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 Author:
Zach Sarette has delved into learning many languages of the world including Japanese, Spanish, Latin, Italian, Hungarian and Arabic. He has also developed a few web applications for language learning. He is currently in Korea learning Korean while teaching English at a middle school in Ulsan. He’s going to share with us a bit about his journey with Korean.
Q: Can you tell me about the first impressions you’ve had with Korean?
A: “안녕하세요?” was not the first Korean word I learned.
It was 지구. How beautiful is that?
In my high school English class we had to do a transcendental presentation in groups. We wanted to make something cool about the earth and all that jazz. So I said, “Hey! Let’s do a song!”
We started brainstorming lyrics. We were thinking about using the Latin word “tera” instead of Earth to make it sound more cool. But then we asked our Korean classmate who was in our group what Earth was in Korean. Then I proceeded to write a song heavily influenced by U2’s “In God’s Country”. Same chords and beat, different lyrics. It was called “In 지구.”
Other than that I wasn’t really interested in Korean as a language until much much later.
My first Korean song I’ve ever heard was this video: http://youtu.be/EVJ3G0e5Q5o
My brother showed me it. I was in my hardcore watching only Japanese stuff phase. He was like “Zach, I know It’s not Japanese but you gotta see this…” And I thought, hey! It’s not English, it won’t hurt.
Q: How did you get started learning?
A: After struggling with figuring out how to learn Japanese, I had a good sense of how to go about learning languages. I ordered a novel in Korean and I looked for a really good text book on Amazon.
I really hate language text books, but I figured it was a good place to start. I needed something that was as good as the Japanese textbook I bought. I finally stumbled upon “Integrated Korean.” That was kind of painful to read. I ended up being bored with it and mostly just read the dialogues and tried to understand them.
As for the Korean novel, I kidnapped a Korean princess from Busan, tied her to a chair and forced her to read it aloud while I shoved a microphone in her face. I tried listening to the recording every night before I went to bed so I could try to pick out the words as I followed along with my finger in the book. It started to work pretty well… and then I got bored with it.
At least, that’s how I got started. It lasted for a few weeks. Then I went back to learning Japanese and teaching myself how to program web applications.
Q: What motivated you to learn Korean?
A: Korean slowly came out of talking to my Japanese friends and resisting learning Korean.
Yes, I didn’t want to learn Korean, just like I didn’t want to learn Chinese. I thought that I only wanted to learn Japanese. But I noticed a lot of people who had already learned quite a bit of Japanese were then studying Korean or Chinese.
And at that point, I had to be honest with myself. I was mostly worried that I wouldn’t get good at Japanese if I tried to learn Korean and Chinese as well. But then I realized that was all a bunch of garbage holding me back from my desires.
I really do want to learn more than just Japanese. In fact, I want to become a super polyglot! I love languages and discovering the world! And that’s when I told myself I would become fluent in all three.
And would you look at me now! I never really studied any language in a formal setting except 1 year of Latin and 3 years of Spanish.
My first Spanish teacher told us a joke that reflects the attitude of a lot of people in countries like America:
Teacher: “What do you call somebody who speaks three languages?”
Teacher: “What do you call somebody who speaks two languages?”
Teacher: “What do you call somebody who speaks one language?
Students: ” 🙁 ”
This attitude makes me sad. I see it everywhere. That also motivates me to learn even more!
Flip them the bird and ignore them. Then go learn and grow and conquer!
Q: How do you learn Korean now?
A: Well, there’s no one way. But! I’m very much into watching comedy shows and movies. I also read comic books and sometimes delve into more harder material to see if I can pick up some interesting phrases. Sometimes I use a dictionary, somethings I just try to infer meaning through context. Basically I do whatever I want like.
However, I do believe that building up a good core of the language from a class room or other beginner material such as a few textbooks is essential to jumpstarting the learning process. That’s why I’ll be taking a formal class at the University of Ulsan this March.
Q: What’s the biggest obstacle you face while learning Korean?
A: My inner struggle. That includes worries, distractions, curiosity, my emotions and maintaining a balanced lifestyle.
Q: Would you like recommend any books for learning Korean?
A: No. But I will…
I would recommend “Survival Korean” and “Integrated Korean” for textbooks, but I’d also recommend just finding something you would normally read in your native language and read that. Whatever peaks your interest. The more native material you can conquer the better. Trust your gut on it. Test out the book. If you don’t like it move on to something else and quick.
Q: Any last words for people out there starting to learn Korean?
I hate K-pop. K-dramas are also kinda boring for me. There are so many more interesting things in Korea. You don’t have to like dramas or K-pop. But if you do that’s cool.
There’s a lot of pressure I think to like dramas and K-pop. I personally really like Korean movies and I like watching Anime dubbed in Korean. They also have ridiculously awesome comedy shows. My favorite right now is called “Comedy Big League.” You can watch clips of it off of TVN’s website too if you’re interested.
Language is a rolling cycle of a skill extracting information in the form of patterns of meaning. Developing the skill greatly affects your ability to acquire information.
In other words, learn how to listen, pronounce and read Korean. Then learn to touch type. Then you can delve into the real language using a good web dictionary such as this one: http://www.dic.naver.com
Don’t do romanization. It will mess you up. I absolutely hate romanization. I was saying “See- ole” for the longest time. I think Romanization was invented to keep foreigners from learning Korean.
DAMNIT! My manga is getting cold. Sorry, I gotta read!
Good luck guys, and go kick some butt!