44 In Korean learning journey (:

Self Study vs Foreign Language Lessons

Thanks for all the comments on the previous post. Love seeing discussion 😀

It appears that I’ve briefly talked about this topic many times, and I shall do it again today. It’s something I feel strongly about, having both types of experience. Why am I bringing this up again? I was kinda invited by the Singapore Korean School to sit in for their Advanced 3 Korean classes (highest level) and to do a review on it. (More on that next week). I am still struggling to take a stand on how I feel about it, but it definitely triggers the good and bad I’ve come to associate with foreign language classes.

Let’s talk abut the topic in general, nothing to do with any particular school (local or in Korea) or even language. But I like to be honest with my opinion.

One thing about language lessons: PRECONCEIVED NOTIONS. Or so I like to call them. Have your teacher ever told you the following?

‘this passage is too difficult for your class level now. I think we should skip it’ – true stories

‘this passage is what you all should be able to read comfortably by now’

Basically, the teacher sets the pace of the classroom, and unknowingly, it sets YOUR own pace too. You get pegged to a certain level, and when the teacher says its too difficult for you, you believe it and skip it. Most people who attends language lessons tend to set their expectations accordingly and many will not do much outside of the curriculum.

Ok, on the other hand, if you attend lessons that are well paced and challenging and slightly above your standard, it’s an awesome experience. Perhaps that is why I’m so biased towards Yonsei KLI (and snub the others) cos I had a really good experience there. I was in Level 6 (the highest) just 2 years into studying Korean O.o My class consists of Koreans studying abroad, Korean Americans and… me. Super challenging but it made me really motivated. And I love motivation and challenges.

But sadly, most lessons aren’t like this.

Another related thing is restrictions. You basically skip past anything that is ‘not tested’. Come on, how many of us actually studies something that our teacher tells us ‘it’s not needed’? But think again. Which part of language is not needed? So what if it’s not tested? Does that mean you skip it? Basically you are kind of restricted. The type of vocabulary you know, the grammar structures, the type of sentences you learn how to say. I hate feeling restricted. And restrictions means your learning pace is slowed down and you are drawn into the false illusion that you are actually progressing well when you are able to follow the lessons.

Slangs. Sadly, a lot of language classes tend to not teach that. Which I find a pity. Isn’t language classes about being able to communicate? Of course good grammar is important, but isn’t learning how to speak like locals an important thing too? Language classes (especially local ones) tend to shy away from slangs and I’ve seen teachers say ‘Don’t learn this!!!!’ even though it’s something that locals say very very often. Native country lessons (lessons in Korea) seem to be more receptive to teaching slang. It’s not in the syllabus but if you ask, the teacher will welcome the discussion (from my experiences).

Routine. I’m not a fan of routine and many of the classes are full of routine. Repeat after the teacher. Repeat grammar constructions. Repeat this and repeat that. I love interesting materials an I love to switch from one book to the next.

But of course, it’s not to say that foreign language lessons are not suitable for everybody. I may be an advocate of self studying, but I can see that foreign language lesson are fun too. It’s awesome to have a group of friends sign up for the same lessons and through pair work, practices etc, learn a language together. For the working adults, it’s almost impossible to set aside free time to really sit down and self study. Taking classes help to pace yourself and ensure that you are always progressing steadily.

For those that are taking the language for fun and as a hobby, lessons can help make learning more fun.

There is a lot of difference between local foreign language classes and taking lessons in that country itself. The students you meet, the motivation and goals they have, the teachers, the curriculum, the expectations, the standards. EVERYTHING IS DIFFERENT.

This is why I like to encourage self study, especially if you have plans to really study up till a high level, possibly aiming at fluency and have plans to really study in Korea, work there, live there etc. It sucks to realize that even after completing up till a very high level locally (and burning a lot of money in the progress), you may be still stuck at the level 3 (or less?) of language classes in Korean universities. #thisisreality

I’m definitely not saying that you suck at grammar, reading, vocabulary etc but placement tests are very often judged on your speaking ability and pronunciation. (oh well, at least in KU). Level 4 students speak decently and I’ve been told that I should belong to level 3 during a speaking interview which I fumbled. #truestory #stabsself

Oh well, that’s worth another blog post altogether 😛

In the end, it’s also not like its a ‘one or other only’ kind of choice. You can start out with lessons, self study in between, go back to classes etc.

Basically after talking so much, what is my point? Here’s a summary.

