This post is inspired by a conversation with a good friend a week ago ^^ We were talking about studying Korean and he started telling me about his frustration with his listening skills in Korean. He’s a non-Asian living in Korea right now. This means that he gets loads of input around him, but he pointed out that once he asked the other person to repeat / give a sign that he’s not catching the conversation, the other party will automatically switch to English and he doesn’t get anymore listening practice.
This doesn’t really happen to me, maybe because I am Asian and the Koreans find it more ‘natural’ to speak to me in Korean? haha I don’t know.
The conversation brought back memories of the development of my own speaking skills. I remembered that when I first started out in 2008, the first 6 months or so were a little difficult. I had to put in 1000000% concentration and to listen to short dialogues (from textbooks etc) repeatedly in order to catch what they are saying. Everything in dramas etc were still like a whole string of speech to me.
Things got better slowly and I had no troubles with parsing the speech and listening to material for my standard. My listening improved with my grammar and my vocabulary bank.
It’s easier to ‘hear’ something that you know than something that you are unfamiliar with. Especially for foreign languages. You can recognize a known word more easily compared to a new word even though you technically know all the sounds in Korean. Does that make sense? This also probably explain why it’s so easy to hear and understand your native language in a noisy environment while you need to turn on the volume loud and be in a quiet environment for a foreign language.
It’s hilarious, but does anyone has the experience of turning the volume louder in the illusion that if you do so, you can catch the words in Korean more easily? I know I’m guilty of that.
I glare at anyone who disturbs me when I’m listening to those dialogues on the CDs.
Similarly, it’s easier to catch a known grammar structure than an unknown one. That is why listening skills will improve proportionately to your other proficiencies. That being said, it’s not true that you don’t have to do additional practice. Listening practice is still very much important.
But I want to stress something: Do not be too harsh on yourself if you still have difficulty with it.
Let me share my experiences ^^ When I finally begin to be able to understand natural speech (not in the textbook CDs), I can only concentrate for maybe 30 mins or so before I get so exhausted and stop comprehending.
When I first talked to a Korean via phone / skype calls, I was simply a nervous wreck. It was SO MENTALLY DRAINING. It’s a natural process.
The first breakthrough for me was when I first went to Korea. Suddenly, everything becomes clearer. A sudden jump.
When I came back, I could suddenly hold a Korean conversation (in terms of listening) for an hour or so before I start spacing out again. xD
And during that year, there was another sudden jump (in Singapore) where I could start understanding dramas / shows without subs. A little tedious, but I’m still able to do so. That feeling is awesome. It’s like something is being unblocked in your mind.
The next sudden jump was my next trip to Korea. And everything becomes SUPER CLEAR. I could hang out with a bunch of Koreans (who do not slow down for me) for half a day and I am still very much alive and energetic.
By the end of the trip, I could hang out with Koreans (and listen to them) all day long (:
I am now able to watch sageuks without subs (or at least 해품달) and also majority of other types of programs.
I’m still a little iffy with movies where there tends to be VERY FAST speech and loads of mumbling, but I have watched several movies without subs.
All these took me 4 years. ^^
Everyone is different and you can take a shorter or a longer time than me. Just want to share my experiences to encourage those who are experiencing frustrations with their Korean studies (:
I need to read more inspiring posts for Japanese OTL
I always welcome suggestions on what to blog about. It helps me too xD