Tag Archives: Foreign Language Tip

“One day it will just click…” | Foreign Language Tip

How many times have you heard this, “one day it just clicked and I could understand the language”, and wondered if there was such a thing? Or maybe you’ve been told, “One day it will just click…” What is this “click” and what does that even mean???

Well, this mystical, mysterious, majestic click… is not the type of click you’re thinking.

Let me explain.

When I first starting learning Korean about four years ago, I always imagined that one day I would just wake up and I would be speaking Korean fluently. That this “click” would happen while I was watching a k-drama or listening to some music or talking with some friends. Anything!

That “click” never came.

What did happen was something very different. I began to realize that the “click” was understanding the basics to learning any language. Which is something you’ve probably heard before too but I’ll explain it. Basically it means that you begin to understand the “how” of doing it. Kinda like the moment you learned how to read or write or to do math or any subject in school. Or maybe when you figured out the answer to a riddle without any help. It’s that “a-ha” moment. That’s the “click.”

The “how” is learning the basics – grammar, sentence structure, rules – and then learning vocabulary and putting it all together in practice. I know you’re tired of hearing that but that’s literally it. There’s nothing special to do other than that. Once you learn the basics, unless you plan on teaching Korean, there’s really no reason to learn advanced grammar principles. Same with English, unless you plan on teaching English there’s really no reason to know any of the advanced material once you graduate. Think of this way, how much of the advanced grammar principles do use on a regular basis in English?

Knowing the basics is enough. Learning vocabulary is so much more important after you understand how to put sentences together.  Spelling doesn’t really matter in the beginning stages because it’s not like you’re going to be doing a whole lot of writing. The most important thing is learning the vocabulary and knowing how to pronounce it properly.

So here’s when this”click” happened for me.

It was when someone finally explained “thinking” in Korean. It’s something I had been doing for a while but never really thought too much about it. How do you “think” in another language? Sure, we have our inner voice that we “hear” in our native tongue but how do we switch that to another language?

Knowing vocabulary and basic grammar.

For example, when you think of something, like say a book, instead of mentally saying “I want that book”, you change that sentence to Korean and say “그 책을 싶어.” And you do this with other things like, “I want to drink coffee.” (커피를 마시고 싶다.) [read: I need coffee. Like now.]

So let’s say, by now, you’ve poured all this time, money and energy into grammar books, textbooks, classes, self-help books, other people’s stories on “how they did it” and their “fail-proof way for how you can too” and you still don’t get it. You still can’t speak it fluently so how are you honestly supposed to “think” in Korean fluently?

Ways to Practice: (when you’re doing this on your own)

  • You see a cell-phone. Don’t just say “that’s a cellphone” switch it to “그거 핸드폰이야” in your mind when you see it.
    • I know. I know. It sounds crazy! It sounds absolutely insane. But as you’re reading this right now, you’re already doing it. Just in English. 
  • Translate things for yourself. If you go to the grocery store, make your grocery list in Korean. And yes you absolutely can use a reference guide as you make your list.
    • Example:
      • Milk
      • Eggs
      • Apples
      • Toothpaste
      • Bread
    • Your list can look like this:
      • 우유 – for cereal
      • 계란
      • 사과
      • 치약 – for teeth
    • Make notes, like the ones I added, for words that you’re not really sure you remember 100%. And on the back of your list you can have it written in English just so you’re not forgetting anything important and have to make another trip.
  • If you watch a movie and hear a common phrase in English, think of how you would say that in Korean.
  • Challenge yourself.
    • Full immersion watching movies and shows and just listen. You don’t have to understand everything but trust me something is sticking. And plus, you’re only listening for vocabulary words and phrases anyway.

You’ll know when you’ve advanced to a point where you can start watching shows without subs. Going without subtitles isn’t helpful for everybody so don’t feel left behind if you’re three years in and you still need subtitles. (Because sometimes they just talk really fast and now you’re lost and confused on what’s happening.) The important part is listening. As long as you’re listening to how they say different words and phrases and picking up on the vocabulary, that’s all that really matters. If you can associate what you hear with what you’re reading then you’re learning something.

The “click” isn’t a magical language switch. “Thinking” in Korean might not be the “click” for you. Maybe it’s association with words and pictures. Maybe it’s what you hear and see in the movies you watch or the songs you listen to. Maybe it’s a conversation that you overheard or had with somebody. It can be a number of things that’ll happen.

The “click” is really just finally understanding how to learn a language.


I Tried Learning Korean In Reverse…

Okay, so the title sounds really strange so I’ll explain. In every language app, it’ll ask you the language you speak vs. the language you’re learning. So, for language I speak, I chose Korean and for language I’m learning, I chose English. I muted the sound and solely worked by translating sentences and written instructions.

Before I start by saying the pros and cons, I’ll say this, it didn’t hurt to test the app and it didn’t hurt to see things reversed, but was it more helpful?

Not really. But we’ll get to that.


Working in the reverse forces you to remember things you’ve learned in Korean and apply in context to English. All the instructions are written in Korean vs. English but I muted the sound because it wasn’t really necessary to hear the app pronounce words in English for me.