HOW TO CHOOSE? – ask yourself the following questions

FIRST. ASK YOURSELF: What are your goals? Why do you want to study Korean? What do you hope to achieve? – TOPIK level 6? Ability to strike simple conversation with a Korean friend?


  1. like to set your own pace / independent
  2. can motivate yourself
  3. like to explore and use ‘unconventional/interesting’ learning methods


  1. Prefer to interact with teachers / other learners in a interactive setting
  2. Prefer a more leisurely pace and a lot of guidance – local lessons
  3. At a loss of what to do / which books to use / how to plan your study without someone to guide you
  4. Prefer to get feedback in terms of having a teacher mark your homework

As usual. I would love to hear your opinion on this!!! It’ll be awesome if someone here is an advocate of lessons! Then we can debate 😛

I hope I don’t sound too… harsh and arrogant and attract too much hate. D: D: D:

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  • Reply
    Katharine (수정)
    16 August, 2012 at 8:38 PM

    i love your points here^^
    I have tried a one-on-one lesson which lasted for just a while because the pace was too slow for me. ㅋㅋㅋ So I opted for selfstudying Korean. True enough, as you said, one should self study if you want to work on your own pace. And I loved it! haha. On the other hand, though I haven’t tried formal language classes with classmates to interact with, I think having classes would be better if you’re already in a higher level in the language because you can voice out your opinions more hence practicing your speaking skills which you often can’t when self studying 🙂

    sidenote: gotta (self) study harder! aiming for fluency! lol^^

  • Reply
    16 August, 2012 at 8:39 PM

    Just a thought. They should just open up a conversation class for each level. I did love to sign up for that and study all those grammar stuff. It’s my speaking that needs help.

    • Reply
      16 August, 2012 at 8:39 PM


    • Reply
      17 August, 2012 at 4:43 PM

      The idea of conversational classes is good – but in the end is it really helpful? You probably end up speaking to a partner and depending on him/her, it might end up to be a good / bad experience

  • Reply
    a little faith
    16 August, 2012 at 9:02 PM

    Very helpful post. It highlights excellent reasons on why one might chose self study over tutored lessons.

    ” I hate feeling restricted.” I was glad to find that I am not the only one who feels this way.

    All my life I have been told that self study is secondary to being taught in an institution. In terms of gaining qualifications, I would have to agree because they open up job opportunities for you. However as you mentioned above, it is about understanding your own personal goals.

    I teach colloquial English to people for whom it is a second language and I have realized that people have their own style of talking that is lost when they are focusing on getting the correct words out. It’s a shame because when we communicate, it isn’t just the words that affect the listener but our tone and our manner.

    One way I have tried to amend this problem is to learn other languages through the cultures’ poetry, lyrics from songs and film/TV shows instead of the traditional phrases found in text books. Of course that means that sometimes I can’t say the basic of things and truly, I sound slightly weird but I think I sound more like me.

    Now with the help of online resources, I am perfecting those languages but only after building up my own personal vocabulary and lines which communicate not only my words but a little of my personality too.

    The only negative thing about self study in languages, is that you aren’t able to practice as much with other people, which does hinder progress but if you are determined you can always find ways around that. I think that for some people, self study has more advantages than lessons, as your excellent post points out.

    • Reply
      17 August, 2012 at 4:42 PM

      Thanks for sharing! Yeah I totally agree that for self study, you cant practice with your classmates etc. But there are many ways around that to improve spoken Korean and sometimes I find practicing with others may be more of a hindrance. Learners do not correct each other’s pronunciation and they may end up influencing each other negatively. I’ll prefer doing language exchange over skype or something. Or even recording myself to hear what I sound like

      • Reply
        a little faith
        17 August, 2012 at 11:40 PM

        That is such a good idea about recording yourself. I am indebted. Thank you.

  • Reply
    16 August, 2012 at 9:42 PM

    I just wanted to add that, one of the reasons that teachers/classes also don’t address “slang” is that it changes so quickly. I mean, every language changes – and that’s why it’s not recommended to use textbooks from early 1900s or something, but, as far as I see, slang changes the quickest.

