Odd encounters with my best friend, Language!

Sometimes, I have to say I am grateful to grow up in a country of difference races. This naturally gave me the privilege of learning several languages by ‘default’ and ‘FOC’ in our daily life.

I, who came from international school, was given an option to study additional foreign language, French. But it was a subject I never took seriously because my interest was mainly in Korean. Partly because my school comprised mainly 80% of Koreans. I started learning Korean seriously since I was 13-14, which I think peer influence played a big role for pulling me into this whole new world. Before stepping into this world, I once swore I will never like anything about South Korea but perhaps friends have made me changed my mind. So yeah, I wasn’t addicted to South Korea because of K-pop or K-dramas in the first place; they fall into second place instead.

‘Why did you fall in love with Korea?’ is a question probably everyone who loves Korea would be asked. ‘K-pop…Idols…K-drama’ is most notably 80% people would answer but for me, I fall into the other 20%. I like South Korea…for South Korea itself. The traditional, unique stories of South Korea. I love history, especially from Joseon dynasty. I’m not a historian or anyone who would study in-depth about the history of something, but I find myself occasionally reading about Joseon dynasty. It is an amazing fact to understand how Hangeul that we are learning nowadays came about, the chronological events from Three Kingdoms to Goryeo to Joseon to South Korea. To a certain extent, what happened in the past always has an effect on the future development of anything – which is now and also the future. In my point of view, you will never truly appreciate something until you start to appreciate the history of it.

History aside, the cultures that were being brought down from centuries ago up to now is also one of the points that made me loves Korea. Long ago before I love Korea, I thought South Korea was a country well-known for its technologies and modern inventions but never had I knew that a strong traditional culture were also heavily adapted and look up upon in this fast-growing country. Maintaining the tradition is never an easy task to any of the countries that are constantly emerging and developing but South Korea is one of the few developed countries that managed to achieve the win-win situation. In the city of Seoul itself, they still remain the major palaces that were built during Joseon dynasty. Although they were renovated to improve the construction’s quality and better adapted to the modern city, you can still clearly see its traditional essence in it.

Moving to a daily life example is the honorific that almost all Koreans (and so should foreigners in Korea) use. Let’s use the most basic example that I have learned from my Korean friends: Koreans often use honorific when addressing someone who is older than them, and never drops the honorific unless they are allowed to do so. Honorific is something that Koreans see it very importantly, and us as a foreigner should be more aware of. It is something that I always remind to myself whenever talking to Koreans nowadays, or anyone who’s speaking to me in Korean, because I might not want to sound informal/rude to someone I’m not very close to (yet), don’t I? In my culture, I have so far never heard of anything such as ‘honorific’, but they do have certain level of formality to be used to address older people or in a formal occasion.

I’m also learning Chinese at the same time I’m learning Korean. Yes, I am a Chinese and for this reason itself, I should be familiar with my own mother language. It is not something like an obligation to learn, but somehow like what my mother said, ‘You as a Chinese should at least know where you are from, have a basic knowledge of your own language and be proud of your own language’. I seriously never understand why I should learn Chinese when I was younger and until I started making friends with Koreans. I mean, I do speak broken Chinese but could never read or understand Chinese words when I was younger, which totally made me a half banana.

It was the bunch of Korean friends that changed my aspect. Whenever we have our little talks of our own cultures or countries, some of my friends would be like ‘Nah..there’s nothing great about our country..’ but Koreans would be like ‘I am very proud of my country. I love Korea and I am proud I can speak my own mother language’. To be honest, I felt embarrassed at that time and things started to change for me. To start learning a new language is to start learning your own language first. I started taking Chinese language seriously from then onwards.

I have to admit that Chinese is a much more difficult language to learn as compared to the well-organised Hangeul in Korean (which was why King Sejong came up with the Hangeul system in early Joseon dynasty). I can type in Chinese but I still cannot handwrite in Chinese, because every Chinese words are different and you got to memorise how to write each of them. However, I’m glad I’m born a Chinese because at the very least, I still can manage to understand and speak Chinese, which I think might be hard for some non-Chinese learners. I have a Korean friend who can speak Chinese very fluently too, so I guess I need to put in more effort in my Chinese as well.

I guess being able to understand a few languages is a good thing. There was a few times whenever I can’t manage to understand people talking to me in Malay, I started replying them in Korean unknowingly, and it’s a perfectly fluent Korean that I doubt I would talk the same with native Koreans. I do understand some very useful and basic Malay, but anything deeper than that, definitely a no for me. For Korean language, it was almost like a habit to me already (probably influenced by my Korean friends) is that..I would reply ‘I don’t know’ (我不知道) in Chinese whenever I can’t understand any Korean words. Lastly, the same thing happened to me when people started talking Chinese I don’t understand, I started replying them in English. I wonder what would happen if I don’t understand English….? I haven’t encountered this situation before but I am very curious to know what kind of language I would reply in.😛

Currently, I am learning Korean, Chinese and Japanese. I could’t comment anything about my experience in learning Japanese yet because I’ve only started learning it. But I am determined to learn all these three language seriously this year!


