I’m learning Korean on my own and I don’t take classes. People tell me that going to a Korean language school is the best way to learn Korean, the only way, even, but I have doubts about that.
I was 19 when I studied Japanese with a one-year program in a Japanese language school in Tokyo. I can tell you that from my experience, even a Japanese language school in Japan was not perfect.
The Japanese language school for foreigners was operated with a curriculum which was decided by God-knows-who, maybe a special board somewhere else.
The first day, we had to take a placement test. Around 10 students who got the best scores -which meant they had learned some Japanese before- were placed in a ‘special’ class. The other students -including me- were divided into 9 ‘ordinary’ classes of 7-10 ten students. We had classes every day from morning till evening, and we had homework. Each class had 3 teachers who taught alternately.
Our first lesson was how to read hiragana and katakana. The teacher didn’t do anything special like I expected she would, no flash cards, no games, nothing. The next day, we had a quiz. She was clear in her message that she would explain once, and then you had to study hard, memorize the letters and practice reading on your own.
For 2 whole months, every single day, the teachers only taught the ‘ko-so-a-do’ (‘this’, ‘that’, ‘that over there’, and ‘which one’) from the 1st chapter of our textbook and all of us got really bored. We asked our teachers whether we could continue to the 2nd chapter. They answered that we couldn’t because it was already decided by the curriculum.
But after the 2 months, suddenly the speed of the lessons was moving really fast, from one chapter to the next one, too fast for me that I couldn’t understand anything. I thought it was because our textbooks were completely in Japanese and our teachers were explaining only in Japanese. Thankfully, I never burst out crying in the class for feeling stupid. But I did feel very frustrated.
Once, I asked one of my teachers to re-teach a chapter and slow down the class because I couldn’t fully understand, but she said she couldn’t do it because she had to do what the curriculum required. She said she could meet me in private in her office after class and then I could ask her anything. But I didn’t like meeting teachers outside classroom that much (I felt like teachers were judging me for not trying hard enough) so I never did what she suggested me to do. I just studied hard on my own, from Japanese textbooks written in English that I bought on my own initiative at Kinokuniya in Shinjuku.
It seemed to me that the special class had more fun. I had a hunch that the special class was an experimental class where teachers could try different and interest things that might work or not work, while the other classes only did what had been done in the past.
Now that I’m 35, looking back, I am thinking… who did the curriculum serve? Why couldn’t the lessons be more flexible and serve us, the students? It was a small class for 7, not 40! After all, we were learning for our very survival in Japan, for real learning, not for mere grades?
Anyway, one thing I was sure of, learning Japanese was mostly about hard work on my part, and not about being taught by teachers at school. (Don’t get me wrong, I’m very thankful for my Japanese teachers).
Now I’m learning Korean on my own, for myself, because I want to. I’m making my own curriculum and I only serve me. I only care about what makes me happy and I will do what works for me. If I want to study with K-pop songs forever, nobody can stop me. If I don’t want to stop a Korean on the street to practice speaking, nobody can make me. I’m free to learn anything I want, the way I want, whenever I want. I can learn at my own pace because now there is no need to catch up with a curriculum and I don’t have to compete with my classmates. I learn Korean for myself. No one can tell me what to do and how I should progress. I’m so happy. Life is wonderful.
Hmm…”freedom to learn”, they should write that in declaration of basic human rights or something.
So if you want to learn Korean but can’t go to a language school, don’t worry, it’s not a handicap, it could be a privilege. I do think it’s a privilege for myself, I’m free to learn anything I want and at my own pace, what could be better than that? If you go to school, well, it’s a privilege, too, but remember that school does not guarantee your success. People quit learning Korean and don’t make it to the 2nd year even if they have teachers.
We’re doing the best we can with what we have, always. I mean I’m doing my best with what I have, always.
Well, anyway, happy studying, everyone! 오늘도 한국어 공부 열심히들 하세요~
I’m still reading 4페이지 미스터리 by 아오이 우에타, I really like it. The story I’ll be reading for today is 한 등급 높은 녀석, I wonder what it’s about.
OK, then. 안영~ ###