A code or a rebirth

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I was talking to a friend the other day about her Japanese study (she has reached a very high level of Japanese and has worked in Japan). I asked her specifically about the claim that Japanese never accept foreigners as real people or as insiders. Her reply was very interesting. She told me, “If you act exactly the way you’re supposed to act in the situation you are in down to a ‘T’ they will treat you as an insider.”

Although I don’t know Japanese or Japanese culture, I wonder if the same thing is true (in part at least) for Korean.

It seems there are two ways one can approach Korean study. One can approach it either in a cognitive approach — where the language is a code to try and convey your original identity, values, and opinions. In that way you’ll always be an American speaking Korean, or a German or Australian speaking Korean. And then you complain about being treated as an outsider.

The other way is to to think of it as a rebirth into a new world. You will be a new you. You have to create the world completely from scratch again probably eventually something along the lines of the growing participator approach.

 

Cracking the Korean speaking nut: a languacultural critique

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I’ve been continuing to think about why we Korean language learners (and definitely some much more than others) face trouble with speaking Korean to other Koreans.

Reader choronghi shared a link to a post at Korean Champ with a couple different tips he’s used for overcoming this language speaking barrier. David Wills over at Triumph of the Wills offers complaints along a simliar vein but no real solution.  Prof. Arguelles wrote in the HTAL forum about his Korean study:

Of course having access to many native speakers helped, but I all too often felt as if I had to force people to speak their language with me, which was unpleasant.

Of course is not a Korean-only problem. Benny over at Fluent in Three Months has written about his weapons in this  battle of wits in the languages he studies (which doesn’t include Korean as of yet).

Looking over different posts by language learners on this subject, one of the most startling complaints was from Steven over at Nojoek Hill: My view from the top. Seventeen years after starting to learn Korean he writes.

It’s Downright Impossible More

When language is like breathing

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The Everyday Language Learner posted today an interesting quote by Greg Thomson:

“If we ignore a whole bunch of problems, the hardest thing about language learning is getting started. The second hardest thing about learning another language is not quitting.”

Perhaps this is true in the beginning stages. But if living the language has become as integrated in your life as breathing . . . it’s not really that hard not to quit.

Someone remarked to me about this just yesterday — wow, you study Korean so hard. My response was, actually not really. Although the last couple months or so I have been trying to study Korean a bit here and there. . . mostly I just use Korean so much in my daily life it would be rather hard to go for any length of time without using it.

Shanna at HangukDrama wrote about this as well today.

Cracking the Korean speaking nut: Blackfoot and Korean

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One of the most encouraging articles I read when I started to study Korean was an article by Greg Thomson with the cheery title — What? Me Worry about Language Learning?

He writes about some of the troubles learning a different language and particularly the challenge of learning a host language from a bilingual community of speakers. (Perhaps some Korean speakers, like those being well educated and living overseas, fall into this bilingual category of being quite fluent in English as well as Korean.)

In Thomson’s case, he was studying Blackfoot and virtually everyone in the Blackfoot speaking community were fluent in both English. After months of memorising dialogues and stockpiling information, he still couldn’t carry on a conversation with anybody. Then Thomson writes:

 Frank [his colleague] had a simple challenge for me. He told me to make a commitment that I would never again speak to a Blackfoot person in English. I told him that I felt that would be impossible. He told me that it would be difficult at first, but fairly soon it would start getting easier.

When I returned to Alberta, I took the plunge. Frank was right. The first few weeks were extraordinarily difficult, but then it started getting easier, and the Blackfoot started to flow more and more. For the next several years I spoke only Blackfoot to Blackfoot people. I was always able to get my point across to them, and they to me, so I felt justified in calling myself a speaker of the language. . . . . .

As I persisted in refusing to speak English, most people would eventually begin speaking to me in Blackfoot. The first person was my main language helper. I spoke Blackfoot to him for two or three hours per day for about a week before he began speaking Blackfoot to me. In later years it was always fascinating to watch a new relationship and see how long it took for people to begin speaking to me in Blackfoot. For some it would be an hour. For others several hours. Occasionally someone would start speaking Blackfoot to me right off. . . . .

. . . [This] gave me a large amount of practice speaking. And it gave me exposure to Blackfoot that I could understand, as people spoke back to me.

Thinking about it that way, in the Korean learning journey we are so much better off. There are loads of monolingual Korean speakers. And I hope none of us had a language helper that took a week to start speaking with us in Korean (if that’s the case, find a new helper!)

