Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Initial Thoughts of Language School

Went through my first week of Korean classes. I placed into a much higher level than anticipated, which was a nice surprise. Frankly, I was terrified when I heard my placement, but when I got to the class, it turned out to not be as bad as anticipated. Here are some random thoughts from the first week.


  • My vocabulary sucks. There are many very simple words that anyone who has been in the country a year or so should probably know. I know none of them. The first embarrassing incident was minutes into the first class, when the teacher asked who was a first-time student at the school (first time: 처음). I understood the equivalent of "Who is a <blank> student at this school?" I was proud I understood that much, but didn't want to take a gamble that <blank> was "unpaid tuition" or something, so I kept my hand down. Other things that everyone knew but I was clueless about: simple everyday verbs, body parts, and the Korean name for Girls Generation.
  • My listening is also pretty bad. I think this just takes time. I can understand slow speech (sometimes), but full-speed speech is tough for me.
  • Irregular verbs are my nemesis. I never learned how to conjugate properly.
  • My teacher speaks almost completely in the most formal type of grammar. I hate it. I don't want to use the "습니다" form with anyone. It's not very practical for real life situations. I make a conscious note to answer in the "요" form, which is the standard politeness form, even if it's considered slightly rude to answer a superior's formal conjugation with a less formal one. I don't care - it's my money and I want to get good at the more useful parts of the language.
  • The first day of class, I didn't understand like half of the explanations given during the lesson, because they were meta expressions about the language. After a week, I can understand about 90% of the explanations.
  • We do a bunch of drills where we have to talk to other students. I was reading a book about language learning, and it made a fine point - if you're talking to other students, you're probably hearing a lot of incorrect usage of the language, and no one's there to correct you. Some studies have even shown people's language abilities decrease after courses that focus on talking with other students, because you simply reinforce each other's mistakes. Two things I do to mitigate this: 1) Try to correct other students' mistakes in my mind while they're speaking (if I know the mistake), and 2) Try to speak with the teacher during the dialogues.
  • We often have to read Korean from the slides. The teacher directs the reading at a pace that is approximately 25% of normal pace. This is another thing that drives me crazy - why practice speaking at a rate that's not normal? So I just try to speak as fast as I can, which means I usually finish before everyone else. I would rather they force us to speak faster than we're comfortable with.


Anyway, language learning after childhood is basically hacking your brain. I need to figure out the optimal way to accomplish it. Stay tuned.

2 comments:

  1. 1) What book were you reading about learning language? I've read a couple (like The Infinite Gift) about how kids learn languages, but haven't tried anything about how adults do so.

    2) How did you pick a language school?

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  2. I was just reading bits and pieces that Google Books allowed me to read online. It was something like "The Art and Science of Learning Languages".

    I chose a language school first by finding the "top three", then going to the one that was said to focus more on listening/speaking/conversation. I might try one of the other three next session to see how it compares.

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