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.
When I first bought the plane ticket to Seoul, I was extremely excited. Not just about experiencing the food and culture of South Korea, but also at the opportunity to finally practice speaking the language. I had been doing language exchanges for about two years, but nothing face-to-face. And since I was going to be there for 3 weeks, I’d expected to get a lot of practice out of this trip, just by being physically in South Korea.
And it turned out that wasn’t the case. At least, not really. I’d gone into this with minimal preparation (I’d picked up a phrasebook) and a vague notion of improving my Korean skills just by surrounding myself with the language. Simply put, I’d kind of expected that just by putting myself in a purely Korean environment, my brain would somehow absorb all the knowledge by osmosis and magically activate half of my passive vocabulary.
Writing letters has always been one of
my favourite things to do. As a language learner, I find it to be one of the
most effective ways to practice my target language. It is essentially writing
exercise, vocabulary revision, reading comprehension practice and cultural
exchange rolled into one.
If you’re old-fashioned like me, snail mail would be right up your alley. But if you prefer something more fast-paced, you might want to start with email.
Writing is extremely important when it comes to language learning, because, like speaking, it is how you communicate with native speakers, and communication is kind of the whole point of acquiring a new language. Most people start small with things like writing their memos or keeping a journal in their target language.
As you progress, however, you might move on to more challenging exercises. You can start a blog and review things. You can write essays or stories and post them online. There is an endless list of things you can do when it comes to improving your writing skills, but what I’m about to suggest is perfect if you’re:
Ever find yourself struggling to recall certain words in the middle of a conversation, even though you have no problem understanding those words when you encounter them elsewhere?
That’s because the words you’re trying to recall are part of your passive vocabulary.
Passive vocabulary refers to the words that you understand but aren’t able to recall quickly without being prompted. Active vocabulary, on the other hand, refers to the words that you can summon at will, whenever you need it.