Category Archives: Culture

Learning Korean NOT through textbooks

I haven’t been studying a lot of Korean these days, textbook-wise. The Integrated Korean book I borrowed from my sister is now back to its hiding place, as I haven’t touched it since school started–now that I remember it, I actually did, and I even brought it to school. Alas, I never read it; I just slept inside the library (I do it all the time now T-T).

Textbook studying aside, I am doing some sort of studying…if we count drama watching (heh, can it really be counted?) and comic reading. I’m still learning stuff, although it’s a different sort of learning. Comics give me new words and the casual kind of speaking style people use in everyday stuff; the bad thing with reading comics is that sometimes the artist doesn’t really use the correct spelling and instead write out the dialogs the way they’re said (e.g. 용 at the end of a speech instead of 요 to make it cuter, etc.).

As for dramas, I know some people don’t think one would learn anything in dramas, but there is something there. If you try to not just watch a drama for the sake of watching and try to catch whatever a character is saying, your brain gets to try and decipher the sentences as you watch it! Of course watching dramas tends to be easier than having to listen to all Korean podcasts like the 이야기 series of Talk to Me in Korean (which I love listening to) because there’s clues you get from seeing what they’re doing or knowing what the plot is, but you get some kind of practice nonetheless.

And culture points! Culture points! I once did a culture/language post while watching 추노 (Slave Hunters), dealing with the Joseon-era speaking style (more deference, less casual style). Now, while watching 공주의 남자 (The Princess’ Man–a short digression here, but isn’t the Anglicized title a little…weird-sounding? To me it’s not as fluid as the Korean title…), I noticed that unmarried women style their hair in long braids, whereas once they get married they switch to low buns with that hairpin decorating their hair. I don’t think I’ve ever noticed that before, but I do now!

Here’s the change, from when Princess Kyeong Hye is still single

to when she’s already married.

See? I’m actually learning stuff! XD Not huge stuff, but it’s still fascinating to see these things.

A few more things I learned:

소자 = means I, me, myself, used when speaking to parents. Naver’s English dictionary doesn’t say whether this term is explicitly for sons or if it can be used by daughters, but I’ve only ever heard the male characters say this in 공주의 남자. The daughters use 소녀 when speaking about themselves to their parents, mostly–at least, from what I’ve understood from watching.

송구하옵니다 = I didn’t find the right term in Naver Dictionary (only found 송구스럽다, which is kind of the same, I guess, but not really) but as I searched through the web I found that someone out there wants to know what this means (just like me!), and asked this question at Nate 지식, which is kind of similar to Yahoo! Answers. Someone gave this answer:

송구는 두려울 송(悚), 두려워할 구(懼)를 사용해 ‘두려워서 마음이 몹시 거북하다’는 뜻입니다.

미안하다, 죄송하다란 뜻이죠.

Hmm…what else? I kept a list of them somewhere but it seems I’ve lost it. D:

Anyway, yay! I updated! I was feeling a little disappointed with myself for not updating this after I said I’d move to WordPress. I’m glad I did.

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Do they still use these?

First off, I’m addicted to an ongoing fusion sageuk drama, Chuno (추노). It has got to be, hands down, one of the best Korean dramas I’ve seen—and I’ve watched more than my share of Korean dramas. :D

Anyway, because the setting for Chuno is during the Joseon dynasty, some (or maybe a lot; I’m not exactly sure) of the words and expressions used in the drama are olden and may not exactly be heard in today’s Korean language. A good proof of this are snippets of information being shown when an ancient word is used in the dialogue, like the one below:

Chuno introduced me to some new terms that I don’t think people actually use today, like:

  • 오라버니 – used by women to refer to older men; possibly the equivalent of today’s 오빠 (but according to Wiki, 어라버니 is the honorific equivalent of 오빠, so perhaps people somewhere still use it…?)
  • 나으리 – used by commoners during the Joseon dynasty to refer to people of higher status, but below 대감 (His Excellency)
  • 서방(님) – used to refer to one’s conjugal partner, but I’ve only heard this used by women in Chuno, so this could probably be used only to refer to a husband
  • 성 (? I’m not sure how it’s spelled) – a southwestern version of 형
  • 언니 being used to refer to an older male

I was also made aware of the hierarchical status during the Joseon dynasty through watching Chuno. I recall learning a bit about Korean history through Asian History in my sophomore year in high school, but because it was a very broad subject, we never really got into the finer details of life during that time (not to mention the fact that we were too busy memorizing the Chinese dynasties in order and the significant contributions of each to Asian civilization). Now I know a wee bit more about 양반, 노비, and about Korean history during the Joseon dynasty in general. I’d like to know a bit more but my only resource for now is the internet.

Apart from that, it was fun to hear the dialogues being spoken in varying degrees of politeness. The nobles speak to each other using very formal Korean, whereas the commoners speak to one another in informal form. Hearing the characters speak in the 하오-form makes me happy (eg. Wangson saying ‘나 다시 가오’ or one of Cheon Jiho’s men saying ‘언니, 사랑하오’). ^^

(And no, this is not a pimp post for Chuno, although I bet that’s what it sounds like. ^^)

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한복 (Hanbok), is the traditional Korean dress. Even before watching the first episode of Cultural Trilogy, I really liked the hanbok—there’s just a subtle yet deep beauty that comes with the flow of the skirt and the design on the cloth. People wearing it seem to give off an aura of quiet grace that’s just so beautiful to see.

I’ve been meaning to draw the hanbok for a few days (or weeks) now, and I have finally given in. :D Behold, the drawing that will make you go wow.

I know, I know—not exactly the prettiest picture, but hey, I actually made some effort on this one. :D The colors didn’t come out as planned (blame the scanner!), but with a few tweaks using the good ol’ ‘shop and here we have a nice little picture of the hanbok. :D

And no, I didn’t actually draw this for the Lunar New Year (설날); I just happened to draw it today. :D I have such great timing, right? XD

Anyway, I’m off to do more studying and Olympic (re)watching—am super excited to see Kim Yu-Na skate on the 23rd(?). I really hope she wins.

새해 복 많이 받으세요 여러분!


Cultural Trilogy

Want to know more about Korean culture, as well as Chinese and Japanese? Well, Dramafever now has a documentary in their growing library of Korean dramas that specifically examines the cultures of three East Asian countries: Japan, China, and Korea. Entitled Cultural Trilogy, it is a cultural guide that is certainly very entertaining and packed with significant information about the similarities and differences between the three cultures. Topics range from clothing, martial arts, traditional houses, etc.

I’ve only watched the first two episodes and I must say, it’s fascinating to learn more about the cultures of these countries. The first episode focused on traditional clothing (Kimono, Qipao, and Hanbok), as well as the process of making them. I enjoyed watching the episodes and am certainly anticipating the episode focusing on martial arts. :D

US and Canadian residents can watch Cultural Trilogy on Dramafever. :D