    Another thing I’d like to add though, is that switching from self-study to language classes is really a pain.
    I studied Japanese on my own for 2 years and then went to my university and wanted to take a language class. So, I placed into the 4th semester. But, at the time, they were only offering the 3rd semester (1, 3, 5 – Fall, 2, 4, 6 – Spring kind of thing), so I asked to take the class. The department at my university refused because “I might make other feel bad by being better than them” (Which is ridiculous. That can happen in any class.) I later talked to them and they said I could have taken the 5th semester had I been really adament about it, but I did’nt know that (And also, for fears of GPA, I wouldn’t have exactly wanted to take too hard a class my first semester there). My kanji/hanja/hanzi knowledge was up to 5th semester knowledge, but I think I didn’t fare so well on the listening portion of the exam. My professor ended up being really surprised at my speaking ability as a self-study person though, just because I spoke Japanese to my friends who were learning (though not as diligently, and who usually responded in English).
    But I was sort of frustrated in the class because of vocabulary. There was vocabulary that had been learned in previous class, (i.e. “to take a dog out for a walk”) and since I had never had a use for the word, I didn’t learn it or know it. And because of these setbacks, I was a little behind the other students in grades from exams/quizzes/tests (which, is only really important for my GPA, but since i was taking the class at my university, GPA is important. Maybe it’s better to take a course that’s not at your university if you don’t want to worry about this kind of a thing).

    • Reply
      22 August, 2012 at 6:42 AM

      haha! i can relate to it 😀 taking language classes at the unviersity level adds another level of concern – the GPA and the workload etc. I was willing to try level 6 in yonsei just because i know i just have to pass the module instead of acing it. Prob wont have attempted it if i know it was going to affect my grades.

      The department at my university refused because “I might make other feel bad by being better than them” – haha this happens in my university too. i was deemed to be of too high a level to take any Korean courses in uni even during year 1. Which sucks. I agree that this can happen in any class but i guess it’s more pronounced and scarier if you see something super good in your Japanese class instead of your.. say accounting class. lol

  • Reply
    16 August, 2012 at 10:21 PM

    I actually started off with independent study, which I had a good progress at first, but after that, as it came to parts which I don’t understand, I tend to put it off and thus slowing down. Besides, I found too many textbooks and materials online, in which I was not sure which one was suitable for me, I ended up trying many different kinds and repeating the same topics again, coz each seemed to be different.
    After which, I decided to take on classes. It helped in a way as it paced your studying time, and allows you to clear any doubt straightaway from the teacher, along with interactions with classmates. It makes me think that at least what I’m learning, I can put it to use with my classmates. However, the down part of being in a class is that the teacher and students in it set the pace. Sometimes lessons are just too slow because of a certain curriculum in the school which fixed the number of chapters you finish before going up to the next level. Teachers seldom teach more than what has been taught, and if classmates are slower, it pulls the pace down. Overall in class, its the speaking part that keeps me going to classes. After all, there is no other place where you can practice to speak and listen Korean in Singapore, unless you have a Korean friend. Besides being in classes, for me personally, I tend to lose motivation to study outside of classes, thinking that since I’m taking lessons, it should be enough, which is definitely a wrong mindset since learning a language is never enough.
    Still, with the two methods that I’ve tried, I have to say that each has its own positive and negative points. But nevertheless, the best way as said by many people, is to immerse oneself in the country and the culture. That’s probably the fastest and the best way…

    • Reply
      22 August, 2012 at 7:04 AM

      Definitely! 😀 Everyone has their own style of learning. Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    16 August, 2012 at 10:39 PM

    I feel the best way would be to attend lessons and self study at the same time to reach at least an intermediate level and go to korea for lessons. I improved alot by doing this, from being unable to speak and listen to being able to listen to drama and movies and converse with my korean friends in korean after 3 months. Although not in a high level but i could understand most of the simple sentences and after that continuing with self study would be the best way unless you are planning to further korean in singapore if not i think its a waste of time going to lessons in singapore coz its very slow and the difference in speaking and listening and making sentence ability would too big between you and your classmates for it to improve your fluency (first hand experience here! i was intermediate level 3 when i left for korea and when i was back i had such a huge gap between me and my classmate of intermediate korean level 5 that i was bored most of the time in class)

    The other thing i hate about lessons would be the teachers would only explain something thats up to your level, for example, if the grammar has a lot of meaning or ways to use it, the teacher would normally only explain 1 or 2 which is appropriate for your level and leave the rest for higher level, which i find really frustrating as normally i would find a sentence with that grammar but mean differently from what i learned when i revise..

