my name is leigh and i suck at korean


I mean, I don’t like sucking at Korean (I don’t like sucking at anything), but that doesn’t change the fact that I kinda sorta still suck. After a year of intensive study in Seoul I still can’t understand Korean television, people from Jeolla-do, or anybody who thinks roasted squid makes a good snack.

I’m not totally helpless. I went from knowing exactly one Korean word (가방) in 2011 to being able to conduct banking transactions by the end of 2012. I should be frolicking in the streets, revelling in my success. I’m not, because this isn’t really about Korean, it’s about my inability to settle for anything less than total domination.

I am an unusual case. I don’t want to learn enough Korean to get by. It’s not enough just to be understood. I want to make people laugh in Korean the way I can in English. I want to develop a compelling Korean writing voice. I want to go to the book store and understand any given book in the non-fiction section.

Before you acquire such awesome Korean skills, you have to go through a long phase of suckitude, which is where I currently am stuck. Don’t you ever get tired of sucking? I am certainly fed up with being the dumbest in my class of mostly Asian kids with super-study powers. I am totally over not being able to explain why Attack the Gas Station is the greatest movie of its decade. I hate turning into a bright pink stuttering monster whenever I have to exchange pleasantries with someone’s mum.

So I’m taking on a 3 month challenge to stop sucking at Korean.

  • 3 months of living at the library, studying for an advanced TOPIK score
  • 3 months of Harry Potter dvds on loop in my tiny studio apartment
  • 3 months of pretending my English-speaking friends don’t exist
  • 3 months of imbibing too much soju with conversation partners
  • 3 months of the voodoo required to remove noodles from a hotpot
  • 3 months of wearing headphones 24/7 and imitating Gain Son’s accent
  • 3 months of actually talking with the employees at makeup shoppes
  • 3 months of drilling flashcards so I can rank #1 in my class
  • 3 months of sleeping as much as possible to improve memory retention
  • 3 months to go from advanced learner to functionally fluent speaker

If it sounds intense that’s because it is intense. Let’s see if my blood, sweat, and tears are enough to take me from advanced language learner on paper to functionally fluent speaker in practice.

WHAT AM I DOING RIGHT NOW TO STOP SUCKING? Click to find out.