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COMMENTS

So we know this video was about people who don’t speak Korean at all, but we’re going to use the blog post as a chance to talk about our feelings of how much Korean we speak and where we want to go from here. Basically, we’re really torn about where we should take our development of the Korean language from this point. It’s something we’ve talked about for a long time and maybe having some of your input would be beneficial:

Basically, our Korean now is at the point that we can get by in this country perfectly fine. When we leave our apartment and interact with the world, we don’t speak English unless someone speaks English to us. Oftentimes it’s a Korean person who will speak English to us, but we insist on speaking Korean back so they don’t feel uncomfortable and forced into speaking English. We want to keep on practicing our usage of it in the real world. We appreciate people’s consideration for speaking English to us, for sure, but the irony is we’re trying to practice our Korean while they’re finally getting to use English after being forced to study it in school. It’s almost like being a Canadian in that sense. We both grew up learning French since we were little kids, but it felt so awkward since there was no conversations taking place in French outside of Quebec. It often felt like, why am I learning to speak French? And then your teachers and parents would insist that it’s because it will help you get a better job, like with the government where everyone MUST be bilingual. So once you finally go to Montreal (or somewhere in Quebec) you’re so damn excited/horrified to finally use your 10+ years of French–only to be greeted by French-English speakers that can see your horrific French accent so decide to switch to English. NOOOOoooOOOoooOOOoooOOOoooOOooo! I failed you French language learning! Anyhoo, the long point is, we understand when our Korean friends don’t want to speak Korean with us because they really want to practice their 10+ years of English studying.

We’ve digressed here. The point is, we think the whole reason why someone should learn the language in a country is for communication. It’s so that you don’t go into a shop and expect everyone to speak your foreign language. It’s so that you can go to a restaurant and easily read and order what you want, and hold light friendly conversations. The more of a language you learn, the easier it is for you to communicate, and the more ideas you can get across to someone else. In our case, we have basic communication down. We can order anything we need at restaurants, ask for everything we need at supermarkets and shops, tell taxis where to go, ask for directions, all that. But we can’t have deeeeep discussions. We can’t talk politics or religion. We can’t tell you what Spudgy did to that teddy bear in the park (you don’t want to know what he did to that teddy bear in the park). We’re not fluent or 100% conversational, but we’re perfectly functional to the point that our local shops think that we ARE fluent speakers. It also helps that we can understand Korean, so even though our responses are basic, we’re still communicating.

So, the question we often face is why don’t we learn MORE Korean. We live in Korea, we plan on living here more, so why not become super fluent? Well, there are a few factors for us to consider.

From a very honest personal standpoint, we don’t need to. Totally honestly, majority of the people that we know that have become or are trying to become fluent in Korean have a Korean love interest, or want to have one. NOT THAT THIS IS TRUE OF EVERYONE. Everybody has their own reason for learning Korean, but the reasons that we see most predominantly in people’s attempt to learn the language don’t apply to us. If learning a language is to communicate, we are not interested in communicating deeply, as one would in a significant relationship. The communication we want to do we can do perfectly fine.

Don’t get me wrong: if we were single and trying to get a significant Korean other, then we’d be all about learning Korean. But, we’re already married and we don’t go out that much, because we spend so much time editing and filming. We’re with each other all the time, talking to each other all the time. More importantly, our Korean friends speak English as well, and want us to speak English with them all the time, because this is their chance to practice it when they otherwise don’t have many opportunities to do so. So from our personal perspective, learning Korean won’t really do that much for us.

There’s something special about being in a language bubble. Seriously: when we go back to Canada, we’re overwhelmed by everything around us. The first couple of days back our eyes dart from side to side to read all the signs. Every conversation that passes us by we think is directed at us, and we turn around. It’s amazing how overwhelmed we get. We get headaches from it, really. But coming back to Korea, even though Seoul’s such a bustling city, we feel a sense of calm and peace. We can appreciate it in our silent bubble, in our thoughts. We’re not drowned out by noise and advertising. It’s really a state of being that we’ve come to love.

I feel cheesy in saying this, but the movie “Lost in Translation” kinda captures a glorious experience of not being fluent in a language. To us, there’s nothing wrong with feeling lost. There’s something special in the experience of confusion. It’s hard to explain, but it’s enjoyable. We’ve become adequate in Korean while we’ve been here, but the couple of times we’ve been in Japan, we remembered just how great it is to be totally lost like we were when we first moved to Korea. Going to a counter, not knowing whether to say yes, hai, neh, or tak, oui, si: there’s a thrill in that. It’s not a thrill like hang-gliding, but it takes you out of your comfort zone, and – in doing so – makes you rethink you comfort zone, and appreciate the fact that there’s a whole world happening around you that you not only know next to nothing about but also doesn’t revolve around you and your experience, and that’s a very worthwhile experience to have.

Ok, that might have sounded weird. But those are some points that really keep us from wanting to learn any more Korean. There are a couple more things that get in our way as well, mainly, learning Korean is really bloody hard. Really really FREAKING really. We know people who have taken the intensive Korean study program for over a year. Intensive, as in, full-time course-load. Going to class and doing homework everyday. Not having any other job. Just…studying. And they got very proficient in Korean, but still not fluent. And it’s frustratingly difficult for them to get to the point of fluency. Not that it’s impossible, mind you, but – from our perspectives – they put in very much work into it and aren’t fluent.

So our question is this: how much time do we have to put into studying Korean until we’re fluent? We run a site that calls us into work everyday. We don’t have days off. We work from morning to night. When can we fit in an intensive language study program, really? How long will it take for us, giving up our few precious spare moments of time when we just want to shut off after working all day, where we want to just relax and not strain ourselves anymore—how long will it take for us to sacrifice those few moments for us to achieve fluency in Korean? Is it worth it for us to sacrifice those moments for years? Will what we gain from Korean fluency be worth the sacrifice?

This is a hard post to write. People will combat by saying “But you should be perfectly fluent or make the effort to do so out of respect for Korea!” But aren’t we doing a lot of that already? We made a website out of it. We’ve provided jobs for others out of it. Aren’t we already trying everyday to show the world, through our videos, how much fun we’re having here, how much we like the place, how you should come here too, how fun we find the music, how interesting we find the indie scene, how much we like the food? Aren’t we already paying our respects to Korea everyday?

Oh God, this post is getting too long. I’m sorry for rambling for so long. This is just something we feel really guilty about, and it’s something we grapple with every week. We come home after a late night, and think to ourselves that this is when we should study Korean so that we could stop feeling guilty, but we really just want to say “guilt be damned! Let us rest!” Let us know your thoughts. Is there something we’re missing out on here? This post is highly personal, we know, and it doesn’t apply to everybody. There are paragraphs we wrote and paragraphs we deleted, but there’s so much more we can say about this. People learn languages for different reasons, we know, than just the ones we listed above, and I’m sure there are good reasons to learn the language, and – no – we’re not telling you to not learn Korean. Learn Korean if you want to. Don’t learn it if you don’t want to. We, personally, are just torn as to what we want to do.

ToFebruary
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  1. Victoria Sahara

    When you guys mentioned Bucheon I freaked. I was there for a month and I miss it so much!

  2. SWalkerTTU

    And then people wonder why Mexicans in the US don’t speak more English. Well, usually it’s because they too are working and don’t have the time or energy to learn.

  3. 21tigermike

    So, Korean signs, but no actual people speaking English. Sounds about right. So visiting for a few days is okay, but not to live.

  4. clever luck

    I am a English Spanish speaker and would like to learn Korean (and a few other languages) but i have absolutely no idea where to start. I practically just watch kdramas and pick up what i can but i would really like to be fluent because i plan to visit Korea. Where would you recommend i start and progress too?

  5. songbean

    you guys seem more like japan-loving foriegners…
    just an observation

  6. Joyness 로라 ♡

    Wow, can I really see Lithuanians here? It’s so amazing *-* I thought I was here alone all the time *cries*

  7. I’d like to ask you if you can introduce banking in korea. Do the bank workers know english well ? Banks have english websites ? :)

  8. If you don’t teach anymore, what is it that you do for a living in Korea?

  9. Brandon Stevens

    im a finance major looking to study Korean intensively for several years as a grad student and I agree with you completely. we have to ask ourselves what do we have to gain by learning more and what is our motive. I personally want to have very close relationships and be a part of people’s lives more like your cheese lady. to me that it’s well worth the time and headaches because then my story and dedication will help others. everyone is different and we can’t expect everyone to share our ideas or beliefs. keep up the good work and stay positive.

  10. Scott Harris

    when I was a tourist in Korea (2011) I found it quite easy. However, I was quite put off by going in to the small restaurants (that the locals were loving) because there was not 1 piece of English to be seen. [I could've ordered Bulgogi, but that's all I knew]. I did have the luxury of having Korean friends with me for 70% of my holiday, so then it was GREAT and we went to real korean food places (not big chains or US imports). :-)

  11. The joy of traveling is completely embracing the country and culture you’re visiting. So I totally agree that you should learn the language at least enough to greet the locals. The locals are the BEST part of traveling. I can greet and order and ask for the bathroom in so many languages because I make sure to learn them when I travel. I love your attitudes. They match mine. I’m self-teaching Korean right now and learning through drama (SARANGHAEYO OPPA!….*birds chirp*) okay I know a LITTLE more than that, but y’know. Korean is hard. I think your attitude and efforts are more important. If you dont have time ot learn and function well, f learning for now baby!…babies…okay…stopping.

  12. Jeeyu Kim

    im actually really glad that eyk exists because i believe that once u go to somewhere whether it at someone else’s house or a different country u should try ur very best to act as the people within that place. if u dont wouldnt it be somewhat rude or leave a bad impression? the saying “when in rome, do as the romans do” is a perfect explanation. i dont think u have to be perfect on it but know the basics of it, which eyk tells us about. THANK U SIMON AND MARTINA!

  13. Lee Barton

    I had an interesting experience regarding language today. The lady that owns the dry cleaning business that I use in the US is Korean. She was born and raised in Korea and english is clearly a second language. I am pretty sure that she has lived more of her life in Korea than in the US. We have had casual conversations in english for a number of years. Today I asked her how to pronounce Miryo’s name from BEG. I told her it was a persons name and verbally spelled it for her. The only letter she understood was “M”. After spelling verbally a few more times with no luck, I finally wrote it on a piece of paper. She instantly understood and told me how to pronounce and which letter was silent. I admire her and anyone that can speak more than one language. I certainly cannot. But was surprised that understanding the spoken english alphabet was a struggle.

  14. Drama_addict

    how did you guys learn korean?and how long did it take?

  15. weirdly, last time i went to korea, most koreans i talked to was fluent in mandarin rather than english, especially those in the tourism business. Thats because alot of koreans took a chinese language course so most of them sound more chinese than i do =P

  16. Merissa-lake

    I WANT A CHEESE LADY SHIRT.
    Ok and for next tl:dr

    How the heck do you move to Korea? What are the necessary qualifications I would need to move there? Like visas and passports and the such ^^

  17. Nuwa San

    Huh? But didnt u already told us what spudgy did to the teddy bear in park in one of ur older TLDR video? lol that was a fun episode.. xD

  18. I never thought about learning a language in that way before. It’s true that when you learn another language you don’t really get to practice it unless you travel somewhere that they speak it. Even after that most people just learn how to communicate their basic needs. Also it seems that Korea is becoming more and more friendly to foreigners. Is this more of a sudden change or slowly over time?

  19. Emily Howell

    The short version of the below text: Make it fun, keep it simple. You don’t have to kill all your free time if you do it little by little. :)

    Do you remember sentence diagraming in college English classes? I think its as simple as adjusting to how they build their sentences, and then make it fun. Like refrigerator magnets. As for deep conversations, if you know enough to speak basic, you already have a good grip on the way to form a sentence. It could be as simple as it was in elementary school where you have a vocabulary list. Make a short list of words around a topic, and flip through them once in a while and maybe even fit it into a conversation. Like when people get those word of the day calendars, then find a way to use it in the day. It won’t take long, and helps expand your vocabulary. You don’t have to sweat out all your free time to learn more. Small steps. Like if you are a scrabble dork like I am. Do they have Korean scrabble? If they don’t, it wouldn’t be hard to apply it. My French teacher used to incorporate all sorts of games and things to help us learn, and I feel like it helped. I may be an “Adult” now, and it may seem childish, but at least its fun and takes the stress out of it.
    I really like board games and trivia. I plan on making some games to help me learn about Korea as well as practice Korean.
    Like with trivia, get or make dice and put stickers or colors on each side, and for each corresponding color make a category like Politics, Music, Film, Sports, and etc. Then make cards with a question from each and the answers on the other side. Maybe I am getting too detailed lol. Its be nice if there were games made already like this for the language learners. I have more free time as well as two nieces who love foreign languages. It’d be more fun to have a partner my age to play with, but as a couple you have a partner x3. I feel like maybe this is jumbled, but the point I am trying to make is it doesn’t have to be as stressful as it seems. I am working on a blog for learning Korean. I am not fluent yet either, but why not share my study materials and learning tips with others? Since I don’t have a partner to play with, We can learn from each other. I plan to upload printable stuff and worksheets I make (yup, I make worksheets for myself. I like school.) that others might benefit from as well. I love learning languages, and I feel like if you think in your head “This is going to be really hard” then it will be. Not to offend anyone who studies really hard. Everyone learns differently.

  20. how do the south Koreans that you know, view north Korea and its activities

  21. TLDR Question: What do Korean landlords think about tenants who write on doors with sharpies and put appliques all over their kitchen?

  22. FlyAway~

    This might not be related but ermmm, lately I’ve been watching Reply 1997 (Yes, I’m slow XD) and I’m on episode 10 and I just saw the part where the guys confessed why they like the girls (excluding Sung Jae?) and I was kind of expecting a better confession rather then ‘She’s pretty’. I hope I didn’t I sound rude there, but is it a big deal for guys to say that? I know there’s a a certain type that Koreans tend to follow in terms of beauty and I was thinking maybe that’s the reason but can someone just clarify this or did S&M already mention this in one of their tl;drs? Please and thank you! :)

  23. Since you live in Korea, is your TV in korean or do you have one where you can watch korean tv with english subtitles? Or is it the one you brought with you from canada?

  24. Or maybe a t-shirt that says….What a friend we have in Cheeses…?

  25. bigbangfosho
    bigbangfosho

    What is the eating etiquette in korea? Are people allowed to slurp soups or noodles in public? What are some differences between eating etiquette in korea and in north america?

  26. Seoul was soooooo English friendly! As a tourist I became completely confidant with the public transportation within a day of being there. Although a lot of the restaurants I wanted to try didn’t have any English, so that became a leap of faith ;) but when I had an emergency come up everyone I encountered was so nice and so willing to help it made a potentially disastrous situation one I will now remember happily!

  27. Mikhala W.

    Can You Do A TL;DR On: What materials (books/websites/audio) do you guys recommend to study korean language?

  28. disqus_lk1Q58SQi8

    Please talk about sasaeng fans! I would really appreciate it. Thank you.

  29. Charles Denison

    I’ve been learning Korean on my own. I try to spend about an hour a day studying but it’s really hard to find the time sometimes! I have a really good textbook recommended by a friend of mine who speaks Korean and it’s going pretty well. But it definitely is way different than English and at this rate it will take me quite a while to become proficient. I still think it’s worth it though. I love K-Pop and I really want to be able to listen and understand (without subtitles!). I also want to be able to speak Korean with my Korean friends. At one point I was trying to learn Mandarin (during and after a visit to China) but I found it to be so much harder, and I didn’t really love Mandopop as much as I K-Pop. So I think I’ll be able to stick to Korean much better. Perhaps once I’ve mastered that I can go back to Mandarin and master that too. Am I too ambitious?! Haha

  30. Camille

    Hi ~ My school give me the opportunity to do an intership ( i’m a French student in CGI animation ) and I would like to know if you think that it’s possible to made an internship in Korea?
    Thanks !

  31. Nikki Taylor

    Could you go over some common responses that are totally unexpected by North American standards? Like describing your age with the year you were born? Or why on Running Man, projectiles to the crotch gained sympathy and butt pats?

  32. Juan Carlos Torres

    Do you think their is any singer of Kpop that is gay or lesbian?

    I know that only one celebrity had accept being gay and was Hong Seok Cheon, but i’m wondering if do you link their is any gay or lesbian celebrity.

  33. Greta Coll

    There is soooo much guilt and pressure and comparisons made and jealousy surrounding language learning (esp I found in Japan when I lived there to do with learning English, I guess cause people don’t get a choice about it) that I’m really glad you guys (Simon and Martina) are able to just come forward and say you are happy where you are with your language and not get guilt tripped into doing more than you fell comfortable! Good on you!

    In regards to having a love interest who speaks the language you are learning:

    I’ve been learning Japanese most of my life and lived there for about 2 years and am almost fluent (I can speak fluently but have a really small vocabulary). After working in Japan in several Japanese only speaking jobs (as a waitress) I met my current boyfriend of 2 and a half years who is a fluent speaker. He is Korean but was born in Tokyo.

    I found that whilst I got about ten times more confident in speaking and my listening improved greatly at first too (He is a reaaaally fast speaker, all my Japanese friends called him a ’早口’), my speaking actually seemed to become a little more restricted! The reason was that we were talking all the time (we lived together for 8 months and speak on the phone every day now) and often about the same kinds of things and things which I wouldn’t normally be able to talk about in the same way with others.

    So I wouldn’t put too much stock into it as a way to get better at language either, HOWEVER, (which is what I think what Simon might have been getting at) it is a really good way to keep up your interest in a language over a long period of time. AND a great way to learn lots of innuendo…. or at least…. that’s how it worked for me…

    • Greta Coll

      Oh also question! – Do you know many Korean & non-Korean mixed couples? Does it seem to be pretty common and are there any problems these couples face in terms of others reactions or cultural differences?

  34. I lived in Korea for a total of 6 years 3 different times. The first time was in 1980 and the last time was 1995. I was able to get around the country speaking simple Korean even in the middle of no where. Koreans appreciate your effort when you try to speak Hangul.

  35. Haligonian

    Hey I just moved from Halifax, Nova Scotia with my wife. Question: Do Koreans differentiate between different Western countries? In Europe I made a point of making sure everyone knew I was Canadian….sorry yanks but some people don’t like you. Is that true in Korea or are we all lumped together? If they do differentiate then what countries have the best rep and which ones are looked down upon?

  36. Haligonian

    Hey I just moved from Halifax, Nova Scotia with my wife. Question: Do Koreans differentiate between different Western countries? In Europe I made a point of making sure everyone knew I was Canadian….sorry yanks but some people don’t like you. Is that true in Korea or are we all lumped together? If they do differentiate then what countries have the best rep and which ones are looked down upon?

  37. MabelG'

    How did you guys end up deciding to go to Korea? What is it the thing that convinced you the most about moving to Korea? Because I like Korea but I feel you should have a reason for leaving your country for another one all across the world. Anyways, thanks and grettings from Panama!

  38. Michele

    This is my first time to your blog. My question is, How did you guys get so COOOL!? I just want to be your best friend! ^_^ Okay, weird stalking aside. I really appreciate the info. I grew up knowing ‘of’ Korea, but didn’t really know it was so amazing until I stumbled onto South Korean TV. Now I’m so in love with Korea. Their personalities, their culture, their way of life! I just want to pack up my whole family and move there. But I would want to be able to communicate…and their language sounds like machine guns firing to my ears. I can scarcely make out vowel sounds, much less anything else. I’ve picked up a few things like, yes, no, thank you, I’m sorry, (some variations of those) do you want to die?, etc… But it’s SO HARD!! And their written language! YIKES! Can you guys read and write Korean? Or send a text message? Aish…

  39. Ginaglu

    HEY GUISE, I has a question!! I was wondering if Korea caters to certain dietary needs. For example, I’m intolerant to wheat and can only eat rice noodles etc. Is there a way to work around problems like this in Korea? Do they have special stores/sections in supermarkets with wheat free/gluten free/dairy free things, or is it a case of just only ever buying rice and rice noodle things?

  40. Mallory Lacoste
    Mallory Lacoste

    I have a question for a future tldr
    Is it easy to find english language books/bookstores in Korea?

  41. Guys, I understand how you feel and I don’t think you should learn more Korean. Where you are now is perfectly fine and I think that’s what matters. You’re not about to go out and become politicians, crazy university level biology teachers or anything that would require super-awesome Korean communication skills. I say pat yourselves on the back, because you’ve done a great job! I, for one, love your TL;DR videos and how happy you look in Korea. Free time is for fun, have fun with a dance break! :D

  42. i see a lot of arrogant English speakers who come to Korea not knowing Korean, and doesn’t even care to try to learn Korean. And they would go around and ask ppl in English, as if they should know how to speak Englsih/

  43. I can understand about the French. I live in Wales and we have to learn Welsh, even take an exam at the end of school. But the 2nd language syllabus is so bad, we only know the very basic structure of Welsh. When I watch a Welsh programme, it’s completely different to what we have learnt, which I think the education board really need to sort out. Anyways, Simon, you have done fantastic learning Korean, and I’m glad you and Martina have made friends (even the cheese lady XD). If I ever have to live in another country where English is quite rare to speak, I’d love to have the experience making new friends speaking their language.

  44. I think that you guys are already doing it though, the seemingly momentous task of studying Korean. I mean, you have gone from understanding nothing to easily holding casual conversations in four years, so if you keep making effort to interact with Korean society via people, music, TV shows and whatnot, your Korean will most likely improve to another level of fluency in a few years.

  45. You often talk about how things are different/people will act a certain way because you’re obviously foreign. Do you know anyone who lives in Korea who is Asian but isn’t Korean/American-Korean who doesn’t speak any English? How do they get by and do people assume they speak Korean?

  46. Hey guise! Must of the time you talk about Kpop and popular culture in Korea. I was wondering what is Korean subculture like. Is there an underground movement in response to Kpop? I know you also have Indie playlist, but is that it? And btw, I love your whole dinamic as a couple. Love, love it! Keep it up! Love from Puerto Rico!

  47. Estelle

    So do you speak better Korean than French ? ^^
    I’d like to hear you two speaking french once !! Pleeeaasse !!!!

  48. this is an article about Korea. and I can’t understand it because I’m Korean. Damn English TT

  49. BigBanjo

    When you go out to eat at traditional Korean restaurants can you take leftovers “to go”? I feel a little awkward here in the states when I go to Korean BBQ because it’s expensive and they give us so much food! Is it weird or rude to ask to take home the rest of my Samgyeopsal? How about something like a giant bowl of Jigae made for two people when I’m only one person?

  50. How did you guys learn Korean? And how good are you at speaking it? :P

  51. I agree it is a tough decision, but you guys have already come a long way for speaking and understanding. Even if you did study all day everyday, if you didn’t use those words, you’d forget them. I’d say, if there’s something you want to know how to say now, learn it and then later on, when there’s something else you want to learn, learn it then. Don’t stress about it too much and keep making awesome videos!

  52. Andrea (Andie) Wiseman

    Hi, Simon and Martina. First of all I just want to say thank you for all of the hard work you guys put into making these videos and informing so many people in a fun way. Like you said, everyone learns languages for different reasons. I think that you guys are in the perfect place fluency-wise. It totally makes sense that you’re not trying to exactly reach fluency. I really think that you shouldn’t feel guilty! You both have obviously learned a lot since moving to Korea, and I think it’s really cool how much Korean you guys can understand. You know as much Korean as you need, and you still have that comfort level of not understanding everything that you mentioned in your post. I just hope that you guys can kind of let go of that guilty feeling, because you are already contributing so so much. You should feel proud of how much you know and of how much you contribute!~ You guys are seriously indescribably great and I just hope that by posting this TLDR you got some opinions that maybe help you in some way. Thanks again for everything! Love you guys ^^

  53. Do you guys want to save that “Lost in Translation” feeling for where you live, in Korea, or do you want to make it something that happens when you’re traveling? I think it would be good to learn more Korean, but like you guys said you’re already managing just fine. Are you good friends with Hyunwoo Sun from Talk to Me in Korean? I know you two traveled with him and the TTMIK team. Honestly, I’m studying Korean in my spare time (when I can) with those lessons and I love them. If you WANT to pursue Korean more than you already have, you should definitely go after it. TTMIK gives good little lessons that you can put on your ipod and just listen to every once and awhile, if you want to learn in little steps. You could speak Korean to your English-speaking Korean friends and let them speak English to you and help each other learn more and practice the other language.

  54. Simon and Martina, I think that you should not feel guilty. You do know the language enough to communicate on a basic level that suits your purposes. You obviously fill a niche for others when providing them with someone who they can speak English with. As you stay in Korea longer, if you need to learn more, chances are you will but if you do not, then there is no issue. As you have stated that you are comfortable with what you can do then why would you have a problem with your abilities? I would understand if you spoke no Korean but you do speak communicative Korean and that means that you are not being a strain. I think you should not worry and instead enjoy yourselves, your little bubble, your work, and your pets. Anyone with an issue is surely just jealous that they are not in your position to enjoy what you do and do what you enjoy.

  55. First I want to say well done for tackling such a difficult subject. Language is never an easy thing. And you’re right, it’s different for every person.
    As far as your situation now, I would say that you’re doing all you can do. If you have the ability to communicate just the way you need to, then that is what is important. If there comes a time when EYK is a massive company and you have more time because you have more employees helping out, then maybe then you can focus a little more on learning deeeep conversational Korean.
    A lot of people admire you for the work that you do and for the unique light that you shed on Korea. It’s safe to say that many look up to you. :) I’m currently studying Korean (1st year) at university in preparation for going to Korea in April on study abroad. It’s not easy and there are so many aspects to language that you can’t understand right away and I’m coming to appreciate that more and more.
    Keep doing what you’re doing and don’t stress out. You guys are awesome!

  56. I have to say that I see where you’re coming from but I disagree. Learning Korean doesn’t take up all your free time, you can sneak in a TTMIK lesson at least 2 times a week and learn a few word a day from a flashcard website. Now in Korea I agree that sometimes people just wanna practice English but you can still speak Korean. I think that now that you have a business in Korea you should know more Korean, it would help interviews, etc. I think it’s hard to really show Korea to others if you don’t understand its language better, language and culture come hand in hand. The more Korean you learn, the more you will understand the people. I also think it’s a bit unfair of you guys to be criticizing and ridiculing English mistakes if you make worse mistakes in Korean. Just sayin…. you’d also see that a lot of the words you criticize are konglish (which are loan words that came from japan and are pronounced differently but are indeed considered Korean). If however you’re set not to learn more Korean, at least improve what you know and work on your pronunciation. It was really quite painful to listen to :/ Anyway, I don’t mean to insult or be rude at all. I’ve been following you guys for a long while and I see the hate you get on tumblr. So I apologize if I offend you guys, I’m just being honest.

