[Updated November 19, 2019]
Junior High School — 2008-2009
The first language I ever self-studied was way back in 2008. I was just an eighth grader, and there weren’t any languages offered in my school, so I looked for some resources online.
I eventually found SpanishDict, which I studied with on and off for the next two years. I think I got about halfway through the second Spanish course.
High School — 2010-2013
In 2010 my family moved, and I began 10th grade in a different city. My high school required students to choose Spanish, German, French, or Latin to take for 3 years. Chinese was also offered, but only as an elective. I chose Spanish, since I was already pretty familiar with it. Once I started taking official classes, I stopped studying it on my own. I took Spanish classes during all 3 years of high school, and haven’t touched it since, except for occasionally helping my little brother with his Spanish homework.
There was a Hyundai plant near my high school, so there were a lot of Koreans at my school. One of those Koreans, Sarah, was the reason I became interested in the Korean language. The day I met Sarah, she ended up teaching me how to read and write in 한글, the Korean alphabet. She and a few other friends also first introduced me to SHINee (Minho is and forever will be my ultimate bias) and Beast. And there my love for Korean was born. At some point during high school, I bought a Korean textbook (Integrated Korean – Beginning 1), although I don’t think I ever got past Lesson 3.
I also made the decision to take Chinese as an elective during my junior year (2011-2012). I really enjoyed the class, but I chose a different elective for my senior year.
College – 2013-2017
Once I got to college, I pretty much ignored all languages for the whole first semester. Spring 2014 I started studying vocab on Memrise and purchased Korean Grammar in Use: Beginner. Once summer hit, though, I pretty much stopped studying again.
Spring 2015 I really got motivated, and started studying Korean like crazy. Since then, I’ve been moving fairly quickly. During the previous years of Korean interest, I had dabbled with TTMIK’s online lessons, getting about halfway through level 2. Within just a couple of months, I quickly powered all the way through level 8, which was a big jump in level.
I also renewed my Chinese studies during College. My sophomore year (2014-2015), I took Chinese Intermediate 1 and 2, and then I took “Chinese Composition and Conversation” for two semesters in 2016, which was basically the advanced level and no more composition/conversation focused than the prior classes.
In fall 2016, I also took one semester of Japanese. It was the best, most effective language course I’ve ever taken, due to the awesome teacher and her style of teaching (constant student-based activities, which meant we were constantly involved and speaking in the classroom rather than just passively receiving information).
Study Abroad — 2016
In the summer of 2016, before my senior year of college, I studied abroad in Seoul for 6 weeks at Korea University (고려대학교). I had imagined that I would be immersed in a totally Korean environment, but since I signed up through an American program, I was actually surrounded by other Americans for most of the time. However, I got a language exchange partner for a few weeks, and I was enrolled in a Korean language course for the first time in my Korean language learning career, which was a good experience. This also solidified my dream of wanting to someday move to Korea and teach English, which is what I’m currently doing. 🙂
Graduate School — 2017-2019
In fall of 2017, I started graduate school at the University of Alabama to get my Master’s in Applied Linguistics. I wasn’t sure if I would make friends or enjoy the larger school environment, but I had one major goal. I hadn’t managed to meet any Koreans that I could practice speaking Korean with in undergrad, so I wanted to meet a language buddy to practice with.
I got on HelloTalk to try to find a Korean buddy, and somehow through a series of events, I managed to get sucked into the Korean community and meet more friends than I’ve ever had before in my life. I didn’t just meet a “language partner”; I met people who became like my second family. Because of that, my two years of pursuing my master’s were filled with the Korean language, and I improved my Korean skills a lot just by living life alongside my Korean best friends.
In October 2018, I took the TOPIK for the first time and got a Level 4.
Moving to Daegu — Current Life
In October 2019, I moved to Daegu, South Korea, with a 1 year contract to teach at an English Academy. This is where I live currently, and it’s been fun so far. I haven’t been as submerged in the Korean language and culture as you might think, since I spend every day teaching English, and my closest friend here is another American teacher I met during grad school. However, I’m trying to incorporate more Korean into my life and meet new Korean friends as well, and I’m currently still studying Korean in my spare time.
I’m hoping not to totally lose my knowledge of Spanish, Mandarin, and Japanese, and I hope to review/study these languages more in the future. However, those aren’t my biggest concerns currently.
My biggest priority right now is still Korean. I still sometimes struggle in conversations to get my ideas across clearly, and I want to increase my vocabulary range. I also want to increase my Korean reading speed to a more natural pace.
I’m planning on taking the TOPIK again early next year, and I’m hoping to get at least a Level 5. I’m hoping to get my PhD after I finish my year of teaching here, and I might try to get my PhD at a Korean university. Getting a high TOPIK score would allow me to get better scholarships, which could impact where I end up going to school. I’m hoping to eventually get Level 6, but I’m pretty sure I won’t reach that level by January 2020, which is less than 2 months away currently.