March 31, 2010 | Korean

Goodbye to Korean, for Now

I visit a Korean enclave in Bedford Park, the Bronx.

Today, on the last day of Korean, I took a field trip to the Bronx neighborhood of Bedford Park.

204th Street in Bedford Park, the Bronx

I had read that there was a strip of Korean stores and restaurants on 204th Street between the Grand Concourse and Moshulu Parkway.

There was indeed, though it was quite a small one, and one that did not give the initial impression of full economic health.

On the subway to the Bronx, I redid Pimsleur lesson 30 and—it went fabulously! I hardly had to press the pause button at all, and I got almost everything right.

I was excited to see that I didn’t totally suck.

Once on 204th Street, I walked around taking pictures of various store, restaurants, and other establishments.

A Bedford Park Cafe

A Music School

Cosmetics for Sale

Bronx Barber, with Scaffolding

In one place, a Korean food market called Go Hyang Jip, as I approached the front counter to ask the woman standing there if I could take pictures, I accidentally whacked a display case with my bag. I was about to apologize in English, but caught myself. Instead of saying “I’m sorry” in English, I said it in Korean: “Bienamnida.”

She understood! And smiled!

And then said something in Korean that I couldn’t understand, but that’s okay; I’d already had my happy moment.

I ended up having a very pleasant conversation, partly in Korean, with her and her husband. (I assumed they were the owners, though I am realizing now I didn’t actually ask.) I think they understood everything I said in Korean. I, unfortunately, did not understand everything they said in Korean, but that’s just how it goes.

This is some of what I managed to convey (transliterations are as usual improvised, which is another way of saying they are probably wrong):

  • Manasaphangapsanida - Nice to meet you.
  • Kamsamnida - Thank you.
  • Naishiga chosemnida – The weather is good.
  • Onirin piga an wayo - It’s not raining today.

I was particularly proud of this last brilliant observation, which I learned how to say only yesterday. 

What strikes me, at this early stage with a totally alien language, is how inflexible conversational skills are. If I am forced to depart from a particular line of questions and answers that I happen to know, I am completely without resources. I can’t just start talking about how I would like lettuce but no cheese on my chicken sandwich, or speculate out loud about why I never received a census form (true).

Their market is stocked with an impressive array of Korean foodstuffs, some of them pictured here.

Go Hyang Jip, Korean Food Market

No Idea What This Is, But I Love the Name

More Korean Foodstuffs I Can't Identify

Lots of Korean Pears!

By the way, the main other language I saw in this Bedford Park strip of stores was Spanish—a perfect lead-in for my transition to Spanish tomorrow!

Goodbye for now, Korean! Anyunghi kyeseyo!

Comments (7)

Judith Meyer • Posted on Fri, April 09, 2010 - 4:14 am EST

“If I am forced to depart from a particular line of questions and answers that I happen to know, I am completely without resources. I can’t just start talking about how I would like lettuce but no cheese on my chicken sandwich, or speculate out loud about why I never received a census form”

Pimsleur will do that to you. It’s quite ineffective. There are other programs that will yield much better communication skills, for example Michel Thomas. Assimil is the best language program I’ve come across so far, but considering each course has around 100 lessons, you can’t finish Assimil in two months.

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Tue, April 13, 2010 - 1:08 am EST

Judith, thank you for these tips!

Naeema • Posted on Sun, August 03, 2014 - 11:03 am EST

I am about to start learning Korean after 2 years of watching and enjoying their dramas. I came across your blog while researching resources to use and have just finished all your Korean entries. I find your project amazing and hope I can achieve even a modicum of your success. Well done. I have bought phase 1 of Pimsleur Korean after much thought. I hope I get on ok. I figured if feel (however wrongly) if I am able to start communicating straight away I will be more likely to continue my studies when I feel ready to start learning grammar etc. from books. I have already started familiarising myself with hangul though.

In response to Judith Meyer’s comment above (while made some time ago, my response still stands, and will I hope be useful to others who are doing as I am) there isn’t currently as much choice in resources for learning Korean. Especially through audio means. Michel Thomas while great (I did some of his French) is only available for European languages and Assimil which I have heard good things about currently only has Korean available for French speakers. Pimsleur isn’t cheap, however I remain tentatively optimistic.
Thanks for a very inspiring read. I shall make my way through your other language endeavours at a more leisurely pace.

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Sun, August 03, 2014 - 11:16 am EST

Naeema, you are the second person in two days to mention Korean dramas to me. I think that if/when I return to Korean, I need to add that to my strategy! I really appreciated your lovely words.

By the way, on a side note, you made me re-notice Judith Meyer’s comment above. I totally remember it, but at the time (2010), I didn’t know her. I was fortunate enough to meet her earlier this summer, though! She is a gifted polyglot and an organizer of the Polyglot Gathering in Berlin. (Hi, Judith!)

Naeema • Posted on Sun, August 03, 2014 - 6:30 pm EST

Wow. I just checked out Judith’s website. She has command over an impressive array of languages, including Chinese.  I would love to learn Mandarin myself,  but step by step. Its been 10 years since I learned a new language and I haven’t studied one by myself before. Here goes nothing. What worries me actually is that I was taught (or rather not taught) English grammar very poorly at school and am not familiar with grammatical terms other than the very basics ie noun, pronoun, verb etc. I suspect this may make understanding grammatical explanations more difficult. I don’t know if you know of any resources for English grammar aimed at native speakers that may be of use. All the ones I have found fall into 2 categories; those aimed at students of English as a foreign language, and those aimed at English teachers. Something in between would be nice. :-)

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Sun, August 03, 2014 - 11:40 pm EST

I teach grammar seminars at businesses and wrote a grammar book for my corporate students. It is a streamlined explanation of the essential features of English grammar, designed primarily for native speakers. There is a free version on my business website.

I think that might exactly fit the need you describe!

Susan • Posted on Thu, December 22, 2016 - 11:33 pm EST


I’ve heard of Pimsleur before and haven’t tried it but have tried Glosssika which seems similar but also put me to sleep. I’ve also used TTMIK which has better results but too much chatter….and unnecessary banter. I have taken classes while living in Korea for a bit and hired a tutor plus did Italki lessons while Back home. It is a complicated language…. and I can’t understand the transliterations written as I learned Hanguel right away. That part was easy…except for the vowels and double consonants (although I don’t think you mentioned them?) I love that you are in NY and I go to those places when i’m back home to visit but it’s hard to speak Korean with the shop people. I did speak to tourists in Florida and heard people speaking Korean while swimming in Long Island.

Anyway, back to English…I was an Elementary English teacher in S.Korea and now I teach Chinese students online. I have need of this book to help me with higher level learners online asking me questions, so thank you.

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