And I thought I knew it all!
Ever since I started pursuing my language goals, I really thought I had read all that is to read about language learning, watched all the videos on learning languages that is needed (and that is humanly possible within the time that I had on my disposal) to have a good knowledge on it; and I thought I followed, well, not exactly followed, but at least was well aware of all the trends in the linguistics world. But how wrong I was! Coz when dearest Liz from JumpingJacqueline tagged me in this language tag, I had not the faintest idea what a “Language Tag” was. But I’m ABSOLUTELY THRILLED to learn about it and it’s all thanks to dearest LIZ ( ♥ ♥ ♥ Hugs & Kisses ♥ ♥ ♥ ).
So, here I am, doing my own language tag. Oh yes! Do check out her post as well! – A brief account by Liz herself, a passionate language learner, from a country where 1652 languages are spoken, and who herself has ventured into the realm of seven languages, but has finally settled in with her love for Japanese. It’s quite interesting that even with such close cultural, religious, historical and linguistic ties between Nepal and India, there still are so many things that you didn’t know about each other. Anyways, let’s get right on it!
What would you consider your native language?
My native language is Nepali (नेपाली) or 네팔어 (as they say in Korean). It’s the official language of Nepal spoken by about 42 million people worldwide (well, mostly in Nepal and South Asia). It’s the first language I learnt as a child, I guess.
Apart from that, my actual “mother tongue” is a indigenous, caste-based language called “Newari” (नेवारी or also called Nepal Bhasa, “Bhasa” meaning “language”). It’s a language spoken by the “Newar” people (people who belong to the “Newar” group, a popular caste, found mainly in the Kathmandu valley.) However, while I have no problem whatsoever in understanding Newari, I can’t brag a good command on my speaking skills. The reason being that my parents always made me speak only in Nepali and spoke to me mostly in Nepali since my childhood. They didn’t let me speak in Newari, which might seem quite odd as my entire family and relatives communicate with each other exclusively in Newari (except me, Of course). The reason they decided to make Nepali as my first language, and not Newari, was that people who learn Newari as their first language, tend to have a slight accent which can create some nuisance while speaking Nepali and especially English.
(Newari seems to have a lot of tttttt, rrrrrr and mmmmm, which does tend to sneak in more often than one would find it pleasing, while speaking in other languages, making it quite obvious that you are a “Newar”).
While you can fix these little accent disruptions with some practice, my parents didn’t want me to have them in the first place and perhaps be subject to any teasing or similar incidents at school. (I have a nephew who went to kindergarten knowing nothing but Newari with all his teachers and friends hardly knowing any Newari. I don’t know how he coped his first year at kindergarten. But he must have certainly faced some teasing by his friends. But I guess, it didn’t matter, coz he wouldn’t have understood anything anyway. Haha! Anyways, he speaks both Nepali and Newari perfectly well now, although you can clearly tell he is a Newar from his accent (well, you can’t really call it accent, just the way he speaks).
Well, thanks to my parents, I don’t have a “Newari” accent while speaking other languages, but I do hesitate a little while speaking long sentences in Newari, simply due to lack of practice (which was a result of my hesitation, well, it’s a vicious cycle!). But I do wish now that my parents hadn’t made that call back then, when I see my other Newari friends, perfectly fluent (and accent free) in Nepali, Newari and English.
Phew! That was a long answer for such a simple question! My apologies! I do have a knack for writing long answers and long sentences. Writing summaries (especially 1/3rd summary) of stories, etc used to be a nightmare for me at school too! And Long answer questions were an absolute treat!
What was your first language learning experience?
I guess, my first language learning experience would have to be English. I started learning English since kindergarten, when I was around four years old. I studied English as a compulsory subject from my kindergarten till my second year in my bachelor’s degree. That’s 17 years of English study. Moreover, I went to an English-medium school, which means a school where, all subjects except Nepali, are taught in English and all the textbooks are in English as well. That goes the same for my entire university life including my masters degree. So that makes 21 years of English immersion.
But, honestly, I don’t really consider learning English as a true “language experience”. What I mean is, it was just another “subject” that I learnt without putting any conscious effort or thought into it. Just like one would never say that “I’ve been learning mathematics for 18 years or science for 20 years”, English is something that we learnt pretty naturally. So I don’t have much recollection of having truly struggled with it as a “language”, nor do I recall practising it, as in, reading, writing, listening or speaking it consciously, for that matter.
What languages have you studied and why did you learn them?
I wanted to learn a new language since I was quite young. I was fascinated and at the same time frustrated (because of lack of knowledge) when I heard foreigners speak different languages. Sadly, English was the only foreign language that I got to study properly. Like I said earlier, I learnt English as it was a compulsory subject throughout school and then college. After that, I briefly had a chance to learn a few phrases, words and alphabets of Japanese in my eighth grade, but it was only for a few weeks, as our Sensei (Japanese teacher) had to suddenly return back to Japan and we couldn’t get a new teacher. It was an experimental session that our school had tried, and I had willingly joined the class as I was really interested in learning Japanese back then. But it got discontinued, and somehow my desire to learn Japanese also started to sort of fade off. (I was more into dancing and what-nots, back then).
Like Liz, I also had to study Sanskrit in our sixth and seventh grade at school, but unlike her, we didn’t have a choice. But, I literally don’t remember a thing about it, except for maybe a verse or two of some poems. It was like trigonometry for me. Lol! I didn’t get it in the first place to begin with.
And currently, I am learning Korean. I started learning Korean because I always had an unfulfilled desire of learning a foreign language. I chose Korean in particular simply because it looked as if it would be relatively easier to learn. So I was confident that I could pick up at least a few phrases and sentences within the few-weeks-time that I had originally planned to give it. (I’d long picked up few basic phrases unconsciously, just by watching a couple of Korean shows, without ever planning to study it.) But now, the more I study it, the more I’m in love with it.
