Typing in Korean

I’ve been putting this off way too long. It’s time to learn how to type in Korean. I’m using a U.S. English MacBook, which comes with no fewer than five different Korean input methods: 2-Set Korean, 3-Set Korean, 390 Sebulshik, GongjinCheong Romaja, and HNC Romaja. Where to begin?

MacInfo says “Romaja” is another word for “not really typing in Korean.” It just uses the Latin alphabet sounds to try to approximate Korean sounds. It’s very approximate. So, for instance to type:

이름 뭐여요?

I have to actually type:

x-i-r-w-m     m-u-e-x-y-e-x-y-o-?

ㅇ ㅣ ㄹ ㅡ ㅁ    ㅁ ㅜ ㅓ ㅇ ㅣ ㅓ ㅇ ㅣ ㅗ ?

The “proper” way is using 2-Set, which maps each key to a particular component of Hangul characters. The hard part is that unlike the Romaja systems, there is no correspondence at all between the Latin alphabet letters on the U.S. English keyboard and the Hangul components they map to.

What about 3-Set? According to this Quora answer, it’s similar to 2-Set but with a newfangled mapping. In other words, skip it.

How do I type 이름 뭐여요? in 2-Set? Try this:

d-l-f-m-a     a-n-j-d-u-d-y?

ㅇ ㅣ ㄹ ㅡ ㅁ     ㅁ ㅜ ㅓ ㅇ ㅕ ㅇ ㅛ ?

Notice how it takes fewer characters with 2-Set, because there are keys that map directly to ㅕ and ㅛ.

Is the 2-Set mapping the same layout that standard keyboards use in Korea?

You can’t learn a language

Yesterday we had a practice session for the language learning forum, and the topic of goal setting came up. David Zen, a polyglot who has reached amazingly close-to-native fluency in four languages (in addition to his two native languages), said he has never set language goals. His path to fluency was an unselfconscious series of steps, each one involving some sort of immediate fascination: fascination with accents, with expressions, and with different ways of speaking and thinking, etc.

This took a while to sink in, but it finally got me thinking about how my own language goals might be holding me back. And oh! I do have language goals, whether or not I like to admit it.

People don’t learn languages. Learning a language isn’t actually an action you can take. There is no moment when you go from not knowing a language to knowing it, so it’s meaningless to think about it as actually trying to learn a language. All this will accomplish is to constantly make you dissatisfied with your current ability (or lack thereof).

So is language learning just a hopeless endeavor? Obviously not. If I understand the lesson in David’s example, it’s summed up in this paradoxical statement: To learn a language, stop trying to learn a language.

Ok, I’ve stopped. Now what do I do? Here’s my best attempt:

Step 1: Find something that fascinates you about the language.

Step 2: When it stops being fascinating, go back to step 1.

Spring break

A couple of my friends here in Taipei are highly talented polyglots, and I’ve been lucky enough to be able to pick their brains (gently, without them noticing) over the weeks and months. I think this has given me lots of inspiration and helped me improve my language practice quite a bit.

It would be great if everybody with such an interest had access to people like my polyglot friends. With this in mind, my friends and I are putting on an event at the end of the month where they’ll talk about their language learning methods, philosophies, and also share some cool improv games and other ways of getting more fluent. (This whole thing actually started as our mutual friend D’s idea). Hopefully other attendees will be as inspired as I’ve been by my friends’ passion and accumulated wisdom.

When we started preparing for this event back in January, I held on to the naive hope that I could keep up my own language practice — and keep adding a new language every month — even while doing all the planning, promotion, and practicing required for this event. Now, less than a month before the planned date of the event, I’m ready to concede that this hope was unrealistic.

This has been hard for me to admit to myself. A big part of me wants to drop everything so I can dive back into another language and actually do it justice. But I realize now that there’s really no need to agonize over this conflict — and anyway, with the date getting closer I can’t afford to agonize. The event is a one-time thing (unless I want it to be a recurring thing), after all, and skipping a month of my own language project is, on the whole, inconsequential. When the event is over I can pick it up where I left off.

And if by some chance you’re in Taipei, you can find more info about the event on the 多國語言課程王 Facebook page (once we post it).