Indonesian streak

Yesterday was the final exam for A1 Indonesian course by Indonesian embassy. It was quite challenging, so I’m curious to see my results. The last task was especially challenging – we had to describe the picture using words given below, and we had to use a total of 90 words. While it was challenging it was also fun at the same time, because I got to be creative πŸ™‚

So today is the first day I’m not going to complete my streak, which is 50 days now, from the day that we had our first mid-semester test.

At the same time, my Howtostudykorean streak at Memrise is steadily increasing and is already at 23 days. I’m happy that today I managed to lower “Classic Review” words to just 79, when I just started again there were over 400 of them. At first, it seemed like it will take me ages to get through them, but here I am πŸ™‚

I’m also glad that A1 Indonesian course is over, I’m not sure yet whether there will be A2 and if yes when it will start, so for now I will hopefully be able to dedicate more time to Korean and Mandarin, studying 3 languages at the same time is definitely not my forte, so let’s see if I’ll be able to do it with 2 πŸ™‚

How I learned Korean

I was learning back in 2015, so probably since then a lot of new resources have appeared, but here is my way and my way only. Here is the list of my main resources and I will go into each one in detail:

  1. Tengugo app for Hangeul alphabet
  2. Howtostudykorean website
  3. Memrise SRS
  4. Koreanclass101 classes and especially dialogues
  5. Korean Grammar in Use books
  6. Korean Cyber University Youtube channel
  7. Language exchange apps (HelloTalk, italki)
  8. Motivational Youtube channels and podcasts (Motivate Korean)
Continue reading “How I learned Korean”

Speaking & Language Exchange apps

We all know, that languages have 4 aspects to them, 2 passive and 2 active. Speaking and Writing are active (output) and Listening and Reading are passive (input). The majority of traditional learning concentrates on just 2 aspects of these 4 – Writing and Reading, and as a result people who studied languages for years at school or universities cannot string even a couple of sentences together in a conversation with a native speaker because they never learned the skills.

In reality, written and spoken languages are so different, that it’s even said that when we go to school at the age of 6 we learn our first foreign language – our mother tongue in written form. We learn that “I’m gonna” should be written as “I’m going to” and so on and so on.

Back in 2015, when I was studying Korean every day I was doing the same mistake – focusing too much on reading and writing and not enough on listening and speaking. I was in a hurry, because I booked my tickets to Seoul in April, and in January 2016 I still couldn’t say anything and then I found this video and it basically changed my life.

I looked for Korean people on Hello Talk and even found some cool ones that became my friends to this day. I tried my best to meet as many exchange students here in Ljubljana as I could and hang out with them. I listened to KoreanClass101 dialogues on repeat for hundreds of times. I was lucky to be able to practice with the wife of our professor here in Ljubljana. And it worked.

Speaking is actually a sort of a muscle memory, like dancing, cycling or snowboarding. Once you say one sentence or word, you might say it awkwardly the first time, second time will be a bit better and third will be much, much better. But you gotta push yourself through that awkwardness and moments where you feel like an idiot. My first conversations in Korean and Chinese sounded like if I was a 2-3 year old baby, but with each conversation I grew and matured, expanded my vocabulary and improved the pronunciation.

I guess my main point here is: If you are learning the language just to read and write, it’s fine, you don’t need to practice speaking. But if you hope to speak with native speakers in the future – you need to work on those skills, they won’t just appear by themselves.

I wanted to write this post about language exchange apps and it became about speaking in general, I’m not sure how that happened πŸ™‚

Here are the apps that I personally tried:

  • HelloTalk
  • Italki (paid and you can also look for people who want to do the language exchange for free)
  • Facebook groups (for example in Korean language group people often ask whether anyone would be interested in speaking Korean to them and surprisingly there’s always quite a lot of volunteers)

There’s also an interesting practice that can be done alone, and it is called Shadowing. I won’t go into too much detail on it, here is a post that sums it up pretty nicely.

Dolla – Malay and Indonesian

Yay, my posts have motivated at least one person, mission accomplished! πŸ™‚

Today Youtube suggested a video discussing whether this new group from Malaysia is similar to Blackpink from Korea.

I went to check them out and I gotta say – they are better than Blackpink!!! The song is really catchy and powerful and I think I listened to it at least 10 times today. I also really like how the language sounds, something completely new and different from K-pop (the comment section agrees with me).

Since I’m learning Indonesian, I got curious how much of this song is similar with the language I’m learning, so I searched it up. To be honest, I didn’t get an exact answer, so I emailed the lyrics to our Indonesian teacher (luckily, she’s also a young girl) asking her about this. Let’s see what she replies πŸ™‚

In any case, this definitely gave me a much needed boost for learning Indonesian, until now I was learning it simply because the Indonesian embassy offered a free course, but now I’m starting to build emotional connections as well, which is great πŸ™‚

My motivation

In 2019 we were travelling by train from Winona to Chicago (an 8-hour train ride!!) and in the train restaurant we met an elderly American couple.
They asked us how many languages we spoke, I said six, Primo said five. They seemed a bit shocked, but tried to hide it and said “you see, people in America just expect everyone to speak English, even when they travel, so they don’t feel the need to learn another language”. It struck me – why does everyone associate language learning with a necessity, something that you “need”?

