Monthly Archives: April 2015

간접화법 and how one of my grammar books was wrong

For two days I spent a disproportionate time on reading up on indirect quotations. Yes, I know, but for some reason I have had some sort of menal block about it.

 Just to make my life difficult, one of my grammar books stated that in written language, action verbs take 느 before 냐고 하다 and descriptive verbs take 으 before 냐고 하다 for quoted questions. However, it was inconsistent with my TOPIK grammar book, which did not include the part about 으 for descriptive verbs and it didn’t show in the examples. Let’s just say I was not impressed by the difference…

The mystery has been solved:  형영사 do not take 으 in written language but only 냐고 하다 as in spoke language. The first grammar book was wrong.

Well that explains a lot. 

Bird of the day or word of the day? Spelling really matters

In order to learn a new word, I need to see it written down for it to really stick. Yesterday while watching an episode of 기황후 I noted down what court lady Soh said when assuring the empress that she thought the candidates for the consort selection were ugly. Or at least I thought I did. Going through my list afterwards and looking up, I realised something was… a little off.

Here is what I thought I heard: 박새

What she really said: 박색

That little 기역 is the difference between a titmouse (a small bird) and an ugly face. Because of the context in which I heard the word, I have to admit I wondered for a short moment whether titmouse was only an animal or also a profanity. Typing it into Naver’s dictionary, however, I could see similar searches and realised I needed just one more letter. Oops…

Korean sheet mask shopping

If you had asked me a few years ago whether I wanted to try a snail mask, I’m fairly certain I would have declined politely – while privately thinking you had gone completely bonkers. Well, I joined the “dark side”. Here are my newly purchased sheet masks.

The three types I bought

The three types I bought

I opted for three different types; one known and two new.

Ever wanted as hydrated skin as a snail? This may be for you

Ever wanted skin as hydrated as that of a snail? This may be for you then.

Since I haven’t tried these yet, I don’t really know what to expect – how greasy or “slippery” it will feel when applied and so on. There are only 5 in a pack, but so far it doesn’t seem my family will be competing for testers. Snail mucin is supposed to be both very hydrating and promote healing of e.g. the discolorations that can be left from acne (disclaimer: deep acne scars are a different league entirely so don’t expect this to be a cure-all thing). I became interested in these masks after my skin had a bad bad phase, but thankfully I don’t have deep scars, just a few marks as souvenirs. Of course snail mask or no snail mask, SPF is not to be neglected since if cared for properly + protected from the sun, the marks may disappear completely with time.

These ones are pricey, but so nice!

These ones are pricey, but so nice!

These ones are expensive (as in 90-odd USD for a pack of 10), but I have good experiences with them. My sister-in-law went to Seoul on a business trip a while ago, and bought a pack in the airport on the way back. She gave me three to try when she came back, and I really liked them. It makes the skin feel so soft and smooth, and calms redness if your skin has been acting out. When I found out they had them on I decided to just go for it after thinking it over for a while because of the price. I have been looking for them for a long time…

I've wanted to try some ginseng products for a long time

I’ve wanted to try some ginseng products for a long time

Well, it’s in the caption. Ginseng is supposed to be great for skin so I look forward to trying this one too.

After trying those first three Sulwhasoo masks I’m a sheet mask convert. It’s a great way to pamper your skin as well as relax a little. I have made some home made sheet masks since those three I got as a gift, but I’m not going to experiment with trying to produce cosmetic grade filtrated snail mucin at home any time soon. For basic masks you can easily concoct something in your kitchen, but for more intriguing ingredients that’s just not an option. Thankfully many sheet masks are reasonably priced – assuming you don’t use them daily.

Do you use sheet masks? Which ones are your favorites?

비밀 or 기밀? That depends on how big a secret it is

While watching 기황후 (there are 51 episodes and we only just finished episode 20, so be prepared for more posts starting like this) I heard the word 기밀 (secret).

Many of you already know the word 비밀, but chances are you are also new to the word 기밀. There is a pretty simple difference: the scale of the secret.

비밀 is what we normally associate with the word “secret”. The one you share with family and friends.
기밀 on the other hand is a large scale secret; State secrets, company secrets, and the like.

As my Korean friend noted, if you’re a spy you’re in the business of 기밀 rather than 비밀.

