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Why won’t you speak in Korean?!

August 25, 2012
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I’m 100% positive I”m not the only one who has experienced this.

Every time I meet a new Korean person, we end up chatting and continue to stay in touch. But even so, no matter what language I end up speaking, they never fail to reply in English unless they are unsure of the English word/phrase. It’s not because my Korean speaking skills are horrible… in fact every Korean person I’ve met has been taken aback from the way I talk. They even respond back withe ease… but in English. Being so, I’m usually forced to speak English with them. And the most annoying part is that they’ll speak Korean with each other… in front of me… 😛 At first I thought that it was just a bad habit for them to speak English, but that’s apparently not the case.

I understand that they want to practice English in America… but speaking Korean for a few minutes to someone whose really excited about your language couldn’t hurt? Where I live, Korean culture and language is hardly knowns so it’s not like an American foreigner going to Korea. In fact, I think I’m the only foreigner they know that speaks Korean.

However, I did find that when I did say I wanted them to speak in Korean (indirectly, of course), they immediately understood and did volunteer to speak in Korean, but as you can imagine, it didn’t happen. I guess I’ll just speak in Korean while they reply in English… but I know it’ll just make me feel unconfident in my speaking abilities.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. September 11, 2012 2:30 pm

    mmm are they.. Koreans or Korean Americans? 😛 I’m not too sure how it’s like in America, but the Koreans that have been in Singapore for a long time (more than 6 months) usually don’t speak in Korean to me. I have Korean friends who are attending the same university as me. We dont speak in Korean at all even though they know that im pretty ok in it. It’s just somehow awkward. But they do speak in Korean among themselves. O.o

    • September 11, 2012 5:20 pm

      They’re exchange students from Korea, so the most they’ve been here has been a year, I think ^^

      I know what you mean! They’ll speak Korean to each other… but only reply to me in English when I speak Korean to them. I think it’s maybe because it’s kind of weird to see some foreigner guy speaking Korean haha

      I found that the Koreans who has been in America for quite some time actually speak few phrases in Korean to me and/or try to teach me some slang haha

  2. November 4, 2012 10:35 am

    I know what you mean. But maybe they are as keen in learning/practicing their english as you are with your Korean. When I was on exchange in Korea I want to speak in Korean all the time even with Korean classmates who are good in English. Some students would talk to me in Korean, but most will still talk in English because I think the reason they join the ‘summer camp’ was to practice their English. So I kinda try to gauge the other person and eventually started speaking in English to most students. But whenever I go out I practice my Korean. When I’m with a group of close friends, they all speak Korean to me no matter how horrible my Korean is (that’s why I love them!).

    • November 12, 2012 12:01 am

      Good point Alodia 🙂 That’s great to hear that you have such awesome friends 😀

      It’s just that I’m literally one of the few people in my whole state that actually self-studies Korean (there are no classes and people really don’t have an interest in Asian culture here). After living here for a few months, the new exchange students actually also found that Korean speakers are really rare here so now they just speak Korean with me haha

  3. January 4, 2013 11:09 pm

    Interesting. This is actually extremely common frustration for Korean learners. I would recommend just keeping to speak only Korean even if they speak to you in English. I had one friend who six months after this lop-sided conversation switched to Korean.

    (The only time when it might be impossible for you to speak Korean is if they are a lot older than you and are pretty adamant in speaking English — in that case to be ‘polite’ you might have to not speak Korean. I’ve only once been in that kind of situation though and even in that situation I tried to speak Korean as much as I could).

    If they never here any English come out of your mouth it will sound very weird if you suddenly speak in English so the more you can discipline yourself (in only speaking Korean) the better it will be for you in the long term.

    Another useful strategy I use quite a lot is to rephrase what they said in English in Korean and ask them if I heard right. This kind of confirmation questions is quite normal in regular conversation. . . and then it really gets the point across that you know the relevant vocabulary and can adequately hold your own in the conversation.

    It does definitely get better the better your Korean gets, and then if you can hold your ground the first few minutes or so. I have quite a few friends now that very good English (including several English teachers) but we only talk in Korean.

    Most English speakers don’t know Korean so if they want to practice English they really don’t have to look that hard. Don’t feel guilty about not helping them. (I know I felt tons guilty when I first started speaking Korean (and still do actually TT)).

    Good luck! 화이팅!

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