  57. Brittainy
    Brittainy

    Not gonna lie, I teared up a little bit at the cheese lady story…

  58. Maybe you guys should just take a non-intensive class of korean, just once or twice a week. I’m thinking there is a lot of interestings things you can only learn by speaking korean at a certain level. So, maybe it would be a good idea to expand your minds by using korean to learn some other stuff, not just the language. I am speaking from my personal story, I’ve try to reach a certain level of english just as a way to be able to learn (and see, read and understand) about other stuff I could not know by only speaking spanish. As you can see, my english is far from perfect but it’s enough for me. Of course, if you think your korean is good enough to do that, just ignore my comment. And for what I understood, it is, because your question was more focused on being fluent at korean. So really ignore my comment hahah. Nobody is going to look down on you anyway :D

  59. Heres a question for TLDR;

    Whats it truly like to teach english in Korea? Now I know youve explained this before can you do like a remastered video explaining in more detail?

  60. When I went to Korea, there were really a lot of English signs especially in the train so that made it really convenient. But if you really want the whole experience, it’s best to learn the language. It’s funny cuz I know Japansese and while I was shopping, I actually understood the ahjumma cuz she was speaking Japanese…maybe she was Japanese and not Korean :))

    As for your dilemma, I guess you don’t really have time for a full time lessons so I think you try to either make small steps towards learning more korean (talk to someone who can help?) or find a way to make your work at EYK more efficient so you have time for it. I really want to learn korean as well but a lot of my other subjects are a heavy enough load already. I believe that you guys are continuously learning about Korea anyway so don’t feel so pressured to do so.

  61. Hey am planing on study for midwife can you tell me if they are midwifes in Korea?

  62. Ree-Ree83

    I love your site. I watch the all your videos. I know that you said that you’re not into politics over there but how does it play out in the south korean media? and how is the military different in S. Korea than in the USA

  63. Tinya Wollweber

    Dear Simon, dear Martina

    My first thought was “of course you should immerse into the local language as much as possible!” But reading on your blog I am reminded on being pragmatic about it all and consider the limitations whether they are time available, or the simple fact whether more knowledge is needed at all for the personal circumstances. In that sense the required level of proficiency is different ffom one person to another. That should be very commonplace. In your case, if you reach the state of being comfortable, not feeling caught out or being taken advantage because you don’t understand the language, then you are fine!

    Being able to read is important though – you want to understand what your local council is writing to you by the end of the day! (not to mention all the KPop news circulating in the media)

  64. Well I can give my experience since I’ve gone through learning 4 languages including Korean (Well 5 if you count German Kindergarten). I agree that it depends on why you want to learn a language but a spouse/lover never much factored into it for me. Each language is an expression of the culture, there are words for things in certain languages that don’t exist in others because the phenomenons expressed by the words don’t exist. Quite to the contrary to how you guys feel, I don’t enjoy being lost and often helpless in a place because of a language barrier. Being English, the international language, speakers can really warp the true necessity of knowing a local language. I want to be able to understand the songs, poetry, novels and plays as the writers intended. This might not be an issue with Kpop songs that largely consist of elementary nonsense, but when you love reading and watching indie/outside mainstream pop culture content, you can’t help but feel like you are missing something and that your ability to appreciate what is going on around you is stunted. It might also be because I do talk to people about more serious issues that I really feel uncomfortable. Not being able to express myself would be horribly suffocating. As for French, I also went through the system here in Canada including several years of French immersion and I’d like to become a French language teacher. It isn’t just about needing French for certain jobs but that suddenly you can connect with 200 million more people than you used to be able to, you can choose to live and work in a dozen countries and regions and become connected to cultures that broaden your perspectives. A year ago I took part in an online exchange with a university student from France and we discussed issues that young people were concerned about in our respective countries (I spoke in French and he in English) and we both learned a lot about each other and ourselves and the societies we lived in, Maybe it doesn’t matter to you what the lyrics say because you can find a translation online and any popular book is translated, any movie subbed but you also are limiting your understand to content that can be translated and you’d be surprised how little that is, even with notes from subbers to help. Fluency in a language is extremely difficult, but despite the attitude some Koreans might have towards foreigners speaking Korean, 100% fluency is not needed. My French isn’t perfect and my accent and vocabulary are a mish-mash of Quebec and Paris but I can speak about 90% of topics, even in depth, and I could after 4 years of study really. Korean is by far the easiest language of the many I’ve studied (in my opinion), the phonetic alphabet goes a long way to allowing literacy and not just oral expression which is mighty difficult in say, Mandarin. At the end of the day I suppose I have a passion about learning languages, but I thought since you two took an English literature class, you’d understand there is a difference between understand content and understanding context. And if you want to be part of the Korean context yourselves, learning more Korean is necessary.

  65. I love how you became like internet-celebriteeh just by being yourself, you seriously make my week happier everytime there’s a new video to see :)

  66. teamonarch

    I too, am someone who’s not a native English speaker. I’m from Finland and I only really ever heard Finnish being spoken since I was little, however, they begin teaching us English during the 3rd grade of elementary school (at the age of.. 9? I think.). In elementary school my skills were really basic and I remember our teacher’s pronunciation being horrible, too. When I got interested in Asian culture in general, started watching Japanese/Taiwanese/Korean dramas with English subtitles, only then did the language really sink in as I was ‘forced’ to learn it. Nowadays I’d consider myself pretty much fluent as I use English (I sometimes have trouble remembering how to say something in my mother tongue and instead remember it in English) just as much as Finnish on a daily basis, but of course my vocabulary needs upgrading. I have been studying the language for almost 9 years now, but it’s all pretty much just writing and learning the grammar (It’s actually quite a hassle sometimes as they teach us both American English AND British English and then say that we can’t use both in the matriculation exams as it’ll cost us some points)

    In high school I currently have a pretty good English teacher, I think she lived in England for a few years.. It is only now that they have started emphasizing our pronunciation and it’s actually quite sad to hear some of my classmates trying to read out loud. I myself try to speak English every opportunity I get, even with some of my Finnish friends who actually understand it well enough. I’m still in the middle of trying to get rid of my heavy accent, though, it’s starting to fade little by little and be replaced by a slightly British one, maybe because I have family members with said accent.

    All in all, it’s not until you start using a language properly that you truly get to learn it.

  67. Amen to everything you said. Korean is a very difficult language to master. It’s easy to read and write but speaking – whoa! My native language is Spanish so when I learned French in school I found it so easy. I didn’t understand how others were struggling. Later in university I studied Italian and that was even easier. So I thought I had a knack for learning languages…until I tried learning Korean. It was very frustrating. I’ve been asked why I can’t speak it fluently after having lived there for two years. Um because it’s so easy to get by without speaking Korean. I was a bit shy to try out my new Korean vocabulary so unfortunately I rarely spoke in Korean except with my students. Since we were both in the same kind of boat I felt it was safe speaking Korean to/with them. I learned a lot more Korean while teaching and interacting with the students than I did while taking taking free Korean classes. I met people there that had been there 5, 10 years and still weren’t fluent.

  68. Marie-Louise

    Hahaha I’m from Montreal and I speak French but you are right, I would talk to you in English if I were to meet you :)

  69. I’m super excited because you mentioned Montreal in your post, and that’s where I’m from XD And yeah, I speak French but I would talk to you in English if I were to you.

  70. Velvetblue Veille

    Woaa….. I’m not dreamin, am I? Did Martina say Indonesia?? I seriously repeated that part over and over. Thank you~. XD

    You know, just one or two months ago, my lil sister said she watched a news on tv here about animal care hospitals around the world. One of them is from Korea and there was a glimpse of Simon and Spudgy (Yup, I showed your videos to my family^^) attended the place (I’m sure you were with Martina too but my sister didn’t see her). Too bad I couldnt watch it coz I was not at home that time. Anyway, please come to Indonesia. You’ve gained more Nasties here. ^__^

  71. Krystal Nimox

    my dad is probably going to getting stationed in korea..so i want to know if i go to a korean school. would it be hard to make friends because i am a foreigner and look completely different from them?

  72. Cyber_3
    Cyber_3

    I think that being fluent enough to get around every day and hold interviews is a fantastic level to have achieved for the short while that you have been in Korea. Given what you do every day, I think it’s also impossible to not learn new Korean words, ideas, and cultural concepts and I don’t think that anyone in their right mind could criticize your intentions or think that you are lazy. Please don’t beat yourself up over not putting in more effort to be fluent in Korean. Without MANY years of study, it may just be impossible. Not just for you, but for anyone, in any language…….it’s just the way the human brain works. Even people who have learned several languages as a child (granted, it’s easier to learn as second language as a kid and once you’ve got one, picking up more is also easier) lose them if they don’t constantly use them.

    On top of that, I don’t think that there’s one of your fans that honestly thinks that you will spend the rest of your life in Korea and I think that we would all just prefer that you spend your time more wisely to keep doing the stuff that you’re doing that we all love you for. Fans don’t want to think of this fun time ending but it will come to a point (maybe a few years down the road) where eatyourkimchi it’s not so fresh and fun for you any more or plainly, life happens. Since it’s your life and not just a job, it will be time to move on to the next adventure. Hopefully we can all come with you when you do something else ’cause we’ll all be ready for something new too. You never know, you may have to start all over with another language, so think of it as saving some studying time for later, just in case.

    This is my first post, and I just wanted to say that I happened to “find” you on youtube a couple of months ago due to your Itaewon Freedom review (completely tangential to what I was looking for). You guys are fantastic most posts but truly glorious when you’re in your element and I would humbly suggest that once in a while (maybe every quarter) you review a song for kpop music mondays that _you_ want to review. Yes, the fans help make you what you are, but they keep loving you for doing what you do best, and only you can say what that is. Don’t be shy about making some of the decisions for yourself, it will give you more opportunities to shine in the end. Sorry for straying a little from the topic.

    Cheers from the cold and bitter wasteland (Canada) ^_^v

  73. Literati Tempo

    I agree taking your free time to brush up on Korean might not be the best use of your time especially when your whole “webshow” revolves around English. However as EYK grows it would be great to see you interviewing idols/guests in Korean. It would just be more professional. so while you might not have to get to a philosophical level having a good business understanding could help if you guys decide to stay for the long run.

    I’ve been to the dark side of the anti-nasties (cleans?) so I know what they say about your lack of Korean skills. Just like other antis they will never change. Know us nasties appreciate and love you guys all the same and as a person who’s been following you guys since 2008 (omg so long) it’s nice to see you grow and it feels like we’re old friends.

    If you ever have a need for more ideas I say you guys start up a travel guide service. Where you run tours for foriegners/EYK fans and show off some of the best Korea has. I’ve seen some decent historical and KDrama tours (not really decent mostly old shows), and I really think you guys could do better. End it with a EYK studio tour. If you happen to take my idea can I get on the wall of nasties I missed the indiegogo funding by a couple of days… darn you paycheck.

  74. lauri1611

    Alrighty some thoughts/suggestions: Well that was a very personal post, I’m glad u still have the courage to always be so honest with us nasties! ^^ First of all: don’t stress so much u guise! It’s ok, you’re doing great don’t put so much pressure on yourselves all the time and (if possible) try to worry less. :) Now about learning more Korean. I personally think that learning more Korean could be beneficial for u guise, not for daily life but maybe for your business. Now that u are getting more in touch with Korean companies and will probably get more opportunities to interview bands, it might help arranging things with them if they feel more comfortable getting interviewed when they now u can have the whole conversation in Korean. (Maybe that’s not a problem for u guise already, I wasn’t sure)

    Anyways… maybe this can help u :D, if you want to learn more vocabulary u can make a list that you (for example) put up in the kitchen in your studio (since I’m guessing u spend more time there than at home) and every time u walk by look at the list, and repeat the words a couple of times. It doesn’t take up much of your time and can be a nice break from looking at the computer screen all day! Then in a week or two, when u feel u know the words, make a new list & switch it up. Motivate each other by mentioning your progress or do a little test every week and see who remembered more :3 (that would motivate me) :P again it doesn’t have to take up much of your time to learn a bit more vocabulary ^^ That’s it! Hopefully it’s even a little bit helpful ^^ Love from a nasty from Belgium!! <3 x

  75. Amaranda

    Well, if your long time goal is to move to other countries, like Japan, to create other Eatyour____ sites, then investing a lot of time in learning Korean would not make sense. It seems like you are doing great, so don’t stress over it! I have a question for you, though I don’t know how easy it will be for you to answer since you don’t have kids yourself. My husband and I have considered moving overseas, Korea’s probably in our top 3 choices, but we have 2 kids, both 9 years old. I’m just wondering what it would be like for them. Would they have to go to a Korean school, even though they don’t speak the language? Or do they have schools that are taught in English? I homeschool them here in America, but would homeschool even be an option in Korea? And do you think they would be well accepted by other kids their age? So, in general, what are your thoughts on bringing children to Korea? Thanks!

  76. If you’re asking for an opinion I think you guys are perfectly okay with staying status quo and there’s no need to be stressing over feeling not proficient enough in the korean language because it’s just not necessary, especially since you guys are still regarded as foreigners. in fact i think you guys may want to consider taking out some things from your schedule so you may have more resting time. i haven’t got the time myself to follow you guys closely and watch every video you guys post but I can see that a lot of effort is put into every production from you guys and i really applaud and salute you guys for all these! but honestly speaking, i’m really worried at the same time because i think you both need to be getting enough quality sleep in the night and quality spare time in the day. well then again that’s just me because I’m worried for you guys… >< in the end, thank you so much for all that you do for us fans out here, and remember to always take good care of yourselves alright! and quit worrying about your korean standard, it really should be the least of your worries. after all, the longer you guys stay in korea, I think naturally your grasp of the language would become better too. Stay strong, healthy and happy! ^^ <3

  77. Emily

    I’ve found that many people in Korea act rudely towards English speakers. Have you guys ever had experiences with having to deal with old grumpies?

  78. I don’t think you should feel guilty about it. You guys work really hard already and I think you’re doing your best, just take your time with the language.

  79. Just have to say, you dont need to feel guilty! I went on an exchangeyear in Japan and I totally understand all the points you are saying. As long as you get by and can feel conected to the people that is all you need at least according to me ^^

    I have been having the same thoughts; do I have to learn the language to perfection, that will take years… in the end I realized that is not what I want, at least not for now :p

    … btw this is my first comment even though I have been watching your videos since 2010 so I just want to let you know, I love you and you’re so nasty <3

  80. What’s the deal with Korean guys wanting to date a women older than them?

  81. Having never really been outside of my comfort language I can’t say I understand your perspective, but I do understand your points. I feel like if your heart is not into learning something, like your example because of a Korean love interest, then no matter how much you study you really won’t learn all that much. You have to have a reason and a want to learn Korean or it just won’t happen for your poor brain. That being said, I do and I don’t think you need to learn Korean. I don’t because as you pointed out you understand enough to have a light conversation and to survive, and then there is the added matter of feeling secure in your language bubble. For these reasons I don’t see the need to study further (like serious study anyway). However, that being said, your jobs now have you interacting with Korean celebrities and musicians, and although you can easily hire someone who can speak Korean and make the appointments and phone calls necessary if need be, the interview process is still you guys speaking to people and asking them questions in a language they don’t entirely understand. I love your interviews, don’t get me wrong, but there are many times that they seem a little boring because the people you’re talking to don’t know what to say back to you because English isn’t there language. Yes, this is for an international audience and an international language is English, but it would probably be better in certain situations to do interviews in Korean. This way you two, as well as whoever you are interviewing can actually have a deep conversation about music or what it’s like to be an idol, without that other person feeling uncomfortable and trying to translate what they want to say in their head. So basically what I’m saying is, do you need to do intense Korean language study, no, but it would probably be good to really study words, phrases, and such about what your interviewing people for, which in most cases is music. So then, you may not be able to have a deep conversation about politics, but if music is what someone wants to talk about then you are all set. I guess I just think it would help your business, but it is still not necessary to go so far as to be able to be a public speaker. Does that make any sense? Well anyway, I hope your not offended by anything I’ve said, I mean it in the best possible way and I’m just trying to hopefully shed a different opinion on this whole thing. Whatever you two decide I’m sure it will work out for you. :)

  82. Hey guys! This is my first time commenting on here though I’ve been watching ever since I started teaching near Gwangju! I’m kinda on the same boat as you guys as far as my Korean ability is concerned. Outside my door I go into total Koreantimus Prime mode and don’t speak any English unless whoever I’m speaking with makes the conscious effort to do so. I also have no problems during my day to day routine and should it ever pop up that we end up talking about something that’s out of my league I try my best using my improv Korean skills haha.

    I think I’ve hit a bit of a stopping block though too. I’ve gotten really comfortable with the level of Korean I know currently and get praise for it a lot. I know in my heart however that I’m nowhere near the goal I set for myself upon coming here 8 months ago. I feel like I’m standing at the foot of a huge mountain of Korean language and I’m kinda reluctant to start climbing again. (Base camp is so nice, plus there’s a homeplus right beside it.) A few things are propelling me however, to keep getting better at Korean. I hope to one day work in international affairs and have a strong interest in Asia as a region. I’ve taken up Korean as my language due to the need for speakers but also because I have a genuine interest in the culture both pop and traditional (go soshi!). I know that my level of Korean is ENOUGH but it won’t land me a job working at the embassy in Seoul or anything like that… at least not yet.

    I just wanted to share my thoughts and say hello to you guys at the very least! So what’s good in the hood Simon and Martina? Shout out to the Spudge and our expert in medicine the esteemed Dr. Meemersworth.

    Last thing though, what do you think is the biggest hurdle for you guys when it comes to progressing in your Korean abilities?

  83. One thing I know about people is they will judge you for anything and you can’t please them all. And fighting for their respect is a fruitless act that will only cloud your best potential. You guys, you know your amazing and have more fans than haters on your side. For the love of god… your fans, we the nasties, supported you in your time of need, we were at your side and within hours had the funds for this amazing new studio and home of yours. You didn’t tell us to give it to you, we reacted in a genuine way because you gave us the opportunity to finally reach out to you. The money I donated… I honor that second I pressed the green button to “Donate”. I gave it to you because you have given me so much more… laughter. A better day when it started out bad. And more importantly? Knowledge… knowledge to be closer to a country I love and also will soon be living in as a foreigner starting this February.

    As for this video… I was the one who asked about this same question literally moments after you uploaded it. I am so pleased with how carefully you guys think about each question and elaborate as much as possible on it… It shows that you really strive to serve your fans. You’ve come a long way since your early days… but have always been so awesome. Simon & Martina 화이팅! Love you guys.

  84. You’ve probably been asked tons of times before, but if a movie was made about your lives and your adventures with living in Korea + EYK, who do you think should portray you? Martina, I think you and Emily Blunt look pretty similar! And maybe her husband John Krasinski (also Polish) could play Simon! It would be like one super cute couple playing another super cute couple. Is there anyone you would really WANT to play you (even if it wouldn’t make sense)?

  85. After seeing you in the Pulsa-bang video (one of my favorites by the way), I wondered about Geek culture in Korea. I’d assume the comic culture is similar to Japan with Manhwa and Anime being fairly popular. But do Korean’s also follow other international fandoms? For example, do you see many Korean Doctor Who, True Blood, Grimm, Star Trek, or Lord of the Rings fans?

  86. I believe you guys are ok at the moment, you know? I mean, like you said, you do soo much already. If you really want to get better at korean, there will be a time for it. Maybe in the future when things take off and you have more time, you might be able to invest it into it if you want. I was born in Guatemala and moved to the US when I was 12 and I completely get what you mean! I mean, I literally sat there and argued with my teacher that you pronounced cocoa like you see it, not “co-co” XD but yeah I mean you learned just enough to survive and that’s fine too. But since you guys say you feel guilty about it, just think of this: you just started this HUGE project and literally have no time to put as much effort into learning more korean as you would like, so why just do it all half-a**ed when maybe in the future, you can probably put your time and dedicate more to it. :D hope this helps!

  87. I think I know what you mean. Take the example of any immigrants going to another foreign country and how much of the language they do know of the new country and I would say it can be about the same level unless you do business and need to learn more. My family moved to Canada and work in manufacture industry and at home, they would speak their mother tongue, and their friends speak the same mother tongue. The only time they would need to use English is using services that are only in English and so it can be comparable to your level being in South Korea

  88. Lorena Abrodos

    “Learn Korean if you want to. Don’t learn it if you don’t want to” that’s it! =)

  89. I also appreciated your learning stories. I think you are given a lot more leeway if you show that you are actively trying to learn the language of the place in which you dwell. I know, personally, if someone just asks, I’m all about helping others advance their language skills and I would want help should I finally get my butt to a foreign country. I think it shows a respect for the culture, even if you aren’t aware of certain points – all culture starts with language. The Cheese Lady story is just so sweet! It really touched me, I won’t lie, I almost started tearing up.

    On another note. . . I watching this and an episode of Season 2′s KPop Music Monday (on my TV). I’m watching the progression of Martina’s hair and it’s pretty sweet.

  90. That is so sweet!

    I came to Korea almost 5 months ago and I’m struggling to learn but really, my school doesn’t want me to really learn any Korean, and even teachers who aren’t English teachers are always trying to talk to me in English. Actually my art teacher knows French better than English so we use that to talk…

    Outside of school? There isn’t much around me. I know how to give directions to my house to a taxi driver, and how to be polite in a store but that is about it. Knowing the numbers would really help anyone! As sometimes you can’t see the screen or there is no calculator. But when in doubt, you can always give them 10,000 won notes…

  91. One of my favorite sites to go on (when I’ve caught up on EYK, of course), is Ask a Korean!. I remember seeing the following and thought it had relevance to this post:

    ‘For example, there are many Korean students, having studied in America/Canada, who appear to have mastered English because their accent is slight and they seem to be able to write without misspelling things, but rarely use a slightly complex grammatical structure like a dependent clause in their speech or writing. This is not a mastery over language.’

    Korean is HARD to learn to speak, there are so many vocalizations we just don’t do! I remember watching the K.Will video and was all ‘WOAH!’ He talks almost as fast as an angry Italian woman (who, I believe, hold the record for fastest talkers)! I know that will never be me, but I have no desire for it anyway. I’d suggest looking at this http://askakorean.blogspot.com/2010/01/koreans-english-acquisition-and-best.html. I took The Korean’s advice and have started making my own flash cards; if it worked in school, it’s good enough for now. I’d settle for being able to read and write Korean first and I can work on pronunciation when I get my hands on someone who can actually SPEAK Korean. Being that I live in North Dakota, native Korean speakers are kind of thin on the ground.

    I wonder if my favorite word would translate into Korean. . . .defenestration. Seriously, look it up.

    LANGUAGE 4 LYFE!

  92. Katie Jakins

    love my neighbourhood ajjumas and ajjeosis! It does really help you feel more connected to Korea and I feel like an ambassador for foreigners.

  93. kawaii_candie
    kawaii_candie

    i’ve heard from japanese friends that korea is really japanese-friendly and that there are a lot of shop, hotels, este places etc. that actually speak japanese. cuz so many japanese people don’t even speak english at all when they go abroad… faaaaaail…. T_T

    but as for what you were talking about in the post, it’s pretty much the same here in japan, except for the fact that kanji is $%&$%’%@$!!! difficult to learn so you can learn to speak japanese well enough to get by, but reading’s another story. even now after living here 4 years, i’ve got the literacy skills of a 1st grader, which is really sad. i can chat away with any shop clerk that decides to strike up a conversation with me, but ask me to read a magazine or something? forget it… -_-

  94. This is a really interesting topic, and I’m glad you brought it up. I was born in the USA to Filipino immigrants, but my first language is English. My parents speak Tagalog around the house and to me, but I usually answer in English. I don’t really know why my parents never made me speak Tagalog… I think it’s because they wanted me to speak English because they thought I would do better in school. I can understand Tagalog, but can’t really speak it well or have conversations about politics or whatever. If I do, it’s broken Tagalog. Plus, most Filipinos here speak English so I don’t really have to use Tagalog. But I do wish my Tagalog skills were better!

    I also took three years of high school Spanish, but am nowhere near fluent. It’s really ironic because in the work force, it’s a plus (or required depending on where you work) to speak Spanish. I live in Southern California, where there is a huge Spanish-speaking population, so employers really love it if you can speak Spanish. Given the large Spanish speaking population in Southern California, I think we should have learned Spanish, like how many people in other countries like Korea, Philippines, etc had to learn English. Just my opinion though…

    I took Japanese for a semester in college, but didn’t have any desire to continue after it. There are too many letters and characters to remember… But I’m trying to re-learn it a little bit at a time because I want to go to Japan and visit my cousins who are living there. I’m also a student of Korean now that I seriously got into all these K-dramas and KPop. I want to be able to really understand Kdramas and movies without subs, travel to Korea, and have a decent conversation with someone in Korean.

    Anyway, please don’t ever feel guilty for not being able to become fluent in Korean. It won’t happen overnight. It will help you out a little if you do learn more, but I think you guys are doing really well in Korean! Much better than me, that’s for sure. :)

    • Ahh, your life sounds like mine a bit!. I was born in China but immigrated with my parents at a young age to the US. (8 yo). My parents used to speak only Mandarin to me, but over the years it’s become Chinglish. For me, same, it started with just Mandarin when I came and now its Chinglish which leans more towards English. I *think* I can have basic religion/politics conversations, but I never really tried forcing myself since I got impatient by trying and since my parents’ have good English. An ex-bf, long distance, was a Beijing guy, so obviously my Mandarin must be at least intermediate?

