Memorize or Understand First?

I wrote a blog post a long time ago and someone linked to it (but it doesn’t show on trackbacks). I’m embarrassed reading it again… but I can only write from my own experience. Memorize first or understand first? Well, it depends.

I don’t always remember the theory of conjugation. If you ask me to explain about irregular conjugations, I will have to check a Korean textbook first because I really don’t remember which part has to be deleted or which part changes, etc. But I usually remember the conjugated forms of verbs. For example, I know off the top of my head, that the -면 form of 덥다 (hot) is 더우면.

더우면 에어컨을 켤까요? If it’s hot, shall I turn on the air conditioner?

There are textbooks that show conjugated words like this: 덥다 – 덥고 – 덥지만 – 더우면 – 더우니까 – 더워서 – 더워요 for memorization and I think it’s helpful.

So it’s possible to memorize conjugated words without understanding why… because those words (in conjugated forms) appear frequently and you remember them because you often see/hear them. Besides, just imagine, when you have to speak to a real Korean person, you won’t have time to remember the theory of conjugation. There will be no time to remember which letter drops and which letter changes to something else. It’s easier and faster to just remember that the -면 form of 덥다 is 더우면.

But, it’s not always the case. Memorization without understanding could be really boring and painful. And if it’s painful, you will hate it and naturally you will want to quit.

It’s in fact easier to remember expressions when you know the reasons or you know the definition of every word used in the expression. For example, in Korean, to say ‘have a nice holiday!’, you can use ‘휴가 잘 다녀오세요’. (This expression appeared on TOPIK Level 1).


It’s easier to remember the expression if you understand the meanings of each word: 휴가 (holiday), 잘 (well), 다녀오다 (to go and come back), and the grammar -세요 (for giving instruction to do something the polite way). So when you use ‘휴가 잘 다녀오세요’ to say goodbye, you’re actually telling someone who is going on his/her vacation to go and return safely. Which is nice, right?

And when you find out you can change 휴가 (holiday) to 여행 (trip), 여행 잘 다녀오세요 (have a nice trip), your brain will be convinced that it is an important expression to remember and so it will be kept in your long-term memory.

As a K-pop fan, I use 잘 다녀오세요 to comment on K-pop idols’ social media accounts because they travel a lot. I left comment 미국 잘 다녀오세요 to B1A4 recently because they had a concert in US/미국.

It is true that when you understand, you’re more likely to remember, or recall.

Song: Don’t Recall by K.A.R.D

What I wrote here is just my experience. Everybody is different and learns differently, everything is case by case,  and you should do whatever that suits you because you’re the one who is responsible for your own learning. ###

Pronunciation of 성격 & Meaning of 손발이 잘 맞다

I listened to Real Life Korean, a 5-minute Korean lesson on Koreascape yesterday.

0217 Real Life Korean : 손발이 잘 맞다

I noticed that the radio host pronounced the word 성격 (personality) wrongly but the Korean native speaker never corrected him. I guess even if you talk to a Korean, he or she usually doesn’t correct your pronunciation mistake as long as it’s ‘understandable’.

I’ve never met any Korean.

One of my neighbors is a Korean-Indonesian couple. I’ve never seen the Korean husband. I don’t know what his name is and I don’t know how he looks like. The Indonesian wife is not interested in learning Korean because her husband speaks Indonesian and I can’t stand chatting for hours so we just stay away from each other’s lives like good neighbors (?).

From Korean-English Learners’ Dictionary: 성격


It might be the most common wrongly pronounced Korean word by foreigners.

Pronunciation of 성격 is [성ː껵]/[seong-kkyeok]. For this word, ㄱ becomes ㄲ and this is called  ‘fortis phenomenon’, according to the King Sejong online course I blogged about before.

Anyway, here is the Korean conversation script from Koreascape:

멜라니랑 같이 일하는 거 어때요?
How is working together with Melanie?

지금까진 괜찮아요.
It’s OK so far.

서로의 성격이 반대라 힘들지 않아요?
Isn’t it hard since you have opposite personalities?

의외로 손발이 잘 맞던데요.
Unexpectedly, we cooperate together very well.

정말 의외네요.
That’s really surprising.

그러게요. 저도 예상밖이었어요.
I agree. It was unexpected for me, too.

Key expression: 손발(이) 맞다. Literally means ‘to have a perfect coordination of hands and feet’. It’s used to describe when people have a good teamwork, can understand each other and work together well, in sync, or on the same wavelength. In Japanese, 息がピッタリ合う.

