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This Question Came to My Inbox: “I am learning Korean, when I hear native Koreans talking so fluently, I feel discouraged, like I’ll never be that smooth, is this true?”

Korean is one of the most difficult languages on the planet, but there are foreigners who master it. One of the biggest things you have to do to learn to speak like a Korean is to reprogram your brain. Your brain is programed so that you think the English word order. Your brain is programed so that you think certain things must be said in a certain way. You think you have to be specific. You want to use pronouns. You want to put that verb after the subject because, otherwise, it makes no sense to you. You have to throw all that and more out of your brain to learn to carry on a conversation in Korean.

You have to reprogram your brain to learn to speak Korean. Teach yourself to think outside the box. Photo by meo on Pexels.com

A really good way to program your brain in a language like Korean is to sit down and write it using the Korean letters saying it out loud. Listen to yourself as you say it. Write reams and reams of paper until you feel like you have innately memorized. My Japanese teacher had me doing this with Japanese. She would say, “Go home and write.” I went home and wrote five pages, and the other guy in my class wrote two sentences. She wasn’t specific about how much we should right. I learned to speak, and he didn’t. I hung out with a Japanese friend who could speak English, but didn’t want to, so I played with Japanese and let him speak to me in Japanese all he wanted. I listened to Japanese preachers. I took notes. I wrote down words I didn’t understand and looked them up when I got home and memorized them. I did the same kind of thing with Korean because it had worked so well with Japanese. I, literally, had to reprogram my brain to think Korean and respond to Korean. Korean feels just as convoluted to an English speaker’s brain as Japanese does, and in fact, I think it seems even more convoluted. They do so many things with language that we don’t do, and the Korean words are not as easy to remember as the Japanese words. However, you can reprogram your brain if you work at it. You have to teach yourself to make your automatic response in Korean, and that isn’t easy, but it can be done.

Each language I speak is like a computer disc that I have programed. It is laying in there ready to be used because I made it work. When people speak to me in that language, they are putting one of my discs in. You have to create your disc for Korean. Photo by Soonios Pro on Pexels.com

Any time you learn a foreign language, you have to forget you know any other language. You have to program your brain for that language. It is like putting in a disk. First, you train your brain, and then when someone speaks to you in that language, they are putting your disc in. They are booting your brain for that language. You have already developed the program if you have written, studied, listened, and spoken out loud enough. It is not an easy hump to get over in Korean. Many people who don’t speak Korean as their first language can’t get over it, but it can be done. Many Koreans study English, but they also never figure out how to get over that hump. It was my job as an English professor to help the ones who had been unable to get over that hump, and it is possible. Don’t give up. It takes someone with an extremely strong will to learn to speak Korean as a foreign language.

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