Throughout my late freshman and early sophomore years of college, I took two different Korean language courses. Both were through my university, and neither were very helpful for me, personally. Sure, I learned how to read Hangul and memorized a few phrases, but my professor (bless her heart, she was a sweet woman) primarily focused on teaching us about grammar and syntax. This is fine and dandy, I think, if you are more advanced in learning a language. However, we were never given enough time to properly memorize the vocabulary we were learning, so by the time we were asked to apply the grammar lessons to said vocabulary…well, we were stuck.
I have some fascinating memories from those two courses; everything from crushes on boys, to meeting the girl that helped me go to China as an au pair in 2018, and even my teacher, after prompting us to choose Korean names, chose my name herself: 이쁜이/I-ppeun-i (it means “little pretty” and might be an homage to my English name, Belle…or, it just might be a cute nickname). However, I retained so little language-related knowledge that now, a few months out from moving to Korea, I find myself learning from the beginning once again. I’ve since discovered a few lovely strategies (mostly by utilizing apps) that have been very helpful for me personally, so I’d love to share them with you all:
I’m a flashcards kind of girl, through and through. Sure, rote memorization doesn’t work for everyone, but for me, it’s been a great way for me to memorize key phrases like, “Where’s the bathroom?” and “Sorry, I can’t speak Korean very well.” If you’d like to use this method for yourself, I’d recommend pairing it with an application that is helpful for learning new vocabulary words, since this method is more for reinforcement of what’s already been learned. Speaking of new vocabulary…
Drops has been a great way for me to learn new things, like different names for food or animals, in a super fun and creative way. After learning the same word/phrase over and over again, usually through mini-games where you drag words to images accompanied by someone pronouncing said word, I eventually add it to my flashcards. It’s a great way to slowly learn a variety of new nouns, in my opinion.
I’ve actually been using HelloTalk for the past year or so, interestingly enough. When I knew that it was crunch time for me in regards to preparing myself physically, mentally, and emotionally for my move abroad, it might do me some good to meet some potential language-exchange partners/friends.
Basically, HelloTalk is like a social media app, but for language exchange. I make posts in Korean (for the most part). Because I’m learning Korean, Koreans that are learning English show up in my timeline. I can like/comment on their posts, and even send them a message in Korean or English. So far, I’ve had an okay amount of luck. I’ve messaged a plethora of people, but as of late, I only have two people I’d consider long-term friends/language partners that I’ve made from this app; most people eventually give up on the conversation after a few days/weeks (I’ve done this too, unfortunately). When you find that person you vibe with, regardless of the language you’re studying, be sure to cherish them!
I know, I know, watching TV doesn’t sound like the best way to learn a language. It really can be, though! Because I haven’t moved to Korea/literally surrounded myself with the language just yet, K-Dramas are the best way for me to practice my listening skills at the moment. It’s nice to hear a word or phrase I know and be like, “OMG. I know what they said.” Maybe someday I will be able to watch Boys Over Flowers with no subtitles…
As of now, my approach has been pretty simplistic. Perhaps, as I get deeper into the language, I’ll find myself using more apps/methods of learning. Until then, though, and until I finally move abroad in the autumn, I’m going to keep up with my current methods and see how I grow as a Korean Language Learner from there.