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Not Speaking Korean in Korea

January 21, 2013

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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.

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Not Speaking Korean in Korea

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  1. 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!

    7 years ago
  2. 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).

    7 years ago
  3. 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.

    7 years ago
    • Irina, I just wanted to tell you that your English is awesome and I would say you are as fluent as a native English speaker.

      7 years ago
  4. 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 ^^

    7 years ago
  5. 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!

    7 years ago
  6. 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.

    7 years ago
  7. 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

    7 years ago
  8. 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.

    7 years ago
    • Owl

      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.

      7 years ago
      • 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…)

        7 years ago
    • 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.

      7 years ago
      • 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…

        7 years ago
        • 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…

          7 years ago
  9. 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

    7 years ago
  10. 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.

    7 years ago
  11. DEA

    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 :)

    7 years ago
  12. 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?

    7 years ago
  13. 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?

    7 years ago
  14. 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!

    7 years ago
  15. 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. ^^

    7 years ago
  16. 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.

    7 years ago
  17. 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.

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

    7 years ago
  19. 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.

    7 years ago
  20. 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!

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

      7 years ago
  21. 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!

    7 years ago
  22. 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….^^;;

    7 years ago
  23. 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.

    7 years ago
  24. Jye

    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

    7 years ago
  25. I know that ‘being lost’ feeling V_V
    When our family moved from Russia to Germany I could only speak 3 words in german @[email protected]
    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

    7 years ago
  26. I want to meet cheese lady! I want my own personal cheese lady, she seems super sweet.

    7 years ago
  27. j’adorerais parler français avec vous deux !! ^.^

    7 years ago
  28. 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~ :)

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

    7 years ago
  30. 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)

    7 years ago
  31. 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.

    7 years ago
  32. 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. ^.^

    7 years ago
  33. 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 -_-” )

    7 years ago
  34. 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…”

    7 years ago
  35. Ana

    Make a video from the cheese lady :D

    7 years ago
  36. 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.

    7 years ago
  37. 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

    7 years ago
  38. 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!

    7 years ago
    • 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. ^^

      7 years ago
      • 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.

        7 years ago
        • 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.

          7 years ago
        • 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

          7 years ago
    • 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.

      7 years ago
    • 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?

      7 years ago
      • Just what I was going to say. You don’t need to take an intensive study course, but just a phrase or so each day.

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

      7 years ago
  39. 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.

    7 years ago
  40. 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.

    7 years ago