June 28, 2011

renewed interest...

About a year ago I abandoned my Korean lessons. There were several reasons for me to lose interest in those studies. I think that a very large reason was my inability to understand what the fuck was going on. The 'easy' Korean alphabet regularly confused me. I was actually absent the day my they went over the characters. Instead I caught them all as a review and even then I think the process was flawed, one class for the entire alphabet? I was in an introduction course and they spent a tiny percentage on the basics of the Korean language. My entire class appeared to suffer as a result. Yet I still went week after week.

There were two other reasons that caused me to ditch the language. First, my then girlfriend had and aptitude for languages. I wouldn't put it past her abilities to learn the basics on basically every language on the planet. She was great with accents, and with Korean that is a major hurdle to overcome. She was able to correctly pronounce the subtle variations in the language. I was also more than willing to stand idly by and let her do the legwork (involving basically every daily interaction I had with Koreans).

My final reason was simply my own fault. I think that I was grasping onto English too much during the whole process. It's a mistake that I feel that I made in hindsight. When I used to write down all the new words and characters I would constantly write the phonetics below the word. It led to me only recognize the English phonetics below the Hangul text. I was never able to create a mental connection between the sounds coming out of my mouth and the elegant Korean Hangul text. The longer I participated in this act, the more and more frustrated I became with the language. I felt overwhelmed, and when that happened I gave up on the language. Coupled with the previous two elements it was too easy to give up.

Since I've had to face the Korean world alone, things have been different. I resigned up for introduction classes three months ago, and this attempt was successful. I can now read pretty much any Korean word. I do have problems when it comes to large words, but no more than any child would. Menus are now an interesting world for me, half filled with things I know, and the other half things that confuse me. I tell my students that I can read Korean and they freak out. They quickly scribble down anything they can, it's then that I tell them that just because I can read doesn't mean that I know what it means. Much like new vocabulary for them, they can read it, but that doesn't mean shit when it comes to comprehending it.

Armed with my basic vocabulary, I find myself attempting to utilize it at every turn. My major problem is that my vocabulary is so basic that it's basically unusable in the 'real' world. While that is partially a lie, knowing what some fruits are called is really helpful. I find it hard to introduce those words into my daily life, and much like I've learned through teaching my students. Repetition is the key, and if I don't keep repeating휴대전화I'll forget that most Koreans simply call it a한드 폰 (phonetic: Handepon, Konglish for cell phone).

I recently graduated from my first level class this past weekend. I was pretty excited, and impressed that I could achieve this small goal. Especially less than a year after I abandoned it, I now have a feeling of independence. I've made the further commitment to take the second level of Korean lessons. I think this continued education is exciting, especially as it moves me closer to having proper conversations with people in my adopted country.

1 comment:

  1. Argh my problem with languages is motivation. The idea of learning a language gets me excited but I don't have the patience to memorize every verb and grammar rule.

    Korean is so hard! It's a level 4 on the foreign language difficulty standard. (Or whatever they call that measurement.) Hurray for you ;)