15 In Korean learning journey (:/ Others / General

What you wanna hear, I tell you .. (maybe not)

I think I’m in one of those moods again. Getting worked up over peanuts and then wondering why the heck am I so annoyed a few hours later.

Recently, I’ve been asked quite a number of questions. And I noticed how sometimes the asker already has an answer in mind and all I’m supposed to do is to corroborate with whatever he/she has in mind. They are just asking to hear the answer that they are seeking. Of course, I get a whole range. From mildly amusing to downright annoying.

For the mildly amusing (interesting?).

A lot of people like to ask me if Korean is a difficult language to learn. Both Koreans and foreigners (who may or may not be learning Korean). I usually have a range of answers, depending on whether I want to honest, thoughtful or accommodating. lol.

My most honest answer is:

It’s not difficult. I won’t be arrogant and call it “easy”. There are certain challenges but I’ve never felt stuck while learning Korean. Maybe I do have an affinity with Korean, cos I absorb everything really fast and I’ve never felt that anything was particularly difficult. I learn vocabulary fast, same for the the grammar points. Of course, everything still takes time (language learning is cumulative), but I do find that I’ve a pretty fast and smooth learning journey. 

Most people find that answer hard to accept. There must be something difficult right? It can’t be all that easy? Omg are you a monster? Wow, you are crazy. 

My Korean friends usually find that answer harder to accept. I think that’s because they try to compare it to their own English learning journeys and then start thinking that they have spent twice the time and probably loads more effort (memorizing) but they are still not good enough. But there also a lot of other people who give me that raised eyebrow.

I even have people insisting that I was lying and it can’t possibly be not difficult. The other day I got needled and the person threw out a few properties of Korean and asked if they aren’t difficult. What about the grammar? It’s so different from English. How about this. How about that.

Most of  the time I end up backpedaling a little and then agree with them. Yeah the sentence structure is so different. Yeah verb endings are confusing. Yeah I’m not used to the pronunciation. Yeah the grammar is hard. Yeah there are so much tough vocabulary I find it hard to remember.

And it usually put them more at ease. o.O

Just out of curiosity, I also asked the same question on Facebook. There’s a whole range of answers, which is normal, given out we each have our own weak areas. I love the answer from Esther, and I totally agree with her.

I think it’s as hard as you think it will be. When I first started studying Korean, all the information I looked up said Korean is one of the hardest languages to learn …I let all of that eat my brain and was having a very difficult time learning at first. Until I took on a ‘I’m going to take it day by day’ mindset and it got a lot better. With that in mind….the biggest challenge I faced was 한글 (getting used to it and whatnot) and a lot of context stuff. But I still take it day by day and I’ve gotten a lot better. To the point where I have a few Korean internet penpals and I can communicate with them in Korean most of the time ^.^

Absolutely. I can relate to that. Because I used to find Japanese extremely hard and all that conjugations damn confusing. Well, I really do find Japanese a lot tougher than Korean, but a large part of the “difficulty” I faced stemmed from the fact that I already classified Japanese as “difficult” and it stuck. There’s that mental block where I look at Japanese and the first thought is “damn difficult”. Using Esther’s words, it really ate my brain and I ended up feeling lousy and being lousy. That mentality is (for the most part) gone and that was how I made my breakthrough in Japanese. I’m still horrible at using / speaking it (since I don’t), but reading has progressed nicely.


Back to the topic. On the more annoying end of the spectrum, people have been trying to get me to say that the whole trip has been a waste and it was a bad judgement call. And that I should have “woken up to reality” earlier and just get a stable job and be done with it. No way am I entertaining that. What kind of satisfaction do you get if you hear that from me?

And yes. I have decided to stay here and work. Does that mean I am defeated? That I lost to my own dreams and crawled back to reality? Nope. The mentality is different. I am completely at ease with myself and I’m looking at a new path in life (that I have chosen), instead of feeling that I have lost (to myself, my dreams, whatever) and am forced into a path that I hate.

I do admit that I’m still trying to navigate a life where Korean doesn’t play a central part (5.5 years is a long time…) and to explore my other potentials. (: That, I won’t deny. Like I said, I don’t know if fate (or stubbornness) will pull Korean back into my world, but I have to learn to let go a little.

If you have any preconceived answers in mind, don’t bother asking me those questions.

I’m no longer going to feed your ego, insecurities, mindset, whatever.

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  • Reply
    20 September, 2013 at 12:39 PM

    Good for you! I have a lot of friends studying Mandarin and when they ask why I’m studying Korean instead, I reply that it’s easier for me. I usually get the head shake of disbelief, because they think it must be as difficult as Mandarin. I almost want to answer with, “What do you think?” That way they’re appeased. :/

    • Reply
      21 September, 2013 at 9:40 AM

      hahahaha Korean is easier than Mandarin Chinese, my two cents!

  • Reply
    Xing Wei
    20 September, 2013 at 2:00 PM

    The world will always ask you questions and expect answers they want to hear. Asking the world not to do that is unrealistic. Learn to deal with it.

