Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Studying Korean in Class

I've been taking Korean language classes twice a week. I figured there's no good reason to let what I've learned disappear. Better to keep practicing and learning.

You know what's frustrating? It has been super easy to find Japanese people to talk to at my university. Koreans, on the other hand, are excellent masters of evasion. I remember seeing groups of them around in the last two semesters of my undergrad studies. Now, however, I wouldn't know where to look. As I walk around my old campus, I have the utmost certainty that they are around, but my ears can't pick up any Korean among the crowds.

Now, maybe my hearing is just bad, or maybe I'm finding more Korean Americans than Korean international students. Well, just the other day, I overheard two students speaking Chinese. Sucks for me because I haven't made a strong effort to learn Chinese.... yet.

I'm mostly worried about practicing speaking now that I'm back in the States. While I was in Korea, still new to the language, my primary worries were knowing enough vocab to decipher what was being said to me. However, there's a point where knowing enough vocab and sentence structure isn't satisfying enough. You want to start speaking to see where it will get you. In Korea, speaking was a terrifying prospect, but oftentimes worth it.

Many of the classmates in my Korean class speak more than one language. Many are studying Japanese as well. In the last class, before the midterm exam, we rowdily conversed in a weird mix of "Konglinese" (Korean, Japanese, and English). Which reminds me....

Another thing I'm having trouble with is wrapping my mind around two languages at the same time. I KNOW that with practice, it will get better. However, in the minutes before class, I continuously scolded (in a teasing way) my friends for saying Japanese words to me while I was trying to think in Korean.

Korean class itself isn't bad. The teacher has a good habit of speaking in bursts of "normal-speed" Korean, throwing our minds into overdrive to try to translate what she says before she repeats it slowly, and finally, in English.

As far as what we're learning, well, most of it is easy for me now. The things I'm struggling with is correct spelling and knowing the meanings of certain vocab words. I didn't have to practice spelling so much while in Korea. The words I learned to spell became knowledge just by reading (reading the signs while travelling, etc.), and the only time I had to write a lot of Korean was during my last week when I was giving everyone Thank-You letters. Still, I had a Korean friend help correct my mistakes.

To this day, there are many every-day Korean words that I still don't know just because I never needed to know or say them. Out of all the colors in the Korean language, the only one I can remember is the word for "blue." There was a question on my quiz (and then the midterm) which I failed to answer twice: the phrase for Happy New Year. Having spent New Years in Korea, I can only shake my head and laugh at the irony. One day. I will learn that phrase and remember it one day. 설날.... New Year.....

While I was studying in Korea, I never had any homework. I once had a friend give me a quiz (a verbal one), but there wasn't any extra practice outside of "real-world" situations and lots of review. Oh, if I haven't mentioned already, I learned from Talk To Me In Korean.

I must say that even though homework is annoying, I'm really thankful for it right now. Korean is like English in that there are many words that, even if you guess the spelling at, you will most likely spell wrong. If I am told to spell the verb 'it-da,'  I won't know if they're asking about 있다 or 잊다.  ...I sympathize so much with English language learners when I study foreign languages....

Today is another day of class. I wonder how things will be. What will I find surprisingly difficult?


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