More examples from Korean Learners Dictionary: 손발

지수와 승규는 서로 손발이 잘 맞아 항상 같이 다니곤 했다.
Jisu and Seunggyu had good chemistry so they always went everywhere together.

가: 너랑은 손발이 안 맞아서 같이 일을 못 하겠어.
We won’t be able to work together because we don’t really get along well.

나: 나도 너랑 일하면 답답한 건 마찬가지라고.
I feel the same way, it’s really annoying to work with you.


My Korean Sentence Using the Word 꿈 (Dream)

Hey Korean Mission this week:

February 15

*Make your own Korean sentence using the word “꿈”(dream) (noun).

ex) 내 꿈은 간호사가 되는 것이다.
My dream is to become a nurse.

ex) 꿈 속에서 연예인을 만났다.
*** I met a celebrity in a dream.

One lucky winner who sends in their own Korean sentence will get a <‘Talk to Me in Korean’ e-book coupon>.
*All prizes are provided by “Talk To Me In Korean”

If you have any questions about Korean send them in now! 🙂
Go ahead and post them on our message board!

This is the sentence I sent in:

박재민 DJ는 SNS에서 자신의 완벽한 복근을 노출한 사진을 공개해서 여성 팬들은 이게 만 같다고 좋아했다.
DJ Jae Min Park shared a photo on social media in which he exposed his perfect abs and female fans loved it saying it was like a dream.

Song: It’s Like a Dream (꿈만 같아요) by Fat Cat (살찐 고양이). ###

Papago Mini


Korean to Japanese

I tried using Papago Mini function (Papago for Android) to translate a tweet in Korean.

Read: Naver papago translation app gets “mini” mode

Turn on the app, tap on a tweet and hold for 2-3 seconds, and a pop-up window (the translation) will appear.

The Japanese translation is word-per-word translation. Somehow understandable. I’ve never learned the Japanese word 面貌 before, but it’s a literal translation from the word 면모. I would use 素顔(に迫ります) in this case, I think.


Korean to English

The English translation is not perfect, but if you read the Korean tweet, you will notice that the translation has the Korean words translated but they are not arranged in the correct order. ###

Korean Radio Drama – KBS 라디오 극장

I’ve just finished listening to an episode of KBS 무대 (radio drama in Korean) and reading the script (available on the official website). The title is 한 달만 사랑할게! (I’ll love you for a month only!). Listen to it here:

I was a little annoyed about the ending but I enjoyed listening to the voice actors because they say things with a lot of emotions. I thought, wow, these radio actors are really good at crying, so convincing. The radio drama itself is only about 1 hour but it took me days to finish it. I looked up 298 words (Korean Learners’ Dictionary was very helpful, but I decided that I wanted to memorize only 137 new words from the drama. I still remember those words right now, but the problem is whether I can move them from my short-term to my long-term memory (repetition -before I forget- is key).


KBS 라디오 극장

There is another radio drama program from KBS, called 라디오 극장 (Radio Theater). But it’s not ‘a different story every time’ kind of drama like KBS 무대. It’s a long drama series with many episodes (the last one had 31 episodes). A new episode is updated daily, each one is 30 minutes long, and the full script is available on the official website.

라디오 극장

The radio program can be listened to on the official website and also
wherever podcasts exist, for example, here:

I never tried to learn new words from 라디오 극장 because… it’s just too long… for me. But maybe I’ll try, one of these days.

I think the actors’ voices make the reading experience so much better, compared to just reading the Korean sentences by myself without voices of native speakers reading them to me. They make me remember better that 안주인 (the owner’s wife) is pronounced [안쭈인] or 승격 (job promotion) is pronounced [승껵] and it’s interesting to listen to how they say things that will not appear in a textbook, like 네 머리는 돌이야? (are you stupid?). ###

Meaning of Korean Slang 아아 and 시선 강탈

From ‘Hey Korean’ on Arirang Radio today. I found the definition of the 2 Korean slang they taught on the Korean open dictionary 우리말 샘

아아 means ‘iced Americano’, from 아이스 아메리카노.

시선 강탈 means ‘to grab people’s attention’, from 시선 (attention, gaze) and 강탈 (robbery).

I found a tweet about Jimin and Jin (Bangtan Boys) using the word 시선 강탈.

방탄소년단 지민-진 ‘등장만으로 시선 강탈’.
Jimin and Jin grabbed people’s attention just by appearing.

I actually sent 3 messages for the segment but they didn’t read any. Oh well… 뭐 괜찮아~ 그런 날도 있지. ###