Goal Update: Speaking Korean

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-by Matt Leedham

Apparently, to learn a new language, you need to listen a lot and speak a lot in that language.

Duh, right? Not exactly genius thinking, I suppose, but it became abundantly clear to me last weekend at the beach.

As a refresher, I set a BIG personal goal for myself earlier this year. I set out to be conversational in Korean by October 1, 2011. You can read more about what conversational means to me and why I chose this goal by clicking here. Then you can read about what a difficult time I was having a few months ago with learning Korean by clicking here.

Over the last two months, I have been listening to CD’s on the Korean language by Pimsleur. They rock. I tried Rosetta Stone, but it just wasn’t for me. Pimsleur has very quickly accelerated my learning of Korean.

Ideally, I would listen to 30 minutes since that’s how long each lesson is. It’s perfect in the car to and from the office, but I’ll admit, I have not been keeping pace. I’ve gotten up to lesson 6. That’s 20% of the way through Phase 1, and there are three phases. Time to ramp it up!

When I learn a new phrase, I often say it to my very patient wife who will either applaud me for nailing it, or give me some instruction on how to change the emphasis or pronunciation of a syllable. So far, so good!

Last weekend my wife and I went to Bethany Beach, DE for four days, accompanied by her sister and husband, and my wife’s parents. My parents-in-law speak English fairly well, but they are much more comfortable in their native tongue, particularly when speaking with their daughters. So, as the only non-Korean in the group, I listened to a lot of Korean conversations all weekend.

What amazed me is that I started picking up little words here and there in their conversation. Words that I had never heard them say before, but that I had been learning on my language CD’s. And when I recognized a word, I would shout out the only phrase I knew that contained that word.

I heard the word “lunch” one day in the family conversation. I immediately shouted out, “have you eaten lunch? I won’t be having any!”

Then everyone would laugh because while what I said was tangentially related to their conversation, it was totally incongruent to what they were talking about.

But this was great. It sparked the conversation. It would often lead to my in-laws sharing what they were actually saying. And it made me much more comfortable to speak Korean to them.

When walking off the beach one day, I heard someone say the phrase, “where is…?” I asked, “did you just ask where something is? I thought I heard that.” Everyone was very proud that I was picking up words and it continued to inspire me to try to speak more.

Then I would shout out “where is Shichung Park?” And everyone would laugh. That’s the expression I learned from the CD’s, but it makes no sense to be asking where a park in Seoul is when you’re at the beach in Delaware.

It’s slow going, but becoming more and more fun. The more I can speak the words and phrases in a real environment, the quicker I am learning.

How does this relate something you’re learning? Are you just packing away knowledge in your head, or are you getting out there and using what you’ve learned? You will speed up the learning process exponentially if you dare to practice what you’ve learned. Onward!

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