Korean Progress #2

This week is a bit of a weird week because I don’t have much of a progress gauge. I changed my routine and started using Memrise to increase my vocabulary. Two of them are based on textbooks I own, while a third is a set for all Talk To Me In Korean levels. I’m about halfway through the second level of TTMIK. I love TTMIK and all the resources they provide, but I feel like I’m burning out on the singular resource. Going through the Memrise lessons to get to new material isn’t helping. I probably need the review, but it’s tedious. The other two courses I picked are helpful, but the vocabulary at this point isn’t terribly practical.

The plan is to continue as I am for the next few weeks, and then to hire a teacher when I come back from my vacation. Much as I love self-study, I feel like I need the structure a teacher provides. If not structure, then at least regular and measurable practice. I already have someone picked out on italki. It’s just a matter of contacting her and scheduling. Only problem is getting over my anxiety about speaking.

I may do what Nick at 한한 잡지 suggested and do some freewriting in Korean on this blog. If I do, I think I’ll relegate it to a separate blogging day. Blogging three days a week is spreading myself a little thin, but worth it. Just have to manage my time once school starts up again in the fall.

Now for the actual updating part of this post.

Hard to measure for certain, but I feel like my reading speed has quickened a little bit. Certainly not enough to reach even an intermediate level, but I don’t focus on singular syllables at a time quite as much.

If there’s anything I can credit to studying with Memrise, it’s this. My typing is getting quicker with every set of drills, and my spelling is getting better with repeated presentations of each word or phrase. One notable accomplishment was spelling 처음 뵙겠습니다 right on the first attempt. Not the most common phrase, but certainly useful.

This one I slacked on a little too much. I listen to a lot of Korean music, but I didn’t listen to anything necessarily with the intent to study. I did listen to one broadcast of 푸른 밤 on MBC FM4U via my TuneIn app, and managed to pick up a few things from the interview with the guest. Just nothing I can really give context for.

I sounded out and repeated everything I learned from Memrise this week, but that’s been the extent of my practice. No video this week because of that, as well as time constraints at the time of writing this post. June 1st was my birthday, and I made plans with one of my cousins and a high school friend on two days back-to-back. It’s no excuse, but June is busy month this year.


Ultimate Language Goals

When I first sat down to write this post, I thought I’d had my linguistic life all planned out. Not so concrete that I had, say, learning timelines, but I thought I had a better understanding of what I want to accomplish. In truth, that’s not so much the case. It’s a running theme of mine, and probably with most other people, that I don’t know myself as well as I like to believe. For instance, it took a friend of 16 years to help me figure out my taste in romantic partners. Hopefully you aren’t as oblivious.

A couple of my language goals are set in stone. Mastery in Korean is my first and most immediate goal. I would also very much like to learn Busan dialect. It’s not a skill foreigners in South Korea necessarily need, but it’s one I want to have. From the first time I heard it, I fell in love. It has a different, warmer sort of feel than I typically associate with Seoul dialect. This, of course, depends on the person and what’s being said. Nevertheless, that’s the impression I get.

Beyond these two goals, things get hazy. There are other languages I’m certainly interested in, but a lot of the time,  discovering new languages is like entering a bar where everyone is devastatingly attractive. One or two might wink at me from across the room, and my heart will stop. I’ll spend the rest of the evening trying to woo that language, only to find my interest fizzles out when he or she kicks puppies, or is rude to waitstaff. Finding a language which maintains my interest is much more difficult. Nevertheless rewarding in the end, but difficult.

My instinct is to pick up more languages within that region of the world, but I guess we’ll see how well that holds up. It might even be a mistake to try to think that far ahead. Let’s be honest, it probably is. Still, I enjoy structure. Knowing what I’m going to do next even when that task is still far off is comforting to me. Mandarin has been making eyes at me for months, so that’s a distinct possibility.

Korean Progress #1

This isn’t so much a progress update as a “where I am now” sort of post. I’ve been self-studying very sporadically for about two years. I feel a little ashamed to type that, as I imagined being much further along at this point. Formal education and general burnout has a way of obstructing basically everything else. Or maybe I just lack the work ethic. Time will tell.

Each post like this, I’ll break everything down into four groups: reading, writing, listening, and speaking. While in ideal situations these would all progress with the same relative speed, that’s not always true. Most people who’ve taken a high school language class or even a college one can somehow attest to this. A student can go through four years of French as I did–and do very well–but still be completely useless in it. So breaking the four skills down will hopefully mitigate any present and potential damage.


Decent for my skill level, I think. Hangeul was one of the first things I learned, so reading at the very basic level is no problem. I haven’t done a lot of dedicated reading practice, but I’m looking into resources like children’s books to help me change that.


Spelling is hit or miss with new words, and I type like the world’s most geriatric man, but I feel pretty comfortable in this area. My handwriting feels much more natural to me than it did when I first started, but there’s still plenty of room to improve. For instance, I keep forgetting stroke order. I’ll leave a sample of it here.

