Epiphany: A skill that needs practice

It took me 5 classes before I had an epiphany.  It is so obvious, that when I say it, you will roll your eyes.  You know it already, but I’m the novice language learner who is just figuring things out.

Here my moment of enlightenment.  Language is a SKILL.  It is not just passively reading and committing FACTS to memory.

Language has to be used.  Language has to be practiced. Language has to be SPOKEN.

I came to this conclusion in class 5 when we were just repeating the same question and answer over and over again with different monetary amounts.  That was when I was so struck by the difference between facts in my head that I was confident I knew and the manufacture of sounds out of my mouth to converse.

It was similar to when I thought a word well known (example:  annyonghaseyo) until I had to type it. Then suddenly I had doubts about the spelling and my brain slowed to a crawl taking the sound in my head and converting it to Hangul letters on the page.

It has been displayed when someone asked me the weather, something I had been studying just a few hours before, and I wasn’t able to put together the sentence “It is cloudy today.”

Language is a SKILL.

There is a physical SKILL I need to acquire to type Korean letters on a keyboard.

There is a SKILL I need to say Korean sounds.

There is a SKILL I need to hear sounds and decipher the Korean words.

There is a SKILL I need to be able to construct sentences.  It will take LOTS of practice saying sentences before those sentences become quick.

Language is like singing.

I can read lyrics on a page, but I have to practice singing to get good.  To be an athlete, I need to exercise.  To learn, I need to DO IT.

A lot of my schoolwork involved reading and memorizing facts to take tests.  Language is something else entirely.  Language has to be spoken.  Language is communicating with other people.

I joked about how Korean keeps giving me these pop quizes out in the real world, but that is where language lives, in the real world.  It’s not orderly, carefully limiting itself to only testing me on the vocabulary and grammar I already know.  My dear Korean friends throw stuff at me that is way beyond what I know.  Yet that is learning.  Being totally out of my comfort zone because I am learning a new skill, and I’m turtle slow and clumsy.

Class #5 humbled me.  Yet it has finally given me the motivation to practice speaking out loud at home over the same basic material.  Yes, I feel ridiculous talking to myself.  I am embarrassed.  I am frustrated at my slow brain.  I am bored with being stuck on the same material.  Yet this is what I need to do.  I need to speak.

I need to speak more than just 1 hour a week.

You want to help me?  Ask me questions.  Ask me every day.

How is the weather? Is it hot?  Will it rain?  What time is it?  Are you hungry?  What did you eat?  What is this? How much does it cost?  What’s is today’s date?  How are you feeling?  How did you sleep?  What time did you go to bed?   Did you study today?




Watch this Slide show: Why Most Fail in Language Learning & How You Can Succeed or visit Language Mastery: How to Learn Languages the Fun Way.

To get you started, Tatoeba has a database of Korean sentences some with audio with a nifty search and you can add your own sentences.

“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” – Bruce Lee

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