Studying other languages is undoubtedly one of my favorite things in life. Not only does it allow you to, literally, understand more people, it allows me to learn something about myself. I’ve also learned that it can help with traumas. Sometimes I feel more comfortable expressing feelings or thoughts in my second language. I think it’s one of the most interesting facets of language. My friends who are bi or multi-lingual have sometimes told me, “Oh, I’m a different person when I speak x language.” I believe, though of course they’re the same person, there’s some truth to that feeling. Languages give us freedom.
My second language is Korean, but I have studied French as well. I massively enjoyed both language departments at Georgetown. Through them, I was able to get close to professors and my fellow students (we were in those classes every day).
Anyway, here are my tactics for getting better at my second language:
- Random Conversations
- My habit is to always be thinking in Korean. If I’m about to speak, I always ask myself “would you be capable of saying this in Korean?” If I can’t, later on I try to look up the vocab or grammar pattern I was missing.
- Don’t be afraid to use your language when opportunities pop up. I once had an elderly Korean Uber driver and he and I had a lovely conversation during our ride together.
- If you have friends who also speak your second language, if they’re chill with it, get their help! I always wanted to make sure my friends knew I wasn’t just trying to learn a language from them, but sometimes it comes in handy to speak a language together no one else understands (lol).
- In Korean, there are a whole other type of endings you’d typically journal with besides the endings you use when speaking to other people. So, journaling not only improves your ability to think/write fluidly in your language, but gives ample opportunities for grammar practice without the rush of being in class or pressure of being graded.
- I always make lists in the margins to go back and review the vocabulary I looked up in the process of writing my journal entry. It helps keep these words at the top of my mind as I skim through my journal often.
- As I mentioned before, I believe languages give us freedom. That’s why I like journaling in my second language. Journals are typically private anyway, but if you write in a language not many people around you speak, your privacy is doubly safe.
- Online Courses
- This one is pretty obvious, but I wanted to bring it up since they are such a robust resource. My favorite is Talk To Me In Korean (TTMIK). TTMIK has lots of free Youtube videos and grammar lessons on their website. If you want to take it to the next level, they also have paid resources.
- Another of my favorite (and amusing) free resources are videos by Mina Oh on Youtube (she has accompanying blog posts too, now she posts on a different channel about more general topics — but I linked to the old channel with language videos!). She dresses up as different personas to teach vocab and phrases. She also does a lot of Korean culture videos.
- Other things I’ve used in the past include Duolingo and Coursera
- Maintain Relationships!
- If you’re lucky to have great professors like I did, they’ll be open to keeping in touch. A couple weeks after graduation, I actually did a practice interview for one of my favorite instructors. We also email and writing those in Korean is always a challenge for me.
- Class friends can grow into some of your closest friends. Making mistakes in a language together and acting out embarrassing skits (in Gtown language classes, anyway) is a bonding experience. Plus, they’ll prob always be down to practice with you.
- My friends from abroad have been so kind in helping me learn languages. I was lucky enough to study in three countries and my friends from the experience are always happy to catch up — just reach out to people.
Now, I want to answer the classic question, “Why are you learning Korean?” in both Korean and English. Why not get in some practice of my own, too?
솔직히 말하면 그냥…한국 문화가 신기해서 그래요. 한국 문화 와 미국 문화 너무 달라요. 새로운 문화 하고 언어 배우는거 재미있지 않아요? 언어 배우는게 중요하잖아요. 왜냐하면 제 자신을 더 알 수 있게 되고 다른 문화도 좀 이해할 수 있어요.
제가 처음 한국어를 배우기 시작했을 때 제 친구들이 한국 드라마 보고 한국 음악 좋아해서 한국말 잘 알아듣게 됐어요. 좀 알아들어서 더 배우고 싶었어요. 이제 2년동안 한국어 수업 들었어요. 그래도 제 한국어 솜씨 아직 부족해서 앞으로 열심히 공부하려고 해요. 한국말로 자연스럽게 말할수 있으면 좋겠어요.
S/o to Robert and Seri for helping to proofread me ❤