맥도날드는 어디에 있어요?

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오징어튀김 ($6 worth of calamari).

Let’s start this week’s progress report off with a giant, heartfelt “감사합니다” (Thank you) to my teachers: Jae, Jae-Young, and Liz. Last night concluded as most do, with me walking to the local 백화점 (department store) for more cider. (I gave up soda a couple weeks ago, so cider is the only thing I can drink besides water and tea.) I was checking out a local restaurant that’s always packed (seriously, I’ve been passing that place for years now and it’s always hopping) when I was stopped by a talkative stranger.

He asked where I was from, the usual greeting. The conversation soon transitioned to whether I knew any other foreigners (not many) before settling on the topic of meals (식사) as a means of communication. We may not have all the proper foods to communicate, but over a plate of chicken it really won’t matter.

I was doing what I’ve started doing in most of my conversations with native Koreans; which is listening to their English and trying to translate what they’re saying into Korean. It’s brilliant because it: a.) makes you a more active listener, and b.) provides you with immediate feedback on your own performance. Also, native Koreans seem to get a kick out of hearing someone having as much trouble communicating as they are. It levels the playing field.

So my new acquaintance 안 was telling me about the six months he spent living in LA, and how uncomfortable he felt there because he couldn’t communicate. He asked someone, “Where is the McDonalds?” and was met with blank stares. At which point I immediately asked him, “맥도날드는 어디에 있어요?”

안 was shocked. “Oh! Your pronounciation is so good!” At which point it was my turn to bow and profusely thank him (감사합니다) for being so kind. (He had done the same when he expressed doubts about his English and I told him I was having no trouble understanding/following his conversation.)

So again, a hearty 감사합니다 to 안 for the ego boost, Jae-Young and Liz for working with me so much, and Jae for making me dissect my Korean book’s recorded passages to learn the pronounciation/intonation. It’s apparently working!

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Translation: Where is the McDonalds?

Intonation was on-point, and “맥도날드는 어디에 있어요?” also used the location question I’ve been working on for the past couple weeks, along with this week’s topic of subject markers.

While Korean sentences generally follow a pretty basic structure once you get the hang of it (Subject – Object – Verb); like most languages there’s no real hard, set rules governing it. Which is why they have subject markers -이 (subject word ends with a consonant) and -가  (subject ends with a vowel) added onto the end of your subject to indicate its importance. There’s also object markers -을 and -를 respectively to indicate who is the object in the sentence.

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“But ShenaniTims,” you’re wondering, “you said “맥도날드…” not “맥도날드“!

Well, there’s also contrastive/topic markers which are -은 and -는, which seem to generally be used to mark the subject after it’s already been identified in a previous sentence. I likened it to our articles – a, an, and the. “I have a cup. The cup is brown.” Apparently Koreans are writing Ph.D.’s over the proper use of the contrastive marker, but my teacher told me that my explanation seemed to cover (most of) the salient points.

The above was also a load of dumb luck, as for some reason I always mistakenly default with -는 or -은 as subject markers instead of the proper -이 or -가. Clearly I have this week’s work cut out for me.

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