      I took 4 yrs of Spanish too! And I really wish I was fluent too, for the jobs thing in Southern California. There are so many immigration law and other public service legal internships that are Spanish REQUIRED or at least strongly preferred :(

      I’ve never taken Japanese, but have watched Japanese anime as a faithful fan for more than 6 yrs. At this point, I can understand most of anime without subtitles, and maybe 30% of normal speed conversation. I can probably manage to ask for the bathroom, speaking wise, but that’s it. xD

      From watching Korean stuff and Korean music, I think I picked up like…5% of the listening. Maybe 10%. Awkwardly, it’s enough that sometimes Korean people will catch on to the fact that I *kinda* sorta understand, or at least am not completely clueless, which sadly means that they keep trying to speak Korean to me. For some reason Korean old ladies are easily convinced that I look Korean, even after I try to convince them otherwise. o_O. (The old meat seller at the local Korean grocery store, he never remembers I’m not Korean but always remembers me -.-).

  95. I started studying Japanese in high school, have been living in Japan for more than nine years and am fluent for all intents and purposes. I used to be of the “When in Rome, speak like the Romans” camp… I could never understand why all the other foreigners around me (in Japan) didn’t make more of an effort to learn Japanese. That was until I started studying Korean. When I was a student I had all the time in the world to study. That was my job. Learning Japanese wasn’t easy (I am a native English speaker), but with the time I had it certainly wasn’t impossible, and I wasn’t in any rush. It was three years before I went to Japan for the first time (just 5 weeks) and 6 years before I spent significant time here (one year in college) and 9 years before I moved here. But now studying Korean I am an adult with other responsibilities. I can’t go to class everyday or do hours of homework. Even with the head start of the similarities between Japanese and Korean, it is slow going, and while I would certainly get more comfortable faster if I lived in Korea, there are limits as I have seen in the people trying to learn Japanese here. Doing everyday chores is easy to practice because the demands for vocabulary and grammar are relatively limited, but trying to have more profound conversations can be so daunting, especially when there are enough Koreans who speak amazing English (not everyone, but enough) for you not to be totally friendless and isolated. In a language class you can go through the stages of simple conversations, but in normal adult interaction you don’t want to spend your time only talking about what you had for breakfast yesterday or how to get to the post office.

    So while I haven’t given up yet, I think choices about how much Korean you learn and how much time you spend learning it are highly personal. You guys obviously love the country and the culture, and don’t walk around expecting everyone to speak English for you (or complaining about the country… I’m sure everyone who lives abroad knows someone like this) Whether you spend your personal time studying, having deep conversations in Korean, or talking with Koreans who speak English is entirely up to you. Anyone who criticizes you for your decision probably has more time, is a student (and/or started studying when they were a student), picks up languages more easily, or has never actually tried living in a foreign country.

    In an ideal world, sure maybe everyone who moved to a foreign country would become fluent in their language, but all things considered, I think it is great that people take the leap to move to a foreign country, and whether they become fluent in the language is less important (as long as they can make a living that way, and recognize not everyone will bend over backwards to accommodate them). You guys are giving people outside Korea a glimpse into the culture, and making Canadians a little more familiar to all of the Koreans who have the honor to know you, and though the pace may be slower, I’m sure you will continue to improve for as long as you are there.

  96. Heck yes, Korean is hard to learn (especially when it comes to grammar)! Also especially when you are simultaneously learning Chinese and Spanish too, like me… but that’s what I get for being a Foreign Languages major lol

  97. Hokkaido Fox

    I have to say, this TL;DR hit a little close to home for me.

    I’m currently living and working Japan as an english teacher, just like you guys. This is my second time around (thank you very so much Great Recession) and one of my goals before I came back was to finally ‘master’ what I call ‘Pretty Japanese’ i.e. grammatically correct and properly pronounced. Like you, I am pretty dang functional in daily life. I can go about my daily life with little hassle, communicate with my students if I need to (even though I’m not really supposed to) and talk to my co-workers and boss about anything I need or any questions I have. I consider myself functional in Japanese in that I my daily life is not egregiously effected by my lack of skills.

    But I am in no way fluent. I know a total of 200-300 kanji. I cannot properly use particles to save my life. My vocabulary is terribly lacking and don’t even get me started on my ability to read. >_<# I really thought that this time (because I live in literally the smallest village in Hokkaido with less than 800 people.) I would be forced to become fluent because no one would speak any english. And to my disappointment, that hasn't happened. My co-teachers are excellent english speakers and since there's nobody in the village under 65, there's not a lot of things to do. Sure, I could spend all my free time trying to learn japanese but is that really what I want to do? Do I really need to learn the proper way to conjugate keigo?

    Of course the upside of what I call 'functionally fluent' i.e. you have no problem reading magazines, advertising and carrying a conversation, even a deep one, is that Japan and her culture would open up to me in a way that I just can't make it with my 200 piddly kanji and my inability to properly connect two sentences together with 'ga'. I would be able to understand song lyrics, magazines and so many things that just look so cool and interesting and are just sooo out of reach. I know the 'silence' that you're talking about, when your brain shuts off the language center and things cease to be words and letters and just become graphic shapes. And I can understand the loud cacophony of returning home and suddenly ENGLISH IS EVERYWHERE and the desire to keep Korea free of that. The 'silence' can be lovely.

    In the end, I applaud you for the bravery and guts it has taken to put something so honest and raw out there (i'm referring to your blog post here. The TL;DR is in this same vein but not quite the same issue.). Only you two can decide how far you want to take your learning. I'm going to do my best to chase down 'Pretty Japanese' and beat it into submission with my clumsy particle use but that's my choice. If you are happy where you are, stay there. But if you're not, if you really do feel that you need a higher level of korean fluency for your personal happiness and the financial success of EYK (which I would not disagree with) then I think you need to treat it not as a hobby, something you do in your precious and rare free time, but it should be scheduled into your working hours. I know you're busy filming and editing and writing but this is why you hire employees. They take some of the load off you so that you can pursue other goals that will help your business expand. Add Korean lessons into your work schedule, budget that time and budget the money for them (or if you're the self study sort, then just budget the time). You might even be able to include it as a tax write up since it's integral to your work, which is talking about songs and videos sung in Korean, by Koreans, for Koreans. Yes, their audience is global but until they come out with EXO-E and Super Junior-E for English I can't see how upping your Korean language skills could hurt and I think in the end, it can only help.

    Obviously you cannot become fluent by next thursday and probably not even by next year and I really don't think it's something that needs to be done RIGHT NOW but I think it's something that you should consider for your future and the future of EYK. I love your work and I admire chutzpah it takes to start up a business in another country where you are not bi-lingual in or even at a college level of fluency. Those are some cast iron…bananas. I think your entrepreneurial spirit should be applauded. EYK is a wonderful site and it keeps improving day by day. I can't wait to see what it turns into a week, a month, a year and even a decade from now. EYK FIGHTING!

  98. Regarding learning more Korean, I feel like if you have basic functioning Korean and you can understand to the point of still being able to communicate – you shouldn’t guilt yourself so much. It’s just needless stress! I absolutely think that to live in another country, you should learn to speak their language and learn their culture and not live in – like you referred to in your video – a bubble. But I think Korean is a very difficult language and you guys both work so hard and you already have functioning conversations. What you might want to think about though to assuage your guilt somewhat is perhaps pick a Korean word or Korean sentence and put it down on like, a flash card or something accessible that you guys can refer to during the day. Then try to work on that phrase or sentence throughout the week when you’ve got down time. You know what I’m saying? That way it’s not an intense course that’s taking up all of your free time, what little time you have, and you also will be actively working on bettering your Korean so you don’t feel guilty about not getting better. I hope that makes sense. :)

  99. Eunjung Son

    I truly truly appreciate your post! I’ve been hoping for you to answer this question for a loong time! I currently live in New York and I am completely infatuated with korean language and culture. Something about it just clicks with me. I wanted to really be able to connect and communicate with korean people. I also like the tv shows and music and wanted to understand them more fully. Koreans have a rich and moving history that I feel is deeply connected with the language. I’ve been studying Korean for almost two years now and it’s only getting harder. One thing I’ve learned is that if you want to be fluent, you have to think like a korean… I digress, about being lost in translation I completely understand and agree. I like that feeling too but I just feel greater fluency means greater connection. I come from a family of haitian immigrants I’ve seen and felt the frustration of language barriers and it’s no fun. In the end, it’s up to you. Like you I’ve been force fed french for years! I didn’t really get better until I went to France for a while and Quebec. I didn’t start improving my Korean until I started spending a ridiculous amount of time with them. Soooo, yea intensive study won’t really lead to fluency unless you combine it with connection with the people imo…. Sorry for the super long comment
    Simon and Martina, if you’re reading this, I’d like to feature your post on my Blog if that’s okay?

  100. hm… well. i find it weird that yes, all my friends in Korea (and the rest of Asia) want to practice their English, even with the 10+ years of learning, but i kind of think that even though I know its great that they want to practice, I find it hard to try and communicate with them with their own language. but now i know i won’t have to worry much when I move to korea

  101. Krystal Nimox

    my dad is probably going to getting stationed in korea..so i want to know if i go to a korean school. would it be hard to make friends because i am a foreigner and look completely different from them?

  102. Donella Walker

    Have you as of yet found a good “Intro to kpop” song?? (caffeine, for instance, if it wasn’t “you’re like a capeen”) I have poisoned my brothers’ minds with kpop, but they can’t find songs to show their friends… Fantastic Baby came close, but no cigar. Help please??

  103. celicia

    I don’t think you guys should bust your butts in order to become fluent in korean. I think improving with the language on your own time would be most beneficial to you guys. You guys work so hard already and don’t need any added stress. And as you said already, you guys can navigate your way around korea just fine now, so you don’t need to rush to become masters of the language. I hope you guys remain healthy and happy :) (on a side note: Thank you for all of the smiles and laughs you guys have given me over the years. You guys really have made a difference in my life :’D I hope to have a relationship like you two share in my future.)

    <3 Celicia M.

  104. Question: I am a feminist moving to Korea. I hear that Korean society is still very hierarchical and gender biased – will Korea drive me crazy? Will I spend all my time deprogramming my kids from expectations about how men and women are “supposed” to behave?

    • If you think it is your job to “deprogram” the kids it might drive you crazy. While it may be true that Korea and other countries could benefit from a more global perspective on gender relations, going to any country with the idea that your way is “the” way is never a good idea. Keep an open mind and try to find the good in the way they think, or why it works for them. You don’t have to always agree, and you can voice your own opinions, but don’t expect things to change dramatically because you did. Speak honestly and listen to what they have to say, and I’m sure you will find a middle ground.

  105. Is it common for koreans to speak english or at least have learnt it at school? How important is it? What about other languages?

  106. thisisjustforfunval
    thisisjustforfunval

    It has always been my belief that if you choose to live in another country you should learn the language. I’m not speaking about knowing the mother tongue fluently. I’m talking about being able to go out and function on a daily basis. Getting around town, shopping, eating, you know daily use conversation. I personally think it is respectful of the community you live in, exactly the way you guys have described your Korean fluency. I applaud that greatly and hope that if I ever choose to move to Korea or Italy like I dream of, then I would learn the language of that country. I wish everyone who moved to a new country had that mentality. It’s okay to move to a country and not know the language, however, I only think this is okay if you plan to learn enough of the language to function once you arrive their.

    It should never be presumed that everyone speaks our language, and no one should ever insist that they should speak our language when we can’t speak theirs in their own country. Hope that wasn’t to preachy.

  107. Where is this cheese lady located at???

  108. I haven’t read all the comments, so I don’t know if anyone has asked you these questions: why do you feel guilty? What idea/belief is running through your head that makes you feel guilty? In my experience, if I try to concisely articulate the idea or belief that is making me feel guilty (for example, by writing it out in a sentence), I can study the idea or belief and ask myself: why do I have to hold on to this belief? Is this idea or belief absolutely true? What would my life be like if I let go of this idea or belief? (BTW, if you are familiar with “The Work” by Katie Byron, you might recognize my questions/line of reasoning.) Anyway, I just wanted to throw out this suggestion. I love all the work that you do and I agree with the positive comments that I’ve read (so far)!

  109. Learning some more Korean might help with business matters or interviews. Other than that, if you’re comfortable with your level of understanding the language, then I wouldn’t sweat it.

  110. Ashley B

    I have lived in Korea for two years teaching ESL and never really learned past the basics of the language to get around the city or day to day tasks. I am leaving Korea to return to my home country soon. The reason I never got past the basics of the Korean language, besides the fact that I initially only intended to stay for one year (and ended up loving my job and friends so much I ended up re-signing my contract), is that the desire to become fluent in Korean just wasn’t there for me.

    Where else in the world besides Korea is Korean spoken? Is it useful or helpful to people to learn a language that will never be spoken outside of one country? In my country (USA), Spanish is the most useful language to learn, much like learning French in Canada. Spanish is a language that is spoken in more than just one country, and French is the same. You can travel to South America, Mexico, or Europe and use Spanish in a real way. Same with using French not only in France but in a multitude of other countries. Where else in the world does speaking Korean benefit you or others around you? It should be a choice as an interest, not a necessity, to speak Korean fluently if you are able to live every day in a meaningful way without being fluent.

    There is a real problem here with “foreigner shock.” And it happens not only to myself but to those who have been living in Korea and even to those who are fluent in Korean and look Western. It happens with everyone from older people to younger teens in Korea–when we (foreigners) begin to speak, the notion that we are Western has already shut down the conversation. Even if we say a sentence perfectly, the Korean person whom we are trying to speak to will almost deliberately not understand us. Ask any foreigner living in Korea and they will all have an experience like this:

    I will hop in a cab and say the same location I have said every day for two years, in perfect Korean, I will get “what??” or a correction of my pronunciation over and over until we arrive at the same conclusion. 3 out of 5 times. I say, “Please take me to the bank” in perfect Korean. The cab driver looks at me and says, “The bank?!?” I reply, “Yes, the bank. Gumi Bank. Straight ahead.” Cab driver: “The bank…the bank…bank…..bank…..OH you mean the BANK?” ::facepalm::

    I have checked my pronunciation with Korean coworkers and friends on these things and they approved 100%. It’s not that I’m saying it wrong, it’s that I’m saying something in Korean and I don’t “look” Korean. I have had friends tell me that after months of YMCA Korean classes they are so discouraged by restaurants, cab drivers, reception desk workers, etc who hear the words, look into the face of a foreigner, and are so shocked or nervous that they choose to not understand. It is a great frustration to many people who would have otherwise wanted to learn. Some of my friends have stopped for this reason.

    For you personally, I think that your perspective is “foreigners living in Korea” and therefore becoming fluent in Korean to the point where you can have deep, philosophical, religious or political conversations in Korean would not be something to put energy into learning unless it’s something you want to pursue. I agree with many others here; putting effort into your work is your passion now and not learning fluent conversation.

    There’s a chef who lives in my city from India who makes amazing curry dishes. He has a passion for cooking and is one of the only people in my city who really gets it right–perhaps he is fluent in Korean or perhaps it’s just enough to run his business. He also speaks fluent English, which helps him speak to the many foreigner clientele who are interested in real Indian food. Whether he is home practicing Korean every night after he closes his restaurant or not isn’t that important. Why would he need to? Who would disparage him for not studying Korean? His cooking is his passion, and Korea is the place he chooses to live and work in. Isn’t that enough? I think so. You choose the level of language you want to work with and embrace your lifestyle here, don’t worry about those who want to evaluate your loyalty or level of cultural embrace by the difficulty of the level of language you speak. Even if you become 100% fluent, those same people will find something else to complain about. xx

  111. Personally I think it depends on what you want to do with your life later. If you plan to have children in Korea, their predominant language will be korean because they will probably go to a korean school and have korean friends who have not started learning English yet. (i am guessing) You want to be parents who can actually help their children on their homework and actually understand everything they say. I agree with you on the whole language bubble thing. It is the reason why I never learned Italian, even though my mother was from Italy. I did not want to have to participate in conversations with all the old people and I could just go about my business without worrying about what they said. But what if your child is the same way and really refuses to learn English? The child would be living in Korea and wont need English, just as how you never needed French. Not only will there become a gap between the child and grandparents, but its possible that there could be a gap between the child and you. I am just playing devil’s advocate here and throwing out different possibilities. I understand that learning the language is difficult, but it never hurts to have more knowledge. And even if you dont have children, just think about what are the different possibilities of your future and how it could be different with each choice.

  112. You should read books in Korean. When I was learning to speak English, reading books REALLY helped me. I became more fluent and it became easier to talk, understand, and read in English. You should also watch a lot of Korean tv, it helps to kind of adjust your brain to the language you are listening. Well, at least those things helped me. Keep with the hard work! :)

  113. silverhoneycat

    Honestly, just like U-KISS ironically not being as popular in Korea as they are in other countries forces them to continue to be more worldly, which actually benefits them– Not being perfectly completely fluent in the country you are in keeps your viewer demographic wider. It forces you to be more appealing to a broader range of people just learning about Korea to the people that moved there and are interested in your experiences to compare to theirs. If you blended too much, it could come off as intimidating. Don’t change babes– It’s for the best! Love you guys <3

  114. Hey Simon and Martina! I would like to if you guys ever had Vietnamese food in Korea? If not, you should try some. Vietnamese food is DELICIOUS! ^ ^ Also, I wanted to know, if are there Vietnamese restaurants in Korea? (If not, now I know why you never had some) Hehe. I was just wondering because I’m Vietnamese, (btw, I can never pronounce it right………. I always say it so weirdly) and one day, I would like to go to South Korea but if I were craving Vietnamese food while I was there, would there be any restaurants that I can go to? If there are some, I think you guys should go there and make videos about it but if there’s not any, it’s okay, because I can go to all the other restaurants Korea have and eat there. LOLs.xD

  115. Simon and Martina What is your blood type? Why are Koreans so interested in blood types? How does it affect relationships in the workforce, school ect…?

  116. lol…we learn english from 1st grade in Sweden so you can edit that lol…and living in a foreign country and not speak the language is a nono…when I moved to Korea I had to learn Korean…there is no way you can have a normal life without speak and understand it…

  117. severely

    It seems to me like, if you had occasion to need to be fluent in Korean, you would have come across it enough already that you would put in the effort to be that proficient.

    I like that you guys always put forth your opinion, but you’re respectful and you obviously keep the video portion more focused on being entertaining and interesting to listen to, rather than a lecture. I say, if other people want to nitpick on how you “don’t understand Korea” then whatever. That’s on them.

  118. I’ve learned some Japanese and I’m learning Korean because I love languages. I love hearing them, I want to speak them, simply for the ability. I love to speak something that’s not english. I don’t even see a guy in the future, and I’m not necessarily doing it for communication since I live in Canada and speak english to everyone. I’d be content learning it and just knowing it here.

  119. I’m from the US, and I live in Bucheon now. English is my first language, but I also studied other languages at school, including Spanish. So I was in my local Alpha (stationery store), and the Korean woman behind the counter started speaking Spanish to me! It was exciting, because I’ve only been here 2 months, and my Korean is still awful, but we were able to have a nice little conversation in Spanish. She said she lived in Mexico City for a year. It was kinda weird to be speaking Spanish in Korea, but it was cool.

  120. I think that whenever people say “learning so-and-so is really difficult/easy” it really depends on the individual person and what they are good at. I have a friend who loves math and so learning calculus for him was a breeze. I also have a friend who loves physical engineering and she does so well in it without a whole lot of effort. I, personally, love learning languages. I spent 5 years studying Spanish and I enjoyed every second of it, and have become very proficient in it. Also, my desire to learn the Korean language came almost a year after I discovered kpop, so that definitely helped. I really do think a large chunk of learning Korean can be done just by listening to the songs and watching the dramas. Not so much learning the grammar, but learning common phrases and about the age-relationships and seeing patterns in sentences, etc. Bottom line is that the more interested and invested you are in a culture/language, the easier it will be to pick up(and it also depends on what your strong points are learning-wise).

    • Enchanted Rain

      I agree. i love learning languages as well and for me it comes easily. I’m semi fluent in vietnamese, mandarin, cantonese and french. I’ve never officially learnt korean but after a year or so of getting into kpop and kdrama i was able to pick up a lot of words and phrases. when i visited korea last year i realised just how much korean i had soaked in just from listening to kpop and watching kdrama as i was able to pick up enough keywords in conversations to roughly understand what the person was trying to communicate. my friend on the other hand was unable to memorise the most basic phrases such as anneonghaseyo and gamsahamnida even though she was studying the phrase book weeks before we went!

  121. If you’re in touristy (or just Itaewon) places not speaking Korean isn’t much of an issue as there is always someone who will want to speak English.
    However there are some situations where English is not a gimme such as; at the hair salon, at the bank and as you mentioned in taxis. These situations 9 times out of 10 require Korean, unless you research places before hand that speak English (Facebook, Couch surfer & Waygook are good places).
    Also many Koreans can understand English but can’t speak it, so if you speak slowly and clearly you should be OK.

  122. William Randall

    You should learn a language and have fun learning it, if you aren’t able to do that and it would make you stressed and overworked then you should wait, you should learn a language because you want to.

  123. When I was in Seoul over the summer I noticed that there were a lot of foreigners. Even though I’m Korean, I was born in the United States so I’m not completely fluent in the language… buuut I still got by because like Simon & Martina said, there’s English translations on a lot of signs/places. :)

  124. Do you think you can interview your non-korean friends and get their point of view about living in Korea?

  125. I think I’d have to agree with you guise here – the time required to become fluent Korean speakers is a bit intense. (I’m a first year Korean student >.< 화이팅!) However, I do think there are many…*unique* words that your quirky, awesome selves may be interested in learning or even sharing with us as you guise look into expanding upon your Korean abilities. For example, false cognates such as "복잡하다" (to be complicated, complex or crowded); unfortunately, it doesn't have anything to do with a "pork chop". :)

  126. Yuki Barnett

    i was just in Korea not to long ago for winter break and I thought that Seoul was very English friendly. I loved it but I did spend most of my time in Mokpo which is way south and I did have a hard time. If it wasn’t for my Korean boyfriend I would have died. The smaller the city the less English is used, although I did still find signs and stuff in English but no one working there really knew English. Either way it was a great time and I just love Korea

  127. Hi Simon & Martina,

    I really like the video and the blog post – I think languages are really important, especially in the way that they allow you to communicate with a whole other set of people with a different culture. Having said that, I don’t think you need to be university-level in terms of your grammar or be able to discuss politics in that language. I’ve lived in another country as a 17 year old for a year (on exchange) and I learnt Finnish to a level that could probably be described as functional, but the good thing is that when having a conversation I can always stop and ask how to say something. However, I’ve also studied Italian at university for two years. My Italian grammar is pretty good (it’s also a lot easier than Finnish) but actually stringing a conversation together is really difficult because all we get taught is the grammar really. So in many ways I would say my Finnish is well in front of my Italian in terms of fluency and actually being useful. So, I guess my advice is not to stress and just pick up the language day-by-day when you’re out talking to people – and don’t be guilty! :D

  128. Hi~ I was wondering what the medical world was like in Korea. I was looking for overseas jobs as a nurse but there aren’t any in Korea because apparently the social structure of the medical world is different. Also, do hospitals/clinics work the same as they do in North America? I watched a drama where a girl got her appendix out and she had stitches, but we don’t really do stitches for an appendectomy in America anymore. I know you two don’t work in a hospital or anything, but maybe you know someone who does or can talk about your experience with hospitals/clinics. Sorry this is so wordy! ^^;;;

  129. I totally feel that! I’m an English teacher living in Beijing, China, and I have a fairly similar “bubble” that I live in; I still have to point at menus and hand cab drivers pre-written pieces of paper, but I have gotten more used to using other common phrases in those situations (calling a waiter, asking for utensils, telling the driver where to turn or stop, etc.) My New Year’s resolution is to be conversationally fluent by the end of 2013, but who know what might happen; my boss brought up something called a “Berlin Wall” effect, where our students learn English and only speak English in the classrooms, but once they go out it’s back to Chinese; I feel an opposite effect whenever I leave work, because at work is (supposed to be) an all-English environment, but once I walk out I have to rely on habitual patterns and what little Chinese I know. Beijing has been definitely catering more to foreigners as of late; when I arrived late last year the subways all had Chinese and English, plus more and more places speak English to their foreign customers.

  130. xdeathknightx

    Right this might seem very lazy but it seems like this might be the right place to ask: Is there a guide, like a lonely planet or what have you for Korea. I really want to visit South Korea but I want to know where I am going and what I am doing. So I would like to know of places that are friendly for English speaking people.

    I will be going alone and I wouldn’t want to end up in a gutter in the middle of nowhere in either the country-side or somewhere in Seoul suburbia. Crying until a Korean family would adopt me and raise me as their way too old son until I had such a grasp of the language that I could finally return (or get directions to the Dutch embassy) And I would like to know what food I would be ordering instead of pointing at something on a menu and hoping it will be good.

    So if anyone has a good link for me. And I know Simon and Martina did a lot of W.A.N.K.s and FAPFAPs but I would feel more secure with somewhat of a map and/or knowing if it is foreigner friendly. If I ended up in the forest like they did when they were looking for the coffeeplace I would be screwed lol. And it would allow me to plan ahead.

    I would rather have one good link and/or book than having to go through a lot of crappy ones.

  131. I think that, since you are living there and immersed in the culture, listening to Korean music and using the language every day, you are past the point of having to consciously try to improve your language skills. In my oppinion, it is impossible for you NOT to pick up new stuff, be it vocabulary, expressions and so on. You already work your buts off and you deserve each moment of rest you have. I think that, as long as you go outside once in a while, your Korean will improve on a natural acquisition-through-immersion basis.

  132. I only went to Korea once, with my Japanese bf for a 3-day-vacation. I remember sitting in the underground when the door opened and two middle-aged ladies stepped in. They saw me and came over to me immediately, standing in front of my seat. They were talking to me in Korean for about twenty seconds when they noticed the uncomprehending dumb expression on my face and showed me a card they had around their necks. It was an invitation written in English for an international party that weekend. I somehow was really touched being invited to a foreigner party (although also a tiny bit freaked out), but when I tried to tell them that we couldn’t come because we were leaving the next day, they couldn’t understand it (neither in English nor in Japanese) and left disappointed when I was just shaking my head. So I felt I really have to learn a bit Korean before the next vacation :)

  133. I would say the need to learn the language is not necessary; however, you will never regret it. If you are able to find the time for it, then by all means do it. The worth of the sacrifice can be determined later, though I highly doubt once learnt you would think of it as a sacrifice. If you are finding your lives to be simple enough at the stage you are in, and have too much work to cope, then why bother with the extra stress? I would say try and take 30 minutes each day out of your life, the time u may use to read a book or something else, and try to learn a little more Korean instead. If you find it complicates things for you more, then stop :)

  134. Are Korean dramas popular in Korea? I know that there are a lot of K-dramas that air in a week’s time, and I was like~ do people in Korea even have time to watch all those? Coz like one episode usually takes one hour to watch. I watch kdramas and sometimes it’s really hard to keep up with all the new dramas coming out. There are K-dramas that become really popular outside Korea and on the internet, but how do Koreans really respond to K-drama?

