G.O.A.’L offers Korean language scholarships to a variety of universities located in Seoul. Today I am happy to bring you an interview I conducted with a recipient of G.O.A.’L’s Korean language scholarship for the Spring 2016 term. Below is Part 1 of the interview:

Can you give a brief introduction of yourself and how long have you been in Korea?

Hello, I'm a Korean-German and I have been in Korea for 1 year and a few months now.

Do you think living here has helped you pick up the Korean language? How would you rate your current Korean language ability?

Yes, being surrounded by spoken and written Korean language did help me. It also gave me more motivation to learn it. I don't feel comfortable living somewhere where I can't communicate with others.

My speaking abilities are still rather limited but sometimes, I just force myself to try and speak in Korean. However, I can hold basic conversations, order food and drinks, and check for ingredients I am allergic to at the supermarket. I can also often point out if someone is a native Korean speaker or not, and sometimes identify if someone has a dialect. Considering I wasn't even able to properly distinguish between Japanese and Korean when I tried to learn Korean the first time in 2009, I’d say I’ve made some progress.

So, I think living here helps. But if I'm completely honest I must give credit to Korean music, dramas, and movies. I picked up a lot by listening to Korean pop and indie music and watching Korean dramas. For me it worked well.

What should adoptees expect to learn just from daily life in Korea?

You are, of course, better off learning a language if you are exposed to it everywhere and on a daily basis. Hearing the melody and rhythm of spoken Korean is very important as well. But as you are able to watch dramas and movies, do online language programs, and study with books and audio, you’ll learn more about the country and cultural differences as well.

The more obvious things you will learn about Korea are the freezing cold temperatures during winter (for which you might want to get well prepared for if you are not used to it) or how the spring season brings beautiful cherry blossoms, but also yellow dust. You might want to protect yourself with a mask from that.

In terms of language, you will pick up how things are called and written when you do grocery shopping. You will also learn how to introduce yourself - name, age, and relationship status. Besides introducing yourself in Korean to friends, it's also not uncommon to share this information (age and relationship status included) with people who you are meeting for the first time.

Step by step I learned more about cultural differences, habits, and mindset first hand. I try to have an open mind - deciding what I feel comfortable with and what I want to adjust to as well as deciding what is still 'not for me'. Fortunately no one has told me yet: You should lose some weight! But in Korean culture this phrase more expresses a concern about you as a person and if your body is healthy. As I was raised differently with a different mindset, I still don't like this aspect of the culture though. But there are a lot of other things which I learn more about and do make sense to me from my point of view.

Just because I’m not familiar with certain things or haven't seen them before, they don't have to be labeled as weird. Many times there is a story behind or a reason to it. So, I think you can also learn to be more open minded and expect differences. There's also no need to constantly compare. Comparison leads often to one being labeled as better, another being degraded. But, I also try to not blindly follow everything that is rooted in culture and society.

Have you studied at a Korean university program before?

No, this is the first time studying in Korea.

Do you have Korean friends, acquaintances, or other people that have helped you with language?

Back in 2013 there was a lovely older woman who gave me some private Korean lessons. I think we met four times and then I went back to Germany. She also invited me to lunch every time we met and took me to a jjimjilbang (Korean sauna). It was so nice of her and I’m very thankful for her kindness.

Since I moved to Korea in 2015, I made a few Korean friends. But, even with my two close Korean friends, we end up talking in English, because there are always more English speaking people around. And, I'm still far from having suitable Korean conversational language skills. But we do talk and text in Korean sometimes, which I enjoy and is also helpful.

How have you been studying while living in Korea and how do you think this will change once you start language school?

Honestly, I didn’t really study when I was working. I always tried to read the advertisements or instructions in the subway, read the names of the subway stations, read street signs, or just any sign in general. Some everyday life phrases I wrote down on post-its and put them on my wall.

I have been diligently studying since February. A friend of mine gave me his former Sogang University book. Previous to starting language school, I just studied some vocabulary and sentences by myself or met with a friend to study in a café. Another friend recently recommended an app called Memrise which is a great way to playfully study vocabulary. The first time I used the app, I stayed up past 1AM; it's rather addictive. So, if you have a hard time memorizing vocabulary, give it a try! Once I start the language program, I think I need to study every single day.


Stay tuned to the G.O.A.’L blog for part 2 of this interview coming soon!
For more information regarding G.O.A.’L’s Korean language scholarships please visit: https://www.goal.or.kr/content/korean-language-study-scholarships

  • Adjusting to Korean Life - Starting Language School (Interview Part 1)-0