안녕하세요 여러분! A new year has come around yet again, and as I've learned a lot more I've come to share my BEST strategies and tips with you (backed by my + other's experiences). I've been learning Japanese for the past year and a half and decided to try out different study methods, so I will relate some of my advice to my exoerience studying Japanese this year - 2023.
1). Exposure & Immersion
You may have heard it or seen it hundreds of times by now, but WAIT.. It's not exactly what you may be thinking. It's not dunking your head into a sea of korean and only korean 24/7! You just need at least 20-30 minutes a day to do this. Let me tell you how it works.
THE IMPORTANCE OF READING AND LISTENING
When we say IMMERSION or EXPOSURE we mean INPUT - reading and listening. That may not be what you want to hear, but it is the way that I learned recently - almost ALL polyglots (people who can speak several languages fluently) learn languages efficiently and naturally.
MY EXPERIENCE: I started out doing this with Japanese from the VERY beginning (around my 3rd or 4th month of studying). I can say that my ability to understand Japanese is way better than it is in Korean - because I didn't do enough (actually, none at all) of listening or reading in the beginning of studying Korean.
Even if you aren't a beginner, this is a TRIED AND TRUE method to MASTERING not just Korean, but any language you want to learn.
ACTIVE / INTENSIVE IMMERSION
This inludes, looking up every unknown word you come across while reading, listening intentionally to comprehensible (somewhat understandable or on your level) content, and just overall putting energy to learning things.
(SEMI) PASSIVE IMMERSION
This includes, only looking up words that appear multiple times or that peak your interest while reading or listening, trying to understand the gist of the content and now every single word or phrase, and having Korean content play in the background while not listening with 100% of your effort.
COMPREHENSIBLE INPUT & CONTENT
You may say.. I watch Korean dramas for my listeningo or I play Kpop and Korean music all the time to practice listening. The younger me would say - that doesn't count! BUT the older wiser me will say - that's GOOD. But that is NOT ENOUGH. Music and Dramas - don't get me wrong - every little bit in language learning helps, but if that's all your doing and wondering why your comprehension (your ability to understand Korean) is not so good, that's why.
Korean dramas are made for native speakers, so they aren't the best thing to use as study materials. The goal should be to get to that higher level (around B2 - upper intermediate/advanced) so that we can eventually watch Korean dramas (& read books in Korean) comfortably for the sake of enjoyment and continued learning whilst understanding at least 70% of the contents.
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO
Until we get to that point, we need to be more intentional with how we study. For now, aim to use reading and listening materials that are on your level or slightly above your level. The internet is bursting with reading and listening resources to use, so I don't want to hear any excuses about it!
There are podcasts EVERYWHERE made for learners (& natives - you can use both), youtube videos are amazing for listening - I've seen beginner podcasts on youtube a lot lately, Korean cartoons and animated shows are good as well, audio books of children's stories (I saw some on Youtube as well), you can use naver webtoon for reading (maybe not for beginners though) and the HOLY GRAIL for me is an app called "LingQ" - there's also a website version.
LingQ has TONS of listening material for EVERY LEVEL and It lets you import content like articles, youtube videos, and even Netflix series as long as they have Korean subs. In LingQ you can look up words as you read and listen, which makes it super convenient for me.
Study Grammar Rules With Less Intensity
NO GRAMMAR - NO PROBLEM
I know it's not for everyone, but if you are someone who doesn't want to study a lot of grammar - that is AMAZING.
HOW I STUDY GRAMMAR THESE DAYS
Well, first of all.. I don't really study grammar. I have hardly studied grammar for Japanese, but even so I can speak and I've had several spoken conversations with Japanese people before. Yes, it wasn't amazing and yes, I didn't speak perfectly, but I was understood. Sometimes, they'd correct me or say it the right way and I'd immediately learn it and implement it. I didn't break out a textbook and try to remind myself of the rules, I said "screw the rules" and said it poorly.
A FEW IDEAS FOR HOW YOU CAN IMPLEMENT
You don't need to be as extreme as me, but trust me when I say that grammar is not the most important thing in learning a language - I know you may question everything you've ever heard.
1). Instead of reading through grammar lessons with lengthy (sometimes confusing) explanations- skip to the example sentences and study those. Read through just the example sentencs a few times and don't care too much about the rules. It's a nice study session to choose a handful of written and video lessons (a healthy mix of both) and pay more attention to the examples.
2). Use apps like "Naver Dictionary" and "Reverso Contexto" to find more examples of sentence patterns and grammar. For example, I recently learned that you could type in something you want to know how to say and Naver will show you as many examples as they can about it - It doesn't always work, but definitely worth trying.
