To Catch an Aurora: On Top of the World (Language Rendezvous)

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eido
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Re: Hi Ho, Timber! The Adventures of A Lumberjack

Postby eido » Sun Aug 16, 2020 12:08 am

This update is coming on a Saturday evening in a slightly different format.

I wanted to talk about my troubles in learning Korean. The common convention on this forum seems to be that the more languages you know, the easier the next language will be to learn. Not so for me.

I already knew mostly how to learn when I started Korean truly formally in 2017, but I didn't have the tips and tricks this forum could provide. I took a course on Coursera and that helped me with liaison and forming sentences, and really lit the fire under my butt to be more than casual.

But it's been a long and rough journey to even this level, and I consider myself okay at logic and puzzling my way through ambiguity. Korean is a language that has a pretty decent wealth of resources to use to get up to at least a minimally fluent (what I consider B2) level. More are being developed every day. The problem with Korean textbooks is they teach you the most formal kinds of Korean. I accept that Korean culture values respect and honor and holds rank/station in high regard. It's one of the things I like about it, actually. However, and I say this knowing I may be viewed as ignorant, there are few textbooks covering practical, everyday Korean. Talk To Me In Korean (TTMIK) is a good resource for semi-casual, real Korean and I appreciate all the work they've done in that regard. I own six of their textbooks and I have been intensively reviewing them for grammar patterns I can use in my daily conversations with my native-speaking friend.

Despite having a decent amount of content, though, it seems that Korean is a kaleidoscope language: ever-changing and on top of that, full of jewels of complexity embedded in layer after layer of beauty and difficulty for the learner.

Tallying up my Francis Park and TTMIK books, I have maybe 200+ grammar points included within a set, but I haven't counted the exact number. However, I was made aware of a website that houses 800+ grammar points in one place. How many does one need to know to be considered "C2 fluent" in this tongue? How much does one need to know to be taken seriously by Koreans, who rarely see foreigners master their language to a high level?

Korean strikes me as a language in which meaning is conveyed by grammar; English is the opposite, conveying meaning by diction. That's why, to me, English is a simpler language in some regards because some grammar gets reused to get points across, but the similar-sounding or even exactly-the-same grammar points are identical twins with different personalities.

Each language has areas where it's gray. Each language has areas where it's precise.

However, oddly enough, where I struggle is not where most people get twisted. Most learners of Korean seem to get lost in the vast expanse of what makes this East Asian language different from its Germanic friend across the world. I often lose my way in the array of verbs and the sheer number of ways to express myself, not the act of doing so in itself. Writing Korean is most of the time relaxing for me, a mental riddle to play around with and take pleasure in.

Despite my increasing frustration, there are two things I can count my lucky stars for and which I hope will come true:
  1. My Korean friend is a person, and people rarely change how they speak unless prompted to by the environment
  2. He doesn't notice he repeats a lot of the same constructions often, so hopefully I can memorize his speech pattern and learn from it
My frustration has led me to notice, and possibly has stemmed from, these factors:
  1. Expressing yourself authentically in a radically different language is difficult without the right resources and a partner bent on monolingual exchange even if you beg
  2. You need immense patience, not just love, to get through writing even a simple text if it contains constructions/patterns you're not used to
I don't want to give up Korean, but like a tired mother, I need some support and maybe a babysitter. Or maybe just more grit. Never can have enough of that.
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tangleweeds
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Re: Hi Ho, Timber! The Adventures of A Lumberjack

Postby tangleweeds » Sun Aug 16, 2020 8:29 am

I just wanted to say that I've enjoyed your recent posts about your Korean learning process. I've been purposely staying away from Korean myself for fear of linguistic overload, though both my brother and my roommate are both studying it (in their very different ways).

My roomie is very bright but has **extreme** ADHD, so she sticks mostly to LingoDeer, K-pop, and reading the labels on all the Korean foods she seeks out from the local Asian markets. OTOH, my brother, who got into K-pop long, long ago (he's one of those odd geeks who consistently picks up interests decades before they become ubiquitous), says he much prefers studying from paper these days. Being in Japan, he can find lots of cool Japanese language resources for learning Korean (which he shows off to me on videochat, where they are really hard to bring into focus).

