I guess this is a slump

I’ve been feeling very “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” when it comes to studying Korean these days.

When I don’t have time to study a language, I feel bad because I truly love it and want to do it regularly. That is not what’s happening now; for the past couple months, I’ve actually been great about challenging myself with Korean and studying consistently. And yet somehow, this made things worse?

A few days ago, without planning to or really thinking about it ahead of time, I told my Korean teacher that I wanted to quit studying Korean. I’m not sure if I meant, like, stop taking Korean classes or just stopping altogether, but either way, my reasoning was kind of lame and surprising even to myself.

I felt like studying Korean had become pointless.

Here’s the thing. I love geeking out about linguistics and language acquisition, and learning languages has always been a thing I’ve loved doing for its own sake, like how people love things like hiking or cooking, without aspiring to be a mountaineer or chef. I never started out learning a language to accomplish anything or to fulfill a goal aside from just enjoying the process. I didn’t start studying Korean because I thought it was a valuable skill I could bring to the workplace or anything. I didn’t plan on doing anything with it.

But after becoming more disciplined in my studies — attending classes, writing more, memorizing words, participating in discussions — not only did my language abilities improve, I started to feel more and more restless. I kept feeling like I wanted (needed?) to do something with Korean.

I tell people I want to become a literary translator some day, but it isn’t currently feasible for me to set out on a path to accomplish that. I’m not ready to quit my day job and give up the nascent career I’ve built for myself since leaving academia in 2014 — it’s not related to Korean, but I like it. Packing up and moving to Korea isn’t an option, and yet everyone tells me that’s the only way I can make any kind of “use” of this skill.

And so, I wonder. To what end am I working this hard?

It’s like, up to a certain point of proficiency, learning Korean “as a hobby” for my own intellectual satisfaction was fine. Aspiring to know the language well enough to enjoy its culture and history and literature was fine. But now that I’m becoming more fluent, there’s this itch in me to want to use it to create or contribute something meaningful, to make not just a hobby, but part of my livelihood

And because I can’t find a way to do that, it makes me want to give up just a little on the language. Maybe not pushing myself, not going all-in with my studies will help me keep Korean at arm’s length and push it back into “just a hobby” territory.

I’m not even sure if any of this makes sense, but I think I’m going through some kind of existential crisis or slump with learning Korean right now. I need to take a step back and think about how to reprioritize my life.

11 thoughts on “I guess this is a slump

  1. Oh noeeees! Don’t give up! You inspired me as I’ve talked about learning because I’m stuck to the tv because of subtitles. I want to watch the same way that I watch American tv – by being able to fold clothes or so something else while watching because I can look away and if someone says something interesting, I can look up and if necessary rewind. Right now I can’t crochet as I watch because crochet is new to me so I can’t mindlessly do it the way that I can with knitting. I tried free apps and would get frustrated with the lessons themselves and sometimes the audio would not be clear enough to hear the correct pronunciation. So I requested Rosetta Stone for Mother’s Day (a deep discounted sale). I’m only on lesson 3 but was surprised at my ability just based on what I’ve picked up from Kdramas.

    But might I suggest you use your skills as a subtitler for films? You could learn how to do it on Viki.com (although there’s no pay but you’d learn how to do the process of the timing) and could, without giving up your current job, get a job with film distribution or companies like DramaFever who employ their own subtitlors.

    Please keep us updated with what you decide to do.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Aww, thanks for the comment. :) I’m definitely not going to give up on Korean as a whole! I’ll still be reading and watching stuff. I just need some space from actively *studying* it so much and pushing myself to get better. I’ve always been an all-or-nothing type person — like, once I realize I can be good at sonething, I want to go all-in and make it the center of my life and career, and if I can’t do that, I disappoint myself and get depressed and want to abandon it. It’s a problem with my ego, I think? I just need learn how to take it down a notch, haha.

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  2. I feel the complete opposite from you lol. Korean I’m at a level where I can learn alot of vocab and recently I came up up with an efficient way to generate cloze deletion anki cards from stuff I read and I’m excited to do it! I’ve also set the anki settings to my liking. I’ve been really into efficiency this year AND I just kept thinking how can I make it more efficient, stream-lined. I will see how my strategy pans out this year.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And the other thing I was at this horrible but well paying job for 1.5 years and I couldn’t accomplish that much with my free time because I was so unhappy and tired and stressed out… and I feel like I gotta make up for it somehow ( with efficiency and whatnot) now that I have a pleasant and well paying job. I know i did the best I could during that time.

      You should be grateful that you have the luxury to worry or ponder about this because I sure as hell couldnt during that time . I was just mad and annoyed about it since I only had so much energy

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Actually, I think the *problem* was that I had so much time to worry and ponder about this. I had been part-time freelancing for the past couple months after being burnt out and emotionally drained from my previous job, so I had a lot more time to devote to challenging myself with Korean…. but that’s what caused the whole crisis of “what is the point of this” because I felt like I wasn’t working toward anything. I’ve been back in a full-time position for a couple weeks now, and that urgency is fading away, and I’m a lot more content with Korean taking a backseat.

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  3. This is definitely something new. Hm, when I started learning Korean, I didn’t want to do anything major with it until I discovered translating and stuff.

    Being a literary translator is a great goal to have. I hope that you’re able to find a Korean-related type of occupation someday.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Well speaking AS a hobbyist it’s actually refreshing to hear someone with so much experience in the language expressing doubts. Needless to say many of us here who read your blog do so because we value your knowledge, experience, and opinions. Funny thing is, whenever I mention to someone I’m studying Korean, they invariably ask a question I cannot possibly answer ~ WHY? Really, I have no idea. But I fell in love with the language, and that’s just something that if you never experienced you can’t understand.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Kiko! Your comments always make me smile and appreciate what an amazing group of readers/followers I have.

      I think I’m probably a hobbyist at heart too. I was the happiest when I didn’t worry about what I was going to “do” with learning Korean — maybe part of that thinking/worry arose because so many people were asking me why I was learning it. No matter how much I feel like falling in love with a language is a legit reason to learn it, I think I’m insecure about admitting it? So I always feel like I need to have some goal to work towards. It’s really nice to hear from someone who just loves the language for what it is.

      Like

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