  135. Simon and Martina I think Vika post show you a really wise suggestion. Evaluate all this situation and go for a happy medium. In one side is the pressure some do to you so you learn a language just because out of “respect” (whatever they meant by that)…in the other side is your comfort zone, or to be happy with what you achieved already and not look for more. The HAPPY MEDIUM, would be learning a little more because it will benefit you in that you could describe the meaning of the lyrics of the videos you review better or can interview in more depth the groups that visit you…and so many other things! Oh so many opportunities! So please don’t feel so bad because some people pressure you into something. Do things at your own time and way and take something good out of this, look at it as a really good opportunity to grow and to open doors to new friends, business opportunities, etc….Good Luck and keep the good work. We love you! xo

  136. Brooke W.

    Recently it has come to light that Block B is suing their company, Stardom, on accounts that their manager was “taking both their money and their parent’s money”. Can you distinguish the rumors from the facts? How will this affect the band and the rest of kpop? Thanks!

  137. What the bleep is up with all that exercise equipment on the hiking trails? I want to find a good gym with a pool, freeweights and a sauna but so far no one seems to know of any. Where do the exercise people hang out?

  138. CaitieM

    In all honesty I think it has to come down to what you feel comfortable with. From your post is sounds like you’re living very comfortably with the amount of Korean you know. I’ve known many people who’ve struggled with learning english just to get by and there’s some people I can see who can’t be bothered. I’m from Canada myself and see some (not all) of the older generation whether they’re European or Asian, can’t be bothered to learn because they have their family to help them, or like you they know enough to get by and are comfortable with that. I could never see you being judged for not knowing more then you already do. From watching your other videos it seems many of the people around you are amazed and impressed that you know as much as you do. So I think what I’m getting at is who you’d be doing it for. Are you wanting to become fluent for yourselves or is it for the citizens around you? Sometimes in life you have to do things in moderation or else they lose that certain spark. You’ve worked hard and have come so far, there’s no pressure on you to go further or even to stop here. Don’t be so hard on yourselves, you work so hard already that your poor brains need the rest! Take it when you have the chance :) Love you guys!

  139. Hi Simon and Martina! :) I would love the “Cheese Lady’s not a STRANGER!”T-shirt too! :D
    Anyhow…I can’t really give you advice about korean language. I just started to learn a little bit, I don’t know how difficult it is…but I did studied quite a few languages(4/5)….What do you mean by getting fluent? From your blog I have understood you would like to be as much as korean pro, not native but almost…..From what I know and experience…maybe if a person is in Korea, for like a year and he/she speaks korean all day long, not speaking his/her native language at all. Ok, probably he/she is gonna be ALMOST native. But one of my friend that did that for a year(and arrived to the point of changing accent on her mother tongue!!) as she passed a few months back in Italy(home),she already felt like losing the fluency she reached.

    So from my point of view in your shoes, I would like to learn more, and I think that probably you would like too, if you feel guilty sometime. So…..
    1. one thing that helps is having a diary( I CAN NOT imagine Simon writing a diary!!), trying to write stuff you actually don’t know how to talk about yet(and then you can ask your korean friend to check it). For example write your opinion about something, or try to talk about it together in korean. But doing a little amount everyday is what works best(that’s what my professors ALWAYYYYYYS tell me).

    2. maybe during lunch? You can talk about different topics. Try to challenge yourself about thing you don’t know.

    But of course that’s what I would do…and I don’t really know what you feel is more problematic for you….you were teachers so of course you are much more qualified to give tips about language learning!

    I just think that you probably are too busy to get full-time course and that it may just discourage you to learn more….and plus you learned already a lot without a course so, go on! Small little things everyday work the best!! Fighting!!

  140. I live in Korea and my wife is Korean. I lived here for two years and her relatives get upset because I “still don’t know Korean”. I get upset because they make it seem like learning Korean is like going to the gym. Between work and University studies it is very hard to fit in Korean classes.

  141. Simon and Martina, obviously you are making the most sensible decision. We already know how long and hard you guys work and it is not fair for you to have to use what little free time you have to learn a difficult language, which as you already pointed out you don’t even have to. I can’t believe people would say you have to learn the language out of respect for Korea. I’m korean and I am so thankful to you guys for making these videos about Korea in the first place. You didn’t have to and you could have gone back to Canada or gone to Japan but you didn’t and for that I say thanks. 사이먼 앤드 마티나 화이팅!!

  142. Oriane Yia

    I quite understand what you’re talking about in your post. As a french studient i had to learn 2 foreign languages. I took english and
    spanish. Now I’m trying to speak fluently english because i like this language and I love having the feeling to understand foreign people. On the contrary spanish isn’t as fun to learn (no offense just my opinion) that’s why i didn’t and still don’t put so much effort in it. I can understand it and speak enough of it to ask and respond few basic things. I don’t want to try harder. As long as i can communicate I’m fine. Anyway i liked your TL:DR this week

  143. I think you’ve captured the essence of languages perfectly here, and I can totally understand why you guys can’t commit to intense Korean study. I speak 5 languages (grew up with 2, learned 3 later), and whenever I bring up the fact that I do speak 5 languages, they ask: Why? For me, languages are a way into exciting new worlds full of interesting people and experiences that you would never have experienced had you not learned the language. I think the prospect of a richer, and fulfilling life is worth all the work that you put into it. (And believe me, there is A LOT of work that you have to put in.) I’d encourage everyone to try to pick up at least a few phrases and words in another language- trust me, it’ll be worth it. :)

  144. rinsanada

    Hmmm. I feel like since you are proficient enough in Korean to get by and communicate then that is fine. If your goal was like you said, to get a significant Korean other or to express yourself religiously or politically, then learning more Korean would be needed. But from where I’m standing, you guys are doing just fine. You’ve learned the language well enough to bond with your neighbors, to speak to someone passing by, to order food and get around the transportation systems. Since you are torn about whether or not to continue learning Korean, you’d normally list the pros and cons, which you have in this post, then make a decision. Just keep it simple. You could ask yourself WHY do you need to expand in learning more Korean and WHAT BENEFITS are to learning more Korean and HOW would this affect your relationship (with each other), your job and your personal me time. You guys already work waaay to many hours just for our benefit in putting out videos. Why go into your own special together time if you don’t have to? Well, good luck. I hope this post helps.

  145. maria_21

    Honestly you guys should do what you think is best. Personally I know how it feels to be pressured into learning a language. I’m hispanic yet I don’t speak spanish and I get dirty looks for it sometimes. People will come up to me and say something in Spanish and when I tell them I don’t speak it, they just scowl and walk away. I honestly have no desire to ever learn spanish, I honestly feel like I shouldn’t have to be fluent and I’m pretty sure a lot of people feel the same way too. I know some spanish but not enough to say I know the language and that’s fine with me. I figure if I’m surrounded by people who speak predominately english, why bother? Sure there are more and more immigrants and speaking spanish now is pretty much a bonus for getting jobs and such but I figure I would rather learn an asian language that appeals more to me. Just my opinion. If you wanna learn a language then good for you but if you don’t want to then you shouldn’t be judged for it.

  146. Je suis sûre que tu te débrouilles mieux en français que tu ne le penses ! Je vais donc écrire en français :

    Just kidding :p
    Actually, I don’t think you guys have to be fluent to appreciate Korea, you already know enough language for that!
    As a french speaker in Canada (Quebec, but at my job everyone speaks english and very little french, so it’s almost like living in the RoC!), I am not good enough in english (When speaking, writing is very different) to debate about political or religious stuff, but I speak it enough to talk about casual things, and never needed more than that. People at my job know that I am not that good and we just deal with it, it never have been a problem.

    Just do as you want, and don’t ever let what people say bad stuff about how you are living your life!

  147. Internetcourse

    As a teacher in Korea, is it acceptable to go clubbing? What happens if a coworker/student sees you clubbing? Also, What are the differences in student grades? Elementary, middle school, high school, etc. Do you need a certain length of knowledge the higher up you go?

  148. kpopfan123

    0:23 I have that too Simon… right before a herpes attack : /

  149. Alticus

    Entertaining and informative video as usual guys nice 1, and btw i always enjoy reading the more detailed blog section.

    I think you correctly identified the primary reason someone would feel the need to be fluent in a language not spoken that widely, in fact that’s why i bought “complete Korean” a while back. Hopefully ill be reasonably proficient by the time i get to Korea in 2014 (haven’t looked at it that much yet though sadly lol)

    Considering your situation and the effort you have made to connect with local Koreans i don’t think you need to feel guilty so banish such thoughts from your mind!

  150. I am not confident in myself to learn Korean (or any language, really). I could probably pick up key words as needed, but despite my heritage, I don’t see it happening. ^^;;

    When we made plans to visit Korea two years ago, my friend decided to learn the alphabet. That helped tremendously when we were making our way through the trains without my mom.
    The few times I went out to buy things on my own, there was hardly any talking between me and the cashiers (save for the coffee places) and the couple of times the cashier didn’t speak English, they used their hands to “draw” or signal what they wanted to ask/tell me. My favorite was the girl who drew a square with her fingers to ask if I wanted a bag.
    The most difficult time I had was at a food vendor/tent where I was apparently in charge of asking for food. xD;; I didn’t know what small or large was, so trying to show that with my hands and the woman trying to relay it back to me in both Korean and English felt awesomely nerve-wracking to me. There was a Caucasian couple who were there watching us with amusement, and the man took a photo of us. I can’t tell if I should’ve been embarrassed or not. ^^;;

    Luckily, for our trip this year, both myself and my friend have family there who will probably escort us throughout our trip, but my friend speaks and understands Korean enough to probably get us by in non-touristy areas.

  151. In my opinion, learning a language should be fun … and in taking the little time that you do have for resting and forcefully willing yourself to study, it loses the fun and becomes a chore. I personally love languages and I think they are brilliant.Languages are for communication and if you can communicate AND you are comfortable with the amount of Korean you know, I don’t see why you should need to learn.

    Plus, by living in Korea, you have the added bonus of, when you do go out, learning on the go. You can improve everyday when you do speak in Korean, if you look at it that way.

    However, and this is something that has greatly improved my language skills, watching dramas or reading newspapers in Korean would help too.

    I really hope you will read this and hope that I might have been a little bit of a help, but the bottom line is, you should learn because you want to learn, not because you feel guilty about not knowing it fluently :))))))

    Aicha <3

  152. Perhaps it comes down to personal interest. I’m very interested in learning languages. I’ve studied dead languages (Old English) and I study modern languages for reading-knowledge only. I actually totally suck at learning languages, but I find it stimulating and satisfying and endlessly fascinating. But if you don’t get all excited about grammar and comparative philology, and you can achieve your communication goals with the language level that you have, maybe there is no reason to keep studying. If you find that you want to study, then go for it! But if you just don’t have the time or the interest, then, well, maybe there’s no reason to overthink it too much. It’s not like the language is going anywhere — you can always come back to it later.

  153. Woah that truly was long, but anything you guys have to say will be read ^_^
    You know, when people try to learn Spanish I really admire them because its such a hard language also. But you guys have given so much of yourselves to Korea and its beautiful culture that I honestly don’t see how you can give any more.
    You two need your time to chill and to be alone and to be husband and wife (oh gosh that sounds weird) not just Simon and Martina from EYK, or the foreigners from Canada. You both need your time. Hope it helped with ur guilty ness

  154. kpopfan123

    “Oh God, this post is getting too long. I’m sorry for rambling for so long. This is just something we feel really guilty about, and it’s something we grapple with every week.” Oh guise… you shouldn’t feel guilty! You’ve got plenty on your hands… and I know that once a work day is over..you feel in the mood for pretty much nothing.. it’s fun but tiring I know! I do believe you find it hard but maybe if you take it easy (when you have the time). I actually subscribed to the 101 language service center and they provide your “word of the day” for free; not to mention examples of sentences with the specific word. I know the alphabet, some usual expressions but I just feel I want to learn more… I feel like I’ll somehow regret it if I let it be plus I love it too much to do that. Do you know “Talk to Me In Korean” have BOOKS?? > . < (if only I could get a hold of them – . -). The point is if you feel you're satisfied with your level of Korean then don't study further. Don't feel pressured… and take some days off(regularly)! – . -' (it's ironic that you told U-KISS to take a break when you're actually among the ones that need one).

    ♥♥ ♥ ♥

  155. hapagirl
    hapagirl

    I live in Hawaii and I remember my parents were trying to get me to learn Japanese in school. Didn’t work since I was sorta forced into taking Spanish instead and there’d was no reason in me going all the way back and struggle in another language.

    I grew up around people speaking broken English all the time, mainly because the slang came from a bunch of people forced together with nothing but a few words here and there. I’m super white washed though, even the bits of Hawaiian I should know goes over my head. Hell, my dad listens to Hawaiian music all the time, I grew up with it and I still know jack shit.

    I’ve been torn between learning another language and not doing it. I have the need because for me it’d be a way to get to know the parts of my family and heritage that gets swept under the carpet because it’s not needed to “keep the Hawaiian culture alive” or it’s not Japanese and won’t help me in getting a job. I don’t because I took 5 years of Spanish and I can barely understand it. I don’t even need to since I’m not even Filipino or Catholic. (I went to a school where everyone was Filipino and Catholic and that was the reason they had us learn Spanish)

  156. i think it’s sad that in the US we only have to take 2 years of a foreign language, but other countries around the world not only learn to speak English fluently, but also learn some American History…*hangs head in shame*
    I’m working on learning Korean. I can understand a lot of conversations thanks to watching so much media in Korean, and i can read some words, or at the very least sound them out.
    My brother who’s about to be a dad in a week or 2 said that he’s going to make sure his daughter doesn’t become just another American who can only speak English.

    i would personally hate a world where everyone just spoke one language.

  157. I really love you guys, but since you mentioned Sweden I just had to say that probably 80% are fluent or good english speakers, adults and young people learn it for over 10 years and we have soooo much american media, Tv and music which means we are surrounded by the language daily. So in that aspect we’re not to compare to countries like Japan, where english might be a bit difficult because they don’t really use it a lot or feel shy to speak english (Maybe that’s not the whole truth but that’s how I’ve understood it). It’s really rare to find a swede under the age of 50 and over 12 who don’t speak english at all.

  158. I’ve had 2 trips to S. Korea. Both times I was a magnet for people wanting to practice their English, where as I wanted to learn more Korean. Total strangers coming up to me at rest areas and asking the reason for our trip etc. Now, it was a group of 20+ Americans. Maybe it’s cause I give off that “mom” vibe.
    My only experience with non-English foreigners was at the World Taekwondo Expo 2 in which we competed. Most of the staff knew just a little English or none. It didn’t appear they were fluent in other languages. There was one woman from Turkey who tried for so long to have a question answered. I would say it is probably more difficult for non-English speaking foreigners. Though I did want to use my Korean, especially on the second trip, it was fun to have little kids run up and say “hi” or have families ask about our group and why we were in their country. I had a nice chat with two college aged black belts. One of them had to show me pictures of his girlfriend and ask if I thought she looked like Angelina Jolie :) I met another nice family at Soraksan. The college aged son approached me then the rest of the family came over to smile and wave “I’m father” said his dad. I know they appreciate the chance to hear a native speak. It’s much different than learning from books, tapes or a class.
    I know what you mean about rural areas. When we were off in the countryside, my air conditioner had a leak. In my limited Hangugeo I was prepared with the word for air conditioner, mul and making motions with my hands saying plop plop and hoping they would understand. I was saved by our Taekwondo master who laughed and interpreted for me. Whenever I made an effort to speak to someone in their language, it was well received and appreciated. I think that is why I had such a good experience there. A friend who is a Korean native asked if I found people to be rude or welcoming because his experience is that they can be somewhat rude to foreigners. I really didn’t get that. I think it was my effort to at least attempt to understand and be understood.

  159. Jessica

    Hey. This is the first time I’ve noticed Simon (and I saw Martina do it once or twice as well), continuously look to his left. Do you have a teleprompter set up over there?

  160. Jasmin Rodriguez
    Jasmin Rodriguez

    This is actually a very interesting topic and all of the comments here are very interesting to read :) Before I comment I want to say that I personally believe there is no one way to learn a language and that being fluent in a language does not have a single form.

    My native tongue is Spanish and I didn’t learn English until I was 5 years old. I was born in the US and have lived here ever since except for the year and a half I lived in Mexico when I was 3. Today I can confidently say I am fluent in both English and Spanish. I know and use more English and Spanish even though Spanish was my native tongue. I don’t know how to write like a person who has only spoken Spanish their entire life and I also do not think in Spanish as if I lived in a Spanish speaking Country but I still consider myself fluent in Spanish because I can communicate in it. To me being fluent in a language isn’t so much to do with grammar and rules (although it is obviously important) but it is about using that specific language to communicate with others. I hope I explained myself well here.

    Simon and Martina, I think I can understand why you guys feel guilty. I find hard to write a college level paper in Spanish and for that reason I took a class that taught me Spanish grammar and such (it was a class where we discussed in Spanish more than anything). In Spanish there are accent makrs and I never used them when I wrote in Spanish until now. And I still have trouble (thank goodness for Microsoft spell check!) but the point is I have also felt guilty for not knowing much Spanish grammar and the fact that Spanish was my first language made my guilty feelings worse.

    This comment is too long! Sorry you guys. I still wanted to add one more thing though. I’ll make it short.

    I am currently learning Korean and Japanese (more Korean that Japanese) and by learning I don’t mean studying books alone but also watching Korean Dramas and Japanese anime (btw if you have never seen CLANNAD, I STRONGLY recommend it!!! Anyone else here seen it?) Although using Songang’s University did help me learn Hangul I would have never gotten as far (Though I only know a couple of phrases) as I am now if I didn’t watch them. But I will keep learning. The learning process has no fixed procedure which is why it is awesome :)

  161. When visiting Seoul i found it so easy to get around, but even during those two weeks of staying and visiting the same couple places in the area and having minimal conversations in the little bit of Korean i did know made it much more enjoyable, and the respect level at the slightest attempt at trying to speak korean was heightened – people appreciated the effort.

  162. I think you should open to learning Korean, but you don’t necessarily need to take a class on it. That’s where I am now. My friends got me into kpop and korean dramas last year, and since then I’ve been learning the language through songs and dramas and this website called talktomeinkorean. I decided to learn hangul one day over break (I’m in high school), and now I have a notebook full of Korean words (all in hangul so I can practice it) and their meanings. I’m not taking a class or anything (even though I am planning to in college, but this is mostly because I think it’ll be fun and this is my time to learn, right?) I’m pretty much just learning Korean by myself because it interests me, and it’s gratifying to know how far I’ve come just by teaching myself.

    Obviously, you know a lot more Korean than I do, and learning more complex words isn’t going to be as easy as learning beginner words like I am. But I think you should try following this way of learning the language. Learn Korean on your spare time for fun. This way you’ll have something to do in your spare time, you’ll feel gratified doing it, and you won’t feel guilty for not learning anything more about the language.

  163. I was wondering if you guys could describe times you have been recognized on the street? What was the first time like? Can you describe some of your experiences with fame?

    Also, is there anyone who you wish watched your videos that doesn’t already?

  164. I think that you are awesome and you should not worry about furthering your Korean as like you said you do shead light on Korea and show people how awesome the place is. I think that as long as you can communicate and get by there is not thing wrong with that. I’m actually learning Korean at the moment and i’v have been doing so for about a year and i’m still very basic. I think it’s a life long thing, You just need to surround your self into it to become fluent and if you are not, it can become hard. ^_^ I enjoyed this video guys thank you <3

  165. I understand the bubble. I’m German American, but since my mother passed away when I was little, I didn’t learn German growing up. So the times when I went over to Germany, my older brother acted as translator. But as I got older and the opportunity to study German, I took it so that I could speak with my grandmother myself. And that was one of my driving forces. But I found, now that I’m basically fluent after like 6 years of instruction, that Germany isn’t a fantasy place anymore that it was before. Then again, it means I can talk with my Grandmother and be able to find out her personality beyond her making me food and acting like a mother when I go over there since I can actually talk to her now. So it’s a trade-off.

    I’m also studying Korean and Japanese, though my Korean has been placed on back-burner for the moment since I’m going to be studying abroad in Japan this Spring. But then, neither of those languages are fluent for me, Japanese intermediate and Korean probably advanced beginner I guess. It’s nice to be able to speak with my friends in a language they’re more comfortable with, but then again the necessity isn’t always there. But on the other side, as I’ve been learning German, I’ve learned that one of the biggest driving forces I have comes from situations where I’m by someone who doesn’t understand English and I’m trying to address a point that it vital to the conversation we’re having. In such cases (they still happen, especially with my grandma), I feel really bad when neither of us can understand it and the other person wishes to wait and come back to it when someone they know who speaks English (better than them) is nearby. In German, I know enough to be able to talk around this, to describe it to others in another way to be understood. But in Japanese and Korean, I fall into the trap of not being able to. And It hurts me to put such a burden on someone of not being able to understand.

    But still, I agree that one doesn’t have to necessarily be fluent to get by, especially in countries that teach English in schools. If there’s no time or real drive, why bother? You shouldn’t feel guilty about that. If I was in your situation, I would do the same. As it is, I’m still a young college student trying to explore the world, so I’ll keep raking up language classes and real-life practice as much as I can before my life closes on a profession and I don’t have the wiggle-room for it. If anything, it gives me an excuse to watch dramas and I’m perfectly fine with that. O.O XP

  166. I am from Indonesia and I can assure you that people from my country speaks English pretty well (ignoring the accents). Last time I went to Korea, it was smooth sailing, like I have no trouble at all adjusting to speaking in ENglish to people around Seoul (or at the worst time, body language). But if you are aiming to go explore Jeju or Busan or the countryside by yourself, you might need to be able to learn and read korean.

    I have never had any trouble since I am quite fluent with everyday Korean (I got into kpop 6 years ago, like during DBSK era, so I’ve absorb plenty of korean since then), but people who don’t speak/read korean at all might want to prepare to learn stuff like the currency (how they pronounce money stuff like baekwon, cheonwon, manwon, shipmanwon, baekmanwon, cheonmanwon etc), the numbers (hana, dul, set vs il, ee, sam), and how you address people (because korean have different way to treat people and respect age hierarchy a lot). It won’t hurt to learn that much, and if you come as a tourist, I think, that amount can get you pretty much okay with shopping.

  167. a friend of mine has a word a day calendar. She and her daughter make a game out of it. whoever uses the word in random conversation (using it correctly of course) gains a point. first person to use it that day gets double points. at the end of the week they tally all the points.

    if mom wins, then the daughter does something special for mom. usually its chore related but sometimes its crafts or something else. if the daughter wins its usually ice cream or some other kind of treat.

    i could easily see the two of you turning this into a date thing. whoever wins the most points get treated to their favorite meal sort of thing.

    it would be a great way to broaden your Korean vocabulary, without spending loads of time on it, so you wouldn’t have to feel guilty anymore.
    I’m actually thinking about doing this with my own kids.

  168. Martina!!! You should do an Open the Happy, or even a TL;DR, about where you get your cool clothes. You always have the cutest sweaters and jackets.

  169. Honestly, I like the opposite of the “lost” feeling best. Growing up as a third culture kid being completely (or well as much as my age would allow) in two languages I have always felt ‘part’ of wherever I go, as opposed to being labelled a foreigner. I like to say that my nationality is American (as in the continent, not USA). The world is my home. I’m not sure many will understand my feelings on this, most people, including kids that grew up like me, think it’s hard… but I like it.

    Which is one of the reasons I get irritated/scoff at people who for example, will curse in another language or use words like “cool” (not the ones that actually studied the language or went to a different country to learn it). Even now, that I’m trying to learn Korean and do probably the same things that would irritate me, I still don’t like when others do it. Somehow I feel like I have the right, since I was always interested in other cultures/never really had a “set” culture myself, as opposed to people who are just like “Kpop! Now I love Korea!”. I know this is kind of hypocritical yet I can’t help feeling this way…

  170. Little Dream

    Hmmm.. That’s so different from me! I am totally in love with languages. I get frustrated when, for example, I am waching a drama and I can’t unsderstand without the subs, or when I try to sing music from other countries and I can’t. If I’m learning Korean it’s because I feel passionate about learning another language, and not because of the things I like about that country or because I want to live there :) Waa… It’s really different!

  171. Mallory Lacoste
    Mallory Lacoste

    I’ll be moving to Korea this summer to teach english (BTW I love all your old school videos about teaching). I am, however, gluten and lactose intolerant. Do you know if I will face major problems eating in Korea? Ive been doing loads of research on Korean food but most of the ingredients are in Hangul (which I’m learning, but not really good with yet).

  172. Honestly it will come in time. I moved to Canada from Romania when I was 10 and only now after 12 years I can say that I am somewhat fluent in English, it took me forever and some foreigners I know aren’t even at my level yet. Just because you’re not actively studying the language doesn’t mean that you’re not learning and evolving. I was never put in any ESL courses, perhaps due to my age, I just kind of accepted the fact that I was in a new country and just absorbed everything over time. I don’t know if this is your experience but at least for me, the exposure is enough to substitute for classroom work. Don’t beat yourself up over it.

