Can One Fall In Love With a Negative? What About an Adverb?


One largely untold aspect of learning a foreign language, and one that is making it so much fun for me, is the sense of new-ness to literally everything you learn. When everything comes together, when everything clicks, it’s pure magic. You feel like you’ve made a dent in this huge mountain of incomprehensibility that’s been staring you down. I might not be there yet, Hangeul, but I’m also not dead! I’ll be banging my head against this wall until one of us gives!

Tonight the boost came at just the right moment. I was actually feeling about down about my progress. This week’s homework centers around me getting a Korean children’s storybook, one with an audio CD, and to start studying it.

This is because the biggest hurdle I’m currently facing is my inability to understand spoken Korean. I have no problems with being a recluse. I barely talk with foreigners, let alone native Koreans. My lifestyle involves riding my bike for hours on end every day, working, and studying Korean. There’s not a lot of time left over to socialize, even if I knew how to.

I recognize, however, that learning a new language won’t be painless. I mean, I’ve already cut my biking regimen in half. (I only ride in the mornings/afternoons now; as the evenings/nights are dedicated to learning. I figure exercising a different set of muscles (my brain and tongue) will eventually have an upside too.) So I see being laughed at by the girls in the bookstore for buying a book no native adult could ever possibly need as an entry cost. One I’ll gladly pay, along with throwing in a tip by way of reading the total aloud to the cashier (done in order to check my nascent counting ability).

That was yesterday, my enthusiasm took another hit today when I loaded up Anki. Yesterday I had created a metric ton of flashcards using vocabulary from my academy. I figure if the vocabulary is good enough for the kids to learn, then it’s probably something I should know to. And that’s all well and fine, except when I was reviewing the vocabulary I’ve been learning in the late night sessions, I found that the knowledge was slipping. I had focused too much on the new, rather than shoring up my position with the old.


With all this in mind, when I found that the last column on the vocabulary sheet I’ve been learning is focused on adverbs, I was less than excited. All I could think was, Do I really need to know this? Won’t I be able to get around using adverbs this early in the game? Fortunately for me, I don’t give up. My normally pissy mood doubles down when I think I either can’t succeed, or won’t see something through until I do. There’s no better motivator than turning your normal outward aggression in on yourself.

So I gave the words a new look. More open minded; wondering how I’ll be able to get over this hurdle. First word: (값) 비싼 – expensive. As a adverb: 값 비싸게. And that’s it; drop the parenthesis and the “-안” ending and tack on a “게.” Easy enough to make me not fear looking at the next word – angrily.

Angry is 화난, easy enough as that’s a word I’m already comfortable with. So we play a guessing game. Judging from what I saw change with 값 비싸게, I guess that “angrily” will be 화게. WRONG!, but this did leave the door open for some hope as the answer is instead 화나게. So essentially just drop the final consonant, add -게, and you’re golden. Words can’t describe how excited I feel over this, since with this knowledge I can turn any verb into a adverb. One curtain has been lifted.


This accomplishment was then boosted even higher when the academy’s leader explained that the infinitive ending of -다 stands for a positive action. I.e. something that’s being done. To create a negative, we merely add -지않다. So 먹다 (eats) becomes 먹지않다 (doesn’t eat).

Now I’ll be the first to admit that actually remembering the needed ending, -지않다, is going to be a beast. Only now I know it’s doable, and I have directions for it. Not to mention I’m surrounded by people who will bend over backwards to help me out with my mistakes. (Koreans are so shocked that anyone would want to learn their rather isolationist nation’s language that most love providing help. Many will do so without being asked, all they need to see is a Korean grammar book and they’ll jump right in!)

All this, and right before work I started creating a whole new, grammatical set of flashcards! It’s like mana from heaven, almost as if this all was predestined!


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