Obies Using Languages: Joseph Kim ’19

Joseph Kim is a second-year student whose prospective major is Chemistry, and is currently an instructor of ExCo Elementary Korean I. 

What languages do you speak and how did you learned them?

The most fluently spoken languages for me are English and Korean. Other than those two, I can understand to an extent some Japanese and I have previously learned Chinese for about 3 years during my high school year, but have mostly forgotten it now. To be honest, I am not totally sure how I learned English and Korean. I just got progressively better in English by just attending school and regularly using the language in speaking and writing. On the other hand, Korean was more of speaking regularly with friends and family regularly and slowly got better throughout the years. Japanese was more of a language of interest. For a long time I was interested in Japanese culture, and have watched series of anime and Japanese dramas. Through watching these medias and while looking at subtitles, I can to some extent speak Japanese although writing can be difficult at some times.

Please tell me any similarities or differences you find among those languages. Do you find any difference in your attitude depending on which language you are using?

Korean and Japanese have clear similarities in some pronunciations and overall grammar structure. Due to these similarities, when watching Japanese dramas with Korean subtitles, I was able to relate the words easily due to the similar pronunciation. Chinese and English are also quite similar in grammar structure. Regarding the differences, all four languages are quite different in terms of pronunciation, especially Chinese, since you have to understand the use of the four symbols and these could completely change the meaning of the words. Hmm… Attitude… I am not quite sure how to answer this, but I tend to tense up when speaking English as in the past I have used English in an environment with other Korean friends, but now I am using the language in a completely different environment and the use has changed to some extent.

Have you ever experienced any troubles switching from one language to another?

Definitely. Especially when I first came to Oberlin, it was almost 10 years since I came to the states, so the cultural difference has hit me pretty hard and I faced some difficulty speaking English with other people. In some cases I could not think of the specific word in English when I clearly knew it in Korean.

Tell me how you are planning to continue learning those languages. Do you plan to learn any other languages in the future?

I have forgotten a lot of my Chinese, so I wish to someday take a Chinese course while I am at Oberlin if my schedule allows so and re-learn the language once again. During Fall 2015, I took a Japanese course, and the material learnt from the class helped me in my writing skills, therefore, I plan to take that as a basis and continue improving my Japanese speaking and writing skills. I wish to someday visit Japan and easily navigate without the need of a translator.

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About Soomin Kim 14 Articles
Soomin is a Composition major from Seoul, Korea and the rest of her family lives in the Philippines. She speaks English and Japanese (but no kanji), and is studying Spanish. She loves learning new languages because she believes that language is the most powerful way to understand and explore the culture. She enjoys traveling with her friends during vacations, which makes her spend all the money she has saved for a semester. In her free time, Soomin likes to collect vintage clothes, watch movies and Korean TV shows, listen to music, and read books.

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