Category Archives: Speaking

배에 왕 자 생기다

Today my language partner asked me if I was keeping up with my training and I enthusiastically confirmed that I am. Have I gotten better? yep! I proudly told him about a success I had this week.

“배에 왕 자 생겼어요?” Wait, what??? At first I automatically thought of 왕자 (prince) rather than 왕 자 (“Chinese character for 왕/king”) courtesy of my past 사극-binges, which certainly didn’t improve my understanding.

The Chinese character for 왕 is of course 王 so what he was asking me was if I had gotten well defined abs! I confirmed again – naturally 😉 How about the arms then? Naah, not that much [cue me flexing my arms on camera]. He begged to differ – there was some definition.

배에 왕 자 생기다… I guess “chocolate abs” are still a guy-thing, though 😀

Korean cuss words

Last night during my weekly skype session we somehow turned to cuss words. I’m not entirely sure how it happened, but it did, and it was hilarious. His reasoning was that most tutors will not teach them, but you might need them! First he wanted to know which ones I already knew so he knew what we were working with, then he added a few – after asking for the source of my existing repertoire as always whenever I have a surprising word up my sleeve 😀

Then he figured it was time for a little language role play to reinforce memory – in case I meet some creep in Korea. Let’s just say we were moving a bit outside the realm of my usual vocabulary in most languages. At this point I already had problems keeping a straight face, and as it turned out it wouldn’t get any easier. In spite of having a pretty good idea of what was about to happen I was still caught off guard when he suddenly turned on the sleaze and said straight into the camera in Korean “hey, you’re so beautiful. Do you want to go to a motel with me?”

I froze for a moment just staring at him before I started laughing resulting in the reprimand “this is when your reply has to come automatically, BAM!”

I was let off the hook once I had managed to utter “bastard! don’t bullshit with me!” (the slightly less PG translation would be “you son of a bitch! don’t try to fuck around with me!”). Correct answer!

Seriously, I love our language meetings.

Ulterior motives: 꽃뱀 and 백마

Last night I had a skype conversation with my Italki language partner (confusing as it may sound I have a professional tutor, an informal tutor, and a language partner). We have done video calls every weekend for a while, and we always manage to find something interesting to talk about. After giving up on talking about the impending “Brexit” EU referendum (yes, seriously), since it was admittedly way too advanced for my level of Korean, and my Korean was a complete shambles yesterday, we went on to talk about something lighter: my upcoming trip to Korea and dating/relationships.

Talking about the expectations of men and women in Denmark, Korea, and the US respectively was how I learned the term 꽃뱀: A gold-digger. Literally a “flower snake” it’s  the kind of woman who targets men based on their wealth rather than their splendid personality.

Obviously women don’t have exclusive rights to ulterior motives, and since I’m going to Korea in about two months, he asked me somewhat apologetically “have you heard this word?” [백마 showed up in the chat]. I admitted to having heard about “the white horse”.

“Riding the white horse” (백마를 타다) is a pretty crude Korean expression which is used about some Korean men’s desire to find a white girlfriend… for a night at least… to try it as if it were some sort of adventure – and for bragging rights among their buddies.

Telling me about this was meant as a sort of warning against the Korean guys with less than noble intentions so his surprised reaction was hilarious when I already knew about it. Apparently I have surprised him multiple times by knowing about certain historical events as well as some of the less admirable aspects of some Koreans’ mentality. However, knowing the term 백마 was obviously unexpected and caused a laughing “who do you normally hang out with?!”

While I do appreciate the warning, I doubt that will be a problem during my trip 😀

Korean update

A lot has happened since my last post so maybe we should just get straight into it?

Korean lessons
I have been really consistent lately in spite of my otherwise rather overwhelming schedule. I take two classes per week with a community tutor and one per week with a professional tutor at italki.
We’ve talked so much by now that we’re getting to know each other fairly well, which is really nice since I learn a lot, but I feel a lot more relaxed about it. I remember feeling super stressed about waiting for the Skype calls in the beginning, but I’m happy to say that now that anxiety is completely gone and it’s just fun!

Language exchange
An American girl recently contacted me on italki to practice Danish. She wrote me a really nice message (in almost perfect Danish) about her motivation to keep improving after returning to the States, and I figured “why not? Koreans also practice Korean with me so ‘pay it forward’, right?”. Ultimately it didn’t work out because she had a Skype issue before our first talk, but I wrote to her that she could always write to me if she wanted to talk at some point.

I know that some people wonder how to approach potential language partners e.g. on italki and I have to say I have gotten a variety of messages, but those that seem nice, motivated and don’t have that “air of creepy”are surprisingly few and far between.

