There are times when I feel so happy and “fulfilled” with my Korean. Like when I was able to successfully organize an event using only Korean. Or when I managed to have a decent, spontaneous and continuous conversation with Korean friends. Or when I can translate the things I read. Or when I can understand big chunks of my dramas or movies without realizing that my subtitles were turned off. Or even the simple things like recognizing a word I recently learned from something I read or heard. Just like a few days ago. I was watching a Korean movie in a cinema (during the Korean Film Fest) and I picked up 자세한 from the dialogue. 자세하다! 자세! I know that word! I just learned that from the TOPIK paper I was answering. I want to shout out loud that I know that freakin’ word!
But there are also times when I feel so frustrated it feels like (1) my efforts are going nowhere OR (2) that I will never ever improve OR (3) BOTH! And it’s usually something that will surface after a good “high”. Like last summer, just when I thought I was improving big time, I sat down in a drinking session with Korean friends and I ended up not understanding a thing they were saying. I barely talked that evening and just munched on the 안주 and drink all night but I was so tired afterwards because of my failed attempts of understanding the conversation. When will I be able to understand such kind of “free-conversation”?
And today, I am at my lowest perhaps. I spent hours each day for the past couple of weeks untangling TOPIK papers – learning new words and grammar points every day. Yet when I sat on our TOPIK review class today I barely understood anything from the 26th TOPIK paper! I highlighted words that I do not know and underlined all grammar points that are not familiar with me. Unknown words appeared one after the other until I almost highlighted the entire paragraph. As expected, I can’t understand anything. Our professor explains to us difficult words and grammar points but the thing is there are more words and grammar points on the material that I do not know so I still end up not understanding anything. I am also overwhelmed with the so many words I don’t know yet that even if words I have learned already appears, I can’t recognize them any longer. The fact that most of the members of the review class were really good since most of them have studied and stayed in Korea for at least a year doesn’t make it any better. It makes me feel all the more frustrated because they can understand more than what I can and they can express their thoughts verbally. I feel exasperated looking at my TOPIK papers. Will I’ll be able to learn all these things?
Times like this, I’d like to remind myself that a few years ago I can’t even read Hangeul; that a couple of years ago I can’t even introduce myself properly; that last year I can’t even get more than 50 points in the vocabulary & grammar section of TOPIK.
Nonetheless, being lost in our review class and seeing my TOPIK papers almost covered in pink highlights makes me frustrated. I know I must work hard. Harder. But first, I need to get myself out of this 한국어 depression.