So anyway, given that Korean is being learned all around me, it's been extra interesting reading your evolving reflections on your own learning process.
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Progressing from apps back back to books! (neurological injury healing!!!)
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Ack, wanderlust strikes again! Back to Norwegian, hello Vietnamese!

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Re: Hi Ho, Timber! The Adventures of A Lumberjack

Postby crush » Sun Aug 16, 2020 9:01 am

Veo que al principio de este log escribías a menudo en castellano, no he leído tu log entero así que no sé a qué punto dejaste de hacerlo pero supongo que no te molestará que te escriba en castellano ;)

El coreano me ha fascinado desde hace mucho tiempo, sobre todo me fascina su escritura, o sea, el alfabeto coreano. Con todos los círculos y otras formas graciosas se ve como unos dibujitos (a diferencia de los caracteres chinos que se ven mucho más rígidos y encuadrados). He empezado a aprenderlo un par de veces en el pasado pero al final lo dejé por no tener otra motivación que la curiosidad por aprenderlo. Pero ya que he empezado a aprender el japonés de modo intensivo/serio, supongo que tendré que completar el triángulo CJK (siglas inglesas). De momento tengo pensado postergarlo para el 2022, para ese entonces espero al menos haber mejorado bastante mi japonés.

No tengo un conocimiento muy profundo del coreano así que no puedo comentar sobre la ambigüedad del idioma, pero creo que es bastante común en idiomas que han tomado prestado un porcentaje considerable de su vocabulario de idiomas chinos depender del contexto para clarificar el significado de la frase. Y será aún más importante en idiomas como el coreano en los que ya no usan (o no suelen usar) los caracteres que proporcionan bastante información contextual a la hora de leer.

¡Ánimo!, es un viaje largo y lento pero no tienes que llegar al final para empezar a disfrutar de los frutos de tu aprendizaje.
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Re: Hi Ho, Timber! The Adventures of A Lumberjack

Postby eido » Sun Aug 16, 2020 8:57 pm

tangleweeds wrote:I just wanted to say that I've enjoyed your recent posts about your Korean learning process. I've been purposely staying away from Korean myself for fear of linguistic overload, though both my brother and my roommate are both studying it (in their very different ways).
...
So anyway, given that Korean is being learned all around me, it's been extra interesting reading your evolving reflections on your own learning process.

Thanks for reading and the compliment, too!
I've been trying to reflect as a way to vent my frustrations, because I know I want to be fluent, but as Korean is the first language I've tried to teach myself, it's quite the bugger of a time.

Your roommate has the right idea. Reading labels is good practice because if you're determined enough and have a dose of ability (not necessarily intelligence), you can pick up those pesky spelling patterns I mentioned... the ones that always trip me up. Do it enough and you'll be reading fluently in no time. I hope if you do decide to learn Korean in the future, you'll have fun with it. It's sincerely very beautiful.
crush wrote:Veo que al principio de este log escribías a menudo en castellano, no he leído tu log entero así que no sé a qué punto dejaste de hacerlo pero supongo que no te molestará que te escriba en castellano ;)
...
¡Ánimo!, es un viaje largo y lento pero no tienes que llegar al final para empezar a disfrutar de los frutos de tu aprendizaje.

I did write in Spanish, you're correct. I realized I probably needed more practice, though, to make a truly readable Spanish log despite being pretty decent at writing, so I stopped. That's why I took about 15 italki lessons over the summer, some of which included writing intensive sessions. But I still don't think my writing has become magically wonderful. If anyone wants to rate my Spanish composition ability, feel free.

In hoity-toity newspaper articles, Korean journalists put hanja (Chinese characters) next to any uncommon or 5-dollar words. I remember reading somewhere, though I can't find it at the moment, that Korean repeats verbs and nouns wherever possible whereas in English we'd opt for a different set because the repetition grinds our gears. A cultural thing, I suppose. But I could be wrong and misremembering.

I'm doing my best to remain positive. There are a lot of things I like about Korean.

Which leads us into our next segment...

I know the past two times I sounded quite like I'd given up. But I'm not ready to give up just yet. I like Korean as a whole.

There was a lot that went into my decision-making process for learning this language. I tried to start out with no pre-conceptions.