I don’t think I will ever forget 기밀 after that explanation 😉

기황후 notes

Today I dedicated a notebook to words I learn from 기황후. I have a piece of paper I jot down words on while watching and sometimes when the word is very particular, I will also note what I think it means in English. The notebook I use to note down the most interesting ones I have gathered after double checking the spelling. Let’s see if I stick to that solution in the long run. It’s better than the random sheets of paper for sure, and I can bring it along to my LP meetings to ask about the words I’m wondering about. It’s rather small and thin so it won’t be a big addition to my book load.

There are some words I would like to discuss with my LPs to ensure I understand the nuances since some of the words I have noted down are quite similar or are similar to words I already know, but are yet different. Just think of the words feeling, emotion, and sensation; they may be similar, but your choice will depend a lot on the specific situation.

However, one thing is words for describing emotional states for which it makes sense that there are quite a few options, but for more regular words such a “secret” you may wonder why pick one specific word over another. Or at least I do. I better remember to bring the notebook tomorrow…

Using Korean for Japanese writing

Today was the first time in a long time that I felt that my Japanese just worked out the way it should in class. Not that I used to be really bad or I overnight transformed into a Japanese chatterbox, but today things just lined up really nicely. We’re a small class of just 5 people, our teacher is a native speaker of Japanese, and we are finally reaching the point where our vocabulary allows us to make more interesting sentences. Our class dynamics are great so it’s a lot of fun, but super efficient at the same time. However, I have to say that Korean helps me a lot in Japanese.

For some of the words I’m supposed to write in kanji and I know the Korean equivalent, I tend to think first in Japanese, translate to Korean, and then write in Kanji. I know it sounds odd, but thinking about it, I think it’s because there is no direct correlation between the number of syllables you say in Japanese and the number of kanji you write while there is such a correlation between 한글 and hanja. An example:
The word birthday: The Japanese word written out in hiragana is たんじようび which looks awfully long, but in Korean the word would be 생일 and I know those two characters: 生日. It’s a bit of a roundabout way of thinking, but for some words it just makes so much more sense this way. At least for the words I have come across at this point in my learning process.

For others I don’t do it – such as 行きます (polite present tense of the verb to go) since I never used 行 in Korean. The same goes for あした / 明日 (내일) where I rely on what is basically children’s logic (first we have to finish the day of today then the moon has to shine while we wait for tomorrow, and then tomorrow is the big day).

The brain is a funny, funny thing… Happy studies everyone! 🙂

친구 or 동무?

While watching 기황후 (Empress Ki) I caught on to the use of the word 동무, and wondered how this differs from the word 친구. Some of you might remember the scene where Wang Yu appears in Seung Nyang’s dream and encourages her to think of the implications for all of the people from Goryo in the palace if she follows through on her urge to kill the emperor. The dialogue goes along the lines of this:

Seung Nyang: It’s not my concern.
Wang Yu: Some of them are your friends!
Seung Nyang: I don’t have friends!
Wang Yu: Who are you kidding?

Cue me going “동무???” and rewinding to double check whether my hearing had failed me completely (my mother must absolutely love watching dramas with me when I do that). It hadn’t. Later I texted one of my language partners asking what was the difference between the two words. It turns out that 동무 used to be used quite frequently in South Korea, but since it took on the meaning of “comrade” in the communist sense in North Korea, South Koreans now say 친구 to express the meaning of “friend” as we know it.

Aha! And then there are people who say that you cannot learn from watching dramas 😉

Non-Korean post

Today I did something fairly dramatic had almost 45 cm of my hair cut off. Well, I had quite a bit to spare so I still have some left. Now it’s just below my collarbone so it’s quite a change, but a welcome one I’d have to say 🙂

I was a bit surprised when I measured it!

I was a bit surprised when I measured it!

Language meeting on Friday

Last week I met my other LP after about three weeks where we couldn’t match our schedules due to work commitments. On Friday we finally managed to meet for coffee, cake, and a chat at a little café where she gave me my birthday present: a cooking book called Momofuku. This book is downright amazing and I cannot wait to work my way through it. 

