My Korean learning journey

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On my blog I write about various things I like and try, and one of the things I really like to write about is related to language learning.

While I haven’t found my Ikigai in life yet, I know for sure that I like to learn languages. Actually, one of my biggest goals in life is to learn many languages and talk to different people in their mother tongue.

I once refered to learning Korean as my own little forest. It was the first time I followed my dream, no matter how scared I was, and that decision will always be my guiding light.

I remember that following my dream felt unreal and uncertain at the beginning. I knew from the start it was going to be difficult, and I wasn’t quite sure I would make it, but I wanted to try anyway. I am forever greatful to that scared old me who did it anyway.

If you ask me why I chose to study Korean academically instead of learning on my own, I would answear that at that point learning Korean was my dream and going to the university was something that I had to do in order to have better chances as an adult in Romania. So I found a way to do both.

I must say I was lucky. Sometimes hard work will also need a pinch of luck to have successful results. For me it was my hard work, a pinch of luck, God’s love for me and my parents’ support I am always thankful for.

I was 14 when I heard Korean spoken for the first time. It was love at first “hearing”. The strange sounds I heard for the first time were like music to my ears. There was a new series diffused on national television, a Korean historical drama (also known as sageuk in romanized Korean) and that encounter was the beginning of my journey.

Soon enough I was hooked by the content of Korean dramas. I didn’t have Internet at home, so I was waiting like children wait for Santa Claus everyday to only watch one episode per day (minus the weekends). The old me would be so jealous to see me bingewatching series now.

In high-school my only contact with Korean language was through K-pop (Korean pop music) and Korean dramas. I tried to learn some vocabulary, but it was useless because it was used hundreds of years ago (they were broadcasting only historical dramas on national television).

It only started to get serious in college. I chose Korean language as my major, though everybody was concerned or reluctant. But I knew what I wanted to do.

In the beginning I did a lot of learning mistakes:

  • not reading enough
  • romanizing Korean words which made my brain lazy
  • forcing my brain to memorize thousands of words without context or examples

All these mistakes made my progress very slow, and after I found my own learning style, I progressed better studying my own way.

This is how I used to write Korean words in my first semester

After graduation, because there was no Korean Master program in Romania, I decided to enroll in any Master program I could find somehow attractive and I tried to continue studying Korean in my spare time.

My progress in Korean was always slow because I either studied the wrong way or I didn’t have enough time to study because of both my Master degree and my full-time job.

However, studying must be done in a fun way. Even today, I continue to improve my Korean whenever I have the time, without stress and deadlines. This is how Korean remains my little forest, even after many years.

This is it, this was my story about my Korean learning journey. I hope you had fun while reading.

Do you have any passions that became your little forest too? Let me know in the comments.

Thank you for reading.

One month of speaking French everyday

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Another month is gone. I don’t know about you, but these days I feel like time is running away from me. It could be because I try to do too many things, or because I do a lot of unnecessary things. One thing is clear: April is gone way to fast.

If you read my previous articles, you may already know that I made a habit of picking a new goal/challenge every month, something that I would focus on for the whole month. The goal I chose for the month of April was speaking French everyday for the whole month.

The main purpose of choosing a goal and focusing on it for one whole month is not only related to improving that activity or skill in itself, but also a way of educating myself to become more disciplined, more consistent, more intentional, and, the most important aspect, to keep the promises I make to myself.

Working to achieve a monthly goal brings a lot of benefits. Practicing this daily brings a lot of satisfaction and when you see the results, you know that your work paid it off. Also, the fact that I write about my goals and I share them with you on my blog makes it also a promise to the people who read my blog. This is actually one of the reasons I write about my goals: it makes the promise harder to break. Writing about my goals and my results is also a nice method of tracing my progress and keeping my motivation to start new projects. But back to my April goal.

The reason I chose this goal was mainly because my French got a bit rusty since I didn’t have too many occasions to use it. The importance of speaking the language you want to learn or to improve is tremendous. Trying to learn more languages, but not making a habit of practicing regularly will only make you feel tired because of a pointless effort and demotivated. I actually felt a bit demotivated when trying to polish my French because I can’t seem to find original content that I like and that would make me want to advance my French. However, I like to talk a lot in other languages, so I started from there.

