Lindie, Shunchan

Today I hopped on a livestream with Lindie Botes and got to hear her speak so many different languages at the same time, it was super inspiring as usual πŸ™‚ I even got a chance to tell her that I really love her channel and that I literally freaked out when I saw that she subscribed to my blog. Lindie, if you’re reading this – you made my day!

To be honest, I had a break from active language learning in June and I wasn’t updating this blog much, but now I feel ready to be back in the game. This week I had two important encounters – first one with an owner of a bingsu cafe here in Ljubljana, and second with a Chinese lady yesterday in Maribor. Since the beginning of the pandemic, I only practiced languages via devices, be it Skype. Zoom or Clubhouse. This week was the first time I got to speak Chinese with a real life person, and more than 2 years since my last Korean encounter, so it was super exciting to have a real life conversation πŸ™‚ I was so proud that I could speak to both of them without freezing or lagging much, and seeing their amazed reaction was especially satisfying.

I feel like my motivation to learn these two languages is now finally back, luckily the Indonesian course has now come to an end and so I have more mental resources to dedicate to them. I finished Indonesian course with a clear understanding of how I don’t wan’t to study – the traditional way of learning is just soo not for me.

Also, Shunchan just released a new video talking about Engish education in Japan and I found myself agreeing with everything he said. You can’t sign up to any class and except to learn the language by the end of it, you have to put in the extra work yourself. It is surprising that a lot of people don’t have such mindset and just expect to learn the language by passively showing to language classes few times a week and doing their homework. It doesn’t work that way πŸ™‚

I’ve signed up for HSKK!

After 38 days of every day revision with Memrise, I feel like I’m finally all caught up with Unit 1 and can now move onto revision of Unit 2 πŸ™‚

Last week I was pretty good with Korean – I had 2 language exchange calls, wrote a small text in my notebook, and got through Unit 1 of this book, revised 8 grammar patterns and did a test at the end of the unit, which was very hard, but I got just 2 questions wrong (out of 12), so I feel pretty good about it!

However, yesterday I did 2 crazy things which I was not planning to do – I signed for HSKK, the oral Chinese speaking test, intermediate level. I checked mock tests and they seemed quite manageable, however, as I started reading more about the test I got a little bit more intimated, but I don’t wanna turn back, I want to have a go! Even if I fail, there’s another one in June and the test fee is only 20 euros (unlike English certificates, which can cost from 200 to 300 euros). So now I have to go through the HSK 3 and HSK 4 vocab, as well as schedule some practice sessions. Fun, fun fun!

I think I mentioned here a few times that my Chinesepod subscription ended last week and I was not planning on renewing it in order to save money. However, yesterday I got a newsletter from Du Chinese with a very good discount thanks to Chinese New Year, so I couldn’t resist and bought a one year subscription πŸ™‚ Du Chinese is a website mostly for learning how to read Chinese characters, and even though one year ago I kept saying that reading characters is not for me, I feel like I can finally start working on it. Actually, I really want to learn to read and write in Chinese and I hope that with DuChinese I will be able to get a little closer to that goal.

So… how many languages do you speak?

There is no more confusing question that this one for anyone who is multi-lingual.

The thing is, I speak freely and fluently just 3 languages – English, Russian and Slovene. I don’t have to think what I want to say in these languages, the words come to my mind naturally and I can feel super relaxed while conversing in these languages.

Then come the rest of the languages in which I can speak, but with more difficulty – Italian, Spanish, Korean, and recently Chinese. To be honest, I keep mixing Italian and Spanish, so in order to get myself in the “flow” of either of these I need to speak for like one hour straight and then the fluency comes back to me, I get in the “flow” and stop thinking which word should I use – “fare” or “hacer” and so on. Korean and Chinese – well, they are extremely difficult languages, and I often feel difficulty expressing myself on some topics even after weeks and months of studying – some things are easier, some things are harder. I can speak them, I can easily hold conversation about myself, my life, general topics, but I’m definitely not fluent.

I also leave Indonesian out – I only finished A1 and know just some super basic stuff, so I can’t even say I can speak it, because what I can do for now in this language is super limited.

And then there are passive languages – like Serbo-Croatian. I was exposed to it quite a lot through my dad, who speaks it well, so I understand almost everything, I can read subtitles if we’re watching a movie in a language I don’t know. But I can’t speak it. It is not an active language for me, it is a passive one.

So how do I answer to the question – “so, how many languages do you speak?” Do I say 3 because these are my most fluent ones? Do I say 7? Or do I say 8 and include Serbo-Croatian (which I can’t really speak?)

And this is why I always get confused what would be the best reply when I get this question πŸ™‚

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.