Of course there are the generic messages just reading “hi” (nothing else and the person may not even be learning your language). A variation usually includes something along the lines of ‘thank you for being my language partner, here is my Skype ID’. Those are pretty easy to ignore, and I wonder if people really think it works. Among the more curious ones, though, I have received one which was obviously translated into Danish through google translate and which asked about some obscure (and non-existing) rite of passage for Danish men. Needless to say, I didn’t reply to that one either. “I’m talking real I want to meet in life I’m ready for marriage” didn’t pass the don’t-be-a-psychopath test either…

But I’m digressing since there are obviously also perfectly serious people out there trying to improve their language abilities so let’s get back to the topic of language learning. As for the Korean exchanges, overall they are going well. I recently started exchanging messages with a young Korean woman who wants to improve her English so she’s more confident in English at work. So far we haven’t done any voice calls so our system of her writing in English and me replying in Korean has worked rather well. In spoken conversation that would be a super weird system, but in writing it works surprisingly well, and our respective levels allow us to both have a proper conversation and to pick up on corrections.

In phases, though, my Korean exchanges have, in some cases, added stress to my life… Such as when someone I have spoken to and gotten along with really well suddenly writes super short replies after an exceptionally long reply time (at first I figured that since I was the main benefactor of this exchange, maybe it was just dying out), proceeds to calling me at 4:30 am my time one random Saturday morning  – which I obviously missed because I was asleep – then doesn’t have time to call after that missed call, goes completely quiet for a week, and after a few tentative message exchanges let’s me wake up one morning to a message that I’m welcome to come and visit for a week. Only to seemingly fall off the face of the Earth for another two days. What. Just. Happened. There?!

Language tags
I have received some language tags (thank you so much!!!) and I’ll get to write those posts asap I can 🙂

Voice messages

Yesterday I received a voice message over Kakao – partly in Korean, partly in English. Since that was the first time I ever received a recording I was pretty surprised. I’ve been encouraged to send recordings before, but I never had the courage do do so so receiving this message encouraged me to send a recording back.

It sounds so strange to hear your own voice at first. My (English) accent – I don’t think I’m anywhere near competent enough to judge my accent when speaking Korean – my voice itself; is that really what other people hear? In my first audio message I didn’t speak a lot of Korean, but in my second one this morning I talked about some vocabulary that I had come across so I did voice a few more things in Korean. I’ll try to up the percentage of Korean in future messages to actually speak-speak Korean even when recording.

This week I haven’t been able to post as much due to some pretty hefty deadlines that are looming, but once everything is under control – at some point during next week I hope – I will return! In the meantime I will have to stick to subjecting someone to recordings of my broken Korean.


I recently switched to 반말 with someone, which has brought about an “issue” which I never had before: when we write together I can easily stay consistent and write casually, but when speaking I’ve caught myself inadvertently sneaking in 요’s here and there before correcting myself.

It could just be a matter of habit when it comes to actually speaking – especially since this time I’m the younger one  – since we’re pretty comfortable with each other.

The process of skipping honorifics has been a little different this time compared to the times I’ve “gone casual” with other people. Firstly, I don’t speak casually with that many people, secondly, I was always the older one on previous occasions, and thirdly, the other times we simply agreed to just skip formalities at some point. But this time it’s been more of a gradual thing. First one would test the waters by leaving out an ending or two, then the other would follow suit, but make sure to still throw in a polite wording here and there. When it was clear that none of us would call the other out on it, we went all in.

This way has been somewhat more nerve racking than the “how about we just speak comfortably?” approach since it added an element of “will I get away with it?”.

How about you guys? Have you transitioned to 반말 with someone? Did you agree verbally or tacitly and did it take a bit of getting used to suddenly being allowed to just speak to them casually?

Not that kind of player…

Today I had an Italki lesson which made both of us laugh so many times. One of those moments was when reviewing a bit of vocabulary and she asked me how to say “athlete” in Korean. I confidently replied: 선수.

Only, when 선수 is on its own it has the same meaning as 바람둥이… a player. A womanizer.

You have to combine it with some word related to sports for it to get the meaning of athlete.

운동선수 athlete (sport is unspecified)
축구선수 football player


An unexpectedly long tutoring session

Yesterday my Italki lesson was severely delayed because my tutor forgot about me. Not cool. At least I learned a new verb for forgetting, 깜박하다, which is when something slips your mind. However, once we actually started skyping we ended up talking for 2 hours and after that we chatted for another hour (I actually thought it was 30 min, but looking at the chat log I just realised it was a full hour).

It wasn’t all in Korean, but a lot of it was, and all of it was super fun. It got pretty late before I got to bed, but today I’m keeping up appearances and have been pretty productive nevertheless.

Great great week

This week has been one heck of a ride with great news at work and loaaads of Korean practice. It started with a job interview for a permanent position at my current workplace followed by some 27 hours and 34 minutes of semi-angst (hey, you never know!) before being offered a position plus a grant for my thesis – for which I have finally decided on a topic as well. That means that I have secured myself a position after the summer holidays! 대-박! I will continue working while writing, but I will limit my working time to just two days per week so I will actually have time to write as well. It’s been a little bit surreal – but in a very very good way.

