When I was in college, I attempted a Spanish minor, but then dropped it because after struggling in Spanish 2 & 3, I didn’t feel confident moving onto Spanish 4: “My Spanish 2 & 3 teachers were useless! My school’s Spanish program is horrible! I’ll just move to Spain in a few years and learn Spanish there!”
At the beginning of the year, I had planned on learning a decent amount of French for my end-of-January trip to Paris, but never got around to it. It wasn’t until I was on my seven hour plane ride to France when I decided to start flipping through my copy of Beginning French to pick up a few basic terms. While trying to use the handful of expressions I had studied during the plane ride throughout my 10 day trip, I quickly came to the conclusion that French is a beautiful language, but it’s way harder than Spanish: “The French dialect is so hard! I keep wanting to say everything with a Spanish dialect! Every time I say something in French, the Parisians laugh at me!”
Now that I’m living in South Korea and am faced with the inevitable task of learning how to speak Korean, I’m realizing more and more that learning how to speak Spanish and French are really not as hard as I made them seem, because at least those languages use alphabets that are almost identical to the English alphabet. Know what the Korean alphabet looks like?
I’ve been here for almost four weeks now. For the first two weeks, I put off the chore of learning Korean because I was already on information overload with learning a new city and a new job. Then my co-teacher, Ye-Ji, asked if I wanted her to sign me up for a 12-week Korean language class for foreigners. Since it wouldn’t cost anything, and seemed like a good way to make new friends, I said, “Sure.”
I started my class a week and a half ago. While the teacher seems pretty good, the class as a whole makes me feel like I’m in college again because of the people who are in the class: There’s an extremely obnoxious Scottish guy who feels the need to shout out something annoying every ten minutes; there’s an American girl who acts like she’s better than everyone else there because she’s actually at the “intermediate level”; and there’s a handful of people who constantly try to be funny during class, when really, they’re just being disruptive.
After my first class, I was ready to drop it: Not only am I totally intimidated to learn Korean, but the class as a whole seemed like it was filled with people who were just going to get on my nerves for the next 12 weeks. But I decided to stick with it regardless; therefore, some good has come out of my decision: I made a new friend named Poppie; she’s from Australia, my age, lives 10 minutes away from me, and we have a lot in common! I’ve realized that another benefit of me taking the class will be the opportunity to be put in my students’ shoes: Being a student in a Korean language class will not only help me to understand how hard it is for my students to learn English, but it will also give me some ideas on how to teach a language in general, which is why I’m here in the first place.
So since I’ve found two good reasons to stay enrolled in the class, staying enrolled is what I’m going to do. Oh, and there is that whole benefit of learning the language of the country I’ll be living in for the next year. Yes, I find it intimidating, but that also makes me more motivated to comprehend the language and comprehend it well, because if my third grade students are able to learn English, then I sure as hell better be able to learn Korean.