Category Archives: Korean Language

Horses = maal (in Korean)

We visited some horses a few days ago, on a bright, sunny, beautiful afternoon.  After reassuring our eldest that the horses couldn’t get over the fence, she was excited to look at them through her “noculars”.  The youngest one kept pointing and saying “maa” which after I repeated “maal” she nodded her head so I’m assuming she’s trying out her Korean.


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Background on Mom – Part II

So at the instruction of the ESL teacher, from kindergarten onward, English became my primary language.  My parents spoke Korean to us at home and we kids answered in English.  My Korean comprehension is decent, but expressive language is work.  Fortunately, back when I was in middle school, my mom gathered several Korean kids (children of her friends) who lived around us and taught all of us some basic Korean grammar.  We, now as adults, are grateful that our parents made us sit through Korean class every Saturday morning, and I, especially, am thankful my mom took the initiative to teach us.  At the least, I have a fundamental knowledge base on which to build.  I hope I can pass some of that along to our children, and I am trying to speak some Korean to them, despite it being imperfect.

Learning Korean with Rosetta Stone – Part 2

In my “first impression” review of Rosetta Stone, I mentioned that some of the first words I learned in RS were practically English (see bullet #4). It turns out this is not unique to Rosetta Stone. And I’m becoming convinced that it’s (1) not a big deal and (2) possibly a good thing.

For example, we have a Hangul poster for Unni. Check out some of the example words used to demonstrate the pronunciation of Korean letters.

Korean Hangul truck

Here we have the “eu” sound (say “uh” while keeping your mouth closed). The example word (since the photo’s kind of obvious) is composed of a hard “t”, then “eu”, “r/l”, “u”, and “k”. Sound familiar?

Ice cream in Korean HangulThis is the “ah” sound. The letters that look like o’s are silent when they come first, so this translates to something like: “ah-ee-ss-uh-c-uh-kk-uh-r/l-ee-mm”. I’m not sure about all the “uh”s in there, but that’s the gist of it.

So why is it not a big deal, and possibly a good thing?

(1) I’ve concluded it’s part of the modern language (unless the language resource you’re using is really horrible and they’re using transliteration instead of Korean that people actually use).

(2) I find it helpful for sounding out words and having a bit of instant confirmation. It may eventually be helpful for learning how to assemble the letter blocks, or for learning special cases (see extra “uh” sounds, above, perhaps?) where letters seem to be almost silent, or have altered pronunciation (this is a bit of a guess).


Android App for learning Hangul

I mentioned in an earlier post that I’ve been using a finger-tracing Hangul app to supplement my Rosetta Stone regimen. That app is fun for adults or kids (as seen below)!

Hangul Android App

This week I’ve been working my way through a new app called TenguGo Hangul. I really like this app! In fact, it’s probably a good example of how adults actually have some advantages over children when it comes to learning language. Not only does the app give a brief history of Hangul, it also explains helpful concepts like the relationship between letter shapes and pronunciation. 

Korean language android app

I’ve been confused by the different pronunciations presented by different apps and/or alphabet charts found online. For the same letter, some charts show a p sound where others show a b sound. Another letter is alternately described as t or d. TenguGo helps explain this. Also, it’s very difficult to distinguish between the “e” and “ae” sounds. It turns out it’s not just my ear, as seen in the screenshot below. I find these kinds of details very helpful, and would recommend this app to anyone trying to learn Korean.

Hangul Android Korean Alphabet App


Learning Korean with Rosetta Stone – Part 1

My friends have always had good things to say about Rosetta Stone. Written reviews, however, vary widely. In fact, as a good friend of mine would say, it’s almost a religious discussion.

I am a complete novice at learning languages, so I’m not going to try and get into linguistics or theory. However, my impression of Rosetta Stone (Korean) is a bit mixed at this point.

My first approach was using Rosetta Stone during my lunch at work. When I didn’t have an office mate it was great because I could take advantage of the listening AND speaking portions of the lessons. I have to admit, though, the speaking portions were a bit frustrating at times. It seemed that it would accept words I butchered, but other words I found nearly impossible to reproduce. I tried using the voice visualization tools, but couldn’t quite figure out what I was pronouncing incorrectly. Now that I have an office mate, I have the speaking function turned off. I find it less frustrating (ie, I’m moving faster through lessons), but I can tell that I’m not picking up on the words as quickly since I’m not forced to speak them. Maybe this experience is more Language Learning 101 than any issues with Rosetta Stone! There are some Rosetta-specific things I’ve noticed, though.

