After writing the post on how Singaporeans react (both the good and the not so nice ways) to me studying Korean, it got me thinking of how my Korean friends / people on the street react to me learning Korean.
As all things go, there are a variety of reactions. Personally I’ve had very good experiences, but I have read not so nice experiences from others. Here are some of the common reactions I have gotten.
1. ‘why Korean?’
Koreans understand the need to learn other languages in order to survive in this ‘globalized world’. Unlike the average monolingual English speaker, Koreans sees learning languages as an important and necessary aspect in life. In Singapore, we are blessed with knowing English and Chinese, and most of us do not see a dire need to learn a third language. Languages for us is more of a pastime, an interest, instead of a necessary skill to acquire. So, I don’t get Koreans asking me ‘why are you learning a language’. Rather, I get the question ‘why Korean‘.
Koreans are proud of their language and culture, but a lot of them don’t seem to think Korean is an ‘important language’ in the world and they are often puzzled by my decision to learn their language.
‘Why not learn Spanish or French?’, ‘there’s not much use learning Korean’ etc. These are the most common comments I’ve received. Even with the worldwide spread of the Hallyu wave, many Koreans remain quite unaware of how popular their culture / language is getting and many of them are surprised that I know many of their dramas / movies / singers etc.
They seem to find it amusing that foreigners are so interested in their language / culture.
2. Being thankful
Another very common reaction is that they would thank me for learning Korean. Most of my friends or even people in shops / on the streets always tell me that they are thankful that I find their language and culture beautiful.
3. Very surprised
Despite the growing popularity of Korean as a foreign language and the fact that more and more foreigners are proficient in Korean, many Koreans are still very much surprised at a foreigner being able to speak Korean. Even a few simple phrases is enough to wow them. I find that pretty amusing 😛 I know many foreigners who can speak Korean so well, and yet a lot of people tell me they are so surprised at my level of proficiency and they have never seen any foreigner more proficient than me. ㅋㅋㅋ I take it that they are just being very very nice 😀
On the other hand, I have came across a few blogs where the foreigner (mostly Caucasians) have negative reactions. I distinctly remember a blog (rather controversial topics) where the guy thinks that the Koreans basically view foreigners speaking Korean as performing monkeys. A very strong metaphor. And it seems like that view garnered a lot of support from the comments on that post.
Personally, I have nothing but the best experiences. Everyone appreciated my effort to speak Korean. ^^
What have your experiences been?