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한국어 Pt. 1

For this post, I'll talk about something that's been a major focus of my time here: learning Korean. Its easy to regard this sort of project as either much easier or much more difficult than it really is.

Starting with the former misconception, I want to say off the bat that many people's ideas of learning a foreign language through immersion are extraordinarily, unbelievably, shockingly wrong. At some point, I also absorbed these notions.

I pictured a traveler, childlike and blossoming, open to receive limitless aural stimuli. As they walk between a foreign markets' tightly-packed stalls, bantering and bartering with energetic locals, they see the foreign language in the faces of wrinkled old women, they smell the language on intermingling wafts of leather, exotic spices, and shit. When they sleep, they dream in their adopted language, by virtue of simply living where it is predominately spoken.

You remember the close to the 2008 Season of 30 Rock, where Kenneth has landed a page gig at the Beijing Summer Olympics, and immediately becomes Chinese-fluent and embroiled in a web of international romance, espionage and intrigue? No? Neither does Youtube. Hm. Remember the market scene in Indiana Jones? Um...what about Lego Indiana Jones?

Why and How I'm Learning All the Languages

On Tynan

Before going to Romania, I decided I'd try to learn a bit of Romanian. By almost any measure it's sort of a pointless language to learn, but I figured I'd get a kick out of pretending to my I didn't speak any for a couple days, and then all of a sudden surprising my friends by speaking it.

My friend Brian did me a huge favor by going to the library, checking out the Pimsleur Romanian I series, ripping it, and then sending me the MP3s. After finishing the first lesson, I was struck by just how much I enjoyed doing it. I've used Pimsleur tapes to learn Chinese, Japanese, and French (which I never finished and consequently don't remember), but it had been six years since I'd started one.

The returns on learning the first bit of a language are huge. While I don't have nearly enough vocabulary to have an actual conversation in Romanian, doing one half-hour tape every day for a month left me with enough to be able to ask directions, order things at a restaurant, exchange pleasantries with strangers, and buy things. I think I successfully made a joke in Romanian, too.

So after all that, I decided that I'm just going to learn every language. Pimsleur has a list of over fifty that they support. I'm going to start with the ones I'm most interested in that have ninety tapes instead of the thirty that they had for Romanian. I did the full ninety in Japanese, and it got me to the point that I could have actual, if a bit kludgy, conversations.

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