There’s a lot–make that A LOT!–that I have to do to get ready for Korea. One of the more fun tasks, for me anyway, is studying Korean language.
I’ve had a lot of trouble learning and retaining languages in the past. I think the main reason is that I never really put them to use. I studied Spanish in high school and my first year of college (a practical choice, living in the Southwest), but I rarely, if ever, went anywhere that people were actually using Spanish. I didn’t watch Spanish television or movies, didn’t make Spanish speaking friends, so most of the language I had acquired faded away pretty quickly.
After giving up on Spanish, I switched to Japanese–I am a geek & do enjoy an occasional anime flick, after all–but even after four years of Japanese, my competency is extremely low. Again, I had very minimal exposure to actual language use and in Japanese, I had to start even farther behind, learning whole new orthographic and phonological systems in addition to vocabulary, grammar, and pragmatics.
The primary source of my exposure to Japanese language for a while. (I did know enough to recognize when the subtitles did not match what they actually said!)
Today I know about enough Spanish to have a very slow, very basic conversation, and I can write about as well as a 1st grader, but probably with a worse vocabulary. I know enough Japanese that if I hear people speaking it, I know they’re speaking Japanese, I recognize the grammatical structures they are using (i.e. “that was definitely a question” or “that was a negative statement–as in something is NOT…”), and I recognize a handful of vocabulary words, but that’s it. I can’t even have a basic conversation at this point.
So, when I decided to live abroad, did I choose a country where I could potentially develop the language skills I started when I formally studied language in school? No! Much better to acquire completely insufficient ability in yet a 3rd language!
Which is what I’m doing now. Independently. In my spare time. (Not that I have much of it to begin with, and a lot of it has lately been spent writing for this blog.)
I know that once I am in Korea, I will be hearing and seeing the language much more, and will have to interact using it, so I will pick it up, but before I get there, I would really like to have a basic survival vocabulary.
Currently, I have a native Korean speaker as a tutor (one of the many advantages of living in a town with a great TESL/Applied Linguistics program is that you get a pretty diverse set of international students hanging around), a couple of books on basic Korean, and the internet at my disposal.
If you, like me, are trying to use the internet to learn Korean I highly recommend Korean Class 101’s YouTube channel. The website itself seems to be mostly locked unless you pay for it, but there are a ton of videos available for free on YouTube, that integrate listening, speaking, reading, and vocabulary (throw writing in there too if you choose to take notes), and that use a variety of methods to get the content across.
Here’s a great example of one of their videos–which made me really hungry when I watched it, by the way–Korean street food is amazing!!!
This is what I love about this video series:
- Important vocabulary items like the word for street food ( 분식 )1 are 1) pronounced by native speakers 2) written on the screen 3) pronounced slowly when introduced 4) visually broken into their syllables while being pronounced, allowing viewers to understand the word in a variety of ways.
- Vocabulary is put in context–the hosts discuss not only the definition of the word being used, but when and how it is used, the nuances of meaning, and so forth.
- The hosts’ mixture of English and Korean discussion related to the lesson is one that keeps me from disengaging because I don’t know what they are talking about, but that also exposes me to authentic use of Korean language
- The lesson itself is focused on an authentic conversation about a given topic. Images accompany the conversation providing further context for the interaction.
- After the main conversation of the lesson, the hosts pull important vocabulary, and teach it in more depth.
- If you don’t yet know how to read 한국어, the written Korean characters, these videos may not do you much good. However, there is another series on the Korean Class 101 channel that can help with that.
So far, this series is proving to be very engaging and good for helping me pick up the language (although I definitely need to practice more and take notes if I want things to really stick!!!)
Check back for more resource reviews once I finish my TEFL class and have a little more time to devote to intensive studying. In the mean time, if you know of any great resources for studying Korean, share them in the comments!
1-Wondering how I did that? I used a Virtual Korean Keyboard program.