In less than a week I’ll once more be jetting off to Seoul and I’m beyond excited. I’ve already spent two months away from my second home and I cannot wait to go back to all my favorite cafes, my favorite restaurants and, well, my favorite people!

When I first arrived back in Denmark, I was really diligent with maintaining my Korean skills for the first couple of weeks. Okay, I’ll admit that it was more to fight my homesickness than for the purpose of really studying. In either case, it helped. But as my brain has been increasingly preoccupied with trying to catch up with the 3rd semester Japanese majors whose classes I’m currently auditing (and frantically struggling to keep up with), I have felt my Korean skills deteriorate pretty fast. This morning, I saw a car with a ‘student driver’ sticker on it and thought to myself: “I used to see these in Seoul all the time. What on earth did those stickers say??” It took me several minutes to recall the ‘교육중’ term in Korean. I constantly find myself looking up words I know I’ve mastered before, and it drives me mad that one’s memory function can be so fleeing. If you don’t use a foreign language on a regular basis you can lose it so easily.

So what’s the remedy? Total immersion! Since this weekend I’m listening strictly to Korean music (new album by BTS) and podcasts (mainly 세바시), I only watch Korean TV (currently re-rewatching 김비서가 왜 그럴까 because it’s so freaking good and just started watching 플레이어, which premiered last week), I read Korean news and books (currently re-reading 완벽하지 않은 것들에 대한 사랑 – the love for imperfect things by the Buddhist zen monk Haemin Sunim). I try to speak Korean to myself whenever I’m alone and have taken up the habit of shadowing the things I’m watching or listening to as well.

It feels a bit like your first few runs after a long hiatus. You used to be in good shape, so your body adapts relatively quickly, but d… that first run is painful.

This week’s goal: Back to complete fluency and a cute western-Seoul dialect by Monday! Fighting!!

3 Comments »

  1. I’ve noticed the same thing since I’ve returned to the Netherlands 2 months ago. Although I’m far from fluent, I felt my skills deteriorating. I’ve started using hellotalk about 2 weeks ago, and reading korean everyday and sending messages in korean has helped a lot so far!
    I have plans to test out my improved skills this December^^

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Language attrition is painful, and can happen far more quickly than we think. I managed to lose most of the active skills (writing and speaking) I had for the Malay language over the course of 3-4 years, despite having studied the language for 13 years! And it’s not casual studying, either, considering over half the subjects in school had been taught in Malay, since it’s our national language. I started learning the language since I was 4 (in kindergarten) and ‘stopped’ when I graduated high school at the age of 17. I started attending university, where everything was taught in English, and no one there spoke the language, so I spent 4 years not using it at all, and by the time I graduated I found myself struggling with even the simplest day-to-day conversations. I had trouble recalling basic verbs like ‘to go up’ and ‘to follow’. T

    hankfully, I seem to have retained some of my passive skills, so I can still understand a good deal (maybe like 50%-60%) when I read or when I hear it being spoken, but writing and speaking are so ridiculously difficult now that it’s absurd, because I always scored well on tests and wrote reasonably well in it (I could write academic essays with relative ease) yet now I feel like a total 외국인 in the language.

    These days I’m working to regain the skills I have lost and I’ve become a lot more careful with how long I let myself go without touching a language. I would hate for my Korean skills to suffer the same fate, considering how much effort I’d put into cultivating them!

    Liked by 1 person

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