For the first time in my life I tried to read a webtoon in Korean – a language I barely know – as I am too impatient to wait for the translation and too sick to work on my textbook right now. As I went through it I wrote down Korean vocabulary and grammar and decided to share it here, in case anyone would like to join me in the struggle of reading it in Korean.
It is beautifully drawn, and has an exciting plot and a type of humor I really enjoy. I decided to try to read it even though I don’t understand 90% of what’s being said (95%?).
I’m not leaving anything for later. I’ve learned my lesson last time. (Refer to my previous post to understand my favorite-webtoon debacle.)
July Found by Chance is a relatively easy webtoon to learn Korean with.
Granted, it’s a regular webtoon written for native speakers – not for Korean language learners, and since the beginning is quite mysterious it takes an episode or two to figure out what’s going on, but other than that it uses quite simple language.
It is set in high school so characters use short and simple sentences. Much shorter than in my beloved historical webtoon that caused the aforementioned debacle, anyway.
While it’s not technically a Korean comic for beginners, I am a beginner and that’s not stopping me. At the very least it doesn’t have long convoluted monologues by court officials emulating historical Korean speech, like a certain other webtoon. (Yep, you guessed it, refer to my previous post about the debacle.)
Another good thing about using this particular webtoon to learn Korean is that it has fantastic re-readability. When I went through it the second time I was able to notice certain details that were meaningless in the first read-through. “Ah, that’s when it started! Of course,” “There they are in the background, finishing their conversation. That’s why the jump happened.”
It makes repeat reading equally enjoyable as the first and, after all, repetition is the mother of learning.
To get right to the main point – Korean grammar and vocabulary from the webtoon – I left talking about how much reading this webtoon improved my Korean for the end, as well as explaining why I approached it differently than I do other sources for learning Korean, so scroll to the bottom of this post for a few final thoughts.
I wrote down only those Korean words or sentences I don’t understand and either
- find interesting enough,
- important enough for the plot, or
- if I feel like I can aaaaalmost understand them and need just a bit of help.
I will not talk about the plot but you might be able to guess certain plot point from sentences I translate, so: Spoiler alert!
If you notice any mistakes let me know (….please help me!). Three question marks “???” signify that I doubt my translation, or that I have no clue how to translate it at all.
I also included pronunciation in square brackets “” only for the words I was uncertain about. If you need more help with pronunciation refer to 3 Korean pronunciation tools.
Let’s get into webtoon’s vocabulary and grammar.
Here is Korean -> English translation as I read through the webtoon:
Title of the webtoon:
어쩌다 발견한 7월
July Found by Chance / I Found It in July
(↳this is not my translation, these are the titles I found it under)
accidentally, by chance
Note: This word looks like a verb or an adjective but doesn’t act like either. What’s up with that?
to discover, stumble on, locate
보잘것없다 [보잘꺼덥따] or 보잘 것 없다
worthless, pathetic, meager
Note: More literally: not worth seeing. Refer to the picture above, from the webtoon.
내가 너를 찾을게-
I will find you…
Episode 1: Trivial problem 1
1화 사소한 문제 1
사소하다 (Hanja: 些少―)
trivial, minor, insignificant, unimportant
Note: Interestingly, Naver dictionary in Korean gives this definition of that verb: 보잘것없이 작거나 적다. That 보잘것없이 again.
to push, nudge, shove
Note: I just noticed that the word 밀당 (push-pull, subtle psychological game in a romantic relationship) comes from 밀다 (to push, nudge, shove) + 당기다 (to pull, draw, tug, yank)
indicates that the preceding action was done to completion
그렇게 계속 의심하면 여기서 널 밀어버릴 수도 있어.
If you keep doubting me like that, I could push you off here.
신사 (Hanja: 紳士)
숙녀 (Hanja: 淑女)
because, so (speaker gives reason for, and regrets, something not happening)
an act, doing
짓을 할 수는 없지
I can’t do that, can I?
떨어트리다 = 떨어뜨리다
소중하다 (Hanja: 所重―)
to be precious, valuable, dear
Note: This word occurs frequently throughout this webtoon
호흡 (Hanja: 呼吸)
심박 (Hanja: 深博)
Note: This word occurs frequently in this webtoon
통증 (Hanja; 痛症)
정상 / 비정상
normal, regular / abnormal, irregular
최근 나에겐 사소한 문제가 몇 가지 생겼다.
I’ve had a few minor problems lately.
첫 뻔재 문제-
자각하다 (Hanja: 自覺–)
to realize, awake to
a week ago
기말고사 (Hanja: 期末考査)
finals, final exams
Note: Name of the main female character.
전혀 (Hanja: 全―)
completely, entirely; not at all, not a bit
전혀 기억이 없는데?
No memory at all?
Can’t you move!?
That was the beginning.
to gather up, bring in; to collect, gather;
Also: to walk
뭐가 어떻게 돌아가고 있는거야?
What’s going on?
Note: ??? I don’t understand why this sentence means “What’s going on?” in Korean. I can only understand it as “What how is returning?”
상황 (Hanja: 狀況)
situation, conditions, circumstances
파악 (Hanja: 把握)
상황 파악이 전혀 안되네.
I don’t understand the situation at all.
Note: I don’t know the ending -네 or how it changes the meaning of the sentence.
in the middle of something complicated happening
to be exhausted, be fatigued
피로 (Hanja: 疲勞)
to accumulate, pile up
to become more and more fatigued
분명 (Hanja: 分明)
clearly, plainly, obviously
Note: This word occurs frequently in this webtoon.