My friends liked k-pop and they were slowly introducing our whole friend group to the scene in high school. I'd heard a few songs and decided I liked the music, but not necessarily the language yet. It was a bit too foreign for me at the time. I didn't hate it or feel prejudice toward it, I just thought I had no use for it.

Then, when I got some time, I decided to investigate it further. I started out with my friend's favorite group, SHINee, which I gradually fell in love with as well, but mostly for their music and the personality of a particular member although even through the veil of marketing I found all of them funny. It was from them I began to learn Korean, using the techniques I described in my earlier posts. I didn't want to be a crazy fan, so I didn't obsess over them. But I paid attention to their personal use of words and grammar because I remembered that all humans have particular speech patterns, and as you'll remember, I'm using the same idea with my friend right now. It was here I first started to focus on different dialects, since in school with Spanish, we were made aware of such a concept, but it remained abstract and disconnected from the reality of actual people's experience.

I had a great time with getting an introduction to this sub-culture over the summer, even though I was convinced I wouldn't like it for a time since my friends had been shoving it down our throats for a long while. I even found a way to connect with a group of my choosing, BTS. In 2015, BTS wasn't as big as they are now. And you can tell, as their music has changed rapidly to accommodate the common man and average taste around the world. BTS made me further interested in Korean rap despite their idol group nature, and I got into some really great songs that way. Most people who get into k-pop rarely branch out from its bubble, but I managed to pop it, and after memorizing my favorite idol songs over this long time frame, I've started to foray into classic, "pure" pop. I'm also interested in trot (traditional pop), indie, and more hardcore rap.

It's my view that South Korea isn't seen as a big player for its music scene, and I could see several reasons for why that's a possibility. 1) Unlike in America, music and arts are used as a cultural asset, but one used as a primary money maker and economy sustainer instead of something you skip on Spotify. 2) This is because until the recent modern era, Korea was an impoverished country and needed to make money any which way in order to move forward. Despite their relative economic success, I suppose they still feel the need to keep fighting to push off that image.

However I find a lot of its songs comforting even if they suffer from over-production and come from labels where the groups are mistreated. That's a source of splitting for me. How can you like something if you know someone was abused to make it? Idols don't make a lot of money--looking at J-Hope of BTS' relative earnings compared to his fellow members, he's been allowed to keep $12 million and that's his net worth. And he's made the most in BTS! It's a bit astounding, seeing as the company they're under has created a billion-dollar enterprise. Of course, I don't know the specifics, but that's just an observation.

BTS and its label produced some of the most lovely and timely songs then. I was going through a dark time, and while I didn't want to fall for the "I was saved by BTS" bullcrap flying around at the time, I allowed their music to soothe me, and I allowed their native language to lift me up and out of a pretty severe depression that around its height, had me dropping out of school and failing classes, completely convinced I was a useless sack. BTS wasn't an escape; rather, it was the opposite. They reminded me I could be something. They re-kindled my interest in language and guided me forward when I couldn't remember a reason to learn Korean since I had no one to turn to, to let my feelings be known. My family aren't language gurus. They only know the little bit of Polish they learned in childhood.

But there's a BTS member that carries the team when it comes to speaking English. He messes up quite a bit, but has a native accent that sounds as if he's actually fluent in AAVE instead of Standard English. He learned through American rap and that type of music inspired him to keep going with his professional career as an idol, even if his heart was a rapper's. He in turn taught me that I could learn from him, and that all was not lost just because I didn't like the idea of college. His IQ is much higher than mine, but his grit and passion really hit home for me. Each man in that group shows a different talent, or as the Koreans like to word it--color. And it's a pleasure watching all those colors come together to make a rainbow of unity in dance, song, and interaction.

The boys are older now, and if I read correctly, their current recently renewed contract expires in 2026. If one happens to leave early or the whole thing falls apart before then, I wouldn't mind since at least I got to experience what I'd consider the best part of their career, incidentally titled The Most Beautiful Moment In Life (HYYH).

Of course, all that is Korean doesn't fall under the BTS moniker, but as an introduction to what makes the language special and getting a taste of the culture and people on an individual basis, this k-pop group is quite fine. Their lyrics are noted for social consciousness and their older work has a decent amount of more original-sounding melodies, so it makes for fun listening and study.

