Category Archives: Reading

The Korean way to say “pitiful” – nuance differences

Until recently I only heard the verb 불쌍하다 used to express the meaning “pitiful”, but just this past week, I came across two alternative wordings: 한심하다 and 애처롭다. Obviously that’s not something I can just let go unnoticed so I had to ask a Korean.

Broadly speaking it’s about:
1) the degree to which you can control the circumstances around you.
2) the speaker’s perspective on the event.
3) how “sad” the situation is deemed to be on some continuum.

If starting with point three, 애처롭다 is used to describe the most severe types of situations. The context in which I came across it was Harry Potter where it was used to describe the look that Hagrid gives Harry after telling him about the circumstances of his parents’ deaths. For this descriptive verb to be used, the situation has to be quite severe; e.g. losing family members, losing everything you own in an accident, being the victim of a natural disaster. These are objectively severe and sad events – being late for work might get you in trouble with your boss, but not quite enough for it to warrant the use of this particular verb.

The lines get a little blurry when it comes to 불쌍하다 and 한심하다. Both of them are used in more daily life situations, but the choice of words also says something about the speaker’s view on the events and the extent to which the speaker thinks that person could have influenced the events.

If someone breaks a valuable item that he or she holds dear:
불쌍하다: You feel sorry for that person because he lost his precious item – even if he did break it himself.
한심하다: It’s sad, but he could have been more careful.

If someone fails an exam:
불쌍하다: Poor thing, he studied so hard!
한심하다: Wow, that’s a shame… but that being said he should have studied more…

Now it definitely makes more sense why different words were used in different contexts to say “pitiful”.

Reading progress: Harry Potter

I’m slowly progressing in Harry Potter. I try to read a few pages every day, but I look forward to reaching the point where I don’t have to rely as much on my dictionary. At this pace I won’t be done before Christmas!… 2015… Oh well, I remember when I read the first Harry Potter book in English back in the days. Back then I also had to look up a lot of words in the beginning, but eventually it worked out just fine.

My second language partner (from spring 2013) is very proud that I’ve made it to reading it in Korean without taking formal classes to get there. So with that in mind I will keep on reading.

Did you spend this Sunday reading as well? 🙂

Bernon? Oh right, Vernon…

I’m reading Harry Potter in Korean and kept coming across the word 버논. I tried looking it up, but no matter how I typed it and tried to reverse engineer a useful verb stem out of it, I failed to find it in my dictionary. It kept reoccuring so it began to annoy me. Eventually I asked for reinforcement from a friend over Kakaotalk. The answer: it’s his name.

Doh! Of course. Uncle Vernon! B versus V-confusion for the win.


It’s been a while since my last post. I’m sorry about that… As usual, I’ve been working quite a bit, but this week I have finally had some time off, so I decided to work on my Korean reading. Not feeling up for the university books this week, I decided to read a bit of Harry Potter (don’t let the picture above fool you, I cheated and started with chapter 2 after browsing through chapter 1).

Feeling studious, I decided to make flash cards. How to realise how many words you don’t know: make flashcards. The pile you see in the flashcard ring are only for three pages… Three!!!

I look forward to being able to read and just look up the occasional word. The day when I don’t have to look up words such as 중얼거리다 (to grumble), 초록 (grassy-green), and 가느다랗다 (to be very slender).

First post with audio at Koreanstudentblog

Okay, so here is a short audio file of me reading. Inspired by Korean Vitamin’s audio post previously this week, I thought why not try it myself?

The book is Sogang 2A so it’s an upper-beginner text. The recording details say 4th of December at 23:52 so if I sound tired that’s the reason 🙂 I do stumble over the words here and there and the intonation is not always right, but I think I’ve made some progress. No more excuses, here is the recording:

So that’s how Korean sounds with a Danish accent 😀

Reading: I don’t write notes, but I see the bookmark move

As mentioned in the last reading post, I have started reading Pippi Longstocking. At first I thought about writing notes and vocabulary, but then I decided against it. I know this is not what many other learners do, but I tried the whole vocabulary list thing with other books, and it just kills the joy of reading for me. I never manage more than a couple of pages if following such a regime because the flow of reading stops. Also, it begins to feel like homework since I then feel it can only be done with a notebook and a somewhere flat to put the notebook while writing.

What I do now is that I read and look up but don’t write down what I just looked up. Sometimes I save it in my electronic dictionary, though, if I think it’s a really good word.
If I don’t know a word, I will look it up without exception, and if I have to look it up 12 times before it sticks then that is what I will do. Even if I only read 3 pages before falling asleep, I still manage to read enough to actually turn the page. That may seem like a small victory, but to me it’s a really big one because I can see the bookmark move just a tiny bit every evening.

Reading: 내 이름은 삐삐 롱스타킹

A new category has been added: Reading. It’s about time I start reading some books and there is no other way than just jump into it. It’s been underway long enough by now. If I really want to get somewhere with my Korean studies I need to make that jump now.

I have started reading Pippi Longstocking in Korean. And though I look up a looooot of words, it actually seems to flow.

It’s fun to revisit a children’s book that I read many years ago. Yesterday I read a few pages before bedtime (totally like when I was a child). Now I just came home from work and reading 삐삐 sounds like a lot more fun than tort law. So 삐삐 it is! 😉