  173. i say do what you guys want to do (: i for one am trying to learn korean ^^ ive just started so i can only really read it and say a few simple sentences but im on my way! theres no way i will be fluent living in the states though but thats ok because i love to learn languages. im still learning japanese, spanish, and heck even english (lots of big words i dont know the meaning to lol)! its one of my passions so thats what i do. if you dont feel the need to learn any more korean then by all means its your choice and you shouldnt feel guilty ^^ i felt guilty for not knowing spanish for the longest time when 90% of my family speaks spanish with very little english >.<

  174. I don’t think it’s I problem for people not to become totally fluent, even if they live in another country. But it just drives me absolutely nuts when people go live in another country and don’t even bother to attempt to learn the language-because it’s not usually just the language itself that they don’t bother to get to know, but the culture on the whole. People who go live in a new country and only want to stay in the bubble of comfortable, foreigner-only culture with no desire to expand their horizons. Especially when they have that “why doesn’t this foreign country cater more to my English-speaking needs” attitude. That mentality drives me up the wall! Why leave your country in the first place if you only proceed to experience your own culture? That just makes no sense to me. I have tremendous respect for people like you guys that make the effort to experience the culture through your use of the home language ^^

  175. I was thinking more in a business or EYK practical view where a deeper understanding and skill in Korean would help in your interviews (deeper questions that the PR people let you ask) and related. I definitely don’t think your reluctance is in anyway not honoring Korea. That’s so craaayy!!

    When it comes to continuing learning Korean maybe seek out your friends at Talk to Me in Korean? Though, I think you might be more advanced than what they’re teaching. I’ve been using their resources and surprisingly I don’t find it like doing school work. But I do understand that there is the time commitment issue. Maybe later on when you hire more staff to delegate work to.

    So really it’s up to you. There’s no rush but I think learning more Korean will only help Eat Your Kimchi.

  176. I don’t think you have to feel guilty, guys. If you are living the quality of life you want to live, and are happy, then you have achieved your goal already. Since I live on the East Coast in the States, I’ve met a lot of people who only have passable English, and I’ve enjoyed our light conversations together and don’t think any less of them. Don’t let others make you feel pressured!

  177. There’s nothing wrong with not learning Korean if you don’t want to. If you guys plan on spending the rest of your life there, it might be good to try and become fluent, but since that’s probably not going to happen, there are other things to spend your time on.

    I plan on becoming fluent in Korean, and it’s going to take me 4 years to get through all the language courses at college, but it will be worth it for me because learning languages and being able to help people communicate is something I really want to do, one of the only jobs that sounds interesting to me.

  178. And here I thought I was going to get the Rosetta Stone for Korean and make it into my passion for a few years…I’m pretty good at learning new languages, but this sounds daunting…S&M work as hard as U-Kiss to make these wonderful videos to show us their love for Korea! I don’t lame you guys for not heaping more onto your plate :P

  179. That thing you said about learning French reminded me of how we in Finland have Finnish which is the country’s language, and then we have Swedish, which is considered the second official language, but it’s really only spoken by about 5-6% of the population. But Finns still have to learn Swedish in school, and it’s called pakkoruotsi (“force-Swedish”) for a reason, since there’s a lot of people who don’t really wanna learn it and don’t really get to use it anywhere, but you have a better chance at getting a job if you speak both Swedish and Finnish. I am a Swedish speaking Finn myself, but I’m so fluent in Finnish I don’t use my Swedish at shops at all basically. But I have friends who have Swedish as their mother tongue and they’re not so good at speaking Finnish. There are areas/cities in Finland who basically speak only Swedish.
    Most people in Finland are pretty fluent in English so you get by pretty easily almost everywhere even if you don’t speak Finnish. And there are people living in Finland who have moved there and don’t know Finnish/are learning it but they just speak English and get by well with that.

    Well anyways, I got a bit discouraged hearing Korean is hard to learn since I’d really want to learn it, and actually be quite good in it, but I will still try and do that and see where it leads. But I guess I’ll never be fluent in the way I’ve dreamed of being though.

    • mangamaani

      Yeah, I actually thought the same. Although my mother tongue is Finnish and I’m not good at all in Swedish, but well, I’m still in school. :)

      And don’t be discouraged! It’s different for everyone. It might be harder for some people than to other.

      • Yeah I get that, and you can’t know until you try! :D Harmi vaan että Suomessa ei löydy kauheasti korean kielikursseja joten sitä saa pärjätä näillä nettikursseilla jotka on englanniksi…

        • mangamaani

          Niin, paitsi jos asuu Helsingissä, niin työväenopistolla olisi korean kurssi, mutta sekin englanniksi. On kyllä aika harmillista, kun itseopiskelussa saatta aina oppia jotain väärin, eikä ole ketään sitten korjaamassa. Mä ja mun siskoni ollaan just tilattu netistä korean kielen teksti- ja tehtäväkirjat ja aiotaan yrittää niillä. Nekin kyllä on englanniksi, mutta kyllä se englanti on meillä tarpeeksi vahvaa. :) Tulee vaan tosiaan semmoinen fiilis kuin täältä ei löytyisi keinoja opiskella koreaa suomen kielellä…

        • VipVip

          Jep sehän se :P Mut kiitti vinkistä, voisin vilkaista tota työväenopiston kurssia kun kuitenkin asun pääkaupunkiseudulla ja englanti on varmaan tarpeeksi hyvä siihen :D (ja olis ihan kiva kokeilla opettajan kanssa eikä vaan yrittää itseopiskelua). Mut joo onhan se vähän nurinkurista oppia uutta vierasta kieltä toisella vieraalla kielellä… tää korean kieli vaikuttais olevan vielä vähän uus juttu mut musta tuntuu että sen suosio alkaa nyt kasvaan ja ehkä se tuo mukanaan myös enemmän mahdollisuuksia opiskella sitä (esim. japanin kielen kurssitarjonta on parempi kuin korean mutta se kieli onkin ollut pidempään tunnettu täällä…)

    • It always amazes me when I see posts from people living in Europe. So many of you are bi-lingual and multilingual that I actually find myself envious of it. I mean, from what I can take out of your comment, you know three languages, and you want to learn at least one more (Korean). Linguistic skills are something I really admire in others, so forgive me if I rant or gush about it.
      As an American, I was raised with only English. I think in some ways that’s hindered me when it comes to my capacity to learn other languages. I’ve pretty much given up on learning Latin or Germanic languages because I find them too difficult to wrap my head around; I’m just not able to absorb the knowledge. It’s incredibly frustrating and discouraging for me to look at something I’m passionate about and realize that I have no capacity for it whatsoever. (I’m going to college for a degree in Linguistics.)

      However, when it comes to Asian languages, contrary to popular belief, I find them far easier to wrap my head around than languages more similar to my own. I guess it’s something about starting with absolutely no pretenses or perceived knowledge of what the language is supposed to be, or how it’s supposed to work. In fact, I’d say learning foreign alphabets is probably one of my favorite parts of the learning process. (I can read Korean Hangul and Japanese Kana.) Being forced into a completely foreign system has its uncomfortable aspects, but it’s also very rewarding. It teaches you to be open to things you don’t understand, and that’s just as important for learning about foreign cultures as it is their languages.
      I’ve been learning Korean going on two years now. I’m nowhere near fluent, or even at a conversational level, I’d say – much in part to having absolutely no one to practice conversing with. While working with a blank slate has it’s advantages, it also means I get confused very easily at times. Some things I grasp with almost no thought at all, but there are other things about the grammar that befuddle and frustrate me. I can say, though, that learning Korean has been one of the best, most rewarding experiences in my life so far. It’s become one of my greatest passions, something I would spend all of my time and energy on, if I could.
      If you can find a good method of learning that suits you, I have no doubt that you can get somewhere with any language you want to learn, including Korean. You’ll never know how you’ll do with it until you give it a shot. :) Don’t be afraid to jump in and try something new!
      (If you ever do want to give Korean a try, here’s a good free resource to start with: http://seemile.com/renewal/index.jsp ;D)

      Anyway, sorry for rambling. I get easily excited when it comes to language discussions. Like I said, I’m going into the Linguistics field. I just… love languages. ^.^; Especially Asian languages.

      • I can relate to you so much, it’s like I’m seeing my own goals, ambitions and dreams written here. Except I wasn’t born in America, and in a Spanish speaking country(?) (Puerto Rico) and started learning english when I was very little. Up until a few years ago, and well, sometimes even now it’s hard to consider myself fluent in english. But, what is fluent exactly? Because sadly I’ve come to learn that Spanish has such a difficult vocabulary and grammar that even I don’t understand words in complex Spanish novels, for example, kind of same with english and I constantly both speak english and spanish in my everyday life (Go to a bilinguals school, although it’s my first bilingual school and got there in 10th.) Have to say it didnt really teach me much that I didn’t already know, but conversationally, I improved since I wasn’t used to speaking english with people around me except with close friends or writing in the internet.

        I love languages SO much. No one in my family shares this curiosity or desire when it comes to it. Especially since I’m interested more in Asian languages which they just find it odd that I want to learn it in the first place. I think it’s so interesting that there are many ways of communicating and so many different cultures. The feeling of wanting to travel and communicating with people (even if it’s not fluently) in different languages, therefore enjoying the experience to its fullest, is one of the things that motivate me the most. ^^ Even though I’ve now come to love everything Korea related, I’ve been stubborn to start learning Hangul because I’m still determined with Japanese first. I know I wont get fluent level, but I want to get to a level of understand and reading better, and so far I can read Hiragana and Katakana but I know there’s still a long way to go. And it’s so exciting to think about it. :3

        It’s hard, but it’s exciting! Sadly, with school work, it is hard to balance, but I know majoring studying Linguistics when I enter college will help and provide me better with the time to study it. I’m planning to start dedicating a little time to start learning Hangul and Korean in general (other than the things we learn from K-pop/K-dramas xD) so thank you for the link! I’m also learning French but that’s taken a really slow pace. Even though the language is similar to Spanish xD I think my motivation for it will be higher once I learn more Japanese and am a little bit satisfied~ Yay for Asian Languages!

      • Yeah I come from a bilingual family so I speak both Swedish and Finnish and then I have English as a foreign language. Studied French in school too but it has become quite rusty nowadays lol.

        Thanks for the link, I’ve looking for good online study programs and I shall check it out!

        I myself have found some links too, like http://www.rocketlanguages.com/ which costs tho if you want to use the full course but there’s a free starter pack for some basics (and what I really like about this is that you can practice pronunciation/intonation ^^)

        The supply for Korean courses in Finland is quote small which is a shame because I’d really like to learn it with a teacher, but I guess it’s just about searching well enough (and then self-studying with these online programs…)

  180. Personally I think that if you at least try to speak another language in
    a country then that is ok. I remember when I was on holiday in Spain
    and I said gracias to the waitress and she said de nada back, I felt all
    fuzzy inside because I knew she understood me, even though it is the
    basic of basic Spanish. :3
    If you think about it, everyone learns their native language at school for more than a decade so to get proper fluency would take a while. And when you get to the teenage years you adopt a ‘new’ language anyway. So technically if you are or have been a teenager then you are bilingual. :P

  181. Iro Mage

    If you guys are happy with your level of Korean, then it’s your decision. I know that I want to learn Korean for the sole (heh-Seoul pun) reasons of the language sounds beautiful, and I would like to understand what I’m singing when I sing kpop. I know that when I listen to spanish music (I’m okay at spanish) it makes me really happy when I understand what the singers are saying, and I’d like that feeling when I listen to kpop.

  182. this is a little off topic… but I kept on staring at Martina during this entire video because something just looked… wrong. And then I realized (half way through the cheese lady song) that it was because she isn’t wearing earrings!!! So wrong…

    But this was really interesting! Ever since I was in high school (six-seven years ago), I thought it would be fun to teach English abroad or even just live in another country for some time, and I always wondered what it was like for foreigners that don’t speak the language! Thank you for sharing. (:

  183. From my experience living or staying in foreign countries, it needs to be with a full respect on the local people and culture plus a bit of challenging minded. I see you guys are doing good on that perspective. (^_^)

  184. Well.. let me first tell you something about myself. I live in Romania and I work for a multinational company. The official language we have to use at work is english, even though the company has its roots in France and most of the foreigners that work here are french people. When french colleagues come for the first time in my country, and meet us for the first time they tend to ask us what language we prefer to speak english or french. From time to time there are some that start speaking french without even bothering to ask. In both cases i choose to answer them in english because i have this idea that if i have a hard time expressing my thoughts in a language that is not my native one so should the person that i am speaking with (if not not a native english speaker in which case…oh well). Now romanian and french are quite similar: the same grammar, lots of common words, the expression used have almost the same meaning so it is not that easy to get lost in translation. The point that I am getting at is that even though I try to keep an open mind and like a person for who she or he is, without my intention I tend to like more the people that are trying to speak my own language (I am referring here at the long term expats) or that are using a language that puts us both on even grounds. Depending on how much language knowledge they have and how much they use it I noticed that, not only me but people in general tend to react more kindly, to be of more help and to offer to teach more of the aspects of our daily life, culture, politics, etc. Of course this has also a reverse, when one can get confused with a naturalized citizen if knows too much, and then “YOU’RE ON YOUR OWN” :))
    I don’t know if it makes sense, but what i would like to say is that if you watch learning and speaking korean only from your personal life’s point of view then, conversational level is more than enough. But if you think at it from your work’s point of view is it enough? Can you communicate well enough with the korean artists you are interviewing? Can you fully express your work ideas in korean? If you would were to speak with….Junsu could you tell him everything you would otherwise tell him in english? Do you know how to say “I’m a sexy latex rhino” in korean?
    Yes it isn’t that….that thrilling knowing you’ll maybe have to sacrifice years to be fluent in korean, but if you want to have more common ground between you and korean artists and if you want to make them open themselves up more to you then it’s an aspect you should think about.
    Also the good point is that if you want to learn more korean, since you have to hire korean people you can hire someone that would stay with you in the studio and teach you all the nasty expression they couldn’t teach in a normal classroom :))
    But be careful not to become a naturalized korean, otherwise you’ll loose your touch, so to say.
    Hope it makes sense.
    Have a good day, week, month, year, decade and so on :)

  185. Just wondering – do Asian-looking people who don’t speak Korean (e.g. Japanese-Americans, Chinese-Canadians) have English spoken to them by default as well? Or are they assumed to be Korean?

    • Barry Adams

      I can’t speak about Korea, but in China if the person looks Asian, the default language to speak to them is Chinese.

      True story: one of my co-workers while I was living in China was white, but spoke fairly fluent Chinese. His wife was Vietnamese and spoke no Chinese. One time when they were eating at a restaurant, the waitress looked at his wife and spoke Chinese to her. As he started ordering in Chinese, the waitress continued to look at and speak to his Vietnamese wife in Chinese.

  186. My personal opinion as a German, who was in Poland for 7 years as a kid, learned English and French in school and now i majoring in Japanese language is: do what’s comfortable. You will have noticed by now that you’re probably not even 100% in your own language, as frustrating as that is. Languages have no limits, even native sprakers don’t know all its quirks. And even less in any foreign language. So study, if there’s a pressing need and don’t, when you got better things to do. ;) After all you already realised that you’re not gonna mutate into Koreans any time soon, so why force youself to bend over more that you need to?

  187. There is a Korean restaurant in Ottawa “Le Kimchi” that my friends and I love. Although we have only been there 3 or 4 times staff is super nice and friendly with us treating us like their regulars even remembering what we ordered last time. they love it when I try to speak in Korean because I am sure they don’t get many people making an effort to learn their language. last time our waitress and her husband who also works there talked to us for half an hour after we were done our food about Korean dramas and anime. I can’t wait to go again, and the food is really good too!

  188. I totally understand your point and say it´s ok. If it´s adequate for you, why force yourselve?

    On the other hand, I had the experience that the people in Germany say often: “If you live here, learn the language!” And that you should be fluent as possible. Nobody will be angry or not helpful if you aren´t fluent, but if you live here for a couple of years, they expect you to be more or less fluent.
    Of course the people would talk in english (if they can), when you can´t speak any or only a little german.

    I didn´t thought about problems with languages in other countries like that, but with reading your blog I think it´s ok to not know the language, if there is a bubble like you said. Personally I don´t mind if foreigners aren´t fluent as long as they can communicate,careless if english, german.
    So you can communicate in korean so it´s ok. ^^

  189. Honestly I think it would be the same for me to enter Korea from Norway as it was for you guys. In Norway (like many many other countries) we learn English from a very young age, so with my fluent English I do fine in most places of the world. I actually haven’t met a person in my life whom didn’t speak English. Apart from my grandma xD she only knows the words “yes”, “no” and “I love you”. But she’s from a completely different generation, and she’s never left Norway.

  190. naninoona

    hi simon and martina!!

    i think your goal should focus more on improving instead of being 100% fluent. i think since your job would involve you guys to interview korean artists and stuff, it would be great if you could converse with them in korean with confidence even if it’s just basic sentences. that way you guys wouldn’t have to be too dependant on translators and whatnot. i think even if you speak kid-level korean at least it would still be full sentences and people still understand what you’re trying to get across.

    think of it as something like seungri being especially amazing at conversational japanese. i mean, taeyang studied japanese seriously way ahead of seungri but over the years, seungri became the one who is most fluent (even if not 100% native fluent) among all the members to the point where he could even host his own japanese variety talk show. he even spoke to huge stars like oguri shun and had his own co-role in a j-drama kendaichi.

    a closer example would be that funny-in-a-weird-way show on KBS that Global Talk Show with Beauties, uhm… i dunno if that’s the title and i’ve never actually sat down to watch the whole show, just stumbled upon it while channel surfing a few times – tangent! sorry – but it’s the one with the foreign women. the one i remember most is Cristina(she’s hilarious btw), Guzal, and the other one Eva who’s been on that one hilarious show with SUJU. their korean as i could remember was okay and the audience understood them pretty well despite them sounding awkward. lol.

    i think if you guys are at that level where you can at least put forth your opinion in simple korean, then you guys should be perfectly fine! anyway, it’s perfectly understandable any which way you guys choose to go about this. because you guys mentioned time being a factor, so whatever you guys feel comfortable with is fine. but it would be nice if you guys got better at it, no? even if it’s little by little.

  191. eatingbreakfastwithramen

    There’s a saying : “If you’re in Rome, do what the Romes do.”

  192. My friend and I started this new thing where I talk to her in her language and she answers in mine. Then when either of us go wrong we correct the other but it still feels like a proper conversation.

  193. Most swedes under 40 are basically fluent in english! At least in the cities. I saw a comment from another swede named Nina who wrote that swedish kids start learning english in school at the age of 9 nowadays, but I’m 18 and I started at 8 so it’s probably 7 now… And even younger kids here knows words like “Hello, good bye, please, yes, no” and so on. However, since there are only about 9-10 million people speaking swedish nothing is dubbed, only movies/tv-shows for kids, and here most kids from the age of 8 watch tv-shows like Friends, How i met your mother and so on in english, even actual kids shows like Hannah Montana and such are in english with swedish subtitles, most ads are in english as well. As in any other country, video games are very popular here and all of them are in english, except that there are lots of educational games (for learning english, as an example!) for kids and they are in swedish. I started playing online-games (world of warcraft & maplestory) at around 9, and learned a lot of english from that as well. Also, from my experience, being good at english is very important, if a swede has a heavy swedish accent, it’s actually considered quite embarrassing… or very, people my age that didn’t care about school or didn’t learn english from watching tv and playing games and therefore doesn’t have a good accent/pronunciation tend to avoid to speak english. Which is hard since we do joke a lot in english by quoting tv-shows/internet jokes. We also mostly swear in english and use many english words when speaking swedish, “random” is very usual, even my teachers use that.
    From what I’ve heard swedes are generally the best english-speakers in the world who has it as their second language, and the reason is probably that very much is in english here. So now you know about english in Sweden!

    • naninoona

      haha. and i’m learning random swedish words from a famous swedish gamer on youtube called pewdiepie. language learning can be so much fun!

      • Oh man, I hate that guy and I haven’t even seen any of his videos! But apparently my spanish cousin watch them all the time which my uncle (swedish, his wife is spanish) thinks is hilarious.

        • naninoona

          that’s okay. i still love the guy. i guess we all just have preference for different kinds of humor. i think he’s hilarious too! but i can understand how most would find him unbearable and obnoxious. haha.

  194. i think you are doing more than you give yourselves credits for. Put aside the regular day stuff, i think you don’t really have the time to actually learn korean. I mean you get by fine and this isn’t just basic, i think you are doing well beyond: by able to order whatever you like at restaurants, know how to get home when you are lost. This is more than just basic, tons of chinese parents living in Toronto are worse than what you are doing and still are getting by great. Take my mom for example, she can do everything by herself, interact with people but probably have less than 100 words in her english vocabulary. I don’t think embracing the culture mean submerge into the language, it is enjoying the country and culture as a whole whether it is language, food, religion, infrastructure, etc.. So don’t let your guilt keep you down!

  195. PunkyPrincess92
    PunkyPrincess92

    very interesting!!! yeah i think if you go to a country which doesn’t use English as it’s main language you should try and learn the language of that country!! just so it’s easier on yourself!! i mean that’s what i’d do!!
    i know how to read Korean!! ….and that’s it!! haha!! of course i know the meaning of some words and stuff! but anyway i’m slowly learning!!
    oh…and i should probably start learning my own language too….^^;;

  196. talktomeinkorean.com! I’m using that site right now. I’m not even fully committed to learning the language (I just think it’s fun) but I’ve already learned quite a bit in the space of one month. There are so many resources on that site, including audio mini-lessons are only five minutes each and fun to listen to. If I’m not mistaken, S&M went to Mexico with the same people who do the audio lessons.

  197. If I am really passionate about Korea I think I would want to learn the language to fluency, but as I am still young and undecided on where I want to be (I do love travelling/experiencing different cultures) and I don’t think I’ll fall into near enough passionate category. I am learning Korean now out of interest in kpop and mild culture but it is not something I am willing to dedicate a lot of time into yet, I can read almost everything (still struggling with 의s and so). But before reading this post, my opinion on you guys to learn fluent Korean is something I thought is given seeing how you lived in South Korea for so long and continue to be in future, but when you mentioned how Koreans rather speak to you in English and your situation does not really demand you for it, I get your dilemma. I think it now really depends on you and that maybe one day you might have a reason/decided on to be fluent in Korean but as for now I think you shouldn’t worry about being not fluent.
    I’m a Malaysian, born and bred, the official language is Malay but I think I never got close to how much you know Korean as I know Malay, but I got by because almost everyone speaks conversational English and it is a pretty English-influential environment. I only know basic replies but I never get the conversations that goes on! One thing I did realise is that I never connected with my fellow Malaysians the way I should because of the language barrier, I’m not even foreign but it was as if I was one. I sometimes get asked if I was a foreigner so something about that is really saddening. There are some things that are just connected with the language so I felt, if Korea or a certain country is your thing, something you are passionate on, then I recommend being fluent in the language. As for you doing your part for Korea, I think you are doing a wonderful job, I really do enjoy your know-how videos in getting around Korea or little tidbits about them (this is why TL;DR is my favourite series you post) so never fear you are not doing your part, this is probably the most honest place/way to find everyday experience of a country, I wish there is one for every country because that way it’s easier for me to learn places :P

  198. I know that ‘being lost’ feeling V_V
    When our family moved from Russia to Germany I could only speak 3 words in german @_@
    I was still in elementary school and the kids didn’t seem to understand, that I don’t understand them xD
    They kept talking german with me :I
    After a while I learned german quite well, but my russian was getting worse and worse…
    A few years ago we visited my grandma and my mum told me to go buy something from the grocery store.
    That was… pretty hard to do xD
    I still understand russian but I can’t speak properly anymore :V
    But that may be because I’m living more than half of my life here in germany, my parents are still fluent in russian :)

    There is no point to my story…. why am I writing? XDD

  199. I want to meet cheese lady! I want my own personal cheese lady, she seems super sweet.

  200. Does you guys plan on going to the Olympics when it comes to Korea in 2016

  201. j’adorerais parler français avec vous deux !! ^.^

  202. First of all, this is so brave of you guys to share your personal feelings with us, nasties. Even though you know we fully support everything you do and as your fans we are always there for support and encouragements :) Also, there are different ways of perceiving the word “fluency” and every single person has a different idea about it. For me, personally, being fluent in a language is to be able to think in that language. Are you guys able to think in Korean on a daily basis? If yes, then you’re fluent and there’s nothing to worry about. And if you can’t then it’s not a problem either because you are not obliged to learn or do anything. Everything you do has to be for your personal convenience and enjoyment. You already sacrifice so much for us and for Korean culture by promoting it and making your wonderful videos. Now it’s the matter of prioritizing, whether you feel like it’s the right time to get going with your Korean or no. IT’S YOUR CHOICE. And like you always do, you have to make it TOGETHER and consider how will it benefit both of you.

    Secondly, I can seriously relate to your struggles of learning a language in a foreign country. I live in Israel for 4 years already and when I came here I only knew Russian (I’m originally Russian :). Not knowing English was one of the toughest challenges to overcome because I had to study in English. I even had to repeat a year in school because I failed it because of my poor english skills :( But now I’m fluent in English and able to somewhat communicate in Hebrew. I don’t feel the need of becoming fluent in Hebrew because I don’t feel connected to it. I have a far greater urge to learn Korean and that’s what I’m doing at the moment. So far I’m able to read and write and keep up a VERY VERY simple conversation. The hardest thing is to understand Korean when it’s being spoken but I guess that comes with experience.

    Lastly I think you simply have to feel a deep connection with the language to have the urge to be fluent in it. And you shouldn’t be pressured into learning something you don’t feel very attached to. So GOOD LUCK GUISE!!! 화이팅~ :)

  203. Dana White

    Simon – Your shirt is AWESOME! Where may I locate it?
    The shoes on the Shelf – WOW!
    Question – what is the realationship between IKEA and Koreans?

  204. oh wow this was an interesting point of view, hope you can learn more korean as well thnks for the vlog

  205. JulesCTKD

    I think it’s completely understandable that when you aren’t working (particularly considering just *how hard* you guys work), you’d want some downtime and so, choose not to study. But wouldn’t furthering your language skills help your business, especially when it comes to, say, interviews? :D?

  206. Abis san

    For me personally, the best way to learn a language would be interaction with others who speak that language. I spent two years learning Spanish and I can only remember a handful of words let alone a sentence. But during the time that I have been listening to the Korean language (Via drama, videos) I have learnt so many words and sentences.

    I think as long as you can communicate well in the country you are in, and interact with the people living there I don’t see why you have to be completely fluent. You will probably improve without realising and become fluent with time (Since you want to stay in Korea for longer).

  207. Jennifer GW

    What are some key Korean phrases that you should learn (to speak and/or read) before traveling to Korea? For example, introducing yourself, ordering at restaurants, asking a price, finding a bathroom, getting back to a hotel..etc :)

  208. no.. after reading this i really want to say that i RESPECT you guys A LOT!!

