About a year ago now, I started writing a post called ‘Tips for Learning Korean’ (or something like that)… and then I never finished it because, well, I never quite got there, did I? Although I lived in Korea for two years, I found that working in an English hagwon wasn’t very conducive to learning Korean. You may not know it by the amount of Korean that got spoken there (ouch), but I promise, it’s true! But somehow my either all-English or all-Korean situation didn’t work for me – and to be honest, I didn’t try hard enough to close the gap.
I used to learn Korean in primary school and was luckily very comfortable reading Korean (Hangul) from the moment I landed. In fact, that got me out of numerous sticky situations in train stations and the like where we had about 2 seconds to make sure we were at the right place before the train doors closed. Exciting times! Hangul (the written Korean language) is comparatively easy to learn, as opposed to the absolute brain-hemhorraging mind tricks that are the Chinese and Japanese languages, for instance. So beautiful, so upsettingly complex. Hangul, on the other hand, is very logical and simple, and it’s a great starting point to learning the language.
However… the pronunciation of Korean is apparently trickier than these languages, and has been my biggest stumbling block while I have “attempted” to “learn” Korean.
As you will know and understand, Korean and English are very different languages. Basically, everything that you know about English is reversed and flipped upside down in Korean. That’s my thinking, anyway! Of course, this brings about a number of difficulties when you are actually trying to learn the language (as you can imagine).
But despite all this, I still really want to learn Korean. I think it’s a beautiful language (especially in songs!) and I think it sounds really graceful. The fact that I can read Hangul pretty quickly is also a bonus, plus I feel like I have a better understanding of the sounds since living in Korea. I still have a long way to go, but these things definitely help. I also get inspired when I see people like ChoNunMigookSaram, a US citizen, learn and master Korean (plus she’s hilarious). It’s awesome, and I want to do that.
So what am I doing to learn Korean?
Well, I’ve started visiting Talk to Me In Korean daily. This is an amazing resource whose value cannot be overstated (I previously mentioned it here). I love how the presenters have lots of witty banter and keep it interesting. They also really explain the meaning behind different phrases and weird grammatical structures, and I find that I actually remember these and can somewhat apply them to new sentences. They offer lots of PDFs and podcasts as well as physical books, ebooks and audiobooks. Definitely check them out and support them, they do great work for a lot of people!
I really feel like consistency is the most important thing here. I’m trying to do a little something every day to better understand Korean. I’ve started sending my friend messages in Korean (probably grammatically incorrect and nonsensical, but she is very kind about it) and also listening to more K-pop songs – where I find that I actually am picking out more of the words. Not many, not even most, but more than before. And that’s good enough for me.
The thing I find really important with Korean is the speaking aspect. As I mentioned above, I do believe this is the trickiest part of Korean (perhaps any language), because the way it is written is not how it is necessarily pronounced, and there are a lot of little nuances and irregularities that you just need to know. On top of that, there is the intonation, which any K-drama fan worth their salt will know can convey a lot of emotion in a very short space of time. Oppa, anyone?
I really want to practice speaking in Korean more, and I’m thinking about finding a language partner here in KL. I know it’s much trickier than in Korea (duh), but it’s definitely doable. That, or just watching lots of K-dramas with subtitles. Either or, really. I also want to work on my vocabulary, which is what those Sogang University books in the picture are for. I picked these up when I first got to Korea and started taking lessons (which I never finished because I was in between levels and this made it frustrating). They are useful books, definitely just an addition to listening and speaking, but a good addition at that.
Anyway, the main thing is that I feel really energised and determined to learn this language. It’s my dream to be able to go back to Korea and have fluent conversations with people. It’s also my dream to overhear people speaking in Korea in a completely different country (like the US or something) and then be able to communicate with them secretly. Oh, the fun I would have!
So this is my plan so far. How about you – any language learning tips? All would be appreciated!