Déjà Vu Korean

“Déjà Vu” is a common intuitive experience that has happened to many of us. The expression is derived from the French, meaning “already seen.” When it occurs, it seems to spark our memory.  Can you experience déjà vu in language learning?

Have you ever been reading a new book or website and get that feeling that you’ve already learned this?  Repetition and forgetting are part of the language learning process, so when I get the feeling I know this already, I wonder if it is because I learned it before and forgot it.  This is exacerbated by a patchwork approach to learning from many different materials.  The same introductory topics are being covered, in slightly different ways.  Having some new vocabulary or grammar can mask the fact that reviewing similar material in a new format is not as exciting as learning something brand new.  Too much of the same information being taught can lead to boredom.

Learning in the 1970’s included endless hours in language labs completing drills. Even with the explosion of websites, videos, audios, and books now available, it is possible to end up with the same result of treading the same ground.  Students may be putting in time with lessons on the computer or smart phone, but not be able to apply it in real world settings.



Learning only from the computer may not improve your communicative skills.

Memorizing words from flashcards is only part of the work to becoming fluent.

I believe I am making poor use of my language learning time, because I am covering similar material.  Most recently, I am doing this by systematically going through the Talk To Me In Korean lessons with their workbooks and audio clips.  I want to be able to boost “I am up to Level 9 in Talk To Me In Korean lessons.”  I am sure there is new material hiding in there, but after two classes of Korean Digital Academy and a year of surfing Korean language websites and videos, I know most of what is taught in early TTMIK lessons.  I don’t need a 12 minute audio lesson on 안녕하세요 plus vocabulary, dictation, comprehension quizzes, writing practice, word matches, unscrambles, and word finds.  I spent several hours working through TTMIK’s Level 1 lessons 1 – 4, and asked myself if I had learned anything new.  Nope.  Bored now!

On the one hand, I really want to complete the books, audio, and workbooks for Talk To Me In Korean, Active Korean, and Living Languages Korean that I purchased.  On the other hand, there is a lot of repetition of concepts I already know.  Fear that I might be “missing something” and lack of confidence fuels my need to go through it from start to finish.

I have been studying Korean for a year, yet what do I know?  Am I progressing? Am I forgetting faster than I learn?  Am I learning new things, or endlessly reviewing?

I was in an Asian market browsing their books, and the Korean store clerk asked me if I knew Korean.  Did I answer him fluently in Korean, “Yes, I have been studying Korean for a year.  I can speak a little Korean.”?  아니요~!  Nope.  I choked.  Then I berated myself for the rest of the day for failing to strike up a conversation.  I was too worried about my accent, too flustered to put together a sentence.  It is disheartening.  So I go back to the beginning, start over, try harder to drill Korean into my brain by doing all the Talk To Me In Korean lessons.

Does anyone else have this problem?  Does anyone else feel stuck, unable to apply what has been learned in conversations?  Unable to get past reviewing the same list of vocabulary and grammar lessons?  Unable to have the confidence to show what you have learned, even if it means making mistakes?

At some point, the materials for teaching a new concept are too slow for reviewing a learned concept.  I could have saved myself 30 minutes on Level 1 Lesson 1 by simply answering “How do you say hello?  Speak and write it.”  One minute, check it off as known, and move on.  I wouldn’t grow so bored with Korean if the time I was spending was actually learning time that challenged my brain.


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