How to Learn Korean with Ian of Korean Patch
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Elle: Hello everyone and welcome to the LingQ podcast with me Elle. This week’s guest is joining us all the way from Korea, but before I chat to him, just a quick reminder, if you aren’t a LingQ user, what we’re all about. With LingQ you can learn languages from content you are interested in. So if you enjoy podcasts like this one, you can take the episode with the transcript and the audio, work your way through it on link translating any of the words and phrases you don’t know. Those words and phrases will look different in future lessons. So you can keep track of the words you’re learning, the words you know, any new words that come up. There are also vocabulary exercises you can go into, if that is your thing. Lots to help you make a breakthrough in the language you’re learning.
This episode is available on LingQ, the lesson link is the description. This week, I am joined by a guest all the way from Korea. It’s morning for him afternoon for me, I’m joined by Ian of the YouTube channel Korean Patch. Ian how’s it going?
Ian: It’s going good. It’s good to see you.
Elle: Excellent. You too. Thank you so much for coming on.
So as I mentioned is, so for me right now, it is Tuesday afternoon and for you, it is Wednesday morning, correct?
Ian: Yes, it is Wednesday morning. Yeah.
Ian: And I am not a morning person.
Elle: I was going to say, I always thank people for joining us in the mornings because I’m also not a morning person. So thank you. I Know how it is to be chirpy in the morning.
It’s not cool, but thank you. So, uh, whereabouts in Korea do you live?
Ian: So I live in sunny Busan, the beautiful giant city way at the bottom of the peninsula. It’s the second largest city in Korea. Yeah.
Elle: Excellent. And you say sunny. So is it what’s the temperature like right now, for example, on an average day in January.
Ian: Yeah. An average day in January. So it’s actually is the worst day of all days for you to ask me this question, because it’s actually cold here today. It’s like in Celsius, it’s like minus one, but this area is subtropical. So it it’s very different than my hometown of Chicago, which is super cold. Here it barely ever freezes.
So I really liked that. It’s nice all year. Yeah. This is kind of like the vacation city in Korea.
Elle: Ah, Okay. You know, I’ve heard, I had heard of it before, but there’s also that famous movie of course, Train to Busan. That’s it, right? Train to Busan?
Elle: Yeah. Okay.
Ian: Yeah. Train to Busan.
Elle: Excellent. I don’t know how much of that movie takes place in Busan though.
Ian: Fair enough. I have seen it, so…
oh, you know what? Here’s the, here’s a Busan movie thing. Oh, if you’ve seen Black Panther, the, a Marvel movie, they filmed a bunch of that movie here in Busan. So right near where I live actually.
Elle: Were you like, did you see them filming?
Ian: Uh, no, but some of my friends did. I was working, but they did like a big chase on the bridge, a car chase. Pretty cool.
Elle: Ah, I love that. I live in Vancouver and it’s a, it’s a film location, filming location, for sure. And yeah, sometimes you spot sets and it’s always so exciting. Like, is it a cheesy movie or is it like, The Matrix or…
Ian: The big one. Right, yeah.
Elle: So, as I mentioned you run a channel called Korean Patch. It’s for Korean learners. First off, I now know what Korean patch means, because I watched your video where you explained, but could you explain to our listeners, uh, any of our listeners who don’t know what that term means. Korean patch.
Ian: Yeah. So in Korean, there’s kind of a funny, like slang term that people use to talk about uh, foreigners who are really good at speaking Korean. So when you install the language pack for a piece of software or a video game or something, they usually call that the… which means Korean patch, or they’ll call it the … or something like that.
But… which is the writing system. But, uh, when people in Korea, see a foreigner that like unexpectedly speaks Korean really well they’ll say something that’s like, wow, they’ve installed the Korean patch clearly. So, uh, that, that’s just kind of an expression they use to say, like, this is a person who really speaks the language well.
Elle: Right, right. Excellent. I like that. Do you ever get that?
Ian: Sure. Yeah. I’ve gotten that before.
Elle: Nice. Awful. If you were like, no, no, never.