    You accomplished so much already and it’s really easy to recognise your love for Korea even without that. And since i’m trying to learn korean too (really slow since i have not much time too) i think your level is enough already since you are married and your job is to talk in english.
    I’m sincerly happy to see that there are even more people imigrating to korea. To me it seems really hard to set a foot there.. and i really hope some day i can say that you inspired me to make my dream of imigrating come true (since i’m single i feel the need to lean korean but you made me slightly afraid since i need to work AND lean.. how did the others manage to just learn all the time, wow okay..)

    what i actually wanted to say is that i would never feel that you are beeing ignorant in any way here (yeah.. leaning english 13+ years and you can easy guess i’m not fluent and english is so easy :D)

  209. I think you both work too hard already ^^ The level of Korean that you are at suits you just fine, as you said you wouldn’t have many chances to use Korean for “deep conversations” anyway. I don’t think it is disrespectful, I don’t think you should feel guilty. You two do a lot to show how much you think of Korea. I think it would be fine to just stay where you are at with the Korean language. It seems to be a perfect place for you both.

  210. Betsy

    Honestly, I say just let it come naturally like you’ve been doing. The best way to learn a language is to immerse yourself in it. A person can study all they want night and day but if they don’t have everyday conversations to back up their learning it’s not going to stick. My aunt is trying to learn Polish with Rosetta Stone but it’s been very difficult for her since she doesn’t have a community or even just another person to talk to her in Polish. So, just keep doing what you do, the longer you live in Korea and interact with the people the more fluent you’ll become and you probably won’t even realize it. ^.^

  211. ShadowVampiress

    Honestly, it all depends on you. I’m studying ESL in graduate school right now, and so I’m learning a lot about learning and acquiring a second language. You two are in a position that, if you wanted to, you could probably become fluent. You live in the country; you speak Korean with the people around you; and you have a business that one day you might want to expand. It might be beneficial to learn Korean more, just to have better communication with music companies that you want to interview. That being said, it won’t do you any good to try and learn a language if you honestly have no real motivation. It’s like when high school students learn a second language in school: they don’t really learn it, because their motivation isn’t lasting or real. And it’s true, you might never be able to be “fluent” in the language. However, it is possible for you to learn enough to have those deep conversations with your Korean friends, or talk more in-depth with the shop people around you.

    TL;DR (HA!): Do whatever you want to do. If you feel you need to learn it, do it! Don’t do super intensive since you don’t have time, but go a little at a time. Takes longer, but hey, you don’t seem in a hurry. And if you don’t want to study more, then don’t.

    (Sorry for super long post…graduate school does this to me -_-” )

  212. ashtenmorgan

    Lol Cheese Lady, what is her name??

    My thought on English versus not speaking another foreign language. I know Vietnamese& English fluently, but sometime a Viet word cannot be translated completely in English and still have that meaningfulness. (i.e. poem).

    So, I took like 10 months off before college to go to Taiwan to learn Mandarin, and it was so hard. You only see English in MRT (subway) or big business, but if you go to local store, it’s not possible. I make an effort in trying to speak as much as possible of what I learn, but it’s hard to pronounce some of the character and sometime it’s misunderstood. In addition, sometime what you learn on books is grammatically correct but not with real people. People do no talk like that… (A: How have you been lately? B: I am well, and how about you? versus A: Hey, sup? B: Good, you ?) So, sometime when people use slang etc… it’s also hard to get the gasp of it. (I tried to explain “Go break a leg” quote and they do not get it…”

  213. Make a video from the cheese lady :D

  214. ashtenmorgan

    What do you think about Korean Variety Show: Running Man, Family Outing, etc…? Differences? What do you like about it or what seem odd??? Thoughts.

  215. Hey y’all–I’m trying not to sound catty, (just candid), but to me it sounds like you’ve already made up your mind on the subject: that to live comfortably you don’t need to learn Korean fluently. So, no matter how poignantly-said an opposing argument may be I don’t think it’s going to do much for you other than getting you to bring up the same arguments you brought up earlier (i.e. you get by fine day-to-day, you have successfully started your own business, you found a wonderful-sounding niche in your community with your current proficiency). I applaud you for wanting to push yourselves and for recognizing the value of furthering your communicative skills, but you’re already doing great! If you’ve found a place where you’re perfectly content in being, aside from people nagging you to learn more, I say print out this blog and hand it out by the arm-full. If you want to learn more Korean, that option will always be there, but in the meantime, don’t stress it! You’ve got enough going on, more important dragons to slay, and happier thoughts to think. <3

  216. Interesting ^^ I can see your point, but I personally can’t undersatand it… I just NEED to understand everything around me. No, I’m not fluent in any of the languages I’ve been learning (maybe kinda sorta in English….nope, I don’t think so.) nor do I study real hard, but I eavesdrop on foreigners (shame on me xD) trying to figure out what they’re saying, look up some words or grammar that’s been bugging me for some time, listen to and sing along songs from different countries… I just love that moment when you finally understand something – you know you’ve seen it before, but now it’s different, it’s all clear to you, and all the connotations, your personal experiences or lingustic similarities to other languages you know just rush to your mind and you are at peace because you KNOW and you SEE, and… Yeah, I’ll go now >_>;

  217. I follow your posts almost religiously. Your jokes, pranks, adventures and personal experiences make my day brighter each time you post a video. I usually don’t comment, but I thought I might do it this one time to offer a different perspective. I think you guys have to ask yourselves, what’s next? As your company grows and develops, it seems like you plan to do a lot of interviews with band members. Maybe learning Korean will help with your interview skills? Maybe you can ask them more personal questions and catch on to small opportunities in the conversations if the interviews were to be conducted in Korean. I know your primary focus is entertainment, but I really appreciate whenever you post on serious matters as well. If you have a TL;DR on a political, religious, culturally-sensitive subject, wouldn’t you like the ability to interview Koreans outside your sphere of English-speaking friends? Also, if and when your company expands physically and financially, and you’ll find yourselves possibly dealing with investments, stocks, insurance, etc…I imagine it would be to your benefit to be fluent in Korean so you could communicated about these complex subjects and be received with respect. Guys, all in all, I think that becoming fluent in Korean would only be a benefit to you. However, I don’t think it is absolutely necessary. What if you hire a tutor to coach you once or twice a week and give you motivation and time restrictions? I love you guys! Thanks for everything, and I wish you all the best!

    • EXACTLY what i was thinking!!!!!! Simon and Martina pay attention to this post.

    • TheArrowPen

      I was going to respond along these lines as well. In the interests of your company, and especially for interviews (both when you’re doing the interviewing and when you’re being interviewed) I think that learning more Korean can only benefit you. However, I also don’t think you should abandon what you are currently doing with the company/videos or let it fall by the wayside in your attempts to become fluent. As another poster said, just keep trying to improve, even if it’s just little by little, a new word or phrase or idiom every day/week. And I recall you saying that Leigh is a very high-level speaker, so perhaps you can practice with her during your work hours as well?

    • irritablevowel
      irritablevowel

      YES! I was trying to figure out how to express this, and you did it wonderfully. What would be lost and what would be gained by working on becoming fluent? Sure, that quietness would be lost, but a whole world of viewpoints and ideas would open up.

    • Did you read the blog post? It is very difficult to master Korean. And they have practically no free time. I’m guessing you are neither Korean or live(d) in Korea. ^^

      • irritablevowel
        irritablevowel

        Vika did not criticize, though I don’t believe there is anything wrong with criticism offered constructively. She (I’m assuming Vika is a she) offered a perspective, thoughts to ponder and consider. Simon and Martina may appreciate Vika’s perspective on this. I know I often appreciate different views on a topic. It doesn’t mean I have to agree or respond, but it does help me to form a well rounded view. Being able to consider another viewpoint is a helpful life skill.

        • Although I might have sounded harsh I was mostly pointing out the absurdity of “Vika’s thoughts to ponder”. I never took it as a criticism I can tell Vika has a lot of passion but I believe this site is more than just a Kpop ambassador. Which is why they probably won’t be dedicating their time to learning Korean with their busy schedules (5 weekly videos, sometimes more) any time soon.

        • Golbinnom

          wait, absurdity? Hers is a totally legit opinion. What’s stupid about learning the lenguage of the country you’re working and living in? It is definitely not impossible to do so, specially if you have the chance to interact with koreans on a daily basis. I honestly think korean is easier than chinese or japanese if you got the pronunciation bit down

        • There is nothing absurd about learning the language of the country you live in. It should be encouraged and in some places it’s a must. However, having lived in Korea for two years. I can honestly say, it’s way too easy to get by just knowing English, at least it’s true for Seoul. Which is why most foreigners aren’t fluent. The alphabet is definitely easier to read and write than Chinese or Japanese. The pronunciation is one of the hardest in my opinion and I speak English, Spanish, Italian and French. I don’t know if it’s because it’s actually that difficult or because Koreans aren’t used to foreigners speaking their language but many times they don’t understand the foreigner (Westerners) accent. For example I would try telling people where I lived “태릉” (Taereung) and they never understood me. Looks pretty easy to pronounce right? Except they sometimes pronounce the “ㄹ” as an N. Although it’s supposed to be an R or an L sound. But even when I would pronounce it with an N (i.e. Taeneung) they still couldn’t understand me. It wasn’t until I’d write it down for them that they would understand and then they’d say it the proper way. The point is, unless you’ve lived there, are Korean yourself, or have actually tried learning the language – you don’t know how difficult it can be. There are many foreigners in Korea that have lived there for 5- 10 years, are married to a Korean and even they aren’t fluent. Some speak it relatively well, but are still not considered “fluent” per se.

          Furthermore, as was pointed out in the video, and in their blogpost, and in my previous post. They’re too busy right now to be studying Korean. THAT was my point. Not that it’s foolish to learn Korean while living in Korea, but that it’s a bit impossible for Simon and Martina right now considering their SUPER DUPER busy schedules

  218. Well, I personnaly think the best thing is to learn what you need and want to learn. For example, if you don’t really want to participate in an elaborate discussion on politics, you don’t really need to learn all of that vocabulary. Of course, if you ARE interested in it… then it becomes worth it to put in the time in effort to learn. It will also be easier to find motivation if you have an interest in it.

    In other words, I wouldn’t try pushing the language learning further than what you feel confortable with. I would personnaly love to be fluent enough to understand the music I’m listening to and the dramas I watch. I would also like to go to Korea soon to try and live there for a year… So, I guess my learning will be about those basic things you need to know to get around, but also to have light conversations with people.

    By the way, I found your paragraph concerning your French learning quite funny. Being from Quebec myself, I guess I can understand the trouble you had learning French… especially if you don’t need to use it. And I guess that it is true that we quickly switch to English when we realize people can’t communicate so well in French.

  219. I say. don’t take it too seriously. learn it in a fun way. when you sit back and relax or take a day off instead of doing hardcore study grasp the grammar then just start putting together sentences that explain how you feel after that day. talk about what you did and what you want to do tomorrow. Learn together. Make it a game as oppose to a task. I know it sounds crazy but once you have grasped enough of the grammar you will be putting sentences together likes it’s nothing after you look up the base words you want to use. Just keep study materials close by. And you never know, you might find yourself wanting to learn in your spare time. ^_^ Just make it a game. or , heck , make a game! make a game you two can play together and have fun with like you used to for your students learning english. Have your Korean friends help you put one together. Don’t make it a task that takes precious time from your rest. Make it a game you play in your spare time.

  220. Funny what you said about foreigners living in a bubble and not knowing the language at all…

    I live in São Paulo – Brazil and 2 years ago Hyundai suffered a huge boom and brought a lot of Korean employees higher in the company’s hierarchy to work here. My Korean tutor came with her husband and two children and she’s one of those people who live in that kind of bubble, only in the opposite situation from you guys. She only speaks Korean and barely speaks English (with a horrible accent, I must add) and no Portuguese at all. She has no intention in learning it also, since they’re moving back to Korea in 2 or 3 years. Most of the people Hyundai brought has no interest in learning Portuguese, only one girl my age did – she was the only child who went to Brazilian school here and now enrolled on a Brazilian college =)

    Some of them are taking their time to improve their English, mainly the wives since they didn’t get jobs here. The main problem is that people hardly speak English around here. You see, my tutor loves going to the shopping mall but she has problems whenever she needs to ask things. She can only eat at franchises like Starbucks where food names are all in English. When she runs into a problem she texts or emails me asking help with Portuguese, from talking to their gardener to renting houses… They can’t even communicate with people who live or work at they condominium… I wonder how they can live that, it must be awful (>_<)

    LOL, sorry for the long comment… ^_^''''

  221. Aw guys~! Your cheese lady story <3 That's so cute!

  222. Hawa Hamza

    I can relate to that situation! I am an Indian, and in India each state has a different language. The official language is Hindi and I don’t know a word of it (My mother tongue is a regional language). I live in Qatar (Middle East) and was born and raised here. I am fluent in English but I speak very little Arabic. So it’s a bit hard for me to communicate with locals (Qataris) here since not everyone knows English. But I don’t think it’s necessary to study the language to be able to get through. I think it’s okay if you know the basics.
    PS: Don’t worry too much and do what YOU want to do!

  223. I was wondering if you know “Can you take tours the entertainment companies in Korea? do they offer that?”

  224. Kind of related to this- one of my father’s best friends and long-time business partner is Italian. They communicate in English, which neither of them are totally fluent in. While everyday interactions are no problem, my dad laments that he can’t talk about deep, real issues with his friend.
    On the other hand, thanks to my parents, I was able to acquire English to the extent that I can enjoy works of literature, enjoy English humor and such. I think that’s what allowed me to enjoy American and Canadian culture to the fullest, as well as keep, and make, friends outside my nationality. (I lived in Canada for a short while)
    Point being, I think learning a language extensively contributes to a deeper understanding of that culture. This sounds way too boring for your fun site, but I think language should be regarded as more than just a means of communication.

    Thanks for reading. I sincerely enjoy your site!
    p.s. I see your studio every time I go to Hongdae and it makes me lol.

  225. Honestly I think it’s a personal choice and no one should make you feel bad if you do not wish to continue. I mean you can get by in Korea just fine. No one is telling you that they can’t understand you or that you should be better so they can talk to you. And you do work hard and I know how it can be to be tired after a long day at work. Don’t push yourself to do it because other people you don’t know in real life will look down on you.

    However I do think that if you really wanted to talk to friends in Korean more to become more fluent with conversations then I think that they should be understanding enough to switch languages with you every now and then. I understand how excited they must be to practice their English in a real setting and yes you guys do get to use it when going out and ordering food or what have you, but it sounds like you may want to be able to speak it with friends as well. They should be understanding enough to not only speak in English with you guys all the time so you can learn more as well. They after all had the 10+ years in English classes where, correct me if I’m wrong, you had none. I hope you can see the point I’m making here. This of course is only if you want to become 100% conversational. See if your friends mind letting you practice every now and again.

  226. Im learning korean now well learned alittle while im in college I got a d and I need a c in order to go on to korean 2 can you tell me what you guys did to learn it because even though I got a d I still remember alittle bit like hi, yes, no basic stuff I cant read it very well but my tutor that taught us(me and my class mates that I became friends with) said I was good at pronouncation but I need to work on remembering what they mean so can you guys help me

  227. I agree with you 100%. It is difficult to learn another language and you really don’t need to learn more to function in Korea. I say you’ve got the right idea. You two are doing so much to promote tourism in Korea and living in Korea.

  228. Joey Wong

    The Korean language IS really difficult to learn! i plan on a trip to Seoul this year and downloaded an app that would teach common phrases, i think I can only manage to say ‘hello’ at this point! I mean, a word in another language is a phrase in Korean! So what I’m saying is that for you guys to be fluent enough to interact and get by in Korea shows dedication and love for the country!
    i think the ‘problem’ comes when (I am a BBC-British born Chinese ) BBCs go back to Hong Kong or China and don’t speak Cantonese or Chinese and only use English. People get shocked and maybe even annoyed (mainly the elderly) in that sense, that may seem a little disrespectful.

    I am a new fan to your channel and I must say I’ve been having eatyourkimchi-thons for the past few days! I can see your dedication and love with living in Korea, I can only imagine how scary it is moving to a country with a completely different language and culture. I really admire you guys for doing that! Keep it up and we never just stop learning, I’m sure you still learn something new everyday. Don’t stress yourselves out by thinking you should study more!

  229. I really enjoyed this post and I think you two hit in on the head. Each person’s situation is different and we should not group or set the same rules for everyone. In your case, you know enough Korean to get by and be -happy- and that is indeed good enough. =)

    In terms of everyone being different and having various reasons or motivations for learning another language–well here is mine. My husband is Thai so I want to learn Thai too. Currently I’m at the level where I can read, write, I know the 5 tones and I have a fairly random vocabulary. We live in the U.S., so no it is not even necessary for me to learn Thai. My motivation, nevertheless, is my desire to communicate among him and his/our mutual Thai friends here. When they or we visit another Thai person, of course they’re going to speak in Thai because it’s their mother tongue, it’s easiest for them to communicate. I would love to be able to join in on the conversation. At the moment I can only slightly grasp what they may be talking about, but I can’t contribute to the conversation.

    I also wish to be able to talk easily with my husband’s father when he visits. Sure he speaks a little English, but it is still a challenge. On top of that, when we finally visit Thailand, I really want to be able to interact relatively easily for both our enjoyment. Not that my hubby minds translating for me, but I’d want to give a break. =)

    I know I could ramble on more about this, but I will leave it as such. Again, thank you Simon and Martina for this insightful post. =)

  230. Mar Lak

    Are those eatyourkimchi-family shoes on the shelf? They look amazing! <3 Sorry, I got side-tracked there…

    When I went to Korea in spring 2011 (right after the BIG earthquake in Japan…yes, I admit it, I ran away…*embarrassed*) for about a month I was soooo damn thankful to my korean friends who showed us around places in Seoul (& outside of Seoul too), so I discovered the non-touristy Korea a bit.

    Myself, I was completely lost, language wise. I neither read nor understand korean, so I had friends write down directions etc. so I could show the taxi driver & stuff. Over the month however, I lost my panic of being dropped like a hot potato into a strange land, & I realized there was quite a lot of english around me. I still had to do my research before I went somewhere, but it got easier getting around. Communicating not so much though. When I tried saying something, my pronunciation was so bad they couldn't understand me…*groan*

    I would def. decide to learn a language fluently of the country I decide to live in, but that is my opinion. I just really want to be able to understand the little nuances of the language that cannot be translated. That is one of the main reasons why I am learning Japanese. It is just sooooo much more rewarding & interesting to understand it 100%. Not that I'm there…noooo, far from it.

    The point about always being an alien, even if you are fluent in the language is something I also experienced in Japan. & it can be really frustrating. BUT it can be funny too: I had a situation where I went to buy freshly made sushi, & I talked to the saleslady in Japanese. She was so flustered & confused I spore japanese that she didn't really know how to reply to me…

    Well, that was very long indeed. Sorry about that…

    Heartfelt greeting from a snowy Switzerland <3

  231. I decided to study Korean because I am thinking of making a career out of it (like a translator maybe) and that’s really my main reason for studying this language… But you guys already have a job that takes up most of your time and if you feel comfortable with your level of Korean, I say you shouldn’t push yourselves to study more.

  232. BrittBeastly

    If you decided to take Korean classes, is the only option those freakishly intensive, all-study-nothing-else classes? Like, are there any more laid-back, less intensive lessons you could take? Because if there’s not, then I agree, I wouldn’t be jumping to do it either…

  233. I very much believe in learning the language but then, I major in Linguistics so I think it has a totally different sort of excitement for me that I wouldn’t expect everyone to have. I was really interested in Korean linguistically even before I got really into Kpop etc. I didn’t have that much time to study it because my focuses in order of priority were Japanese, French, German then Korean. I don’t think you all should feel pressured into becoming “fluent”. If there are important things that you can’t do then you need to put in some work, however, if there is no need driving you, how can you force yourself into it? I tried many times over the years to push myself into Spanish as it’s probably the most common second language where I live, but I was just wasting my time. With Japanese though, I am always trying to improve because there is more I want to be capable of. Read manga? Meh. I want to read the newspaper. So while I wish you all were more interested in the language (because Korean Language Lessons would be awesome! KLL!), I don’t see anything wrong with your position. It’s quite realistic.

  234. maryfairy

    Very interesting post! I live in Montreal and am fully bilingual. When I was working in retails back in the day, I used to switch back and forth between English and French, depending on the accent of the person speaking to me as well. It didn’t occur to me that the other person simply wanted to practice French (or in some case English). That is until I went to France and people keep speaking to me in English because I’m Asian, and continue to do so even when I reply in French. It was weird but I eventually got used to it :P

  235. Elizabeth Zaffino

    What books/ learning programs would you suggest to start off with learning the Korean language?

  236. Jin Park

    Kind of related to this- one of my father’s best friends and long-time business partner is Italian. They communicate in English, which neither of them are totally fluent in. While everyday interactions are no problem, my dad laments that he can’t talk about deep, real issues with his friend.
    On the other hand, thanks to my parents, I was able to acquire English to the extent that I can enjoy works of literature, enjoy English humor and such. I think that’s what allowed me to enjoy American and Canadian culture to the fullest, as well as keep, and make, friends outside my nationality. (I lived in Canada for a short time)
    Point being, I think learning a language extensively contributes to a deeper understanding of that culture. This sounds way too boring for your fun site, but I think language should be regarded as more than just a means of communication.

    Thanks for reading. I sincerely enjoy your site!
    p.s. I see your studio every time I go to Hongdae and it makes me lol.

  237. Oh I can totally agree with the ‘when we go back to Canada, we’re overwhelmed by everything around us. The first couple of days back our eyes dart from side to side to read all the signs. Every conversation that passes us by we think is directed at us, and we turn around’ seriously… I was in Japan for 3 weeks and when I came back I was like that xD(well I came back to Sweden >.>) Even if I tried to listen to every conversation that passed by when I was in Japan the first week(to try to improve my japanese) Then I got used to it, and only listen to some small and quiet conversations on the trains(You have to be quiet on the train :P)
    and about learning languages. I have quite easy to learn basic grammatics and stuff in new languages, and I think it’s fun to learn as much as possible from the language that I’m trying to learn. But I too feel like I don’t need(want) to be talking about politics and stuff, that you don’t have in a basic friendly conversation, as long as I can live a normal life, order food at restaurangs, ask for directions, talk with friends etc.

    By the way ;) Loved this TL;DR, I think it was really good :3 It have stuff in it that you can relate to even if your not learning korean, but any language :3 (hope that made sense xD lol)

  238. I think what you two said in regards to how much of the language you have learned is perfect. I feel, having going to Korea to study abroad, as long as you can understand what is being said to you and respond even basically! Then you’ll be fine. Yes it would totally super amazing to be fluent but Korean is a hard language to learn. Very hard. Ridiculously hard. Thankfully the characters weren’t hard to learn but still lol.

    I feel like you two were right! :) and I totally agree~

  239. Just do what you feel is more comfortable. Learning more or even other languages is only going to benefit you. I am trying to learn because I want to understand the things I visually enjoy , and it sure would be nice if I didn’t have to look down at subtitles all the time. I’d love to be able to do the dishes while watching a K-drama. XD haha~ It’s also fun and challenging to try and mimic the pronunciation or to share with your friends a new word you learned. I think whatever you are doing is working well for you, and as long as you’re happy then you should stick with it!~

  240. Rebekah

    Hi! I am a Korean-American in Southeast Asia in a similar position. I know barely enough to get by, but I don’t need much of the language in everyday life since I teach English at an international school. I understand what you mean by feeling guilty out of respect for the country. The guilt might be specific to Korea and Koreans, or it might be the impulse and desire (in my case) to benefit the country in some way. In my instance I really do need to put more effort into learn the language because I am planning on staying and working here long term, and that involves not just communicating with younger students, but older adults and professionals. Then it’s a matter of long-term planning as well as timing. Everyone’s case is different, but here are a few questions you might consider if you hadn’t already.

    Would your work in Korea expand beyond Kpop and cultural experiences of younger generations? Do you think you will need more of the language in the future because you need wider professional connections in Korea? Do you ever plan on getting into a Korean organization or working very closely with them? Would you ever encounter older professionals who might speak English but may not quite open up to you in a way they might with someone more fluent? If you think you should devote a focused time for studies, when should that be – after your business grows to a certain point? A few years from now?

    Btw I enjoy your videos, especially with the Korean street scenes. I miss Korea.

  241. tizamel

    I can totally understand what you feel. If you think you have enough fluency for your daily needs, I think it’s understandable that you think like this. But I also think that even if you want to continue learning the language, you don’t need to go into some kind of intensive program! Since you know enough already, why not just taking a few classes here and there, when you have free time? I think it would be a good compromise ^^

  242. I found this topic very interesting! I’m also from Sweden, where you start learning English from an early age. We are also very americanized, so we’re basicly surrounded with a lot of English, which I believe is a very good way of learning a language. Thus many Swedes in general have a perfectly sufficent level of English, but I think it also depends a lot on who you are, eg if you have a talent for languages or if you’re too shy to try to speak to people. I’m kind of both, actually. I’ve studied a lot of French in high school, and I’m now at a quite high level compared to people in general (without a connection to France that is). I can understand a lot, especially written French. But am I fluent? Nooo. I’m too shy to speak in class, which means I get no practise whatsoever. I would either have to live in a French-speaking place a while (which I hope I can do in the future) or get a French-speaking friend to practise with.

    So I think you’re doing really good who are making an effort to speak Korean with the people around you, because it can be difficult to get over the barrier and start talking, even if you’e interested in languages. And I’d guess those who tell you to become fluent in Korean haven’t tried to learn a language well themselves, cause then the’d know that it’s difficult and takes a lot of time. I understand that you don’t have time to study it, and I think you’re doing a wonderful job promoting Korea iwth EYK!

  243. In the nordic Europe we all have english lessons since 3 or 4th grade so you kinda get used to talking it (-:
    Im from Denmark btw! :-D And, its so cooold! Colder than Greenland x_x

  244. Sorry for any typos in my comment, but I’m typing all of this on my phone and it’s lagging and not letting me correct things. I hope it is understandable.

