The multilingual challenge
In the first article of our Confessions Series, we spoke to our Japanese analysts and found out what were the biggest challenges of working with the language. Today, we are virtually travelling across the sea from Japan to South Korea. Primarily known for its remarkably fast technological and economic growth, South Korea’s popular culture has gained global popularity since the 1990s driven by Hallyu, also known as the “Korean Wave”. This has resulted in a growing interest in the country and the Korean language, making South Korea an important media market for businesses to follow and expand into.
Korean is one of the many languages in which A Data Pro provides services to its clients, so we conducted virtual interviews with four of our Korean analysts and asked them to share what it is like to work with the language. Here are their confessions…
What it is like to be a Korean analyst?
(Part of A Data Pro for 7 years)
Viktoriya has been with our company for seven years, and when we asked her how she got acquainted with the language, she said: “I clearly remember the first time I heard Korean, and initially, I did not like it. Kind of funny when I think of it now. Nevertheless, this was because I was not familiar with it. After hundreds of TV series and shows, I started getting interested in the language, which led me to take a Korean language course, right at the time I became part of the company.”
As a self-proclaimed “drama maniac”, Viktoriya says that she knew the culture pretty well, so she never had any issues regarding that aspect. For her, the biggest challenge is “that young people often shorten the words and use slang on social media. At first, it was a nightmare. You know what I mean. Those ㅇㅇ for “yes” and ㅈㅅ for “sorry” or 쩐다, which depending on the situation might mean both “awesome” and “awful”, and 엄빠 for parents (this one I learned just recently ㅋㅋㅋ *laughs*).”
The solution? “Uncle Google,” Viktoriya says. “With a bit of time invested in research, you will be able to find almost anything. If Google does not have what you need, then turn to Naver and you will not be disappointed. But really! As our colleagues with Japanese mentioned before: research is the key to answering our questions and solving our problems.”
Viktoriya’s favourite part about working for A Data Pro is
“the feeling of being helpful and useful. It makes me feel good about myself and motivates me to improve.”
What does Viktoriya enjoy doing in her private time? “What I genuinely enjoy is travelling. At the beginning of every year, I start planning and thinking about where to go. Because of the current situation, I felt a bit depressed. Nonetheless, I found several opportunities to go around the country this summer, which lifted my spirit. So I feel much better now :). What I love the most is wandering around the mountains, but the Black Sea can also offer some beautiful places.”
(Part of ADP for 3 years)
Korean fashion was the first thing that attracted Dilek to Korean culture. “I was heavily into Japanese anime since childhood, and in 2010 I thought ‘Hmm… there must be Japanese movies or series with actual people as well, right?’ Somehow my Google research deviated and before I knew it, I was watching a Korean drama with killer outfits. To be honest, I did not like the language at first, but as I dove deeper into Korean entertainment, culture, and history, I started appreciating it. I learned Korean completely by myself, using all online resources and books I could find.”
When it comes to working with Korean as a social media analyst, Dilek says that the biggest challenge for her is “The slang. The inability to predict all the different spelling variations of a keyword. Social media users, especially Generation Z, are very creative when it comes to shortening words or adding different verb endings in order to mimic actual speech (I am talking about “aegyo”(cute speech), whining, humour, etc). Then there are the South Korean dialects. They are in a league of their own.”
Her solution? “Research, research, and more research! At first, I reached out to my Korean friends, but more often than not, they would shrug their shoulders at me because they could not make heads or tails of the content I sent them. As I researched, I found that Korean forums were incredibly helpful when I got stuck on a term that no dictionary could translate. Also, a lot of celebrity fandoms have their own “jargon”, so if they mention a client’s product, it might take some “digging” through social media posts, blogs, videos, news articles, etc., until you understand the correlation.”
Dilek’s favourite part about working at A Data Pro is
“The people. I initially accepted the job offer because it combined two things I was passionate about – Korean language and social media. However, as time went by, I really got attached to my colleagues who are some of the most hardworking, diverse, and fun people I have had the pleasure of meeting.”