1.) For basic words, photos work well. But even within the first unit, I’m encountering more complex situations where I’m not sure what is happening in the images, so I’m not sure what I’m being taught.

2.) I’ve already mentioned voice recognition. I’m pretty sure it’s accepted some really poor pronunciation. Maybe what RS considers “correct” will change as I advance through the units.

3.) When I first tried the program, a native Korean speaker looked at it and was appalled that there was no alphabet being taught. At the time, I repeated the RS advice to “trust the system”, but I’m starting to agree more with this person. I know there are bunch of apps and other sources of information to learn the Korean alphabet. Learning a few vowels on my own has really helped my performance in RS. I know part of the immersion concept is to avoid memorization, but for the cost of the program, I would think they could provide some kind of fun way (it’s not memorization if you’re having fun, right?!) to learn some or all of the alphabet. I’m sure there’s a lot of complexity in the Korean language that I don’t know about, but knowing the vowels and just a few consonants I can already cobble a word or two together. That’s empowering for a newbie language learner.

4.) The cut and paste problem has been noted in other reviews of Rosetta Stone. In some cases, folks are practically offended that the true culture associated with the language are not fully conveyed in the photos, since the same photos are used in all the RS languages. I don’t have too much problem with that (maybe because some find it too Americanized, and I’m, well, American, plus I have other resources (people) for learning about culture). But I do feel the program loses value when I’m learning “Korean” words like “sand-wee-chee” (sandwich), “kuppee” (coffee), or “jooss-eh” (juice). These are some of the first words I learn and I think it may be a function of vocabulary being taught in the same order, no matter the RS language program.

sandwichee Rosetta Stone Korean

Despite the issues I’ve described, I’m generally enjoying Rosetta Stone. In part, that’s because I can work on it XX minutes per day and accomplish XX% of a module and feel like I’ve accomplished something. Overall, I just think the cost of Rosetta Stone and product literature raise expectations to a high level. If I forget the cost and continue using other resources, I think Rosetta Stone will have served its purpose (and will probably end up exceeding my current expectations). The most important lesson for me at this point is that no program is going to automatically teach me a new language – it’s really up to me to actively engage in learning.


Do children learn language faster than adults?

It’s always seemed intuitive that children are better at learning languages than adults. Technically, this may not be true, with the exception of pronunciation. Studies indicate that small children are not superior second language learners (CALFIS) compared to adults.

Andrew, over at Language Pie’s Blog, gives a good example of why there is a perception that children learn faster. He argues that environment (or circumstance) often tends to be advantageous to children. For example, school-age children in an expat family are likely to be immersed in a new language all day at school. Meanwhile, parents are more likely to default to their native language every chance they get, which limits their opportunities to practice and master the new language.


So children may not learn language “magically”, but we can create an environment where they are more disposed to mastering a second language. That’s probably the essence of my last post, where I describe some first steps to learning Korean myself, and how I would like to involve Unni (and eventually Koma) in that process. In addition to the homemade flashcards, Unni now loves the Hangul finger tracing flashcard app on my phone. It lets her trace the letters and hear the sounds. Maybe if I can pry away my phone, I’ll practice some more myself!


Homemade Korean Alphabet Flash Cards

With so many online resources, books, CDs, and language learning programs, there’s not a lot of excuse for me knowing so few Korean words, or even the Korean alphabet for that matter. I haven’t been diligent in studying Korean, but I’ve pushed Mom to speak Korean to our kids. In her sleep-deprived state, that’s a challenge, and it doesn’t happen as often as we like.

This week I decided I need to participate more in this process. If we want Unni (“older sister”) to learn Korean, I might as well join in! The first step was to install Rosetta Stone on my work computer. I used to work on Korean for 15 minutes during lunch and I plan to start that again. The second step was to work on some Korean Alphabet flash cards with Unni. Yes, there are a lot of flashcard websites (digital, or print-your-own), but I thought it would be a fun activity and Unni might feel a little more ownership if she helped to make the flash cards herself.

Homemade Korean Alphabet Flash Cards

I helped Unni draw the letters, so they would be legible, but as you can see there was a little extracurricular activity on one or more cards. We just created the vowels during the first two drawing sessions. We’ll probably take 3-4 sessions to create the consonant cards.