Friday, September 9, 2011

50 words and toddlers.

So, when we set out to adopt again, we didn't realize we would be adopting a toddler. I will be the first to tell you that it took some time for me to get used to. But after much thought and prayer, I will say that I am now very, very excited about it! She's walking, talking and eating table food! We often joke how fun it would be if she came home potty trained. :0) Ha! A girl can dream, right!

But she's speaking....Korean. And we do not. I remember Zoey at nine months old, looking at my lips when I spoke at our first meeting, unsure of why I looked like everyone else in Korea, but the words coming out of my mouth were very different! I even remember a caucasion friend of mine who speaks fluent Korean getting a similar look when she would speak to Zoey in Korean! It was very clear she knew there was a language difference.

When I met with her foster mother, I was prepared with all kinds of questions. Amongst them, what Zoey liked to be called and how to comfort her. Her Korean name is Seon-Mi, which is now her middle name, and it's pronounced 'sun-me'. In Korea, they will often times add an 'ah' sound at the end when addressing children. I heard her foster mother call her 'Seon-Mi-a' as she pat her on the back as she cried and called her '예쁘다', pronounced 'ee-poo-ta', which mean pretty. She said she would comfort her by holding her close with her head on her shoulder and whisper 'ee-poo-ta Seon-mi-a' in her ear. The social worker at Holt wrote it down on my list of notes.

I remember one of her first night's home, as she grieved the loss of everything familiar to her, I whispered this same phrase into her ear and she looked up at my face and stopped crying for a second...long enough to realize I was not her foster mother, but clear that she recognized that phrase. We used this phrase, amongst other Korean words here and there for many months after Zoey was home. Over time, she learned to be comforted by that phrase when we said it to her. While some of the Korean words we used have since faded, I am happy to say that Zoey, two and half years after homecoming, still responds to her Korean name without hesitation, especially when she's in trouble. :0) At nine months old, she was not very verbal and while I giggled when people would ask how she well she was picking up the language when she was that age, I realize that with an older child, just how important language is.

Our family has set a goal to learn 50 useful words before Emersyn comes home! My brother is traveling with me and his goal is to become fluent. :0) So far, he knows the word for 'rainbow' really well, so looks like we'll be all set when we travel to Korea!

But just in case we need to understand and say more than the word rainbow to Em, every week or so, our family is going to learn a new word, write it on a card, post it on the fridge, and start replacing the English word with the Korean one in our every day language. This way, when Emersyn gets home, we will be more equipped to understand what she's saying and help her to understand us.

So, if you'd like to learn along with us, I'll be posting the new word of the day as we learn them here!

We're going to start with 비행기 - bihaeng-gi, pronounced 'pee-hang-ee', which strangely enough is a word I already know. :) We have these Korean Children's Song DVDs that we listen to in the car pretty often and they use this word in one of the songs...and it happened to be the first word I learned when using Rosetta Stone, so there you go.

Obviously, I hope this word helps us to explain to Emersyn what's going to happen as we travel home. I'm sure this will be her first time on an airplane and it will be a very looooooooooong first ride on one! Don't use the word airplane very often in your every day discussions?!?!? Well, now you will!!

And we're also going to learn 'I'm hungry' - 배고파, pronounced 'pay-goo-pa'. Good phrase to know for a toddler who will be hungry for something other than formula in a bottle, which is pretty much all Zoey would 'eat' when she came home.

So there go. We will point to the sky and say pee-hang-gee and just before dinner you'll hear us saying 'pay-goo-pa'! (I believe the word 'hungry' is a different word, but equally important, so we'll make sure to learn that too!)

Native Korean speakers, please feel free to correct me. :0) My agency;s online forum provides a list of these phrases I'm using and google translate can only be so accurate!

Here they are, on our fridge and ready to be used. :)


  1. Great post! I'll be following along too! Although our son came home at 10-months old, nearly 4 months ago, we still incorporate what little Korean we know. It will be fun to learn more words!

  2. Great idea-I still remember the words for pee, toilet, hurry up, please, thank-you and hello

  3. 배고파 is "bae go pa" (just like it says in parentheses) but some people do pronounce the "go" as "goo." I think it's a dialect thing.

    That's just the pan mal (low form) of the verb, "to be hungry." In Korean it's pretty common to leave the subject off a sentence. The "I'm" is understood. You can make it a question by changing the inflection. "Bae go pa?" (Are you hungry?) But you only use pan mal when speaking to small children or very close friends, or dogs. If you want to be more polite you can just add a "yo" on the end. Bae go pa yo.

    (That p/b thing is confusing... in the current romanization system the ㅂ generally gets written as a b, but it's really an unaspirated p.)

  4. We will definitely be following along! Still waiting for our referral so we have plenty of time. Thanks!

  5. yay for learning hangul! great job!! Did u make your own flash cards?
    We have a long way to go so I am hoping to learn lots and lots Korean.

    Yes, that p/b thing is confusing. So is d/t, g/k, s/sh,etc. =) I like to romanize "are u hungry": beh-goh-pah?

  6. I'm correcting the second word since someone already corrected the first one. It sounds more likely " bee hang gee", not pee hang gee. I know Korean isn't easy language to learn but it's in you already so good luck!

  7. Try and join or These are biggest Korean women's online community in USA. You will probably improve your Korean skill drastically once you stop using English so much. And get the information from other koreans.

  8. I love this idea and will also be following along! It's pretty surprising how much we were able to incorporate the word pee hang gee into our everyday lives when we first came home with our son.

    I was laughing at your comment on your brother's Korean language learning - but what is the Korean word for rainbow?

  9. great idea! so awesome that you're doing this to make emersyn's transition easier. what a great mommy and family!

    some of your readers already mentioned the b/p thing. the pronunciation in the parenthesis is actually more accurate. although i'd probably write it "beh-go-pah" and "bee-heng-gee".

  10. Hi there. It's been a long time since I left a comment. Now I have a chance to be useful here we go. 1"Ah Puh"=painful 2"Dong"=poo. D sound here is strong, similar to T but not quite. Sorry can't think of the same sound in English right now. :-) 3"Dong Mae Ruh"= want to poo. 4"O Zum"=pee 5"O Zum Mae Ruh"=want to pee. Take care.

  11. Interesting post. I use flashcards approach to learn up to 50 new words per day. Flashcards are always with me - in queue, bus, shop. To build cards I use Accelebrain