Boastful braggart

My writing of Korean is good enough that I can compose simple text messages to my wife’s family and friends, but my reading of Korean is not good enough to understand everything in theirs. Sometimes when I am writing and more often when I am reading, I use Google Translate to check words I think I know or  find words I don’t. My typing in English is fast enough that I can type a whole word before it starts translating it into Korean, but my typing in Korean is painstakingly slow, and it translates, or attempts to translate, each ‘word’ as I add each letter. Some of the translations along the way bear no resemblance to the final meaning.

Yesterday evening I attended my first Korean class, offered through the university (all my previous learning has been self-study). I came home demoralised at what I convinced myself was my failure as a student (based on my inability to understand Absolutely Everything, Absolutely Immediately). There was, in fact, nothing that being in a pre-intermediate class (instead of the intermediate class I was actually in) wouldn’t go a long way towards fixing (but there isn’t a pre-int class; I poked my nose into the beginner class, and the teacher was explaining 아, 우, 어 and 오, which I taught myself nine years ago, so I certainly don’t belong there). It would also help if the teacher didn’t talk non-stop and very fast, and if we got the chance to practice along the way.

I sent a message to my wife’s three best friends, about a concert in Seoul I’d like to go to, asking if they would like to go too. One of them asked how I was. I gave a very brief description of the class, ending with ‘I’m not very good (at Korean). I’m not happy’ (in Korean). Another sent a message, part of which I understood, but I wanted to check the other. The short sentence was 자랑스럽고 고마워요. The last four syllables I can easily read as ‘thank you’, but what did the first part mean?

According to Google Translate:
1) ㅈ = ㅈ
2) 자 = Character
3) 잘 = Well
4) 자라 = Grow
5) 자랑 = Boast
6) 자랑ㅅ = Proud oi
7) 자랑스 = Proud
8) 자랑스ㄹ = Proud d
9) 자랑스러 = Proud thruster
10) 자랑스럽 =  Proud
11) 자랑스럽ㄱ = B proud
12) 자랑스럽고 = Proud
13) 자랑스럽고 고마워요 = Thank you proud

Note that Korean words are grouped into syllable clusters, and that word processors automatically build syllables according to the rules of the language. Thus in 3), the ㄹ is construed as part of the first syllable, but in 4) it automatically combines with the ㅏ to form a new syllable (because ㅏcannot occur at the beginning of a syllable). Google Translate obviously doesn’t  cope with ‘garbage in’: 1), 6), 8) and 11) are nonsense in Korean and even more nonsense in ‘translation’ (among other things, ㄹ is nothing like ‘d’ and ㄱ nothing like ‘B’. I also have no idea where ‘thruster’ comes from. I don’t think I am a proud thruster). In 2-5 the meaning changes with every additional letter. It is possible to find strings of letters in English which make a sequence of completely different words. The core meaning of ‘proud’ emerges in 5. The rest builds a verb tense which I haven’t learned yet. As far as I know, 고 joins two verbs together, and I infer the meaning is something like ‘I/we are proud of you and thank you (for your efforts to learn Korean)’.

Along the way, I learned a new English word. Google Translate translates ‘proud’ as ‘자랑하는 proud, boastful, braggart, thrasonical’, the last of which I’d never seen before. According to, it refers to Thrasō, a ‘braggart in Terence’s Eunuchus’ (Wikipedia adds that he was a rich soldier). I hope my wife’s friend is saying ‘We are proud of you’ and not ‘You are a boastful braggart’.


One thought on “Boastful braggart

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s