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Pura Buena Onda is a Spanish language school for adults, that uses an organic, conversational approach to teaching Spanish.

For the last few weeks our in-house polyglot Octavi, has been telling us the stories of how he came to be a 7 language speaker. So far he has shared his journey with becoming fluent in Spanish, Catalan, English, French, Italian, and Japanese. Today Octavi will tell us about his journey with Korean, his 7th language.

In case you missed any of those posts, please see below.

Now on to today’s topic:

Hola a todos!

This week it’s Korean, everybody! This is the last language I learned. I started back in 2006, and like with most of the other languages I speak, I never thought I would seriously learn it.

The Beginning

It all started during my first trip to Japan in 2006. I was walking down the street and in one of the big TV screens scattered around the city, I saw a pop music video sung by a young girl. I looked for the singer online because I liked the song. Later, I found out she was not Japanese, but Korean. Apparently, the song I liked was the first song she had released in Japanese, and it was called ‘Number one’. The singer’s name was BoA (yes, written like that).

I was very curious about her, and I wanted to hear her previous songs in Korean, so I looked for videos on Youtube. I liked the music videos and the songs I discovered, and it made me want to learn more about Korea and its language. With time, I found other singers, other songs, and I even started watching South Korean soap-operas and movies. I liked them, and what I liked the most was the fact that people in Spain didn’t know anything about South Korea, so it became unique and special in my eyes. I don’t exactly remember what happened, but one thing led to another and, after some hesitation, I decided to meet a Korean girl living in Barcelona to start a language exchange.

I still don’t know exactly why, but I was increasingly fascinated with the language. As I said before, the fact that everything Korean was so unknown in Spain made learning about the language and the culture so much cooler. Nowadays things are different, and Spaniards know a lot more about Korean culture, but not back then.

First Contact

2009 was the year I finally traveled to South Korea. I loved it! My first impression was that people were friendly, energetic, boisterous and generous. I didn’t see many westerners, which I liked, and the food was good and cheap; perfect combination! I met a lot of people in only one month, and when I tried to say things in Korean everyone was very encouraging… the country reminded me of Japan, but it was not like Japan. I guess what I’m trying to say is like saying that Spain, France or Italy are similar but different. They are European countries and share some characteristics, but aren’t the same country, obviously. Do you know what I mean?

Anyway, Before the trip was over, I changed the plan I had in mind: instead of trying to live in Japan, I would try to live in South Korea. I still liked Japan, but I knew it was going to be easier to find an exchange program that would allow me to study in Seoul, given that most students wanted to go to Japan, and the concurrence was fierce. At that time, There was a Postgraduate degree in Barcelona called ‘Asian Studies’ that offered yearly exchanges to students in mainly two countries: Japan and China. As I said before, most of the students wanted to go to Japan, or China; but only a few knew there were spots for Korea, and those spots were not even filled! That fact made it even easier for me to choose Korea over Japan for my year abroad. I remember how excited I was when I left Barcelona in August of 2010 with another exchange student to live in Seoul for one year. It was a dream come true, and maybe the last time I was going to be able to live abroad.

One Year becomes Five Years

My first year was amazing. I enrolled in an immersion program provided by the University of Foreign Languages of Seoul. The classes were from Monday to Friday, and from 9am to 1pm. All the classes were in Korean and only in Korean, even for total beginners, and they worked! I was lucky enough to get an extension and my year became two years, so I attended the Korean immersion program for a year and half. I completed all the levels and even a special level added for students interested in advanced Korean. We were only fours students in the final advanced level: three Chinese students and me.

I consider myself to have been extremely lucky to have been in such a program for so long when I already was 30 years old. I would advise anyone to take a chance, if they can, and enroll in a language immersion program. It doesn’t need to be one year, it can only be a week, or a month; it is such a great experience and you learn so much…

However, before the second year went by, a friend of mine asked if I could work in a Spanish academy for some days. They needed teachers and I needed money, so I said yes. Within a few weeks, the academy owner asked me if I would like to work with them full time, and he said that they would provide the necessary visa for me to stay in the country. Indeed, they did, and I ended up working in that academy for three years.

Five Years in another Country

Thanks to the being so many years in South Korea, I was able to learn Korean pretty well. However, just living for a long time in a country doesn’t automatically turn you into a good speaker of the language spoken there. I have met foreigners in Seoul who had been there for years and were not able to put a simple sentence together in Korean. Being there clearly helped me learn the language, but you also need to make an effort and talk, meet people and talk, just talk, talk, talk.