I think this is where modern society is fundamentally wrong.
Sometimes I get asked “why Korean and not Chinese? Chinese is much more useful! Why don’t you learn German? Germany is a rich country, you should learn it!” This is where we’re wired differently. Typical person thinks of a foreign language mostly as of a skill needed to achieve something, to get a better job, to move to a better country, etc etc. It’s just one of the skills in CV, like knowledge of HTML or business certificate.

The exactly same people go snowboarding, dancing, fishing, hiking, they go to movies, they travel, they learn a musical instrument, take photography or cooking courses, they learn how to ice skate or to horse ride… Why? Because it’s fun! They don’t think how it will look on their CV, they go for it because they want this skill and they learn it. This is how I feel about languages. It’s not something that I have to do, it’s something that I want to do. Because it’s fun and in reality is actually very addictive. The first steps are usually slow, everything is confusing and I feel stupid most of the time. But gradually more and more words stay in long term memory and I’m starting to be able to piece small sentences together. And from there it is a constant rise to the top. First real conversation. First phone call. First chat with a friend with whom I only used English in the past. And each of these firsts gives me a sense of indescribable high, serotonin rush, sense of achievement, I don’t know what it is, but it makes me feel amazing.

Every time I speak Korean I feel so happy just because I remember the hardships that I had to endure to get to where I’m now. Even when I say simple words like directing a taxi driver or ordering food in a restaurant, it still fills me with joy. And don’t get me even started on the friendships I’ve made only thanks to my ability to speak languages beside English. If I spoke only English and Russian, I would never be able to experience even nearly as many things as I’ve experienced…

So the whole difference is in the mindset. Learning a language is not a job. Neither it is a boring school subject. It’s not a skill that you need only for your job. It’s actually something really fun that can make your life richer. Look around you. The society around us, the teachers and parents, all of traditional language learning is so outdated and old school. The modern world needs to change the way we think and teach the languages to children, switch them from passive to active learning, and base it around the fact that you need to feel inspired while learning, inspired by the cool stuff, and not discouraged by useless boring grammar drills. I haven’t done any grammar drills for over 10 years and I still managed to learn 4 languages to a decent level. Why? Because I liked it and I became addicted to it, not because I HAD TO do it πŸ˜‰

New Year, New Me

During the holidays I had time to think about my life and language goals. I realised that I have 2 big dreams – become fluent in Chinese and Korean. For some reason (maybe because of watching those Youtubers who studied in China), I kept thinking that I need to travel and live in China and Korea in order to achieve that goal, because that’s what all normal language students do – they travel to the country, study there for some time and come back enlightened and fluent. So I thought “even if we’re in the middle of a pandemic, I can still research on how to do it” and so I dove into Google looking for recommendations on the best ways to do it, schools and accommodations.

As I was researching, I quickly realized that this plan was going to be very hard to carry out for several reasons:

  • We’re still in the middle of a pandemic and nobody knows when it’s gonna end
  • It would be verry expensive to pay for rent in areas where schools are located and study fees on top of it
  • I hate classroom learning, I think it’s very outdated, inefficient and time-consuming
  • I still have a full-time job so I’d have to juggle this with language school
  • My husband doesn’t want to go to a language school so I’d have to do it by myself
  • Visas can be tricky

So my perspective changed a bit over these days I’ve been considering and looking into it. I also thought – why would I want to travel to another country just to attend language classes? Wouldn’t it be much better to learn the language beforehand and then travel to actually explore the country and enjoy my stay? After all, I have learned Chinese to HSK 3 level and Korean to a pretty decent level all by myself, without going anywhere, why can’t I just continue learning here, why do I think I need to travel somewhere else to learn the language to fluency?

So with this mindset I decided to try to recreate the experience of studying abroad. I know that it is a big challenge because I’m already investing so much time in Chinese (about 40 minutes a day) and if I add Korean on top of it I’m afraid it will turn into something too time-consuming, but I want to try anyway at least for this month, while there’s not so much stress at work and the weather is so cold and grey I don’t feel like going outside at all.

So I set the following language goals for January:

Chinese

  • Chinesepod – 15-20 minutes every day
  • Memrise – 15-20 minutes every day
  • Italki – one session every 2 weeks (I reduced italki this month because of my Chinesepod marathon that I mentioned here)
  • Watch C-Drama – every day

Indonesian

  • Memrise – 10 minutes every day
  • Indonesian Zoom class – one hour a week on Fridays

Korean

With Korean it is quite hard to actually set goals because I don’t want to reduce my time I spend on learning Chinese, so I need to add it into my routines on top of what I’m already doing with other languages. I was lucky to have found a great language exchange partner, we had our first call yesterday and it went well (one day I should write a separate post about it). So I will try to set these goals, but I’m not sure I will be able to achieve them, let’s try and see how it goes:

  • Memrise – 5 minutes a day
  • Journal in italki – once a week
  • Read Webtoon – once a week
  • Language exchange call – twice a week
  • Chat with friends on Kakao Talk – every other day

Let’s review together after one month πŸ™‚

Languages can’t be bought

A thought just came up – if we could buy and simply upload languages to our heads, which ones would I go with? I would definitely probably go with Japanese, French and Portuguese, as well as Armenian first. These are the languages I would like to be able to speak, but I don’t have time resources to learn yet.

And then a second thought came up – maybe people who speak many languages are so impressive to monolinguals because we all know that languages can’t be bought. And you don’t need to go to an expensive school in order to learn a language well – you just need passion, motivation, a good internet connection and an open heart and mind. I feel that in our materialistic world it is important to pursue something that you can’t just buy, you have to work hard for it.