This is part of an ongoing special series when 1-2 Korean learners/bloggers each week are invited to share their Korean learning journey! It will be nice if you can leave a comment after reading! ^^ To participate in the series, check out this post. Check out previous entries HERE.
About the guest author:
Jessica. 21. Singaporean. Has learnt Korean for 1.5 years and hope to continue learning the language. twitter@jessicahcy
My Korean Language Learning Journey
I discovered Kpop in January 2010 because of the Korean drama “You’re beautiful”. I loved the drama’s characters, humour and plot development so much that it immediately ignited a passion in me for all things Korean. Because of Lee Hong Ki in the drama, I got to know about FT Island and from there, I began to learn about other Korean bands.
I loved Kpop so much to a point that I remembered feeling frustrated at not being able to understand what my idols were talking and singing about because I wanted to understand them from what they say and not what subbing groups translate. If I did that, I thought that I would be a step closer to the idols. (No offence to the subbing groups! I love you guys for working so hard to translate videos. THANKS SO MUCH <3 <3 <3)
I started learning Korean in school in August 2010. I was lucky to have had a very enthusiastic Korean teacher who makes learning Korean fun and classmates who were as enthusiastic about Kpop and Korean as me. It makes going to lessons really fun and further increased my interest in learning Korean and its culture.
It was during this point in time that many Kpop group members began making Twitter accounts. I was really ecstatic to be able to understand some of the tweets that were made. I recall that the highlight of any day was when I was able to understand just part of a tweet.
I went to Korea for the first time when I attended Ewha Womans’ University’s International Summer College Session I in June 2011. It was one of the best times of my life because I was exhilarated at the freedom to explore a foreign country. It was the best adventure. I had many new experiences and made many friends.
I visited bookstores every other day to search for Learning Korean books. The number and variety of books available was amazing! Many of the books were not available in Singapore. I bought about ten learning Korean books when I was there. The books were priced affordably. I also bought an electronic dictionary that helps me a lot when I am reading textbooks and doing assignments.
I realised that the little Korean I learnt could not help me navigate the country. I depended a lot on the help of strangers and tourist guides. But whenever I could understand Korean that was spoken by native Koreans, I was ecstatic! I was not that helpless after all! I wasn’t learning Korean for nothing! What I have learnt had come into use! I could understand like 1 or 2% of what they were saying! And to me that was an achievement.
I took Korean lessons at Ewha 3 hours a day from Mondays to Thursdays for 4 weeks. Lessons were taught totally in Korean. The teacher could not speak English and whenever we asked her questions, she tried to explain using gestures and simple Korean words. I think it’s one of the best ways to teach a language because by the end of the course, I realised that my speaking and my listening have improved immensely. So have my other classmates. I loved the teacher too because she was just so funny and enthusiastic. She made learning Korean an interesting thing to do.
I believe that my speaking and listening improved not just because of the Korean lessons I took at Ewha. Staying in Korea and listening to Korean 24/7 helped immensely. In Korea, when I spoke Korean, random strangers would help to correct my pronunciation and what I said. This is a great way to learn.
When I was at Ewha, I learnt about a scholarship scheme for students from Africa. They learn Korean 6 hours a day every day for a year. They then study for their degree in Korean universities. What I was most impressed with was that after such intensive studying, these students gain almost native fluency. To me, this shows that hard work and language immersion works effectively.
But I had a classmate who did not like such a way of learning Korean. She said, “If they are in Korea for a year, but they are not out experiencing the country and are just studying in a classroom, what’s the use of learning the language?” It was a topic of contention for a group of us. We spent some time debating on this issue. What is your take on this?
After I returned to Singapore, I took the Beginners’ Topik test in September 2011 and attained a Level 2 certificate. At first, I did not know if I had learnt enough to get a level 2 certificate because my tutor in school told us that what we had learnt were not sufficient. After taking the exam, I was really afraid that I would fail. When I checked my results and realised that I got a level 2, I was so so excited! I guess taking a language is like taking any other exam. It is important to have exam taking skills. And it does help that most of the Topik exam is in MCQ format.
Now, I am facing problems in my Korean language learning journey.
First, my school does not offer any more Korean lessons. Now I am in a dilemma. Should I continue studying Korean by self-study or attend a Korean Language school such as the Singapore Korean School?
Second, my interest in Kpop is waning and so has my interest in Korean and its culture. However, my interest in Japanese and its culture has revived. What can I do to revive my interest in Korean? Has anyone experienced such a diminishing of interest?
1) Learning a language is not a lonely journey. It is a journey that would be all the more interesting when taken with others.
a. Having a good teacher who will ignite passion in one to learn will make learning a language much easier and aid one on one’s learning journey.
b. Having classmates who share one’s passion will make learning a language more fun and allow one to continue learning.
2) Exposure to a language is important. If possible, immerse oneself in a language in all aspects possible.
3) Passion and interest are important. With passion and interest, no matter how difficult the journey is, how insurmountable the barriers seem, one will always be able to continue forward.
4) Loving Kpop alone is not sufficient. It is important to love a country, its culture and language. Only then will one have the determination and drive to work hard to master the language.
Note: This post is my opinion and experience. I do not mean to offend anyone. If I did, it is unintentional and I apologize. Please be nice ^^