    • Reply
      16 August, 2012 at 10:42 PM

      typo! further korean in korea

    • Reply
      22 August, 2012 at 7:02 AM

      thanks for sharing! actually i think it’s normal that grammar is explained that way. If you study with books too, its the same way. Telling you that one grammar construction can have so many uses right at the start may feel a little too daunting for most

  • Reply
    16 August, 2012 at 11:18 PM

    I do agree with the fact that students tend to be limited by the teacher progress in class…but i attend lessons mainly for the pronounciation and homework part because sometimes it is easy to miss out on my mistakes in essays and such.but i got other books to self study too.guess both have its limits but as long as students work hard it should be ok either way^^ hope someday i can really understand a lot of korean and speak fluently someday…

  • Reply
    17 August, 2012 at 12:21 AM

    Really interesting post. I think learning through lessons has it’s pros and cons. Likewise with self-study. Self-study requires a lot of self-discipline and time. I’m beginning on my self-study in Korean but I’m finding it difficult as someone who’s working full-time and has other priorities on hand like my family, church activities, and other responsibilities around the house. Because learning Korean is somewhat of a hobby, people expect you to set aside your hobby to do other more ‘important’ things. It’s kind of a pain.

    I took Japanese and Korean in a university setting. I actually quite liked learning in a uni setting just because the people in your class tend to be really quirky since they take it out of choice. There was never a time when our professor or TAs tell us they were going to skip a topic. They were very adamant about what we learned and had relatively high expectations for us. It was a good experience for me. Our uni set up Japanese really differently than other classes. We had class everyday (which is unusual for uni) AND then we also had lecture 2 times a week. So taking a Japanese course was 6 credits for a semester when normal classes were actually only 3 credits. This worked out really well. I practiced Japanese everyday. I think it was a great way to practice the language and open up a bit plus make friends. In a classroom setting, if we ever had any troubles, the TAs would ensure that we all catch up to the same page. I’m sure there were students who weren’t doing so great and then students who were doing really well. Since it IS a university setting and everyone, for the most part, is an adult, it was up to the student to ask for help outside of the classroom. Learning a language in a school setting requires studying, of course. I personally think learning through uni was a good way for me to confirm whether or not what I was saying was correct. Plus, it kept me studying daily.

    Unfortunately, I think learning in uni kind of hurts your pronunciation. Sure, we learned directly from Japanese people BUT because you’re in a class with students who use English as their primary language, you speak Japanese with a bit of an American tone to it just to conform. It was funny because I wanted to do a dialogue session with my younger sister (who took Japanese in high school with me) and she said my Japanese sounded so American which I never even realized until then.

    As for Korean, it was a little different from learning Japanese. Unlike Japanese, we had this class only twice a week for about 2.5 hours. Because Korean has a lot more complex vowels than Japanese, I found it helpful for learning the alphabet and sounds and pronunciation. But in terms of intonation, I think it’s better to just get that from conversation with Koreans or from listening to Korean media. Learning and practicing it with other Americans can throw off the way you speak. I’m a person who conforms so it definitely wasn’t good for me since I was always expecting the teacher to tell me how to pronounce it more fluently. Since it’s just a beginner course though, they don’t really worry about intonation just yet (unless needed like asking questions, etc) and don’t bother to correct you.

    Ack! Such a long post. I don’t live near any uni’s or places that offer Korean lessons so really, all I can do is just self-study at the moment. It’s a lot more challenging than I suspected but I’m trying to motivate myself by following blogs like this. *thumbs up* It’s a really interesting post and indeed, making me more excited about self-study.

    • Reply
      22 August, 2012 at 7:01 AM

      Thanks for sharing your experiences! wow Japanese must be quite important in your college! haha i agree about the unconscious need to conform, especially in languages that have very different intonation from our native ones. I think we will all feel awkward if we started sounding too cutish or dramatic even though native speakers speak like that lol.

  • Reply
    17 August, 2012 at 1:13 AM

    I feel that no matter whether you self study or study in a local foreign language school, it is rather difficult for one to really speak much in class to be able to really practise speaking korean. Of course in classes you’d definitely have to speak up, but then the amount of time you get to speak in class…..probably at most 10 minutes? (or even lesser depending on how many students are in your class).

    It’s kinda sad that Singapore doesnt have much conversation only classes, so no matter how hard you study, there’s no one to speak the language with you, and no one to correct your pronounciation and such if you don’t know any Korean friends or have any friends that are really good in Korean. Probably you’d have good foundations in written/listening/understanding Korean, but it’ll be difficult to brush up on the spoken. I guess that part can only be practised through living/studying/working in Korea.

