When I started learning English, I had no idea whether it could really be “my language”. I mean, unless you’re raised in a bilingual household or born in a country in which the language is widespread, you know that acquiring your target language is frustrating but totally rewarding. Now I don’t have to knock myself out all the time, and English just pops off the top of my head... finally!
After that, by learning a new language I was welcomed into an entirely new world, a whole new dimension of living. And not just linguistically but also emotionally and culturally. I can laugh along with Conan O'Brien and discuss at great lengths how Americans and South Koreans think differently than North Koreans. I’ve talked to British people who say that American English is “an uncivilized dialect” (though I myself prefer and acquire American dialects). My boyfriend’s first language is English. Basically, half of my life is in English.
And yet, after all that dedication and reward, the world is telling me that in the future none of us will need to learn foreign languages; it will all be a fruitless hassle.
Acquiring a foreign language: A journey
- Vanessa King, a positive psychology expert
Whenever I tell someone I’m from Korea, their first question is invariably, “North or South?”
Ah man, it never fails! And then I say “South” (while in my mind I'm slapping my forehead), not really bothering to explain that over 90% of North Koreans can’t afford or are permitted to travel abroad. I see the relieved smile on their faces and just have to let the issue pass.
We're not from North Korea.
Whenever I introduce myself as a professional, I tend to say, “I’m a Korean language specialist” or “I'm a Korean language marketer." (Well, technically I made that title up myself.)
That said, essentially what I do is highlight the power of words in Korean. I currently provide Korean copy writing, editing/trans-creation, and one-on-one language coaching, and each of these tasks has its own specific reason.
Today you’ll learn how I became a Korean language coach, and I'll share some useful little tips to help you boost your own Korean studies.
One fine day, a while ago, I was interviewed by Ben, a former student. He is now building a community for Korean language learners and wanted to pick my brain for guidance and ideas. And technically I wasn’t supposed to put this interview on my website, but I think it could be helpful for anyone who wants to know me better as a potential coworker.
So here we go:
The world is becoming a smaller place, and competition in every market is getting fiercer each day. And yet, the chances for businesses to succeed are no longer reserved for top-notch conglomerates. Small and medium enterprises are finding great new opportunities to take their share. So look — once these businesses are ready to make their products and services available in other countries, why not even the odds of success and localize what they have to offer?
At this stage, connecting to foreign local markets with human translation takes a significant part of marketing. Hence, creative writing and translation agencies are growing like never before.
What is it about being smart? Everyone wants to be smart, and more than a few of us are jealous when someone else seems smarter than us. That's normal, maybe, but no one can really hate a person who's smart enough to save them time and energy. And as you know, Korean society is driven to distraction with "빨리빨리" ("Faster, faster") culture.
With that being said, efficient language is without a doubt a new kind of intelligence in South Korea — it’s deft, exacting point, and attractive. And not just in a business context; in casual meet-ups it goes a long way too.
You and I know that knowing English is necessary in navigating today's world. A command of the language is certainly a huge advantage which is why a majority of South Koreans are under pressure to learn it. They are clamoring to earn fancy certifications, but not really mastering the language's nuances, thus creating a basic problem which I will talk about having received English education myself for decades in South Korea.
As a foreigner, you might have noticed that starting a career in Korea seems to be tough. You’re looking for a job, but apart from that, you might be an experienced professional who has brought the love of your life to Korea, or you could be a student who just graduated and is eager to test the waters in a foreign land.
Koreans know that foreigners at work is a pretty rare sight. Whenever I talk to my local friends about some pals trying to get a job in Korea, these were their typical reactions:
“Why would companies hire foreigners when they can just work with Koreans?"
"Don’t you think that South Korea is reluctant to hire foreign employees because of the language barrier?"
"Wouldn't Hong Kong or Singapore be better options for a good career in Asia?”
You’re dreaming of a world where your words are heard. But in reality, your idea could be misunderstood or worse, diluted before it reaches your readers — so make it work and make it pop.
Is your language really talking to your desired audience?
Do you believe that great work isn’t about the number of output hours, but more about prioritizing tasks and enhancing productivity?
I bet you do. But we oftentimes overlook this detail and get stuck in insignificant routines. We forget that it’s not about rushing and tend to neglect the effective methods of winning clients over wisely.
Here are some goodies from three entrepreneurs in South Korea — overflowing with a sense of "bbali-bbali" (faster-faster) inside out. It's important to note that there has been a current trend of Korean corporates losing track of productivity because of the crazy work hours and and strong hierarchy. Society is telling us that it's high time for productivity.
You already think your ideas are worth spreading. And you've just heard that South Korea is a brilliant place to settle into and is a great emerging market. So what's next?
When you decide to expand your small business to this peninsula, the first thing you would probably do is go to Upwork to hire a freelance market researcher, translator, and SEO strategist who all speak Korean as their native language. Brainstorming begins and you give them your full trust. Think you're all set?
There are tons of YouTube channels out there, and the Korean ones are no exception. But sometimes, as a native watching the said content, there's no denying that some distort or exaggerate the culture since some are based on things that are culled from very personal and limited knowledge.
So, I came up with my own list of more genuine, unbiased (no shameless sales pitches), and intensively researched channels which in my opinion truly celebrate the Korean spirit. The content is relevant, current, and accessible since they are subtitled either in Korean or English.
So sit back, relax, and enjoy.
Imagine yourself talking to a friend at a local cafe in your mother tongue. You’re comfortable and you let your words flow naturally — and that’s when your “natural language” comes alive.
I know some of you are reading this because you're interested in starting to learn Korean or have already taken some lessons. Since, I myself, am a business owner working alongside native or locals, I am exposed to various levels of conversational Korean, from talking in a formal manner to clients or more casually with students.
I have determined the seven most repetitive and unnatural particles used to sound more natural when speaking Korean — most of these particles are in conjunctions and postpositions.
I am going to explain to you seven conversational alternatives that you can quite simply apply to your conversation in Korean. I will compare both the written and spoken forms in my examples, and which examples sound more natural to a native's ear.
Just to be clear, these examples are meant to spark casual conversations, but when it comes to business-level conversations or presentations, that's a different story.
So, here are seven simple changes you can make when speaking Korean to sound more natural.
V: Verb / A: Adjective