0 In Korean learning journey (:

A morning spent with a Korean novel

Woke up early and spent the last couple of hours starting on a new Korean novel – 소년이 온다 by 한강.

This is my second time reading Han Kang, although the first time reading the original. I had read The Vegetarian, brilliantly translated by Deborah Smith, and was blown way. While brilliant, it was also highly disturbing at the same time and once was enough. Hence, instead of buying a copy of 채식주의자, decided to get both the original copies and English translations of her other works – 횐 (The White Book) and 소년이 온다 (Human Acts).

I own a couple of Korean novels in both the original and translated versions. I am perfectly fine reading the original but I get the translated ones just to learn about good translations, instead of using them as an aid to read the original. In fact, sometimes I choose books by looking at the translators instead oops. 😛

I prefer to finish the original before I read the English one. I want to make sure that I can fully understand the original by myself so I try not to refer to the translated version. But when I read a particularly intriguing or difficult paragraph, I would be immensely curious to find out how the translator parsed that into English.

Read about 80 pages of 소년이 온다 in one sitting and I was surprised that I still had it in me to have the motivation and energy to sit down for a few hours to read a Korean novel. One thing I’m trying to actively do is to train my reading stamina, so I’m trying to push myself to be able to concentrate and read for long(er) periods each time. That said, I’m also keeping it balanced so that I don’t feel like I’m being “forced” (by myself) to read.

Set in the times of the 1980 Gwangju Uprising and its aftermath, it’s not a light read. While a work of fiction, it’s based on a real historical incident and honestly it was so painful to read it and imagine what the people had to go through, not just during the incident but in the aftermath till the present day.

My reading method

My reading method differs slightly for Japanese and Korean (my stronger language). For Korean, I would read a couple of paras at one time, highlighting the unfamiliar words. I would not stop to search up the words and would try to use the context to guess the meaning. After a couple of paras, I would search up each of these words and write them down in the novel. yes I used to be one of those who absolutely cannot stand writing in my book (at first I would only underline with a pencil and not highlight) but hahaha with age, I have come to terms with it.

It also works well for me because instead of highlighting half the page (in intermediate days), I highlight about 0 – 10 words in a page and it’s easier to refer back if I write in the novel instead of a separate notebook. It’s also easier to read and annotate during commute time instead of being fixated on using a separate notebook.

I still don’t write in my Japanese novels, simply cos there are more words I don’t know and there’s really not much space to write in the small novels!

For those who have been resisting writing in your novels, try it! It’s so much more effective (and paper-saving).

I am also very into unique highlighter colours. After using mildliner highlighters (which every studygram uses lol), I cannot go back to neon highlighters anymore. This orangey-red one is my personal favourite which I use for novel highlighting.

I’m hoping to finish 소년이 온다 within a week or so. It took me 9 months to finish reading the last novel (cos basically I didn’t read for months). hahaha this level of procrastination is not acceptable! ):

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