G’day all! 🙂
I know I don’t ask this question often enough but…
How’s your own language learning going?
Hopefully you’re staying committed and putting in some serious hours to get the successful outcome you deserve!
I’ve now been here in Korea for over 7 months and I’ve gotta say I’m starting to get pretty worn out and in need of a real holiday.
I was considering taking time out of my insane schedule to head down to the Philippines for a 1-2 week Tagalog challenge but at this stage I reckon a few days break from any kind of learning and laying on a beach with a fishing rod might be what I really need! 🙂
This has been a really intense time and I’ve sacrificed a lot of luxuries to hit my fluency mark in Korean up to this point (as I alluded to in this video, spending time exclusively with natives for many months is tougher than you might think). I haven’t decided exactly when I’ll leave here yet and even though I’m on a 1 year contract with my current job, other tempting opportunities have recently been offered to me in the Mid East and elsewhere.
One thing is for sure though – I refuse to leave this place until I can say mission accomplished with Korean.
When I first got here, I bragged about how I was going to divide my time between Korean, preparing for an Arabic translation exam, and maintaining 3 other spoken languages.
It didn’t take long for me to realise that spreading myself thin like that with full-time work was ridiculous. A complete and utter waste of time.
I needed focus if my Korean challenge was going to be a success so I decided that all that extra stuff had to be put on hold so I could give 100% of my time and energy to really smashing Korean. That included cutting back on blogging (hence my inactivity lately).
I have to say it has made an unbelievably noticeable difference.
Today I want to ask you something:
In your mind, what does a hard language look like? Is there such a thing as an easy language? Or is this just a false dichotomy?
The few times I’ve relaxed to watch a French movie or read something in Irish after I’ve spent many months focused on Korean, I’ve been blown away at how different they are in terms of their difficulty levels.
Some languages really do feel like a walk in the park compared to others.
Let me point out the obvious here and say that it’s all very relative to your own native language however.
Easy vs. hard languages – it all depends on your mother tongue
“French is a fucking joke.”
That was the reaction I had recently when I decided to kick back with some French after spending hours racking my brain over Korean, speaking with natives all day and feeling mentally wasted.
It really feels like a piece of cake compared to Korean (and my French is not impressive).
What I found unsurprising too was that my Korean friends who are fluent in Japanese feel the same way about Japanese after studying English.
It just makes more sense to them.
Now, I’ve criticised the FSI categories in the past for what I think is an inaccurate classification of Arabic but there is a reason why these categories exist based on the approximate length of time it takes English speakers to learn certain languages.
The fact that at least half of the English language is made up of French or Latin vocabulary and another quarter or third is Germanic in origin, it makes perfect sense that you’ve got a serious head-start on any Romance or Germanic language as an English speaker.
And that’s without factoring in all the related grammar and syntax as well.
If your first foreign language is a Romance or Germanic language then it might seem like a mammoth task but it’s not until you experience a language that’s totally alien that you really start to realise how close European languages are to each other.
The adjustment period
There’s one important point I want to make here which is this:
Once you’re over the initial ‘strangeness’ of a new language, it really becomes just like any other language.
The easy/difficult dichotomy eventually disappears.
All the extra hours you’d be expected to spend on a ‘difficult’ language is really just adjustment time at the end of the day – time spent getting your head around a new writing system, new phonetics and a bizarre new structure.
One thing that I’ve noticed moving from my time last year learning Irish to this year learning Korean is that because of the totally different structure of Korean, you require a massive transformation in the way you think if you hope to communicate smoothly.
The word order alone makes this so important.
A sentence like I spoke to the man who I met yesterday at work is something like yesterday at work met man to I spoke in Korean to give you one example.
If you’re thinking with your English cap on and trying to say things like this it’s gonna be a mess!
This is why it takes so much time to adjust – it’s not just about learning vocab and rules but a complete change in the way we think.
Every language needs hard work but for some the adjustment time is definitely longer than others.
Have you found one language easier to learn than another?
This was written by Donovan Nagel.