Wednesday, January 30, 2013

I want to learn Korean! How? Why?

Haven't I always wanted to learn Korean? How do I go about learning Korean?

I made it a goal to learn and study Korean this year!  I started my journey to learn Korean several years ago on my first trip to Korea. I said I would learn. I did ... a little... I was able to get by, to read, to greet, and text or write basic emails. While in Korea for the one year between 2009-2010, I devoted a significant time to study Korean grammar and the basics. I had no choice but to learn if I wanted to travel in Korea. And suddenly out of nowhere I had this Korean family and relatives I never knew existed. Learning was necessary. I read books, watched Korean dramas, and talked to friends. I went from very little comprehension to being able to understand my fellow Korean teachers speaking at and to me.  Then...I came back to America.

After returning, I found myself lost in a land of no Asians or Koreans.  My focus remained on job searching and exploring other professional opportunities. A part of me was resistant to studying or learning because I knew it was my duty to learn to communicate with relatives and friends in Korea, but I hadn't fully processed my experience. Nor had I understood on a heart level the urgency to bridge the cultural and physical gap by learning the language like I understand today. I slowly phased myself out of watching dramas, as well.  Soooo..... as the saying goes, "if you don't use it, you lose it". It's true! Some lost. BUT NOT gone forever is the Korean I learned.  Once I got back into the Korean community in San Diego, I beat myself up over not remembering everything.I was ashamed to read and hear conversations that I recognize all the words and grammatical structures to and do not remember the meaning of!  I know it's there.  That is a journey of overcoming and forgiving in itself still in process. This next phase of study and review is going to need some careful extraction and nurturing back to life!

After some time meeting those interested in learning, feeding off their passion, and finally beginning to process some past experiences I had suppressed, I knew it was time... time to study. Time to learn.

I am ready!

I originally attempted to enroll in a Korean Language course at a university in San Diego, but the cost was too high and conflicted with my current work schedule. Instead, I registered for an evening class taught through an independent program. I promise to study several times per week outside of the two class sessions each week. Even if I learn nothing big or new in the class, it will be a great refresher and hopefully a confidence booster in the department of speaking. Unfortunately my speaking and writing skills are down the drain. We shall see where the class takes us.

Now that I have met many other friends or students trying to learn the language, I have stumbled upon many different resources and sites to learn Korean or to communicate with others that want to teach their language in exchange for another language.  My favorite way to learn and share culture is face to face where I can see expression and observe body language, but I realize that wasn't always easy for me and it's not going to be easy for people in other countries wanting to make friends in the target language and culture.  As part of my study, I will explore these sites and expand my understanding of human interaction through online relationships and educational websites.   Recently, I became interested in the online dating phenomenon. Many of my friends have found themselves in a whole new world of online dating as they seek life-long friends and partners. Though I haven't registered to online date or plan to do so, I believe that nourishing my hunger to learn Korean language through internet resources will give me a better understanding of what it means to build relationships with strangers through a common interest of learning and sharing online. I really desire to learn as much as I can about human interaction and thought processes.

Some weekly challenges I want to hold myself accountable to doing:

  • Challenge myself to meet others, to learn from them and share with them. 
  • Be willing to be vulnerable, make mistakes, and ask questions for my own learning.   This entails being confident in the shoes of a learner and not being afraid to ask questions. Curiosity is a precursor to knowledge and understanding. The more we ask, the more we learn. This is a mountain for me to climb because I am always shy to ask for help or even to ask too many questions.  I am always willing to offer others help in their times of need, I will do the same myself. 
  • Be curious! Mentioned above, but it needs its own bullet!
  • Study at least 10 hanja per week.  Hanja is the name for the Chinese Korean characters that you see on old Korean texts and on Korean newspapers. Learning hanja is helpful because it builds vocabulary. Many Korean words have roots from the Chinese characters. See future posts on hanja. 
  • Learn a set number of vocabulary words.  Looking for resources to find and learn vocabulary words at the moment.
  • Try to watch at least one or more episodes of a Korean drama during the week.  Okay, so this isn't a tough one for most people that probably devote hours to drama, but I haven't had as much time or interest in recent dramas due to the length of time I spend outside of home. Dramas will sharpen listening skills and observation of social interactions.  
  • Find an article to read and dissect. 
  • Practice speaking by talking to at least one friend in the target language. We can practice English conversation and pronunciation afterwards. : ) 
  • Write at least one or two diary entries per week. I agree, this should be more, but I'm trying to make a habit of learning to do this in English first!  I will increase the numbers as I go. Don't forget folks, let's not overwhelm with too many goals. 
  • Listen to kpop or kballad. Oh no!  Can't get sucked into that world again...but it's just another avenue into the language and culture.  
  • NOT give up!
So why the sudden change? You can probably infer from the gibber jabber above that I did some thinking and reconciling with my own thoughts.

Motivations to learn:

  1. Graduate school. I am interested in international-ly related fields.
    • second or third languages are a requirement for graduation and for jobs. 
  2. Communicating with friends.  They already say I comprehend a significant amount and pronounce words well. It's that word extraction part that I have trouble doing in English and my second or third language.
  3. Building a relationship with relatives or family and other friends in Korea.
  4. Make sure my brother doesn't surpass my Korean ability if he ends up staying in Korea for much longer! ; )
  5. Learn my mother tongue! 

Let's keep growing and going!  I hope that by posting these goals and motivating factors I will be held accountable and you will too!