    • Reply
      20 September, 2013 at 2:02 PM

      Dealing with it. Just not going to feed them what they want.

  • Reply
    Loving Korean
    20 September, 2013 at 3:06 PM

    I also don’t like loaded questions. I don’t mind sharing my opinions and experiences at all, but at least people can keep an open mind before they hear my answer.

    • Reply
      21 September, 2013 at 9:40 AM

      yeah same here! But I guess there are people like that everywhere! Just needed to rant a little!

  • Reply
    Shi Hui
    20 September, 2013 at 3:23 PM

    Exactly, mindset is the most important. I can feel you about those people asking you question and they have a particular “answer” that they wanted to hear,so frustrating. And also, I saw your tweets/blog posts about how you are coping in korea, don’t doubt yourself and since you have already come this far, go on,don’t stop!!加油!! cheers:)

    • Reply
      21 September, 2013 at 9:41 AM


  • Reply
    21 September, 2013 at 2:25 AM

    Those people are annoying. They shouldn’t force their views on you. Most of it can be explained by their ineffective language learning methods… That’s why they think its so hard and impossible.

    It seems that they have a different understanding what learning a language is… Like the korean. Peope you mentioned that memorize mad vocab. Is that for speaking/ understanding English or to go get a good score on Sats and whatnot because the sat vocab is pretty useless lol. Useless in the sense that they’re just gonna forget it after memorizing and they’re better off learning more common words or strengthening their understanding of the usage of those common Words

    • Reply
      21 September, 2013 at 9:42 AM

      I guess it’s pretty embedded in the system to memorize. A little sad, but when you are in such a system, it’s harder to let go and stop memorizing.

  • Reply
    21 September, 2013 at 9:20 AM

    Is Korean easy to learn? My answer has 2 parts:
    1) “It is easier if you know Chinese”. I have great respect for students who learn Korean/Japanese without a Chinese base like I do. I even respect Koreans who mostly learn their language without a hanja base. I rely so much on my Chinese knowledge of Chinese characters…

    2) “It gets harder as you go higher”. I think some languages are not like that – English gets easier, IMO. The basics (spelling, grammar) are often mind-boggling and random… e.g. mouse – mice, house – not hice? “Has, have, had, had had, have had…”? The differing pronunciations of words like “dead, bead, lead”… Yikes. But Korean and Chinese are relatively easy to pick up, methinks. Mastering them is a whole different tale altogether…

    • Reply
      21 September, 2013 at 9:44 AM

      to be honest I find English more difficult than Korean, if they were both foreign language to me 😛 and yeah same here, I’m always amazed at how people can pick up Korean without prior knowledge of Chinese characters. Or people who picked up Japanese without knowing Chinese too!

  • Reply
    21 September, 2013 at 1:42 PM

    Esther’s words are on point. Any language that you are learning will be as hard as you think it will be. Maybe this explains why I’m grasping Japanese so easily versus Korean. It’s not that I think Korean is hard, it’s that I never got really challenged by it. So maybe I’m the reverse of her statement? It doesn’t seem overly complex so that’s why I subconsciously don’t let it stick to my brain? I still don’t know. I’ll probably never know why I grasp Japanese (which I find more difficult) easier. XD Maybe I’m just a special case.

    Sweet baby Poseidon I HATE when people keep nagging with questions about how hard it is to learn Japanese and Korean and why I would bother self-studying and why I’m saying I grasp things easily. Some people have a knack for learning languages and just enjoy what they do. It’s like because they are so stuck on feeling a language such as Japanese is difficult to learn, they want to hear, “Omg yes it’s so difficult I don’t know why I did something this hard,” so that they have someone in their boat with them. A variation of misery loves company, maybe? The grammar and kanji aren’t so scary once you just dive in and embrace it. Okay, honestly they kinda are still scary but I like it. Give me the pain- I mean challenge.

  • Reply
    22 September, 2013 at 1:21 AM

    Anything can be overcome with passion and interest!

    I have started learning Korean like 4 years ago and I really wanted to be able to communicate with my friends and understand the culture better…. I just had a whole lot of interest in it, The Hangeul looked pretty, and it sounded beautifully to the ears… the more I learned it the more interested I became and the more I wanted to keep learning! I think that Esther is right it is only as difficult you want it to be / or visualize it to be! If you have a lot of interest in it and keep perusing it cause you love it .. the learning will be enjoyable and won’t be as difficult as for someone who say is taking a Korean class for the purpose of Job advancement and has no real interest in the language or culture.

    In Fact I saw Korean as a very encouraging language to learn. (once you learn the alphabet you can basically read everything!) The next day I went to Korea town and started singing karaoke and reading hangeul!

    To me Japanese felt like a longer process and less encouraging since you have to learn the kanji slowly … Like when I learned to type in korean I could easily do internet chats with korean friends/… As for japanese I would have a hard time as to not being able to read the kanji .. and it would take a lot lot longer to looking them up and replying back in a chat >.__<)

    ~ I wish you good luck on your journey Shanna!!

  • Reply
    27 September, 2013 at 11:55 AM

    how you can find Korean internet penpals ? randomly?

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