We all come from humble beginnings. Mine was trying to become a mature ARMY (BTS fan) and culture connoisseur. Looking back, I gave it my best shot, but now there's so much more to learn yet. Korean makes me happy for it's beauty of expression, the nuances in the culture, and the nostalgia of my late teens. Some might have a long and wonderful war with their languages, but I only look forward to long walks on the beach with them.

Instead of crying or throwing my phone when I can't compose a sentence in Korean to my friend, I do the most fitting thing at the time to communicate and at least say something.
Instead of becoming a sasaeng, I tried to understand idols' feelings and discover their true nature, paying them respect and offering them dignity they would not get elsewhere, even if they never met me.
Instead of ignoring culture's validity in people's self-expression and personal identity, I made it my mission to understand Koreans from a holistic view, even if it was just in a microcosm.

In short, I tried to become a language learner.

And indirectly, my fangirling did help, because the men in the k-pop groups extended the olive branch. Now I have a whole new world before me to explore, with kindness and love.
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Re: Hi Ho, Timber! The Adventures of A Lumberjack

Postby crush » Mon Aug 17, 2020 3:25 pm

eido wrote:I remember reading somewhere, though I can't find it at the moment, that Korean repeats verbs and nouns wherever possible whereas in English we'd opt for a different set because the repetition grinds our gears. A cultural thing, I suppose. But I could be wrong and misremembering.

I'm wondering if what you're referring to isn't just "reduplication" rather than reusing the same word throughout a sentence/paragraph? It's pretty common in Mandarin and Japanese and wouldn't surprise me if it was present in Korean as well.

Also interesting to read about your background with Korean and Korean "idols". I consider $12 million to be quite a bit of money though (more than i'll earn in an entire lifetime) :P Still, it does seem to be pretty common in the music industry for companies to take advantage of artists' desire to "make it big" and just suck them dry and take away creativity in favor of marketability. I don't know much about their background though so it's interesting to learn a bit more about it.
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Re: Hi Ho, Timber! The Adventures of A Lumberjack

Postby eido » Tue Aug 18, 2020 2:23 pm

crush wrote:I'm wondering if what you're referring to isn't just "reduplication" rather than reusing the same word throughout a sentence/paragraph? It's pretty common in Mandarin and Japanese and wouldn't surprise me if it was present in Korean as well.

Korean has that phenomenon as well. Take for example, the word “똑똑하다”. This means “smart”. However I’m referring to separate nouns or whole verbs, not just reduplication. For instance:
“너보다 난 똑똑해. 너무 똑똑해. 많이 책을 읽어. 많이 책을 안 읽어.”
“I’m smarter than you. Like, really smart. I read a lot of books. You don’t read a lot of books.”
The nouns and almost some whole sentences are duplicated. I don’t know if that makes sense. I could be crazy.

Ahora voy a recomendar unas canciones de BTS para que disfruten.

Éstas son las canciones que me parecen a mí lo más importante culturalmente. Es decir, demuestran la cultura de Corea del Sur bastante bien porque la gritan en alta voz.

1. 팔도강산 (Paldogangsan): En esta canción, cada integrante rapea o canta sobre su región, o la región en la que nació. J-Hope y Suga batallan, pero no de la mala intención. Contiene buenos ejemplos de los dialectos de la lengua coreana.

2. 대취타 (Daechwita): Aquí Suga rapea usando su identidad alternativa, Agust D. Él es un rey con una mala imagen en el videoclip oficial. La historia del clip muestra el crecimiento del artista usando la historia de un loco rey de verdad del país. Significa el título “la gran marcha del rey”. Contiene en su instrumental instrumentos coreanos tradicionales a pesar de ser muy moderno en su producción, y a mí me suena genial.

3. 뱁새 (Baepsae - Crow Tit/Silver Spoon): En esta pista, los chicos rapean y cantan sobre ser joven en su país en donde sus mayores no los respetan. Quizá es un poco juvenil para ustedes, pero se elogió por los críticos por dirigir su letra a la actualidad y la realidad de los jóvenes en Corea del Sur. En ese país, es importante saber tu edad, como ayuda en determinar lo que es el nivel de respeto que recibe alguien. Si tienes menor edad, generalmente recibes menos, o sea, eres de nivel más bajo por alto margen.

