Mastering just one kick

"“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” - Bruce Lee.

Chewing on the idea that maybe mastering a small set of sentences with correct pronunciation, intonation, and understanding of meaning that I can use in daily conversation is more important than trying to learn many vocabulary words and only be able to write, not speak or hear, my second language.

I don’t think that’s the best idea. You need a large vocabulary to be able to really communicate. If you only know a few set phrases you’ll find yourself lost whenever a native speaker makes a slight variation in their conversation, as they surely will.

What are you doing that makes you only able to write? If you use lingq correctly you should be able to listen just fine, then gradually work your way towards speaking.


That would basically make you a highly intelligent bot. I don’t see the point. You wouldn’t be able to expand any conversation outside of small talk, not to mention watch movies, read books or understand song lyrics. Wouldn’t that pretty much defeat the purpose of even learning the language in the first place?

Why are the only options “being able to listen to a small set of sentences perfectly” and “not being able to listen at all”?

There is a big difference between playing around and being fiercely dedicated. If you would embrace Bruce Lee’s words, you would not settle for less, you would simply do your very best!

Since the Korean language is your “kick,” practice it 10,000 times: reading, listening, writing, speaking, everyday, in some big or small way, growing in the language.

The bad news, “[…]mastering a small set of sentences” will still leave you with "only be able to write, not speak or hear, my second language.” You’ve got to put the time in—there’s no other way around it. The good news, you can do it!


In the same week, I heard about the Glossika’s Massive Sentences and John Forthingham’s Bruce Lee quote about being focused on mastery.

JF: “While you certainly should strive to constantly expand your vocabulary, it is far more important to be able to use what words you do know with ease (this means knowing the different meanings of a given word, pronouncing words with the right intonation, tone or stress, knowing common collocations, etc.).”

Glossika talks about saying sentences 20,000 times to reach fluency.

I’m just a novice. I don’t know what I am doing. At first, I jumped into writing Korean pen pals when I could not even write a sentence yet. I just looked up nouns as I was writing and stuck them into English sentences. I know, terrible idea. But I didn’t know what I was doing and I was trying to communicate, to meet part of the way some Korean people who wanted help with English and weren’t so good at reading.

In 2 months of doing that, I met a lot of words once, some words several times, never managed to figure out a flashcard system to work for me (although I have tried MANY with LingQ being one of them). It has been a self-learner journey of making as many mistakes as possible. I don’t have a system yet. I am not organized.

I have a stack of books I haven’t read yet. Two books that are tattered because I know them the best and have referred often as I attempted to write and read letters every day. I have flashcards scattered about that I am trying to get myself to use, but I am not disciplined.

You could say I have been studying Korean for 3 months and have made no progress at all being able to speak. I hear about people spending hours every day studying, and I am in awe, but I can’t seem to manage 15 minutes a day. Yet I have opened up the floodgates to having Korean words find me, through Twitter, Facebook, LingQ, Transparent Language’s word of the day, Fresh Korean’s word of the day, downloaded Korean vocabulary apps, etc.

I’m still just struggling through installing and learning software, figuring out how to create lessons and submit sentences for correction and request audio at LingQ.

One thing I think I am doing right is I signed up for a online Korean class that meets once a week where I get to actually speak. 5 hours of speaking so far with a native Korean teacher in Korea. It is all the speaking I have done.

So anyways, I am lost. I have devoted most of my time to looking up words in the dictionary which I promptly forget. Yet I haven’t mastered these words. The much smaller vocabulary for my online class I am trying to master. I want to be ready to speak when they ask me questions. So I am trying to find a way to review what is covered in the class.

I am still just scattered. I do a little bit of everything. I don’t accomplish much. I couldn’t tell you how much I have learned well enough to be quizzed on.

With all this flailing, I have learned some things. I’ve got Hangul down pat. I figured out how to type Korean characters. I am slowly teaching myself the keyboard. I can use Skype, Kaokotalk, Yahoo Messenger, Google+ Hangouts, Gmail, facebook Messenger. I’ve learned how to mail postcards to Korea and make phone calls. I started a blog to keep track of things I learn (and things I screw up). I’ve read a ton of cultural information about Korea. I’ve watched a hodgepodge of videos. I’ve read books and websites about language learning. I’ve dug into IPA and Unicode and technical specifications and programming. I bought a smartphone and got connected to the internet.

Through all this, I managed to keep a voracious language exchange partner happy with at least an hour a day of training him in English. Plus juggled daily letters to half a dozen Koreans and English lessons for other folks too, until I finally decided I had to sleep occasionally and stopped free English lessons to non-Koreans.

It has all been a crazy ride. But it is safe to say that I haven’t found study habits that work and I have probably made very little progress if 3 months after starting studying I still can’t answer the question “So how’s the weather?”

Ack. I want to learn. I just have no idea what I am doing.

The weird thing is I am inspiring others. I’m such a mess, but they see me trying and they want to try too.

I’m sure a year from now, I will look back at all my wasted effort and laugh. I am keeping my sense of humor.

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I’m not fiercely dedicated yet. I think I am working my way from mildly interested and wanting to have fun, to feeling motivated enough to put time into trying to figure out how to learn a language.

