One of the most expensive flights from Korea is the one to Brazil, which means those two countries are really far away from each other. Personally, I had never encountered Brazilian people and their culture until I came to Canada for my studies. And here I met Gustavo Dorfschmidt who flew all the way from Brazil to Toronto to study architecture in University of Toronto, and also learns the Korean language in the Korean Consulate General in Toronto.
1. How long have you been learning Korean and why did you choose to learn Korean?
I have learned Korean for about 8 months since last August. Actually I learned Korean alphabets before coming to Canada through the internet because I like different alphabets. That’s why I started to learn Korean because I wanted to learn a language with different alphabets. Before coming here, my plan was to take Korean language courses in University of Toronto. But when I arrived here I decided to take only architecture-related courses, so I searched places to learn Korean outside of University of Toronto. I also checked private schools but they are quite expensive. So I chose the Korean Consulate General which provide same courses for free. It was my first time to see consulates providing language courses.
2. What is the most difficult part in learning Korean?
Reading vocabulary and understanding grammar. Not the basic grammar but for example, to say “I want to do something” you need to attach specific suffix such as “~고 싶어요 (~go sipeoyo),” which is very unique in Korean language. Also, it is unique that different suffixes should be attached to make the past, present or future tense. In addition, sometimes place particles such as “에(e)” change the sound of a word little bit in the way it loses its meaning. For example, “책(chaek; book)” is easy to understand but with the place particle “에(e)” it becomes “채게(chegae)” so that it is hard to get the meaning. And another example…. “여덟(yeodul)” the number eight in Korean, ㅂ(b) is not pronounced.
3. What is the biggest difference between Korean and your mother tongue?
Not only alphabets, but also particles. Sometimes every sentence ends with the same sound such as “~입니다 (ipnida),” which makes me difficult to understand because if you don’t pay attention to the beginning you will not understand. For example, in Portuguese, when someone starts to say something, even if you don’t pay attention to the beginning, you can still get the meaning by just listening to the end. Also, a sentence itself sometimes looks empty as something is missing because subjects are often omitted. In Portuguese, subjects, verbs and objects should be there. Actually, sometimes subjects can be omitted in Portuguese because when we conjugate verbs they have different forms according to subjects so that a person can guess the subject. In addition, in Korean, a verb is always at the end, and the rest parts can change position freely without losing meanings. But in Portuguese, things must be at the right positions.
4. What is your favorite Korean word or sentence and why?
“비빔밥(bibimbap).” It sounds funny because three ‘b’s come in a row, which I have never seen before. And my favorite Korean sentence is “잘 지내요 (jal jinaeyo).” When someone says “잘 지내요? (How have you been?; How are you?)” the person answers “잘 지내요. (I am fine.; I am alright).”
5. Have you visited Korea? If so, where? If not, do you want to go there someday and practice your Korean?
No, I have never been to Korea. But I want to go there. I think I can practice Korean by doing grocery shopping. And I think the best way is to work or study there. In Korea, I want to visit 춘천(Chuncheon) to try rail biking. And also 북촌한옥마을 (Bukchon Hanok Village) because it looks traditional.
6. How do you think learning Korean will help you in the future?
I think Korea grows a lot, so it will be useful to learn Korean if I work in an international company. Actually, I wanted to learn new alphabets and there were not many options. I could have learned other languages but Korean is the most useful and economical language.
7. Are there any tips you want to share with other international students who might be interested in learning Korean?
I am a visual learner. I memorize a word after looking at the object. I think the best time to memorize a word is before you go to bed and right after you wake up. The last thing to do before I sleep is to look at some words and the first thing to do during the day is to look at the same words again, until you memorize them. It is also good to memorize in subway because it can become a part of your routine. And try to get the right pronunciation from the beginning because it is so difficult to correct the wrong pronunciation after.
Thank Gustavo so much for taking the time to grant this interview! I will always be rooting for your studies of Korean :)