Sunday, July 05, 2009

Will talking like a baby make me more fluent?

I used to think the Korean language was one of the most difficult languages in the world, but I have recently had a revelation. The key to learning Korean is remembering how to talk like a child.

One of the great things about the Korean language is its thriftiness. The language allows you to drop unnecessary words, and, in fact, the more frugal you are with your words, the more fluent you will likely sound. If the listener already knows the subject of the sentence, don't bother saying it. If the listener already knows the object of the sentence, skip that part. If you use an adverb that is normally associated with a particular verb, don't waste your breath saying the verb.

If a young American child wants something, he or she points and says, "Give," and we understand, so why must an American adult say, "Give it to me"?

In Korean, it is perfectly acceptable for a Korean adult to say, "Give," which in Korean is 주세요. Actually, it means "Please give," but I will leave off the "please" for simplicity sake. It is so simple that it is elegant.

Now, work on your fluency by doing some baby talk with "Give."
  • 하나 주세요 -- One give.
  • 물 주세요 -- Water give
  • 지금 주세요 -- Now give.
  • 내일 주세요 -- Tomorrow give.
  • 빨리 주세요 -- Fast give.
  • 싸게 주세요 -- Cheaply give.

You generally do not need to clarify to whom to give something, but if you do, that it easy, too. Just add 한테 to a noun or pronoun to show who will be the receiver.

  • 나한테 주세요 -- To me give.
  • 그 여자한테 주세요 -- To her give.
  • 아버지한테 주세요 -- To father give.
  • 우리한테 주세요. To us give.
  • 그들한테 주세요. To them give.

Also, if you want to add a direct object (the object to be given) to the above sentences, that is also easy because you just attach the direct object marker 을 or 를 to the noun to show it is the direct object of the sentence. If the Korean noun ends in a consonant, use 을 (e.g. 물을 - water), and if it ends in a vowel, use 를 (e.g. 차를 - tea). However, you would sound more fluent by not using 을/를 in the above sentences since Koreans would recognize the direct object without the marker, especially since the indirect object is already marked with 한테. Remember to always try to be frugal with your words.

Also, a direct object can go almost anyway in a Korean sentence, depending on what you want to stress. See the following:

  • 나한테 물 주세요. -- To me water give.
  • 물 나한테 주세요. -- Water to me give
  • 나한테 주세요, 물. -- To me give, water.

주세요 can also be used with other verbs to ask favors and make requests. For example, 해주세요 is a combination of the verbs 하다 (to do) and 주다 (to give), but together they mean "Do it for me" or "Do it (for mother or some other implied beneficiary of the request.)" The pattern is [-어/아/여] 주세요.

  • 해주세요 -- Do (it for me).
  • 써주세요 -- Write (it for me).
  • 읽어 주세요 -- Read (it for me).
  • 도와주세요 -- Help (me).
  • 서주세요 -- Stop (the car or taxi and let me off here).
  • 내려주세요 -- Let (me) down; Let (me) get off (the bus here).

Doesn't the Korean look easier than the English? 주세요 is just one of many baby talk words in Korean. 있어요 is another, but I will save that for another day.

My advice is that if you want to be fluent in Korean, stop thinking like an adult and start talking like a baby. In general, the more thrifty your Korean sentences, the more fluent you will sound.

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