3 Lessons On Learning a New Language
Learning a new language is such a thrilling ride. It's not just a cerebral activity of phonetic sounds and symbolism, it's a cultural experience in and of itself. Which is why, out of all the things I have been curious about, nothing has surprised me more than having decided to learn Korean. My knowledge of Korean culture mostly revolves around food and even then it's mostly kimchi, bibimbap, japchae, and samgyupsal.
If there's a bottomless well that could feed curiosity, I think languages is one of them. Since embarking on the Korean train about three weeks ago, I have learnt a few things about myself and how I ended up enjoying the ride.
01 // Getting out of my own way - I wouldn't have been this interested in learning Korean if I weren't watching episodes of Running Man, a popular Korean variety show, on an almost daily basis. But even before that, I wouldn't have thought of myself a fan of that show. Sure, I might have heard of it in passing, but I was adamant that it would be a good show. I had my own version of what it is without ever really knowing what the show was all about. I declined numerous invitations to watch it but on one fateful day, I thought "fine, if it's bad then it only proves I was right the first time." As you know, I have been proven wrong and I couldn't find a show that's as entertaining and fun.
02 // Opening up to change directions - When this year began I had put down Spanish as the language I would be focusing on. I was doing about three Spanish classes per week, listened to podcasts, and read beginner Spanish books. Eventually the activity weaned off. I started reading English books, listened to storytelling podcasts, and eventually my classes ended. Immersion is one of the best tools a language learner can do and I realised I was immersed in Korean as I dug through the Running Man archives, ate more kimchi, and got curious about their culture. I also noticed myself paying more attention to Hangeul (Korean alphabet) whenever it came out during the show and how I was becoming more familiar with the Korean phrases. One day I playfully thought "If I keep at this I might as well start learning Korean." And before I knew it, I downloaded Level 1 Korean lessons on my iPod, listened to it daily, picked up a Hangeul writing book, and began referring to myself as a Korean learner.
03 // Humouring myself to see where it takes me - Learning a new language seems like a monumental task that it sometimes can feel like the only way to get it right is to be dead serious about it at the get-go. Spanish for me started out that way, as a foreign language requirement in university. It felt like a checkbox I had to tick and had none of the personal motivations that I think helps every language learner. For me, Korean was a tool to better appreciate a show that I highly enjoy. My motivations for deciding to pick-up it up was at best playful and I think that's why I decided to skip the formal classes so I can focus on more casual and fun ways of learning the language. This doesn't mean that I don't take learning it seriously but rather, that I am focusing on the enjoyable elements of discovering a language and its culture. And since there are no grades to worry about, it's taken the edge off of learning a foreign language.