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Learning from Reading in a Foreign Language

One of the things I have always done is read in foreign languages. However, when I first start reading, my vocabulary and sometimes my grammar knowledge is low. I learn vocabulary, grammar knowledge, and word order from reading in a foreign language. The best way to do it is if you have a text of the same thing in both English and the target language. You don’t need a dictionary or a teacher if you do this. It just takes a bit of persistence, thinking, and creativity.

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At this point, I can read in Romanian and Spanish without a dictionary and without having a copy of the text next to me in English too. I sued to carry a Spanish/ English Bible until my dad asked for it because he wanted it, and my Mexican friend told me when I bought a new Bible I shouldn’t get another Spanish/English Bible because she was sure I could do it all in Spanish, so I tried, and she was right. However, every Sunday, I go to a Korean church and get reminded that I am still struggling trying to get everything right. I did something really silly this morning. I expect to find words I don’t know in Korean even though I understand a lot. They put a song from the computer on the screen in front of the church, and I did what I always do. I began scanning the song before I sang it to make sure I could understand it all. My eyes must have been moving too quickly or something because I saw the word “kajang” which I know to be something you put before an adjective to make a superlative like “the most,” . My eyes played a trick on me, and I just accepted it because I expect to see words I don’t know. I thought I saw “kijang.” I whispered to my Korean son in law who was sitting next to me and asked him what it meant, and he said he didn’t know. He asked my daughter, and she didn’t know either. After that, I looked back up at the screen and saw it said “kajang,” not “kijang.” “Kijang” isn’t even a word. I had to laugh at myself.

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When the preacher began preaching, he gave us a scripture, and I can usually decipher the verses in the Bible he gives us because I know what it says in English. My daughter doesn’t try reading the Bible. She can read novels, but she ignores reading the Bible in Korean, but I try to read the Bible. She understands the preacher and reads the scriptures in English. However, I read the scriptures in both English and Korean because I know it is good for me. After all, I teach a Bible class in Korean, and I have to figure things out in case they ask a question about the scriptures, and they do. When the preacher preaches, I usually get the general message of the preacher too. This is one verse of the scripture we read this morning in both English and Korean:

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English: “And I will do whatever you ask in my name so that the son may bring glory to the father” (John 14: 13 ).

Korean: “너희가 내 이름으로 무엇을 구하든지 내가 행하리니 이는 아버지로 말마아마 영광을 받으시게하려 함이라” 요한복음 (14 장 13절).

Transliteration of the Korean letters into English: (I usually don’t do this, but readers may need it.) “Nohooi ga ne irum uro moo-os ul gooha dunji ne ga hengharini inun aboji ro malmaama yong-go-ang badushigheharyo hamira” (Yohanbokum 14 jang 13 jeol)

Now, I can teach you to understand it. “너희” (nohooi) is a plural “you.” “가” (ga) is a subject marker. “내” (ne) is a contraction of “나의” (na ui) which means “my.” “이름” (irum) means “name. ” “로” (ro) means “using” or “through” in this case. “내 이름으로” (ne irum u ro) all put together means “through my name” or “using my name.”

“무엇” (mu-eos) means “what.” “을” “ul” is a direct object marker. That means that “무엇” is the direct object. “구” gave me a little trouble, so I looked at the English. It is a form of “ask.” “하” (ha) means “do.” “든지” (dunji) is a word you add to the end of any number of words to mean “ever.” “odidunji” means “where ever,” and “moo-os uldunji” means “what ever.” So, “무옷을 구하든지” (mu-os ul guhadunjji” means “whatever you ask.”

Next, you have “내 가.’ (ne ga). Remember that “가” (ga) is a subject marker, so that “내” (ne) is not the same as the last “내” (ne). If it is the subject, you need a subject pronoun. This “내” (ne) means “I.”

“행” (heng) means “act.” Again, “하” (ha) means “do.” “리니” (rini) is part of the word “행하” (hengha), so that tells me it is a verb ending that I don’t know probably because this is the Bible and even Koreans have trouble with these verb endings. However, the English uses future tense, so I assume it is a future tense ending, one more to add to the many endings I have already memorized. It means “will,” and it is probably just used in writing more important documents like the Bible. This means 행하리니= will do or will act

“아보지” (aboji) means “father.” “하야금: (hayogum) mans “for.” It is placed after “father,” so it is “for father.” They put prepositions after the noun instead of before the noun like we do in English.

“아들” (adul) means “son,” “로” “ro”, I told you before, means “through” or “using.” This means ‘아들로” (adul ro) means “through the son” or “using he son.”

“말미아마” (malmiama), “말” mal) means “word” or “speak.” “아마” ama) means “maybe.” So, “말미아마” would mean “maybe speak.” “영광” (yongkuwang) means “glory.” “을” (ul), and again, is the direct object marker. That means that “glory” or ,영광 (yongko-ang), is the direct object. 받 (bat) is a word in Korean that is used often. It means “receive.” 으 (u) is something you have to use to separate two words that you want to use together, so 시게 (shighe) must be connect to “receive.” We are reading the Bible, and I know that if you want to elevate your language to the kind of language that is used in the Bible, you need to make it more respectful, and to do that, often they put “시게” (shighe). Next, we have “하레” (haryo) which is another form of “in order to.” Lastly, we have “함이라” (hamira). You know that because it is at the end, it is a verb, and because you are reading the Bible, you have another very old, elevated ending that no one studied and most Koreans don’t even understand. The “ha” part could be “do,” and it is a very respectful “do.” That means this part means “If you speak, the father receives glory.” Add this to “아들로” (adulro) which means “through the son,” and so we have: “if you speak through the son, the father receives glory.”

Put all this together, and you end up with the meaning of “I will do whatever you ask in my name so that the son will bring glory to the father.” They are very round about with their speaking because we say “the son will bring glory to the father,” but they say “through the son, the father will receive glory.” You just have to be creative and think it out using the knowledge you have and then looking in the English or using a dictionary which I don’t carry if there is part that you don’t quite get. It takes a lot of thinking, but if you don’t give up, you can learn to decipher their books. Korean happens to be the most difficult language I know. It is much easier if you do this with Spanish or Romanian.

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Whatever language you are working on, if you use a translation of the text, you can teach yourself by using the text in both languages. Often I have learned by listening to a preacher preach in English every week with a translator. I listened to both of them and learned a lot by not just listening to the preacher, but also to the translator. When I first got to Romania, I was completely shocked listening to the translator the first Sunday because he kept saying “speranta” (pronounced “sperentsa”). In Spanish, “esperanza” (pronounces: esperansa) is how you say “hope.” I was understanding Romanian without even having studied any at all because of my background in Spanish. Listening to translators and reading translations can really help you teach yourself a language.

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