Learning Korean: as Challenging as it is Rewarding

Ok Chantra is currently a sophomore student majoring in Korean language at ​​the Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP).

Ok Chantra, 21, is currently a sophomore student majoring in Korean language at ​​the Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP). She is also a Civil Engineering student at Norton University. Cambodianess’s journalist Him Imrorn interviewed Chantra to find out more about her decision to take the degree in this language as well as to understand her perspective on career benefits of knowing the language. 



Him Imrorn: As you know, Korean is neither a universal language nor is it as attractive as English or Chinese, so what inspired you to think differently by opting for Korean?



Ok Chantra: Obviously, there are three main reasons for that decision. The first one is job opportunities. I am sure that English and Chinese have more learners while Korean has fewer so it is an opportunity for those who learn Korean to be more marketable due to the fact that human resources in this field are scarce. The second reason is that Korean is easier to learn than other foreign languages, I believe. Finally, it is the scholarship, which I was awarded​ to take this degree.



Him Imrorn: As you may know that in Cambodia there are many less popular languages, not just Korean. But, why does Korean matter?



Ok Chantra: I prefer Korean to other less popular languages ​​is because I think that among all, Korean is the easiest to learn. I dare to say so because if we study hard enough for only one year, we can use it to get employed in order to support our life.



Him Imrorn: You have also mentioned that one of the reasons that you opted for Korean was because of the job opportunities. So, what is your anticipated future career? And why?



Ok Chantra: In the future, for higher education, I want to get a scholarship to study at a South-Korean University. After graduation, I want to make use of my language proficiency to seize unique opportunities in South Korea—if I already know the language it will be a big help.



Regarding my future career, nowadays I have mixed ambitions. I want to be a Korean teacher and also a civil engineer. The reason that I want to be a Korean teacher is that I have had greater affection for the language since I was a child. Moreover, when I was in high school, I have learnt Korean as well. On the other hand, the main reason that I want to become a civil engineer is that I like designing, which is one of my dreams. Plus, I want to build unique Skyscrapers which are sturdy and full of advanced technology.



Him Imrorn: You have two different goals, which are yet to be decided and the two paths do not seem to have much in common. Regarding your studies, what are the obstacles and conveniences in learning this language?



Ok Chantra: Actually, the obstacle of learning Korean is that I have encountered some difficulties.  Writing is different from speaking, so it is really hard. However, one more important point is the meanings of words as it differs according to the accents.



Anyway, the easiness of learning this language has fewer consonants, easier to remember and easier to understand. If we study hard for only two weeks, we will be able to read or write in Korean.



Him Imrorn: How do you stay motivated when embarking on a challenge like learning a new language?



Ok Chantra: In terms of motivation for learning Korean, my own attitude is the biggest factor. My family members neither force me nor do they forbid me for doing it, so it’s really down to me to get it done—I’d also like to emphasize that my love for learning Korean has not come from K-dramas.



Him Imrorn: Usually, applying a new language in everyday life is more important than anything else for learning. As you know, in Cambodia we do not have many Korean speakers. Then, how do you manage to deal with such problems?



Ok Chantra: In terms of using the language, I have been in direct contact with Korean teachers, friends, and senior Korean students. Besides, I also have Korean friends who help me practice the language a lot.



As for the solution to the various consequences of learning Korean, the first one is that I always pay attention to the accents used by Korean teachers while he or she is explaining during class. The second one is to review it immediately after class. Last but certainly not least, according to my personal experience, I like to watch short videos in Korean, starting with watching kids' videos that use simple language, followed by gradually immersing myself into watching videos which have higher level of language uses.



Him Imrorn: So far, how has the Korean language helped you?



Ok Chantra: Even when I was in my second year, I could speak Korean fluently. Nowadays, I am also working as a Korean translator. I would like to emphasize that the Korean language is helping me a lot.


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