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Nichola and Hugh: How being in love opened up a world of languages

Hugh, Nichola and Hugh's parents at their Korean wedding
Hugh (2nd L), Nichola (2nd R) and Hugh's parents at their Korean wedding.

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Australian-born Nichola and Korean-born Hugh Gwon may not have been able to speak each other's native language well when they first met but that did not stop them from falling in love. The couple, who have been married for five years now, first met in Sydney and now in live South Korea. They tell Australia Plus more about their experience of being in an intercultural relationship which they document on their YouTube channel and blog, My Korean Husband.

Hugh learnt English at school in Korea but when he arrived in Australia, he found communicating in English really challenging.

"The English that we learnt wasn't necessarily English that I could use. We just learnt how to pass the exam."

Hugh decided to put his mind to improving his English by making conversation. "When I talked to people, I would ask them 'What's your dream?'"

Nichola and Hugh at their Australian wedding
Nichola and Hugh at their Australian wedding.

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By the time Hugh met Nichola, Hugh had become a lot more confident at speaking English. They eventually got married and had three weddings - one at the marriage registry, another one near Nichola's home town of Dubbo in central New South Wales and a traditional Korean wedding in the South Korean city of Jinju in Gyeongsang province.

In 2014, they decided to move to South Korea after living in Sydney for a few years. It was an idea that Nichola was really keen on.

Before meeting Hugh, Nichola had picked up a couple of Korean words from friends in Sydney and had studied Korean at TAFE when she and Hugh were dating. Now that they're living in Korea, grasping the language is something that Nichola is still working on.

Living in Korea has also exposed Nichola to an interesting phenomena: Konglish. They're "loan words" from the English language, which are used in Korean but have a very different meaning.

Hugh and Nichola
Hugh and Nichola say that there have been many benefits to having two cultures in a marriage.

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Some people might think that being married to someone whose native language is different to yours would be a disadvantage. But for Nichola and Hugh, they've found their intercultural marriage to be an overwhelmingly positive experience.

"You already know that you can't jump to conclusions because one of us is always saying something that's not [in] the other person's native language. Rather than assuming we know what the other person means, we'll actually sit down and explain everything," says Nichola.

"English is not my native language, so I need to think about how to explain things to my wife. Sometimes I don't know the word, so I need to look it up. So it takes time," says Hugh.

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Watch Nichola and Hugh discuss Australian slang with fellow Youtuber, Megan Bowen. YouTube: My Korean Husband

Valentine's Day in Australia might involve men buying flowers, chocolates or gifts for their special someone but Nichola says it is done a little differently in South Korea.

Both Nichola and Hugh have had to learn a second language, whilst living in a foreign country. So what's their advice for gaining confidence in a second language?

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