    Any ideas on how to improve spoken Korean besides living in Korea? The only solution I can only think of is making friends with the Koreans that are living in singapore. (does talking to yourself in Korean help? lol)

    • Reply
      22 August, 2012 at 6:58 AM

      haha talking to yourself helps! and recording yourself! most of us tend to be really critical of our own voices (i cringe everytime i listen to my own audio blog) so it helps us have a more objective view of our pronunciation

  • Reply
    17 August, 2012 at 1:23 AM

    I am studying Japanese; I have one-on-one tutoring once a week, and then I self study too. I once took classes, but I thought the pace as too slow and we were getting nowhere. I sort of miss having classmates to be honest, but apart from that… The thing I like with tutoring is that there is a textbook we sort of follow, but I have a word to say in the curriculum. I wanted to learn honorifics, and even though it’s not really needed in “the exam” (now, is the exam needed anyway?) my tutor was happy to teach me. Same with nuances, and slang or other word connotations and etc. I like that I don’t have to follow a curriculum that is set to the JLPT. I want to be able to speak Japanese without limiting myself to do well on an exam. I want to actually use the language which will eventually mean I can pass the exam but not with it being the main focus. I don’t know if I explained myself accurately but oh well. My self study time is pretty average and revolves around other materials that I choose. (o^u^o)

    • Reply
      22 August, 2012 at 6:59 AM

      glad that your tutor is great! 😀 passing exams is definitely not just (or the most important) goal in language learning!

  • Reply
    17 August, 2012 at 3:06 AM

    I wrote a post about my journey through learning Japanese, but in summary:

    I’ve been attending Japanese language school for 4 years and I think it’s a great experience. Even so I don’t think than even the best teacher will teach you EVERYTHING you need to know. Apart from lessons one needs to put in his own effort to gain real knowledge. Honestly, how much can you learn in a group in 2-4 hours? For how long can you stay completely focused? I bet for 30-45 minutes. After that you need a break. While doing a self study you can go and make tea, relax for a second, play with a pet for a while. Self studying gives a lot of freedom but requires a lot motivation and passion.
    If one doesn’t have much time choosing a language school is a great option, especially in the beginning – it gives you time to learn the basics and find your own way to study in the most efficient way.

    • Reply
      22 August, 2012 at 6:37 AM

      language classes are definitely important in the beginning! it gives you a grounding and a sense of how the language works. thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    17 August, 2012 at 3:14 AM

    hi there 🙂
    stumbled upon your blog when i was trying to find out if any fellow singaporean studied both jap & korean and i’ve been following your blog ever since. ^^ a little intro to myself. i started taking jap classes earlier this year and recently discovered i had an interest in korean language. (which explains how i came upon your blog)

    anyway, back to the topic. the jap classes i take are not conducted by a language school but by a local proficient in the language. i guess i agree with all your points regarding why classes are beneficial. being a quiet person, i’m kinda ‘forced to speak up’ in class. if i were in a regular language school, guess i’ll just hide in a corner and not interact with others. 😡

    fortunately, the teacher doesn’t possess the disadvantages you listed when conducting classes. we are encouraged to read up on extra information & he introduces slang & etc during lessons. sorry if i seem longwinded. よろしくお願いします (^ν^)

    • Reply
      22 August, 2012 at 6:31 AM

      it’s great to hear that you have a good teacher!! Hope to see you around the blog often!

  • Reply
    17 August, 2012 at 3:35 AM

    Well Shanna, sorry that I can’t make this topic debateable for you :(… But I will share my opinions based on my own experiences. I started Japanese last year September in my home country Jamaica. The teacher is native Japanese and although I agree that being taught in Japan would be totally different from being taught in Jamaica I will say that having a native teacher does somewhat aid in trying to give the students that ‘native approach’ to learning the language. My teacher, as most Japanese are, is very dedicated, efficient and hard-working. I think the real issue, in my situation, (putting aside the students I’ve met, who obviously aren’t Japanese, and the cirriculum, which as you said would be different) is the fact that the students’ motivation and goals do not meet my teacher’s standards and expectations. I’ve analyzed the reason to be because of the different cultures. In Jamaica students (most) are very laid back and with an elective subject such as Japanese which is not Math or Physics, the ‘need’ to study Japanese is far less than the ‘need’ to study Math or other ‘core’ subects and so, poor Japanese is put on the back burner. So yea, I feel as if we were to work alongside our teacher, it would somewhat bridge the gap between learning the lang. out here vs. learning the lang. in Japan. Also, I can’t tell you how much times I’ve heard the ‘Oh, we’re skipping chapter 9 and we’ll go back to it when you start level 2 Japanese’, and other similar comments –____– For me, personally I must admit these comments didn’t bother me as much since I’m comfortable with the pace she’s teaching at (though sometimes I feel she’s going wayy too fast, but hey challenge is good yea? :P) The reason why I am comfortable with the pace is because 1. I’m only doing Japanese cause Korean isn’t offered at my uni. 2. I don’t study Japanese as much as I should :'(… lack of self-motivation I guess, and the interest to self-study Korean is more prominent :3… I guess my final note would be that I do agree that learning from an institution has its pros and cons and it surely does, as you said, depend on the person and what they are in for to decide which course or method of studying is better for them.. 🙂