궁금하지 말입니다! I’m curious~지 말입니다!

This post is a repost from my previous Naver blog, dated back in 12th March 2016. Contents are original and have not been edited since initial post.

Descendants of the Sun (DOTS). Song Joong Ki. Song Hye Kyo. 태양의 후예. 송중기. 송혜교.  


The current hottest terms you sure wouldn’t have missed if you’re a keen K-drama fan. Even for a not-so-frequent fan like me, I’m falling over heels for this drama! It’s way beyond awesome: the storyline, the scene, the characters, the background, the music; basically everything! At the current episode 6, its viewership ratings had already surpassed the big-hit drama You Who Came From The Star (YWCFTS) in year 2012 by Kim Soo Hyun & Jeon Ji Hyeon. The latter hit its highest viewership rating of 28.1% in the last episode whereas DOTS surpassed the rating with 28.5% in episode 6! What more is that the fact DOTS is under KBS, the viewership rating was never recorded this high since 2-3 years ago. Two thumbs up for DOTS! 

Other than everything nice in the drama that ‘motivates’ me to expecting the arrival of Wednesday and Thursday, the way of speaking in the drama particularly caught my ears. In fact, it has become a trend in Korea too. That is..~하지 말입니다. (~haji malibnida) 

Throughout the drama, you can hear Captain Yoo Si Jin and Sergeant Seo Dae Yeong using this term quite frequently among themselves, fellow soldiers and even normal citizens such as Kang Mo Yeon. It is quite interesting hearing it for the first time since it is not a commonly used term in Korea. 

However, upon researching on the net, this was actually a colloquial term used especially in the Korean military. In the modern Korean society, ~요 (~yo) is commonly used to end a sentence to indicate formality and politeness. This is, however, not the case in the Korean military. It had been a long-practiced culture that ending ‘~다’,’~나’, ‘~까’ (‘da’, ‘na’, ”ka) were used in the military. Hence, the term ‘다나까체’ (‘danaka’ slang) was formed. For instance, if you wish your friend to have a great meal, 

Normal: 식사를 맛있게 해요.

Military: 식사를 맛있게 하시지 말입니다. / 식사를 맛있게 하십시오. 

Sometimes, ‘~오’ (~o) was also used. So, why the use of ‘danaka’ slang? It is believed that compared to ‘~yo’, ending a sentence with ‘da’, ‘na’, ‘ka’ bring a higher spirit in which is an important element in any military. Hence, ‘danaka’ slang was unofficially incorporated into military culture for a long time during trainings and even off-time. 

That is not the only reason. There are times when there are soldiers of older age entering the army later than you. In terms of military ranking, you are in a higher position than him, but in terms of age, you are younger. Do you address him formally or informally? Do you use ~요’ (~yo) or not? It is awkward in Korea to not address someone who is older than you formally. Hence, by standardising the use of ‘danaka’, awkward situations like these are avoided. So regardless of age or rankings, you wouldn’t go wrong if you use ‘danaka’. 

Speaking of age and rankings, there is also another slang called 압존법 (apjonbeob). For example:

**Ranking: Sergeant major > Master sergeant > Sergeant first class

** XXX refers to full name

A (sergeant major): Sergeant first class XXX, where is master sergeant XXX?

B (sergeant first class): Master sergeant XXX is off-duty, sir!

Korean-culturally speaking, the example above is not culturally correct since sergeant first class is of lower rank than master sergeant, yet he did not address master sergeant in a formal way like ‘Master sergeant XXX-nim is off-duty, sir!’. ~님 (~nim) is used in Korea to address a person formally, such as Mr, Ms etc.   

Hence, abjonbeob was used in military when the third party (subject) is younger/lower rank than the listener, but is older/higher rank than the speaker. In cases like this, the speaker need not address the subject formally when reporting to the listener of higher rank than the subject and speaker. 

Now, besides the ‘다나까체’ (danaka slang), ‘해요체’ (~haeyo slang) is allowed in the military! As opposed to ‘danaka’ slang, ‘haeyo’ slang is more commonly used in modern Korean today. Ministry of Defense Korea had recently released an improvement guidance on the use of these military slangs. To be exact, the new protocol was released on 24th February 2016. DOTS was already pre-produced before the date, so you can still hear the slang a lot in the drama! 

