19 In Korean learning journey (:

Foreign language learning occurs when you are using it

Haven’t been blogging much about learning Korean these days! That’s because I have not been actually ‘learning’ anything. But I’m absorbing loads by using it. I have mentioned it several times during previous posts, but I’m surrounded by Korean everyday and I have to use Korean. I translate articles on tech startups, interview people in Korean, talk to my colleagues (most of them) in Korean, listen to their conversations in Korean, buy stuff in Korean etc.

Learning is not just about opening your books and reading it. It’s about actively finding ways to use it. I used to think that I need to have a firm basis / foundation of knowledge by using books before I start trying to use it in the real world. But now, I think differently.

I find that expressions / phrases or grammar points stick better when I tried to use it. Somehow the memory is enhanced when you try out something. For example, if you try to use a slang like 쩐다! in your sentences, you will tend to remember it more than simply reading about it from a book. I’m trying to apply the ‘use it as you learn it’ principle in learning Japanese now and I find it really useful. Making mistakes is even better. We tend to remember embarrassing moments and mistakes and if you make them during language learning, the point will stick for life! lol. 😀

This is why I try to tweet in Japanese or blog in Japanese even though I’m at the stage where my proficiency is non-existent. Making mistakes is part of language learning!

Here are some points to remember!

  1. Use it while learning it!
  2. Learn while using!
  3. Use it to learn even more!

Use it while learning it! This is about doing thing simultaneously. I used to have the idea that ‘I can only use something that I have learnt fully’. Thinking back, I was being too careful and conscious and there is no such thing as ‘learnt fully’ in language learning. It’s about learning, trying, using it all at the same time.

Learn while using! This is about learning from your mistakes and picking up new things when you are using it. It happens when your native speaker friends correct your sentences or when you realize that you are not too sure about certain phrases once you try them out.

Use it to learn even more! This is about constantly using the language and improving yourself. Which is what I am doing now. I am using Korean everyday to learn even more and be even more familiar and comfortable with the language.

It’s a blessing to be in the country / community / have friends who are native speakers of the language that you are learning. I cannot emphasize this more. Sorry to be blunt, but I can never understand Korean learners who choose to speak in English when they are here in Korean. It’s like giving up the best opportunity to learn. I have seen several people who chooses the easy way out and speaking English whenever possible. I refuse to do that. I remember the time when I went to the international office at KU to get them to change my timetable etc and I spoke in Korean. 😀 I could well speak in English, but I refuse to. Unless absolutely necessary.

Of course, I do get my lazy days. But this is something I have to correct too xD

I think my reading ability and translating ability have improved loads! 😀

You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    25 May, 2012 at 1:37 PM

    I totally agree with this but for my situation i had to speak korean as my classmate in my korean class was all japanese and i was the only singaporean in my school (i think) and i was in a intermediate 2 class( was expected to be able to speak in korean) and my korean was really bad (i couldnt speak at all before the class) but after 3 weeks, i was joking around with my friends! and when my singaporen friends came to visit me, it was difficult for me to speak in english to them, i keep wanting to speak in korean haha!
    and I would like to add another tip which i found useful.
    Which is to turn on the tv every morning when you wake up and listen to it.
    I found it really helpful to my listening for the whole day as i could understand my friends easier compared to when i did not listen to something korean in the morning.

    • Reply
      27 May, 2012 at 3:40 PM

      That’s an interesting method! 😀 will try it out. I have days when Im in the ‘Korean mood’ and I’ll be fluent and also days when I give the blank look when people start speaking too fast xD I use a mix of korean and english these days because i have a large group of foreigner friends here too. but will be awesome if im in a community that just speaks korean!

  • Reply
    25 May, 2012 at 2:12 PM

    Hey, I really like your posts about studying Korean. They are very inspirational, please don’t stop writing about it even though you’ve already reached this level of proficiency. 🙂

    Also, could you please expand on “learning by using”? Although I have a lot of Korean friends in the city I live in, it’s very hard to start speaking Korean when their English is better than my Korean. Have you ever encountered those situations? How did you overcome it?
    What other methods of practicing can you recommend?

