Committed to Learning Korean
“What’s the point?” I wonder to myself as I sit through yet another student award ceremony held entirely in Korean or while I grade papers at my desk and all of the teachers around me have conversations that I can’t understand.
Most days these situations serve to drive me forward in my pursuit of learning Korean. They make me want to go straight home and hit the books. But some days, every now and again, they get me down. They make me feel left out and lonely; they make me wonder why I even bother trying at all.
I arrived in Korea just over a month ago and since then I have been studying Korean every single day for at least an hour. I have never put so much effort into something as I have with this. I review vocabulary words, I write out grammar rules to memorize, I watch YouTube videos and I make practice tests to help review what I’ve learned. I do all this and yet I still stare blankly when the woman at the grocery store checkout asks me a question; I still get sweaty hands when I go to the bus terminal to ask for a ticket to Seoul. I still don’t know very much Korean.
It’s frustrating. On a day-to-day basis I leave my apartment knowing that I probably won’t be able to communicate with ease. As an ESL teacher, I spend my days trying to communicate with children who do not speak my language. Many speak little to no English and simple commands like ‘sit down’ and ‘open your book’ are literally a foreign language to them. In shops, I rely on the numbers on the cash register to know how much something costs, the quick Korean spoken being completely out of my realm of understanding. By the end of each day, I collapse into bed as another day of battling to be understood comes to an end.
I recently joined a language exchange group. It was mostly to try to meet people in the city, but as a bonus I get to speak to people about how to study, what to study and where to find said study materials. The weekly meetings boost my morale–they help me to forget those hopeless feelings and moments of despair.
Learning a language is a slow process, which is a killer for someone as impatient as myself. It’s going to take more than a month and a few flashcards before I understand what’s going on around me, but I’m determined that it’s going to happen for me, eventually.