So, without further ado, here is what I have done related to Korean this week:

Speaking and listening:
Italki lesson #8 (Thursday, 45 min):
As we have done the past two times that we have spoken, we spoke mostly in Korean about regular things – my job offer, what have I bought for my siblings for Christmas, how old were my parents when they retired since they retired early and so on. Everything I couldn’t initially phrase in Korean I would say first in English so she knew what was going on in my head, and then she would help me restructure it from English to Korean with some leading questions along the lines of “how do you say ABC? How about XYZ?  how would you combine those two grammar points?”. I even got a bit of homework at the end of the class concerning grammar points that would improve my fluency.

Also, I learned that when speaking about somebody else’s wishes -고 싶다 changes to -고 싶어하다. AHA! good to know…

Italki lesson #9 (Thursday, 1h 24min):
The strange duration of that class comes down to us going a tad over time, but towards the end we chit-chatted mostly in English until my connection inexplicably died. This was a rescheduled lesson because my tutor wasn’t feeling well on Sunday. Normally I wouldn’t schedule two lessons on the same day, but it worked out fine and I wasn’t completely worn out before this one. During this lesson I didn’t speak as much Korean as in the one before it, but I got myself a wicked collection of vocabulary. To share a few words with you:
건달: a close equivalent could be a “hustler”. For the Danes out there, it should translate to the wonderful word “sjuft”.
잡치다: to make a mess of something or put slightly more colloquially: “to fuck up”. If ever in need of an alternative to 망하다 for the sake of variation, this might the word for you.

Italki lesson #10 (Friday, 45 min):
I spoke a lot of Korean again in this lesson and managed to incorporate some of the grammar patterns from previous lessons. We went over homework, talked about sleeping times, travel, movies, and entertainment programs on TV. For a 45 minute lesson that seems pretty intense, but it didn’t seem rushed. Speaking of the Danish sense of humour, which is on the rather dry end of the scale, we ended up talking a bit about the show “Abnormal Summit”. I have watched a few clips here and there, but so far I hadn’t watched a lot of it. Apparently the German guy is renowned for his somewhat special sense of humour, which Koreans tend to find a bit difficult to understand sometimes. I should check it out properly to see if his sense of sarcasm matches that of the Danes. For our next session I should go through the new grammar points that we covered, and write a few sentences with two grammar points of my own choice.

Italki lesson #11 (Saturday, 30 min):
This was an introductory lesson with a new tutor, since one of my other tutor’s schedule doesn’t always match mine. To not risk ending up going too long without speaking and falling back into my old ways, I decided to try one more. She was super up-beat and stuck to Korean for the entire 30 min that the lesson lasted. Before the lesson she had messaged me to ask for a bit of information about my level, and we agreed to just speak as much as possible. Towards the end of the lesson she sent me some material that she thought would be suitable for my level, and it seems to be pretty spot on so I look forward to going through it.

Revised: -(으)려고 and -지 모르겠어요. The latter I never learned formally before, but I’ve heard it it so many times, that I knew the structure already. One thing is recognising it, though. Using it in a natural way is slightly different.
Learned: -에 따라 and -고 싶어하다

I texted with friends over Kakaotalk and made sure to tell them to please correct me if I write something that seems off so I don’t get bad habits when writing. Some of them already do when something comes out strangely, but telling them again has already earned me a few “this sounds a bit more natural”, which is great.

My homework consists of written assignments, so I got a bit of writing practice as well.

It didn’t happen this week. I worked some 25 hours and had to deal with some thesis stuff. I think I learned a lot from my italki lessons, though, so I won’t beat myself up over lack of readings. I plan to read some Korean over Christmas where I will stay away from academia and work 24th-26th before returning to normal on the 27th – hopefully full of new energy.

Speaking practice

Yesterday I had a 45 min lesson which was great, but incredibly tiring (by 7 PM I was basically ready to just go to bed). At the end of the lesson she suddenly said that she was going to ask some questions to see if I remembered some words and expressions from last time. It makes so much sense to follow up, but I still had a brief moment of fear that I would have forgotten everything. It went well enough, though, and we will continue our endeavours next week.

My short time on Italki has got me wondering what it is that makes me feel comfortable enough to speak – and obviously make plenty of mistakes – with some people, but clam up when around others (I can think of a few people who have this effect on me).

It’s probably a less fortunate combination of perfectionism and a sense of embarrassment which I’m now slowly forcing myself to let go of since it’s downright necessary for me to improve at this stage. And of course these are paid language lessons so the very concept itself entails that one of us is learning the language.

While I couldn’t afford putting in 30-40 USD, which is the hourly rate of many professional teachers, several times per week, the hourly rate of an informal tutor adds up to about the same as a large cappuccino and a cake in a cafe in Copenhagen. That allows for more regular classes, which is exactly what I need right now, and so far I have been very happy with the informal tutoring.

So far I’ve only had 6 lessons so it’s obviously too early to notice any major differences. I wonder when my Korean friends will begin to notice any improvements in my level when we write together… Time will show.