I have been having a few fears related to pronunciation lately. I have always considered correct pronunciation as one of the most important things when speaking in a foreign language – I mean what is the point of knowing a bunch of grammar rules and fancy words, if nobody understands you when you try using them? I still have a lot to work on but I consider my pronunciation decent enough to get by without too many struggles. However after I started doing Taekwondo, I have been having some serious issues and minor mental breakdowns.
Everyone in my club is Danish hence they all speak Korean with Danish accent. A very strong Danish accent. This isn’t really a problem in itself, however because everybody in the club (with me as the exception) has just about no knowledge about the Korean language itself, it becomes a problem. Everything is learned through Romanized Korean. This is the big issue because it makes the pronunciation way more complicated. Also the romanizations are usually based on English pronunciation which isn’t the same at the Danish one. When 장 is written as Jang, it only ‘works’ because of the English ‘J’ sound. With the Danish ‘J’ sound 장 suddenly become 양. Because of that we have people saying both 장 and 양, and even 챵, even though they are all talking about the very same thing. New members without any Korean knowledge obviously struggle with these things, as they have no idea how to pronounce it correctly and they keep hearing the same word with a changing pronunciation.
It makes it really difficult for me at times too, when they tell me something very basic, but pronounce it so differently that I simply can’t recognize the words.
Also when I try to look up things at home, it sometimes causes quite the trouble. When I first joined the club, everybody was talking about 타이코 1양 and 타이코 2양. I tried looking this up when I got home so that I could practice and improve for the next session (Since I started out of the ‘new members season’ I was the only one who knew nothing. I wanted to improve fast in order to not slow everybody down. I thought my Korean skills would be an advantage but it didn’t quite end up that way.) but that turned out to be a bit more difficult than so. Why? Because 타이코 1양 is actually 태극 1장. Not. The. Same. At. All. I don’t even know how 태극 ended up being pronounced as 타이코!
These are the moments where I really hate the romanizations!
I’m also the only one in the club who pronounce Taekwondo as 태권도 and not 타이권도. Makes me feel like a real know-it-all nit-picky douche, haha!
A while ago some of the members were talking about the struggles they had in Germany. In Germany we have a Korean Grand Master who takes part in all of our belt promotions, and whenever he is the person to give out orders, nobody understands him, because he is pronouncing everything correctly. Ah the irony.. I face that very same problem. When asking a question about a certain kick or defending block, I pronounce it correctly and the coaches are struggling to understand what I’m talking about.
This leads me to my actual fear.. I love doing Taekwondo and I want to improve. I also love the Korean language and I find it hard to teach myself wrong or improper things. Until now I have been kinda blocking out all the names for the stands, blocks and so on, and completely been avoiding to say them out loud, which now means that I can’t really remember any of the names. This is something that I need to know in order to continue improving and obviously that puts me in quite the dilemma.
What if my usual Korean pronunciation starts to become bad or weird because I’m practicing it incorrectly during Taekwondo practice?
I don’t want that to happen. But I want to continue growing and improving in my Taekwondo journey..
I guess it’s no different from Konglish.. My English skills are not getting worse even though I pronounce words the Korean way. And I doesn’t confuse me either..
So what’s the difference? Maybe it’s because English feels like my native language and Korean is still so far from that.
In that case I guess the solution is to study harder.
Study Korean harder and study Taekwondo terminology harder.
What about you guys? Do you have any similar issues?
Any advice? Do share. 🙂