Ask around, and I’m sure almost everyone will say that they have tried learning one (or more) foreign languages before.
So why is it that many of them won’t succeed?
The road to successful foreign language (FL) is a long and tiring one. Just imagine:
- for every word in your current vocabulary, you have to learn another one (that’s the perfect picture)
- new concepts/words that have no equivalent in your current vocabulary
- a whole new load of grammar rules
And that’s only the bare minimum.
Don’t forget, languages are inseparable from their cultures. How confidently can you say that you speak a language when you know nuts about their culture? For example, will you be able to understand the reasons for the existence of numerous speech styles in Korean if you don’t know anything about their culture?
Foreign languages are ‘foreign’ since they aren’t spoken in the community around us. Except for those who are lucky enough to go for immersion programs and the like, we are studying in a vacuum. Modern technology has contributed alot to increasing the rate of exposure we get to the FL.
- Online tutorials/resources
- MSN/Skype etc – you just need a headset! ^^
but it’s still limited.
(I think I’m going out of point soon if I’m going to ramble on..)
So is there a secret formula to successful FL learning? I don’t know (: But here’s my take on it.
Interest and passion drives you on and propel you forward in the long journey of language learning. ‘Necessity’ works too. If you are forced by circumstances to ‘need’ to know a language, you can possibly do well too. You will still complete the journey, albeit it being a less enjoyable one. Interest in the language itself and it’s culture/people usually goes hand in hand. But even if you start out with only one, you will soon gain interest in the other side too. I first started out with an interest in Korean dramas, but now that passion has extended to the Korean language, food, people, culture, history, music (the list goes on..).
Trust me, the passion builds on.
Alot of us have taken language classes in school. But most of us never managed to progress beyond that elementary stage. We study, we learn. After exams, all the knowledge is thrown out.
I’ve taken elementary Spanish classes for 1 semester. I learnt alot, I studied. But I realised that there’s always something lacking. I don’t feel motivated to learn more and go beyond what’s taught in the classroom. I’m studying just to pass the exams. >< At one point in time, it became more of a chore.
Same with Japanese. I have no interest in the culture. Even though many people tell me that Japanese is similar to Korean and hence I’ll probably have an easier time mastering it, I just have no motivation to do so. I don’t really watch J-dramas, I don’t listen to j-pop. (I like Japanese food though XD) I’ve tried learning Jap but I’ll just end up neglecting it after a while.
I really admire and respect polyglots alot.
With interest, you are more likely to commit. I know. It’s hard to find time and sit down and actually study. Especially for working adults, you are probably dead tired when you reach home. But I still believe that if you are committed, you will still succeed. Probably you will take a longer time, but you will still attend your goal. (:
There’s no short cut in language learning. Every bit of effort adds up. So what makes this seemingly endless journey a worthwhile one?
The unexpected surprises you get along the way, the sense of achievement as you learn more and more. Before I started learning Korean, I always thought that learning a FL is a straightforward process. You enroll into beginners’ classes, you study the textbooks, do the practices etc and once you complete the advanced courses, you know the language.
There’s so much more to be gained. And so much more to be learned.
For me, this journey has not exactly been a smooth sailing one. There are people who questioned and even ridicule(?) my ‘obsession’ with Korean, people who discouraged me, some sacrifices to be made, turning points in my life.. I’m not so comfortable with spilling out everything on my blog, but it’s been a difficult journey. (Not that everything is attributed to Korean though (: ) Sometimes I question myself too, but I’ll never give up.
okay. I know I’ve totally digressed!!
On a happier note, I wish all of you a happy and enjoyable learning journey!! ^^