??? Sense of time, the time your body feels passed
순식간 [순식깐] (Hanja: 瞬息間)
건망증 [건망쯩] (Hanja: 健忘症)
상실 (Hanja: 喪失)
연관 (Hanja: 聯關)
relation between, connection with
검색어 (Hanja: 檢索語)
Note: Seems like a useful word when using Korean search engines.
Note: Name of a female character.
Note: Name of a male character, who is a doctor.
Note: Seems like Korean texting slang.
-ㄴ 것 같아요
-it seems as though
Note: This appears to be a very common Korean sentence ending, I’d better learn it as soon as I have the brain power.
의학 (Hanja: 醫學)
medicine, medical science
Note: To remember this Korean word easier I think of doctor 의사 and school 학교. What do doctors 의 learn in school 학? 의학.
의견 (Hanja: 意見)
방금 (Hanja: 方今)
just now, a moment ago
질색 [질쌕] (Hanja: 窒塞)
I hate it/you.
환각 (Hanja: 幻覺)
Not likely…/No way…/Give me a break…
Note: lit. mind split.
Note: Character’s name. Blond guy with annoying face.
others, other people
욕먹 [용먹] (Hanja: 辱-)
??? blame, criticism
??? Show up and pull yourself together.
상관없다 [상과넙따] (Hanja: 相關–)
to not care, to not matter, to have nothing to do with
묘함 기시감 같은
strange déjá vu-like
to be painfully boring
Episode 2: Trivial problem 2
2화 사소한 문제 2
to be dumped, broken up with ; to be hit, kicked
??? short for 이놈아 (you scoundrel, dude)
초능력 [초능녁] (Hanja: 超能力)
Note: 능력 means “ability”.
충격 (Hanja: 衝擊)
심박수 (Hanja: 心博數)
Please press (push).
Note: Sign on the doors. Might be useful for anyone having to deal with Korean doors.
to press, push
아파도 참아 세 컷이면 나을테니까.
??? Even if it hurts, three cuts will do.
나의 소중한 일주일도 사라졌다.
My precious week has disappeared.
What do I/we do now?
인생의 경험치가 너무 낮아
I am inexperienced. (lit. Life experience is too low.)
이거 놔 ( from 놓다)
Let go of me
주인공 (Hanja: 主人公)
main character, protagonist, hero, heroine
??? I couldn’t find this one anywhere, but from the context of their conversation I am guessing this is short for 남자 (male) + 조연 (Hanja: 助演) (supporting role), so second male lead.
자신의 삶이 다른 누군가를 위해 존재할 거라고는 생각하지 않는데.
??? I don’t think his life’s gonna exist for anyone else.
그래도 포기하지 마. 이건 진심이야.
But don’t give up. I mean it./It’s the truth.
무엇을 해야 하는지 어느 하나 기억하지 못 했다.
??? I can’t remember one thing I was intending to do.
도망치다 (Hanja: 逃亡–)
escape, run away
get out (of), break away (from)
악몽 (Hanja: 惡夢)
도망칠 수도 벗어날 수도 없는 이 악몽 속에서 무엇보다 두려웠던 건 아무도 내게 말을 걸지 않는다는 것.
허락하다 (Hanja: 許諾–)
to permit, consent, approve
날 알아봐 주는 건 너 뿐인데.
You’re the only one who recognizes me.
to become aware of, be conscious of, suspect
체육관 (Hanja: 體育館) [체육꽌]
한없이 (Hanja: 限–)
선명하다 (Hanja: 鮮明–)
clear, distinct, vivid
약혼 (Hanja: 約婚)
engagement, be engaged
이런 내가 널 좋아해도 될까?
That’s it for now. I will add more as I go through it again.
This is actually not how I would learn Korean from a webtoon. It was never my intention to. All I wanted is to read through it and understand the story as much as possible, so my approach to it has been vastly different than what I normally do.
I have too many other Korean sources from which I’m doing structured studying anyway.
- I am learning from Sungkyun Korean 1 textbook.
- I am learning from howtostudykorean.com.
- I am learning from Memrise.com.
- I am learning from another webtoon Twelve Nights, adding new words to Memrise, looking up grammatical constructions, looking up archaic words, etc.
All of these take months. This was the first time I just tried reading through a webtoon, nothing more. In all honesty, I didn’t expect to learn much, if anything.
My predictions were right. I probably didn’t memorize a single new word.
But something unexpected happened!
Usually, if I’m not actively studying Korean, when I come across a large chunk of Korean text my eyes just glaze over. I know for certain that I won’t understand it, and slowly reading syllable by syllable to check if I can pick out a few words I do understand is just too exhausting for me.
하.지.만 after just three days of forcing myself to read every single word from this webtoon and trying to understand it I could inexplicably scan large chunks of Korean text easily and pick out the words I know at a glance.
I really didn’t expect to see any improvement let alone such a drastic one. I wonder if it’s temporary or if it will last.
So despite not forcing myself to memorize Korean webtoon vocabulary something good did come out of it.
If you would rather read July Found by Chance (어쩌다 발견한 7월) webtoon in an app than on Daum Webtoon site, Daum has webtoon apps for iOS and Android. Unfortunately, unlike Naver, it doesn’t have English version of its app.