So thanks to my wife’s friend in Japan, who also gave us a nice tour of Shin-Okubo a few months ago, we got a copy of the famous Korean Drama neon naege banhaesseo which gets translated as “Heartstrings” or “You’ve Fallen for Me” more literally.
The drama stars Jeong Yong-Hwa (정용화), who’s called yonfa (ヨンファ) in Japanese, who’s the lead-singer/guitarist of the group CNBlue. This is one of their most popular songs:1
My wife and her best friend in Japan are both fans, this friend sent us a copy of this drama which had Japanese-subtitles in it. I can read Japanese enough to follow story by reading the subtitles, so my wife and I decided to watch it together.
The drama is definitely for the ladies, but for me I learned a lot just by watching it. For example the grandfather of the main actress (Park Shin Hye) is a very traditional Korean man so he proudly wears hanbok and plays Go. I’ve never seen a guy wear a hanbok before so it was really interesting to me. Also, in one scene, it shows the funeral for the father of the main actor, and it was really interesting to see how a funeral might look in Korea. This is one of those things that you might read about, but you can really learn more seeing it on screen.
I’ve watched a lot of J-Dramas over the years with and without my wife, and it was interesting to compare the two. J-Dramas seem shorter, 45 minutes vs. and hour, for example. Also, unlike J-Dramas which seem to have a fairly straightforward plot, my wife and I noticed that the plot in “Heartstrings” was a lot more complicated, had a lot of side-plots with other characters, and the series as a whole ran much longer than the typical J-Drama.
Somehow it vaguely reminds of American Soap Operas which are high on drama and subplots that seem to go on forever. All of it is pretty exaggerated though. Life in Korea probably isn’t like this, but it keeps you watching. 🙂
But the point of all this is that you really, really can learn a lot about another language, culture by watching popular media. Since I’ve never lived in Korea, I actually know very little about it, besides books and Wikipedia. Seeing how people live, eat, dress or speak in Korea through TV (even if its exaggerated) taught me a lot of little things I wouldn’t have learned in a textbook. Also, from a linguistic standpoint, it really exposes you a lot to how a language is used and not just the rules.
1 If you learn one word in Korean, it’s saranghae (사랑해) which is an informal way of saying “I love you”. It gets used all the time in Korean pop music. ;p