(Multitasking: at work, “studying” Korean)
So as readers know, I’ve been studying Japanese for long while. I am not “fluent”, but I can get by OK. Not great, but I can carry a (sometimes awkward) conversation, or get my way around Tokyo enough.1 But I also started learning Korean about 6 months ago as a third-language.
My reasons for starting to learn Korean are varied. Mostly it was curiosity (how is it different/similar to Japanese), but also because I grew up around Korean-immigrant friends, and never really understood Korean back then apart from a few words or phrases. The whole interest in KPop was icing on the cake. So this was my chance to apply what I learned from studying Japanese (techniques, tools, etc) to something I always wanted to learn.
I’ve been fortunate to have some opportunities to practice my new Korean skills even here in Seattle, and studying has paid off.2 However, even after 6 months of studying, I realize that my conversation skills are terrible.
I have been able to use Korean to help me out of a couple small situations, but recently I was talking with a waitress in Korean. Although she seemed happy that I was learning Korean, I could tell that she really struggled to understand me and my grammar/pronunciation. It was kind of embarrassing, even though it turned out OK. My wife, the bodhisattva, reminded me afterwards that I have no practical experience in Korean, so I shouldn’t be surprised that I still can’t really speak it.
The lesson is so obvious, but so easy to forget: STUDY ALONE ISN’T ENOUGH!
You can’t learn a language you’re not exposed to. #exposure #immersion
Good point. It’s easy to forget this. But then I saw Khatzumoto re-tweet something that someone else said:
after 4 mos of being “german for a critical frequency of time” on my own,i think my german is better than my 11 yrs of spanish class.
Wow, that was interesting. It’s one thing to get good advice, it’s another thing to see it work for someone else in real life.
As soon as I read that I thought “what if I spend 4 months doing the same for Korean?”.
I’ve been applying Khatzumoto/AJATT’s methods for learning Japanese for a while: listening to podcasts, trying to daily activities in Japanese, rather than English, and just trying to exposure. It does help. Focusing on honing the basics over and over and over again definitely helps more than studying for the JLPT did.
The trouble is is that it’s kind of boring now. I do enjoy many things in Japanese (certain manga for example, watching NHK, talking with my wife’s friends), but I’ve been seriously studying it for years. My first post on the JLPT was in 2008 when I was living in Ireland. That means I’ve been studying for 4 years!
I guess it doesn’t feel “fresh” and “exciting” lately. Maybe I’m just burned out. Maybe I just need a break. Most of the podcasts I listen to aren’t really interesting,3 and I frequently want to stop and listen to KPop music instead. I love Japanese culture of course, but maybe I am just tired of studying it, or haven’t found something yet that genuinely interests me lately. Studying it just feels like work lately.
Anyway, since I’m interested in Korean stuff lately, and after reading some of the tweets above, I decided I’m going to capitalize on that interest and focus on building up exposure to Korean for a while. I’m curious to see how much improvement I can make in 4 months of constant exposure.
So, my plan, is simple: while Korean is still new and fresh to me, I will take advantage of that and get my “4 months” of exposure:
- For listening I use TTMIK which has a segment called Iyagi, which includes 100% Korean conversations. The conversations are a little slower and simpler than adult conversations, but for someone who’s just getting their exposure, I really like this segment. I also watch some K-Dramas with my wife (more on that later).
- When I’m tired of studying/listening, I can still get exposure by listening to KPop music I listen to anyway. 99% Korean with 0% effort.4
- Also, I found a really good segment on Youtube featuring my favorite group, 2NE1, and their daily lives. Imagine! Watching hours of TV about your favorite music group, speaking in their language which you’re trying to study anyway. Jackpot!
- One area I haven’t solved yet is reading. I can read Hangul more comfortably than before, but I don’t really have any reading material yet. Naver and Daum have comics online (thanks to a reader for suggesting previously! ) and I may try my luck there.
- I also switched my iPhone to be Korean so I could get used to certain words and reading Hangul more regularly.
Here’s my phone after I switched to Korean (wallpaper was a photo I took when we visited the Tulip Festival in early April):
The point is two things. One, the more exposure, the better! Two, if you can capitalize on certain hobbies you already like, your language studies will be almost effortless. I mean, I’m spending countless hours studying for months now, I might as well have fun doing it.
P.S. So maybe I should call this site AKATT instead. Katz, if you’re reading, just kidding.
P.P.S. For those who like Japanese culture, fear not! I have no desire to change the blog format or subjects. This is just a little side-project (or experiment) for myself.
1 It helps that all the signs are bi-lingual English/Japanese.
3 Humor in another language is actually a really difficult subject, too. Even if you’re familiar with the language, there’s a lot of cultural “in-jokes” you won’t understand, or the types of jokes are different. I am also uncomfortable with some Japanese jokes which are kind of crass or involve hitting someone.
4 Ignore the English hooks you often see in KPop and JPop songs, of course.