Unknown Language Journal Entry

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Unknown Language Journal
Journal Entry 1

Before the lesson
From this, my first lesson of Korean, I expect to gain, most of all, first hand insight into the experience a second language learner has during the first lesson of a language he or her has never before encountered. As I believe the class will be one of immersion, where the teacher will only speak Korean, I expect to be confused and to struggle to grasp the relation between sounds and their referents as well as understanding grammatical constructions. I do feel somewhat anxious, as one does when trying out new things. At the same time, I must admit I am a little scared of not being able to learn as fast as the rest of the class. I understand this is a possibility and I believe many of my classmates might share the same fear. I hope the teacher will be kind and patient, and create a non-threatening environment in which most of our learning styles and speeds are considered. I hope the teacher will be non-judgmental, since I believe that if one feels judged when starting something new one would be more likely to feel self-conscious, which will in turn make one nervous and worried about one’s performance instead of focusing on learning the language. I think that in this type of context the students should forget about previous learning experiences –specially those in which he or she was punished for his or her mistakes– and try to move closer to understanding and producing the language without feeling threatened. In this respect, I believe that second language learning must resemble first language acquisition. In regard to the teaching method, I expect the teacher will follow a communicative approach to langauge teaching. Therefore, I believe we will first learn functional language chunks such as “Good morning”, “What is your name?”, “My name is…”. From these phrases I hope to be able do derive some syntactic structure, although I know the patterns will be limited. I also hope to be able to have some basic understanding of the phonemic inventory, although I have learned from previous experience that the in order to become familiar enough to identify significantly contrasting sounds from sounds in free-variation much exposure to the language is needed. As an adult language learner I have become aware that being able to recognize lexemes does not entail knowledge of the phonemic inventory. We identify meaning much faster than we come to identify –and much less produce– the sounds through which such meanings are materialised. At the same time, I find the task of recognizing meaningful units of sound of a given language a ludic challenge. I am also very excited about learning a new script, different from the roman alphabet. I know the Korean writing system was developed towards a more alphabetic system from its logographic origins. I would like to see how the teacher presents the alphabet and guides us in our first steps towards literacy. Furthermore, I am very keen to learn about the orthographic representation of phonemes; this is how close does the Korean alphabet match onto Korean phonemes.

After the lesson
After having had my first lesson of Korean, I can say I felt overwhelmed by the re-realisation of how different careful speech can be from natural speech. Distinguishing the sounds was difficult for me as well as for my classmates, from what I noticed. My peers’ comments after class were along the lines of “Every time she said something it sounded different” or “She said something like ‘chairum’” to which another student would reply “It sounded more like ‘chauum’ –the teacher wrote this on the board as “Jae irym un” which is “My name [is]”. Again, the significant phonemes were not clear to us beginner Korean learners. It did, however surprise me, how the teacher managed to carry out the class exclusively using the target language. Some of the students did not take the lesson seriously –they spoke in Spanish or English and did not...
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