Italian or Korean?

I seriously need to prioritize my language studies.

Not only in general, but in terms of which language to devote my free time to. Seeing as I live in Korea, the logical and more immediate need would be to learn Korean. Although I can already read Hangeul (the Korean alphabet,) it is only the beginning. (And, perhaps the easiest part of learning Korean as a native English speaker.) Also, I’ve made it over a year in this country only knowing a few key phrases, so how urgently do I need to learn more?

On the other hand, I’m a newly naturalized Italian citizen, so knowing the official language of Italy would not only make sense, but also come in handy. Plus, I’ve been studying it on and off since I was about 7 years-old, though I haven’t quite managed to make it past the basics. (As a matter of fact, I acquired a whole other language in the time between when I first started studying Italian to today.)

Now that my job allows me more free time to do things like study and write, I’m faced with this decision: Italian or Korean? As with most big decisions in my life, I create a Pros and Cons list to help me decide.

Let’s go alphabetically, starting with Italian:

I wish I could be as smart as you, Betty. (GIPHY)


It’ll be quite easy for me to pick up. I can already read and understand Italian as I would Spanish, but when it comes to writing or speaking, I still need a dictionary or translator to help me out. That means I only really need to work on building vocabulary and speaking on the fly.

Knowing Italian will be one more excuse to move to Italy. Or, at the very least, buy and fix up a trullo and start an Air BnB.

Simply fulfilling a goal I’ve had since I was 7 would, well, be an accomplishment 20 years in the making.

Duolingo offers an Italian course, so I can study and practice useful phrases such as these on a daily basis:

Something you’re bound to ask when in Italy.

So far I’ve been consistently doing about 3 lessons per day, just before I leave for work. Duolingo congratulates me by not sending nearly as many e-mails as they would if I hadn’t done them.


Maintaining the motivation to practice on Duolingo or Rosetta Stone every single day until I can talk about the aforementioned man in the tub at length can be a challenge.

Duolingo is still limited. Despite being free and convenient to use, Duolingo doesn’t allow for certain aspects of language learning that a class offers. Conversation, for example, is one major thing that learners must practice. There aren’t a whole lot of Italian speakers here in Busan, let alone teachers, so if I wanted to practice my conversation skills, I would have to sign up for lessons over Skype. (Not that that’s not an option, it’s just something to consider in terms of time and money.)

I don’t know nearly as much Korean as I do Italian. While I do have to focus on speaking, I certainly can’t understand Korean the same way I can understand Italian. I mean, I can already ask who the man in the tub is in Italian – I can’t say the same in Korean. So should I just cut my losses and start catching up on the language that surrounds me everyday?

Now, on to Korean:



Getting around Korea will be about 800% easier. Did you read about what happened to me a few weeks ago? If I knew more Korean, perhaps I could have expedited this nightmare and saved a whole lot of Won in cab fare. Like I mentioned earlier, it only makes sense to learn Korean, especially since not many older people speak or understand English (or Spanish, for that matter.) Many taxi drivers are part of this generation, so being able to (The words for “left”, “right”, “straight”, and “here” were among the first Korean words I learned. Of course, that certainly wasn’t enough to help me out of my messy situation. Neither was knowing the right address to give the driver, but you get my point.)

I can get to know the nice people around me. I’ve been getting take out coffee from a really nice ajumma who likes to ask me a lot of questions that I only get the jist of, so I’d love to at least know how her day’s been going.

I can practice any day, anywhere, and with almost anyone. This takes care of one of the major obstacles to language learning. For as difficult as Korean is to learn for native English speakers, this fact makes for a strong argument.

I’d be a ding dong NOT to learn as much Korean as possible. Do I really want to leave Korea only knowing 안녕하세요, 감삼합니다, and 미국사람에요?


Motivation: when is finding it not a problem? With the swift speed of time and my Internet connection getting in the way, mustering up the power to complete homework tasks could be an issue. On the other hand, I tend to be pretty self-motivated, so perhaps this isn’t as strong an argument in my case.

A class is going to cost me money. It’ll be money well spent, no doubt. As they say, you get what you pay for, so a better class is going to cost more ₩₩₩. But hey – sub-par Korean lessons are better than no Korean lessons.

Possible Solution:

Study both!

According to language learning blog FluentU, studying two languages at once is borderline masochistic. However, one thing I do have going for me is that Italian and Korean are completely different, meaning I won’t be saying things like Habito en un piso when I mean Vivo en un piso. I could also mix up my flashcards, so instead of having the English translation for a Korean word, I could write down the Italian. Two birds, meet one stone.

Still, prioritizing a language is recommended by FluentU, which somewhat brings me back to square one. Therefore, knowing as much Italian as I do already, my prioritzed languages shall be…


I actually learned something from this chart. (GIPHY)

It only makes sense.

Featured image via GIPHY


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