38 In Korean learning journey (:

A letter to all Korean self learners out there!

Dear all of you,

Self learning isn’t impossible. *Points at self and other awesome language bloggers out there* Learning languages is about effort and passion. Your proficiency is directly equated to the amount of effort you put in and it really shows. No shortcuts, no special secrets. You may say some of us have a ‘talent for learning languages’. Maybe such a thing exists. I don’t know. But if you think you don’t have it, put in the extra effort. Some of us have it easier because we know Chinese (and thus hanja). But it’s not exactly a very unfair advantage. There are people who are awesome in Korean who know nuts about Chinese and there are people who are native in Chinese and still are basic in Korean after years. It’s all about the effort you are willing to put in.

Sometimes we feel a little lost. Unmotivated. Lazy. That’s normal, we all have bottlenecks in the journey. Take it easy for awhile but keep yourself still immersed in the language. Know that it is very painful to re-learn a language after giving it up completely. If you are unmotivated, think about what made you motivated in the first place. Kpop? K-dramas? Remember how you loved Korean and you will be fine. ^^ If you are that unsure, check out my blog and other language blogs. ㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋ Or you can drop me an email lol. 😛

i know sometimes we feel frustrated that we will always lose out to those who are fortunate enough to go to Korea or even better attend long term Korean lessons there. I feel the same way. When I first started learning Korean, I never never once imagined that I’ll be able to travel to Korea. Things have a way of falling into place and good things happen when you are passionate about something. I was super envious of people who went to Korea and I was like I WANT TO GO TOOOOOO SO BADLY. And I worked hard to make it come true. I’m not one of those privileged people who can travel whenever and wherever they want. I made a lot of sacrifices that some people might not be able to see (on the surface). All I can say is, work hard for it. I’ve seen other people who were in the same situation and one by one, they found a way to achieve their dreams and visit Korea. I still sometimes lament that I might have been even better if I was allowed to attend Yonsei KLI all the way till level 6. But I’ve never regretted the fact that I came so far through self studying.

Instead of lamenting about what you can’t have, focus your efforts on attaining the best that you can. I feel proud that I can tell people that I’ve achieved all these on my own effort. TOPIK level 4 within 1 year plus of self studying, and now after 4 years, Korean has become a language that I’m comfortable with. And I recently got my TOPIK 5 and I’l l be aiming for a TOPIK 6. Of course I still have a long long way more to go.

Expensive textbooks and lessons is not the only way to become good. There are so many good resources online, in the libraries and if you have to, buy a few good books that last you a long way. ^^ Sell those that you don’t need anymore and then buy the ones that are of a higher level.

Also, Korean is not just a language. It’s part of a bigger thing. Learning Korean (or any other language) open doors to a brand new world – new culture, friends, way of thinking, literature, knowledge etc It’s almost limitless.

Instead of focusing on an unrealistic goal (being fluent in a year or something ^^;), enjoy the learning process. There’s no end to language learning. So if you are one of those who needs to see an ‘end’ to the road, maybe this learning journey may not be for you. Instead of finding that non-existent end and worrying about how long and difficult this journey is, enjoy every moment.

I may sound like I’m bull-shitting and making everything sounds so easy. It’s definitely not, but if you are up for a challenge, stick to it and the benefits will come. 😀


As I’m typing this, I’m actually studying Japanese lolol. 😀 Who knows what this new journey will bring me? For now, I’m just content learning something new.


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  • Reply
    20 August, 2012 at 9:42 PM

    Thanks! I really needed this “pep talk” this morning as I’ve been lagging in my studies lately. This is the kick I needed to get back on track ^;^

  • Reply
    20 August, 2012 at 9:47 PM

    OK me too!