    • Reply
      22 August, 2012 at 6:32 AM

      heh challenge is definitely good! ^^ Keep going at it and maybe you will find more interest in Japanese than you thought 😀

      • Reply
        22 August, 2012 at 8:39 PM

        Yea, it surely is. 🙂 I will and I hope so too~ 🙂 Thanks! ^^

  • Reply
    Lucie Dvorakova
    17 August, 2012 at 5:23 AM

    So my take on this. When I first started self-studying, which was in my second year at uni… that is now three years ago, which makes me ashamed that I am still only at an elementary level. But I digress. With not really knowing where to find good material, where to exactly started, I soon gave up and picked it up again almost a year later. I had difficulty remembering the writing system, especially all the “vowels” and I had trouble remembering words. Also the Sogang online lessons weren’t exactly the best option. I think I would have welcomed some formal classes, which might have guided me more easily into the language. However it was in my MSc year that I finally managed to finally start properly self studying and soon I could see progress. I found inner motivation, which I think is always important, even if you take formal lessons.
    For some reason people go to a language class thinking they’ll be able to carry out conversations, but most of the time (from personal experience) language classes are a process of repetition and translation and on top of that, most people only put in 1.5hours of effort (maybe 2-3 hours) on average every week.
    I take this from personal experience as an English teacher now. I try not to waste time doing too many grammar exercises (instead I leave that for homework and maybe group check). I try to force people to speak and try to challenge them by speaking only in English even if they are beginners (only when people are confused I might simultaneously translate).
    I think with a large percentage of language learner over 50% (or maybe more) are just eternal beginners. Many people give up after finding out that they just won’t learn to hold a conversation in 3 months if they put in minimum effort. And what annoys me the most “Why do you say it like this ~~ because if I translate it into Czech it doesn’t make sense?” This is the point in class where I head wall.
    Before this turns into a long ramble I must say a combination of both is good, but that has to include a very good/inspirational/motivation/fun language teacher. But the core is to know what is your goal … be fluent? Be able to communicate at a relatively good level? Understand news articles? Whatever the case, it comes down to the student whether they learn a language or not.

    • Reply
      22 August, 2012 at 6:36 AM

      totally agreed!!! thanks for sharing!

      ‘For some reason people go to a language class thinking they’ll be able to carry out conversations, but most of the time (from personal experience) language classes are a process of repetition and translation and on top of that, most people only put in 1.5hours of effort (maybe 2-3 hours) on average every week.’ – 동감!!

      Looking at our goals before deciding our methods is definitely important

  • Reply
    17 August, 2012 at 9:06 AM

    Previously,I took korean course in my city. But,honestly, i don’t reach what I targeted. Many lessons were skipped due to the time allotment. And the explanation is kinda too common. I just forced myself to always get interested. But actually I wanted more. Recently, I self-study. Reading books and following online lessons. I love it more. I find my own strategies during the process which suits me well. I can learn the colloquial expressions from native teachers rather than text-book expressions that I learned during my course. And I find my Korean is getting better by self-studying since I experience the process with my own strategy and I get involved totally. I am always excited looking at my colorful notebook and my getting natural-handwriting hangeul. ^__^

    • Reply
      22 August, 2012 at 6:27 AM

      Glad self studying is working out for you! I totally agree about getting involved totally! ^^ post a photo of your notebook! 😀

  • Reply
    17 August, 2012 at 10:12 AM

    I actually liked lessons because I seem to retain information better when someone says/explains it to me. The main thing holding me back from taking more lessons is the cost >..<) BUT I do believe these lessons are necessary at the beginning to get the basics right, after which self studying is great 😀

