It is never too late to learn a language. We can learn languages at any time in our life, and it is very healthy for our brain to not only learn languages but also use them regularly.
I personally need to enjoy the language I’m speaking or learning. At the moment, I enjoy learning Korean.
I have shared with my friends and clients, that I have acquired four languages so far: German, Italian (from day one), and Swiss-German (from age 4-5) and Dutch (in my late 30ies). With this I mean that I didn’t have formal lessons in them – except later in German and Italian. Swiss-German being an oral language, I couldn’t read books or learn it in the traditional way. I taught it to myself by listening and later speaking it when I needed it. – With Dutch it was similar. I learned it by speaking.
I am now doing a little experiment with myself. After acquiring and learning many languages and dialects to various levels of proficiency, 10 months ago I decided to give it a try with Korean. I don’t have any need to learn Korean if not to try to learn a non-European language. My son is learning Chinese by himself, and when I saw the progress he made and the enthusiasm he put into it, I thought I’d choose another language too and decided to start with Korean.
The best way for me to start with a new language is to start listening to it. I pay attention to the intonation, the accentuation, the segmentation of words and the sounds (phonemes) because one of the most important aspects of another language for me is to “get it sound right”.
I did not visit the country (yet) and haven’t anyone to speak Korean with (yet). – This might change in the future though.
Here is what I have done so far
I started with watching Korean series on Netflix.
Whenever I watch a movie or series in a specific language, I also target the culture. I want to literally absorb as much as possible about the culture: how things are done, said, what is appropriate, what not, how it differs from what I know and what elements are similar to other cultures I know.
I try to watch all kind of genres.
Oh My Ghost, Love Alarm, My first first Love, Romance is a Bonus Book, Cinderella and the Four Knights, Chocolate, Something in the Rain, Hello, my Twenties, Because this is my first life, One Spring Night, When the Camellia Blooms, My secret romance, The liar and his lover, My shy boss, Revolutionary Love, Let’s eat, Second 20’s, Dear my friends, Beauty inside, Oh my Venus, You are my destiny, My secret Terrius, Coffee Prince, It’s okay, that’s love, Marriage contract, My holo love, Start Up, Mad for each other, The secret life of my secretary, Don’t dare to dream, Radio Romance, Once again, Chief of Staff, Romance is a bonus book, Do do sol sol la la sol, The rational life, Encounter, Well intended love, What happens to my family, Clean with passion for now Record of youth, She was pretty, My mister, Pasta…
Yes, I have been watching an episode or two almost every day since October 2019.
The best one, so far, is Crash landing on you which is a great story of a South Korean woman landing with her parachute in North Korea. It’s a love story filled with great insights into the North and South Korean culture.
You can find an overview of the “best ranked Korean movies/series” here.
All movies were in the original language with English subtitles.
I observed how I would slowly understand more and more, and be less dependent on the subtitles. I learned to read the non-verbal clues and get some feeling for the meaning through the intonation.
I am still far away from being fluent in any way – I would say I’m still at A1 level – but I am happy to say that I understand single words, get the gist of some sentences and am enjoying right now the next step which consists in learning to read and write. I don’t need to reach any specific language goal, so time is not an issue. I am literally learning this language at my very own pace and let myself guide by the “enjoy” factor.
linguist, I find IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) very helpful to recognize and practice new sounds. With the help of this Interactive IPA Chart I can practice new sounds like tensed consonants /p͈/, /t͈/, /k͈/, /t͈ɕ/, /s͈/. Its official use in the Extensions to the IPA is for strong articulation, but is used in literature for faucalized voice. I am also practicing the pronunciation of obstruents (stops, affricates, fricatives) that become stops with no audible release at the end of a word: all coronals collapse to [t̚], all labials to [p̚], and all velars to [k̚].
Here is how the Hangul translates into the phonetically:
To see / hear the difference of the basic, tense and aspired consonants in Korean, I just watched a few youtube videos, like this one:
Others call them lax, tense and aspired consonants…:
It surely helps me to be able to pronounce different kinds of consonants, like the English T and the Korean or Italian [t]:
The reason why it is so important to distinguish these three kind of consonants is because the different articulation of them leads to distinctive meaning of a word (phonemes):
When learning how to pronounce Korean, I usually transcribe phonetically what I hear also to double-check if what I hear is right…:
How to learn reading and writing in another writing system…
On Netflix one can activate an education mode when watching videos, and read how the words would be written in the original language.