Ian: Yeah. I’ve never received a compliment ever. Not once. Not once.
Elle: So you come from Chicago as you just said, uh, how long have you been in Korea now and what brought you to Korea initially?
Ian: So I’ve been in Korea for almost five years. No, a little over five years, almost six years actually. Um, I came to Korea right after I finished college. So I graduated from college and then pretty much like a month later, got on a plane and moved over here to work, um, just to take like a year off from, uh, you know, working after finishing school.
Cause I was pretty, pretty burnt out. Um, and now I’ve been here almost six years. Haven’t left.
Elle: Just like that. It’s flown by I’m sure. Is the plan to stay longer, are you kind of, is this your kind of home now, do you think, are you open to going back to the states?
Ian: I’m not particularly literally interested in going back to the states.
Um, I really like my life here and I’ve, I’ve been able to build a good life here, which a lot of foreign people probably can’t say in Korea. And so I’ve started kind of shifting my career focuses on helping people to do what I’ve done, which is, you know, build a life here.
Elle: And did you speak any Korean before you left from the States?
Ian: None, not at all. I mean, I’ve always been like a language enthusiast, so I know, you know, I knew before I came here, like, oh, they say, you know, … or something like that. But, um, and I grew up with a lot of Korean people around me. So maybe, maybe that’s, uh, why the language wasn’t so exotic to me from the very beginning, but I didn’t really speak any Korean when I came here, I couldn’t read either. I kind of learned how to read on the plane on the way over.
Elle: As good a time as any to start.
Ian: Nothing else to do.
Elle: How did you go about learning?
Ian: Well, I tried a lot of stuff. So I have a really traditional language learning background in that I did the normal American study of language for 15 years at school.
Um, you know, that normal pipeline that most people don’t learn a language from. Um, I actually learned a lot of French by doing that. Um, and I got really good at French and I love learning languages and all that. But, uh, when I tried to apply that to Korean it did not work very well when I first got here. And so that’s, that was like the first thing that I did and I kind of gave up really quickly.
And so what I ended up doing, uh, that was effective was a, a lot of listening and reading things I couldn’t really understand and repeating that until I could. And that’s pretty much what I did. So I think, I think this is a, this fits right in with LingQ and, uh, you know, this whole sphere of comprehensible input based language learning, that’s basically what I did.
And that’s kind of how I’ve fallen into meeting people like you is cause I’ve been looking for the others.
Elle: Yeah, I was going to say, after, um, watching the videos on your channel, the comprehensible Korean series that you run, I was going to ask you… we need to get that on LingQ. It’s perfect. It’s just, you know, you, um, out doing things in Korea, speaking in Korean, so it’s not just, you know, talking at the audience about, you know, vocabulary or whatever.
It’s very cool. So, and really well done.
Ian: Well, thank you.
Ian: The idea behind that was to try, and I’m hoping other language learning channels will start doing this too, is to try to make materials that people would be watching anyway, like people are watching Korea travel logs anyway. So we might as well try to like hijack the format and adjust the language so that it’s more accessible so that people actually like experience it in the original language, as opposed to just turning on English subtitles and you know, saying whatever I’ll learn Korean later.
This is too hard, you know, that was kind of the idea behind it.
Elle: Okay. Excellent. And do you have any, I know you mentioned, so you got right in and started consuming content that was difficult because you obviously really wanted, you were interested in it.
Elle: Um, do you have any other advice for anyone who is thinking about starting a Korean learning journey? Someone at the very beginning.
Ian: Yeah. I mean, if you’re at the very beginning, I think the best thing you can do is spend a lot more time than you want than you would normally spend, uh, learning the writing system and the pronunciation like system, because if you’re able to… you know, Korea has this pretty unique benefit among Asian languages where Korean does not really use Chinese characters very much anymore.
They have a phonetic writing system that is very easy to learn. They actually have like a proverb here. That’s uh, uh, a wise man can learn this in a week and a fool or, oh man, I just messed it up. Lucky me. A wise man can learn this in a weekend and a fool can learn it in a week. That’s kind of the idea.
