Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Reading and Language Learning

One of the super frustrating things for me in learning Korean is the speed at which I'm able to read. It's embarrassingly slow, and makes me feel really stupid whenever I have to read something. I can read in my head faster than I can read out loud, but both are well below "useful" speed. Lately I've been able to level up slightly by forcing my brain out of its comfort zone and trying to follow Korean raps. Rapping (which I love) is faster than normal speech, so I figure if I'm able to follow Korean lyrics in a rap as it's going, then eventually I'll be able to actually read. Working well so far, although I can still only get through about half of the subtitles in an average TV newscast.

Of course a big part of this is pattern recognition. When first learning Korean, you have to look at each component (jamo) in a character and consciously process how to put them together to sound out the syllable. As you get better, you start to recognize words. And I'd imagine as you progress even more, you start to recognize phrases at a glance. I know in English I can read and understand about half a paragraph (a few sentences) at a brief glance if I really try, but in Korean I'm still frustratingly stuck in single word land (which is certainly not helped by my extremely limited vocabulary).

Anyway, for fun, I took a brief look the other day at a European language that I had never studied before. I checked out the transcript for the first lesson, and my first thought was, "Well, I can read the transliteration, but I wonder how hard the actual language is to read." Then I remembered that many languages are actually written in Roman characters, and it wasn't a transliteration at all. Man, when I'm done with Korean, I'm going to blow through a bunch of European languages like there's no tomorrow - for better or worse, my brain was wired for it at a really young age, so I'm sure it'll be way easier than Asian languages.

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