I’m currently learning the Korean alphabet or hangul (한글).
I started with a great introductory video by “Miss Vicky” and learned the vowels, consonants, the batchim (final consonants) etc.
자음 consonant 14 basic consonant
ㄱ, ㄴ, ㄷ, ㄹ, ㅁ, ㅂ, ㅅ, ㅇ, ㅈ, ㅊ, ㅋ, ㅌ, ㅍ, ㅎ,
기역 ㄱ g, 니은 ㄴ n,
디귿 ㄷ d, 리을 l
미음 ㅁ m, 비읍 ㅂ b
시옷 ㅅ s, 이응 ㅇ silent/ng,
지읒 ㅈ j, 치읓 ㅊ ch,
키읔 ㅋ k 티읕 ㅌ t,
피읖 ㅍ p, 히읗 ㅎ h
ㅏa, ㅑya, ㅓuh, ㅕyuh, ㅣi,
ㅗoh, ㅛyoh, ㅜooh, ㅠyooh, ㅡeu,
나비 butterfly, 도시 city, 하마 hippo, 나라 country, 소녀 a girl, 아기 baby, 커피 coffee, 오이 cucumber, 우리 us/we, 다리 bridge or leg,
아니 no, 아니요 no, 바구니 basket, 버스 bus, 우유 milk, 이야기 story, 모자 hat/cap, 파스타 pasta, 라자냐 lasagna,
ㅐae, ㅒyae, ㅔae, ㅖyae, ㅚ wae, ㅘ wa, ㅙ wae, ㅟ wi, ㅝ wuh, ㅞ wae, ㅢ ui,
애기 talk story, 새 bird, 네 yes (formal), 예쁘다, 왜, 과자 snack, 쉐이키 shake, 웨이터 waiter, 의자 chair, 위 up, 뒤 behind,
쌍자음 double consonant,
ㄲ Spanish g, ㄸ Spanish d, ㅃ p as in apple, ㅆ s as i sun, ㅉ zh(dj) as in 真(zhen)
받침 Batchim (final consonant)
ㄱ 각 낙 막 박, ㄴ 간 잔 칸 판, ㄷ 닫 맏 믿, ㄹ 갈 날 달 말, ㅁ 감 남 담, ㅂ 밥 삽 깁 흡, ㅅ 깃 놋 닷 옷, ㅇ 방탄소년단 BTS , ㅈ 갖 겆 짖, ㅊ 읓 젗 닻 돛, ㅋ 해질녘 부엌, ㅍ same as ㅂ, ㅎ 좋아 놓다,
ㄲ 낚 삮 same as 닉 삭
ㅆ 했 있 same as 햇 잇
대한민국 Republic of Korea, 낚시 fishing, 돛단배 sailboat, 믿음 belief, faith, 말굽 horse, hoof, 옷걸이 hanger, 지다 to bark, 갖다 to have, 같다 same, 해질녘 sunset, 높다 high,좋은사람 good person, 끝 the end
What is important to know is that depending on the kind of vowel, she will be added in a certain position of the syllable:
And they use a placeholder letter for a consonant that makes no sound when it comes first. It is actually a glottal sound that one makes when pronouncing the vowels that follow.
I am continuing with my exercises and try to repeat the words I learn by watching movies and following Miss Vicky’s videos.
I am always interested in the history of a language, the phonology, phonetics and more, which lead me to one of my favourite youtubers about languages and linguistics: LangFocus
I know I have a long journey ahead of me, but I truly enjoy all the phases of it! And I am happy to observe that I seem to be more understanding of Japanese and Chinese… We recently watched some movies in Chinese (like Well intended love) and Japanese (animes from Ghibli) with my children and I understood some words here and there without having learned them actively. I’ll write about this another time.
I will update this post with my next steps learning this beautiful language!
읽어 주셔서 감사합니다 (Thank you for reading!)
– Are you learning a new language? What made you decide to learn that language and how are you learning it? I’d love to hear your story!