고구마들이 선생님들 있어요

Translation: Sweet potatoes are my teachers.


I bought this book ages ago. Back when I wanted to improve my Korean, but still didn’t have the sufficient skills to capitalize on this desire. My reach was exceeding my grasp. (Something that still happens.)

I remember that first night trying to make heads or tails of this, and getting nowhere. I had no idea what this was, or that 고구마 was literally “sweet potato.” For all I knew, this was a book about school children summoning Cthulhu. Months later (and after learning both “아주” (very) and “고구마” (yam)) I glanced at the book again and everything started coming into focus. I could read it!  At least partially! Some lines I can translate, some I can interpret using contextual clues, and others leave me running to Naver translate.

Only these runs are now helpful; serving more as building blocks, rather than band-aids.


For instance, let’s take this page. I could parse together a bit of meaning (입 – wear, 면 – if, 되 – must/have to), but not enough to fully understand. Naver informed what I suspected, that 우산 was umbrella, and the others were other rainclothes (비옷 literally being “rain clothes”). But that damned ~잖다 postposition was throwing everything off.

Enter Google and its numerous blogs dedicated to learning Korean. Turns out ~잖다 is a conversational postposition used to indicate, “You know.” Not in the English “you know” sense though (as in looking for agreement (“You’re still onboard with the plan, right?”)), but as “You KNOW! I’ve told you this a 1,000 times you dumb fuck” sense.


Which is now another tool (도구) in my arsenal. Wait til I drop this one at Korean class today!

“Where did you learn that?”

“In a children’s book about horrifying, subterranean sweet potatoes!”

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