Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Language Learning: Successes and Failures

The Harrington's have just hit the 6 month mark of their stay in Korea. In just a few days a new semester/school year will begin over in the land of Kimchi which implies a whole new slew of Guest English Teachers will be entering the public schools and taking their turn at teaching English as a Foreign Language. However, English is not the only language being taught here in the Republic of Korea, additional world languages are taught at high school and university level yet the language we at The Harrington Times wish to highlight is noneother than the Korean language.

Six months ago as the Harrington's made their way to Jeonju for EPIK orientation their hearts were set on a number of culture engaging tasks such as learning the language. One would assume that 6 months immeresed in a second-language would provide ample opportunities to acquire this new language with great speed and efficiency. Unfortunately, for a number of reasons, this is not entirely true or common among the expat community (although there are an impressive number of foreigners who do master the language and their efforts should not be overlooked). Regardless, The Harrington Times serves to report on the life and times of the Harrington's who six months into teaching a language have done a relatively poor job acquiring a new language. Not to imply the couple hasn't been trying, and it is regarding such trials that we at THT bring forth this article as a way to assist others pursuing the Korean language. The following is a few language learning avenues taken by the Harrington's, their experience and recommendations.

Korean Lessons from a Korean Teacher/Co-Teachers: In attending a local English Ministry the Harrington's were presented an opportunity to learn the Korean language from volunteer teachers who spoke both Korean and English. The experience of the Harrington's in this situation is that Korean's may (or may not) learn and teach differently than Westerner's are accustomed to. For the Harrington's, Korean lessons were a 30-40 minute session of listening, repeating, reading, and copying. In this way, the Harrington's learned a few vocabulary words and gained a greater understanding of the Hanguel alphabet but often ended the classes feeling overwhelmed and frustrated by the huge amounts of language poured into heads with no solid understanding of when, how or why to use taught phrases. Outside of the church lessons the Harrington's sought advice or phrases instruction from co-workers. If the Harrington's had a better base from which to build, this would likely be effective, however both the Harrington's rarely remembered these new phrases or words beyond the day or week in which they were learned.

KoreanFlashcards.com: This website has proven to be an excellent and quick source for vocabulary building and grammatical understanding. The site offers many choices regarding what level of words and/or specific words the 'student' would like to learn. Each word also comes with example sentences which when scrolled over offer grammatical explanations. In addition, 'students' can sign up for daily newsletters which will include a sentence of the day, random vocabulary and vocabulary currently in the student's personal 'list'.

Talk To Me in Korean: This website is by far the favorite of the Harrington's. TTMIK offers a wide, impressive range of lessons that suit the Harrington's learning styles quite well. In Level 1, students can expect to learn useful Korean phrases that are easy to change and use in various situations. As the Harrington's are not particularly far in their learning of the Korean language they cannot speak to the quality of all lessons but have done enough browsing to realize the value of additional materials. This site provides not only the MP3 versions of 8-10 minute lessons but in addition provides PDF files for additional explanations and even workbook pages so that students can perfect and test their language acquisition. Beyond the basic levels, TTMIK provides listening excercises for both intermediate and advanced level learners of Korean. If that's not enough, TTMIK links a plethora of helpful sites and information regarding the Korean language. But wait! That's not all! These exceptional Korean language lessons are offered free of charge, so if you try it out and love it, you should consider making a donation. Regardless, Talk to Me in Korean is an excellent option for learning the Korean language in bite-sized chunks while sitting in front of your computer.

To those who hope to learn the Korean language to any degree, we here at The Harrington Times wish you the best f luck and welcome any comments regarding your best tips and tricks for language learning or some huge failed attempts.

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