  • Reply
    Vanessa Benevento
    20 August, 2012 at 9:57 PM

    [this comment is to every self learner out there too ^^]
    To me, one of the most motivating things is to be able to understand one more little thing on twits (specially from idols hahaha)
    I remember when I was still at the very beggining of Korean (ok, now I’m just at “beggining” hahahaha), but after studying a lesson (on TTMIK), I would find a twit from an idol and understand, like, at least the subject of it. It is SO, SO rewarding.
    Now that I know a bit more, I can understand the meaning of a sentence by just reading it and looking at another sentences with that specific unknown point.

    Instead of having a big goal in mind (like you said, “I want to be fluent in 1 year!”), keep in mind small goals and you’ll always be motivated, always respecting the “level” you are. Don’t be at the very beggining and with a goal of understanding a huge paragraph, even if you think “I’m not trying to be fluent now, I just want to understand this whole thing!”, you may get frustrated because you’ve made a wrong choice at THAT time, and not because you’re not capable of understanding.

    Sometimes I get so “I wanna understand this sentence ><" that even if I learn the meaning months later, that sentence will pop in my mind and everything will get clear.

    So, yes, study yourself to know what keeps you on learning Korean, if it is because of songs, dramas, etc. Feel totally free to get moved by any sentence of a song or drama scene, so you'll remember the sentence more easily and, when you learn the words, you'll definitely understand and remember the meaning and the usage of it so more quickly.

    "화이팅!" to all of us!

    • Reply
      20 August, 2012 at 10:39 PM

      Sometimes, I kind of forget the OMG I CAN ACTUALLY UNDERSTAND THIS kind of moment since it’s been a long long time. But now that I’m studying Japanese, it’s all coming back to me. 😀 yay to more years of language study!

  • Reply
    20 August, 2012 at 10:23 PM

    I totally agree with you about the idea that what makes us “great language learners” is really about the passion and effort.
    I always get annoyed at people who say “I really want to learn Language-X, but I can’t because (reason).” If you really want to learn it that badly, you’ll make time. Time is what you need – not money (maybe it was true 100 years ago, but not now which the resources online). And even if you’re busy, what about your commute? Your lunch break? Your “free time”? People look at me weird when my hobby is studying languages – but it’s not studying! I can’t study for my regular classes – but “studying” Korean to me is just having fun.

    Speaking of dreaming of going to Korea. First hand, I’m one of those people who thought I’d never go to Korea (and also thought I’d never get the chance to study abroad), and pretty much almost cried with envy whenever I was reading something about Korea or somebody in Korea or thinking about all the things I wanted to do in Korea. Yet, here I am. in 2 days I leave for my flight to Korea. And it’s something I had to fight for hard, and make a lot of sacrifices (I have to do another year at school – which is really expensive T_T but… to me, it’s worth it, since I’ve wanted this.. for a long time.)

    • Reply
      20 August, 2012 at 10:38 PM

      Hey Sojin!! Wow 2 days! Are you all packed and ready to go? 😛 It’s great that you made that decision and although it’s going to be hard, this will be an awesome experience.

      My hobby is studying languages too! ^^

      • Reply
        21 August, 2012 at 8:45 AM

        I have all my stuff in a giant “to be packed pile” But right now I just need to start the laundry before I put stuff in my bags 🙂

  • Reply
    21 August, 2012 at 12:29 AM

    İ start studying korean language on July 2010. First korean alphabet seemed to me very interesting nice mysterious also now. It’s this reason that I respect Sejong the Great. Also his other achievements. At that time I havent know that I had to start where how, which sites. I only searched on google ‘korean language’ there were many sites on it. Before i couldnt find the sites that to pronounce korean words. or also not a friend for help me.
    I learned some words. then when i listened to korean music which i downloaded random. I caught the words i learned as 슬프다 사랑하다. so I felt happy. so day by day i studied more now i’m studying by myself. Still i’m not good at. But i’m trying. As you say sometimes i fell frustrated, unmotivated. And I know i have a long way to study . but i want to try studying. It’s not aim going to Korea. of course i want to go too. but how i know it? time shows.
    now I want to enjoy learning journey and to love to interest and to research. Not only korean language but also korean history and culture. My mother doesnt agree with me to interest khistory. I dont know she’s right or not. But Korean history is very interesting for me. i think language, history, culture, kpop, kdramas are parts of Korea. I want to love all forever.
    Recently I bought a little dictionary kor-eng/eng-kor. I like it. I havent a korean book yet. but i ordered Integrated Korean beginning1 and i wait it. ‘mI following TTMIK lessons which it helps me very much. and yesterday I started Sogang Lessons. They are very interesting.

