One of the derivative consequences of spending seven years studying East Asian languages is that when you study virtually any other foreign language, you find it inherently easier to learn the language. After spending four years studying Chinese and three years studying Korean and using it in Korea, I absolutely love learning Spanish. When I studied Korean and Chinese, I found myself continually procrastinating and finding excuses not to study. My present experience studying Spanish is much different. Perhaps in a couple of months when I take my Spanish language exam my perspective might change, or maybe when I dig further into the language I’ll find Spanish progressively frustrating. I doubt it. I get Spanish, and thanks to Korean, I’m thoroughly enjoying language learning for the first time in years. I may still have a ways to go until I am fluent, but at least I "get" Spanish. That’s more than I could say for at least a year after I started learning Korean and Chinese.
This is especially true of Korean. Along with Chinese, Arabic, and Japanese, the Korean language is considered one of the four most difficult languages for native English speakers to learn. Korean gets an asterick for being especially difficult to speak. The Korean alphabet (hangeul) is much easier to learn than the other three languages. Korean grammar is more difficult than either Chinese or Arabic (I’ve heard), and it is on par with Japanese. However, Korean pronunciation is more difficult than Japanese. It’s not a tonal language like Chinese, but it has inflections that Japanese does not. I digress. The point is that going from studying one of the most difficult languages, one that can leave a student feeling utterly stupefied, to studying one of the languages considered easiest to learn is cathartic. I get Spanish, and it feels great. It’s nice to be able to carry on complex conversations using a steady stream of English cognates rather than struggling to put together simple sentences using words you struggle to recall.
I built a foreign language dictionary database using Microsoft Access to help me learn Korean, and I modified it to learn Spanish. I am surprised at how many words were missing from the database, basic words one needs to know to adequately speak a language. The Spanish dictionary I’m building now is much more comprehensive. When I learned Korean, I felt (rightly) that my vocabulary was inadequate. I’m determined not to make the same mistake in my Spanish studies. Every day I try to learn 40-50 new words. I’m also trying to change bad habits by focusing more on listening and reading comprehension and watching programs, such as the educational telenovela "Destinos."
While I have less than three months to achieve proficiency in Spanish, I’m confident that I can do it. After just 2.5 weeks, my Spanish is much improved. What a difference a language can make.
Hey. I am Chris (the comment form won’t let me type my name or blog address, strange). I am an American engineer, living substantially in Seoul. I follow your blog from time to time, and noticed this post about language study. It reminded me of a colleague I knew from about 5 years ago. He had studied in Japan in high school, and therefore knew the Japanese language reasonably well. His first job was with a Japanese company operating in Mexico, and so he had to also learn spanish. He told me after going through the process of learning Spanish, he thought to himself, "this is all there is? this is so easy compared to Japanese".
If you have the time, I would love to correspond with you about learning Korean. I’m welcome to any and all tips, comments, advice, etc. you could offer. My blog is "The Stumbling Engineer" at http://technobar.blogspot.com and my email is rclott (at) ro.com.