Since late last May I have been studying through the Korean Immigration and Integration Program. After successfully completing Level 3 I moved up to Level 4 in September. I really loved our new teacher’s teaching style and her bluntness. She was very adamant that everything we do should be in Korean. She specifically pointed out that if you are an English teacher you will have the hardest time to speak Korean due to being in a non-Korean speaking environment most of the day.
So she made some suggestions:
put your cellphone in Korean
watch the news in Korean
read the news in Korean
watch Korean tv shows and movies
learn vocabulary in Korean
A lot of these suggestions I can do though it is more of a nuisance than I like. My phone is in Korean and I can use it just fine though sometimes I have to double check what something means so I don’t hit the wrong option. I hate reading news articles, but at least if I read the headlines I will know the major stories. As for TV shows and movies, I’m lazy. I’m an avid Korean drama watcher and I could easily drop the English subtitles. Yet, I watch it while I am relaxing so I don’t want to have to overthink it. And for looking up Korean words in Korean, shoot me in the head. I’ve tried it and sometimes I get it. But mostly, I still look everything up in English.
Level 4 in the beginning was hard for me as even though I knew half the class from level 3 no one was particularly friendly with me. The classes can be quite cliquey based on nationality. However, about half way through the semester the other students started to warm up to me more. We would share snacks and they would make small conversation. I even became friends with a really nice Uzbek Korean. I really love the diversity in our class and we did a lot of fun things together like going to an event and having a potluck lunch party. Which had beer and lots of food from various countries!
The hardest part this time around was getting myself motivated to study. I really wanted to get an 80 this time in the class to prove to myself that I could do it. However, I wasn’t in the right mindset most of the time so it was really hard for me to stay focused during the 1o hour classes. Luckily, I managed to get a 77. I’m not happy with the grade, but I know I did a lot better than many of my classmates.
Right now our program is on winter break so I am not ready to dive back in to studying. But slowly I’ve been reading ahead and splitting the division of vocabulary with another friend I know who happens to be the same level at a different location. Level 5 will be a fun and interesting class. Its only 50 hours long and covers 50 4 page chapters about Korean society and history. Its a lot to absorb in 5 classes. I hope I have a good teacher as that can really make or break the class. Classes are starting sometime in February and I can’t wait to see all of my classmates! I also can’t wait to pick up my certificate that shows I completed the language program!
Enrolling in the KIIP (Korean Immigration and Integration Program) 사회통합프로그램 in Korean has been a long but rewarding process. I missed the January placement test, so I was unable to enroll in Spring classes.
We all have moments in life where we fall apart. Not huge moments, but little ones like we had as a child. The fleeting meltdowns of our early years. Well, yesterday happened to be a meltdown day.
Why? Grammar. It`s one thing to be frustrated in your own language, but when learning a new one the frustrations increase. Sometimes there are no meltdowns until you hit the glass door. Last night, in class we were building sentences based on words given to us by the book. It was just my teacher and I, and the conversation was like this:Read More
I was reflecting on my progress with learning Korean and if I think of how long I have self-studied the language it seems like a disappointment. I learned how to read Korean back in 2006 with the help of a Saturday Korean class run by Korean students at Amherst college. This helped me a lot when I went to study abroad that summer and placed in level 4 of level 6 for the beginner Korean classes. And so years went by, I have watched numerous Korean dramas and listened to Korean music over the years. I dated and was married to a Korean man for a total of 6 years. I was able to converse in basic sentences over the phone and in person with his friends and family. At one point I even held a 1 hour conversation mostly in Korean with my sister-in-law.
Reflecting on this I feel I should be further along. I should have more confidence in speaking the language, reading and writing, listening and participating in conversations. When I was with my ex we used to try to have days we would just speak in Korean, however, it never worked. He or I would get frustrated by being unable to communicate with the other we resorted to English. I was always frustrated that I could not express myself in Korean. My feelings, my thoughts, what I wanted to do. I would just shut down and speak English. Every time I would tell myself I am going to say it in Korean this time, English would come out of my mouth. I felt embarrased by the fact that I could not speak and that I made pronunciation errors. I have corrected my ex on his errors and he always thanked me, and though I am thankful when someone corrects me, it makes me feel incompetent at the same time. This probably stems from me having low self-confidence. I don’t believe in my abilities nor do I push through walls to grow. I just get comfortable and stay where I am, even at my own dismay.
When I hear about others learning languages or reading language learning blogs I feel in awe of the people who acquire languages so quickly. Granted there is a lot of dedication behind that. Yet, it makes me wonder what have I done for 6 years that I’m not even semi-fluent? It is a question I ask myself. I look at all the books I have to learn the language and the resources available to me online and I pause. Why do I not make the time to learn? Just even setting 30 minutes aside? The question really bothers me. Self-studying has always been hard for me, as much as I strive to be good at it. I feel I am much more of an immersion person. I feel if I am under the pressure of learning to get by in life, to communicate to others around me, to be able to order food and take directions, I need to have that pressure.
With that being said, I am looking forward to my time in Korea. I am looking forward to the fact that I am in Gangwon province and that speakers of English may be minimal. I welcome the opportunity to challenge myself in Korean. To rattle my brain and see what has been collecting dust in all the crevices. How much vocabulary is floating around unused? How many grammar structures do I actually know and understand? How much can I function by myself in another language? I look forward to that challenge to actually test my knowledge. I might surprise myself with what I do know. With that being said I have decided that at some point in the next year abroad I will sit for the TOPIK (Test of Proficiency in Korean) and I am not sure what level I will pick to test for but I think I will shoot for Level 2 (High Beginner) or Level 3(Low Intermediate) as much as I would love to take Level 4 ( High Intermediate) I think it is currently out of my league so for now I will concentrate on one of the lower levels.
Goal: To sit for the TOPIK exam before the end of 2013 and either achieve Level 2/3