This is often what you may hear if you come to Korea and can mutter a few words in the language.
You are not a genius. You know that. Learning languages is hard and you worked damn hard to be able to read Hangul (한글).
Everyone says Hangul (한글) is the easiest writing system ever invented. A man can learn it in the morning. That may be true, but a man will likely only master it after a few months of pouring over books and learning vocabulary and phrases.
Just like when you were beginning to read English, you were slow as beans working your way through Dick and Jane. Sometimes you needed help from yo mamma with the pronunciation. Except you didn’t know the word pronunciation (발음) back then. How could you deal?
You kept on reading. Some kids in your first grade class could read chapter books! Remember that? You were like “Oh yeah… I can read them too! I read them all the effin’ time!” And then you got sent to the principal’s office.
That’s kinda how learning Korean will be. Once you get off the ground running you’ll start to be really slow at first. You’ll make mistakes. Your brain will hurt. You’ll get bored and frustrated. You’ll say the wrong word and get yelled at.
And if you have a beautiful face like I do, you might find people want to practice English with you. You will get stared at. And when you understand enough Korean, you will understand when people are talking about you on the bus. And when you understand more, you’ll notice that they don’t always talk about you. So, relax. You’re not that special.
Did you see how long it took me to write that??!
When I hear people say that I am a genius, I understand why:
First, their English might not be very proficient so that’s the only way they know how to say it. You may notice that with your Korean. You want to know how to express yourself better, but sometimes the words just don’t come. Don’t be afraid to ask how to say something. Usually people will help.
Second, so many English speaking foreigners come to Korea and suck at Korean. They only speak in English. They don’t bother to learn. Although we will see more and more foreigners speaking Korean because it’s a “hip” thing to learn nowadays, a fluent Korean speaker with a beautiful face such as mine is still a rare thing, my friend.
Thirdly, they haven’t seen you study. They haven’t been with through the tough times of learning. To them it is like a magic trick. You picked up a book, and learned how to speak in a few hours. They see you speaking English all the time, or very basic Korean, and then you start to talk with a little more detail or you start using dialect.
Fourthly of all, It might be cultural. You are always expected to smile and look good. You are always trying to save face and study hard to get little pieces of paper with fancy writing on it. You are a genius because it’s a nice thing to say. I highly doubt it’s a cultural thing rather than just a human thing. In American culture we do the same thing, but it looks a little different.
In America we’ll say something about family name’s or genetics and write off all of the damn hard work someone puts into it. We won’t care about their passion for the learning because we are too preoccupied with our own problems and desires. Sometimes we talk about the weather!
You: “I’m learning Chinese!”
Well meaning friend: “Wow, I wish I was as smart as you. It’s so hot out today isn’t it?”
You: “Well, you’re not! And yes, I did notice it was hot outside. Thank you for telling me.”
Then again, you shouldn’t care about it too much. Just keep on moving. Other people’s opinions are only that; It’s some else’s opinion. Anyone can give you their two cents if you let them. Most of the time that’s all their opinion is worth. Though sometimes you’ll come across a good friend or even a good stranger that can really motivate you to run marathons.
Because learning a language is like running a marathon; It’s long, there are hills, and sometimes you pass out and die in the street.