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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Learning Korean with the help of comics

You'll never find the perfect ramen if you can't read Korean...
A few things led me to Korea, but one of the biggest reasons I came here was to learn Korean. When I came to Korea over one year ago, I had this misconception that I would just naturally learn enough Korean to satisfy my scholarly desires. While I definitely learned the alphabet, a little grammar, and a few key phrases, I didn't really learn enough to talk to all the new people I had met. Every foreigner in Korea knows how to ask for directions and can bark orders for more beer, but I hated being one of "those people". That's not to say I don't understand how it happens. Being in an all English environment at work, not having much free time, and every Korean person kind of speaking English helped me and many others to be just lazy enough not learn more Korean than was necessary. Thankfully, that is about to change. I've recently finished a one year teaching contract (more on that in a later yip) and have moved on to taking full time Korean language classes at Konkuk University. A full time, intensive language course in country is the only way for me learn the language properly. I never held this view before, but now I feel that people need some kind of formal language education to learn a language enough to truly be at a conversational level in a second, non-native language. Who's to say how long it takes, but picking up bits and pieces from friends and random books is not the best path to learning a new language, especially one so fundamentally different as Korean.

Takehika Inoue's Vagabond is one of my
favorites…and now I can read it in Korean!
Now, with that being said, I know most people don't have the time or money to take intensive university level classes. I am fortunate enough to be given that opportunity and I am grateful for it every day. Luckily, a lot of people out there want to help us foreigners learn Korean. There are some excellent free classes you can take on the weekends with CLS. This is a semi-formal class with several different levels that meet once a week. These guys have been around for awhile and know what they are doing. You could also take a less formal rout and check out this site to meet some people and have some coffee. These are both great and even necessary ways to actually learn Korean, but one of my mostly highly recommend way to practice our budding language skills is to read comic books. There is an amazing website called talk to me in korean that is a great place for Korean learners of all levels, and while roaming around there I found what I was looking for…a website that uses manhwa (aka manga aka comics) to help you learn Korean. uses comics to help you learn the Korean language. What could be better than that! I sometimes buy Korean comics and try to read them, but they are usually way too hard for me. I get through them by relying heavily google translate (and Deborah), but that becomes tiring and takes the fun out of it. This website uses very simple and common language while providing well drawn and fun scenes. Associating language with an action or scene can help you learn much faster and it's also a lot more interesting then studying as usual. Best of all, an English translation and some cultural knowledge can be found at the bottom of each scene. It's a great little website and definitely deserves a look if you're wanting to learn more about Korea and it's language.

Thanks for reading,

See! Look at this little clip. What's he saying? For only 2000 Won you can get a giant book of manhwa. It's too good of a deal to not buy. Now if I could only understand it...

Monday, September 10, 2012

Ttukseom Beautiful Flea Market

It can seem difficult to find second hand things in Korea, but the Ttukseom Beautiful Flea Market is a great place to go if you are looking for some second hand items. It's also perfect if you are looking to get rid of some of your junk! A little end of summer cleaning revealed that we've accumulated more stuff then we thought, so we've been looking for a place to dump our stuff. Luckily, we discovered this charity flea market before we left our bags along the side of the road. All you have to do is sign up online on their English (or Korean if you wish) website, bring your old stuff, find your spot, and get ready for the chaos.

The Flea Market is held right under Ttukseom Resort station on line 7 every Saturday from the end of March to the end of October. It starts at 11:00, but you should get there as early as you can so you get a good spot and start selling your things while everyone is still buzzing and has money. Keep in mind that this market is actually a charity and they suggest that you give them at least 10% of your earnings. Not a bad deal.

This place is no joke. It is packed with people and if you have decent or unique things you can expect to sell a lot. The key is to mark the prices and to keep things cheap. Don't expect to sell your 200 dollar used designer jeans for more than 5,000. There are so many clothes here that most clothing items sell for about W1,000 by the end of the day. Start high in the beginning, but don't be afraid to lower your prices when things stop selling. 

When we first got to our spot people were yelling at us to hurry up and take our stuff out so they could be first to dig through it. Korean people don't mess around when it comes to getting a deal and we couldn't peddle things fast enough. The whole situation reminded me of those old movies where the snake oil man is selling something from a wagon and then, all of a sudden, dozens of people start yelling and begging the salesman to take their money. When we first arrived, I was still a little hung over from the night before and totally unable to comprehend or deal with all the madness. I was kinda just wondering around and getting in everyones way…but luckily Deborah was on point as usual. 

After about an hour we could relax a little bit. The frenzy was over. We sold about half of our things and made W80,000 in that first crazy hour.

At the end we sold almost every single thing we brought! The only things we didn't sell were my beyond worn out shoes and my work pants that I wore every other day and should have tossed about 6 months ago. Those shoes brought in the people though. Apparently, my feet are freakishly big in Korea. Dozens of people commented on how big my shoes were. A little side show to bring the customers is never a bad idea.

Overall, we made about W130,000 and sold everything but those three items that were garbage anyway. I think we may have done the best out of the whole market considering we sold everything we brought. Most people didn't seem to be selling things like we were, but everyone was making at least a little money. Don't be shy if you need to get rid of some junk before you move or before you get ready to go back home. The Beautiful Flea Market at Ttukseom Resort is foreigner friendly and definitely a memorable experience.