Saturday, July 10, 2010

A Helpful Shove off the Cliff

As I predicted here, our weeks have gone from relaxing to "I barely have time to breathe." Seriously. It's hard to remember what it was like to be sitting around saying we were bored. We've got an additional pronunciation class once a week, language exchange partners to meet with twice a week, and part time jobs to keep us busy before and after class. Throw in some homework and studying and you've got an idea how we're spending our days.

Not that I'm complaining... I know we're lucky to have the opportunity to take this time to learn another language. It's just that I'm really looking forward to vacation (방학대) in two weeks. I don't think we're going anywhere glamourous... and we're still going to be working... but the nerd in me is looking forward to having some time to catch my breath and master everything we've learned so far so I can finish the semester on a strong note. Woah, what have I turned into?

But that update isn't really why I'm writing. I'm writing to get some advice from those of you that have learned another language. My issue is this... I've only been studying for about a month, and I'm obviously nowhere near fluent. But I'm realizing I have a lot of the tools I need to communicate. And I can do it pretty well when I feel comfortable. But most of the time, I get nervous and forget words, or I speak ridiculously slowly trying to make sure every sentence is correct and every word pronounced perfectly. This doesn't really help with building fluency or communicating with actual Korean people. It's like my inner-perfectionist is holding me back big time.

Mark, on the other hand, is doing great. He's quick to speak and isn't really bothered when he makes mistakes. (Can you tell I'm a little jealous?) So he's been pushing me more and more lately both in class and in public to communicate, which I love/hate. But it just seems like this lack of confidence is going to be a big road block in learning the language for me.

Any advice how to deal with this? Will it just diminish as I get better? Any inspirational words of wisdom I can tell myself when I start to feel myself freeze up? Who or what can give me that final shove off the cliff, so to speak?


Mica said...

Hmmm, Harrison and I have this sort of problem in reverse. He is very slow at speaking because he is concerned with getting every detail right, and I babble along, making lots of mistakes. I'm not sure if there is a "cure" for it because it's really just a personal approach to learning languages.

When I've learned other languages in the past, it helps me a lot to listen to music in the target language and try to repeat all the words. That way the sounds and mouth shapes get ingrained in the muscle memory.

Also, it's a good idea to remember that fluidity is more important than fluency at this point. Sometimes, when I get stuck on words, I just blast on through and try to describe what I mean, e.g. "small mountain" if I can't remember the word for "hill."

Does that help at all? Gah, now you're making me nervous for Korean class here! Best of luck!!

Dad said...


I well remember how long it took me in Montreal to feel more comfortable speaking French. I was there a good six months before I felt that I was beginning to have a good grasp of the language. The last year and a half gave me the confidence I needed to add to my fluency. Of course I was speaking the language during most of my waking hours as well as taking philosophy classes five out of seven days. Those first 6 months went by slowly because of the language barrier. So, don't be too discouraged at this point. I'm sure Korean must be a tough language to learn; so you have an additional hurdle. Just be glad for whatever progress you make even if you feel yourself backsliding from time to time. You are sharp enough and motivated. That's a great combination.