    Also, I have another “problem”. I never thought of it as a problem in the beginning, but the more “deeper” I get into language learning, the more aware I become of it. And this is praises by Korean people. I don’t know if it’s because I’m Caucasian foreigner who is studying Korean or does it happen to all foreigners who are studying Korean, but 90% of the time even if I try to start a conversation in Korean, I cannot get anywhere further basic sentences of introduction and basic familiarity exchanges, because constantly, constantly I am being reminded of how “good” my Korean is. And I suck. I’m not even close to being able to hold a more or less sophisticated conversation. (Not long time ago I wrote my first TOPIK for beginners, still waiting for results).
    And I know that this is them being polite,nice, etc. but how do I get the person to take me seriously and stop reminding me of my looks, my way of speaking Korean, praising me after each word when I don’t deserve it, etc. ? >_> I never thought it would get annoying to that extent,but it did, and it is really discouraging, and knowing your Korean level I was thinking that most likely you’ve encountered those kind of situations many times. So wanted to hear some advice on that if possible.

    Also, one more thing. I will be going to Korea soon for 2 months, it’s my second time (I’ve been there for a week last summer) and my first goal is to try to improve my Korean, but the problem is that I don’t have enough money to stay there for a long time (TT) nor to afford proper classes (TT.TT), so I’m looking for ways to improve( maybe some clubs, cheap classes per couple of weeks, anything for foreigners who wants to learn Korean and that’s is operated in Korean,etc). So I was wondering if you are familiar with any resources like that. You’ve been in Korea a couple of times, so I thought maybe you have done some activities outside of classes. Please recommend if anything comes to you mind. TT
    Will be really thankful for that.

    Sorry for the large post. >.<
    Thank you again!

    • Reply
      25 May, 2012 at 11:53 PM

      I’m not Shanna. But I wanted to answer your first question.
      I also have lots of Korean friends with better English than mine (since I’m in the US, and a lot of them are here for grad school!).
      I think the best way is just to try talking to them in Korean, even if they use English with you, as long as they’re okay with you using Korean. With one of my closest friends, she usually uses English, and I use Korean, except when maybe it becomes more of a.. “deep” conversation and she can’t think about it and use English at the same time.
      I know you’re looking to get a Korean-Korean conversation happening, but I think this is a good place to start. Especially if you’re not really great, the whole conversation being in Korean can be pretty intimidating and, at least for me, sometimes I just switch into English if that happens because I can’t understand everything that’s being said.

      • Reply
        25 May, 2012 at 11:59 PM

        I agree, but at the sametime disagree. Some of my Koreans offered me to speak in Korean while they speak English, but I think that doesn’t really help, because person needs to listen to native speaker’s way of talking to improve things like listening and your way of structuring your sentences. Otherwise you will be making the same mistakes.
        I personally have a lot of writing practice, because I chat a lot in Korean, but in real life it always endsup being English. 🙁

  • Reply
    25 May, 2012 at 2:29 PM

    Like your post, Shanna ^^
    I also tend to only use something that I have learned fully, until now. But my opinion becomes different after read your post 🙂
    I just haven’t get a chance to use or speak Korean.

  • Reply
    Debbie Wong
    25 May, 2012 at 8:24 PM

    Totally agreed with your post. We have to use what we learn, otherwise what’s the point of learning anyway? I speak Korean as much as I can when I was in Seoul last year even though it’s broken Korean, haha! Totally loving it although now I can only speak Korean once a week which is during my Korean class 🙁

  • Reply
    25 May, 2012 at 9:18 PM

    I have not attend any korean class and I learned through TTMIK. So speaking language is very low. Now I’m trying to make friends through Interpals in hoping my writing skills may get better anyhow but it kinda weird when my penpals return English and I return Korean language in writing(I type extremely slow). I try to ask questions in each mail in hoping our mail will “continue” but not “disappear”. But my conversations is really boring though. Is it normal?

