My name is Phillip.
I’m an avid language learner! But it hasn’t always been that way.
My first experience studying a foreign language was when I was in high school. I went to high school in central Texas and, at that time, taking 2 years of foreign language studies was compulsory. Like many other Americans, I took Spanish. I do have a Hispanic background but in no way did I speak Spanish beyond the Holas and por ques?. Well, I ended up taking a full 3 years of Spanish, and although it did provide me with a new foundation of Spanish, I never spoke it outside of school. I just never had a reason or the passion to do so.
So, in no way shape or form was I bilingual nor was anyone in my immediate family. But that all changed when I was 24 years old. Due to some circumstances, I was able to get a free round-trip plane ticket to almost anywhere in the world. I choose to go to Seoul, South Korea with the only reason being that this was the only country that I had a friend in. A Korean girl I knew from high school. Now, with tickets in hand, and about 6 months to prepare, I decided that I didn’t want to be a typical American and I ordered a Korean language book from Amazon.
Although I didn’t really know what I was doing, I did know some techniques on how to study. With the book in hand, accompanying CD, and a handful of flashcards I successfully managed to learn how to read, write, and pronounce Korean! Mind you this is the first language I’ve ever studied in my adulthood and the first language that doesn’t use the Latin/Roman alphabet. Trust me, I was astonished more than anyone when I could look at 여보세요 on one side of the flashcard and then correctly remember that it means Hello in English as well as it’s phonetic pronunciation of annyeonghaseyo.
Throughout the 6 months I self-studied mainly with this book, it’s CD and a website here and there. Then finally the day came, I landed in Seoul.
Your Korean is good!
It was so encouraging and rewarding to hear statements like these constantly as I spent my lovely 2 weeks in Seoul. But I was just simply saying things like: Hello, I’m American, I’m 24 years old, I don’t understand… yet the Koreans were so polite to inflate my ego hahaha.
However, I had an even bigger surprise when I was in Seoul. Keep in mind, this was my very first time ever visiting a foreign country. Prior to Seoul I was just American-born and raised and never stepped foot outside the country, minus a couple of parties across the border in Mexico. So, the surprise came when I met other foreigners, especially Americans, who have been living in Korea for months, for years, and yet MY KOREAN was BETTER than theirs!
WHAT!? How can this be!?
It was just hard for me to believe this.
Then I soon realized that I had 1 major advantage when I was studying Korean: I wasn’t surrounded by the ideas & thoughts of:
“This is so hard.”
“Everyone speaks English, so I don’t need to learn Korean.”
(which in my experience, are the two more prevailing mindsets that prevents someone from learning a language)
Instead, while studying alone, I just thought things like “Wow, this is cool.”, “Oh, it’s funny how they say this for that.”, “I better study hard, I don’t know how good their English is.”
I learned a valuable lesson during this process. That is that having a strong Why and keeping a good attitude towards your language learning goals can really help propel and push you much further into your than many others who have similar goals.
Long story short, that 6 months of self-study and 2 weeks of travel in Seoul really began my journey of studying foreign languages and traveling.
This journey began in the Fall of 2014, and since then I’ve studied, in addition to Korean, Italian, Indonesian, Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, Esperanto, Thai, and Vietnamese. Currently Mandarin Chinese is my strongest second language but I have plans to learn more and restudy previous languages