You might think since I live with a Korean roommate I constantly can practice my Korean. You thought wrong, it is a constant language struggle here.

Struggling Answers

If you have been reading Hanhan Jabji for some time you will probably know that my roommate is Korean. A lot of people might think that is great since it provides a lot of opportunities to practice my Korean and get help when stuck with a rather confounding grammatical topic. However, it is the opposite. We hardly talk in Korean and he has difficulty answering any grammar question I might have.

First you must never expect too much from any Korean friend you might have. No one, except those who studied for it, are experts of their language. Think about it: Can you explain the more nuanced grammar points of your own language to a foreigner so that they would understand it? Of course not. That is a very difficult thing to achieve that takes experience and a lot of grammar knowledge. So no, my friend is not my Korean encyclopedia.

He, however, does help me by correcting my Korean writings whenever I write something. He takes that very serious, but, again, he cannot explain some of the grammar things he changes. It is tough, for him and me.

Language Struggle

However, even though Koreans cannot answer all grammar questions you have, they should be able to help your speaking skills, right? Well I have been struggling to actually get my friend to talk to me in Korean. My roommate is a real polyglot you know. Besides his mother tongue, he also speaks Chinese, Japanese, Dutch and English all to a high degree so that he can easily communicate with others in that language.

Seeing that my native tongue is Dutch, he often speaks Dutch. Sometimes, however, he speaks English with me and these days that is happening more often. I always found it frustrating that he resorted to speaking English even though he can speak Dutch very well. Even more frustrating is that he simply forsake speaking Korean with me even though I often begged him to at least try. It was true language struggle and we in Belgium know a thing or two about language struggles.

The Pact

Yesterday I was fed up; we would no longer talk in English with each other. It was getting ridiculous to me so I drafted up some new house rules to coerce us to finally at least speak both our native languages more often with each other. The rules, however, only apply indoors.

The rules as following (edited names out):

  1. Korean roommate always says everything in Korean first.
  2. Korean roommate speaks slowly.
  3. If I did not understand what he said, he says the same thing in Dutch.
  4. I will always try to say everything in Korean, but when I simply cannot I resort to Dutch.
  5. English cannot be used indoors.
  6. However, when explaining something, highly technical English can be used (studies).

We both agreed to this rules and it has been challenging to get used to them. Nonetheless I think if we can really put our minds to it soon we will solely be talking in Korean at home soon. At least that is my hope. What do you think of this pact? Is it a good idea or would you do things differently?


About Author

Nick is a someone who enjoys exploring new and different things. 2 years ago when he met his Korean friends he decided to go for it and learn Korean. Now he is struggling with the language while sharing an apartment with his Korean roomie.

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