I have always been a lover of languages. I love traveling to different countries and hearing the locals speak, seeing the language spelled out, and trying to decipher what the meaning is. In my lifetime I have learned Spanish, French, a tiny bit of Italian, and Russian (so mostly the Romance languages).
Scrolling Facebook and Instagram during the early stages of the pandemic, I saw a lot of people posting screenshots of this language app with a green owl. I didn’t know what it was called at the time but just assumed it was one of those trends that would quickly fade away, so I left it alone.
I then fell into the K-pop rabbit hole and decided that I wanted to try my hand at learning Hangul (the Korean Alphabet). So where could I go to learn a new language (one that is not a Romance language, that I had never really heard spoken before)? YouTube, obviously!
Starting with YouTube
YouTube has been a lifesaver in my house. It’s helped us fix water leaks, entertain the children, and provide hours of laughter. Why wouldn’t it be able to have me speaking a foreign language by the end of the day?
Well, friends, it can’t. Maybe if you have previous exposure to the language and just need to brush up, it’s not a bad tool. I will say it did prove to be a great stepping stone into the language.
After spending about two weeks watching YouTube videos, I found myself still unable to speak the language. Shocker I know. But it got me thinking — where do I go next? How can I actually learn words and sentences?
Trying Out the Duolingo App
Then I remembered the green owl app, Duolingo, and decided to give it a peruse.
- It’s free! Who doesn’t love a free app? There are extra features that you can pay for, but you don’t need them in order to use the app.
- Another pro is all the vocab that you can learn and the repetitiveness of using the vocab. After a while, you quickly start recognizing them and it feels like you’ve earned a gold star!
After using Duolingo for a few months, I was starting to recognize vocab when watching K-dramas and starting to use some of the vocab with my children. I was feeling on fire! I thought, “Yes! I think I am getting the hang of this language . . . but I am only able to say words; I can’t actually string sentences together.” And here is where my biggest con for Duolingo lies . . .
- It doesn’t teach you how the sentences are constructed; there’s no grammar training. The app is really just good for learning vocab. If you want to learn to speak the language, you need a little more than just vocab.
- I also don’t like (or maybe I just don’t understand) the progression of lessons. It seems very random and disorganized.
Switching to the Lingodeer App
When I spoke to a friend about my frustration with Duolingo’s lack of grammar practice, they suggested another app that is similar called Lingodeer.
- Lingodeer focuses on both the vocabulary and the grammar. Each lesson explains why things are set up the way they are, and makes you practice the grammar along with the vocab.
- There is more of a natural progression of learning. It builds on the previous lessons while adding new vocab.
- You only get a couple of lessons for free and then you have to pay for Lingodeer. Granted, it’s not an astronomical price, but it makes Duolingo much more appealing if you are just trying to learn the language for fun.
But I must be upfront, even though I like Lingodeer a lot more than Duolingo, I haven’t used it as much and there’s no real reason for it. After about six months of trying to teach myself this new language, I finally threw in the towel on this approach.
Signing Up for College Classes
I decided to see if I could take college classes for it. This way I could actually LEARN the language and find people to practice with.
There is an ease in talking to myself and my phone at home when trying to learn a new language (especially one that deviates so far from my native tongue). However, learning from a native speaker and being able to talk with them is always going to be the best bet.
After I made the decision to look for a college/university that teaches the Korean language, my next step was to figure out what I could do within my schedule. I work full time and I am a mom.
I really wanted to take in-person classes because I knew I’d benefit from that exposure a lot, but unfortunately, none of the colleges in our area teach Korean. My next step was to find out which schools were the top for Korean studies and see if they had an online option. After finding a list of schools and comparing not only the cost of the class(es) but the requirements to apply, I finally decided to join Oregon State University (OSU — go Beavers!) and begin my Korean schooling journey.
I am now in my second year, and even though it is hard — both the class work and the time management — I am having a blast! I still have a lot to learn and wish that I was able to practice speaking more in person, but every day I am feeling more confident.
I hope to someday get to visit Korea and eat my way through the country!