Monday, August 26, 2013

Always be on the lookout for exposure to your target language

When you start learning a language, there's a pretty good chance that you're going to start noticing that language in all sorts of surprising places. If it's a more obscure language, it might just be in a handful of loan words from that language, but if it's a bit more common where you are, you very well might find it all over the place.

I'm constantly reminded of this while studying Korean in Japan.

Let's me just throw some examples out there…
  • Bars and the like in Japan always seem to be playing Gangnam Style and Psy's follow-up, Gentleman.

    Every time one of those comes on, I can't help but being distracted and trying to pick out a few more words than I could last time.

  • I often go running on the 5K course around the Imperial Palace, which isn't too far from where I live. There are signs there with Korean on them, such as directions to the train stations.

  • Major train stations in Japan often have Korean on important signs, including the station I get off at to go to work. The first Korean word I learned from those signs is 출구 chulgu, which which a cognate of 出口 chūkǒu in Chinese, which uses the same characters as 出口 deguchi in Japanese, all three of which mean "exit".

  • I live about two blocks away from the Korean embassy. In addition to the Korean-language signage at the embassy itself, there's a little Korean supermarket right across the street and some other Korean stores nearby with Korean writing all over the place.

  • My kids go to a Chinese school in an area that is full of Koreans and, accordingly, Korean words. One week, as I was waiting in a cafe for my son to finish up his class, two Korean speakers sat down next to me and started chatting—not that I could understand much, but I did try to pick out words. There are also often Korean speakers to be found on the streets there (and elsewhere in Tokyo) as well.

  • "Sofa" in Korean is 소파 sopa; Korean has no F sound, so F becomes P in loanwords. When my youngest daughter mispronounced "sofa" in English as "sopa", the Korean word immediately shot into my head, even though I suppose this isn't really exposure to Korean itself.

So wherever you are and whatever your target language is, keep an eye out for it; you may find it in places you hadn't anticipated.


  1. The same happens to me pretty often in Paris. There are lot's of Koreans, and if I spend a whole day in Paris, it's extremely rare not to hear Korean.

    One question though, why did you choose Japan to learn Korean?

  2. It wasn't really a choice... I just wanted to start learning Korean and I happen to be living in Japan while doing that.

  3. I'm really lucky to be learning Spanish in an area where there are not only many people who use Spanish on a daily basis, but there's also Spanish television and tons of Spanish resources at the libraries. Like you, I can't understand everything that I hear, but I can at least get the gist of what's going on. It definitely takes the language out of the realm of 'studying' and into real life!

  4. Sounds like you're in a great place for learning Spanish!

  5. It is true as long as you look for a cetrain language you find it even in places you didn´t expect. :)

  6. Really great tips, it's important to take every opportunity to maximise exposure to the language you're learning. When I lived in England and was taking Spanish courses , there weren't really these opportunities but I watched lots of films and listened to music to make up for it.