  • Reply
    25 May, 2012 at 10:31 PM

    Using definitely helps in learning! I’ve been self-studying for the last few months (stopped the NEX lessons because I didn’t really like the class environment >.<) but felt like I wasn't progressing much. Just increasing vocabs but felt like my communication skills were still pretty much non-existent. I decided to step out of my comfort zone and made a new Korean friend; we meet twice a week for language exchange sessions now, and I'm glad to say I've learnt loads! I like that it's real-time conversations, and not those unnatural textbook style dialogues.

    I feel that exposure to the language you're learning is the most important, be it listening or applying what you've learnt. Once you keep listening to conversations (kdramas for me!), you'll instinctively know what sounds natural when you're actually using it yourself (:

    • Reply
      26 May, 2012 at 12:02 AM

      Sorry to budge in, but I was just wondering how do you structure your meetings with your language exchange partners. ^^

      • Reply
        26 May, 2012 at 10:31 PM

        Hello! Well usually it’s a 2-hour session, one for Korean and the other for whatever they want to learn (I have one friend learning English Lit. now and the other learning Chinese). Just keep checking up on forums or blogs, there are quite many Koreans in Singapore who are interested in making friends here, just got to contact them and see how it goes from there. Even if they don’t turn out to be regular language exchange partners, you can still practise your Korean with them through facebook or kakao. Hope that helps! ^.^

        • Reply
          26 May, 2012 at 11:14 PM

          Is there a forum to find? Or anyways to find? In Malaysia?

  • Reply
    25 May, 2012 at 10:52 PM

    This is a big reason why I made an effort when I started my Twitter account to dedicate it to practicing Korean. In fact, I need to get back to doing exactly that, since I’ve been slack about producing much output in Korean lately (other than the song memorization I was doing for a while, but that is more rote repetition rather than actually turning my thoughts into Korean sentences). Input is great (and is definitely needed in vast quantities), but usage does seem to help things click into place that are resistant to do so otherwise.

    For example there are several words I used in my earliest Korean tweets that were completely new to me (I had to look them up on Naver first since I didn’t yet know a word to express that concept). Despite not adding them to my SRS (which I usually do with any new word/phrase/grammar that I learn) and not getting a chance to use them again afterward, I still remembered most of them a few months later.

  • Reply
    26 May, 2012 at 1:58 AM

    anybody have any idea on how to find language exchange partners in singapore?

  • Reply
    Foreign language learning occurs when you are using it … | How To … | Easiest Way To Learn Korean
    28 May, 2012 at 2:19 PM

    […] View original post: Foreign language learning occurs when you are using it … […]

  • Reply
    28 May, 2012 at 11:38 PM

    i found this interesting blog entry on korean and foreigners . i was wondering what you thought of it.


  • Reply
    Lucie Dvorakova
    29 May, 2012 at 3:05 AM

    Cannot agree more. I wish I had more people to talk to in person, but Koreans here in Prague tend to live in their “own little world”, if you know what I mean by that.

    But luckily I’ve forced myself to send e-mails in Korean to penfriends. Made quite a few friends and I’ve noticed a progress from writing a few very basic sentences to much longer messages… and not to forget learnt a bunch of new words.

    I think being in Korea or the country of the language you are learning is the best “language school” you can attend – but people have to integrate themselves into the culture of the country as well.

    Hope you’re having fun back in Korea! ^^

  • Reply
    29 May, 2012 at 3:22 AM

    How hard is it to get work in editing or translation if you know Korean and English but none of these languages are you native to and you have a degree in some field?

    I don’t know how much you know about the possibilites for foreigners to work outside of teaching?

    Thank you. 🙂

  • Reply
    27 June, 2012 at 12:29 AM

    “Learning is not just about opening your books and reading it. It’s about actively finding ways to use it.”

    I agree with this statement indeed. Learning is allowing something new to become a part of our lives, understanding it, and embracing it. Its very interesting that studies show that when we actually say and do things more than once, we acquire it, rather than reading about it and it being in the back of our minds. Great way to learn, or in your case, embrace!!

  • Leave a Reply