learn korean warning

7 Warning Signs You Need to Learn Korean

There are many reasons you may procrastinate starting a big new project, and learning a new language is no different. When you think too much about learning a foreign language – especially an Asian language like Korean – the task can become a real mental monster. There may also be other reasons to avoid learning it, and one may be that you don’t see it as necessary. But the fact is, even if you’re just travelling to Korea short term, a little bit of basic language knowledge will go a long way.

If you are living in Korea and have still not started learning Korean, here are 7 warning signs you need to start doing so immediately:

1. You rely on a lot of gestures, body language and pointing!

Yes, nonverbal communication is important. But it should be used to supplement  your (even basic) language skills. If you’re the person in the restaurant who just repeats yourself faster and louder in English and flails your arms around when someone doesn’t understand you, it’s time to buckle down and study Korean.

Knowing just the basics will help you out in a variety of situations and make things less awkward for all involved.

2. People look scared when you approach them and speak to them…then even more scared after you start speaking!

If you’re an expat in Korea, many Koreans just assume you are going to speak English to them when you approach. That explains their look of anxiety! But it’s easy to make them feel comfortable and relaxed if you show you’re making an effort to speak Korean. Greet them with a friendly smile and an 안녕하세요 (annyeonghaseyo)!

On the other hand, if they look even more scared after you start speaking in English and you make no effort to make them comfortable, then it’s high time you crack out the study books.

3. You expect others to speak English and force it on them

Imagine the reverse in your country – a foreigner comes up to you and starts speaking their language, assuming you should help them and understand them! Yes, there are many cases where Koreans are happy to assist in English, but just make sure you’re not forcing English on them and putting them into awkward situations.

Perhaps learn the phrase “영어 할수있어요?” (yeongeo-mal-hal-su-isseoyo?) meaning “Can you speak English?” At least this way, they have a chance to help you find another individual who can speak English without making the situation awkward.

4. You are dating a Korean and only speak in English

Relationships can be stressful on one partner if they bear the burden of all the language responsibilities. Think of the difficult situations where they want to express something but cannot do so in their native language. Even if your partner is comfortable speaking English with general topics does not mean that they are able to fully communicate their feelings in more delicate situations – especially when they are feeling emotional and it’s harder to think in a second language.

Try learning some Korean if for no other reason than to help take the burden off your partner. Show them you’re interested in them and their culture. If you’re just complacent and taking for granted that they are the one who should speak your language, they may begin to sense this.

Is it time to start studying?

And hey, if you’re not dating a Korean but hope to some day, not knowing any Korean significantly decreases your dating pool. Use this as motivation to begin the journey of learning Korean!

5. You’re constantly asking others to help you with everything

Let’s face it, it’s nice to be independent.

It’s ok to ask for help, but if it’s for every little thing, you may wish to take back some of your independence. Start learning how to do everyday tasks in Korean. Start small. Learn how to talk to taxi drivers. Get comfortable ordering food in a  restaurant. Then try calling up to order delivery to your house.

After a short time, you’ll become confident speaking basic sentences whereas before you may have avoided Korean-style places or asked others to help you because you were afraid of the language barrier.

This warning sign is an important one because it means lots of missed opportunities. There are so many things you can do, see and learn really easily if you know basic Korean. Take back your independence and instead of asking someone to do it for you next time, ask them to teach you how to do it for yourself!

6. You still speak English to taxi drivers or call the interpreter

You’ll see the signs in the taxis in Korea – you can call for an interpreter if you need one. But why bother?

If you’re still relying on English to get you around the city, this is a severe warning sign you need to learn Korean fast!

Speaking to taxi drivers is a lot simpler than many other tasks you may try to learn to do in Korean – all you need to do is communicate where you want to go, and when you want them to stop! There is no excuse for not learning to communicate to them and it can be learned in 5 minutes.

7. You Use Romanized letters to write in Korean and not Hangeul

Using Romanized letters to write Korean takes longer, is much less accurate, and takes more time to type.

It’s much faster to write in Hangeul! For example, if you’re writing out an application form or another document where you need your address, you can write out the Korean address in half the time it takes to write it in English characters.

If you’re still using this method to write Korean, this may very well be a warning sign it’s time to learn. It takes less than an hour, so learn the Korean alphabet now! It’s actually a lot of fun to learn them and to start using them! It feels really good to be able to write in another language with an entirely different writing system!

What are your thoughts on these warning signs? Are you one of these people? Do you disagree with any of them? Start the discussion – we’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Photo Credit: Neil Kremer

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