Dilek says that she has a “plethora of hobbies. My first love is fashion and I started designing and sewing clothes at a young age. I started blogging and creating social media content (mainly related to fashion and Korean skincare) to be able to share my skills with the world. You can always find me on www.DilekAspires.com. I also enjoy painting and writing original fiction, although I have not been able to do much in the past couple of years. I started raising plants during the lockdown period and, at the time of writing, I am the mom of 15 green children in my room!
(Part of ADP for 2 years and 9 months)
Zornitsa, popularly known as Zori among A Data Pro colleagues, told us that her story with Korean began in her teenage years. “I got into Korean music and movies in high-school, and I applied for Korean Studies at Sofia University. I also enjoy language learning in general.”
For Zornitsa, one of the biggest challenges about working with Korean is that “some rules that apply for English cannot be applied in Korean, and many tips and tricks that help with the work process in English are not useful when working with Korean. Figuring out the correct transliteration of foreign people/company names is also a bit tricky sometimes.”
Zornitsa believes that it takes time to overcome these challenges. She advises future Korean analysts to “collect good resources over time (for example, Korean search engines or major news websites, where you can do your research instead of just using Google Search). Or create your own resources. For example, topic-specific vocabulary lists help a lot. I also find that good time management is key!”
According to Zornitsa, A Data Pro’s flexible working environment is one of the best things about the company.
“I like the freedom of arranging my workday as I see most fit, the freedom of working from my own home, the support and understanding that all colleagues show, and the abundance of topics I get to learn about.”
Zornitsa is a person of many hobbies. “I love reading, travelling, art. I teach Korean (mostly to children) as a side gig. I try to brush up on my Japanese and German when I have extra time. I also dream of having a pet tarantula. :D”
(Part of ADP for 1 year and 4 months)
Andrijana discovered Korean through a movie. She did not know which language it was, but she fell in love with the sound of it and learned Hangul, the Korean alphabet, the very next day. She says that “a year later I found myself studying Korean as a second language at Belgrade University, while English was my major. It was a four-semester journey, however, the first time I actually spoke Korean was when I got drunk in Seoul! While working at A Data Pro, I managed to enrich my Korean vocabulary related to corporate, financial, legal, medical and many other topics.”
Andrijana recently switched departments internally, but she spent a good time working in Due Diligence. She says that “the main challenge I encountered while working in Due Diligence was the variety of transcriptions and transliterations of Korean names. Given the fact that Korean was not my major, the terminology was the second issue that required adjustment and additional learning. The nature of the project involved mainly corporate and financial terminology I was not familiar with. Unfortunately, when I began working, there was no other Korean analyst on the team who I could discuss my insecurities and issues with, so I have to admit that I felt a bit lonely. However, I am very happy I met my Korean crew in the new team!”
How does Andrijana overcome challenges in working with Korean? Well… “When it comes to English transcriptions of Korean names, they resulted in extensive research, and there was no shortcut! I wish I could say there is a tip for this one, but the only solution is to rely on experience with the language and focus on logic and predictability. This means we ought to use our brains and check all the possible options. As for the unfamiliar vocabulary and specific terminology, research is key, and Google and Naver are my best friends! I must stress though that Naver is the Godfather for everything Korea-related because if Google does not know it, Naver probably will!”
What does Andrijana like the most about her work in A Data Pro?
“Constantly acquiring new knowledge! You never know what the next research will bring! I also love working in an international environment and meeting people from various backgrounds. The people are lovely and cooperative, which means the world when you are working from home. Working from home can make us feel isolated, but the way we are connected is what keeps us going. Therefore, a big shout-out to my lovely teammates; it is a pleasure to be working with you!”
Something personal about Andrijana? “My personality is never constant, so I pick up new hobbies easily. I also have mornings when I wake up and decide to get myself a ticket, and I would be in a new country the very next day without a plan. One hobby I always stick to is snowboarding, and I am currently on a new quest – contemporary dance. Apart from that, I have recently started a YouTube channel to promote Korean culture as a volunteer for the Embassy of South Korea. Honestly, I have not been active in a while, but I am preparing to launch new videos soon. So, if you are interested in learning about Korea (might focus on the food more, since I am nuts for it) feel free to visit my rookie channel: hangukyeoja 93.”
Hope you have enjoyed going through these interviews as much as we did when we had prepared them. See you soon with the next fresh team of analysts!