Reading to Learn Korea

Nearly a month ago, when I stated I wasn’t going to make my Korean reading goal, I needed to average over 9,000 characters a day to make my goal by the end of the year. I currently need to average fewer than 1,050 characters per day to meet my goal.

When I get stubborn, I really get stubborn.

But this post isn’t about my reading goal, it’s about the realization I had today while reading 반쪽 마법.

I was trying to decide if “20세끼” would be Sino-Korean numbers or pure Korean numbers. And it occurred to me that in the books I’ve been reading, pure Korean words are spelled out but Sino-Korean words use numerals, even if the numeral is the first thing in the sentence. “1초…” “말 한 마리…”

“[Good Man], it seems like Sino-Korean numbers use digits, and pure Korean numbers are written out.”


“Seriously? Did I just figure that out?”


The reason this is so exciting to me is because when I decided to read 1,000,000 characters of Korean, I did so to increase my passive vocabulary, naturally learn some grammar, and enjoy the language—and it’s working.

For example, one of the first random words I encountered when I was reading the Pippi series was “식인종” (cannibal tribe). I was reading a book about Obama a few weeks ago, and the word reappeared.

I also learned “palm tree” from Pippi (야자나무) and it came up in Half Magic. I learned “magic” (마법) from Half Magic and then a student at school gave me “마법사의 돌” (hint: she gave me the first Harry Potter book).

And the grammar realization today was not forced or searched for or even something I actively wondered about. It came about from a very natural place. It came about from using and enjoying the language.

The books I struggled to read in January and February are coming in handy in December. It really is…magic.