South Korea: Practicing Korean

One thing that has surprised me since arriving in Korea is that when Korean people see me, often times they will just automatically speak to me in English. Even if you do not know Korean very well, you can get by in Korea pretty easily because many people in Korea speak English, and even if they do not speak English, people tend to understand English pretty well. Not to mention, if you are at a restaurant, you can just order food by pointing at the menu if you really wanted to. However, since I came to Korea to improve my Korean skills, I try my best to use Korean at all times.

Friends I made through the language helper program!

I am constantly translating English sentences to Korean in my head whether it is a sentence I want to say to someone, my order at a restaurant, or even just my random thoughts. After a while, translating my thoughts can get really tiring, so when someone does speak to me in English, it is hard to not just take the easy way out and just speak English back to them.

Sometimes I want to speak English because translating everything I want to say into Korean is hard, but that is not the only reason. Another reason is because I am embarrassed. I am embarrassed by my lack of vocabulary, poor pronunciation, and unnatural speaking patterns, so sometimes I would rather just use English. However, if I just use English because I am uncomfortable, then I will never improve my Korean. 

At a baseball game with KU friends!

When I met up with my Korean friend who studied abroad at Ole Miss, I told him about how I was embarrassed to speak Korean because my skills aren’t the best, and he told me about how it was for him in Mississippi. He wasn’t perfectly fluent in English and made mistakes, but he kept on trying. It made me think about all of the Korean friends I met who studied abroad at Ole  Miss. They always tried their best to practice English while they were there. Also, one of my friends that I recently made at Korea University said that her Korean friend told her to just try her best to speak Korean and make mistakes because Korean people who are trying to learn English also make mistakes when speaking English. I never think anything bad of my Korean friends when they make language mistakes. I just tell them how to fix the mistake and move on, and they will do the same for me! No one is perfect, but if you practice more, you can definitely improve. So, I have learned to have more confidence when speaking Korean and use every opportunity I can to practice.

Meeting up with my friend who studied abroad at Ole Miss!!!

Thank you for reading!

-Katelyn Tuck

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