Similar posts:

Cracking the Korean Speaking Nut: What to do when someone continues to speak to you in English?
Cracking the Korean Speaking Nut: A languacultural critique
Thoughts on Speaking Korean

Cracking the Korean speaking nut — what to do when someone continues speaking to you in English?

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Thinking about Korean speakers who don’t want to speak in Korean to language learners, I was reminded of a post Samier wrote at Gamcho a while back. Samier wrote in part:

Every time I meet a new Korean person, we end up chatting and continue to stay in touch. But even so, no matter what language I end up speaking, they never fail to reply in English unless they are unsure of the English word/phrase. It’s not because my Korean speaking skills are horrible… in fact every Korean person I’ve met has been taken aback from the way I talk. They even respond back withe ease… but in English. Being so, I’m usually forced to speak English with them. And the most annoying part is that they’ll speak Korean with each other… in front of me… :P

In the comments section, Shanna from HangukDrama commented:

 I’m not too sure how it’s like in America, but the Koreans that have been in Singapore for a long time (more than 6 months) usually don’t speak in Korean to me. I have Korean friends who are attending the same university as me. We dont speak in Korean at all even though they know that im pretty ok in it. It’s just somehow awkward. But they do speak in Korean among themselves. O.o

Is this partly a demographic problem? Or a ‘who is more insistant problem’? I’m not sure. Or is it a bilingualism problem? I’m not sure but I think even in these kinds of situations it’s possible to switch the language into Korean. It just takes a bit more work. I wrote Samier in the comments:

Interesting. This is actually extremely common frustration for Korean learners. I would recommend just keeping to speak only Korean even if they speak to you in English. I had one friend who six months after this lop-sided conversation switched to Korean.
(The only time when it might be impossible for you to speak Korean is if they are a lot older than you and are pretty adamant in speaking English — in that case to be ‘polite’ you might have to not speak Korean. I’ve only once been in that kind of situation though and even in that situation I tried to speak Korean as much as I could).
If they never here any English come out of your mouth it will More

Thoughts on speaking Korean

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The last few weeks I’ve been thinking about what it takes to speak Korean. Whether it’s in person, or on language forums or on blogs it seems it’s a very common complaint among Korean language learners. It is definitely one of the challenges of learning Korean, particularly in the early stages.

Although it’s always a struggle to speak the language you are learning, this challenge seems somewhat acute in Korean versus other languages like Turkish or Chinese where native speakers are rather eager to speak with you in their language. Perhaps one of the reasons for this is the general ambition among Koreans to learn English, but it’s also in large part because Korea is a very closed culture compared to other cultures. Knowledge and correct use of Korean is one of the primary keys to this castle and woe to him (or her) who tries to wrench those keys out of one of the gatekeepers!

It definitely gets easier the more fluent and comfortable you are in the language. Even so though, sometimes I still feel guilty for insisting on speaking Korean.

I was quite struck by something Greg Thomson wrote on this problem in connection with his growing participator approach. He writes:

But they feel insulted if I don’t use English!

Now one thing I don’t want to do in this guide is to foster guilt feelings unless they are constructive ones. For many years I’ve heard people talk defensively about the amount of English they use with host people, saying that the host people want it that way. “I mainly relate to educated people, and they feel put down if I don’t speak to them in English,” or “English is the language of business all over the world, and business people want you to use English with them.” I’ve challenged these claims in my own practices, whenever I encountered them in a situation where I was a growing participator. I’ve held many a conversation in which the other person persisted for a long time using English with me, and I More

How to write Diary Entries

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Hardly a day goes by where I don’t post entries at lang-8, sometimes one but usually several. Although now it seems such an important part of language study,  it took a while for me to get in the swing of using it regularly. The last few days I’ve been thinking of some of the strategies that helped me get in the swing. For one thing

Write quickly. Don’t think too much about what you want to write, choose a topic, get some ideas together and spit it out. I want my writing to be as close to how my speaking will be, and I know that I’ll be frustrated if I spend a lot of time working on one diary entry. And secondly,

Be prolific. If you write quickly and you are not worried about how many sentences are in each entry, you can spit out several diary entries every day.

If you want to write a longer or more complicated piece, I’d prefer writing smaller things first and then piecing them together instead of trying a long complicated piece all in one setting.

Tip: There’s a way I help do this — when I’m by myself waiting for something or on the bus I tend to try to think of a diary entry that I want to write, and draw it up in a rough form in my mind. I feel this is part of learning how to think more in Korean and it’s nice when all I need to do is type it out when I find a computer.

When I first started writing diary entries it took 45 minutes to write a small diary entry. But now I can write Korean diary entries much faster than English ones — usually in less than five minutes.

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