Originally Posted: July 4, 2011
In today’s lesson, we discuss Westerners’ favorite pastime: bragging about their Korean skills.
Even nine years into my study of Korean, I still wouldn’t call myself “fluent” and honestly, I’m not even sure what that expression means. Does it mean that I can say anything I want to in Korean, or that I can say everything in Korean that I can say in English? Or does it mean that I can speak Korean as well as a native Korean? I’m not sure what that adjective entails, but I know that I would never use this word to describe myself.
Many foreigners start tossing this word around once they get to about Level 4. I’ve gotta tell ya, for me, even Level 6 was more of a starting point than a conclusion. And I finished Level Six all the way back in 2005. I don’t know why I suddenly felt inclined to facilitate a behavior that I loathe, but I guess it was just the perspicacity to know that when you claim fluency, you ought to at least profess your “fluency” in a semi-literate way.
Also, I think many students of Korean are frustrated by Koreans always responding to them in English and say that they are fluent as a method of getting Koreans to respond in Korean. So, if that’s the case, allow me to help. Whatever your motivations, here are some ways to get your brag on.
In fluent Korean
그의 유창한 한국어 실력에 모두 놀랐어요.
His fluent Korean surprised everyone.
그녀의 한국어 실력은 거의 원어민 수준인 것 같아요.
Her Korean is almost at the native-speaker level.
어제는 웬 일인지 한국말이 술술 잘 나왔어요.
I don’t know what happened, but yesterday my Korean was really flowing.
그 남자는 미국 사람인데 한국어를 거침 없이 잘해요.
He’s an American but he speaks Korean flawlessly. (lit. free from obstruction)
Some more modest statements (When in Rome, folks…)
유창하게 하려면 아직 멀었어요.
I’m still far from being fluent.
조만간 저도 원어민 수준으로 한국말을 잘할 수 있었으면 좋겠어요.
I hope to sooner or later speak Korean at the level of a native speaker.
한국어 문법 실력은 이제 어느 정도 되는데 발음은 아직 멀었어요.
I’m starting to get a handle on Korean grammar, but I’ve still got a long way to go with the pronunciation.