Elle: Okay. A weekend! Really?
Ian: You can see, you can see the one that, uh, where I fall.
I’m in the I’m in the fool category clearly, but, uh, but the, the, the language, you know, there, like, um, even the world writing prize is named after the Korean king who invented the writing system that Korean uses today called Hangul. He’s King Sejong. Yeah. If you look that up, you can see that’s like the, I think it’s the Nobel prize for advancements in writing systems or something, but don’t quote me on that, but, uh, the writing system is really easy to learn.
And if you’re able to learn how to, um, read the words you can’t understand yet and say them out loud, the language becomes much easier to parse and much less like heavy, you know? Much less overwhelming when you start listening to people actually speak because Korean is like, it is one of the most difficult languages for native English speakers to learn.
So there’s basically nothing in common. Yeah.
Elle: That’ll do it. That’ll make it tough.
Elle: I really do like the way I have to say that Korean script looks. It’s very, it’s, it’s beautiful. So that must be a big motivator if you agree, but…
Ian: It’s really cool.
Ian: Yeah. It’s even, it’s even designed to look like what’s happening inside the mouth.
So like individual characters. Yeah. So for example, like the character that makes a … sound … it’s shaped like a, um, like a seven, kind of, and it’s to show that in the back of the mouth, the tongue is hitting the roof, … and it’s, and it is shaped accordingly. So a lot of the characters have this very visceral feeling to them when you learn how they work and you can kind of, I don’t want to over-hype the writing system, but you can kind of visualize what you’re doing in your mouth while you’re reading. If you know a lot about how the system works. I don’t think most people do know that, but, but that’s how it was designed.
Elle: I had no idea. So do you have any Korean content recommendations? Maybe this is more for intermediate and advanced learners. Movies, YouTube channels other than yours, that, uh, that you are into?
Ian: Yeah. Okay. So the two best things that I think a, someone who wants to be able to speak Korean well, of course reading, I think reading is a different skill.
I think we can agree on that, but if you want to listen and speak well, I think, uh, obviously you have to do a lot of listening, right? And so I think the two most powerful Korean language resources in the world are Netflix and YouTube. Those are like just overpowered resources and they’re both extremely popular in Korea.
So Netflix of course, is producing world famous TV shows right here in Korea. Like you may be familiar with what’s called in English Squid Game. Right.
Elle: Of course, yeah…
Ian: In Korean it’s called … yeah.
Elle: Yeah. How do you say it in Korean?
Ian: Yeah. A squid is called an … so game of course is game. But, um, um, other things like The Sea of Silence and whatever that are really popular all over the world, these are made here in Korea and uploaded straight to Netflix and you get all the,you know, multi-lingual subtitles and same language subtitles, which a lot of native Korean streaming services don’t include. There’s no Korean subtitles. I don’t know why they do that. But, um, and YouTube is also extremely popular in Korea. There’s tons of YouTubers that are making just hundreds of hours of content a day that I’m sure you can find something you enjoy from.
My channel has great content as well, but, uh, yeah, I I’ll give, I’ll give one specific recommendation to, for people who are learning Korean. There’s a, there’s a great comedy YouTube channel. It’s called … if you want, if you can read Hangul, you can find that, but, uh, they have a ton of high quality, fully subtitled, funny material you can learn from that I’ve been using for years.
Elle: Oh, super. I’ll get, I’ll get that from you and I’ll pop it in the description for anyone who’d like to check that out. Yeah. And so did you watch Squid Game? What did you think of it?
Ian: Oh yeah, of course. Yeah. I saw it when it, when it first came out. Um, it’s a very Korean show, I think so, so, so I have not experienced the show in English.
I watched it in Korean and listened to. We have participated in online discussions about it in Korean, not in English. I’ve only read about what people say about it in English. I do get the vibe that, um, it’s a little bit more meaningful in Korean than in English. I think it’s a little bit more deep. Yeah.
You know, for example, like all the games that they play and stuff, those are totally foreign concepts to, you know, non-Korean speakers or non Korean people, I guess it has nothing to do with your ethnicity, but people who don’t know Korean culture. Those games are not as ubiquitous as they are here. Like when you see the symbols, you’re like, oh, okay.
