie have a different way of expressing this type of feeling.

This one doesn't really confuse me all that much but it does make it a bit frustrating to explain. Essentially, they are the same word to express "just a moment ago" or "just now" 급방 and 방금; 今方 and 方今 respectively. However the nuance is ever so slightly different.

금방 refers to things that will happen now or in the future*
방금 refers to things in the past*

*usually. I must highlight the fact that these two words mean the same thing. However, you might hear them in different situations such as:

금방 가겠습니다.
I'm going right now.

방금 외출했습니다.
She just stepped out.

방금 보냈어요
I just now sent you (the email)

금방 보냈는데 아직 안 받았다고요?
I just sent it a moment ago but you're saying you didn't get it?

I was just about to call you...
방금 전화했었는데...

금방 잊었어요
I forgot it just now.

The obligatory explanation in Korean:

今方 금방
方今 방금
今은 지금/이제라는 뜻인 거 알지요?

"지금보다 조금 빠른 때나 지금보다 조금 후"라는 뜻이에요.

방금 일어났어요. I just woke up
금방 일어났어요. I just woke up

방금 비가 올 것 같아요. Seems it will rain any moment now
금방 비가 올 것 같아요. Seems it will rain any moment now

I also ran across this article in the 한겨레 about the difference. The writer, too, knows that they are the same word but how exactly they differ, not sure. Since articles from Korean newspapers love to remove or reorganize their URL, I'm going to a short copy and paste of the contents:

우리는 ‘금방’이란 말과 ‘방금’이란 말을 쓴다. 그러면서 뜻이 같은지 다른지 잘 모른다. 거의 같은 뜻으로 쓰고 있는데, 사전들이 구별도 못 하면서 섞어 다루고 있다.

최근에 나온 <표준국어대사전>(1999)에만 ‘방금’을 내세우고 ‘금방’을 그 한뜻말로 다루었다. 그러나 ‘금방금방’이란 말은 있어도 ‘방금방금’이란 말은 없는 것을 보면 다른 것 같기도 하다. 그보다 더 급한 문제가 있다. 이 ‘금방’과 ‘방금’에 우리 사전들 버릇대로 한자가 붙어 있는 것이다. 과연 한자말일까?

‘금방’에 갖다 붙인 한자가 ‘今方’인데, 이것은 우연일는지는 모르겠으나, 일본에서 쓰이는 ‘이마가타’(今方)라는 말의 한자를 끌어다 댄 것일까. <한국한자어사전>(1992)에도 ‘今方’이 <시민등록>;에 ‘今方行査是在果’라고 쓰이었다고 했으니 ‘이두’ 글이다. 그렇다면 ‘今方’은 우리말 ‘금방’을 한자로 취음한 것이다. ‘금방’이 우리말이란 증거다.

‘방금’에 붙은 한자는 중국에 있는 ‘팡진’(方今)의 한자다. 대국을 섬기는 속국 사람들이 한 짓이다. 우리는 일본말이나 중국말 없이도 얼마든지 ‘금방’이나 ‘방금’이라는 말을 쓸 수 있는 뛰어난 겨레다.

이번 기회에 ‘금방’과 ‘방금’의 뜻매김을 해 보자. 여러 사전 풀이를 종합하면,
1.바로 이 때: “~ 읽는다”
2.바로 조금 전: “~ 한 말”
3.바로 조금 뒤: “~ 가겠다”
의 세 가지로 갈라진다.

‘1’은 ‘지금’이 있으니까 필요 없다.
‘2’와 ‘3’은 “금방 먹을 떡에도 소를 박는다”라는 속담을 살려서, 뜻을
‘금방’은 “바로 조금 뒤”로 하고,
‘방금’은 “바로 조금 전”으로 하여 구별해 보자.
더 좋은 다른 풀법이 있으면 따르겠다.