Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Books Are Archaic
My back hurts! Horiga appumnida!
That is one of the first sentences I've memorized dearly. All I needed next is to know the Korean term for whatever part of my body is aching... just in case.
Fortunately, I've encountered a situation where I could use almost the exact words. My superior during that time was complaining about her back. Pounding it herself by her fist. Although she wasn't talking to me, I just built the nerve and said, "Horiga appumnikka? (허리가 아픕니까?)"
You see, I noticed from the books that when asking a question, they almost always end up with "imnikka" as opposed to making a statement using "imnida" at the end of the sentence. So I tested it out.
Unfortunately, my superior just repeated what I said, laughed, and left. It was embarrassing and confusing. What did I do wrong?
Much later on (after a couple of months), I gathered the locals don't end their sentences with "imnida," but "yo" instead. It is mostly used when addressing someone of a higher status. Be it an older person or superior at work, or maybe just a stranger whom you're not sure of his/her position.
For two years, I've been wondering what's the difference between "imnida" and "yo." Whenever I ask a fellow foreigner, they have their own theories.
"Those are used by the educated ones."
"Those are used by people in Seoul. I hear them say it often on TV."
"Those are for the people of Busan... I think."
"Those are for formality's sake."
"Who cares? Just don't use it!"
As for asking Koreans, sometimes it takes them a while before they give up and just say "ttokkat-e (똑같이)" or "same same (konglish)." It is, after all, hard to explain things to someone who can't understand much of the words. Well, some of them do explain but I never understood what they said. I just nod.
It was after a couple more years that I realized, the ones I learned from the books are just really old Korean language. I was almost laughed at whenever I try to speak "formally" and use whatever system the book says. I did the best I can to pronounce the words right. I even used the exact sentences I memorized from the books, without tweaking/adjusting. And then something came up...
I met a Korean guy who can speak a bit of Filipino. He claimed he studied in the Philippines for some years. But what I noticed is his vocabulary. Apparently, he was surrounded by Filipinos who often use what we sometimes call "deep" Tagalog. Ones that were used in Filipino oratorical contests and such.
So imagine this:
If you're Filipino, imagine a white guy talking to you using "makata." Words such as "sapagka't" or "datapwa't" or "subalit" or "ngunit"... you know the rest.
If English is your native tongue, imagine an Asian speak Shakespear... or Chaucer.
I think it's the same here in Korea. You still get to hear the "imnida" and "imnikka" sometimes and often on programs. Same in the Philippines where we still use those "deep words" appropriately. Like when celebrating the Filipino language. Or when we want to impress/mock someone. Still, I wouldn't be using those Korean sentence endings any time soon. Not even to impress. I'd rather be answered properly than be laughed at.