How can I talk more good?
August 27, 2012 12:56 PM   Subscribe

Can you give me some resources and tips for improving fluency in a language I can speak, but not speak well?

I apparently spoke Korean before I learned English (I was born in the US), but I've lost a lot of it. I'd like to speak in easy, fluent, nuanced Korean now, as an adult. My current level is pretty low—mostly fine in normal conversations but not able to express particularly complex thoughts. My vocabulary is pretty small, and my grammar is not great.

I'd love to be able to immerse myself—I remember how great my Korean was when I was in Cheju-do for a month as a teenager—but I now live far, far away from my family or anyone else I know who speaks Korean. My parents and I talk on the phone, but it's not regular enough to be a primary practice resource. What's the best way to go about making the leap from okay at a language to being really great at it, without two-way feedback?
posted by peachfuzz to Writing & Language (9 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
You need to immerse yourself in the language any way you can, which means reading Korean news on the Internet, participating in Korean forums, watching whatever the Korean version of YouTube is.

Get Korean books from the library. Don't read any English.

Get Korean movies from the video store (if such a video store exists - our neighbourhood video store has tons of Korean movies).

Use the Korean subtitles when watching, and read and repeat what appears on the screen.

Find Korean pop music with karaoke subtitles, and sing along.

Immerse yourself in it, and 6 months to a year later you will notice a change.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:08 PM on August 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

Is there any chance you could find someone in your city for a language exchange? I've known lots of Korean students in my Canadian city who have been looking for people to chat with (i.e. meet for an hour, talk 1/2 hour in English and 1/2 hour in Korean).

I met a lot of friends this way when I was amping up my Spanish, and it really helped with the nuance.
posted by Paper rabies at 1:16 PM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Is there a Korean grocery (even better, a Korean Cultural Center?) near you? If so, you miiight be able to get an extra Korean "aunt" or "grandma," to chat and cook with, unless the notion is completely culturally inappropriate (in which case, I apologize). The Korean grocery store will be able to tell you where to get books, movies, newspapers.

If there is a Korean church in your town, attending once a week might help (a childhood friend's mom is Korean, church services were a great language immersion).

Skype. With your parents, cousins, anyone.
posted by bilabial at 1:18 PM on August 27, 2012

I learned a lot of German by buying a CD of this really odd pop band that I liked a lot. They had great lyrics and catchy riffs. I would sit there reading the song texts along with the music, looking up words in my dictionary. Eventually, I translated the whole album to English and by then I had memorized the words. To this day, I still catch myself in elevators humming some of those tunes.

Also, what about a skype tandem with Korean friends?
posted by mr.ersatz at 1:19 PM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Do you have (or can you get) DirecTV? They have a Korean TV channels package that might be useful for full immersion as well.
posted by jquinby at 1:22 PM on August 27, 2012

Oh! You can also volunteer as a literacy tutor, and with many organizations you can request 'speaks Korean' so you can have an hour of English learning time and a bit of Korean chatting time. (bonus! A lot of the learners in my organization cook food for their tutors!)
posted by bilabial at 1:23 PM on August 27, 2012

KokyRyu is right. You have to force yourself to use the new language exclusively, except for interacting with English-only people. Even then, with friends, tell them you are going to first speak in Korean, then follow with the English version.

I'll tell you it causes a lot of brain-pain until you myelentate those language circuits but every time you give yourself an out, you lengthen the time it takes to master.

This is what happens when you move to that country and are forced to speak, read, write all the time every day. Emulate it as best you can.
posted by trinity8-director at 2:24 PM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

1) Download VLC Media Player, which has a feature that allows you to slow down the playback speed of audio/video files. Windows Media Player may have this same feature

2) Find websites where you can download Korean Movies, TV shows, podcasts, the news, sporting events, etc. It doesn't matter what you download, so long as its original korean programming

3) First, play downloaded videos on VLC Media Player at normal speed. Write down word-for-word what you think is being said. Next, play the same video, or segment of video, at half speed, which will also slow the audio enough for you to hear every word clearly. Compare what you wrote down from the first listening to what was actually being said.

Do this a couple of times a week with a different korean video each time. Listen at full speed, then listen at reduced speed. Each successive week reduce the speed less and less--week 1 you reduce 50%, week 2 40%, etc--until you no longer need to slow the video down to have 100% comprehension. Within a month or two, you'll have a perfect ear for the spoken language

4) In terms of learning vocab, developing a feel for grammar and syntax of written Korean--start with children's books. Children's books scale in terms of difficulty. As with developing your ear incrementally, develop your "eye" by starting with Korean Dr. Seuss, then Winnie The Pooh, then young teen vampire novels.
posted by BadgerDoctor at 6:32 PM on August 27, 2012

Response by poster: You guys are the best. Some really good ideas here for just talking more often and more regularly - thanks!
posted by peachfuzz at 1:18 PM on August 28, 2012

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