Last night I was reviewing the (으)ㄹ거예요 grammar pattern. I muttered to myself, “So it’s not certain future, it’s probable future. Then why do Koreans use it so much? Maybe it’s part of face-saving…”
Good Man looked at me. “Isn’t it the nature of the future? That it is unpredictable? I don’t want to be philosophical, but…”
When I first started studying Korean, I really focused on getting the grammar down.
I hate grammar.
I always scored excellent marks in English in school but I didn’t know what a verb was until tenth grade when I started Spanish class. (See the note below, dear reader.)
I didn’t care about the parts of speech. I knew what sounded right because I read a lot. And while I still make occasional errors, I contend that I learned more about grammar from reading and writing than from formal education.
I don’t know why I didn’t take this self-awareness of my own learning style with me when I went to learn Korean, but I was set on learning Korean grammar!
Except…I still hated grammar. And that early in my language studies, all I could focus on was how it didn’t make sense and why wasn’t it like English and, and, and—
I’m reading my Basic Korean grammar book and taking notes, but not doing any of the exercises. Much of it just makes sense now. I get it. Of course you would put the past tense for one conjugation here and the past tense for another conjugation over there. That just How It Is. Naturally.
However, this book—like my high-school Spanish—is clarifying things for me. “Ahhh, so that’s when you use 에서 instead of 에.”
Last night I got to the chapter on prenouns. I read the first paragraph and said, “OK, so it’s like an adjective.” A few paragraphs later I read “prenouns differ from adjectives.”
I shut the book and looked at Good Man. “I’m not dealing with prenouns at 11:30 at night.”
“What’s a prenoun?”
I know the names and rules of particular things in Korean. Good Man knows how they feel. I know the feeling of English, whereas Good Man knows the names and rules. Maybe some grammar study is a good thing when learning a foreign language.
(Horrified readers, an explanation: Teachers always said “a verb is an action, like run or sleep or sit.” I understood that running was an action. But sleeping and sitting didn’t seem like actions to me. When you’re running, or eating, or drinking, you’re actually moving your body. When you’ve seated yourself in a chair…what’s the action?
Furthermore, words could be both nouns and verbs—film, for example—but teachers could never explain how to tell when it was what.
In tenth grade Spanish Mrs. Sjostrom taught us that Spanish verbs usually ended in -ar, -er, and -ir and she translated “hablar” as “to speak.”
Wait! You mean verbs in their basic form include to? “To speak.” “To film.” If any teacher had ever told me to think of verbs as to ~ and nouns as a, an, the I would’ve understood immediately.)