The first eight weeks of this term have flown by, and it’s now time for my classmates and I to prepare for our Korean speaking test, which is next Wednesday. It dawned on me that without any close Korean friends here in London, the only time I ever speak Korean is when I’m studying. This is not ideal! Speaking exams are always daunting, and even more so when you’ve had very little speaking practice. After the nerve-wracking experience of last term’s test, I picked up these tips from classmates, teachers, and friends over in Korea:
If you’ve ever taught young children, you’ll realise that they are far more likely to memorise something if it is put to a catchy tune- remember the ABC song? This method can be applied to learning Korean. There are loads of children’s songs online (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJw-kYqs2nI for example), guaranteed to stick in your head whether you like it or not.
After these begin to annoy you, listening to your favourite Korean artists can be just as useful. K-pop isn’t for everyone, but its accessibility and poppy pace means that these catchy songs may just help you to familiarise yourself with the language you one day hope to be fluent in (http://www.shoutcast.com/radio/Kpop). Any indie kids wincing at this suggestion should check out the following tunes: [Indieful ROK] Spotify Korean indie music collection (compiled by http://indiefulrok.blogspot.com/)
2) Listen aaand repeat!
It’s one thing to be able to read Hangul, but emphasis and intonation play a huge part in the Korean language. The more you listen to others speaking, the more comfortable you will be with the flow, tone and feel of the language.
There are lots of free and high quality pod-casts and YouTube clips out there, which are an invaluable resource to us K-learners. The best ones are from http://talktomeinkorean.com/. The ‘iyagi’ sessions, where the speakers have an unscripted discussion and give their real thoughts and opinions, but speak slowly and clearly enough for learners to be able to decipher, are equally helpful and charming.
For a less formal approach, start watching / watch more Korean dramas or films! Simply listening to a lot of Korean conversation can make all the difference, and the beauty of this is that you can do it as you are driving, washing up or checking your emails. Try to repeat phrases as much as possible, to ensure a practical understanding.
3) Record yourself
This is a great idea from Alex, who was my partner for the speaking test last term. It’s very difficult to know what you actually sound like when speaking Korean, unless you can play back and re-listen. No matter how much you hate the sound of your own voice (and we all do) this really helps with improving vowel and consonant sounds, and identifying areas for improvement. Use the recording device on your phone or computer, or invest in a dictaphone.
4) Talk with Korean friends
Easier said than done, I know, if you don’t have any Korean friends, or if all of your Korean friends are in Korea / somewhere other than London. Interestingly, though, a great way to meet people is through language learning. Most Koreans are keen to practice and improve on their English, and will be willing to exchange some Korean for some English conversation time. There are online groups such as the London Korean Language Meetup http://www.meetup.com/korean-142/ (although be aware that most of the Meetups featured are aimed at those at conversational Korean level or above), which can be a fun way to combine your studies with you social life.
5) Practice makes perfect
Be confident, and use Korean in everyday life. If you go into a Korean restaurant, order in Korean. If browsing in a Korean shop, ask the attendant questions in Korean. It may sound embarrassing, and depending on your level and how good your accent is, you may or may not be fully understood. But Korean people, in London as much as Korea, will appreciate the effort you are making, make an effort to assist, and often give words of encouragement. At the very least, they will find it cute that you are trying, which is not such a bad thing.
Happy talking and Haiting! 🙂