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This Question Came to My Inbox: “How do Koreans successfully and easily say some of those difficult to say tongue twister words and sentences?”

Any time you grow up with a language, it is easier for you to pronounce than the other languages. Your tongue gets used to how it has to move to make the sounds. When you try to learn a foreign language, you have to retrain your tongue, and it is harder for some than others, especially if you begin as an adult. I want to explain what happens to people who learn foreign languages when they are small and those who don’t.

My daughter is American, but spoke Romanian first. Photo by Nicolas Postiglioni on Pexels.com

My daughter is an American who speak English, Romanian, and Korean. We lived in Romania when she was small, and she spoke Romanian before English. Her English is flawless, but sometimes, I hear a slight difference in how she pronounces her “t.” She says it more like a Romanian, and she keeps saying she feels like she has a thick tongue compared to other Americans.

I drove my dad nuts with my British accent I didn’t even realize I had. Photo by Oleg Magni on Pexels.com

As for me, I had a British accent when I was small because even though i am American, we lived in England. My dad didn’t like it, so I tried to lose it. In the 4th grade, I had an American teacher, and I tried really hard to copy her pronunciation to make my dad happy. However, I am an old woman now, and every so often someone thinks they still hear some of that British accent or hear me using words that a British person would use rather than an American. We get things really engrained hard into us when we are small, and to change them just isn’t easy.

I went to an embassy school in French Morocco when I was very young, and they were teaching me French. Photo by Taryn Elliott on Pexels.com

However, if we study foreign language while we are still young and forming, our tongue and our brain are used to them, and it is easier to learn foreign languages. I also spoke French as a little girl, and I speak French, Spanish, and Romanian, and I understand Italian and Portuguese because those languages are so similar. Japanese has kind of a Latin pronunciation to it, and I learned to speak Japanese quickly, and with the similarities between Japanese and Korean, it made Korean easier for me than some others. My tongue and my brain were trained from a very young age. Some people think I am really a whiz when they see what I can do with language, but it is only because I had the opportunity to begin when I was small. The younger you begin, the better.

European countries are smaller than the United States of America, so Europeans often meet people who speak another language. Photo by slon_dot_pics on Pexels.com

In Europe, there is a phenomena that just doesn’t exist in America. Many people speak several languages, but there are jokes about Americans only speaking one language. When Americans try, they often trip all over the pronunciation because they don’t begin until they are adults or in high school. By that time, they have forgotten the art of learning a language and their tongue and brain are completely trained for English. Americans aren’t dumb, but until recently when all the Spanish speaking people migrated into America, most Americans could go their whole lives and never meet anyone who didn’t speak English. On top of that, they don’t teach foreign language in the lower grades in America. It makes a difference.

In Cluj, Romania, many people speak Hungarian, and I got ignored by shop assitants because I spoke Romanian. Photo by Alexander Naglestad on Pexels.com

If you go to Europe, the countries are smaller, and people go back and forth across the borders, and people are more likely to encounter more people who speak foreign languages. In Romania, there are actually four languages spoke: Romanian, German, Hungarian, and the Roma gypsy language. No one by the gypsies learn the gypsy language. However, people of German or Hungarian lineage will learn the language of their ancestors and Romanian. There are schools set up that are all taught in German and Hungarian for them, but they also have to learn Romanian because it is the national language. Since they speak Romanian, it makes all the other Latin languages easier for them, and many Romanians also speak French or italian. English is also easy for Romanians to learn.

I knew a little girl who spaoke Yugoslavian Romanian, and English all three fluently because of he circumstances she was being raised in. Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

I knew a little girl from Yugoslavia. Her dad was from Yugoslavia, and her mother was Romanian. The only language her parents had in common was English, so she was still in elementary school and was fluent in Yugoslavian, Romanian, and English. She, no doubt, will be learning more languages easier as she grows up. When you begin speaking foreign languages as children, it is easier.

Many British speak French for a good reason. Photo by Nextvoyage on Pexels.com

Many British people speak French and many French speak English because they are across the way from one another. They consider the other country to be like their cousin. At one time, all the aristocracy in England spoke French and all the important documents were in French.

Many Texans and Southern Californians speak Spanish because they are close to Mexico. They grew up around Mexicans. . Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

If you go to Texas or Southern California, there are Americans who speak Spanish. There have always been Mexicans there because they are close to the Mexican border. If you go to Louisiana, you might find more people speaking French because their grandmothers spoke French. It all comes down to exposure, and the early you are exposed, the easier it will be for you in the long run.

Koreans have trouble wrapping their tongues and brains around English too. Some of the run when they see a foreigner coming because they find English so hard. Photo by Markus Winkler on Pexels.com

It is not that the Koreans are more talented with their tongues than you are. It is that they have been speaking Korean since they were very small. Koreans find certain English sounds hard too. I have a “v” in my family name, and they can’t say “v,” so they always but a “b” there. They may be wondering how we get the pronunciation of all our words right too. If you had been speaking Korean since you were small, even if English is your first language, you would find those sounds and ideas of how a sentence are put together much easier. If you had preparation of speaking other languages that are similar to Korean like Japanese or Chinese, it would make Korean easier for you too. The problem you are having is that you have to retrain your tongue and the way you think to speak Korean, and that isn’t easy, but people do it.

Europeans find European languages easier because they grew up with them and they are similar, but Korean is a whole different proposition. They even have verb ending where we would only use punctuation in European languages. They speak in levels that we don’t even understand. If Korean is giving you a hard time, don’t feel bad, but don’t give up either. Photo by Ethan Brooke on Pexels.com

For me, it took longer to learn to speak Korean than the European languages. I have a Romanian friend in S. Korea who has even paid to go to language school in S. Korea, but she is still struggling with Korean. She already speaks English, Romanian, and French, but Romanian speaker find French and English easier than a language like Korean. It is much more foreign to our brains and tongues. The first person who spoke to me in Romanian figured out that I understood French and was using words that were in common between French and Romanian to get me to understand because they couldn’t speak English. I have been prepared since I was very small to understand foreign languages, but most people aren’t. When I began studying Korean, I already spoke Japanese. I was prepared. Don’t give up because there are people who learn a foreign language first as an adult. It just isn’t as easy for them as it is for children and people who are prepared.

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