“The Giving Tree” Tutor session

I just finished an hour tutor session with Woojae Jun.  Phew, I am exhausted!

Colin has told me for months that I need to focus on a “clear vowel sound” and Woojae has taken up the same refrain.  Worked on the vowel sounds ㅓ ㅕ ㅏ today.   When tutor is finally able to get me to make a sound correctly, it is hard to hold that in my brain. Practice, practice, practice.  Listen, practice, listen, read.

I commit as of this day to


It is a bad habit, a crutch, and it leads me astray.   Woojae wants me to use Naver. I think I have built up my dictionary skills enough to take off the training wheels and use a “real” Korean-English dictionary.  He cautioned me about the trap of using sentence translators, and said that at this stage, I would best learn by looking up each word one-by-one in the dictionary.

I will do it, but I am still at the stage where it is extremely slow to try to translate a sentence.  I’m trembling a little.  It is scary to not have Google Translate.

If I could go back in time, I would get a tutor much sooner.  I formed bad habits about how to pronounce things because I was purely guessing off of romanization.  If you are just starting off learning Korean, my two pieces of advice:

  1. Learn Hangul.  The rewards for leaving romanization behind are worth the small amount of effort to learn the logical alphabet.
  2. Learn the sounds of Korean.  Work with a native Korean or native audio right at the beginning so you can hear and make clear sounds.

This tutor session, we went over the vocabulary words in the story.  I got to practice each word.  I could focus on one word at a time, and juggle the pronunciation rules in my head like the ㅎ influencing theㄱin the following syllable, or the batchim sliding up to fill in the silent ㅇ, or remembering that letters like ㄷ sound different at the beginning of the word.  It is still an unfamiliar skill, but I had these lovely moments when I would put all those rules into practice along with the vowel work, and suddenly a set of letters would match with a sound I had heard.  Ah ha!  Enlightenment!

Woojae had a good laugh at that.  I knew the sound because he had made the recording and I had heard it there.  Oh, true.  Listening to the recording helps.  But that doesn’t diminish my thrill when I make a connection of sound to letters.  Give a girl a moment to celebrate the minor triumph!  Haha.

Woojae said he would make me recordings for future stories.  I was so happy!  It’s like a lovely gift to look forward to, a very tangible reward that will help me.  He told me to focus on this story for now, not get ahead of myself, and I was a contrite student promising to be diligent.

Woojae actually listened to the “make your ears bleed” first recording of “The Giving Tree” from an earlier post.  How embarrassing.  My goal this week is to keep practicing so that I can make a new recording that is better.

Words I am particularly interested in getting the pronunciation right:  소년,  매달려, and행복하였지요.

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