3). Copy the native spearkers! More often than not these days I find that I catch Natives saying things one way, while my textbooks say another - always side with the natives. I usually say you should know the rules before you break them, BUT If you learn it the way the nativs do it first, you'll eventually learn the "correct" way over time just from exposure and immersion (bringing back our previous point).
4). Use the examples as a base point. If you want to make your own sentences, then try to use the example sentences you've read as a guide and make your own. What if it's wrong you ask? It's OKAY I promise, just let it be wrong if it is. Don't let fear of being wrong stop you from speaking.
A hurdle I have in Korean is that I spend so much time trying to remember a specific grammar rule and get the form correctly, that I can't speak as fluently and smoothly as I'd like. Don't be like me! Build a healthy mindset from the start and embrace being wrong, because perfectionism is a curse.
5). Try to get corrections to cut down on mistakes. If you follow what I'm saying and study less grammar rules, 100% you'll make more mistakes than before. But the cool part is that you'll learn quicker by being corrected. There are many ways to go about it, even using a translator to correct your sentencs will be very beneficial. You can get corrections through language exchange apps from actual native speakers. If you have a tutor, that is an absolutely perfect opportunity for receiving corrections. If you don't have a tutor, you can either find one or just book a one off lesson to ask for corrections to some of your sentences - I also teach Korean, so you can book a lesson HERE if you're interested.
I made another blog here about how you can check your sentences with more details and links!
How To Start Thinking In Korean
You don't just wake up one day and all of a sudden you are thinking in Korean. It has to start gradually and become a habit. Start small by actively forcing yourself to think in Korean in little moments throughout the day.
HOW YOU CAN DO THIS
While watching a tv show, react in Korean. You may already do this, but by saying "진짜" or "믿을 수가 없어" while watching a particularly juicy Kdrama moment will help you gradually build upon your ability.
Talk out loud (or in your head) and narrate what you are doing as you do it. It doesn't need to be correct either. Another tip for this: keep the sentences as simple as possible. I know you want to make a super complex sentence, but we must keep it simple in the early stages so that you can speak without too much interruption.
Describe your surroundings in Korean. Talk about your day, your life, your family, etc. Start small with this action and try to slowly build overtime. You'll start to notice yourself doing it without as much effort before and eventually you'll be able to think In Korean with no hesitations.
Don't Study Vocabulary Lists or Flashcard Sets Anymore
VOCAB IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING!
Don't sleep on vocab - you need it.. and I mean a lot of it! Don't go into 2024 still studying random vocab lists from off the internet (at least without using it properly.)
HOW I STUDY VOCAB LATELY
I learn vocab just by reading and listening lately. I have decided that Quizlet can only get me so far, and so I've pretty much ditched it. Trust me, you will learn vocabulary naturally if you do what I say. If you read and listen to comprehensible content on your level, you will naturally acquire the vocabulary. By reading and listening you are constantly being shown how words are used not only in different kinds sentences, but also in different types of contexts and situations.
You can not force your brain to learn words. Yeah, if you study with Quizlet or Anki you will "learn" the words, but it's not showing you how to use the words. Another point, you will learn the words but much slower and less effectively than if you just did your daily reading and listening.
You can still use those vocab flashcards, but make sure you combine it with looking at and study example sentences.
Stress Less About... Everything
The BIGGEST thing I learned from this year of learning Japanese is to.. RELAX. This is a MARATHON and not a RACE. You can't learn an entire language overnight, or even in a year or 2 years - It's a lifelong process and we'll always be learning.
Don't stress about grammar rules, don't stress about forgetting a word, don't stresss about saying something wrong, don't stress about having one bad day where you can't speak as well, don't stress about not being able to learn that one pesky word.. It all comes with time.
To sum up all of my points, I will leave you with some actual actionable study ideas for the next time you sit down to study.
1). Listen to Korean while doing something else. Pop in your headphones and put on that podcast or video then wash the dishes, go for a walk, workout, go off to work or school, cook your food, paint your nails or I don't know just live life while immersing a few minuts here and there - TRUST ME it makes all the difference.
I like to put my headphones in as soon as I wake up and listen to Japanese while I do my morning routine.
2). Take words from a vocabulary list and look up example sentences then read through them - A nice way to use those vocabulary lists instead of the usual.
3). Follow/Subscribe to more Korean content creators so that you can randomly come across posts and videos in Korean.
I've slowly implemented this one and now I end up watching Japanese youtube videos half of the time just for fun, because they show up on my feed often.
4). Read through examples of different grammar you want to learn or are learning.
5). Write a few sentences in Korean.
6). Think (or talk to yourself) in Korean for a few minutes.
7). Re-read or Re-listen to something you've already studied.