You Can’t Love Milk in Korean

One of the hardest parts of learning a foreign language

is making it domestic

having the words taste the same as they do in my native English

I can taste steak stronger than I can taste sutayki  cause I don’t speak Japanese

so the words are insipid on my tongue

and sure I know 1000 words or more in Korean

but I can only parrot them

sure, I know how to say ‘please stop making noise with your gum’

but I have no idea which word means what

I learned it as a phrase to survive the back of their taxis

(is it a rule in the country of South Korea that all taxi drivers must make as much sound with their gum as humanly possible?)

so I learned how to say: gum sori jum nae-ji ma-la ju-say-yo

but I don’t really know what it means

but I know it seems to work to get taxi drivers to take it easy on their gum.

I lived in Korea for two years

I tried to learn the language

my Korean is at the level of a two year old

I can more than goo-goo ga-ga with you in Korean

but, don’t expect me to carry a conversation on Kafka.

Some of the first things I learned was how to say: like, hate, love

so I said: I love milk and my teacher looked at me like I was crazy

I said it again, I love milk. I love baseball, I said.

You love milk?

The teacher looked at me like I was raving maniac

sure, I said. It’s delicious, I love it.

You can’t love milk in Korean.

Why not, I love it in English.

You don’t love things in Korean. You like them, you don’t love milk.

It sounds weird to say I love milk? I ask.

Very weird.


We only use love for our family or boyfriend- girlfriend. You don’t love milk in Korean.

And right off the bat I liked the Korean language.

It taught me the ridiculous exaggeration of English

everyone exaggerates way too much all the time.


17 thoughts on “You Can’t Love Milk in Korean

      1. adurnablue

        LOLOLOLOLOL hahaha, no I wasn’t. it was truly a generailsed statement, however, i”‘m glad it hit you in the right spot”, if i may quote you.

      1. Steven Myers

        ha ha..that’s classic!! and probably more accurate.
        you picked up the team right there. i barely moved the runner over to third on a weak grounder and then you launched a deep drive sac fly.

  1. granbee

    My son, who lived with his wife (and then new baby daughter) for almost three years in Seoul –and still travels there on business and works with native S. Koreans here in the U.S. now–tells me much the same thing about his enjoyment of getting away from speaking in constant exaggerations in Engish. He actually prefers Korean! (But then, he was forced to grow up with the champion exaggerator and word-slinger of the Deep South, a.k.a. granbee!)

    1. cottonbombs Post author

      Rose! I’m still a sucker for this delicious dish called the English language, however, I understand how your son thinks about Korean. He’s lucky that if he grew up around an exaggerator, he grew up with the Southern champion as his mom!

  2. dogsinchests

    This reminds me of an episode of Scrubs where Dr. Cox yells at someone for overusing the word “hate.” I think you’re right — we’ve done the same thing with “love.” Brilliant, Korea.

  3. Seongoo

    Hello~~~Peter~~ (means An- Nyeong-Ha-Sae- Yo^^, Pee-Teo! )
    The title got my eye because of the word Korean. I’ve just read it out.
    Well, I think I got the idea what you’re saying here. Of course, what I got is probably not one hundred percent the same as what you’re saying. It’s POSSIBLE. It would be a million dollar gift if anyone can speak in more than two languages at the level of its native speaker. How could it be possible? There is a gap between cultures, definitely. As you told me, CONTEXT is the key this case, I think. Not sure but if the teacher above were Korean, her/his talk should have been as follows: Oh, you’re so good at conveying your feeling to others. Ah! there’s a lot more to say but my English…………………………….is…………………………………………T.T
    Peter…. now, I don’t know what i wrote here. I just came here to see your work! meanwhile the title caught my eye so I thought I wanted to leave something so that you can see I came by here. Hehe ^^ Miss u Peter!
    Hope you have peace in your life. Ah! and some sense of humor too ^^

    1. cottonbombs Post author

      Seong Goo! Thank you for taking the time to write. It is great to hear from you. I hope the same for you: peace and happiness in your life. Your English is getting better. I can tell just from your comment. How is that possible living in Korea? You must still be actively studying my language to make it yours. It is possible to learn two languages, it just takes a great amount of effort. If you’ve got no other way to practice English watch movies and repeat the lines you hear. Have conversations with Hollywood actors characters. Let Brad Pitt be your teacher. You can learn a lot at the cost of a video rental.


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