Hay más por venir. Si quieres una recomendación que viene de la discografía del grupo BTS o de SHINee, hazmelo saber. Me alegraría ayudarte.
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Re: Hi Ho, Timber! The Adventures of A Lumberjack

Postby eido » Thu Aug 20, 2020 5:40 pm

I forgot to address @crush's question about profits and paychecks the other day even though I intended to. Apparently before COVID-19 hit, in 2019 BigHit, BTS' label, made $507.9 million USD, or $82.4 million USD in net income. I must've gotten lazy, for I didn't check the sources provided in my Quora answers I was reading about the billion-dollar statistic. I think the site I linked to, Forbes, is a reliable source, though. Still, it's quite the figure considering SM Entertainment, SHINee's company, has a net income of only $44 million USD. Considering how k-pop is a niche market even in Korea, it's perhaps not so odd that BTS' members get paid less. I was just thinking of one of my mom's favorite artists, a native English speaker that many current over 40-somethings in the US will probably know if they were into rock. Steven Tyler of Aerosmith's net worth is $130 million USD according to one source. Quite the jump from the highest paid BTS member's salary. I wonder if having a certain level of popularity is worth more than gold at some point, or if the money's always the selling point. I don't know BTS, so I can't say.

In recent days I've been trying to think of how to make my learning more systematized but not too crunchy, so that I'll want to keep learning for a long period of time. Consistency and effort, consistency and effort.

I recently signed up for a free trial at Bunpro, which is like a grammar aggregator for Japanese. It gives you a grammar bit, and you can learn the form, and read about it from various free sources it suggests or endorses. Then it will quiz you with a cloze deletion card. I find it useful and relaxing so far.

About 2 years ago I bought a lifetime subscription to Wanikani, because I knew I'd be in it with Japanese for the long haul. I just do incredibly poorly at whatever it's asking me to do, mainly remembering the reading to the visual character. After a while everything gets jumbled up and I remember readings, but not to what character, especially if in the set there are several similar-looking words. Argh!

I have two Genki textbooks and several Udemy courses.

I should be covered for N5, N4, and maybe a dash of N3.

As for Korean, I have my two beginning Francis Park texts, my TTMIK books, my Udemy courses, YouTube content, Viki, my friend, news... But I need to apply myself more.

Polish really needs some love. When I get some time off in the next couple weeks I'll be sure to focus on it more.

So many things I want to do, so little time. But schedules can help... I hope? I just can't commit to anything too deeply or else I'll stop completely!

Oh, and yeah, I had a good French class this past week. I translated for a student that was struggling even though I myself haven't had much exposure to the language, impressing my teacher, and and further by calling the sound of the "e" a "schwa". I'd say that's pretty good :)
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Re: Hi Ho, Timber! The Adventures of A Lumberjack

Postby cjareck » Thu Aug 20, 2020 6:07 pm

eido wrote:Polish really needs some love. When I get some time off in the next couple weeks I'll be sure to focus on it more.

I hope that! remember that I am ready to help :)
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eido
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Re: Hi Ho, Timber! The Adventures of A Lumberjack

Postby eido » Sat Aug 22, 2020 12:14 am

Writing all those posts on k-pop (and subsequently getting a warm reception) made me realize why I started to like the whole gamut of Korean culture in the first place, so my motivation to learn it is back on pretty hard. I have a hard copy of a planner and everything! I tend to be a person that keeps a running list of agenda items going through my head and I tally them up manually using my noggin. Back in my compulsory years of schooling, we paid for a planner every year as part of our school fees. Some would say that's just the American government's way of trying to indoctrinate us so as to have a busy bee, robotic workforce made of human flesh, but I say they really had the best of intentions and were trying to get the most disorganized and stubborn among us to actually get shit together. However, I rarely if ever used mine and that habit continues to this day. I wonder, if I live long enough, how long it will persist.

Anyway, I thought I'd include more insights on a more frequent basis since I tend to forget the things I want to cover if I'm not directly in front of a keyboard or interacting with someone in a way that makes me recall what I intended to speak about. These could include notes on culture, reactions, study notes, etc. Either way I want to keep momentum going at a constant pace.