I don’t compare to the dedicate folks here. I am in awe of Alexander spending 2.5 hours a day studying seriously. But that is why he is at the top of the Korean learners board.

I’m far from any expert on language learning, having only been studying German intensively for about 5 months, but it sounds to me like you’ve learned A LOT in 3 months. Maybe not as much you’d like with one particular aspect (speaking Korean) but remember you’re not just learning Korean, you’re also learning how to learn. It sounds like you’re doing that with passion, a lot of curiosity and pulling no punches. There is so much material, so many methods, out there that if you really explore them, I imagine anyone could do it for months and months. It can be overwhelming. On the other hand, I’m sure there are far more people who don’t explore and just sign up for a conventional classroom course or doggedly stick to something that isn’t working for them before realising 3 years later it was a waste of time…

It’s hard to find the balance though! I think everyone feels scattered or has moments of flounder with language learning. I know I do, often. I get overwhelmed with the amount of stuff out there and as I’m not very good at multi-tasking, I try to limit myself to a fairly narrow range of sources. So at the moment I’m using mostly just LingQ, Assimil (not very diligently), DaZpod, and trying to listen and read podcasts/magazines from various other sources when I get bored. Lately, I’ve been trying to do a few grammar exercises from a text book every now and then as well. Even with this pretty narrow range, I sometimes get overwhelmed (Which lesson to do next? Should I read something, or do some Assimil? Choices!).

Learning a new language is almost like trying to get to know some stranger inside you and build a relationship with them. And you discover things about yourself along the way (some pleasant and some not so). At least that’s been my experience so far.


“Learning a new language is almost like trying to get to know some stranger inside you and build a relationship with them.”
This expression is very interesting. I might be building a relationship with both the English-speaking me and the German-speaking me. I hope that I am not overwhelmed by them.


@Debbielin: "Learning a new language is almost like trying to get to know some stranger inside you and build a relationship with them. "

I really like that quote.

Language learning is a journey of self-discovery? Wow. I didn’t know it could be that.

Language learning is so much bigger than I had ever imagined. Whole world of new ideas to explore.

I guess I was musing how in theory any language could potentially have been our mother tongue. But what we end up with depends purely on chance, where we happened to be born. So foreign languages could be considered parts of our unborn selves, potential ‘other’ selves. In the process of learning our mother tongue, we also estrange ourselves from these other potential languages/selves. To learn a foreign language, we need to learn how to re-relate to this ‘stranger’ inside us, even if they look, sound, even ‘think’ different superficially - we need to figure out what will draw them out of the woods, but also we need to step beyond the clearing, our comfort zone. In a sense maybe we also need to be willing to let our mother tongue become more of a stranger too. This is just another metaphor of language learning. I’m sure there are a thousand others. But I like the idea of ‘learning to relate to the stranger within’ rather than that of ‘cracking the code’ from the outside. Something about the idea of language as ‘code’ seems essentially wrong-headed to me. Codes are deliberate and artificial means for keeping out, or for restricting information within an ‘in-group’. Learning a language I think is generally motivated by almost opposite reasons.


“Chewing on the idea that maybe mastering a small set of sentences”

You can’t “mastering” only a set of scentences, in all of its aspects. It’s like mastering a couple of inches of a roundkick.
(if i’m continuing the karate metaphore). Only learning a set of scentences in a foreing language, has nothing at all to do with mastering anything. Thats just buying a phrasebook and be happy.


Years and years and years ago I read Frederick Bodmer’s “Die Sprachen der Welt” (The Loom of Languages), still a fascinating work.

Through reading it I got interested in this “Ursprache” idea. I never did get round to following it up in depth, but I remember the feeling of excitement and possible alternative languages. Here are two links that might turn the stranger in you into something like an eccentric, but dear relative

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Everyone needs more dear eccentric relatives! Thanks for the links. I’m intrigued by Bodmer’s book. (Was the original in German or English?). It seems like a classic. I think I’ll try to hunt it down for a rainy day (or maybe year - 700 pages makes quite a tome)!

I had a look at “The Loom of Languages” on the preview on Amazon. It is really fascinating!

Many pages are like a dictionary , the same word in 5 Languages. :slight_smile:

Thanks for mention it Sanne!



Send me your details and I’ll send you the German 5th edition. I’d like it to have a good home!


Although Friedrich Bodmer was Swiss, I think the book was published first in English, hence Frederick ; not sure, though.

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I purchased a small book for learning 1,500 German words. There are 210 verbs, 200 adjectives, 800 nouns, 30 prepostions, 150 adverbs, 30 conjunctions, and others included in the book. It also includes 700 example sentences. “Dieses Buch ist mir sehr nützlich.”, for example.

I’ve already read it twice from cover to cover. If you were to ask me, “Zu welchem Zweck brauchen Sie das?”, I would reply, “To remember words and syntax.” It is not necessarily useless to try to memorize sentences if you do not get bored.


I´m doing something similar with Japanese, but instead of reading a phrasebook from cover to cover, I collect sentences (from a dictionary, lessons, songs, dramas) and memorize them with Anki.

I don´t think I´ll ever use “俺はスーパマン」と言いました” in real life, but the words themselves and the と言いました “pattern” are really useful.^^

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