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First Real-World Korean-Speaking test

2014/05/28 Leave a comment

jalAh, that exciting and scary moment when it’s time to converse for the first time after you’ve been learning on your own for a while.

Korean had been barely been a subject of my study during my first 3 years of my recent language-learning efforts, but it had been there nonetheless; once in a while I’d pick up a couple more words from songs, listen to a Talk To Me in Korean lesson that I was curious about, maybe search online how something is said in Korean, etc. However, it wasn’t until Fall of 2012, when I started the TCBP Korean Study Group at my university, that I finally managed to get back into studying Korean more regularly and seriously.

Now it was summer, yet the study group has continued since most of the students were still around, so I had kept up the study. One of my friends graduated at the end of the first half of summer, so we went out for a farewell lunch as he was going back to China and had a job lined up for him there. He told me about a Korean restaurant we should go to, so we did. I was excited because he said it was in fact run by Koreans.

Then I Saw Her Face….

…of an older woman, near my friend’s table (he got there first), so I assumed she was the waitress. Having heard me come in, she turned around and the first thing she said to me was:

안녕하세요! (Annyeong haseyo)

I was momentarily stunned; why would you greet someone in Korean like that? We’re in America here!

I kid you not: I do not remember how I responded. That part of my memory is gone for some reason. I do not remember if I responded in Korean or English, since I was not expecting to be required to switch that quickly. If I did respond in English, I probably did immediately follow up in Korean.

Turns out my evil friend told her that I had been studying Korean “for years.” Of course, the consequences of that little detail wouldn’t affect the early conversation, but I didn’t like that she might have high expectations from me. However, it may have been a good thing. since it could have been part of the reason why later, she was willing to speak Korean, giving me the chance to practice speaking a good bit.

However, anything else right after the hello, as I sat down, was in English, and she left us to look over the menu.

When she came back, we somehow got back into Korean; I think she started it, actually. She took my order (in Korean), and then when she came back with the order, we spoke a little more. The sentences I remember from the whole experience were (and these are NOT literal translations):

  • You can speak Korean?
    I can speak a little.
  • How long have you been studying Korean?
    I’ve been studying for 1 year. I am studying with a friend. (I blanked on “year”; and although it was coming to me, she herself ended up telling me what it was before I remembered it confidently enough)
  • Have you been to Korea?
    No, but I would like to go someday. Actually, the friend I am studying with will go to Korea next year. Therefore, we are learning Korean together. (Messed up a good bit in getting the logical order of the sentences and their conjunctions, and I restarted a few times before I got it all out. To be honest, I over-thought it and shouldn’t have worried too much about making mistakes.)
  • Do you live in an apartment?
    No, I live at home with my parents.
    (Missed the word apartment; she had to tell me in English.)
  • Are you ready?
    Yes. This: one gobdol bulgogi and one Ssaek Ssaek grape [a canned drink] please.
  • Me: How old are they? [Asking about her children]
    Her, in English: They are 27 and…
    Me, in Korean: Could you please say it in Korean ?
    Her: My children are 29 and 27 years old.
    Me: Ah, 29 and 27, ok.
  • Come again, have a good day! (or something along those lines; can’t remember)
    Thank you! Goodbye!
Deep conversation on life and love was not included. (Picture: Jim Carrey in

Deep conversation on life and love was not included.
(Picture: Jim Carrey in “Yes Man”)

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How To: Learn & Type the Korean Keyboard Layout

2013/01/30 22 comments

jalSetting up Korean input is greatNow what?

Any language’s script that doesn’t work exactly like the Latin alphabet you’re used to will present a tiny challenge when you learn to type it. Even in French- and Spanish-speaking countries, you may be surprised to find the keyboard layout slightly different!

While you must get used to character conversion when typing in Chinese or Japanese, it’s still relatively easy because the keyboard layout is virtually the same, and you type romanization: pinyin and roumaji respectively. Korean, however, DOES use an alphabet, so Korean letters, rather than Latin letters, are placed on the keyboard. That means you will have to learn where all the letters are.

