About a month ago, I signed up for the 2019 Korean Speech Contest in Malaysia. I honestly don’t know what I was thinking. – I’m not a fan of public speaking. I’ve always struggled with stage fright, and I hate the sound of my voice.
I’m writing this to document the experience while I still remember it, and to share it with other Korean learners in the community, in hopes that someone out there will find comfort in my story, knowing that they’re not alone.
I’ve always found it curious how differently languages define emotions. Emotions, generally speaking, are universal – yet so many multilingual speakers would tell you that some are near impossible to translate.
Throughout my years of studying foreign languages, I have come across a lot of words that I find difficult to translate – at least, concisely. They range from abstract concepts to concrete objects, but none fascinates me like those pertaining to human emotions.
I’m currently learning Korean and French. I started learning Korean in 2016, and French about 6 months ago. I’ve been trying to find a way to study both at the same time, but it wasn’t until very recently that I managed to make it work. I actually tried to pick up French earlier last year, but I had to quit because I couldn’t come up with a sustainable way to keep studying it without losing my progress in Korean.
This time, however, I’ve managed to establish a routine that works. I’ve been using it for 3 months, and it works great so far! Here’s how I came up with it.
If you watch a lot of Korean content, you might have noticed that Koreans have the tendency to think out loud.
As I’ve explained in this article, they often express their thoughts or feelings as if they are quoting themselves. Instead of saying, “Watching him practice made me feel like I should work harder”, they might say “I saw him practice, and the thought ‘Ah, I should work harder’ popped into my head.”
This article is a compilation of all the things I wish someone had told me when I first started practicing speaking Korean. None of them are ‘hacks’ – I’m not going to give you a list of 10 Korean slangs that would ‘make you sound like a native’, or cool phrases that’ll help you impress your language exchange partner.
What I’d like to share with you, instead, is a collection of ‘patterns’ that I have picked up over the years, while I was studying Korean. Some of them are grammar structures, while others are quirks I find unique to the Korean language.
Things start out great. You’re going through your textbooks one chapter a day and you spend every waking moment revising your Anki decks. You start your day with Duolingo and end it with Memrise. On some days, it feels like fluency is almost within reach.