GG River: "I've been trying to learn English [...] so I watch American TV shows and movies on Netflix" - Upcomer
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Golden Guardians were projected to be near the bottom of the standings in the 2023 League Championship Series Spring Split, but someone must have forgotten to tell them. The Golden State Warriors affiliate is currently tied for 4th place with a 5-4 record. 

Not only is this placing above what people expected from GG coming into this season, but the nature in which they’ve done it has been all the more impressive. The often-doubted GG could have keeled over after starting out the season 0-4, but have since won their last five games straight. 

GG started off at a disadvantage — Kim “Gori” Tae-woo was unable to join the team until week 2 of the Spring Split — and while GG Academy mid laner Young “Young” Ho-choi performed admirably given the circumstances, it wasn’t enough to defeat Evil Geniuses and Cloud9. GG lost their first two games with Gori in the lineup the following week to FlyQuest and Team Liquid, but after a full week of practice with their starting mid laner, things began to turn around.

Photo by Colin Young-Wolff via Riot Games

With jungler Kim “River” Dong-woo, Gori has formed a fearsome South Korean mid/jungle duo for Golden Guardians that has often been the activator to capitalize off of advantages built through the impressive synergy of AD carry Trevor “Stixxay” Hayes and support Choi “huhi” Jae-hyun. In addition to being part of a bot lane duo that has exceeded expectations this spring, huhi has also served as a bilingual conduit for the squad’s dual-language communication of Korean and English. 

“Gori’s English is not good right now, and neither is mine, so when we play in game, we speak Korean with our support huhi,” River explained after Golden Guardians’ second win of the Spring Split. “We can communicate very well in Korean… Usually, I use English with my teammates during the game and in teamfights, but in mid/jungle communication we use Korean.”

English & Chill

River may not feel like his English has improved, but there are undeniable signs, especially since he left Dignitas for GG midway through the 2022 LCS Summer Split.

“When I came to Golden Guardians, I was so shy and every other player used English, so it was hard for me to understand them,” River recalled. “But, I spent time with them and slowly, I began to understand their English.”

River now heads into interviews without a translator, conversing completely in English and rarely requiring any clarification on the questions he’s asked. His progress is impressive, but the manner in which he improved his English is unorthodox, to say the least.

“I’ve been trying to learn English, but I didn’t want to study, so I just watch American TV shows and movies on Netflix,” the Golden Guardians jungler said with a chuckle. (He’s not the first player to use this method.)

Photo by Robert Paul via Riot Games

Halfway through the 2023 LCS Spring Split, Golden Guardians sits high above expectations and in position to qualify for the post-season. At 5-4, GG’s Spring Playoffs hopes are far from guaranteed, but their form throughout the Spring Split has exceeded pre-season expectations and looks to be improving with every win.

“I feel like we can beat every team,” River declared. “We really have a lot of confidence, so please keep cheering for us.”