While I’m just barely at the end of my third week into my first challenge, losing 56 lbs. in under 4 months, Caroline and I were talking and decided that today we would like to start a second challenge:
Become able to speak fluent Korean in only 6 months.
Why Korean? Why in 6 months? How does this help us on the way to being epic? One question at a time.
We chose Korean for two main reasons. The first is that we’ve been wanting to learn it for a long while now, but have never really committed to it. We already speak some Japanese, Mandarin, German and Russian (though not nearly as well as we’d like) so it seems right to pick a language we know almost nothing in that we’ve wanted to learn for a while. The second reason is that right now we’re working on the side at a Korean restaurant, so we have tons and tons of access to native speakers to practice with, which is really important.
Why 6 months? Well, that’s actually somewhat arbitrary I suppose. Benny the Irish Polyglot manages to become fluent in a new language every 3 months, but his method is studying in a country that predominately speaks his target language (although, that’s not true of his latest mission). Then there’s Randy at Yearlyglot who becomes fluent in a new language every year, but without travelling. Right in the middle is Lyzazel at the I Kinda Like Languages blog who goes for six months, three traveling and three in his home country. While we can’t travel, we do have daily, constant access to native speakers because of work. We figure that’ll be good enough to manage fluency in six months.
Lastly, what makes this so epic? Well being epic largely comes down to experiences. We think that being equipped with as many languages as possible facilitates having those really epic experiences and meeting really epic people. After all, it’s a lot easier to have really awesome experiences in a foreign country when you aren’t trying to speak English with everyone (Native English speaking countries aside). On top of that for most Americans, crippled as they are by traditional high school/college language courses, becoming fluent in a second language at all let alone in a year or less is kind of epic.
What Constitutes Fluent
Defining fluency can be a little tricky at times, since there’s no real set goal line and a lot of people have differing opinion on where that line should be drawn. Our definition of fluency falls somewhere very near Randy of Yearlyglot.com’s definition of fluency. We’re going with:
Fluency – The ability to express oneself fully in a fluid manner without any more pauses to think than might be expected of a native speaker. Must also be able to understand others expressing themselves in the same way and have a command of common slang comparative to that of a native speaker.
I’m not so concerned about trying to be grammatically correct all the time (I can’t even seem to pull that off in English) nor am I concerned about accent or superficial things like that – the basic goal is to be able to chat with a native speaker in the target language about nearly anything without any conversational difficulty (confusion, searching for words, misunderstandings etc.).
We’ll post about the method we plan to use to beat this challenge soon. For now though, here’s the official challenge.
In six months time (May 19th, 2011) Caroline and I will both be able to converse in spoken and written Korean well enough to meet the criteria above for fluency, i.e., we will be able to have natural, fluid conversations with any native Korean speaker we meet with no more difficulties than would be expected of a native speaker.
Have any advice? Think we’ll never be able to pull it off? Let us know.