Inspiration: Sam Hammington
The following in an excerpt from the Wall Street English Korea podcast episode #25 with Sam Hammington.
- Direct mp3 download available on the podcast website.
- My full transcription of the interview. (.DOCX)
Sam Hammington (샘 해밍텬) is the first (and currently only) expat in Korea who is doing comedy on Korean TV in Korean. For an example of his speaking skill, see the interview below where he talks about his first time in Korea as a student at Korea University:
Sam is a rising star in Korea and has appeared on a long list of TV programs (over 30 according to Wikipedia), but notably (the ones that are immediately found on YouTube):
- KBS2 Gag Concert (개그콘서트) 2005-2008 & 2013
- tvN SNL Korean (SNL코리아) 2013
- MBC Real Man (진짜 사나이) 2013
- KBS2 Happy Together (해피투게더 시즌 3) 2013
- MBC Radio Star (라디오 스타) 2013
- MBC Goldfish Dosa (무릎팍 도사) 2007 & 2013
In the Wall Street English Korea podcast, Sam talks about how he learned to speak Korean so fluently and how others can effectively study second languages. Here’s is some of his advice:
“I wanted attention.”
If I had the ability to speak Korean written on my resume, on my CV, I envisioned that people who were employing me, or looking to employ me would see that and it would stand out. So it would get attention, essentially, and that’s part of speaking a second language. It’s getting that attention and using that, whether it’s in a job, or for whatever reason it is that you’re hoping to learn.
“I wanted to speak to other people.”
For me, one of the main points of learning a second language is to be able to talk to people in that language. So, I had to do a lot of study on my own. For me that was surrounding myself with a lot of non-English-speaking Koreans when I lived here in Korea initially, and when I was home in Australia, having Korean friends around me, where I had the opportunity to use it as often as possible. And part of that was watching television, watching movies, listening to music with friends, and if I didn’t understand things, I’d get them to explain it to me.
It’s tough, but you really have to put yourself in that situation and get immersed in the language and surround yourself with it on a regular basis.
“You have to put your heart in it.”
When you learn a second language, you really have to put your heart into it. You really have to want to learn it, and you have to think to yourself, “It’s not going to be easy, and there may be times where I look like an idiot,” but you have to have the ability to not be concerned with that. You shouldn’t worry what you’re going to look like because everyone is going to make a mistake. Everyone makes mistakes no matter what they’re doing in life.
“You have to put in a lot of (personal) effort.”
With a language, you certainly need to put in a lot of effort and you need to maintain it. Like for me…when I was here in Korea, I spent a lot of time going out drinking. I’d put myself in those kinds of social situations, and that allowed me to learn a lot of Korean…that I could use on a regular basis, which for me, was one of the more important things, one of the things I really wanted.
I wanted to learn Korean, and I wanted to be able to use it all the time. What I was learning in class wasn’t going to help me, so I had to go out, and I had to learn on my own.
“You’ve got to have confidence.”
You’ve got to go out there and be confident and just say what you want to say. And if you make a mistake, sure people might laugh, but they’re going to laugh for a short period of time, and generally, they’re going to correct you…
There are people out there that could speak English exceptionally well, but if you don’t have confidence, it doesn’t matter. You need to be able to be confident. Even if you don’t speak English well, being confident differentiates you from people who speak English well and don’t have confidence…
The person who has confidence tries harder, and they try to fit in and do this that and everything else… The person who may speak really well, but has low levels of confidence, they don’t stand out. They mix in with the rest of the crowd, and you don’t get attention, people don’t notice you. You may speak English perfectly, but if you’re not confident and you can’t talk to people, people will never know that.
“If you’re shy…?”
I guess there are people out there who are probably shy. Hey, we’re all shy, but sooner or later you’re going to have to bite the bullet because there’s no point in learning a language [only] to read and write. I personally don’t see the point in that.
“Mistakes are not a negative thing.”
Mistakes allow you to make the opportunity to learn. You know, people say, “Learn from your mistakes.” That’s why we make a mistake, so that we don’t have to do it again.
For me, mistakes are a big opportunity.
“You should enjoy it.”
For me, learning a language is because you want to do it, and you should enjoy it. It should be fun. That’s a really important thing. Learning anything should be fun in my opinion – in particular with learning a language.
“It opens the doors of opportunity.”
If you look at foreigners living in Korea there are a lot of people that don’t speak Korean. And they’re kind of stuck working in certain industries whether it’s teaching… Well, yeah, teaching probably is pretty much the only thing. If you learn Korean here, it enables you to do so many other jobs, work in different industries and people start paying attention, which is where a lot of it comes from.
Today’s Challenge is all about putting yourself in the right situations to learn, make mistakes, and try hard. And remember to try and be confident!
#8: Put yourself in a social situation today that forces you to speak Korean. Meet at least 2 new people and (confidently) start a conversation with them in Korean.
A few suggestions for locations and social situations include:
- Our Friday Korean Kafe free-speaking club
- Going to a bar or club
- Going to a cafe
- Wandering around Hanok village or Gaeksa looking for young people
- Asking your Korean co-workers where they hang out and joining them
Hashtags for today are:
Actually, today, I’d like to ask you for your best resources.
- What kinds of things have you found most helpful for learning Korean?
- What kinds of advice do you have for getting out and putting yourself in learnable social situations?
- How do you pump up your confidence to speak Korean?
Additionally, if you have any old or unused Korean language books or materials and would like to donate them to the Korean Kafe for other students to use during the free-speaking time, please Contact Us. We will be gathering any unused Korean materials and keeping them in the Winning Story Cafe for other students to use.
Also, here’s a Korean news article about why Sam started learning Korean.