Learning a Foreign Language

A Whole New World

By Yvonne Sobers

Learning starts with interest. Children pick up their mother language once they’ve become interested. When you were young and had no clue what was going on, words such as “Hi, Goodbye and Thank you” would spark first interest because they gave you a way to respond and represent yourself. That need to portray thought was the beginning of interest. The beginning of learning something new and something foreign. And that’s what Language learning is; an interest which knocks on the door to a whole new world.

I found my interest in languages through film. From watching a recording of Romeo and Juliet in opera sung in Italian to my favourite childhood shows being aired in French. In late 2016, I was introduced to all that is Korean film and media. It was the first time I had ever been properly introduced to an Asian language. For 3 months I became enraptured by the different forms of media production and highly entertained by all that it offered in music, dance and film. As an aspiring filmmaker everything about the Korean culture was different to what I had seen and was accustomed to in Western entertainment. The inner linguist in me became very excited and one day I decided, “I am going to learn Korean.” Now this was a very strange thought considering I was seeking to learn a language spoken by no-one in my country and a language not remotely close to those such as Spanish and French which our Educational institutes would recommend. This meant I would be learning it on my own through the hardest journey a language learner could face, the journey of self-teaching.

When I began learning Korean I first wondered whether I would be able to make it. Where should I start? Would I ever become fluent? After thoughts like these I told myself, “You will never know until you try.” Learning a foreign language on your own is definitely not easy but of course our current generation has an access to knowledge like no other through the Internet and Social Media so with the right interest and determination anything is possible. I found websites which taught me the Korean alphabet known as Han-geul {한글: han-geul} and I ordered  textbooks  from online to give myself better grammar practice. Balancing school and self-studying Korean took a lot of patience but I would think about my goals and that allowed me to never give up easily. I try to always walk  with at least one study book so that if there was ever a free moment in between classes, after school or on car rides I could at least learn something even if it was only 2 new words. “Something better than Nothing” my mum would always say. Thus you could easily catch me with a Korean textbook on the table before and after my Wednesday afternoon Economics class or reading basic vocabulary in the car on Sundays on the way home from church. Language learning soon became part of my daily life. The best things I realised while embracing this foreign language was noticing how your attitudes or personality can vary as you speak one language to the other, how it expands your brain and its vocabulary and also the amount of inside jokes you can make with yourself when no-one else knows the language but you. Another fun aspect of foreign languages to note is you always find yourself learning because I may hear a phrase and say “Hmm, how do I say this in Korean? Do Koreans say this the same way I would?” .

Learning Korean allowed me to find a new side of myself along with insight on a culture I had never known. Now 2 and a half years later I am proud to say I’m no longer an absolute beginner in this language and it has given me a skill I never knew I could possess. Your reason for learning a language does not have to be anything deep, you might say you only want to know how to order food from a new Thai restaurant downtown or say hello to strangers in Sweden on a school trip and that’s okay because you are already further than those who have showed none at all. The best tip I can give to anyone learning a new language is to go at your pace and if it interests you GO FOR IT! Language learning, is ones carpet to a whole new world.