It’s not all that much different. Granted, the vocabulary chosen will be different because it’s not teaching Korean, it’s teaching the closest words to English. In some ways, I feel it’s a bit regressive almost because you’re thinking in English but reading in Korean. That defeats the whole purpose of learning Korean. Part of learning Korean is teaching yourself to think in the language as well.


그 텔레비전이 방에 있습니다.

If you think in Korean, you should see that sentence and immediately know that it’s talking about a TV being in a specific location without translating the sentence.

s/n: It’s okay if you’re still translating but work on just reading and comprehending without putting it in English. That takes time and practice. 

However, if you use an app in the reverse, the app wants you to see that sentence and translate it to English. So it’s a little counterproductive because not only do you have to think more in English but you also have to remember English rules and grammar for sentence structure.

Overall, if you’re using it as a supplement to your Korean studies that you already do weekly and you’re pretty advanced and looking for a challenge, it’s a pretty interesting way to challenge your translation skills occasionally.

Would I do this again or regularly? Maybe not.

Let’s Talk Titles. Addressing Others Properly in Korean | [Grammar of the “Day”] / Foreign Language Tip


Today’s topic is an important one. It’s a bit of a grammar lesson as well as a “Foreign Language Tip” specifically for those learning Korean. This is one of those lessons that you should really keep in mind in the event you are visiting Korea in the future and decide to speak in Korean.

Titles are Important

It is really important that you refer to people in the proper manner in Korean. If you don’t, it’s considered rude. There’s no way around that. Unless that person has specifically told you that it’s okay you can just call them something else like, for example, their name or a nickname.


Unless told otherwise, like stated before, you truly need to be using the proper titles for people. This is a sign of respect and it dignifies the person you’re speaking with.

“But respect is earned not given! And furthermore, what if they aren’t my supervisor or anything like that?”

You still need to properly address others when you speak to them (unless stated otherwise by that person). In America, it’s not a huge deal if you don’t address people properly because to be honest, it’s just not that serious in the states. However, Korea is not the United States. The customs are different and so are the manners so you have to keep that in mind when visiting another country.

Types of Titles: (Examples)

  • 교수님 | Professor
  • 선생님 | Teacher
  • 사장님 | Company President/Boss

No Title? No problem!

  • -씨
    • equal or lower status
    • rude if you’re their junior
    • used after given name when equal
      • i.e., 민정 – 씨 (Min-jeong “shi”)
    • Not used between people of same gender
      • I was told this and I also read this somewhere so I guess this is just one of those unspoken rules or something. I don’t know. 
  • 선배 (seonbae) | senior
    • Not close? Add -님
      • 선배님
  • 후배 (hubae) | junior
    • Not close? Add -님
      • 후배님

And if you are close to this person… try one of the below.

  • 형 (hyeong) | older brother
    • used by men
  • 누나 (nuna) | older sister
    • used by men
  • 언니 (eonni) | older sister
    • used by women
  • 오빠 (oppa) | older brother
    • used by women

Okay so that’s it for this week! Next week we’ll return to more posts on how to start up a conversation involving an activity!




Foreign Language Tip | Is “Konglish” A Thing?

Have you  ever heard the word “Konglish”?

My first time hearing that word was about a couple of weeks ago when I was skimming an article on how you can learn Korean a lot faster than you think you can. Now, granted, I am not in the business of trying to promote “quick learning” nor am I trying to do that myself. I know enough Korean to teach it on a basic level and that’s about it. I’m still working on it currently. But it never dawned on me just how much Korean I really knew until I looked at that article and saw that word.

What is “Konglish”?

Apparently, these are English words that are used the exact same way in Korean except they are pronounced differently. Words like, “computer”, “DVD”, “taxi”, etc. are all words that qualify for “Konglish”.

However, I dare to take that a step further. When you hear a sentence or read a sentence, do you pick out words you already know? Have you begun practicing by incorporating Korean words in English phrases or vice versa?

It sounds absolutely insane to do that but there is a thing called “Spanglish” and those of us (not me anymore – don’t use it you will most certainly lose it) who speak that language fluently do it all the time without even thinking about it. So what’s the difference in that and “Konglish”? Not much actually.

It is possible to say something like this… “아이고! 나 ate too much! 내 stomach 아파요!”

It looks crazy. It probably will sound crazy. And feel crazy to say this in conversation to a non-Korean speaker. But for someone learning the language, speaking in this manner to a friend who is also learning the language or knows the language, it might actually be a bit more helpful than you think.

I’ve been in the middle of a conversation with someone before and was switching back and forth between English and Korean just like the example above and there was no confusion. In fact, the conversation continued to flow and it helped my mind adjust quickly when I was listening to someone speak in Korean later on.

That’s not to say that this will work for everyone because it won’t. And in some cases it may even confuse you when you try to do it and so it’ll probably be better if you don’t try it if you know it’ll slow you down. But for those of you who want to try it to help with fluency, go right ahead!

You never know what may prove to be helpful while you’re on your language journey.