Korean Speaking Contest

I owe you guys an update on the speaking contest. In short: I did go, and it was great. Now for the slightly longer version.

I arrived as the very first one since it was the first time I ever went to the university campus where it was held and I really didn’t want to be late. For the past week I have been so nervous I could barely eat (I even lost weight). I cannot recall being this nervous since an exam in international economics that I did in my BSc back in 2008.

Before the contest started, there was an opportunity to talk to the other contestants (many of whom I had actually met at a Korean fried-chicken-and-beer event before, and as it turned out we were all equally nervous), get an introduction to the order of things, and look over the speech a last time.

The Ambassador introduced the event with a really nice speech about learning other languages and how it’s a necessity to learn the language to learn about a foreign culture. The first group was then asked to position themselves in the right order by the podium. The first group had studied for a year or less, the second group between 1 and 2 years (my group), and the last group was for those with up to 6 or 7 years of experience. In between each group there would be a short break for the judges to make final notes. This division of level was a great idea and it was really helpful to speak among people who have studied approximately the same amount of time (of course assuming we spent app. the same amount of time studying Korean in two years). It made it a LOT less daunting.

In total 23 participants had applied, but “only” 21 could make it to the event, which I still consider a pretty decent number of people!

This speech has been on my mind for two weeks. I’ve even been revising in my sleep, waking up when reaching a point where I couldn’t remember which sentence should come next.

My language partner, her boyfriend, and another of her friends whom I met at her Thanksgiving dinner the night before the contest were running a bit late, but thankfully they made it in time to see my group.

The speech itself was nerve-racking. It was not quite as fluent as I had planned, but I managed. By the time I sat down afterwards, my hands were literally shaking. Afterwards I wasn’t even sure if I said all of the things I actually wanted to say, but my language partner assured me I did say all of the things I was afraid I had somehow forgotten. I deliberately left out a line, because I felt I might have lost track of the timing and it wasn’t crucial.

We were measured on vocabulary, pronunciation, content, and time-management (max 3 minutes, cut down from between 3 and 5 minutes due to the number of contestants).

There were three prizes, the grand prize (a round trip ticket to Korea) being awarded to a contestant from the most experienced group, the second prize (a Samsung tablet or phone) to a contestant from the intermediate group, and the third prize (a Samsung Galaxy phone) to a contestant from the beginner group. Those are really generous prizes! Furthermore, two acknowledgments were given (one to me, and the other to a girl from the advanced group – a 13-year old who obviously spoke really well).

The grand prize winner of a round trip ticket to Korea studies Korean at the University of Copenhagen, and she spoke very well. Afterwards she told me and the second prize winner that she had had to say no to going to Korea with some friends in February due to financial constraints, but now she can go. How great is that!

I wasn’t one of the three main prize winners, but I got a special recognition for my efforts of learning Korean on my own. That was so unexpected. If it were not for my language partner I would never even have thought of signing up since I initially thought I wasn’t even qualified to participate; that I was risking total and utter humiliation. Last week I almost couldn’t get myself to press the “send” button to actually apply, and I even called my brother who assured me that I should in fact just press that button and get it over with; that it would be a good experience for me.

When the pictures were taken after the contest, there wasn’t a lot of space and thinking back I’m not sure I was in the right line for one of the photos… I keep telling myself I probably was since people were generally rearranging for that one, and one of the judges waved me closer… I was so shocked that I even got a prize that the 15 minutes that followed are a bit hazy. Which is of course the time interval when pictures were taken. I really hope I was in the right line!!! Otherwise that will take the definition of “mortification” to a whole new level when I see them.

Unfortunately I didn’t take a single photo there, so I’ll have to rely on the official ones when they come out, and get some from my language partner.

What were my immediate take-aways from the contest?
1) I managed to speak Korean in public without suffering permanent emotional harm.
2) I proved that self-studying is in fact possible beyond absolute beginner level.
3) I learned to have more faith in my own Korean abilities.

It’s a bit interesting that my language partner had so much more faith in my Korean level than I did when she’s obviously the Korean among the two of us and therefore should know better than me. Today I’m really happy I followed her recommendation and signed up.

From a longer term perspective it was really inspiring to see the other contestants, since seeing their speeches made it very apparent how far you can get with a language even when studying it in a country where it’s somewhat difficult to use in daily life. I will definitely keep pushing myself to improve so I can come back and do even better next year.

In spite of having gone through several months last year and again earlier this year where I was stuck with full time work plus a pretty hefty uni workload and therefore heavily neglected my Korean studies (sorry about the lack of posts in those months!), the time I did put into it when I did study must have been efficient hours. More efficient than I even realised.

This is the prize I got.

This is so pretty! My parents think I won the best prize.

This is so pretty! My parents think I won the best prize since this one I will keep for many many years, whereas technology will get outdated. I happen to agree.

The details on this are amazing

The details on this are amazing. When opening it, it plays Arirang,

We (me, my language partner, her boyfriend and aforementioned friend) wrapped up the evening at a Korean restaurant with 삼겹살 and 막걸리. All in all it was a great afternoon and evening!

Here is my speech. My language partner has looked it over for “big things” (thankfully nothing too overwhelming turned up), but if you find imperfections they are “supposed” to be there because my Korean is not perfect so they shouldn’t be weeded out before I understand why they are wrong. Please be kind when reading it 🙂

제 이름은 마이 XXX입니다. 아직은 한 번도 대한민국에 안 가봤습니다.
또 학원이나 수업은 들을 기회가 없었습니다. 그래서 혼자 공부하고 한국인 친구랑 말하기 연습합니다.
많은 사람들이 말 도 안 됀다고 하고 너무 힘들거 같다고 합니다. 기끔은 저도 그렇게 생각합니다.
그럼 제가 왜 한국말을 공부할까요?
사실은 제가 엄머니와 내기 때문에 한국어 공부를 시작하였지만 지금은 그렇게 아니에요.
문법도 발음도 혼자 공부하는 건 힘들어요. 듣고 이해하는 것도 정말 어려운데 단지 내기 때문에 공부할
수 없습니다.
그 내기 대문에 한국어능력시험을 치기 위해서 지난 해 4(사) 월엔 런던에 갔습니다.
합격한 다음에 기분이 정말 좋아서 한국어 공부를 계속하게 됐습니다.
저는 주로 한국어를 듣기 위해 드라마를 봅니다.
XXX 대학교에서 법을 전공해서 한국 드라마 “오만과 편견” 하고 “너의 목소리가 들려”라는 드라다를 정
말 좋아합니다.
그래서 한국인 친구 중에 한명 이 DVD box 샀젔습니다. [Here I showed the 너의 목소리가 들려 DVD box and one of the scripts with all my post-its]
한국말은 함축성이 있는 언어인데 처음엔 스토리라인만 이해합니다.
그러나 시간이 지나면서 한국어를 더 이해하고 새로운 디테일들을 볼 수 있읍니다.
근데 실제로 대한민국에 가면 완전 다르겠죠?
한국어 공부 때문에 좋은 친구들을 만났습니다. 앞으로 공부가 어려워도 그 친구들에게 약속했습니다:
열심히 공부하고 빨리 한국에서 만나요.


8 thoughts on “Korean Speaking Contest

  1. camila

    Congrats!!! Amazing work. Love the gift. Thank you for sharing your experience, that should keep us studying Korean.

    1. koreanlearner Post author

      Thank you! I am really relieved that it went so well. In hindsigt that might sound silly, but I was so nervous it’s beyond description.
      I’m glad you liked the speech, it took me a long time to write, adjust, and practice 🙂


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