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Language Learning Tips from a Student of Korean

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Korean street between buildings
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By Evangeline Halim

Stony Brook University, LCF Student Ambassador

Hi there! I'm Evangeline, but I usually go by Angie. I'm currently working toward a bachelor's degree in Psychology with a concentration in linguistics.

My interest in languages began during childhood when my Chinese-Indonesian parents shared various cultures with me through foreign films. Although Indonesian (Bahasa) was the language I grew up around, I’ve been fascinated by other Asian media and languages—such as Vietnamese, Korean, Chinese, and Japanese. Italian also intrigued me, and I explored it for several years in high school.

More recently, I've developed a strong interest in Korean culture. I've found that Korean traditions feel very close to home, and significantly different at the same time. To fully appreciate the roots of this culture, I realized that I should try to understand the language and its nuances... So I've been self-studying Korean (and a tiny bit of Japanese)!

I find what drives me, personally, to learn Korean is that it's more than just memorizing words: I'm intrigued by the deeper meanings and references in the language.

This journey combines my academic pursuits (in linguistics) and my passion for language and culture. I’m excited to see where it takes me in the future and eager to share some of the methods I've been using to make language learning part of my daily practice.

My Best Strategies for Fellow Language Learners

"Feel" the words in authentic settings.

Most of us can speak our native tongue without needing a second to think about it. Speaking an entirely different language calls for repetitive oral practice. This almost always results in making mistakes along the way, but that’s the beauty of it.

Rather than memorizing words on flashcards, it’s important to improve our ability to spontaneously respond with accuracy in another language. This doesn’t have to be through speaking: It can be as simple as immersing yourself in a situation where the language is prevalent! Take, for instance, going to a Korean supermarket: In real-life applications, I'm regularly discovering the meanings of new words by context (for example, foods like kimbap: 김밥)!

  • Fun Fact: I always used to confuse the words 어떡해 (oh no!) and 어떻게 (how…?) in Korean because of how similar they sound. When I heard someone use this in real-life, I was so confused and thought to myself, “Why are they asking me how it’s raining?” With context and practice, I never get these words mixed up anymore!

Watch videos, vlogs, and shows.

I'm quite fond of watching Korean YouTube videos and Netflix shows—not only for their captivating romance plots, but because they're helpful in understanding how fast native speakers talk.

The strategy of watching everyday videos/shows while learning can be applied to any language! Through this method, you can easily pick up a lot of casual phrases not included in formal textbooks. Plus, on streaming platforms such as Netflix, the actors often speak very clearly. This makes it a lot easier to spot common and frequently used phrases.

As for YouTube, there's a wide range of content featuring a variety of native speakers with accents and dialects, which is really valuable for language learners’ adaptation to listening.

Find your unique pace!

Learning a language (or anything) is about finding the right balance and rhythm. It's important to integrate your language study sessions into whenever is most comfortable for you, as long as you stay consistent and productive. You want to avoid feeling “burnt out” as much as possible, because, at the end of the day, learning a language should be fun and interesting!

Whether it's during three breaks throughout the day or while commuting to work/school multiple times a week, finding those moments is key to staying motivated.

A flexible approach can keep language learning more enjoyable and encourage steady progress.

Don't be afraid to talk with native speakers.

Learning a new language can feel pretty intimidating, especially when it comes to talking with native speakers.

Regardless of how uncomfortable it may be at first, chatting directly with native speakers can be extremely beneficial for building up your language skills. You might even start to pick out cultural perspectives, accents, slang, and nuances that aren’t found in a classroom setting. And it can serve as a great confidence booster to aid in navigating more practical real-life language situations as they arise.

Although it can be challenging to find a native speaker and communicate with them effectively, it can truly strengthen your communication skills in a new language. Just like doing a math problem until you get it right!

So, What Now…?

If learning new languages was a game, these tips could be seen as tools to help unlock new “levels” and regions of the world. I hope my suggestions help in “unlocking” a new story line for some of you!

For me, learning languages and their respective cultures has revealed a different perspective on the world: As multilinguals, we not only widen our horizons, but we develop new connections with others and create an appreciation for diverse communities.

I've always been drawn to the idea of traveling the world and developing real, authentic connections with people from diverse backgrounds. Exploring different cultures and languages excites me, and I believe that by putting myself in new environments, I'll have the opportunity to grow personally and professionally. Let's do this together!

Want more tips and motivation? Be sure to follow us @LangConnectsFdn on social media and check out Angie's takeover of LCF's Instagram!

Know a language learner with a story to share? Refer multilingual students and professionals to LCF for consideration in a future blog feature. And be sure to explore the LCF Student Ambassadors Program for post-secondary language learners.