How does your personality affect your language learning?
I’m not sure if it’s a good thing or not, but some of my personality traits, even those that are “not so good” or “recommended” habits have proven conducive to my language learning. For one, I have a very weak willpower. So I usually end up giving up on things that I struggle most with. So even from “Day One” of my Korean challenge, I always had a thought at the back of my mind, that I’d soon give up on it. So to prevent this from happening, I always made sure that I didn’t set my goals high. Instead, I always set my language goals that were realistic, if not, too easy to achieve. This way, whenever I achieved my goals (which was quite easy, given my goal), I was more than happy about it, and which also helped me keep motivated. And it’s amazing that I’m still at it even after almost two years into it. So in a way, language learning has also helped me discover a new sense of perseverance that I didn’t know I had it in me. It has made me more patient and calm for sure. Furthermore, it has made me more diligent. I’ve also found a new and increased respect for language learners, language teachers and the entire linguistics community too.
Do you prefer learning a language in a class or on your own?
I think I prefer learning a language in a class to studying it on my own. Although, self-learning is working pretty fine too, but I think language learning is more effective if learnt by interacting and communicating with as many people as possible. Class room learning or group learning helps you achieve things you never thought you could achieve on your own. It’s much more fun and motivating as well. Moreover, you need a good competition if you want to keep yourself from slacking off as well. Hence, a good check and balance indeed!
What are your favourite language learning materials?
Videos! 끝! Video lessons, dramas, shows, anything with moving objects, pictures and sounds! Only visual learning materials seem to do their charms on my memory the quickest way.
How much time do you learn a language per day?
Now, here’s a tough one. My language learning is so irregular and undisciplined that I can’t really give a fixed number. There are days when I continuously and actively watch video lessons, practise reading and writing for hours or even an entire afternoon or evening; and then there are those days when I barely give five minutes to it. However, if passive activities such as chatting in Korean with my Korean friends in Hellotalk or Kakaotalk and watching Korean shows count, then, I’d say I spend at least half an hour per day in my language immersion. I doubt if there has been even a single “Korean-free” day for over a year in my life.
What are your short-term and long-term language goals?
Short Term Goals
- Be able to speak Korean confidently (grammar accuracy is not the priority).
- Be able to read Korean properly and not read like an elementary kid would read.
- Be able to surf all “Hangul” Korean websites, without getting a headache.
Long Term Goals
- Be able to do high quality translations English to Korean and vice versa.
- Be able to converse in Korean about any topic (business, economics, religion, politics, astronomy, evolution, just anything) with accurate grammar as well.
- Achieve professional level writing skills in Korean.
- Pass TOPIK with fairly high score.
What is your favourite language?
I wish I could say that Korean is my favourite language. But that won’t be an 100% honest answer. My first love was English and apparently it still is. But I’ve enjoyed it thoroughly enough. So it’s now time to enjoy the beauty of the Korean language. I am totally in love Korean as well and am super excited to explore it. And the more I learn it, the more interesting and captivating it gets. 그래서 너무 좋아!
What is the next language you want to learn?
The list of languages I want to learn is endless. But, if I have to choose one, I’d say I want to learn Japanese or Mandarin Chinese once I’ve reached a satisfactory, working proficiency level in Korean. With Japanese though, I’m slightly afraid that I’d mix it up with Korean, not that the two are EXTREMELY similar or something. But people say they are similar to a great extent. As for Chinese, I’m more fascinated by the Hanzi, the Chinese characters or alphabets and want to learn the non-phonetic Chinese Characters. The pronunciation does seem like quite challenging actually and it seems like self-learning would do little good too.
What advice could you give new language learners?
- Don’t try to fool yourself! Know yourself well and set realistic and achievable goals. Don’t set goals like “I’ll study Korean for two hours a day!” and end up giving it all up once you can’t meet the goal. Of course, they say “failures are the pillars of success” but why face failure when you know you can achieve a 100% success? So, rather set small, achievable goals, that you are 100% sure you’ll meet, which will motivate you to put in more efforts. You can’t fool yourself! 자신을 못 속여요!
- Immersion is the key. In my experience, the secret to learning any language more naturally is to immerse yourself into the language and the culture of the country. This may include making friends with the people who speak your target language, frequenting the traditional restaurant of the people who speak the language, listening to the songs in the language, watching TV shows, dramas in the language, anything that exposes you to the language. The more you learn about the language, its origin, the culture, the better you’ll understand the little intricacies of the language.
- Think in your target language. Brainwash yourself into ‘thinking in your target language’. This requires some conscious effort on your side, but the faster you’re able to do this, the better. It’s an exercise to train your brain to accept the language as a part of your everyday life, so that much effort is not necessary as you go on learning the actual language. For e.g., if someone bumps into you and goes on without apologizing, your cuss should naturally come out into your target language. Lol! I’m not saying learn how to swear in your target language, but try to incorporate your target language into your daily life.
- Do not learn romanization before you learn the actual alphabets of your target language. Or Better don’t learn romanization at all. Trust me, you are so much better off without it. (found out why, here) If you’re giving a shot at a language, don’t take the easy way out or try to put the cart before the horse. Take some time out and learn the alphabets first, and then go for other things like sentence structure, grammar points, etc. It’ll help you in so many ways and will help you achieve great progress in a shorter span of time.
Well, that’s about it!
Now for the tag, I’d like to tag the following bloggers and I hope they enjoy it as much as I did.
CHEERS TO ALL LANGUAGE LEARNERS! 화이팅!