Korean layout

Most common Korean keyboard layout

As I’ve mentioned in other topics, mnemonics is a great way to learn anything that could use the benefit of associations. Let me reinforce this point: don’t be afraid of the word mnemonics. The concept of mnemonics is simply: association: to connect something (usually more familiar) to what you’re trying to remember. It becomes easier to remember due to that familiarity, or because it makes a little piece of data “bigger,” and thus more “important” to your brain.

If you’re trying to remember a phone number that ends in 8125, you might think “ate (8) a (1) quarter (25 cents)” to remember it; that’s a mnemonic. If you remember the Korean letter ㅣis on the letter L because it looks like the lowercase L, then that’s a mnemonic.

So, that’s all you have to do! I encourage you to create your own mnemonics, but to be honest, it’s a little bit of creative work and sometimes you wish you could easily find someone else’s to see if it’s good enough for you – especially if you just can’t come up with something for all of them. I myself couldn’t, which is why I had to make up a few for the list below. Well then, here is my list:

Mnemonic List for Korean Keyboard Layout

  • – Q: I have no idea. I just learned it without any help. Maybe, Q is at the Beginning of the keyboard?
  • – W: Just Wondering (the way I actually remembered it was lame: I imagined the middle peak of W hitting a ceiling).
  • – E: It’s the letter E without the middle line!
  • – R: It’s like a reversed lowercase r.
  • – T : T for teeth, since ㅅ is a picture of your front teeth as seen from the side.
  • – A: You should already know ㅁ represents the mouth (or know that’s also like the Chinese character for mouth), so say Aaaaah!
  • – S:  I just learned this by feel since I always hit it with the same finger.* How about, Never Ending Story? That was a decent Korean movie. ^^
  • – D: The D is also a circle-ish shape – or half-circle. Whatever.
  • – F: Funky-looking. I guess the letter F is also kind of Funky.
  • ㅎ – G: It you put the curve of the left-half of the G onto ㅎ, I think it will kind of look like a G, or an upside down lowercase g. Either way, they’re both bottom-heavy.
  • – Z: You may have seen Koreans type “zzzzz;” they really mean “ㅋㅋㅋㅋ“, sometimes seen as “kekekeke,” which is a laughing sound.
  •  – X: “E” (ㅌ) for eXtra!
  • – C: Because this is the “Ch” sound! C in Cello! Fettuccine!
  • – V: Both ㅍ and V look like roman numerals, don’t they?
  • – Y: “Yo” is on the letter Y. Easy! It’s also right above !
  • – U: It’s right above !
  • – I: It’s right above !
  • – O: Balanced shape, just like O.
  • – P: Unbalanced shape, just like P.
  • – H: “Half is the Hat!” (A mnemonics some of you might already know for musical notation.)
  • – J: Both letters have a straight wall on the right, and a thingy to the left.
  • – K: Both letters have a straight wall on the left, and a thingy to the right.
  • – L: Looks like a lowercase L.
  • – B: It’s right next to ㅜ. However, you can also think of how it looks like TT which is a shortened emoticon of a face with tears streaming down (T.T / T_T), so the person is crying () because he was beaten at a game? (The way I actually remembered it was a stretch: a letter B that fell to the right, but it uses two little lines to represent the B’s bulges.)
  • – N: Looks like a letter t as in Tina. And /or it’s pointing nose-down, going for a nose dive,
  • – M: Both letters kind of sound like humming or a sound you make while thinking.
  • SHIFT– on corresponding letters: Gives you the remaining letters: ㅃㅉㄸㄲㅆㅒ, and ㅖ.

Again, you should only use this as a guide for when you need some help. Making your own mnemonics is best, and you shouldn’t be making extra effort learning my personal set if you don’t need to. Without thinking, you will probably learn a few from straight-up / brute-force memorization anyway.

Hopes this helps you learn to type Korean. Now practice typing whatever you’ve learned!

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*In addition, if you use a standard typing position, or begin using one / make up one for your Korean typing, you will associate some letters by feel, rather than which Latin letter is on it.