15 In Korean learning journey (:

Fossilization and the what-ifs

Sometimes it’s a little… discouraging (?) to know of people who are fluent in Korean after 1 year in Korea. I have been studying for slightly more than 3 years and I know that I’m nowhere approaching that standard. I don’t sound native-like, my pronunciation is wrong sometimes. I make loads of mistakes in writing too. Sometimes I wonder, if given the chance to spend a year or even more in Korea, what will my standard be like? How much better can I get? All the what-ifs.

I enjoy the challenge of self-studying. But after experiencing 7 weeks of lessons in Yonsei, I guessed I became greedy for more. The huge improvement over that 7 weeks made me realised that I could do so much better in the right environment, with the resources.

I guess I’m afraid of fossilisation – where you get stuck in that non-native like proficiency and is unable to improve further even with more teaching etc. And I’m especially afraid that I’ll get stuck with that non native-like accent. (:

Studying Korean right now~ This notebook holds special meaning for me as it was the one that I used for the Yonsei lessons. I’m continuing with the chapters that I’ve left with from the Yonsei 6 textbook.

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  • Reply
    20 February, 2011 at 11:05 PM

    You have only been studying 3 years? Now I’m discouraged. I’ve been studying Japanese for 3 years and a half and it’s waaay below your Korean T.T. I think you know a lot for having studied only 3 years. I don’t understand what you write in Korean but being able to study with a grammar book for Korean people… O.O

    • Reply
      20 February, 2011 at 11:31 PM

      haha your japanese is good!! (^^) I guess we all want to be much better than what we are now. The book is not really for Korean, just that it’s written in korean xD

  • Reply
    20 February, 2011 at 11:07 PM

    Hmm… That’s me ↑^^;

  • Reply
    20 February, 2011 at 11:32 PM

    I should be the one discouraged here. I’ve been studying Korean for more than what you did and yet you surpassed me. You’re quite good Shanna~ don’t be discouraged! You actually proved that attaining one’s fluency in one language through self-studying is pretty much posibble!!

    I pretty much sound like native (well that’s what Korean people tell me) but I still do sound like a foreigner because of the way I express myself Korean. My grammar is not that good and sometimes I get confused and get tongue-tied in the end.

    Practice your pronunciation if you think it’s still wrong~ Sounding like a native can be easy if you just let things flow, you know, talk like those we see on dramas and variety shows.

    • Reply
      21 February, 2011 at 7:31 AM

      Thanks Jeannie for the tips! My Korean pronunciation sucks big time! I also started listening to Korean radios now. I regret that I only started listening to it recently. I always “listen” to any Kim Sun-Ah drama all these time. And now that I’m preparing for a speech, I realize that I’m so stuck with a Kim Sun-Ah accent/intonation. 😐

    • Reply
      21 February, 2011 at 9:21 PM

      thanks for the advice! ^^ somehow i think i’m experiencing a drop in proficiency >,< i get tongue tied while reading to read a passage out loud

  • Reply
    21 February, 2011 at 7:26 AM

    My initial reaction was the same with Jeannie. I’ve been studying Korean for more than what you (and probably more than what Jeannie did) yet you (and Jeannie) are so much more better than me. Don’t be discouraged! (Because if you are, then just imagine how discouraged the rest of us, who look up to you, will feel. ^_^).
    I do agree on the fossilization thing… sometimes I feel that way too. Like I’m stuck with the wrong things and feels like I can’t correct them anymore.
    But I think there’s still so much room in our brains (more than what we give it credit for) for improvement… someday, all of us will all be better than what we are right now (and hopefully that someday will be soon! ^^) 아자!

