“Being consistent is more important than being the best.”
~Tyra Banks, America’s Next Top Model
Tomorrow I will take the Korean language proficiency test at Seoul National University. To the other students in my hasukjib, who are all Korean, they have no idea what this test is and they just try to sympathize with me that Korean is a hard language. Eh, every language is hard. Is there an easy one? Maybe when we were all cave men and did not have a billion expressions or words then maybe language was easy. But back then was it really language or was it just communication? Or is that what language is? I have gotten to a stage where I worry about whether or not I am seeing improvement. I want results everyday! Right? Who doesn’t? When it comes to language, these results ebb and flow.
To me, language first started as something complicated and intricate. There are all sorts of grammar rules, pronunciation oddities and ‘irregularities’ (because sometimes there are things that happen ‘regularly’ but more often than not they occur ‘irregularly’). When I first started reading I needed the dictionary by my side and I needed to see every word to grasp the meaning. My French dictionary fell apart after my third term in French due to this, so it’s great that in Korea they have electronic dictionaries. But Korean was an enigma and it was and still greatly is foreign to me.
However, after leaving the US and coming to Korea language became a necessity. Everything became situational. The importance of the rules of language diminished and the use of body language and pitch/stress/emotion became more important. It is said that 60% of language is dependent upon body language. Maybe I am relying on body language by 80%? I have no idea. I think though, that the experience of living here has taught me that while I might not know every word I have a good amount of functional language that allows me to carry out a basic conversation. It felt exciting to get to this level. Now I can buy food, I can bargain for a lower price, and I can talk simply to a 6-year old.
However, after my basic conversational level I am finding myself stagnant. This place is not as fun, I must admit. It feels as if I just started a language, only maybe slightly more frustrating because this time I know I can understand more but I cannot speak or express to the level to which I understand certain issues and situations. I don’t know if other feel this way but this is how the see-saw of language learning feels.
In short, I think that language is about the nuances and the complexities while communication is about the use of language. We first approach language as a study, but then it becomes a tool. Once we have maximized our capabilities we must again revisit the complexities of grammar and push to learn a newer level. I think it is important to watch dramas, listen to music, read manhwa or whatever to continue being exposed to Korean. Sadly, I had to learn from Tyra Banks on America’s Top Model that “Being consistent is more important than being the best”. To put this into perspective, I think at this stage it is important to be a consistent learner and not worry about “seeing” the progress. Harness what you know and focus on what you like. 이로써 공부하면 공부할 수록 재미있을 거예요.
I hope the exam goes well tomorrow! Good luck to all~!