Learn Korean in Six Months?
I realized I haven’t really explained why I am documenting this series on this blog. To some, perhaps, it might seem too ancillary to travel to merit its place on Three Tumbleweeds. However, I think language is incredibly important for travel. I think that to learn Korean in six months would really intensify my cultural experiences while traveling.
Yes, eventually you do learn the skills to communicate with hand gestures, and yes, sometimes Google Translate or the like can get you by in restaurants. But, in my opinion, you won’t ever understand a culture at even a basic level if you don’t have some grasp of the language.
I’m not talking about being able to discuss politics, or being able to read high level literature. I mean being at the level to understand cultural phenomenons, some idiomatic expressions, things that don’t translate. As someone who studies linguistics (and hopes to one day have a PhD in the subject) I think language reveals so much about the culture.
French, for instance, has an informal word for “you” (to use with friends) and a formal you (with people older than you and those you don’t know) this gives you an idea about how hierarchy works in France. We don’t have this in English, really, which contributes to our “everybody is the same and has equal opportunities” culture. When France went through one of its many revolutions, there was talk of dropping the formal “vous” form, hinting at socialism being on the rise just within the language usage.
This is probably more in-depth than you care to know about. However, my point is that it’s always good to know some phrases in a language so you can communicate. It’s why when I make my master guides for each country I will focus a section on the phrases I think are most important, and the level to which you should strive to learn some of the language before you go. Again, taking France as an example, in my experience they want you to *try* but not too much. If you can say it properly, say it, if you can’t, they’d rather you just speak English (again, in my personal experience.).
TLDR The Verdict
This series is to show you that learning a language isn’t always scary, but it does take some daily focus and practice. I think if you can take the time to learn something of the language before departing, you will have a much better chance of connecting with the locals around you 🙂