Input is motivating, Output not so much!

Since I’m coming up on 90 days worth of trying the input-based learning (or extensive reading/listening), I decided I should try using the language a little bit. As my wife is Korean (and so are some of her friends) I’ve taken the opportunity to try a bit of it.

It is a lot like being knocked down over and over again until one just doesn’t want to stand up anymore!

What I am learning is that, especially with people you know, it’s important to just ask for a correction and leave it at that. Things tend to derail considerably if there is further discussion. Because they know you, they’ll want to helpfully delve into correcting the root cause.

Some of the things that have been sticking points:

  1. Native speakers often don’t know why things are said the way they are. They just know from experience and gut feel. However they will make a stab at giving a reason on the spot (I’m guilty of this too when I’m asked about English). Sometimes the explanation is inadequate, and sometimes a bit wrong.

  2. Translations are really difficult. I suspect most people won’t find the most accurate translation of a word, phrase or sentence (assuming its even possible). So it’s worth listening to, but not worth dissecting. I’ve gone down many erroneous paths by making assumptions based on one translation.

  3. Most people don’t think of reading or listening as learning. Many times a person will help by helping analyze the study technique or content. “Why dont you take a course instead?” “Is there are University textbook you can buy?”

  4. People tend to think overreaching or mistakes are a bad thing. Listen to things you understand, say things you can get right is also common advice.

  5. Be careful of how replies are worded! I said to my wife that two words in one setting were interchangeable. She agreed. However I could think of another where only one could be used, despite similarities. She asked how I knew this - who told me? I replied “Nobody. One way just sounds wrong and the other sounds right.”. Oh boy! That got things started! “How can you say that? YOU haven’t grown up with the language!..”

As I’m finding out, use your ‘friends and family’ resources with care! Perhaps language exchange is one of the better ways to get practice in during the early days. Somehow I feel battered and demotivated after trying to speak. Yet this is clearly my aim - communication.

I can see why so many people either give up or study away in private for years on end.


Yeah, it is like learning to drive a car or ride a bike, generally not a good idea to do it with a spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend.

With language learning though, it’s possible to do it on your own so splendidly that you one day surprise the hell out of him/her.


This has been the case in my Korean language learning experience (excluding tutorials):

  1. Don’t ask why—it is what it is.

  2. Don’t talk about your study methods. (Don’t leave the door open for negative criticism and unsolicited advice.)

  3. Don’t ask for corrections. They will come.

  4. Go ahead and say what you need to say; what you have to say. You’ll will automatically be corrected if you get it wrong. Case in point:

“잘 먹어요”
—No! You don’t say that to me, “잘 드세요” (To someone older.)
Oh! 잘 드세요.

  1. Just use the language and don’t make a big deal out of it.

  2. Take the thousand hits and get back up again and again and again…carry on…


Also, lingq thread - “Can your spouse help you learn a language?”

Keep going. One day you will surprise her.

  1. Don’t talk about your study methods.

Heh. Easier said than done. Some people are very closed. You can talk to them every day and months later realize you still dont know anything about them.

I’m rather the opposite.

  1. Take the thousand hits and get back up again and again and again…carry on…

Well. Going on for 3 months in and I’m just as determined as day 1. I look forward to where I’ll be in a year or so.

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Interesting. Thank you for the link.

My spouse does not believe that I will learn, and so she sees my endeavors as a pointless fancy. She is correct that it is not something I need to learn, and my use of it is limited to the semi-annual holidays with her family. Even there we clearly get by as its only her parents who don’t speak any English, and she’s mostly around anyway.

But its like the challenge has been laid down now. “You think I CANT do it? WEEELLLL… lets see about that!”

I will also hit 90 days on LingQ soon (April 12th). I think you will be able to impress your wife soon, but I think you need to read a lot more. I see you have around 35K words read. I noticed big improvements in my reading/listening comp around 100K. I should say I have an off/on relationship with Spanish for many years although it is LingQ that has taken me out of beginner level. I read about 2000 words per day and flashcard words/phrases daily. Don’t be discouraged, 90 days isn’t really that much time, I decided to give it 12 months and then evaluate my progress, so just give it time and be consistent with your reading and listening. I really hate listening when I can’t understand but lately my comprehension has gotten better so I hate it a bit less. Also maybe vary your listening sources. Once I stopped listening only to peninsular spanish my world changed. Spaniards can speak a lot faster than other spanish speakers and it was a steep learning curve to start from. Maybe there is something similar happening in the Korean language world.

I think there are 4 stages you have to pass through. 1: Reading 2: Listening 3: Writing 4: Speaking (Slow,Fast,Slow,Fast). The slowness of reading serves to prepare you for listening, both of which in turn prepare you for writing. The slow deliberateness of writing then prepares you for the faster form of output that is speaking. I think you don’t need to rush into speaking, just take it easy for a bit and enjoy discovering the language through reading until you feel more naturally inclined to jump out of the nest and fly to the next level.

I studied Spanish years and years ago in school but it wasn’t until these past 3 months of reading that I came to truly love the language with all of its it’s peculiar grammar, sentence structure and phrases.

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Oh for sure! I think you are right on with the reading/listening and writing/speaking there. In both cases the former is great prep for the latter.

I fully understand that I have merely managed to put 1 drop in the bucket of language learning! However my interest in getting some output going is that its a bridge that I’ll have to cross eventually.

I had to learn a second language when I was at school (as most people around the world do). Mine was Afrikaans. Upon finishing my schooling I could follow a conversation or some sit-coms in the language. However I could never speak it. I dreaded even the 2 minute off-the-cuff speeches we had to do in class.

I did the minimal amount of effort during my schooling, but I must have racked up a fair bit of ‘output’ over the years.

So my own experience has been that being able to partake in a conversation is an uphill battle which requires that a person knows the language ‘passively’ (ie: can be understood if heard) but still takes a lot of effort to convert that passive knowledge into active knowledge.

I figure I might as well begin now - since I finally know enough words to be able to say meaningful things which are relevant and contextual.

I guess my realization (as mentioned in the original post) is that this ‘beginning to say things’ process is perhaps better done through language exchange or tutors or similar. It is a big ask to have someone take on the role of tutor while the ‘student’ is still at such a beginner level.

I think I might rekindle my Korean diary writing. Face-to-face time is hard for me to organize. My language learning really does ‘fill in the cracks’ of my average day. At least writing can be submitted whenever and the feedback can be read at my leisure.

Also thank you for your own story! I am always motivated when reading other peoples accounts and experiences.