Learning Korean

Kangmi asks when we will add Korean to The Linguist. The answer is that I do not know. We hope to have our new version available by the summer. It will be easier to start with other European languages because there are no issues related to the writing system. We would hope to bring in Asian languages within months of that. So maybe the fall of 2006 is a possible date. Please do not hold me to it.

In addition to us developing the system to handle Asian languages we will need good Asian language content, not only for Korean, but for other languages as well. We are hoping people will get in the spirit of the new Linguist system. If people create good authentic content in their language, they will be able to earn points that they can spend on learning other languages. But all of that is for later in the year.

Stephen asks about the difficulty of Korean versus Japanese. I did not go far enough into Korean to really have an opinion. The Hangul is easier to deal with than Kanji or Chinese characters. On the other hand since I know the Chinese characters I would have preferred to see more Hanja or Kanji characters in my Korean reading. It would have helped me learn Korean.

Korean has a great variety of endings on words with subtle differences of meaning in a way that I have not met in other languages, but once you get used to them they are no more difficult than the complications you find in other languages. Every language has its difficulties. The strangeness needs to be overcome through exposure and discovery and an open mind.

On balance I learned Korean faster than I learned either Japanese or Korean if I think back to the first few months of study of those languages. Part of the reason is my existing experience with Japanese and Chinese. But perhaps an even bigger reason is that I now know how to learn, and am absolutely confident that I can learn if I put in the effort and do it the right way.

In the end I stopped my Korean studies because there was not enough interesting content in a form that could help me learn and keep my interest level up. I got tired of reading about Chusok, New Year, North American born Koreans learning Korean, traffic in Seoul and all the other “cultural things” that Koreans who write text books think Korean language learners should be interested in.

In The Linguist version of Korean we hope to have a corpus of over 100 hours of MP3 files and transcripts of interesting things so that learners can choose what interests them. Our technology will help learners go to content that maximizes words that they are already trying to learn, and minimizes unknown words. But let’s discuss all that in the fall.

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