Improving Korean Through Reading and Listening
Improving Korean language skills, like for any other language, takes time and dedication. However, when learning a language you shouldn’t stick to the same routine. Sticking to old patterns doesn’t work, you need to mix things up. You have to do that not only to keep things fresh and exciting for yourself, but also because your learning needs differ vastly at different points in time of your learning adventure. I feel a time of change has arrived for me.
Beginner’s Vocabulary Drills
As a beginner learning a language is “easy”. I don’t mean that the actual learning is easy, but the deciding on what steps you need to undertake in order to learn it is easy. Let’s go over the ones I consider the steps a language learner takes when they start out learning a language.
The first objective is an optional and wholly depends on the language you are learning. That optional objective is mastering the writing system. When Korean is the language you want to learn, this is your very first aim: learn and master hangeul. You cannot learn Korean if you don’t learn hangeul. You just can’t. So suck it up and get cracking. In the end it won’t take longer than a day or two to learn and about a week or so to really master.
Your second goal is doing basic grammar and vocabulary drills. At first you probably won’t know a lot of Korean words and understand nothing about the grammar. At the beginner level you need to change that. You will learn a lot of grammar and vocabulary in a short time. It is a simple necessity, but this stage is also a pitfall. Don’t get caught up in endless vocabulary drills and worse getting caught up in grammar. Once you can write and understand simple texts in Korean the beginner stage is done and you best move to improve korean language skills are new learning methods.
Upper Beginner Objectives
Once you can manage reading simple texts in Korean (texts of about a couple hundred words) and you can write your own short texts in Korean, it is probably best to shift your Korean learning process in a whole new gear. You see the problem of the absolute beginner strategy is that you aren’t using the language to do what languages are designed to do: communicate. So once you’ve passed your first major hurdles you need to focus on your language skills.
It might be frightening, but you are going to have to start learning Korean actively rather than passively through Korean textbooks. What do I mean with learning a language actively? That is actually simple and can easily become your most favorite way of learning. You need listen to real Korean conversation, you need to read proper Korean texts, try to talk in Korean, etc. Through those experiences you will gain new understanding of Korean vocabulary and grammar a textbook simply couldn’t give.
I understand that learning a language actively is scary. Believe me, I know. I still have difficulties forcing myself to do these things. I don’t like to fail just like anyone else. However, if you don’t use a language as it is meant to be used, you are never going to learn it. Don’t worry about making mistakes, mistakes are par for the course. It is through them you will learn the most. Later you will even laugh about them yourself.
My Current Improving Korean Objectives
So time to set some personal objectives for me. I’ve been thinking long and hard and I decided to focus on two skills for now: listening and reading. Why those two? Because those are in my opinion the first skills you need to really improve in order to improve you other two language skills, speaking and writing.
To work on my reading I decided to buy a ebooks. The book is called “신기한 항아리·코에서 나온 쥐·도깨비감투: 신기한 이야기” and is part of a long series of graded readers, “외국인을 위한 한국어 읽기”. The book contains Korean folktales written with simpler Korean words. The series looked interesting and the books themselves are affordable so I decided to give them a spin. One downside is that it lacks audio, so I can’t use it to practice my listening. The goal I’m setting for myself is to read 1 story each week. This gives me ample time to read it more than once and create a vocabulary list.
To improve my listening I decide to give TTMIK a try. To be more precise, I’m going to give their 이야기 series a try. The 이야기 series is a natural spoken Korean podcast aimed towards upper beginner/intermediate users of TTMIK. The good thing about this series is that they allow you to download the audio file and a transcript of the dialogue so not only will it help listening, it will help reading as well. The goal I’m setting for myself is to listen to 1 podcast (starting with number 1) each week. Again this gives me ample time to listen multiple times instead of just once.
So what are your current improving Korean objectives? Let me know how you are learning Korean in the comments below.