Take It Back To The Basics.

While this statement may apply to a bunch of other situations, I want to specifically discuss this assertion in the context of learning languages. As those who know me personally will know, I am self-studying Korean outside of school and have been doing so since the middle of my sophomore year of high school.

But just like any other teenager my age, I don’t have time (or seem to don’t have time) to commit to learning Korean every single day – some days, I can’t even finish my homework. As a result, ever since I started learning the language, I’ve basically studied from dawn until dusk (so 9:00am to 9:00pm for me) during school breaks and barely studied anything each week during the school year.

I’ve definitely learned my lesson: this broken, inconsistent “routine” doesn’t work for me.

In fact, it’s actually detrimental to my learning because Korean, like any other language, builds on itself; if I learn one concept, I will be able to master another concept. And being a self-learner, while I can pick and choose what to learn and what not to learn for now, I know that I’ll need to know everything in the future, so why pick and choose in the first place? Plus, I have never self-studied a language before, so I’m not at all confident about making sure I cover everything I need.

In order to guide me, I use a textbook, but if I studied subject and object particles on say, September 2, and weeks pass, when September 29 rolls around and I pick up my book to move on to the next chapter, I can’t understand object particles because all of the concepts were introduced such a long time ago.

Subsequently, I become dejected because I don’t know how much progress I’ve made in the language.

As a result, I’ve needed to re-think my entire learning experience. The big questions that I’ve had to ask myself are: How can I make learning a more constant part of my life? How can I remember concepts better?

My (one and only) solution so far is: take my learning back to the basics. In this case, take my learning all the way back to Hangeul, the Korean alphabet. While I am definitely very confident in my abilities to read and write using Hangeul, I’ve re-learned and solidified my knowledge of the Korean alphabet, valuable skills for tackling the harder concepts later. And believe it or not, I’ve actually learned something new: when I first learned Korean, I didn’t know that there was a stroke order when writing out letters/characters. After re-learning the alphabet, I became familiar with the stroke order, which makes my writing look much more professional.

Lastly, if any of you are thinking about or currently learning Korean, Japanese, or Mandarin Chinese, I have found a blog that may interest you: http://www.hangukdrama.com/

This website has a lot of useful resources – of course, it focuses mostly on Korean language-learning materials, but as Shanna, the author of the blog, has been learning Japanese for three years now and is also becoming more fluent in one of her first languages, Mandarin Chinese, she also provides information about these two languages as well.

I Screwed Up And I Don’t Know What To Do.

This title basically sums up my entire life in one overdramatic sentence. But to a certain degree, all teenagers have this sense of helplessness that dawns on them whenever some stressful event comes up: a competition, a test, an application – you name it.

As for me, this feeling of helplessness began eating away at my bones just a few days ago, when I called someone immature and the entire situation careened off of its tracks, barrelled into an incoming vehicle, and became a whole lot worse.

It all started a week ago when my school announced that classes would not be in session on a certain Friday of the month of September because all teachers would be having a Professional Development (Pro-D) Day. Two of my friends, let’s call them, for the sake of simplicity, Jessica and Margaret, and I planned on going to the night market that day because I had just gotten back from Italy and we all wanted a day to relax and stretch our legs before schoolwork infiltrated our lives.

We all agreed to go to the night market on that day. I had asked my parents already and they agreed to let me go. Good stuff.

The morning of the the Pro-D-Day/Night-Market-Day rolls around and I’m studying for a huge test I have in a week. The weather looks pretty dreary: dark clouds, pouring rain, wind – typical Vancouver weather.

I remind my parents, as they leave for work, that I’ll be going to the night market that day, so I won’t be having dinner with them. With a look of concern in their eyes, my parents, who care more about my grades than I do, gently ask, “But what about that test that you have in a few days?” I respond with, “Oh, well, I don’t feel that prepared about doing well on the test, but I think a break will help me focus on my work.” This conversation goes on for a few minutes with the end result being: I’m not allowed to go to the night market anymore.