    Also, from a highly associated with Japanese point of view, Japanese, while being more available here than many other languages, it is available less than English and it is difficult to get by with much Japanese. All the Japanese I met here (at music core and at my hotels) could speak Korean as well. I wouldn’t say it’s completely necessary for them, but it’s more necessary than from and English background. Combining the two language doesn’t even fully work all the time as I have tried to do here. Basically, things are easiest if you know Korean. Also, I’d I couldn’t read hangeul, I would have had a much more difficult time getting around because I don’t listen on the trains, I wear headphones and listen to music so I have to read the signs in trains saying which stop I’d next and since it flashes though Korean and English catching it at English isn’t always easy a requires practically staring at it the whole ride…

  245. I’ve read in a magazine about people who speaks a lot of languages, and their advice for people who wanted to learn new languages was to not aim for fluency or having no accent, just to try to understand the language and be understood.

  246. Hello guys. Here’s my answer. I’m not fluent in english, I’m mexican, therefore I speak spanish. We learn english since we are little kids and because we live right next to US, we get all kinds of things in english (music, movies, ads, books, etc.) So it helps to know at least enough to understand. Not everybody learns english, but to know helps, why? I get to know more than average, I get to understand the music I listen and like, I get to read books before they are traslated, I get to talk with people I don’t know AND I understand what you guys say and write. But that’s MY motivation and from what you wrote, you don’t have any to learn korean. As simple as that. You don’t need to and you don’t have the curiousity, and that’s ok! I’m the kind of person who wants to learn many languages (and much better english!! don’t rate me just yet!!) because I want to learn from the other’s points of view. To me, language is a huge part of someone’s culture and customs, it says a lot of the country and their history, if it’s messy, if it’s simple, if it has long words or different words for what seems to be the same, it also helps to understand the very core of a person, even when your friends like to speak english to you, they will always be more accurate in their feelings and thoughts in their own language. You’re right about not having enough time, but if you want to do it, if you really want to, you’ll find the time just as you find time to do other stuff you love. Hey, but how about this, I don’t know how are you learning what you already know, you said you know how to read, right? so you can buy books to learn some words and such, right? you don’t have to turn it into a marathon to learn everything as fast as possible, you don’t even have to live in korea anymore to fully learn it, if you like the language you’ll be happy just to know it a bit more. But then again, that’s if you want to, otherwise you seem to be ok. Hugs!!

  247. What a good post to stir up my memories in Korea! As a foreigner who lived in Busan for about 4 months, here’s my take on surviving there with dismal amount of Korean. Shopping in places like Nampodong and Seomyeon are more English/Chinese/Japanese friendly if you enter Beauty/Cosmetic shops or the Lotte Mall. For those street side shops selling clothes/fashion etc, chances are, you will be communicating with the owners via hand gestures and calculators if you know NO Korean words at all. Travelling by subway in Busan and Seoul is relatively easy because they named the stops in English, but I can’t quite recall if the buses in Busan provide English naming stops as well. I just remembered myself staying away from buses because (1) I feared to miss my stops and (2) the way those buses drive…my god…you need good arm muscles to stop yourself from falling or slamming to the person next to you, because the buses just zoomed down the streets and swerved as if there are no passengers in the vehicle (-_-).
    For those who live in hostels populated by tourists, the owners are usually very fluent in English and are well educated about the places you wish to visit/how to travel there etc. So ask them anything before you decide to travel out. Some may even provide recommendations of places to visit/eat as well!
    Taxi wise, in both Seoul and Busan, I find them to be extremely difficult because chances are, the drivers won’t understand your pronunciation of the place you wish to go (no matter how hard you tried). So for me, I will usually write down my desired location in Hangul and show it to the drivers. If they do not know the exact area, then I would usually tell them to drive me to subway station that is the nearest to that area and either (1) from there, direct them to the area, or (2) get off and walk to the area myself. It would be best to learn to read Hangul if you wish to order food from a menu because it makes things way easier. Kimchi is Kimchi, Bibimbbap is Bimbimbap, Kimbad is Kimbab (if you get what I mean). But again, you might have to watch for your pronunciation, because there was one time I ordered Tofu soup and I was served a whole different thing. If you cannot pronounce or read Hangul, you can try ordering in English, if not Chinese. I find that in Myeongdong, there are more waiters/sales people who are more comfortable and fluent in Chinese than English? Not sure about this but this is just my own personal opinion.
    Lastly, when I first arrived in Korea, the few sentences that I viewed as the most important and have used most frequently are “Where is the toilet?” and “Sorry, I don’t know”, the latter being that I was often mistaken as a Korean by other Koreans and am frequently approached by them when they ask for directions. And just to be on the safe side of not wanting to appear rude, I always end my sentences with a ‘yo’.

    Hope this helps to anyone who wishes to travel to Korea!

  248. SIMON AND MARTINA I FEEL YAAA! I’m Indonesian and I’ve lived in Turkey for three years now. I am also capable of living finely in Turkey with my Turkish ability. But it’s so nice to have a language bubble where I don’t have to be overwhelmed with the information I get each and every second. It really challenges me to pop the comfort bubbles I have built all these years. I’m so glad you guys blog about it! I totally feel the same way, I just never thought of it that deep. Love you guys, MWAH!

  249. I’m Indonesian living in Busan for about 2 years (for undergraduate studies) luckily, I attend intensive Korean course for 6 months before I go to Busan, and I’m totally agree with you about the fluency rate! Its like even though I learn and learn Korean for almost 2 years now, I can’t get into this super fluent state, I still misses stuff out when I’m conversing with Korean (It’s either I’m the stupid one or Korean is hard btw) and I only have like this super few friend speaking in English (fluent or not).

    I also experience people that want to practice English with me, but I’m not native, or half born, or even studied English overseas (English is NOT Indonesia’s second language) so even with English-speaking-Korean It is still kinda hard for me! :/

  250. So, I’m currently vacationing in Seoul from Studying abroad in Japan, and I saw your tweet about this just before going to bed and so I decided to watch and read it quickly before sleeping because this is topic for any language/country, that I’ve been having long discussions with people about since I first started applying to study abroad back in November 2011… For me, the level you’re at is my goal, at the moment (though that could change if as you mentioned I were to get a Korean significant other…) so I see no reason you guys should give up your few minutes of free time to learn to say deeper things that you very well may never use which just makes it harder to learn any ways. From my experience studying abroad and vacationing here in Korea, the words you use the most are easiest to learn. I think you guys should concentrate on things more important to you during your free time.

    My personal belief is that people should be able to speak a language at least as well as you guys speak Korean if they are planning to live in the country for an extended period of time. It makes things easier for yourself and for those around you whose English may not be so good. My foreign friends love me for this opinion.

    As for what you said in the video, I can give you a perspective of an American who has lived in Japan for the past 4 months before coming here for vacation between semesters. It’s actually a really strange perspective honestly. Coming here my culture shock has been more from a Japsnese viewpoint, though I am originally from America. I tried to get by here with a small knowledge of half-forgotten Korean, and a vast knowledge of Japanese that I’m used to using; so when I ran in to Japanese people, I was very relieved. Though the signs were all in English and I cn read hangeul easily, but trying to get information is all in Korean unless you can find some who speaks your native language, or a language you are better at than Korean as u wound up doing most of thi time. I tried to go to music core on one of my first days in this country. A young Korean girl tried to explain things to me in English, but her English wasn’t very good. I then saw girls carrying things that said “Japanese fan club” on them and that is when I realized I could use my knowledge of Japanese to my advantage in Korea which honestly made me more comfortable by a large amount.

  251. I am 1/2 Korean and grew up in a Korean American community. I have been trying to learn Korean since I was a small child (and that was a long time ago, not trying to give away my age). But I’m still not fluent! And I don’t even dare dream of fluency. The way I see it, unless you have a passion for it, knowing what you need to know is good enough (learning is tiring and Korean is difficult for native English speakers). But, I think the longer you are in Korea, the more you will just pick up vocabulary naturally, 천천히 천천히, without even thinking about it. The same is true of watching K Drama or listening to Korean music :). Don’t let mean people guilt trip you!

  252. Back in the states, I was at a bookstore and suddenly someone surprise-hugged me, put their chin on my shoulder and said into my ear, “Hey, sexy.” I turned to look at him, totally mortified and he looked at me and said, “Oh my God, you’re not my girlfriend.” I said, “No, I’m not!” It was quite awkward, but makes for a good story now! XD

  253. This is a personal decision and it’s very much up to the both of you. As far as I can tell, you guys are not inconveniencing anyone with your lack of in-depth Korean knowledge, and that’s the most important thing from an objective standpoint. You shouldn’t feel guilty about being able to discuss politics, religion, etc.! I’m from the US, and there are plenty of people here who have about the same level of English as you guys have in Korean and I don’t see them as being disrespectful towards my country. I see them as the exact opposite; they’ve chose to live here and bring their talents here, and that’s more than good enough for me. I’m very passionate about foreign languages so I want to deepen my knowledge of them, but I understand that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

  254. Aminah Jazzy

    As a junior in high school planning on going to college as a language major these are some of the things I ask myself almost everyday. I’m really glad you guys posted this because it gives me more inspiration to go out and continue learning Spanish, and maybe Korean. And the points about how normal Korean people don’t speak English fluently because all they’ve had to do is memorize is exactly what I’m feeling right now with my 4 years of Spanish. I would absolutely love to go to Korea to learn the language, but I don’t think until I think I’m comfortable with Spanish will I start learning it seriously. Until then I’m continue to fan girl over K-pop. Thank you Simon and Martina ! :)

  255. Tiery and Cheryl

    I say you just keep learning how you are learning. Think about how much you’ve improved in the past 5 years, 3 years, even 1 year? Maybe try reading some Korean magazines and books in your free time, just to pick up different things you may not know. Looking up the words you don’t know and trying them out on your Korean friends. Or even getting a Korean tutor. I know you guys are crazy busy, but maybe one night out of every week, for like one or two hours just sitting down and focusing on the language. Granted that’s just if you guys want to. If you can get by and have no problems understanding day to day life and speaking to people you encounter every day, then I say that’s good. If you want to become fluent, or more proficient than do it. If not, than don’t. I personally want to be able to work with Korean companies and be a kind of translator/cultural adviser, so for me it is kind of necessary to learn as much as possible and be as close to fluent as I can. Your job does not require that, so it just becomes personal preference. Either way, you guys are awesome. I’m so jealous and happy that you guys are living the dream. Hwaiting!!! <3

  256. gina yi

    hi simon/martina! first off, i want to say that you shouldn’t feel any burden or pressure to learn korean. it seems to me that the pressure you are receiving comes from non-koreans rather than koreans. honestly, koreans don’t care how fluent you are. from watching your videos, it is evident that you guys have put forth the effort to learn and that you are open minded. that is good enough and we appreciate it much more than you think. spend your time in korea being happy and if coming home after work and learning korean doesn’t exactly make you the happiest people, then don’t do it! you will learn korean in other ways. seriously, i know that it is easier said that done, but DON’T WORRY ABOUT IT! it appears you have a bit of stress when it comes to this topic, but let it go!! be happy and don’t worry about what people say about YOUR language skills. they need to worry about themselves!! am i right? or am i right? :)) hope this brought some encouragement to you guys! xo

  257. I agree with everything you’ve said ^^ you guys shouldn’t have to feel guilty or feel like you’re not respecting Korea because you’ve influenced so many people to want to learn more about Korea! I know my desire to go to Korea has only grown MORE after watching your videos! I think the more time you spend in Korea the more Korean you’ll learn naturally ^^ I don’t think you need to sit down in front of books and learn. Keep doing what you’re doing ^^ You make all your Nasties proud <3

  258. You converse as much as you want to – why should you do anymore? Don’t give your time to something you’re not passionate about. Life is far too short for that. Stop feeling guilty! What a silly thing to feel guilty about! You can converse as much as you want to! You are not a burden to others. You are making your way. If the level you know stops working for you, then learn more. Until then just be at peace with the choices you’ve made and the progress you’ve made!!! Living in Canada I know several immigrants who have NEVER learned fluent English but I don’t begrudge them and they still seem perfectly happy. :)

  259. Simon and Martina!

    I can share my pov from how you learn languages. I’m from Sweden. I basically started learning English since I was 7/8, around the same time Pocahontas and Lion King came out as video. My dad literally had this idea that if I started listening to English from a really young age, I would learn it faster, and surely I did. He sneakily planned to use my interest for Disney movies, so that each new movie that came (Hercules, Mulan) I would watch the Swedisg version on the movie theatre and later he’d buy me an English copy to watch at home. That way, I would know what they said as I’d seen the Swedish one, and yet hear English. When English lessons began (at the age of 10, nowadays it’s apparently 9) I was ahead of most of my classmates to whom this was completely new. Grammaticaly I did struggle a bit, but I could understand it to a certain extent.

    Around the same time I started watching the pokémon series on Sky One, a brittish channel we kind of pirated over satelite. This also forced me to know more and more English, because it literally took a year before the dub came to Sweden, and the dub (in my ears) sounded horrible in Swedish. I also learnt to read shorter novels in English.

    At the age of 12, my mom who loves books, bought me the Harry Potter books. It literally took me 6 months to read the first book. 6 months, which involved the book lying at the top of a shelf because the first half didn’t make any sense to me at all. however, when 5 months had åassed I gave it another go, and loved it. I read book 2 in 3 weeks, book 3 in 2 weeks. Waited for book 4, which took me a week until the final book (which only too me a day without any meals at all).

    After all this however, did I feel fluent… not at all… I could read, write, but had never spoken much. By mere wonder and weirdness, while I studied in China I ended up befriending a group of americans. Gone was my lovely Brittish english (that we practise in school, I guess because Britain is closer to sweden) and in came a very confident English.

    And yet today, do I feel fluent… not at all. Unless you literally are born with parents of one language, I highly doubt we can call ourselves experts. I still struggle at times with English, mainly since there are in general 10 English words for every Swedish word. You can become good in a language, you can become more and more secure on what to say, how to say it and what to talk about, but you will never become as good as those who learn it from birth or very, very early childhood. I’ve literally also tried French (partly forgotten), Spanish (mostly forgotten by now), Latin (almost all forgotten) and Chinese (trying to keep this one up, but I hope to study another year in China to actually grasp it well enough to speak semi-fluently.)

    There are also, as some people point out here, flaws un the Korean (according to someone who says she/he has studied there) and Chinese eductational system. They learn to memorize, translate and mostly don’t speak too much (which I guess depends on schools and teachers, sorry S&M). I met Chinese students who would ask on how to translate things, and they used such weird English the British and American students had to update them on how English is normally used. I sometimes think I wasn’t that good speaking English, but many are almost ashamed how bad they are at it. At least to my knowledge.

    Then again, it could also do with how we are open to social networks. My usual advice for learning a language is to listen and talk. If you want to learn more about pronounciations you can find hundreds of videos normally on local sites from news or movies. If you wanna build your social skills, like S&M says, just go out and be out there, talk to people.

    • Hi Nina! Learning any language is trying and hard and sometimes sooo discouraging! But I don’t think anybody is really an expert even in their own native tongue.

      For example, I’m Mexican American, my mom immigrated to the US when she got married to my dad (who was already a US citizen) and finished Medical School. So I grew up listening and speaking both English and Spanish. I got my Bachelor’s degree with a double major in Anthropology AND Latin American Literature. One would think that studying Latinamerican Lit would help a person become an expert in the language, but I have to admit that I’m definitely no expert in Spanish. These days I’m living in Mexico because I decided that I wanted to study Medicine. And sometimes I’ll be having a conversation in Spanish with some friends and I end having to ask for clarification on what they meant or what certain words mean. Not to mention that they make fun of my “gringo” pronunciation.

      • Hi Claudia, and indeed it is hard. I tried doing five simultaneously in the Swedish equivelent to college, and like I said above, I know some phrases and a few words, but not enough to make much of everyday speach. I know a little more Chinese from actually having lived there and trying to talk to people at times (with mixed results). As for English, I don’t know how many times I end up stumbling on words, The most annoying part is when you cannot remember a word in another language it sometimes connects to that you cannot even remember (at the time) those words in your native tongue.

    • Nina – compliments – you write amazingly well and I would say sound quite proficient to the point where I’d have guessed you were a native English speaker. Except of course, that you get everything right. :)

      • Thanks for those nice words, I try my best, even though I know I do end up with an occasional spelling or grammatical mistake.

        I’d love to have a conversation with you one day, then you’d have no doubts that I am indeed not a native speaker. As my American friends said: “You speak really well, but your accent shows.” I guess, that is something you would really need to train to loose if you felt like it, but meh… I don’t mind others knowing I am not native.

  260. When I went to England to study at a university there I had been studying English from the age of 12 (I was 18 when I left for England). Was I fluent? Of course not, dialects, accents, idioms, nothing of the sort had been taught at school. Did I know what ”faffing around” meant, no. I think the problem here is to define ‘fluent’. Does that mean knowing all the words? ‘Cause I’m a native Dutch speaker and I still don’t know all the words. I think ‘fluent’ should be defined as being able to do what you need to do in the country. So for me I had to improve my academic English skills. If you had a different type of job that required a certain type of speech you would probably improve on that area. Seen as you’re fluent in all the areas that are applicable to you, shouldn’t that be enough? If you start to notice that you’re lacking in a certain area just improve how you have improved before. For me, I found that reading helped me out a lot, I’m sure that for you doing a course wouldn’t be particularly helpful.

  261. I think that happens because your native language is already english, but as a portuguese speaker that studied english the entire life and also studied spanish, french and korean, they are all “foreign” languages to me, so if I live in another country, I would rather be using the native language, because it doesn’t make any difference since they’re already not MY native language.

  262. I went to Korea last summer, To both Seoul and Jeju-do. In Seoul I think the egnlish is pertty good, taxi drivers know no english what-so-ever, But we still took taxis everywhere we went, Just made sure to bring along LOADS of the hotel cards, so that we could get back, our hotel would write down our destination for us. Sometimes we were really confused and the drivers would get kind of annoyed, But that’s because they kept on speaking korean to us. We took some busses wich all worked out just fine, we could easily find our stops with all the signs that were in english.

    Jeju-do was something else though, I thought I had booked a hotel just outside of Seogwipo, turned out to be half an hour from Seogwipo, There was one lady at the hotel that was really helpfull, she printed out a little map and dew the way to the bus station for us, Helped us book stuff and so on. Every morning she would ask us how our previous day had gone and where we were going that day. Wich was really nice. The bus drivers didnt speak any english, But we learnt our stop, and asked before getting on the bus, just to make sure we got on the right bus. Even though there were no english speaking people there, It was alot of fun traveling like this, Rather than having the grumpy taxi drivers in Seoul, people seemed alot more interested in helping us out on jeju.

  263. I took Korean classes for a bit over a year part time and my Korean is still very very basic. And I have a Korean husband! I sometimes see comments online like “omg if you are in Korea you should learn how to speak Korean” or “I hate when people don’t learn how to speak it properly” (Usually said by people haven’t even been to Korea or tried to speak Korean with Koreans before). People are trying! It’s just for native English speakers it’s a very hard language to learn! It can take some time..

    I only stopped taking classes because we were busy with weddings and travelling, I want to continue again. My listening skills have improved a lot because I’m hearing Korean a lot but I really need to get back into study. When we move to Korea next year I’m planning on just forcing myself to learn as much as possible.

    The problem with living in Sydney, even though we are surrounded by Koreans, everyone wants help with their English. Everyone wants to practice their English, so for many conversations everything is in English. I do spend a lot of time listening to Korean when I’m with my husband and his friends, but it’s not really an opportunity for me to just butt into the conversation and try out my Korean skills. What can I say about business plans, sport or military service?

    My husband is terrible at teaching me Korean, he doesn’t know how to explain things- so yeah, don’t always assume a Korean partner means you automatically learn Korean! I do say things to him in Korean, but it’s like I have a set amount of sayings I know and that’s my limit.

    Oh the one thing I can do is greetings fluently- because I mimic my husband and others. One old Korean man thought I must have grown up in Korea because of the way I greeted him…. no, that’s all I can do! I can mimic how my husband talks on the phone too, like the type of tones that are used. It’s sort of a party trick now, Koreans get me to do it and laugh.

    • a year is a long time to ” just the basics”, maybe you should try to see dramas, or read things in Korean, that helps a lot, but them again I`m a spanish native speaker…

      • Ive been learning korean also and im a spanish speaker! Isnt it hard? XD

      • Jorge Alejandro Figueroa Pérez

        I’m Mexican, so i’m spanish native speaker, and one considerable thing is that spanish is a pretty hard language, it have so much complex language concepts.

        And that help us to learn new languages far more easy, because most of the foreign language complexities, are like trimmed versions of spanish, and basically you will just need to learn new words, and learn the structure, but the hard “concepts” are already there.

        Sorry about my english, i’m not that good

    • Matt Woodford

      My wife used to teach me useful Korean expressions but then that just stopped. I tried to get her to teach me but I got frustrated when she couldn’t answer my questions and never seemed to get it when I wanted her to repeat something; she responded to my frustration by closing off.

      I have a French friend who complained a lot that his wife never made the slightest effort to help him learn, even though he spent a lot of time coaching her in French when they were over there.

    • I am sorry if my English is not making much sense. I also heard that if you want to learn a language then learning it from your partner is not the best way to go. People think that just because you have a partner from a certain country then it will automatically mean that you will be able to learn the language easily and that your partner can teach you and you get to practice every day. Oh so convenient. This is however seldom the case. Often trying to do this leads to conflicts and strains on the relationship. And most people do not have any understanding of the structure of their native language since it is their native language so they are not directly the best teachers. I think that as Serelem say watching drama and tv can be good. It depends on your personality and what you like to do and how disciplined you are. I am basically lazy so if I do not have a teacher that tells me what to do and gives me homework I do not feel that motivated to study. So language classes are always nice. That said I am now learning Korean but I am doing it by myself at a slow pace. I already know Japanese so I am hoping that my Japanese will make it easier for me to learn Korean. I am also using a free app and software called anki for learning words. I learn a new word everyday and I am also using this to review words. After having learned Japanese for about a year I started to watch Japanese tv without subtitles. I did not understand almost anything but I looked up a couple of words every time and after living in Japan for one year as an exchange student studying in Japan, and learning it for about 7 years I can say that I can watch tv in Japanese and I get most of what they are saying. But it takes time. My Japanese is not perfect. I still have a lot of grammar that I do not know nor understand. I can read some books but there are still so many words I do not know. But I still believe that practice makes perfect and any kind of studying is better than no studying, so find something that you likes and that you can keep up and if you get bored of doing that find something else. books, manga, tv-shows, drama. Learning languages is slow and difficult and you do not see the result of your learning immediately. However one day you will suddenly realize that you can do something that you could not do before, like understanding a word when you hear it that you did not know a month ago but since reading it and looking it up you are able to recognize it, or going to karaoke and finally understanding the lyrics, and realizing that the song that you love singing is actually a pretty sad love song and not at all the happy song that you thought it was, or just understanding peoples conversation on the metro. Going to a country and speaking the language everyday is a very good way of learning it. However when making friends it is important to start the relationship by speaking in their language instead of your own native language or in English. It is often very difficult to change the language that you are communicating in. If you have started as friends in English it is difficult to start being friends in another language such as Japanese. Finding a space or a place where you can practice the language might be a good way of doing it. I knew and American girl that joined a choir where she only spoke in the native language of the country she was living in, while she the rest of the time was living in this English language bubble. But I do understand that it is hard to do this. It is hard, painful, frustrating, boring and makes you feel stupid to hang out with people and have almost no idea what they are talking about and of course there is no way that you can but into the conversation because when you understand what they are talking about they have changed the subject. But there will come a day when you do, it will just take a lot of time.
      Also being selfish can be a good thing. To not feel bad because the other person wants to practice their English with you. One of the Japanese girls that I met when I first arrived in Japan told me that if they want to use me to practice their English I should just tell them to go to a language school (she was talking to me in Japanese even though she could speak English after being an exchange student in USA). Not that I ever had that problem. I was in Japan in order to learn and speak in Japanese. I was never interested in becoming friends with anyone that was Japanese that were not interested in speaking in Japanese with me. But then I guess that I am a bit special that way and maybe some people might think that it makes me into a bad person not being interested in making friends and talking in English with them. For me talking is the most effective way of learning a language, grammar giving the basic idea about the language and helping in sorting the sentence so that I can make sense out of it. When I was a freshman at Japanese we would practice all the new grammar by doing simple exercises when we were talking and using the new grammar and words. These classes were the most difficult and fun and it was during these classes that the grammar and words actually stuck. I could keep on writing about this forever since I love learning languages and I have a lot of different experiences about learning but I believe that I’ve written way to much already.

      • I feel so identified with you, Ellen. I’ve been learning Japanese for more than 4 years now, only 3 hours of class a week, and now I feel that I begin to understand some song lyrics, or TV shows without subtitles. It really feels warm to see that you’re starting to understand new things, and also that you’re able to say something that you thought you couldn’t say. About a year and a half ago, I started to study Chinese and Korean as well, and, it is truly a hard experience. Learning only one language takes a lot of hours of dedication, so learning 3 at a time is hard x3. But I agree with what you said: learning languages is a long long process, and takes a lot of practice, and exercises… Also, all being said, I’m Spanish, and I started studying Korean by my self, with the help of some Korean friends that came to Spain to learn Spanish, and in my case, I am the one they use to practice my language, mostly because I can’t really speak Korean, so, as both of you (Ellen and Nic) said and I’ve also experienced, it is hard to be surrounded by Koreans speaking Korean and trying to follow the conversation, and for me it’s impossible to but into the conversation. But well, I still love learning languages, and as long as I can, I want to do my best and keep studying the 3 languages. So, let’s all do our best!