    • Reply
      21 February, 2011 at 9:21 PM

      thanks for the encouragement! how’s the speech preparation going? (:

      • Reply
        21 February, 2011 at 10:06 PM

        next question please…
        had a practice with my Korean friend/도우미 earlier, as always I suck at the double consonants especially ㄸ and ㄲ.
        almost halfway through memorizing my it, but with my current pace, i don’t think i’ll be ready enough by the time of the contest – so i need to work harder! ㅠㅠ

  • Reply
    Alexander Ristich
    22 February, 2011 at 5:00 PM

    Hi Shanna,

    Interesting post, and one I can understand firsthand. However, isn’t the goal of language learning to communicate? I don’t think native-like pronunciation is vital when learning a language, as I know plenty of university students who have a strong accent but speak better English than many Canadians do. I think the more pressure we put on ourselves to speak like a native, the more frustrated we will become as time goes on.

    Pronunciation comes easier to some than to others, but my goal when learning Korean is to learn words so that I can understand what other people are writing/saying and be able to communicate effectively. Just my opinion, but if I was communicating with someone in English, I would much prefer to speak with someone who has an obvious non-native accent but understands everything I say rather than with someone who has excellent pronunciation but forces me to simplify what I want to say so they can understand what I mean. Anyways, just a thought. 🙂

    I think the most important task should be learning new words, as I find that the more words you learn the less restricted you feel when it comes to interacting with various things (whether it be books, radio programs, television, or even speakers) in the target language (in this case, Korean).

    입장을 바꾸면 3년동안 독립적으로 영어를 배우는 한국사람이 샨나씨에게 다가와서 지금 한국어를 할수 있는 만큼 영어를 할 줄 알았다면 어떻게 생각할까요? 샨나 씨는 그 분이 영어 실력이 별로 높지는 않고 몇년이 지나고도 유창하게 할 수 없겠다는 생각이 들을까요 아니면 잘하고 있고 앞으로도 꾸준히 배우고 노력하면 수준을 높여서 결국에 유창하게 하겠다는 생각이 들을까요? 한국어, 일어 등 배우는 꿈을 포기하지 않으면 무조건 성공하겠죠. 언어 잘하는 것이 시간이 많이 걸려서 의욕을 잃지 마세요^^

    • Reply
      24 February, 2011 at 8:40 AM

      Hi Alexander!

      Your comment really made me rethink about the importance that I’ve placed on that ‘perfect’ pronunciation. You’re right, the most importance part is communication and I now think the ability to be sensitive to their culture and to communicate effectively is more important (:

      앞으로도 계속 노력할게요~!

  • Reply
    23 February, 2011 at 2:59 AM

    Don’t be discouraged Shanna, I saw the videos you made and saw your twits and I belive that you’re great even for someone who learned that language for 3 years.
    Your pronounciation is also good and in any cases it shall come with time, if you keep practicing you’ll never get rusty and keep improve more and more every days.

    And don’t compare yourself with pples living in Korea since living in a country is a HUGE help in learning a language.
    In France we have a lot of foreigners coming here for studing, working…

    Among this person I have a lot of friends and some of them are just impressive because of how fast they learned to speak French (our language is extremely difficult to learn).
    One of my friend (a Chinese person) learn the language within 4 months. Of course she wasn’t fluent at all after this but she was able to hold a simple conversation after only 4 months, this is just incredible BUT even her confess that would be impossible if she wasn’t in France while learning that language.

    Compared to someone living in a country you can divide the time needed to learn a language by 10 so no worry about you own skills, just tell to yourself that a person living in Korea for a year received the equivalent of 10 years learning the language in another country.

    • Reply
      24 February, 2011 at 8:43 AM

      Thanks for the encouragement! ^^ Learning a language outside that country is really not easy. >,< I'll continue to work hard!!

  • Reply
    27 February, 2011 at 3:01 AM

    It might seem like you’re not making as much progress as you would be if you were in Korea, but you do have the added benefit of knowing Mandarin. Knowing the 한자 behind words takes a lot of the pain out of memorizing new vocabulary because you can see links between words. Plus, you can probably guess more accurately than me when come across unfamiliar words.

    • Reply
      27 February, 2011 at 9:54 AM

      hahaha i agree xD i am able to see the reasoning behind using a native word for a less formal occasion and a sino-korean one for more formal writing. It’s easy to differentiate between the two and since 한자 usually takes both the sounds/meaning from the mandarin words, it does make learning alot easier

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