    • Reply
      21 August, 2012 at 10:18 AM

      I’m also very interested in Korean history. ^^ It’s fascinating. If you like it, just go for it! 😀 Good luck with your studies!

  • Reply
    21 August, 2012 at 1:56 AM

    One of your best posts, such a motivating spirit! , thank you! .
    Latlely iv’e noticed – “I don’t study korean as much as I used to,and as confidently as I used to ..will I..FAIL on the way?” those kind of thought’s have being bothering me so much , I needed this post ,really thank you!.

    • Reply
      21 August, 2012 at 10:17 AM

      Thanks!! Don’t think about failing and just keep going~! 😀

  • Reply
    21 August, 2012 at 2:53 AM

    Can’t agree more! I first started late 2009 but still am beginner because I’m so busy with uni’s life.. Thus I study Korean language by watching variety shows, reading lyrics and articles. Now that I have a year left before I graduate. I plan to take MA in psychology in Korea.

    Speaking of studying language, I love studying any foreign languages. It’s fun and learn new things about the culture and so on. A whole new world. I can speak and read three languages; Malay, English and Arabic. So Korean is next. Hope I can speak the language comfortably. 🙂

    Ever since I watched Deep Rooted Tree, it gives me motivation. Yes, I almost give up but then whenever I watch variety shows, I kinda ‘Ah! What are they saying?’ Now when I listen to Kpop, I understand it though not all of it but still I’m very happy that I know what its meaning and all.

    • Reply
      21 August, 2012 at 10:16 AM

      wow Arabic! I started learning the alphabet for fun and it’s really cool 😀 Maybe years later I’ll attempt to study a non-Asian language 😛 Or something really different.

      All the best in your future plans!

  • Reply
    에텔~♡ (@ethel1187)
    21 August, 2012 at 9:27 AM

    agreed with what u said haha. im still really v impressed that u actually self-studied korean at the start! haha i remember i was shocked when i first chanced upon ur blog n u said u haven’t been to korea before. congrats for making it through ur hard work n determination! ^^

    • Reply
      21 August, 2012 at 10:14 AM

      hahaha thanks!! And sorry we haven’t be able to meet till now ㅠㅠ next time I go over Korea i bring chilli padi for you k! hehe i know you like 😀

  • Reply
    21 August, 2012 at 9:51 AM

    Hi, nice post. I’ve also been self studying, but perhaps with slightly less passion than you. I’m attempting beginner TOPIK in 2.5 months, and am aiming for level 2.
    I was wondering, (without a tutor), how did you go about preparing for the essay writing section? I mean, penfriends can only help to a certain extent, right?

    • Reply
      21 August, 2012 at 10:15 AM

      mmm I haven’t taken the beginner TOPIK before but I assume its the same for all levels. Reading a lot helps as it makes you get used to the ‘Korean style’ of writing. Try practicing on lang-8.com! ^^

  • Reply
    21 August, 2012 at 10:09 AM

    I like this post. Its so encouraging. I’m glad that you continued studying Korean (and now you’re doing Japanese), it serves as an inspiration for your readers.

  • Reply
    21 August, 2012 at 10:34 AM

    I’ve long realized all of the things you’re saying and I completely agree. Certain goals just can’t be attained through sugar coated slip down the slide methods. I’m actually more competent in Japanese then Korean, but I’m learning them in hopes to be fluent someday. I would love to study with you some time. You’re writing is insightful.


    • Reply
      21 August, 2012 at 5:02 PM

      Thanks for reading!! ^^ any good books u recommend for Japanese?