One month of speaking a language daily even for 10 minutes can help by a lot to improve your level. Keep in mind that we are talking mostly about intermediate and even advanced learners whose language got rusty because of a lack of practice for a while. In my case it was more than a year. However, only one month of practicing your language won’t do wonders, not if you only practice for 10 minutes a day. There were days when 10 minutes became 15 or 20 minutes, but that was rare because I tend to get bored. Talking to a language partner is a lot more interesting and more challenging.

After one month of speaking French daily I regained my confidence of speaking the language which means that the words flow more naturally and I don’t have to think too much to find my words, my accent softened a bit more and observed some aspects that I need to working more like vocabulary and grammar.

As a conclusion, speaking French for one whole month was the perfect workout for my brain that took a long break from practicing French in particular and gave me the idea for a new goal. This month I will focus on practicing Japanese daily. Nothing too difficult; I will try to keep up with the writing systems and practicing with reading activities. I can’t wait to see the results.

Thank you for reading and I will see you around.

My thoughts on Italki

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I think it’s my first time doing a review on whatever I used until now, but I decided to talk about my experience with Italki because it really became my new way of learning and connecting with people.

For those of you who might not be acquainted with Italki, let me tell you what they do. Italki is one of the biggest and most famous platforms for learning languages. It is mostly used for talking to natives and learning through the most natural way: conversation. However, you can still find teachers who will teach you the basics like the alphabet if you learn a language that uses a different writing system, grammar and some even have lessons that will help you prepare for international exams.

What I really like about Italki is the plethora of languages they cover, and the fact that you can find a great number of native speakers to start practicing the language you want to learn or improve your skills in.

At Italki, there are two types of teachers. There are professional teachers who have a teaching certificate and have a lot of experience (they usually have bigger prices, but this is not a general rule), and there are the community tutors, the ones I started working with, and who don’t have a teaching certificate, but they might have a lot of experience in teaching (they usually have smaller prices, but again, this is not a rule). The reason I chose a community tutor is because I really want to learn in a very informal way, and to also benefit from speaking to people I don’t know, a skill I personally wanted to develop. I discovered that I remember vocabulary easier when having informal and random conversations because I am genuinely interested in the subject and it is easier to learn when I enjoy it.

Every teacher on Italki has to upload a video containing a self-introduction part and some details about how they’re going to organize their classes in order for you to have a better idea on the teaching style and the person you are going to work with. You can also check the schedule of your teacher (every teacher has the right to choose their schedule as they see fit), and choose a person who has a schedule that might be suitable for you. For example, as I have more free time during the weekends, I look for teachers who work during the weekends.

As a student, you have 3 trial lessons which means that you can try at a lower price 3 lessons from 3 different teachers in order to decide which one is the most suitable to your learning style. Also, as a student, you will pay a small commission to Italki, a fee that will be calculated at checkout, after booking the lesson you want.

I love the fact that you can book each lesson separately for a specific day and hour that are suitable to you. Rather than booking a whole course or module, you can book one lesson at a time, a feature that give students freedom to book lessons according to their own schedule.

Italki has its own teaching platform, Italki classroom, but teachers are free to use other platforms like Zoom for example.

I started using Italki as a challenge to improve my speaking in other languages and I already fell in love with this platform. Currently, I only use Italki for improving my Korean, as Korean is the language I lack the most in ( in Japanese I am still a beginner and I am still in the first phase, that of learning the alphabet and reading simple texts). I have completed 5 lessons in Korean from the end of August until now, and I tried working with two tutors.

I still need to figure out how to organize my time better in order to benefit 100% from these lessons, because it is very important to review the vocabulary learnt in classes on your own as well. By the way, if you are interested in more articles about Korean, you might want to also check out My Little Forest is learning Korean or this one which will provide you with some great sources of inspiration.

As a conclusion, Italki is for me a great tool for improving my language skills and my conversation skills too, because personally, I find that Italki is also a great place to connect with beautiful and intelligent people and have very interesting and meaningful conversations.

I hope that you found this article interesting and thank you for always coming back here and reading my stories. Have a great weekend and warm days ahead.