Tuesday, September 23, 2008

책에 안 나오는 상식

I always find that knowledge outside of textbook tends to be more interesting. I like our teachers to go out of textbook to talk about anything under the sun which they think are interesting or helpful to us. Here are two non-textbook knowledge, taught during our lesson, which I find interesting and to a certain extent enlightening.

"What do Koreans mean when they say 엔분의 일 하자 (let's do 1/n)?", asked our teacher. It sounded like a request to solve some mathematical problem. However, apart from the need to perform some simple calculation, the expression has nothing else to do with mathematics. The actual meaning is "let's share the bill equally" or simply - "let's go Dutch". The indeterminate number "n" is taken to mean the total number of people sharing the bill. Frankly speaking, I am very unfamiliar with the idea of going Dutch. I don't like and I feel awkward about going Dutch. In my opinion, the mere ability to pay for others means that I have "surplus" and that itself is a blessing. I am always happy paying for others. But on the other hand, I wouldn't want to be so selfish as to keep all the happiness to myself. I definitely won't mind if you are happy paying for my bill. ^^;;

"How do you pronounce 의의의?", asked our teacher again. Nobody seemed to get it right. It is quite common for Korean words to sound differently from their written forms. Take for example the common "요" which we use in the informal-but-polite speech. Perhaps it is so commonly used that we may not even be aware we are pronouncing 요 as [여]. [여] is the right pronunciation though. The reason being that [여] is easier to pronounce than [요]. Similarly, pronouncing 의의의 as [의의의] is going to be very difficult. The correct and an easier pronunciation is [의이에]. "의의" (意義) means "meaning" and the "의" that comes after "의의" is a possessive. It was sort of an "enlightenment" for me when I was taught that "의" is pronounced as [이] if it does not come out as the first letter. That explained why I was hearing 의사 as [의사] but 회의 as [회이]. (Note: "의" is pronounced as [이] when it is together with a consonant. For example, 희망 is pronounced as [히망] and 경희 as [경히].)

The points being raised here may seem too trivial to be interesting. It probably is because they aren't meant to be in the first place. What I actually found interesting was that moment when realisation struck. That point in time when my ignorance was replaced with knowledge. Then, I was probably wearing a silly smile of satisfaction on my face and whispering quietly to myself - 그렇구나~


  1. Depending on where you are in Korea 의 can sound different.

    Here in 전남, 의 is sometimes pronounced as just 으... so 나의것 sounds like 나으것, and 의사 sounds like 으사.

    When i travel to Busan, for me, 의 sounds more like just 이 there. ㅋㅋㅋ... then the fun starts when i start using 전남 사투리 and add 잉 at the end of my sentences, 당께 instead of 다고 (like 했당게! instead of 했다고!) and using the word 거시기 randomly in sentences ^^

  2. 사투리 sounds so interesting! If chance permits, I must get down to learning it one of these days.

  3. i just found your blog while looking for pictures of 대학로... but it's really fun to read especially because I am in the continuing process of learning Korean myself!

    Unfortunately, except for some inconsistent Saturday attendances at "Korean school," and my grandmother's attempts to teach me when I was younger, I haven't been able to take a proper course in Korean like you are. I envy you!

    But, I did spend the summer in Korea and that's been my springboard into renewed efforts to learn Korean~ it's really interesting how the subtle pronunciation and prosody are so important for really becoming fluent in Korean~ i loved this entry.


    Please keep blogging, it's encouraging!

  4. Hello, I am glad to know that you find my blog useful. I wouldn't say I have "proper course" in Korean. Opportunity to learn Korean in Singapore is quite limited. You probably have better opportunity than me. Just keep going and I believe you will become fluent in Korean really soon. 파이팅!