Writing Sample 05272016


Listening to spoken language at native speed is still something of a challenge for me. I can process bits of phrases here and there. Sometimes I might even get a complete, moderate-length sentence. On the whole, though, I’m still a beginner. So I just don’t have the tools yet for most things.

On the upside, I’m beginning to understand entire lyrics in songs.Usually only one or two, and sometimes with the help of reading it as I go. It’s still a lot more than I could do when I started.


This is, without a doubt, my weakest point. Even though I think my overall pronunciation is decent, I have very little experience with actual conversation. The few conversations I’ve had have been mostly in written form. Great for my texting skills and building vocabulary, but not so much for everything else. It’s a known issue I have to work on.

With that in mind, I created a YouTube video! It might be a weekly thing like these blog posts, or it might be a “whenever I make obvious progress” thing. If I decide to do the latter, I don’t foresee it going well.

Speaking is Hard, But Necessary

If you’re learning a spoken language with intent to communicate, you’re going to have to practice speaking it. This is a given. Whether you prefer to speak from day one or to build up a passive vocabulary, you’ll eventually have to talk to someone. In our native languages, we did this without thinking. We spat out whatever made sense, and our guardians corrected us. As adults, we no longer have that sort of guaranteed safety net. Even if we do, it may not feel that way. Many of us have adopted a healthy–or rather unhealthy–fear of failure. To avoid that fear, we simply avoid speaking. We fool ourselves into believing that if we just keep learning by listening or by studying, speaking will be easier later.

This is a fear with which I’m well acquainted. Even in my native language, I’ve always been more of a writer than a speaker. I’m also the sort of person who sometimes has to work up the courage to make a simple phone call. Coupled with perfectionism which I can only describe as crippling, it’s safe to say this is the part of language learning I hate the most. So, the question remains: how do I motivate myself?

The fear of never reaching my goals outweighs the fear of being wrong.

Just as mistakes are unavoidable in life, they are also unavoidable in pursuit of a language. While the embarrassment you feel is very real, it is also temporary. Your face might turn beet red and you might devour a gallon of ice cream later, but your mistakes are forgivable. You are redeemable. If you don’t get a single word right in an entire conversation, that fact doesn’t change. You still tried, and therein lies an opportunity to grow. Without trying, there are no opportunities.

I decided to write this post in part to psyche myself up. On Friday, I’ll be posting my first progress video. My first ever video speaking Korean publicly. The thought of it is frankly terrifying, but the alternative terrifies me far more.


Why Languages?

This week’s progress post is being omitted to give me time to brush up and review, as this past semester has left me stagnant. So instead, I thought I’d make a post about why I study languages and, to a lesser extent, why this blog exists.

I like to think I have a natural affinity for language – or at least, I find it easier to study than most anything else. I tend to pick things up quickly. This is especially true for pronunciation and vocabulary. Even if my accent is thick, I can still get the gist of it. So deciding to take advantage of this ability seemed like a no-brainer. That’s not to say I’m a hyper-polyglot like Tim Doner, or that my motivation has always been 100%. But the desire to do something with language has always been there. I never believed I would be monolingual my whole life.

I’m a White native English speaker based in the US. It would be quite comfortable for me, and to some even desirable, to never learn a word of another language. Even in other countries, I could still get by even to the displeasure of the locals. For me, that’s no way to live. I don’t want to stay in my home country forever, and I certainly never want to be the picture of an ignorant tourist. I’m sure I will at some point, but hopefully not to that degree.

There are few greater successes I could personally achieve than communicating with someone in their native language or, perhaps down the road, helping them communicate in mine. Language shapes our culture and our selves  as much as we shape it. Speaking to someone’s heart like that and connecting on that level is difficult to describe or replicate.

Of course, not everyone views language this way. For some, it’s a tool for finding out where the bathroom is. For others, it’s working out a business deal. These are valid reasons as well. They are also means of communication. However, I could never stop at just that. It’s mastery or bust.

I guess the short answer of this is: because I’m an idealistic nerd


Welcome, and thank you for coming! This is Jaybird Language, my blog where I document my vain attempts to become a walking Rosetta Stone. It’s my way of keeping myself accountable, and hopefully making some new friends along the way. If you’re currently learning a language or feel like you only wish you could, this is a place for you. I hope my struggle can motivate or inspire you. If nothing else, maybe you can tell me how to do things better.

Each week, on Tuesdays and Fridays, a post will come out. Tuesday posts will be a grab bag of topics. It might be a new method I enjoy, venting my insecurities about language learning, or just something I find interesting. Friday posts will be progress updates about my target language (in this case, Korean). The exact format will change depending on my focus for that week or where I feel I’ve made the biggest strides. Or it might just be a post about making no progress at all. I hope that won’t happen, but everyone hits a plateau sometimes.

I hope you’ll join me as I try to navigate this polyglot stuff. See you soon!