On my way home I carried it in my hands because I didn’t want to cramp it into my bag, and it caught the attention of a fellow commuter who suddenly exclaimed “can I ask why you have that book? those are my favorite places in New York. I ate there just last week!”. The food must have been really delicious for a Dane to strike up conversation with another Dane on a train station 😉

At the language meeting we tried to speak more freely in Korean over coffee and while taking a walk afterwards. Although I don’t understand everything that she says, the idea is to get exposed to a lot of spoken Korean, and if I really don’t understand something, she will just formulate the sentence differently in Korean. When I got home, I was mentally exhausted because it takes so much effort for me to listen, understand, and at least try to come up with an answer in real time. Texts and e-mails are much more forgiving, because you have more time to think, but what is the point if you’re unable to speak?

I remember visiting a friend in a small city near Manchester 13 years ago after her family moved back to the UK. After a whole day of speaking English and focusing so much on what was going on around me, I had a headache every night. Her mum took my English education very seriously while I was there and gave me a little notebook to carry around with me to note down words I didn’t know. When we were driving from one place to another she would test my vocabulary and pronunciation. Although it was tough I learned a lot from that experience so I’m pretty confident I can accomplish the same with Korean. I’ll just interpret the feeling of exhaustion as a sign that I learned a lot 🙂

LP meeting D-187

Today I met one of my language partners for a super efficient study session. First we practiced Danish, then Korean. Today our main focus was to work on fluency. For our Korean practice, my LP used the 이화 book for inspiration and read aloud from some of the dialogues without me being able to see the text. When it was my turn to speak in the dialogue, I had free reins for more general lines, but she would provide me with the English version for some specific lines and ask me to translate into Korean. The point was to 1) mobilise vocabulary in “free” speech 2) practice different formality levels. 

Here are my notes for some of the things we discussed:

Telling people to speak comfortably:

Speaking to someone significantly older or higher status: 말씀 낮추십시오 (only the other person can switch to 반말)

Speaking to someone your age or a little younger that you didn’t know while growing up: 우리 그냥 편하게 반말 하죠? (both switch to 반말)

Speaking to someone much younger than yourself: 우리 그냥 반말 하자 (both can speak 반말)

Tell people to speak more politely:

This one is tricky and stems from me once finding myself in a situation where I asked someone indirectly to speak more politely. Some people I don’t mind speaking/writing to me in 반말, others… well… All of my LPs have made an effort to help me try to learn proper etiquette to limit the number of people I end up offending in the future so I’m not used to 반말-freebies and I appreciate that they try to hold me to a certain standard. However, that has also made me acutely aware of the choises others make when addressing me. 

One time I met a guy who seemingly got a personality transplant once switching from English to Korean. Since he would under no circumstances have used 반말 with me if I had been Korean, my first reaction was to think “that’s an awfully short sentence, isn’t it?”. Next sentence was equally short. And then the third one. For a moment I even wondered if I had seriously underestimated his age. Instead of asking since when we agreed on skipping the endings or ask outright why he was speaking in 반말, I opted for sticking to my -요 endings when answering his question and then ask “by the way, how old are you?”. Order restored, he replied with -요 endings. 

Here is a suggestion for how to ask: 참, 그런데 ~ 나이가 어떻게 되세요? 

Adding “참, 그런데 ~” before the question makes it seem a little less accusatory although the meaning should be pretty clear. 

Suggestions for how to avoid referring directly to people who are older than you (but not old enough to be your parents), and you’re just not sure what to call them:


“저 ~”: to be used with caution especially if young, female, and in a work environment or similar because of the risk of coming across as indecisive and inconfident.  

저기요: Be careful with the intonation. If said too forcefully it sounds like you’re trying to get the attention of a waiter in a restaurant.

What to say when people thank you for doing them a favour and you are still on polite tems?

Politely replying “don’t mention it” to people who thank you for doing them a favour: 아닙니다 / 무슨 말씀을… / 무슨 말씀을요 / 천만예요 (can be used for biiig favors or it sounds a little stiff and textbook-like)

What’s your name?

이름이 뭐야/뭐니?(-니 is Seoul dialect): only said to children

이름이 뭐예요?: Polite way to ask someone younger than you, but mostly children. 

성함이 어떻게 되세요?: Polite, but not going “all in”. Notice the honorific word for “name”.

성함이 어떻게 되십니까?: All in.

Random expression: 007 가방 (litterally read 공-공-칠 가방). Today it’s probably better known as a briefcase or 서류가방. I had never heard this before today, but since I find it hilarious, it just had to be included.