    I started learning Korean by self-studying but didn't get anywhere 🙁 yes I could read Hangeul, but that was about it. I didn't know of conjugations and such, so even though I bought a dictionary, I could never find what I wanted because they are in different forms =/ It was only after I took lessons that I had the *lightbulb moment* and realized I was doing it wrong all the while -facepalm-. But at this point in time, I like self-studying because I can choose my materials (드라마 영상만화!!! ㅋㅋㅋ) and it's all about vocab and grammar building now anyway ^^

    • Reply
      17 August, 2012 at 4:47 PM

      I second what was said earlier by Weixin. I think taking formal lessons is important during the initial stage of learning korean/any other language for that matter. I believe a teacher is employed for a reason : to guide the clueless. With a teacher around, at least, the new learner will know where to kickstart his/her new learning journey, which book to use, how to read the alphabets, how to pronounce it in the native way, etc.
      It’s not that I’m condemning self-study. Sadly, not everybody is cut for self-study. It all depends on the motivation level of the individual. To succeed in self-studying a language, it takes a lot of determination, guts, sacrifice, discipline and dedication. And not everyone is ready to sacrifice what little amount of time they had just to sit at their desk, pore over those boring textbooks instead of spending time with friends over a cup of coffee, after school/work or during weekends.
      Also, every individual develop differently. Some have brain cells that absorb information like a sponge, while the rest digest new information slower than their counterparts.
      All in all, if you’re planning to study a new language, first, get to know yourself before you decide to take the leap – whether to choose self-study or taking lessons. What works for others may not work for you.
      As for me, I’m at a comfortable stage now where I can self-study, and choose whatever materials that I wish to learn (manhwa, webtoon, textbooks, novels, assessment books, etc) And this was achieved after a short stint of taking lessons at the initial stage of my study(1st a classroom setting and next a one-on-one with a friend and tutor) ^^

    • Reply
      22 August, 2012 at 6:34 AM

      hehe totally agree! I also starte out learning hangul on my own and that part was alright. came to learning vocab and i smartly look at song lyrics thinking that each thingy between spaces are words.. like English. #failmoment

      basic lessons are definitely recommended before self studying!

  • Reply
    22 August, 2012 at 5:41 AM

    I’ve noticed you got a lot of long comments already and I would hate to give you more reading, but I do have some input ^_^

    So I agree that self studying and classes are different and that lessons can be quite restricted. But I notice that you separate classes and self studying so much. I’m currently self studying Korean and going to classes for Japanese. But the thing is that for me, classes are the biggest supporters of self studying. Yes they are structured, but nobody stops you from studying on your own along side with what the class is doing. To me, if a student skips over things or doesn’t continue to self study outside of curriculum, then he or she just isn’t as motivated as people like us are.

    In my Japanese class now, my teacher is not that great to be honest. But he definitely helps to give guidelines in what I should know. Because he speaks Japanese, I have someone to spot the mistakes when I speak. In addition if I am self studying a specific topic and find the information on the internet or wherever lacking, then I can ask my teacher for material or for some input on the topic. I think that classes help a lot when you actually have someone to give you information, but I think you can get stuck in ruts, or worse get discouraged from a language because of teachers, if you don’t study along with it.


    • Reply
      22 August, 2012 at 6:23 AM

      haha! This is the first time someone told me that but come to think of it, I really do separate them. I think it’s more of I separate local classes with self studying. I think Korea lessons + self studying is awesome. lol. Much of that has to do with cost and motivation. Local classes are usually a lot slower and is super expensive. When I think about how much I’m spending on classes when I can attain the same level on my own in a faster and cheaper way, I opt for self studying. Also, maybe it’s just me but I like my classes challenging and it affects me when things are super slow or the teacher just doesnt explain much at all. I’ve taken Japanese lessons in university and the teacher usually doesnt bother to correct our pronunciation – which is one of the major things i’m looking out for in a classroom setting. And I get really bored when I’m being made to repeat things over and over again. :/ Like I say, learning a language is about finding the right style for each of us. I’m glad lessons worked out for you! 😀

      Thanks for offering the other perspective!! 😀

      • Reply
        22 August, 2012 at 1:29 PM

        No problem! I find your blog posts very interesting. I find it sad that I’m such a late comer to the party.