There are a lot of things to explore, so let's get started.

Some of you may have read that I like personality theory. There are a few out there, like Enneagram, the MBTI, and Socionics. Those are the main ones discussed on personality forums. I personally know the most about MBTI. It's considered a little wacko by most people I've spoken to outside the Internet. I know people at my work who have taken similar inventories but think nothing of it, simply putting the little fancy graphs generated from the test in their email signatures for some odd form of clout and not self-reflection.

Naturally, MBTI has people that adore it as opposed to abhor it. They delve deep into it. And so does k-pop. Imagine when those two nerdy things mix.

Then you get people arguing over MBTI types like crazy. I like a good debate. However, as the MBTI is a Western construct, I've always wondered how that factored in to how (East) Asian test takers view it. Jung's theories (from which the "indicator" came) insist that everyone has all 8 cognitive functions. Everyone, I assume, includes anyone no matter where they're from.

So it was of interest to me as a would-be translator/interpreter/teacher/armchair psychologist that BTS and a couple other groups took the test. The particular one they took was a popular one (16Personalities) with a Korean translation. The test was administered, it sounds like, by some kind of psychologist or person trained in the MBTI. It didn't have to be (considering how most people find their type [hint --> it's pretty unscientific]), but that was a nice touch. The members then had to rate their result. Suga, one of the rappers, found his result of "INFP" to be pretty unsatisfactory, and gave it a single star out of five.

Despite the ratings the members clearly gave their type, people still judge them by that test. I can't help but wonder if the little quiz was culturally biased. You know those IQ tests that are supposed to be washed of all cultural context so as not to bias the results? I think that probably needs to be done with the MBTI. Or, maybe a test needs to be developed with each culture in mind, sensitive linguistically and culturally.

For instance, I was just reading about INFJs (the rarest type, though everyone seems to be one on the Internet), and how they write "emotionally" and with "wandering prose". It's possible to do this in languages other than English, but how it's perceived by native speakers of those languages may force them to say that the INFJ is really an ISTJ or such. I haven't read much into the study of Jung's archetypes, but I'm curious as to how they apply to other regions besides Europe or the West. Maybe I should pick up the Psychological Types book in my room... and get a hold of The Red Book when I'm not strapped for cash.

In other news, I discovered Polish rap and I really like it a lot. I listened to some Quebecois radio stations as well as some located in France--some German ones, too. I'm hoping to improve my pronunciation this way, and maybe pick up some bits from time to time. I've also watched VOA's Korean news programs for two nights in a row despite not understanding much. I wonder when this agony will end. Korean doesn't cause the agony, the lack of understanding does. :cry: I also practiced on Bunpro and Wanikani with increased success.
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Re: Hi Ho, Timber! The Adventures of A Lumberjack

Postby eido » Mon Aug 24, 2020 8:34 pm

Updates:
- I signed up for the continuation of my French class at the Alliance Francaise.
- I signed up for a traveler’s Japanese course at the local Japan Society.
- I started listening to more “classically oriented” Korean pop. My ability to predict how the language will go in a sentence seems to be quite good.
- I went through more of my sentence pattern book from TTMIK, and I discovered I can understand most (87%) of the sentences written there.
- I’m getting 100%s in my upper level Spanish university class without the aide of anyone or anything, except the occasional use of a dictionary.

I’m busier than ever, but I like it that way. I’m learning a lot and exercising my brain, which is what I get off on. (I guess that’s why my dad calls me Sherlock in mini version!) I’m also growing a lot emotionally and maturing as I go along, which I’m also excited for.

On deck is German, Polish, Chinese...

My dad regularly screeches (yes) Polish phrases in a humorous way when we’re at home, and I know most of their meanings by now, but not all of them. This weekend I hope to grab him if he’s not busy and ask him to read some Polish with me.

The problem I’m having with Korean is I’m too afraid to make mistakes and too lazy to look up grammar points in a text chatting situation, as I haven’t internalized enough. You have to be quick!

Does anyone have a remedy for that situation? Just speak what I can, or...? I ask because that’s not how I learned Spanish. I should know, but I don’t.
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