Best way to learn a language?

If you had to pick just one method…that isn’t taking a class or moving to that country?

That’s the premise of a great video I watched earlier this year from Talk to Me in Korean, which I’ve been consulting since my high school days. Over the years, the company has grew from a site with online lessons to a whole big production that includes videos, textbooks, and a cafe in Seoul?! But in this video, TTMIK founder Hyunwoo shares just one thing you should do to get better at Korean.

Yup: It’s to write in a journal everyday! He says it doesn’t matter how long (or short), how complex (or simple) the entries are. The important part is using the language on a regular basis, and using it to convey things that are relevant to your life—stuff that you’re genuinely curious about learning how to say or write.

As someone who has way more notebooks than reasons to use them, I was immediately on board to try this. I started at the beginning of February. At first it was very fun to keep up the daily journaling, but then, as all things that require some work do, it became tougher to pull out that notebook. But generally I’ve been keeping up, using Google Translate as an aid for looking up new vocabulary and reviewing them weekly with Jason. It definitely is a big help having a fluent speaker correct the mistakes, but I think even without that luxury, this is a worthwhile exercise.

A few pages from my journal.

As far as I can tell so far, the main benefits are:

  1. Motivation to look up new words/grammar 
  2. Increased familiarity with sentence structure patterns 
  3. Overcoming self-consciousness about making mistakes (a huge barrier for me…#writebadtowritegoodwritebadtowritegood! Which is true for any kind of writing in general, methinks)

While I agree with Hyunwoo that this is a fantastic way to spend time with and improve on a language, I think the results will—to state the obvious—be better if combined with other means of exposure to the language…even if it’s just watching k-dramas! After all, the blind can’t lead the blind, and it’s super fun and satisfying to recognize vocab and sentence structures that are already on your radar or simply ought to be.




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