Monthly Archives: November 2013

Word of the day: 필승

Have you seen students in dramas wear some sort of “bandana” around their foreheads while studying for exams? Ever wondered what they write on them?

Firstly, it’s mostly a drama thing; Very few Koreans actually do that nowadays so I and my language partner have been joking about getting some cloth, writing on them and taking pictures of us wearing them. But some of the things you might see written are:

필승 (必勝) ~ roughly translates into “resolve” or “victory at any cost”.
열공 ~ shortened version of 열심히 공부하다.

These days I’m revising for the first of my finals and 필승 is my motto.

Numbers revisited

I have moved a bit closer to remembering the Korean number systems and learned a new term relating to age 🙂 here are my notes in case you can use them too.

Native Korean numbers:
– Age
– Ordinal numbers, e.g. giving orders and telling someone what to do first, second, and third. Notice 첫 번제 for “first”.
– Before counters
– Telling the time: Hours only

20: 스물
30: 서른
40: 마흔
50: 쉰
60: 예순
70: 일흔
80: 여든
90: 아흔

More about age:
Since all Koreans age by one year on Korean New Year rather than on their birthdays there is a term for those who were born in one calendar year, but are considered a year older since they were born before Korean New Year that year:
빠른 xx : 빠른 92 [빠른 구이] ~ born in ’92 but as old as those born in ’91. Literally someone who was born “quickly” in ’92 and therefore happens to be a year older than someone born later in the same calendar year.

More about time:
정오: noon
오전: before noon
오후: after noon
This is said before telling the time so the listener is already mentally prepared for whether you mean before or after noon when hearing the time.

Chinese numbers:
– Floors in a building
– Telling the time: minutes and seconds
– ID/social security numbers

Really, really formal situations can warrant using Chinese numbers rather than native Korean numbers in cases where you would normally use Native Korean numbers. For instance in the army they take formality a notch higher than regular society and will use Chinese numbers in the following instances – even if sounds odd to a regular Korean:
– Age
– Hours
– Before counters

More about the number zero:
영: zero (0.0000001%)
빵: zero (빵 점 ~ zero points e.g. in an exam)
공: zero (in phone numbers. Many Korean mobile phone numbers start with 010- which is pronounced 공-일-공-에, the “에” being the dash).

Chinese actors’ names in Korean

Besides Korean movies, I have watched movies hailing from other places in Asia. One of my favorites is the Cantonese movie Infernal Affairs from 2002. However, when talking about actors with Koreans (or Chinese and Japanese), confusion never seems to be far away.

It turns out that much of it is due to how actors’ names are read in different parts of Asia given that Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese, and Korean will associate different sounds with the same Chinese characters and therefore also pronounce an actor’s name differently depending on the nationality of the person you ask. These are of course never like their Western names…
It is very logical when it comes to language learning that a Chinese character will of course be pronounced differently in Korean, but it can somehow take a while in conversation before we realise we are talking about the same person.

There always seems to be that element of “who are these people???” in our conversations.

Here are four actors who we talked about today. Their Western names and the Korean counterparts:

Tony Leung: 양조위

Andy Lau: 유덕화

Takeshi Kaneshiro: 금성무.
This guy must be the Taiwanese/Japanese version of Jason Bourne if judging by how many ways his name can be read and how people always seem to have a different preference for what to call him.

Zhang Ziyi: 장자이.
Very close to the original Chinese, but sometimes the phonetically closer 장쯔이 is used.

Are there any actors whose names you ‘re-learned’ through your Korean studies?

Small words of great significance

Another day with language exchange. We somehow came to discuss small words that are useful in colloqual Korean.

These are some of my favorite words. They can be used in so many situations, and their meaning can change quite a bit based on the situation.

You probably already know them, but let’s go over them one more time:

헐 ~ an expression of surprise. You might add “no way!” in English.

대박 ~ comes from the Chinese character 大 for “big” or “great” and 박. Together they mean something big. However, with a change in intonation it can also be used to show sympathy in the case of situations that are not “great”. This can also be done by combining with 헐: 헐 대박…

진짜?? ~ really?? Another expression of surprise.

글쎄 ~ a lovely word with so many meanings. Want to say “hmmm, let me think” in a genuinely thoughtful way? 글쎄 is the word. Want to say “I couldn’t care less…”? 글쎄 is the word! It’s all in the intonation and facial expressions.

Evil tongues say that guys who have overly talkative girlfriends basically just need three words to keep her happily talking with minimum interaction: 헐, 대박, and 진짜? They can even be combined into a single sentence: 헐 대박 진짜??

Pronunciation and tongue twisters

Here are some of the sounds we worked on in our language exchange today. Apparently my pronunciation is not bad, but the double consonants need some extra work. Specifically, I need to work on making my “single-consonants” softer. Looking at the list, we didn’t really get around to ㄱ, ㄲ, ㅋ. Next time then.

ㅂ 비읍 방
ㅃ 빵
ㅍ 팡

ㅈ 장
ㅉ 짱
ㅊ 창
Anecdote: if any of you have seen 너의 목소리가 들려, you might remember that the female lead’s last name is 장, but when her colleagues speak to her in private/in an endearing way, they call her 짱 instead, which roughly translates into “the best”.

ㅅ 상
ㅆ 쌍

ㄷ 다
ㄸ 따
ㅌ 타

When you think you sound native, then try these tongue twisters 🙂

내가 그린 기린 그림은 목이 긴 기린 그림이고 니가 그린 기린 그림은 목이 짧은 기린 그림이다.
경찰청 창살 쇠철창살 검찰청 창살 쌍철창살