Language Learning, Life, over7seas, Recipe for Success
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Resources from my first week of learning Korean – how I cope with life stress

Please let me know if you would like me to keep adding to this list so that you can refer to it, and benefit from it too. (I accidentally slipped into telling you the long journey of why I am taking Korean lessons. You can just skip to the bottom for the learning resources list.)

Before I get too tangled in the tangents of this chat, that we are having here, let me share my current list of Korean Learning Resources (please nudge me to update this as I gather more.):

  • I found all 5 of my teachers on italki (Want to know why I have 5 teachers? I have a strategy..) With my link you get $10 off an italki lesson after completing your first one : < I made it into a shorter link but it is safe to click onto.
  • Talk to me in Korean is a monthly subscription website but they offer some FREE Korean Elementary Learning resources.
  • Learn the Korean Alphabet on Youtube. Made really easy to follow. (If it is too slow for you I’ll add another resource.)
  • There will be more resources. I plan on sharing a link to my Google Doc where I save all the learning pdf files.

Just briefly, in case you are wondering “Why are you learning Korean now? How random.” Well. It’s not as random as you might think. One of my best friends during my postgraduate studies was an artist from Seoul, South Korea. I wish I had made an effort to take beginner Korean lessons in 2008 when we met. He and his wife are some of the nicest people but language barriers and our full study schedules meant that I felt affinity with my friend and his wife but to be honest know near to nothing about them outside our shared career interests in the arts.

I feel that I am missing so much by thinking a task is too great to accomplish. This is how I feel about maths, too. And after coaching a client to rewrite her resume and hearing about her struggles with maths I was reminded of my own. Unlike her I never felt that it was I who can’t do maths, but rather I always felt that my failing had more to do with my teachers and the fact that often math lessons were the first in the school day when I just wasn’t awake enough to pay attention.

Fast forward: To cut a long story short I took a 4 hour online class with a team from Stanford on the learning platform: EDx and it was eye opening. I learned about the plasticity of the brain, how quickly it can change to adapt to new situations and how maths and learning creates growth, the more the skills are acquired with an element of struggle the more growth takes place in the brain. But this post wasn’t meant to be about maths.

This little maths thinking experience lead to my leaping to the computer and booking 17 Korean lessons in the space of 1 week, with 5 different teachers. Am I mad? No.

I have been struggling lately with serious overwhelm and symptoms of burnout. I have watched myself slide into habits that indicate a depressive episode and I felt unable to stop the slide. Enter maths. Just those 4 hours alone lit my enthusiasm, opened my mind to a few avenues I felt are probably closed to me and gave me momentum.

So I booked my Korean lessons. As many in as short a time frame as I can fit in. In part inspired by a Youtube language learner who challenged himself with 12 hours straight of language lessons in a language that is new to him. Wild. Exhausting. I wasn’t going to go that far.

I recently have done a lot of thinking and work on mindset work. I listened to one Youtube assess that mindset work is silly and ineffective and that if it was so effective then there would only be one single book out there that everyone would buy. There would be no need for additional books or the entire mindset guru industry. Well. But he is forgetting a few things. One is that not everyone has the same mindset struggle. Our sources vary. And therefor the solutions and paths we each take to change in the direction that we seek also needs to be as varied as we are. What works for a friend my be of no benefit to me.

For me personally learning and knowledge acquisition are my nerdy pleasures. But I have observed in myself and others that my learning and knowledge gathering is often not leading to a goal or a creation but rather it’s an end in itself. We each can decide how we feel about spending 100 hours learning about an aspect of anything without implementing anything that we learned. Implementing could be writing a blog post about it, or taking a test, using the new knowledge in any way that it takes a physical form or becomes trackable. Without this there is danger of just forgetting it all again, or it going nowhere but into the value of our untapped potential.

But Birgit, Korean? You’ve never even been there, have never shown any interest aside from your old friendship that you didn’t maintain.

Well, what do you think when you think: Maths, Korean script, approaching 45 strangers to ask them to pose in front of a camera for you? Do ANY of these options install you with calm confidence? They don’t me. I have lived my life with the frequent refrain of “This is not for me. This will be too hard. Now I am too old.” Well. I am also famously stubborn. And if I am not famously stubborn yet then let’s make it public: I am stubborn when it comes to some elements of my emotional self protection. But I ALSO want to be stubborn for my experience of joy in my life.

And is life as joyful as it could be when we keep thinking “That is not for me, I am not made to be good at that.”?

When we learn something new our brain does some amazing things. To accommodate our new skill it changes shape within just 6 weeks. Synapsis form and connect parts of the brain that were left dormant before. I want that for myself.

Like many I have grown up with a fixed mindset, and even when I broke through stereotypes and social norms, parts of me lean towards this fixed mindset. What my life in America is opening my mind up to is the possibility of growth in ways I couldn’t imagine when I placed my life in the old world of Europe. (I love Europe, it’s my spiritual and cellular home. I’ll be back.)

Right now I am on a mission to:

  • Stop my brain from slipping deeper into burnout, by counterproductively adding another task to the list of things to accomplish. A task that serves NONE of my other pressing deadlines.
  • To help my brain believe that growth is possible. That I can learn something as alien to me as Korean.
  • To shed the stereotypes about inherent ability as well as the constricting idea that at 45 it is too late for everything. (By the way here in my website I am also writing about financial future building with a starting point set in 2021. Again, an act of stubbornness. “You are too old, you should have started in your 20s. It’s now too late for you.” Let me prove everyone very wrong. I’m ready for this challenge. Keep an eye open for my posts on this project.)
  • To build a bridge between myself and the unknown paths that only become apparent when we explore something we know nothing about.

And I am finding that learning a completely new to me language that is 100% outside of my field of experience or comfort zone is helping me with my mission. For me it was like flipping a switch from feeling utterly miserable 3 days ago to learning about a different way to think about Maths from the Stanford online course and now to having booked 17 Korean lessons into a week in which I should be doing so many other things but I know that the state I was in I wouldn’t have done any of them. The actions I took in the last 3 days have completely flipped how I experience myself. And right now I have energy and am interested in everything, this is the diametrical opposite to my state the last 4 weeks.

I think this is the kind of self medication we can all get behind. Right?

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