Two months here, AAHHH! I would have very little judgement about this arbitrary passing of time, except that I feel like I should have learned more Korean by now.
Instead of dedicating myself to learning new words, I have gotten really good at charades and keeping a pen on me to draw pictures or write numbers. I still don't even know my Korean numbers, pathetic! To my defense though, they have two counting systems- one Korean and one Sino-Chinese- and you use a certain one depending on whether you are talking about money, age, objects, floors of a building, etc. Also, I think it's important to have time to let one's brain listen to a language before trying to speak. Consider how a child learns her native language: she has almost two years of non-stop listening before she is expected to produce any substantial words! On the other hand, when adults learn a foreign language they are expected to just start speaking immediately.
Korea has one of the highest literacy rates in the world. For a country where 99% of people can read, they sure do love their graphics. Every restaurant has big pictures of the food or the animal the food come from. Why do I need to learn to read "beef" when restaurants look like this? I already know what's on the menu.
So I have given my brain time to be a sponge. I have picked up small things without trying, just because I hear them a lot. For instance, I only know how to count to 3 because when people are taking pictures, they say, "hana, dul, set!" or when my students need to settle any dispute, they play rock-paper-scissors, "gawi-bawi-bo!" Then there are the completely random words I've learned, like "batter" because of the cooking class, and "want to fight?" because one of my coworkers is always jokingly saying it to students.
But aside from that, it's hard to know how to start tackling a foreign language. I've finally decided that there is no perfect approach, and that any studying is better than none. It's time to get serious.
So as of today, I have decided to start a new 100 DAY PRACTICE of studying Korean for at least 20 minutes a day. I can study anything as long as it is a daily regiment. In the past I have only done one intentional 50-day practice, of keeping a dream journal. It was a great experience, and a good way to formulate some self-imposed adult education.
One step is to just make some solid Korean friends. On Sunday I went hiking with a new friend, a Korean English teacher, in a National Park about an hour from Gunsan. There is an old Buddhist temple there, with extra lanterns hanging for Buddha's birthday which is this Friday. He was an English literature major in college (my friend, not Buddha), so his English is good, and he was an enthusiastic tour guide.
It was an absolutely perfect day for hiking, warm but not too hot. It was strenuous with major elevation gain and loss, but really fun and we got some view of the coastline and a waterfall.
This week I started doing an English-Korea language trade with another friend. We get together over coffee and spend half the time on English, half on Korean. I've also been practicing reading menus. Most full-service dinner places specialize in a few entrees so there is not much to read, but the more casual kimbap places have big menus. "Kim" is seaweed and "bap" is cooked rice, so kimbab is basically a nori roll with different fillings. The also serve mandu (potstickers), pork cutlets, fried rice, noodle dishes, soups, and of course kimchi on the side, all with similar variations. Here is a sample menu, only half of it though:
In other news, I have conquered my foreign convection oven! As predicted, my first batch of banana bread was sacrificial. I didn't realize just how hot and rapidly convection ovens cook, so by the time I checked on the loaf (15 minutes early) it was already dry and overdone. I brought it to work to share with coworkers anyway, and they were still sufficiently impressed just by the novelty of a home-baked good. My headmaster who lived in the US though, was another story. He made a face when he took a bite, and said, "What, you're giving me your leftovers? How old is this bread?" Uh, I had just made it the night before. So, note to self, don't pawn off my mediocre experiments on the headmaster. Anyway, I made another batch and it turned out beautifully.