        Anyhow, I can see how it could get frustrating that way, I am not a structured learner myself. Although, some things I find hard to get cemented in my head. Especially now when I’m just starting to brush into harder Korean, I find things sticking in my head less and less and I need some more interaction to learn. Maybe if I had more time filled Korean Learning/Speaking friends, it would be easier. But most of the friends I have are either very busy, or I don’t feel comfortable asking them to do a ‘lesson’ with me. I guess this is why I would support Korean classes with Self Study, because then you could get both the ‘self study’ goals and plans, while having the outlet to practice and track usability of the Korean you learn.

  • Reply
    22 August, 2012 at 7:07 AM

    Great post Shanna. I hope this post breaks the myths or the preconceived notions of many new language learners that we need to take classes to learn a language and self study is too hard and also vice versa too.

    There are many Indians who are not learning Korean for this above reason of not having Korean classes in India and that self study is just not possible.

    Now, coming to the point which I wanted to mention about slang. I did not read all the comments so I hope this point is not mentioned already.

    First, I think we might be using the terms slang and colloquialism interchangeable because their meanings are pretty similar when they don’t really mean the same.

    this small post is explaining the very small difference slang and colloquialism has (not that we don’t know it) :

    So what my point is teachers in the language class may or may not be preferring to teach slang. It might depend from teacher to teacher based on gender, age and their way of teaching.



  • Reply
    22 August, 2012 at 7:16 AM

    Reblogged this on Prash learns Korean and commented:
    I wanted to write a blog post on this topic before but I haven’t really taken classes much, except for few classes I went to conducted by Korean Consulate in Toronto, Canada, to really comment on it more elaborately like how Shanna did in this post.

    I realized that many of my Indian friends (mostly online) who are interested in learning foreign languages, especially Korean are not doing it because they are hoping for professional classes in India which are not available in their places. I hope this post breaks their myths about class room lessons and that self study can actually be more advantageous to some than class room lessons.

  • Reply
    5 November, 2012 at 12:50 AM

    I’ve tried both. And I must admit I’ve learned a lot from attending classes and have enjoyed it. Good thing my 선생님 likes challenging her students with lessons a notch higher than the students’. It encourages us/me to study harder. But it also makes some students/me drifts away if things starts to get too difficult. What I like in self-studying is being able to concentrate on something you are not so good at and just skimming through something you are confident about. I get impatient when my teacher would spent minutes explaining a word or a grammar that I have already learned/is confident in using because most classmates are still lost. And I equally hate it when my teacher will skim through some items/points because it was already discussed and she believes everyone knows it by heart but it will be something I am not very confident with and wants/needs more time to get be comfortable with it. I like the freedom of selfstudying. you don’t have to match the pace of your teacher or classmates. You can also make up your own methods of learning. Yes it is fun in the classroom (yeah, lucky I had nice classmates), but selfstudying, contrary to what others think, is equally fun – actually even more fun. Especially with a community like ours (again, all thanks to you Shanna!) and the internet we are not really alone in selfstudying. If you have questions, you can always ask in lang8 or harukorean or your korean friend via kakaotalk. You can naver and google and check your korean dramas. The main problem in selfstudying for me is discipline. I still need to learn how to increase my pace when i selfstudy. I have a tendency to linger too much on some things, and of course stop studying too many a time. and then waste hours to review where i left off when i decide to continue.

    • Reply
      5 November, 2012 at 11:43 AM

      yes, i love the freedom of self studying XD somehow i like to be in control of my own learning ㅋㅋㅋ it’s good that you can do both though, both methods will complement each other 😀 if it’s a good class.

  • Reply
    17 October, 2015 at 7:20 AM

    I know this article is quite old but I gotta add my two cents. I find that the only good thing about formal lessons is that the teacher will help you and point out your mistakes and that you can practice speaking (I pretend that I’m talking on the phone to a Korean friend sometimes to practice speaking). I’ve been taking French for 5 years at school and while I’m at the top of the class, I still wouldn’t be able to have a decent, natural conversation with a French person (sadly true) because we are given a set of set phrases to use and memorise. Well, how will that help anyone? Really, the only thing these classes test is your memory capacity. And besides, if you’re good at picking up langauages, classes will be a massive bore. For people who are independent and have a set goal and aren’t afraid of speed, they should just self study. To make this more efficient, you should also find some friends who are learning the language and are around the same level. You can practice with each other. For example, I text my friend in Korean. Her level is still beginner so she speaks in English but still tried to understand me. I get to practice Korean and she gets to understand sentence structure better and learns new vocabulary. To be honest, study groups are more efficient than any formal lessons. They enable you to interact with people yet allow you to learn at your own pace.

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