What’s with new protocols? This is because the usage of the terms and formality are not correct to the standard of Korean language. You don’t get to normally hear people using ‘~하지 말입니다’ in Korea (but I guess you do now due to DOTS ㅋㅋ ). Thus, other than training sessions, soldiers are now allowed to speak in a ‘non-military’ manner such as ‘~요’ (`~yo) during their breaks. Same goes to apjonbeob as this has always been a trouble to new soldiers who are not familiar with the rankings of senior soldiers. 

So, that’s a little something new from Descendants of the Sun! The slang is awkward yet interesting to listen to while watching the drama, especially the lines from Song Joong Ki & Jin Goo! Gahhh I’m shipping this bromance to the max. Please don’t let any of them die in the end~ 😥 As of now, I couldn’t wait til next Wednesday to come. 

With additional personal favourite scene from Episode 5! This heart-wrenching lines..awww!! Transcripts and its translation are below too 



유시진: 저 내일 귀국 합니다.어제 낮에 얘기 하려고 했는데 강선생이 도망갔어요. 기억나요?

강모연: 그럼 잡았어야죠. 라이언 일병도 구해오는 사람이 잡아서 말을 했어야죠. 

유시신: 강선생이 화를 낸다는건 잘은 모르지만 나한테 유리한 것 같은데. 맞습니까?

강모연: 틀렸어요.

유시진: 여전히 강선생 마음은 복잡합니까?…그렇군요. 그럼 하나만 물어봅시다. 혹시 이게 마지막이 몰라서..그때 허락없이 키스하는거 말입니다.

강모연: 그 얘기는 내가 꺼낼때까지…

유시진: 뭐랄까요? 내가? 사과할까요? 고백할까요?


YSJ: I’m returning to Korea tomorrow. I’ve tried telling your yesterday but you ran away. Do you remember?

KMY: Then you should’ve stopped me. The person who save Private Ryan should have held on to me and tell me. 

YSJ: I can’t really tell if Ms. Kang is really angry but I guess I’m right.

KMY: You’re wrong. 

YSJ: Are you still feeling complicated?..Can I ask you a question? This may be the last one..but about that kiss without any permission.

KMY: I’ve said don’t bring that up until I get over with that…

YSJ: What should I say? Should I apologise? Or should I confess? 

**P/S: Keeping a formality in your conversation is important in Korea. Do not drop the formalities when speaking to someone older or higher ranking than you, or someone whom you just met. It may sound rude not using ‘~요’ (~yo) at the end of your sentences to a native. However, you may drop them if you are allowed to do so. 

Subject particle: ~이/가, ~은/는

When it comes to writing or speaking Korean, many people are sometimes confused on how to use the subject particles ~이/가, ~은/는. I was once very confused too, even after I read books, search online, or asked some of my Korean friends! Even when I thought I’ve gotten the concept right, when people started asking me questions I’ve never considered about, I got confused again..;;;

Aha! I did not grasp the concept well enough!

So as time passed, I tried to fit all the pieces of puzzle in my mind together, and finally got to see the big picture.

What’s a subject particle? Simply say, ~이/가 or ~은/는 act like articles such as ‘a’, ‘the’, ‘an’ in English. In the Korean language’s context, it is used to indicate or emphasise a verb, noun, subject of a sentence. You use ~이/~은 when the last alphabet of preceding word ends with a consonant and ~가/~는 with vowels.

Here comes the confusing part. But let me break it down in the way I understood it.

There are three main points that differ the usage of ~이/가 and ~은/는. They are listed down with examples in the table below:


Basically, the meaning of the sentence differs depending on what kind of situation you are using it in. But the concepts generally revolve around the three as mentioned above.

As a heads up, you cannot use ~은/는 more than once in a single sentence. Why? Because you wouldn’t know where is the emphasis of the sentence anymore! However, you can use ~이/가 and ~은/는 in the same sentence such as:

김현중이 축구는 좋아해요. (Kim Hyun Joong likes soccer)
The sentence emphasises that it is soccer that Kim Hyun Joong likes, and not others.

In summary…

You use ~이/가 when:

  1. Telling/asking something new to/from the listener.
  2. You want to emphasise on the matter before the subject particle.

You use ~은/는 when:

  1. Making a factual statement / restating an information listener already knew.
  2. You want to emphasise on the matter after the subject particle.
  3. Double emphasise the meaning of the sentence.

Hope this is easy to be understood! Please feel free to correct if I am wrong in any way or you have any doubts! 🙂

Last but not least…

Wishing everyone a happy and blessed 2017~! ^^