9 In Korean learning journey (:

4 long years and all the what-ifs

A terribly busy semester and lack of time is making me increasingly irritable these days. And I suddenly thought of a few questions and negative thoughts that plagued me from time to time. I think most self-learners will have such thoughts from time to time and I just want to share my thoughts. Not encouraging any negativity (:

Although most people think that it’s already pretty good that I’m more or less fluent (depends) in Korean after FOUR years, I have heard comments like oh, My friend was fluent in TWO years, why did it take you FOUR years. ㅋㅋ

and all that what-ifs came to my mind.

  • What if I have the financial luxury to study Korean in Korea for a long period of time (over a year) when I first started learning Korean? – By now I’m kinda stuck in my writing habits and it’s 10 times harder to get rid of the wrong habits
  • What if I was able to take Korean lessons? Would I have reached my standard now in a shorter period of time? – Will I have a better accent? I’m kinda stuck now too in my weird accent.
  • etc etc

I have friends who are studying for long periods in Korea and they come back with a higher proficiency / more accurate accent in a shorter time period or with less effort than self-learners.

I’m not saying that it’s unfair or anything, but I just wondered what I would have been if I had the same opportunities. Could I have been much better?

And whether it is true or not is a different story, but people tend to see those who have lived in Korea / studied in Korea as better and more proficient than self learners, even though both may be holding a TOPIK level 6 cert, just saying.

ㅎㅎ We just have to put in 10 times the effort to gain the recognition. Here’s hoping that effort can trump the lack of finances/luxury of time.

This is probably why I really want to achieve that TOPIK level 6. I just want to show that being a self-learner does not necessarily mean you can’t achieve proficiency.

Okay, I don’t really know what I’m talking about anymore. All that report writing has fried my brains.

Any negative thoughts you had in your learning journey? ^^

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  • Reply
    11 March, 2012 at 12:30 PM

    Didn’t you take classes before in Singapore when you were just starting out? I kinda remember reading your posts about your Korean classes.

    I’ve had a lot of negative thoughts these days. I keep doubting myself and I often wonder if it would be better if I just take classes instead. But then again being in a class can be a let down as well because there’s a tendency for classes to be slow because not everyone in the class are fast learners and the teacher has to adjust for the benefit of those who are having difficulties in catching up. And I’m the type who gets irritated if we have to go back to the previous lesson over and over again until everyone catches up. Just the thought of it scares and irritates me and I end up thinking that self-study is better because you can set your own pace. You can go fast or take it slow.

    • Reply
      11 March, 2012 at 3:23 PM

      I’ve tried both classroom and self-studying. I enjoyed my classes because of my wonderful classmates and excellent professors, but I also like learning on my own pace, especially these days because I can focus on what/where I am not good at and I could just skim through the things that I am already familiar with.

      • Reply
        11 March, 2012 at 4:20 PM

        I’ve tried learning Fookien in a classroom 9 years ago. I did enjoy it for a short period of time. I wanted to learn more but the pace was too slow and eventually my interest in the language died an early death probably because the class started to bore the hell out of me. If I had self-studied Fookien, I think things would have been different. I could probably speak it without much difficulties by now. I enjoy self-studying more. I set my own pace, choose my own strategy, and most of all no one forces me to memorize a looooong list of words which I will probably forget in a week or two. XD

  • Reply
    11 March, 2012 at 3:38 PM

    Haha! What’s this Shanna? I can totally relate! Was it because of the many ‘requirements’ (papers, reports, readings) that we, linguistics students, have to endure this semester?

    Who knows? Maybe if you’ve had opportunities to study in Korea or had formal Korean lessons you will not be as diligent as you are in studying Korean.

    I also have my what-ifs. In my case, since not a lot of people (or students in particular) here can’t afford to send themselves to Korea to study, most students rely on scholarship programs. Unfortunately I’m not one of them (yet!). Most students who went on exchange can speak Korean better as compared to those who haven’t *cough* and those who are self-studying *cough*, but not necessarily have a firmer grasp of better understanding of the language. They are just more comfortable in speaking I guess. What annoys me is that some, if not most, of them didn’t take advantage of the Korean classes they took and the opportunity to practice their Korean while staying in Korea. While other students left behind have to exert yes, 10 times the effort with few resources, few opportunities to practice, while juggling other school stuff at the same time. I just wish they saw the value of what they have.

    This is why I also really want to achieve TOPIK level 4 (or 3 at least. No, 4!). I also just want to show that being a self-learner, even those who haven’t had a chance to study in Korea, can also achieve a high level of proficiency.

    Gah! I also don’t know what I’m talking about because Chomsky has fried my brain last week and now Government & Binding theory is eating them (sidenote: what kind of linguistics do you study? applied or theoretical?).

  • Reply
    Lucie Dvorakova
    12 March, 2012 at 3:08 AM

    I completely hate “What if” because in the end I come to the conclusion that I could have done a thousand things differently and better. What if I adopted better learning techniques and greater dedication to my japanese, korean and french studies. What if I went to special summer language courses earlier and worked harder. Yes, I would have had better work opportunities, maybe a chance to study at uni in japan or Korea or even an opportunity to work there. If I started learning Korean better, I might have achieved intermediate level by now…. but whatever. The list can go on. Don’t get down by such what if thoughts. Make the best thoughts of what you have. And to self-learn a language the way you have to such a level, I think that requires a lot more dedication than just going somewhere to study.

    Good luck with all the work and stress!

  • Reply
    13 March, 2012 at 12:03 PM

    don’t get put off from comments by people like that. i’ve NEVER even been to korea and never had the luxury of attending a SINGLE korean class. i’m probably of a lower standard from you even though we’re of the same age and took more or less around the same time to get to where we are, because my standard of korean is solely based on self-studying (and conversing with korean friends), but i’ve never let comments like that get to me. i’m sure you had to do other things and time wasn’t on your side, or you simply did not have the opportunity just like me. and if you had in the past, i’m sure you would have mastered the language at a much faster rate. and anyway no korean is going to look at you condescendingly just cause you took longer than some others. cheer up (:

  • Reply
    13 March, 2012 at 2:47 PM

    I think learning a language is for one’s communications with friends, not for other people’s recognition or praises. It’s not test score comparison with others, otherwise, we lose all the fun along the way. We all have ups and downs from time to time. Just cheer up and keep it going.

  • Reply
    13 March, 2012 at 2:48 PM

    I think learning a language is for one’s communications with friends, not for other people’s recognition or praises. It’s not test score comparison with others, otherwise, we lose all the fun along the way. We all have ups and downs from time to time. Just cheer up and keep it going.

  • Reply
    Zach Sarette (@SuperRocketZach)
    15 March, 2012 at 10:04 PM

    Hey! I just got back from my second Korean class today!

    It helps to be in the country, but it’s not a necessity. I self studied until this week. The classroom is very very different than how people talk. There is so much to learn. But the more you learn, the more you get better at it. My Raison d’être is languages. I can tell you that you are never stuck. You are just learning different things. Taking a class has taught me a lot so far (I know it’s only been a week). But I learned quite a bit by myself without class. And I still do.

    Who cares how long it takes you? And why do you use a stupid test to measure your ability? Your mind is a living organism that cannot be measured so easily.

    Gonna write more about that tomorrow. I’ve been so busy these two weeks!


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