      • Reply
        22 August, 2012 at 1:36 PM

        Japanese Language Books? Well to be honest when it comes to language resource books I always find them lacking because they tend to be phrase books, or books for people who just want to pick up the language for travel. I rarely see a book that caters to people who learn a language for fluency. I find that the best thing to do when it comes to Japanese reading sources (And other language books) Is to get books for specific things. Like I had liked some grammar books, and then some Kanji books and then maybe a vocab book to finish off what you need. But I think general books are bad. I’ll look up the titles later if you want ^_^

  • Reply
    21 August, 2012 at 12:26 PM

    Thx a lot for this letter. It really motivates me a lot. Gonna read this letter whenever I am not motivated. Wish you all the best in your language learning journey

  • Reply
    21 August, 2012 at 6:31 PM

    Hey, Shanna! 🙂

    I’m a student and am thinking of applying to study Korean at university. Thank you for this post. It was very inspirational.

  • Reply
    21 August, 2012 at 9:30 PM

    I was moved by this letter of yours Shanna.It inspired me not only in my Korean study but also being motivated in everything I do..I almost teared up.It’s like you’re my real friend giving an advice.Thank you

    • Reply
      21 August, 2012 at 9:32 PM


    • Reply
      21 August, 2012 at 9:33 PM

      aww Karla! ^^ I’m glad it helped! All of us need a little push and a little motivation now and then. I get my motivation from you guys, who are always sharing and commenting on the blog! 😀

  • Reply
    22 August, 2012 at 7:56 PM

    “All I can say is, work hard for it. I’ve seen other people who were in the same situation and one by one, they found a way to achieve their dreams and visit Korea.” <– I'm one of them and I totally agree~ ^^ Shanna this letter was a well-needed reminder~ (Y)

  • Reply
    30 August, 2014 at 2:14 PM

    I just read it and was very happy there is a reminder like this

    • Reply
      9 September, 2014 at 11:30 AM

      aww thanks

  • Reply
    1 September, 2014 at 10:47 AM

    Hi Shanna, totally need this post to be read again and again. I found myself less motivated (again. Been in this feeling before). Not immerse myself to Korean language, and busy with other things. I guess, If i read your post I will escape from feeling of less motivating. Thanks for sharing

    • Reply
      9 September, 2014 at 11:29 AM

      aww thanks!! 😀

  • Reply
    17 February, 2015 at 11:21 PM

    Hello Shanna,

    I found your blog while browsing the internet for resources on korean language.
    I think I found it by looking for review on “Hello korean” and your review totally convinced me to buy it (I will get it on friday).
    In fact, I knew from you before I actually found the blog since I downloaded “how to self study korean”.
    I began to self study japanese 3-4 years ago but I gave up rapidly.Because I have another friend and one of my sister that really are into japanese and I felt that I didn’t dedicate as much time and/or effort to japanese compared to them.
    These last 2 months I got immersed myself in Korean drama and naturally began fangirling. Also the korean culture got my attention compared to the japanese one that I know more of. Fangirling meant that I got the idea to self-study korean but as some korean actors also speak japanese, I also had a kick back from japanese.
    So now I began a new learning process as a beginner for korean and japanese.
    Your blog totally gives me the motivation to go on as I recognise some of my way of learning.
    So “fighting ” !!
    And thanks for sharing all these resources, really awesome.

  • Reply
    3 June, 2015 at 10:04 PM

    I love learning languages and it stemmed from my love of Japanese. I took basic Korean as an elective in university for 3 months, but never found the interest to continue on until now. I’m not really a fan of Hallyu and I’ve never watched a Korean drama in its entirety. I do find Korea interesting though. I plan to work hard to pass JLPT N2, then start my venture in Korean. I’m not nearly at N3 level yet so it’s going to be an uphill climb.
    Anyway, I’ve signed up for private N2 prep classes and I’ll try mymy best to pass N2 by the end of the year.

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