Everything is…word play

I hear a constant smooshing of sounds in Korea. My students will hear and say a word like “agriculture,” they know in English we’re talking about faming, but in Korean they hear “mouth go boom” Every where I go I hear English and Korean flowing together into a constant stream of language.

Some days I find myself engaged in pronunciation wars. Words that have been adopted into Korean, but are said slightly differently. For example “Yankee” has become “Yawnkee” so discussing baseball for the week’s lesson led to arguing between myself and the students. Another word we argue over how to say is “cute” and “cuta,” I’m pretty sure I’m right, but the word is similar in sound and meaning to a Korean word, my students insist on adding an “a” at the end.

It’s not just pronunciation with my students either. It seems every day is a battle for understanding. When I take a taki home, I ask for “Hi-Mart” only I have to say “HiMaTu” otherwise, my cab driver may not know where to take me. Linda and I also made the discovery that WaBar is WaBa. We got in a taxi and asked for WaBar our driver kept asking questions, but since we couldn’t respond in Korean. We eventually settled on asking for the apartments (apartu) nearby. Turns out the locals say, “WaBa.” I haven’t had any trouble getting there since my pronunciation has been slightly modified.

Other tricks to sounding a bit more Korean include remembering syllables and consonants always have vowels in between. Adding -u, -a, -o to any consonant ending. And slurring r and l together for the right hangeul sound or leaving them out entirely.

Many of my neighbors are constantly engaged in word play where they will say a word or phrase in English slipping it into Korean grammar and sentences. This constant play of words and blending of languages is resulting in a language that is changing just a rapidly as the country.

It’s a fascinating experiment to see and hear. So today I’ll enjoy my “copee” at the cafe across the street where I’ll be assured plenty of language mash ups for my pleasure.


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