When the immersion program was over, I tried to meet up with a Korean friend at least once a week to practice the language. I read books in Korean, watched Korean TV, etc…I also spoke to one of my bosses in Korean, and to people in shops. When someone tried to speak in English with me, I lied and I said that I was from Spain and that I couldn’t speak English. I don’t think anybody believed that, but hey, who is going to say: ‘that can’t be! A Westerner living abroad who doesn’t speak English? You are lying!’ Hahaha! So they spoke in Korean with me :)

Conclusion

By now, you all know what you need to do to learn Spanish, right? Hehehe… Speak! Not being in Mexico or Spain shouldn’t be a great obstacle to learn. Also, read a lot in Spanish and watch Netflix shows or whatever TV shows you might like, provided they are in Spanish.

Alright, I hope you enjoyed my story! I still want to share one more story next week; my experience with a language that I learnt for four years but I don’t speak! The mysterious language will be revealed next week!

Hasta pronto!

Octavi :)

PS Since I left Korea I have been practicing with somebody on the phone for at least one hour a week. First, I did it with a friend, and now I do it with a teacher called Hoyeon :)

If you have not had a chance to learn how Octavi became fluent in Catalan, Spanish, English, French, Italian & Japanese, check out his previous posts:

https://purabuenaonda.com/our-in-house-polyglot-on-reaching-fluency-in-spanish-catalan/

https://purabuenaonda.com/in-house-polyglot-reaching-english-fluency/

https://purabuenaonda.com/polyglot-reaching-fluency-in-french/

What is your attitude towards learning Spanish?

¿Qué tal chicos?  ¿Listos para el fin de semana?

This week I want to talk about the role that attitude plays in learning a language.

 

The reality is that attitude plays a huge part in everything that we do.

If you walk into a situation with a bad attitude, you probably won’t be surprised when everything turns out crappy.

When you go into a situation with a positive attitude, you will most likely feel thankful afterwards that everything went so well.

This is how it plays out in life, and this is how it plays out with language learning.

 

So here are a few alternatives for those days when you are feeling negative about the language learning journey:

 

Instead of: The conjugations are so hard in Spanish!  I’m never going to learn them!

How about: There are so many conjugations in Spanish that I’m going to focus on learning one at a time.

 

Instead of:  I’m never going to understand native Spanish speakers, they talk way too fast!

How about:  My goal is to someday understand native Spanish speakers, so I’m going to dedicate 5 minutes to comprehension practice every day.

 

Instead of:  My pronunciation in Spanish sucks!  I can’t make those sounds!

How about:  I’m going to work on my pronunciation by reading out loud, listening to native Spanish speakers, trying to mimic sounds, by looking in a mirror at the positioning of my tongue when I speak, etc..  I’m bound to get better!

 

Instead of:  I feel like I don’t know anything!  I’m never going to be fluent in Spanish!

How about:  I can’t believe how much Spanish I have learned already!  X years/months ago I couldn’t even X and now I can X!  

 

So the moral of the story is that attitude counts.  Learning a language is a lifelong process, and having a bad attitude is just going to make everything take longer, seem worse than it is, and take away the joy of learning. What is your attitude towards the language learning process?

 

Besitos,
Caro

Squeezing in some Spanish over the holidays

I know, I know, I know, you are very busy right now and the last thing you need to think about is how you are going to practice your Spanish over the holidays!
But, I am a firm believer that anyone can find five minutes in their day for a little practice. And those five minutes will help you to not come back to class in January feeling like a total dumbass, so I highly recommend it!

Here are a few recommendations:

Things that you can easily do for five minutes:
Talk to yourself
Participate in La conversación del Día on PBO’s Facebook page
Journal about your day (on your phone if necessary)
Do DuoLingo or better yet, Busuu
Listen to Spanish radio, a podcast, music, and audiobook, whatever…
Listen to music in Spanish
Read a paragraph or two or three of a book/magazine, whatever you can squeeze into five minutes
Hear someone speaking Spanish? Strike up a conversation!

When to squeeze in these five minutes:
While you are getting ready
While you are having breakfast
While you are waiting in a horribly long line somewhere
You can use it as an excuse to get away from your crazy family for five minutes
While you are driving
While you are at an airport somewhere
While you’re cleaning

So, as you can see, you can always find 5 minutes to practice your español :) How will you practice over the holidays?

Besos,
Caro

Spanish tip: Diccionario vs Dictionary

Hola chicos,
¿Qué tal la semana?

As you probably all know by now, immersion is the best way to learn a language.  Yet most of the time, when we are studying Spanish, we look up a word in the dictionary with the English definition. Why do we do this?  Because it’s faster & much easier I would think.

This week our tip to you is to look up words in a Spanish dictionary. Most of the time we can understand the meaning when it is explained in Spanish and this allows us to stay in our target language, which in the long run is a much more effective learning strategy. If it’s still not clear, you can always look it up in English, but try Spanish first.

What is a new word for you this week and what is the definition that you found in the dictionary in Spanish?  Give us the definition, but not the word…let’s see if we can guess!

Besos,
Caro

 

My favorite dictionaries:

Real Academia Española

Word Reference