  264. I totally get what you’re saying. At first I really wanted to learn Japanese, which I still do, but then I tried my luck with Korean. Now, learning the basics is really easy in Korean and the Hangeul makes it seem easier than Japanese, but in reality, it’s not. When it comes to Korean I feel like I haven’t learned much or that I’ve forgotten what I’ve learned. I have been away from academic Japanese, but I can still easily read and know what’s going on a lot more fluently than I would with Korean. It’s strange, but that is the way it is. I’m currently studying Chinese and while it seems intimidating because of tones and characters, I know SO much more than I thought I would EVER learn in just 13 weeks. My teacher will give me a word and I’ll make up a sentence on the spot. She’ll ask me why and I can give her a why. It’s not just introduction, it’s an actual conversation regardless of how basic it is. I truly think that Korean is just a very difficult language, more difficult than Chinese or Japanese. The Hangeul really tricked me at first and I do think that the pronunciation was just a challenge at first, more challenging than Chinese tones. Tones were difficult for me at first until I started getting them right and then, I started KNOWING them without pinyin and just by looking at characters I know.
    What you say is right about other people wanting to use their English after studying for so many years. I’m already bilingual. I speak Spanish as well, but where I live it’s very necessary. You really do get paid more than those that only speak English. However, Korean or Japanese wouldn’t be very beneficial. These languages are only good in a limited situation. I have had Korean clients walk through my door and really, I can’t communicate with them because my area of work was more complex and involved, being that it was court related. It’s practically impossible to translate information about laws that only exist in say my state or country and not in Korea. In Chinese the same difficulty level can be found, but I knew enough to greet the client, ask them if they spoke Mandarin, tell them I spoke very little, ask them if they understood what was being explained in English, ask if they had a friend who could help them understand the paperwork. While I could tell them they had to make an appointment, I couldn’t tell them for what because that explanation was just too technical to explain without having first figured out what I was trying to tell them. It happened to me in Spanish paperwork translation, but with a little thinking and dictionary lookup, it could be figured out.
    Korean is complex because of their honorary system. While it might be possible to read the newspaper, if you know a decent amount of hanja characters, I think it would be difficult to read scholarly texts. That’s really what I was going for, reading Korean literature because I’m not a fan of translations. The same with Japanese. Aside from speaking the language, I wanted to read historical texts that I could not find with English translations. Oh, and original manga/manhwa. I would never have to wait for an official English releases again! I agree with what you said that everyone else wants to speak English so that THEY can practice. I know someone who offered to teach me Korean in exchange for practicing his English, but there’s just no way I’m going to learn beyond the conversational It’s really not possible unless I spend years learning and studying to read texts. You two can do very well without speaking more than the basic Korean because there really is no need.

  265. So if you don’t live in Korea and wish to learn better Korean, what are somethings that you could suggest?

  266. Sillamari

    I think you two are doing a GREAT job by promoting Korea. If I were to move to Korea in the future, I’d learn Korean. The reasons I think, is that I love to discuss and learning new languages. Up until now I speak and understand Norwegian (danish and swedish too since they’re fairly similar), english and french. I started studying Korean a year ago and so far, I really enjoy it! :)

  267. Honestly, I think it’s what makes you guys happiest. Though I think there is no harm in trying it for a month or so and see how you handle the workload – if it works, hey, that’s great! But if not, then you can say at least you tried and you knew that you couldn’t fit it in your lifestyle. Since you both don’t have an issue communicating adequately, I don’t really see it as a problem.

  268. To be very honest I completely understand where you’re coming from.
    The Korean language is not easy to learn, and I AM Korean!
    It’s a phonetic language and there are so many rules that must be followed.
    To be honest, if you feel like you have a relatively firm grasp of the language… then you shouldn’t have to worry about learning more; you shouldn’t feel guilty about anything.
    And hey, if you’re exhausted after working nonstop? You deserve to rest and enjoy what little free time you have!
    So I guess in a nutshell… I think you two have done what you can and have learned what you needed to learn.
    Don’t feel guilty about a thing!

    What you do on a daily basis is just so beneficial for Korea.
    Heck, even I want to go back and explore my parent’s homeland.
    Keep doing what you’re doing and don’t change a thing! :D

  269. Yes, learning Korean is so hard! But I love it. I’ve been taking classes from Rob Julien for a year now (and unfortunately had to take a break from current sessions to pay for college classes), and I’m still far from speaking a complex sentence comfortably. I’m more confident in my reading and writing than speaking ability. “otz
    I’m jealous that you two have had the opportunity for full language immersion, because it’s the best way to pick up any language. :)

  270. Having such a “working vocabulary” of Korean, it would be hard to gauge what level you guys are at – as much as you can function conversationally, like you said, the topics can be a bit shallow. My only advice would be to expand into specialty areas first, learning vocab to help you get along… for example – now that your in business, your going to need to know a lot more related words to that, such as terms of administration, taxation, business practices, legal matters… and you might find as you delve more into being able to talk about your business, that you can expand into other areas much more easily, tax and business issues are part of politics and you would have to learn less vocab… president, tax hike, no like! lol.

    You have already put so much effort into it, and are doing so well… with so much work, maybe even a word a day and try to use it at least 5 times.. could help you.

    also… just in case of emergency: 내 호버크라프트는 장어로 가득 차 있어요
    you never know when you will need that phrase!

    ~S

    P.s I have a 166 collaboration document on the intricacies of Korean Grammar – close to university level. easily emailed.

  271. Seeying you guys work you butts off really motivates me to do the same and learn Korean. It’s not about fluency, it’s about understanding what’s going on around you, which will make everything more enjoyable. You should not feel guilty about not having any time left to learn how to be fluent, you both got a busy schedule after all. I’m Dutch, so English is not my native language. I’m planning on learning basic Korean before I’ll make a trip to Korea. I’m a little scared to take the jump in the deep without it to be honest…

  272. purpleduck

    I couldn’t camembert that cheese song, edam you both.

  273. there’s a Korean store nearby my house and my friend and I are really close to the family that owns the store. Everytime we go there they are always so excited to see us and practice their English and even introduced their kids to us so we could all be friends. We practice our Korean with them and they become so amazed with how much we’ve grown (even though it would only be like one new word each time we saw them). And they give us free stuff all the time and almost treat us like their own kids. This is what really pushed me to learn more Korean and visit Korea soon!
    lol random story, but their cheese lady story reminds me of this family ^^

  274. Veta_K_C

    So you don’t lose your precious down time, I would suggest an audio file of Korean lessons that you can listen to in the office or while traveling or in the bathroom…you get the idea. I have a Spanish audio book that I listen to in the car so it doesn’t interfere with family time

  275. Emsie12

    The only reason I can see a major benefit in becoming more fluent in Korean for you all would be the interviewing of Korean groups/people. Being able to communicate a more difficult idea or question would be helpful. But I know you all put so much work into doing these videos and, to be honest, I wish you could get more rest, you certainly deserve it.

    Also, if you did want to practice your Korean more, I know what we did in my high school Spanish class was wrote letters to a Spanish speaking class (I think we had one from Spain itself) in Spanish and they would write their responses in the English they learned. Of course, you could probably apply this to a face-to-face conversation as long as both sides are patient enough.

    Anyway, no matter what decision you ultimately make on becoming more fluent, I’ll still be watching and laughing. ^^ I love you guys~

  276. Can you guys teach us korean in the next TLDR? pleeeeeeeeeeease?

  277. That video was awsome like usual ! Thank You ! :3
    Martina I love your hair !

  278. The cheese lady story was very sweet. ALSO, how do South Koreans feel about North Korea and North Koreans? Especially North Korean refugees living in South Korea? And how do you feel about the whole issue?

  279. Well, I know you have connections with the Talk to Me in Korean team. And, not being in Korea, they are my lifeline to the Korean language. I don’t think you can make a wrong choice in this case. And, there are only so many hours in a day…..

    I learn Korean because I have a Korean-born son (We live in the Great Northwest if the US). I want to give our family a connection to his mother-land….It’s the same reason we got into KPop. That said, it is the HARDEST studying I have ever done. I have a degree in Chemistry…For me, Organic Chemistry was easier to learn.

    If it were me, I wouldn’t focus on becoming fluent. I would focus on improving. Learning something new (even a tiny thing) day by day. You may never be the university definition of fluent but, you will get more and more conversant.

    On another note, I want to thank you for everything you have meant to our family. We love the window you have opened to us into our son’s birth culture. You do it with humor and skill. We honestly love you guys; and, love Korea more because of you.

  280. chiakaiyuki

    Personally I think that if you’re staying in a country for an extended period of time, or even just a short trip, you should make an effort to learn a bit of the language. Even just simple words like Hello/Please/Thank you. Ofc, this is most likely a result of my fear/hatred of not understanding people… living in a lost bubble is a nightmare situation for me. xD

    • Some people just really don’t mind don’t being able to really communicate in the country’s language, I think they look at the experience from another point of view…
      I personally wouldn’t like being in a country without knowing at least some sentences, words, etc… I just don’t like, because the way I want to be a part of the situation includes this: feeling the people and their communication, etc. Plus I like a lot to learn things.
      The level of knowledge of a language too is very personal. I understand what S&M are saying, and being on their feet I would probably do the same, except for the fact that I’m competitive even with myself, and I like to have deep conversations, but that’s my personality xD
      But I don’t actually get this “learn the language out of respect” thing. There are a lot of ways to praise something, and even if you think this way is the best, the other person may not see from the same point of view and think you’re not praising enough because of such and such acts…(or I don’t know if “praise” is the best word for it, sorry ^^)

  281. Question: how have things changed since you first came to Korea? I know that some of the things I received dire warnings about (people in your tiny rural town will have never seen a foreigner! good luck getting foreign foodstuffs! no tampons anywhere! no bared shoulders!) didn’t actually end up being true, so since you’ve been here for years I’d really like to know what’s different, and what you think is changing now. ^^

    (if you have deja vu it’s because I asked this before what what!)

  282. The main reason my family learned English was because they planned to live in the United States their whole life and needed English to get a job. But Martina and SImon have a job that doesn’t necessarily require English and as far as we know they won’t be there forever. Either way guys do what is best for you! Love from Texas!!

  283. that’s an interesting take. i honestly really enjoyed learning korean and i think it came easy to me. but, i was being taught by a friend. and now i’m taking french classes at college which are RIDICULOUSLY hard. homework ALL THE FREAKING TIME. and i’m so behind. T.T anyhoo. i think it comes easier to those who really want to learn it, and have the time. great post, y’all. <3 ^_^

  284. Catherine

    super junior teaches me korean the same way rammstein taught me german! i can’t say anything useful, of course, but i understand how the language works and what it should sound like. reason #75690 why music is the answer to world peace.

  285. I think you guys shouldn’t feel guilty. Like you said you know enough to get a long well, and all your friends speak english, and you use english on your job as well. Idk… I think you should only learn more if you felt the necessity to do so and also if you had time. Please have time to rest. We don’t want you guys to work 24/7 just to get a video in the right schedule or if you decide to study korean. I mean to us it won’t make any difference if you speak fluently or not. So it’s completly up to.

    OMG I’ve rambled so much. But thanks for the long post. I appreciate reading it.

  286. Mei Lin

    I love Korean culture, food and music but sadly.. I’m Chinese.. I live in America and am only fluent in English.. I personally dislike learning Chinese (language) but I’m trying to learn it since it may help me in the future. But after reading this, it makes me really think if I’m honestly need to learn the WHOLE freaking Chinese language.. I don’t hate my own culture.. I LOVE IT but I would choose learning Korean over Chinese anyday…..

  287. You don’t have to rely on English in your everyday life in Korea. I think that’s more than anyone could ask from a foreigner! I wish I could speak Korean as well as you guys.

  288. Learning a new language is really really hard, and as long as you’re making some effort (which CLEARLY you have) I don’t see how anyone could fault you for not having the desire to push forward into being super fluent. For me right now I understand some of what I hear, and I know lots of little words and expressions, but I still have no idea how to put my own thoughts together to express them. >_<

  289. As a teacher that’s a few months into his first year in Gangwondo, you’re definitely right about needing to step your Korean learning up. I live in a town with a few hundred people and one other foreigner, and I’m about 4 hours away from Seoul and Busan. All of the store names and what not are in Korean, so if you’re not going to be in a metropolitan area then you definitely should put more of an effort into learning. The upside is that from what I’ve noticed, after the first nervous laugh at least, Korean people really appreciate the effort. At least in the rural areas, where foreigners probably aren’t as common a thing, being able to chit-chat or say even a few things goes a long way.

    Also, made it out to Seoul for the first time last weekend and wow, Seoul/Itaewon/Hongdae are like completely different countries compared to what I’m used to here!

  290. Matthew Blair

    Please make that a T-Shirt. “Cheese Lady’s not a STRANGER!”
    Please respond with yes, no, or a LOL.

  291. I really appreciate your honesty and I understand why you don’t want to become fluent. My situation is a bit different: I’m European and trying to learn Mandarin and Korean, but it is really hard for me because I don’t have much free time. I work as an it technician and also go to vocational school which I have to study for. I also started learning programming languages because I sometimes need them for me job so I bet you can imagine how hard it is for me. But I really want it and if it takes me 20 years then who cares… Me, the perfectionist…^^

  292. I started learning to speak/read/write Korean last year, I feel like I’ll never get fluent enough to be able to hold a conversation T-T I really want to visit Korea one day but I’m afraid I won’t be able to get around so well, even with all the english about D:

    • My friend spoke no Korean (and she’s Asian..so of course everyone talked to her lol) and I had started to learn Korean but couldnt remember a whole lot when i was over there, but I had some of the basics down. I think the phrases i used the most (other than she;s not Korean, she’s American, lol) were how do i get there, how much is this, thank you, etc. just very basic stuff. Many people were able to help us with their small amount of English, and hand gestures become your friends! lol. We were able to get around a bit easier b/c we had some maps or business cards from the hotels to give the taxi drivers, and the basic Korean writing i knew helped us when we were on the bus or looking for a specific place.

      Seoul, Busan and Jeju island were pretty English speaking friendly. The more rural places we went were not as much, but the people were still awesome and we were able to get around. :)

    • I know how you feel. I studied Mandarin Chinesefor a year at Uni, but it wasn’t until after I had been in China for a few months that I could say I started to grasp some of it.

  293. Winifred Hwang

    I don’t really know what kind of idiot would say “You should learn blah blah blah language out of respect for blah blah country.” -_- I just don’t see how you can correlate those two. It’s as obnoxious as someone saying “Learn English, this is Amurrica.”

    • I take it you don’t use Tumblr often? You’d be surprised by what people say there…

    • I think that’s more of a you-should-at-least-try-to-learn-the-language-of-the-place-you’re-going-to-live kind of mentality. I don’t think that the above statement about respect is incredibly sound, but I understand it. It’s basically like what Martina and Simon explained in the video and blog post: No, you shouldn’t have to be FORCED to learn a country’s language because some people think you should, but if you want to have a more meaningful time there, then you should at least learn something. Everyone has different situations, but that’s the jist.

      • Winifred Hwang

        I understand the sentiment but not the statement (how does not knowing a language indicate disrespect for a country)? Spitting on and lighting fire to a flag–disrespectful. Not knowing how to say you are allergic to bees, you got stung by a bee and you need an epi pen–maybe a little reckless, but certainly not disrespectful. I might even understand when some douche on the subway yells at you for not speaking English in the US (because he’s too lazy to try to understand anyone who doesn’t speak it). Just not someone who equates a visitor not speaking their country’s language to spitting and then urinating on their flag.

        • I think where people get miffed is when you “expect” them to help you and yet you are not speaking their language at all. For instance, as an American myself, I’ve traveled the world extensively. Do I speak every language? Nope. I also do not expect to get help in other countries when I speak to them in English. I’m not speaking their language and it’s disrespectful in a way to “expect” them to help me as if my language is the language everyone should speak. When I need assistance, I am always very apologetic and ask them very kindly “English?” and they’ve always been as helpful as they can be because I make it clear *I* am the one who doesn’t know their language in their country. In the U.S. I work in a very touristy area. I often have people ask me for help in broken English and I am more than willing to help them because they’re trying. Even if they couldn’t speak English i would still help IF they didn’t expect me to help them and they weren’t treating ME as stupid for not knowing their language when I’m in my own country. It’s all in the delivery of the message is what I’m getting at. :-)

        • Yep, me too! I live in a resort area, and I love hearing all the different accents. When I worked in retail I learned to say white bag or brown bag in a few different languages because we’d often get people who would smile self-consciously and say “No English”. So i’d try to say the object in their language. They’d laugh and would even wave if I happened to see them outside the store.

          I’ve always loved helping people that at least try to communicate in English. But I’ve never forgotten the unpleasantness of people that have yelled at me or worse insulted myself or a coworker for not being able to speak (or so they thought) in their own language. Best comeuppance ever is when you actually do speak it and tell the obnoxious person to “Have a nice day!” in their own language. Happened to a coworker who spoke Farsi, the woman’s shocked face was priceless.

        • Winifred Hwang

          Yeah, that’s totally understandable. But I can’t believe someone would say it to S&M, who can communicate in a functional way and probably aren’t demanding those around them to speak English for them, but rather making an effort to speak Korean. So in this context, I still can’t see how it’s appropriate to say something like that.

    • That actually happens a lot in America (I speak Spanish and know a lot of Spanish speaking people) there are some rude people that say that. (Nt everyone ) but they do get some attitude when they meet someone that can’t speak their language ….. Specially at McDonalds.

      • Winifred Hwang

        Yeah I know :( I’m from the US lol I was on the bus once. A father asked a woman if she or her grown son could move so his toddler and wife could sit together. He had a slight accent. The woman immediately got angry and told him that this was America and he should learn to speak English properly. She only moved after everyone gave her dirty looks lol

    • Actually, I agree with your first sentiment. But I also do agree with “Learn English..”. I’m an American in a heavily multilingual state (California). When I worked at a retail home goods store, I was several times yelled at by non-English speakers for being unable to speak Spanish. I know a little bit, and tried to learn it in HS (largely forgotten). I found it really insulting for one guy to be yelling “How could you not know Spanish!” at me while he couldn’t speak any English (the only phrase I can remember in Spanish). I finally asked in German if he could speak that and he stopped yelling.

      That said, I think of it like the stereotype of the ugly, loud American, with the Hawaiian shirt shouting “Look Martha, it’s Kim…Chee, you Korean fellers take dollars?” lol. At least learn a little bit to function with. S&M clearly function pretty well. so I’d have to agree with so many others that you don’t need to feel guilty, just get a little better each day. The more you understand the more you can participate and appreciate the culture around you, just like Chio said above.

  294. I bet Spudgy humped that teddy bear just like how he humped that pickle.

  295. I’m from Germany but my English is pretty good, weird to say that about me – but hey, I’m just being honest. It was actually really really easy to get from A to B. But thankfully at the Hotel in Yeouido we were staying at, they had business cards and on the backside was a map as to how to find the hotel, so we could simply show this to the Taxi driver. That was a huge relief. :3
    However, as we can read Korean it was sometimes a bit easier I assume.. As for the Speaking / Understanding.. uhm.. not really..
    If I ever plan on moving to Korea I’ll definitely want to be able to speak / understand Korean for the same reason as you two stated. :3
    (I mean, I always get annoyed when people in Germany can’t speak proper German.. xx)

  296. Adilah Hab

    I went to Korea for vacation during summer and my friends and I did a lot of research before going. Like memorizing phrases and recognising characters because we thought it would be hard since we dont speak korean. We were pleasantly surprised when we were in Korea though. Eg. We were lost trying to find 63 building because we tried walking, so we asked some random pedestrian in English. We thought we were gonna get ‘sorry no english’, but surprise surprise, the old man stopped and thought hard, then he started giving directions in English. There was also a shop in Dongdaemun where the owner and the workers could actually speak Malay (Thats my native language :p) because they decided to learn it since they always have a lot of Indonesian/Malaysian tourists. Most people I have met could speak English to be honest, but yeah I guess learning some Korean wouldnt hurt :) Oh yes, its worth taking note that we only went to Seoul, I mean I can’t say the same for places like Busan or Jeju.

  297. Honestly I mostly want to improve my Korean because my accent is really good, so even though I don’t know much, Koreans think I am super fluent in their language. Seeing as people are always talking to me like I’m fluent it would save some time and trial if I would just become so. ><'

  298. Are you frowned upon for not knowing Korean? Or are they helpful?

    • In Korea, we haven’t been frowned upon. Every time we speak Korean to people in Korea they’re amazed at how much we speak and commend us for it, even if we just say a few words :D

      • Is it better to speak bad Korean over not speaking Korean at all? I have been learning Korean and I am afraid I might say something offensive in Korean. I know Spanish and French but those cultures are closer to mine than Korean so I know what not to say.

        • Korea is def way more accepting of people trying to learn the language than other countries I’ve been to. Korea is kinda in disbelief that other people from other countries have such an interest in it!

    • It’s different, some people do frown at you, but those who has international connections or are quite curious about people of other countries generally happy you are trying from my knowledge.

  299. Not a bad post at all. Also, many Korean lessons won’t teach you as much as actually interacting with Koreans here will do. I’ve been living in Korea for 5 months now and nothing taught me more usable Korean than actually talking to Koreans, listening to them and picking up on the grammar that NORMAL people use. A lot of the Korean grammar taught at schools, at Ewha and KLI is no where near as useful as simply SPEAKING with people. Many schools (I’d dare say ALL) want you to memorize, memorize and memorize – which is why most Koreans aren’t that good at English for example. They’re not used to speaking – they’re used to memorizing and translating texts using dictionaries and charts. No one will become fluent at anything with that.

    • Same goes for Chinese, I seriously think this is a flaw in their educational process.

      • Yeah, I think it’s the way they educate their students. I’m Taiwanese Canadian so when I was younger, my parents had me take all these extra math and english classes bc of reasons (bc I’m Asian that’s why -___-” ). I rmrbr loving English classes in school but hating the extra classes solely bc the chinese teacher teaching english had me MEMORIZING texts word for word. Obviously at 7 years old, I had no idea this was absolutely not helpful to me at all and just went along with it. To this day, I still don’t understand how memorizing texts word for word is useful bc (in my opinion) the purpose of learning a language is so you can use IRL.

        • that’s a big problem in China’s educational system: it’s all memorization and rhetoric, no attempt to nurture an individual opinion. I see people who want to study in foreign universities, but can’t pass (or put in the work to pass) any section of IELTS or TOEFL.

        • Honestly, memorization is the easiest way to learn the Chinese language, or at least for vocabulary. You can’t build phrases without memorizing the characters and how sentences are structured. This is then supplemented by regular conversations people have everyday with their friends and family. Yes, it is problematic when they apply the same learning style to English, especially when they don’t learn how (or have the opportunity) to converse in English, but it is also understandable why try to learn English like this.

      • You need to know at least 2000 characters to be considered literate in Chinese. How do you think you would learn those characters? The language is also tonal, so you have to memorize what character goes with which sound AND tone. There’s pretty much no other way than rote memorization.

        • While that’s completely fair, I think it’s important to remember that literacy isn’t the same thing as conversational ability. I personally enjoy rote memorization but it’s a very specific learning style and there’s always different ways to teach a concept.

        • I would definitely be open to learning Chinese without having to just straight-up memorize everything, but I can’t imagine it being done.

          Yeah, I’m aware of the difference between literacy and conversational ability. But again, since Chinese is tonal, you pretty much have to memorize the tone that goes with the word you want to say. It’s not really intuitive at all. You can’t necessarily “just speak” and have people in China understand you.

          Rote memorization is definitely flawed, but that’s just how the Chinese learn their own complex language (esp writing which is probably one of the most valued cultural artifacts) and thus they apply it to many other educational aspects (whether for good or ill). I don’t know if people understand that it’s not just a “Asians are mindless robots and aren’t creative” thing, but it’s very deeply culturally ingrained.

        • Agreed; As an American living in China, I bet I could get by if I could only speak well and read a little bit.

        • Barry Adams

          When I lived in China, I found knowing certain characters essential for living in China. Especially food characters!

        • Matt Woodford

          For a Korean, memorizing Chinese characters is effective because there’s no issue with comprehension: they’re an integral part of the Korean language, used in half of all Korean words, and hence readily understood.

          When it comes to English, ‘learning’ an English word by memorizing the Korean ‘equivalent’ is no good, for there are few equivalents. In fact, it may mean the Korean learner will need to unlearn all that false learning before they can really get ahead.

      • No kidding! I studied Chinese in grad school for a year, and I never learned more or used it more than I have in the last 4 months.

    • it’s like that with english here in germany. when i was still in school we started english classes at age 10/11 (nowadays kindergarten kids have to learn it) and the things we learned were the usual directions and order food in restaurants etc but it was so basic like…no one talks like that in the uk (or anywhere else really)
      same with french and spanish, i had those for 2 years in school and wanted to cry when i visited france/spain because it was so different there i felt like i just landed on another planet

      • Oh yeah, I agree. This is because the teachers are forced to stick to the books the schools want them to use and they are 99% non-native speakers. Slang is another topic which is not dealt with in schools here in Germany.
        I studied English and French (translating and interpreting, my mother tongue is German) at University and we had native-speakers for all those subjects. This showed me a whole new way of using / handling those languages.

        Someone said: Books are like instruction manuals. It is nice to read them but you’ll learn more by using and trying out your device’s functions.
        This is the same case for learning foreign languages. Expose yourself to the actual use of it: watch TV channels in that language, read books, watch DVDs with dubs/subs, read newspapers or blogs, talk to people…
        I just wish that some of those methods could also be used in school – so many kids are bored by the way English or French is taught in middle or high school. That would instantly change if they felt like what they learn is of actual use and not just theory (where speaking practice often consists of repeating like a parrot what the teachers say).

    • I’d have to say that at least taking a couple of classes at the very beginning would help one just get a basic grip of the language. After that, self-study and speaking is where it’s at.

      HOWEVER, it’s been my own experience that for languages like Korean and Japanese, it’s hard to go with the “just speak and worry about the grammar later” approach, since the grammar is so vastly different from English.

      • Yeah, I agree with your point about Korean and grammar (can’t speak to Japanese). The whole pattern of speaking is different and to ignore it will really only hurt the learner. Even if you just take a cursory look at something about the grammar, it’ll make language learning that much easier.

  300. That is the frustrating thing about living in Korea – it’s hard to practice your Korean because everyone wants to practice their English on you. I don’t mind if I can’t speak fluently… but I’d like to be proficient enough in reading and writing so I can at least understand what’s going on around me. The YMCA in Daegu offers night classes so I do that twice a week for two hours/session, plus self-study online and via Rosetta Stone, etc. I’ve always liked learning languages, though, so my motivation for learning Korean is mostly for self-improvement. I find it fun, and although the grammar is confusing sometimes I’m getting better at figuring out how it all works. It’s fun. I guess it’s not for everyone, but as long as you can communicate effectively you can definitely get by in Korea without having to know too much Korean.

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