A Language Learner’s Problems (and how to solve them)

I got 99 problems and teaching myself Korean is most of them – okay, that’s not really true, and I’m not actually going to list 99 different problems. I don’t want to type that much and you don’t want to read that much – but here are some problems I’ve encountered as a self-taught language learner (as well as some tips for how to deal with these issues)!

1. I have too many different resources for language study.

How do I choose just one? My textbooks from Yonsei, Ewha, and even Klear. The endless supply of webtoons online. The part of the Naver Webtoon app where people post funny snippets from manhwa. My three books of Korean poetry, two compilations of Korean short stories, six books of manhwa. Countless purchased or downloaded TTMIK resources. Pimsleur audio files. My old notebooks. My new notebooks. My language partners. My poster of Park Hyoshin as the Phantom. Videos of Park Hyoshin as the Phantom. My pictures of the time my friend and I went to see Park Hyoshin in The Phantom musical. So, SO many things to study.

2. My hobby is still work, and work has become a hobby.

I have lost the ability to just sit and purely enjoy entertainment for entertainment’s sake when it’s in Korean. I feel guilty watching shows with subtitles, but my brain frequently berates me with headaches when I try to turn a relaxation session with a manhwa or a drama into a study session. But that’s just me being lazy….practice will make it easier and headaches will occur less.

3. I am my own motivator and accountability partner.

 I can start a study session with great gusto, with notebook at the ready, pen poised, and find myself giggling at the ! * section on the webtoon app at 2AM without a single line in my notebook. Also, since I’ve taken Korean to the highest level offered at my university, no one is testing me to see if I’ve improved. The real test is in my interactions with Korean-speakers…

*겟!짤 is my favorite new thing, and I promise to write a blog post about it soon!

4. I want everything I say or write to be perfect.

While I can intimidate potential language partners, I also tend to avoid talking to someone at all if I’m not sure how to say something in Korean. This is a newer problem and occurs when I get deeper into conversation than the basics. I used to unabashedly butcher the Korean language and await a Korean person to kindly sort out what I was trying to say – and I learned a great deal from this method. I also tend to hurriedly repeat myself in English if someone doesn’t understand immediately, which means I never find out what I did wrong or how to say it properly in Korean. Perhaps it’s time to let my pride go and receive some firm but helpful guidance from others.


…but that’s okay.

5. I can get by on what I already know.

Do I have immense room for improvement? Yes. Can I get around Korea with too much hassle? Yes. Can I communicate fluently? No, no, definitely not. But it’s easy to stay on the language plateau because studying difficult grammar points isn’t immediately rewarding and learning how to say one’s father’s younger brother’s wife’s title isn’t that important to me right now.


Why study when I can become one with the floor?

6. Motivation comes at the most inconvenient times. 

Is it midterms week and I have three papers to write for tomorrow and translations to revise? Is it 2AM? Am I in the middle of a class taking notes on humanitarian dilemmas? Suddenly this is the moment! I must seize it! I must study all the Korean! I am overcome with the need to investigate the finer points of the Korean language, or take notes on vocabulary I don’t know in one of the 만화 I’m reading, or message a language partner, or translate a song, or converse with one of my friends about the meaning of life (in Korean of course).


So, those are the problems. What about solutions?

  1. Choose one resource to focus on at a time – maybe assign Mondays to manhwa, Tuesdays to grammar, etc….
  2. Dedicate certain media or shows for entertainment and choose others for studying. For example, Running Man tends to move so quickly and involve a lot of words that I don’t know (especially on the detective-type episodes), so it’s more beneficial for me to pay close attention. Generally, I use variety shows for study and k-dramas for enjoyment.
  3. Stick to a schedule. Budget the time in advance and follow your study plan. Sites like TTMIK have an established curriculum, so try out reviewing one conversation, or one lesson every day or so.
  4. Forget perfection. I don’t even speak English perfectly sometimes. You can’t learn unless you are willing to make mistakes, and I’ve found that I make the most progress when I throw myself into trying to say things even when I’m not sure how.
  5. What doesn’t seem useful now often ends up being strangely useful later. Some of the grammar points I ignored early on because I didn’t think I’d ever use them are among the most used. Don’t skip! Just because you can get by with what you already know doesn’t mean you should ignore other vocabulary or grammar. Perhaps you don’t care – perhaps you’re not going for fluency. But if you are, go back to all those points you ignored. Don’t just skip over those random words you don’t really know in a sentence in a manhwa. I promise that the day after you study it, you’ll suddenly notice it in use in a bunch of places.
  6. Don’t ignore momentary passion. If you suddenly really want to study Korean, then go ahead! Take a 5 minute break and read one page of a manhwa, or learn a new word. Write a poem in Korean. Then get back to what you’re doing, and remember that passion and use it to motivate you when you actually have time to study.

Do you have any problems you’ve encountered while studying a language? Any other ideas on how to overcome these roadblocks? Let me know in the comments below!


지금 재생

이 노래 완전히 좋다, 와우. 너무 좋다. 들어 보세요~^^


2 thoughts on “A Language Learner’s Problems (and how to solve them)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.