They’re going to do, you know, … now. Whereas it’d be like, if it would be like in America or in North America, if we were doing like hopscotch or like jump rope, if these were the games, you know? So yeah. I loved it though. It was cool.
Elle: Yeah. I think I read on the BBC actually that people were saying to watch it in Korean and to watch it in English were kind of two different experiences and they missed out the nuances, uh, when it was translated into English.
So it’s interesting. It’s kind of sad for, uh, uh, non, uh, Korean speakers.
Ian: A lot of the characters too are like caricatures of things that are happening in Korea. And if you don’t know anything about Korean society, you’re like, uh, why is there, uh, an Indian or Pakistani character? Why is there this North Korean girl, like what what’s going on?
And if you live in Korean society, you know, you know what’s up, you know why these people are here, but otherwise I think a lot of people are just confused. Like why are there foreign people in this Korean thing? You know? So you get that out of it too.
Elle: So tell us about Korean Patch. Um, I mentioned that you have your comprehensible Korean series. Um, yeah… What, what kinds of videos are you making and what is the plan for the channel for 2022?
Ian: So we are, we, I, all… there’s more than one of us. What we’re doing is trying to build a catalog of materials for people who are learning Korean who want to become authentic speakers. That’s kind of a word that I’ve, I’ve come up with, but, um, I’ve been teaching people language and learning languages for, you know, most of my life, um, all of my adult life, for sure.
And, uh, I think there’s a big difference between someone who is like fluent or proficient and somebody who is authentic. I think we often run into people who are not the most eloquent speakers in their language, in their target language, but other native speakers of that target language totally received them like a native speaker.
And then sometimes there are people who are, you know, like super, super fluent. They have a really high, like academic level of the language, of their second or third language, but it’s, something’s wrong, you know, something’s like not quite there. And I think that happens to a lot of people who learn Korean because the cultural foundation is just super different.
A lot of people don’t understand how to kind of pretend to be a Korean, if that makes any sense, how to create a Korean cultural persona. And so what we’re trying to do with Korean Patch, this year and going forward is create, uh, courses and hopefully initiate some discussion about the other things besides language that people need to learn about in order to be really authentic, you know, members of Korean speaking earth, if that makes sense.
So the first thing that we’re working on, uh, we actually just released, uh, Beta version of the course, um, and sold out in like two hours. So people are clearly interested in this, which is great. Uh, yeah. Thank you. We are uh… so the first thing that we’re talking about is learning regional dialects and how that’s pretty important in Korean.
Um, future things that we’re going to talk about are like how you should be learning Chinese characters to improve your Korean and, uh, you know, how to improve your pronunciation and things like that. I’m not really interested in like teaching people basic grammar or any of that kind of stuff. But I do think that there are a lot of things that native speakers know about their language subconsciously that if you ask them, they would say, I have no idea. Like for English speakers, maybe it would be things like a Greek and Latin roots. You know, we’re able to just like pull these from the ether whenever we need them. And you can hear words like antidisestablishmentarianism and you know what it means right away, but someone who’s learning the language, if they don’t spend any time learning that these words are built of these little components, I think they really struggle to be natural…
um, both in their understanding and in their production of the language. And so Korean has a bunch of things like that, and we’re going to try to eliminate those and then share them with people in a way that that English speakers can understand hopefully.
Elle: That’s excellent. So lots of plans, lots of fantastic stuff for anyone studying Korean currently idea or anyone who wants to start studying Korean.
Perfect. Um, I will pop of course the link to your channel in the description. And also if I can get that, um, that YouTube was a YouTube channel? I’ll pop that as well. Okay. Perfect. Great. Well, Ian, thank you so, so much for joining us today, uh, early in the morning and best of luck with Korean Patch.
Ian: Okay. Thank you very much. It was great to meet you. I appreciate your time.
Elle: Thanks. You too.
Thinking of learning Korean? Check out our article: How Long Does it Take to Learn Korean?