[Special Series – Korean Learners] #7 Stella Hartanto

9 April, 2012

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.

p.s. For those who have submitted their entries, I’m really sorry that I haven’t been keeping up with things because I was so busy. All entries will be published in time (: I really appreciate everyone who wrote in ^^

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I came across your blog approximately six months ago and have been following it ever since…. until one fine day I saw your post inviting guest bloggers to contribute. While I hesitated on whether to write or not (as I am not sure if my Korean learning journey had been an interesting one), I eventually decided to share my experience while at the same time allowing me to take a nostalgic trip down my memory lane trying to remember how I got hooked up with all things related to Korea in the first place.

A brief introduction of myself, I am an Indonesian who has been living in Singapore since 1998. I started developing an interest in Korean-related materials back in 2000, fresh from completing the drama Autumn in My Heart and falling deeply for probably the most handsome man I had ever seen in my life at that time, Won Bin (not that he is any less handsome now than he was then, just that my list has since grown tenfold). Even though, my first interest in Korea may sound very superficial, this eventually sparked off my interest in watching more K-Dramas. From Winter Sonata to Stairway to Heaven, I spend hours of my secondary school life (accompanied with lots of tissues, considering the tragic nature that embodied most of the storyline then) watching these dramas secretly in my room instead of studying for exams or having my beauty sleep.

However, in 2005, I moved to Vancouver (Canada) to pursue my Bachelor degree and this also marked the starting point of my rocky, on-off relationship with my Korean interest. Back then, way before the global Hallyu phenomenon that it is currently experiencing, Korea was still very much unknown to the Western world. I could literally count with my fingers the number of people I encountered then that had ever watched a single K-Drama in their life. It became very difficult for me to constantly keep up with my interest as I did not have anyone to share my passion with, and at that time there were also very few blogs / news portals (and of course no Twitter) to provide me with comprehensive and up-to-date coverage of Korea-related activities. Hence, my interest became seasonal and limited only to those days where there were new K-Dramas that caught my interests (such as My Girl, My Lovely Sam-Soon, etc.), which reignited my passion only for it to eventually die down few weeks after.

It was not until the year of 2009, coupled with battling difficulties in finding English subs as well as lack of patience on my part to wait for these subs, I decided to pursue my Korean interest seriously (after 9 long goddamn years!) and took this further beyond mere watching – I made up my mind to learn the language. I was lucky enough to come across a female Korean student who also happened to be interested in learning English language; together we decided to meet up once a week just to learn both languages and to share on the things that we had knowledge of. While it surprised me initially that she wanted to learn about English alphabets on our first encounter (from A to Z as she was not familiar at all with these alphabets), it was a pleasant surprise for me to learn that Hangeul is also a systematic approach much like the English alphabets – which made it a much easier language to study if you compare it with the likes of Mandarin (where you simply have to memorize each and every character!).

I would say that learning the Korean language is a big leap towards augmenting my interest in Korea. While yes, it is at times difficult having to memorize a huge chunk of vocabulary words and grammar points, as well as trying to make sense of the different rules that are present (especially irregular verbs), I have since learnt not to grumble over the unchangeable, and instead just learn to appreciate the language as it is and to keep practicing in order to overcome these difficulties.

Eventually, while I still do need to rely on subtitles to fully understand storylines, it became a personal accomplishment for me to identify familiar and understandable words whenever I am carrying out my usual K-drama obsessions. During that time, I was also introduced by that Korean friend of mine to different Korean songs / group bands and soon became addicted to some of those catchy tunes – much of that being 2PM songs such as Again and Again and Heartbeat which are melodramatic, deep in meanings yet captivating at the same time (okay I may be biased here, shall stop before I turn this post into total fangirling post of 2PM and the wonderful creatures that the group is made up of).

Fast-forward to late 2010, I relocated back to Singapore for work purposes and I must admit that it took me a while to adapt and refocus on my Korean interests. Thankfully for blogs like yours and a few others, I came to know of the availability of Korean classes in community centre. At an affordable rate, I seriously recommend beginners who would like gain more understanding of the Korean language to try out these classes – not only are you able to meet up with like-minded individuals, these classes are also both engaging and enriching!

Aside from these, I also recommend learning through Talk to Me in Korean. I have been an avid follower of this website right from when it first started all the way to its current state (which has included its expansion to Haru Korean, which is an equally useful website where you can contribute and obtain feedbacks from native speakers). This website has been very helpful towards my Korean learning journey as it provides bite-sized lessons that I can download to my phone and listen to during my trip to home / workplace. The sample sentences that are provided for each lesson have also allowed me to have an understanding of how to speak the natural way (beyond merely knowing the structure itself).

Alternatively, being a big supporter of 2PM, I was ‘forced’ to enter the Twitter world (not that I have plenty of spare time, especially with the likes of Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. already in my life). However, I did not regret it at all! Even though I would not consider myself as an active user of Twitter, it has contributed much to my life: I have made a number of Korean friends, made aware of some Korean events happening in Singapore, as well as improved my Korean language from trying to decode tweets that were written by celebrities (even though a lot of times I still have to resort to finding translations in order to understand some of the tweets).

While I am still not good in my Korean language (especially in terms of speaking), I am writing this post to encourage all of you to never give up even though at times you may feel that your Korean learning journey is on-off or even stagnant. As a recap, here are some personal pointers from me on how to keep up with your Korean interest and prevent it from flaming away. Try it for yourself; at least it works for me! 😀

  • First of all, learn the language and of course Hangeul. While learning Hangeul may be challenging initially, trust me that it will definitely be useful at a later stage and you are bound to impress others by showing off your ability to read Korean language (even though you might not necessarily understand it!)
  • It is best to either commit yourself to a study session with Korean friend(s) or to join a Korean class; this way even when you are faced with those days where you are feeling too lazy to study (yes, I am guilty of having those thoughts at times), you will still be forced to keep learning and not give up.
  • Search for K-Dramas / variety shows that interest you. Of course, it will be a plus to find one that has eyecandies in it! If you are looking for recommendations, one of my personal favorite will be Running Man – which is basically a variety show that is smartly executed, entertaining and at times crazily hilarious.
  • Aside from offline methods, there are also plenty of online methods that can aid your Korean learning. You can either try going to Korean learning web portals such as Talk to Me in Korean or join the Twittersphere, follow as many Korean celebrities as you can (look for those that are active on Twitter!), and try to decipher the tweets they post.

Lastly, I am open to making as many new friends as possible, especially those who share a similar passion. Please feel free to follow me on twitter @stellahartanto and ask me any other questions you would like to know!

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