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Alexander Arguelles and Korean

 Language Learning Forum : Lessons in Polyglottery Post Reply
Senior Member
Joined 5919 days ago

103 posts - 109 votes 
Speaks: Italian*, English, Japanese, Spanish
Studies: German

 Message 1 of 3
2007 03 October at 8:11pm | IP Logged 
I think this is one of the most interesting topic to discuss with professor Arguelles, not only for those studying the Korean language (I am not studying Korean myself), but to know better about prof. Arguelless'methodology and experience with a language entirely isolated from the the linguistic groups he confronted himself with, and prof.Arguelles said to be his hardest linguistic challange.

Those who read the extensive and informative old threads are well aware of his study methods. But not much was directly mentioned about Korean. Not only the great language difference set Korean apart from the group of the other languages, but the circumstancies as well. Contrary to most of the languages prof.Arguelles studies, he actually spent the longest time in the language environment, living in Korea for a very long time, and got actually married to a Korean woman.
I would like to know if prof.Arguelles used the same approach to study Korean as he did for the other languages, what difference in methods he would suggest when it comes to a language which is so different from the other ones one is able to speak, what his experience with Korean used to be when he started learning it and what it is now, if he ever tried to get to native fluency or close to it benefiting from living in the country and getting married to a Korean person.
It would be also of great interest to know something about the education of his child whom, I am sure, prof.Arguelles would like to grow up bilingual, but even if his mother is Korean, living in a different country may be a big impediment to his full Korean education to a native level.
Prof. Arguelles current strategies to mantain this language are the same as the other languages he speaks? I am married myself to a Japanese girl and even if I speak Japanese to an excellent level of fluency and read Japanese books with little problems, I am well aware of how deep the challange is, how far the final goal will be and how much it all depends on my application rather than the simple fact of living in the country and being married to a native. These things may help enourmously but they are not enough without a constant effort to overcome one's great limitations in a language and a culture which are so distant from one's own.
In my opinion two extremely important factors that may help to get to a superior level of knowledge or serve as an excellent fluency mantaining tool are either a great interest in the literature or some cultural aspects of the language (thus reading books on a constant basis, or watching movies for example) or a job which is related to it, thus providing constant exposure to a professional use of the language.
Without either one of the two even a great deal of dedication may not be enough to reach a native level or even mantain high skills once not exposed to the native environment any more, in my opinion.

Any in-depth information will be greatly appreciated.
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United States
Joined 6539 days ago

609 posts - 2100 votes 

 Message 2 of 3
2007 08 October at 8:33am | IP Logged 
There are some very interesting issues here and I will take a stab at them, but I may need to return to do them more justice next week.

The only thing qualitatively different I did with Korean was to learn it mainly in the country itself. If I could do it again, I would prepare myself better before going to the land. Other than that, I simply only put quantitatively more work into Korean than I did into other languages. Of course having access to many native speakers helped, but I all too often felt as if I had to force people to speak their language with me, which was unpleasant. Getting married to the language incarnate certainly helped as well, but actually since we have left Korea, we have been trying to work on my wife’s English, so that is what we mainly speak. My Korean is still better than her English, however, so we use it to have deeper conversations, though with two young children running about, finding time to do that as often as we should is often problematic.

My sons are perfectly bilingual, not in English and Korean, but in English and French. Ardaschir (the real one, my first-born, who is going on 5) got a head start in French while in nursery school in Lebanon and we have simply kept it up to the extent that Avaldamar (my younger child, 2 1/2) has absorbed the mini-francophone atmosphere we have created, so we three boys use French exclusively among ourselves. Ardaschir has recently begun attending a weekly Korean school, but right now Avaldamar actually seems to have a better passive command of the language. Several months ago I went through my own Chinese renaissance and so revised and refreshed my knowledge of the characters by writing out hundreds of pages. Ardaschir was interested in the process, and has imitated me in taking pleasure in writing out Hanja, so he is at any rate getting an early grounding in East Asian etymology.

I believe you are quite right about the necessity for either deep cultural interest and/or occupational use in order to maintain advanced fluency. As for myself, even though I do not hear as much Korean as I used to, I am currently fortunate enough to be able to maintain the professional level I attained in it by using it professionally to produce readers for others to better learn the language. I just completed a Korean Newspaper Reader, which was particularly interesting in that it consists of 50% North Korean sources, and the publishers have indicated that they would like for me to produce at least one more such volume at an even more advanced level.

4 persons have voted this message useful

United States
Joined 6539 days ago

609 posts - 2100 votes 

 Message 3 of 3
2007 14 October at 6:25pm | IP Logged 
I now realize that the answer I gave last week to the first part of this question was not very good at all, for I have indeed done a number of things with Korean that I have not done with other languages. Most importantly, I made an original investigative study of its extremely intricate system of verbal conjugation. My friend and coauthor Professor Kim Jongrok tells me that he has really gotten a great deal of positive feedback from fellow Korean linguists when they examine the complex but systematic charts that I drew up and he filled in, for while they knew each element intuitively, it would never have occurred to them to group them all together systematically as we did – natives do not need this, but foreign learners certainly do in order to begin to grasp how complex emotionally nuanced verb endings have been integrated into the very grammatical fabric of this language. The complexity of the Korean verbal system as such is never addressed in most Korean methods, and indeed it is often portrayed in a vastly simplified and simplistic fashion, which is a great disservice to the serious learner.

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