Learning a foreign tongue is an immense endeavor – fine-tuning one’s understanding of nuances, intonation, idioms and grammar can take years, and achieving fluency requires utmost commitment. The sad irony is that what takes years to attain can rust and fade away within months if not practiced.
Former expats and travelers alike face the challenge of retaining their foreign language skills while back in their native land; watching all that hard-earned knowledge trickle away is the worst kind of tragedy. There are a lot of ways to keep up: dining frequently at restaurants where employees speak the language, doing language exchanges or chatting with friends of that nationality, watching television from the country, etc.
Being here in Madison, which has a relatively homogeneous population of the paler variety, it can be tough to keep my Korean polished. As a budding journalist and writer, I felt I needed to make practicing the language a more personal and creative experience rather than simply going over old textbooks. Similarly, I wanted to take my journals beyond their normal chickenscratch and make something more artistic to look back on – mesh the two ideas, et voila, the Korean Practice Journal.
Though I’ve only started yesterday, I envision good things for this project. I want to use the book as a place to break down news articles I come across, write down unfamiliar vocabulary, translate Korean poetry and generally reflect upon my life in the Korean language.
I view learning a language as going beyond simple communication and really making the words your own – to imbue meaning in them through experience and exposure, through thinking in that language. Hopefully this journal will help me reach that higher level of understanding, and will allow me a new outlet for expression.
I’m curious about other inventive methods of retaining a second language – readers?