Last week, I served as master of ceremonies for my school’s kindergarten graduation ceremony. I spent plenty of awkward time at the podium, basically just uttering random English phrases and words in order to fill the time and space needed for each Kindergarten class enough to set up for the performance they had prepared for the evening. Fortunately, as my audience was largely Korean only speakers, I think not many in attendance either understood or cared much for what I was saying in my capacity as host.
Aside: I am hoping that the photos from the ceremony come my way soon (there is also a DVD being produced, no joke) and those will be promptly posted.
The most difficult part of the night though, came when I had to announce the names of the graduating Kindergarteners and faced my demise with the name Hyuck.
There were many names that troubled me as I called out the graduates. Part of this has to do with the inadequacies with how many of these names are Romanized, or translated from Hangul characters into words with Roman characters (our standard A-Zed alphabet). For example, the very common Korean surname, Park, should actually be pronounced way closed to the word “Pock” than Park. Similarly, Kim is much more like “Gim” and Choi is much more similar to “Shway”. Why aren’t these words spelt in a way that more truly reflect their pronounciation? Beats me. I’m no linguist, just merely a frustrated westerner in Korea (and one that really needs to learn the Hangul alphabet).
Hyuck is actually romanized quite well and would be very easy to say for many people, excluding those who grew up in those particularly Northeastern American households (often Italian-American ones) where the “H” sound before a “u” is completely omitted. While I evolved a few steps beyond my Grandma’s pronounciations of toilet (terlet) and oil (erl), including the aforementioned “H” sound requires some effort.
Most of my closer friends have already pointed this anunciation shortcoming to me after they heard me say words like human (“yoo-min”) and huge (yooge). With some effort, I can say these words properly, but its not yet natural.
Hyuck (and Hyun for that matter) are essentially in this same family of words that I mispronounce. While far from perfect, I settled on pronounciating Hyuck, “a-hyuck”, similar to Goofy (the Disney character’s) signature onomatopoeia laugh. “a-hyuck” represented a great step forward from either “huck”, “yuck” and “Ha-yuck”. Its still many steps from perfect, but not bad considering my initial pronunciation handicap.