I’ll admit, I was pretty annoyed about not being able to go, especially after receiving the get-go a few days ago, and then having that swiftly snatched out of my hands. But on the other hand, I knew that my parents were just worried about my university applications and those prospects. And quite honestly, I was worried about that important test, too, which I was not at all prepared for. To add onto that, the weather was looking not-so-great that day.

The weather may not seem like a legitimate excuse for anything, but I’m just going to be honest right here: I like to go about my life doing the best that I can in every aspect. If I know that I can’t do something to the best of my ability at that time, 99.9% of the time, I will save doing that activity for another time, when I am better equipped to do well. That’s why I stop doing any homework past 9:00pm; I won’t be able to focus my mind anyway, so what’s the point of doing homework if I won’t do it well the first time?

The same goes for the night market. A little part of my mind wanted to go to the night market and have a great time – under great circumstances. Sure, not everything can be perfect, but certain situations can come pretty close to decent.

I contacted Jessica and Margaret, notifying them that I wouldn’t be able to go to the night market that day; they could go without me.

In response, Jessica said that she was sorry I couldn’t come. On the other hand, Margaret was less forgiving. As a generally sarcastic person, Margaret responded with a sarcastic remark and said that she knew that I would cancel at the last minute anyway.

I’m going to spare you all the nitty gritty details, but let’s just say that I did not and do not take sarcasm well. I forgot about this problem and continued on with my day.

But as I thought more and more about this situation, I realized something: this incident is not unprecedented. Numerous times in the past, my friends, including Jessica and Margaret, and I have planned events, which ended up being cancelled at the last minute. Every time, someone would get angry for a few days, and then, because no one had addressed the issue, the incident would fade from our consciousness and stay unsolved.

In the past, I would have been okay with letting this issue subside. But at that point in time (and still now), I wanted to be a better person and to be more assertive in my actions. I didn’t want this to ever happen again. If a problem kept occurring, someone would have to address the issue and fix the problem.

At the time, I thought the best course of action would be to first acknowledge that both Margaret and I had done something wrong. After apologies, we could finally move past this issue to the larger problem of last-minute cancellations. I had cancelled at the last minute, inconveniencing both of my friends. But at the same time, I thought Margaret was being immature because I didn’t think she was understanding my viewpoint. While she may have been inconvenienced and upset, I was, too. I had already pre-planned my entire day and to have that ripped out at the last minute was disheartening. I was also really upset because I wanted to hang out with my friends at a fun, stress-free place with nothing to do with school. Based off of her text messages, I didn’t think that she was empathizing with me at all, a quality that generally comes with maturity.

So I thought that the best thing to do would be to straight-up tell her that she was immature. Which I did.

All right, I’m just going to say this as bluntly as I can: I was being really stupid with that comment. In retrospect, I didn’t know what I was thinking. But I ostensibly was thinking because I had dwelled upon how to deal with the problem the entire night. And as a person who has rarely ever dealt with confrontation firsthand before, I can’t say that I expected much more. My response to her sarcasm was extremely immature, which I am perfectly fine with admitting. I am immature.

Margaret responded as any sane, normal person would: with anger.

And with that, the entire situation blew up into smithereens: no one was listening to anyone now. And I felt completely helpless: I tried to make the situation better and I ended up fanning the flames.

Normally at this time in the blog post, I would be speaking about solutions that I have to solve this problem. But I don’t really have any courses of action at this point. My relationship with Margaret is still as bad as it has ever been.

But the reason I am writing this blog post in the first place is that I miss being friends with Margaret. While she and I may have acted immaturely, we are all teenagers – who is saying that we should be full-grown, mature human beings at this point? Through experience, life will equip us with these emotional intelligence tools, hopefully.

Every night, I go to sleep staring at this Minion plush toy from the film, Despicable Me, that Jessica and Margaret gave me for my birthday last year. And every night, I am reminded of how great our friendships were, and how I miss having that in my life.

While there aren’t many clear solutions to me now, I know that through this experience, I have learned so much about how to handle arguments and more importantly, how to be a better friend.