Sunday, February 7, 2010

Why Ash is a Big Nerdo

I learned a hard lesson after returning from my Southeast Asia trip last fall: if you don't use a second language, you lose it. Devastated by my loss of competence from just three weeks off of studying, I vowed I would keep at my Korean after I returned to Canada.

I bought a new Korean book just before leaving Korea, and my goal was to finish the nine chapters in the 3 months I'd be home. Sadly, I won't realize that goal, but I should be able to finish seven of the nine before I go back to SK in two weeks.

Anyway, this is a story of my greatest strength and weakness as a language student.

I love grammar.

Yea, I said it. When I'm studying, it's absolutely important to me to understand what every word is doing in a sentence. Parsing and deconstructing sentences is the only way I find I can actually understand and use what I've learned.

Good Side: My Korean writing is very good. I can make good sentences, and most of the time I feel confident in what I know.

Bad Side: If I don't understand a particular grammar point, I don't have a real teacher to explain it to me. I can ask Boyfriend, but sometimes he just has to tell me what I've told many students before: "It just is." If I don't have a lot of confidence in my understanding, I'm less likely to try to speak, which is kind of the whole point of learning a language. Though personally I wouldn't mine conducting all of my Korean exchanges through note passing. One can dream.

This issue became especially apparent last week when my Korean book attempted to teach me three verbs: 되다, 돼다, and 데다. These three verbs all sound exactly the same, but have slightly different uses and meanings. Anyway, one sentence in my book changed a 돼다 to a 되다 when using future tense. Even though the pronunciation is exactly the same and I understood the meaning of the sentence fine, I just couldn't allow the grammatical change to go unexplained. So I called Boyfriend. Turns out 되다 is some kind of abbreviated form of 돼다, but in the end he told me to just accept that that's what you do in the future tense, since it doesn't make any difference to speaking at all.

A troubling conclusion, but I guess I'm going to have to let it go. I feel more acutely now the frustrations of my students when I can't explain something to them.

Conclusion: Ash is a NERD-BOMBER!