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Aiyana Moyer

Dr. Cho

C&T 598

May 27, 2017

Language Literacy Autobiography

During my early childhood, I was not around children my own age until I was about

preschool age, so I was surrounded and spoken to by adults, particularly my family members.

Since a large portion of the females in my family were teachers, and most of them particularly

English teachers, I naturally learned a more complete, grammatical sentence structure than might

be normal for other children. I particularly spent a lot of time with my grandparents during my

initial language acquisition period, so my vocabulary became more sophisticated and complex at

a young age. By the time I was ready for first grade, I spoke with better grammar than my

classmates, but I was not a great speller since the majority of my informal learning up to that

point had been spoken verbal communication and listening. Over time, I became a better speller

as I read more and more advanced books, due to my understanding of sophisticated vocabulary

words, but somehow I have always been a slow reader.

My natural predisposition when I read is to make sure that I fully understand every single

word that I come across because I consistently want to improve my vocabulary. Even now, I

tend to want to understand every single word that I see, but it is slightly more difficult to do that

in a second or third language. I prefer to completely understand exactly what is being conveyed

with nothing preventing me from making full connections between the text and its message. In

higher-level novels, that is impossible because authors write to general messages across, but
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poetry requires much more structure and a fuller understanding of the contents to follow all of

the potential messages that the poet would be trying to convey. As a result of the rigid stricture

and imperativeness of understanding every single word, I have come to enjoy reading, writing,

and analyzing poetry than regular books.

The second language I learned after English was Spanish. My maternal grandmother, on

top of being an English language teacher, taught German, Spanish, and ESL. While I was

growing up, I spent a lot of time particularly with my grandmother who would sing songs to me

in English as well as Spanish and German. She used German more often, but I had more

exposure to Spanish among my Hispanic classmates, Spanish-speaking aunt and uncle, and the

shows I would watch as a kid like Dora the Explorer, so I caught on to Spanish much faster than

I potentially would have with German. I knew a couple words from watching Dora growing up,

so I was able to tell whether something was red or blue or long or short, but I did not fully

practice speaking and formally learning Spanish until my junior year of high school.

I took a class with three other students, all freshmen, but we had similar starting points in

the language so it was not unevenly matched. Despite being in the same class, I ended up

catching on to the language much faster than my classmates and had a more natural

pronunciation of the words than my instructor. She was a non-native Spanish-speaker who over-

enunciated the Spanish words and Anglicized them to make it more understandable to the

English-speaking Spanish learners. However, that made it more difficult to me because I prefer

the native pronunciation, so I would listen to the Hispanic students who would speak in Spanish

amongst each other, and I would pick up on their pronunciation. The following year, my senior

year, I took a slightly more advanced course in Spanish since the only other student was

bilingual, so we ended up covering a year and a halfs worth of material in a little under a school
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year. I improved my pronunciation and vocabulary outside of class as well since my classmate

would quiz me on words in Spanish songs, and I would interact with Spanish-speaking

customers at work in Spanish. I continued using Spanish semi-regularly up through the first

semester of my freshman year of college. My pronunciation improved even more because I was

being taught by a native speaker, but the other students in my class had about a beginners level

of Spanish skills, so it was difficult for me to learn more advanced vocabulary. After this class, I

was not able to take any more Spanish courses, so I was unable to consistently improve it until I

ended up basically giving up on it after transferring to the University of Kansas. But while I was

learning, despite having learned Spanish mostly in a formal, classroom setting, I am even now

able to pick up on the meanings of Spanish words that I learned as well as those that I was not

taught, based on context, similar-sounding English words, and what little Latin I knew from

reading books and singing in choir.

My third language was Korean, which was quite a bit more unconventional in the

methods I used to learn it. When I was in junior high, I watched a lot of anime, so I picked up on

a couple common phrases here and there, but I do not remember much except basic things that

were used so often that they were drilled into my head, like kawaii (cute) and suki (I like _).

However, while I was regularly watching anime, I would listen to Korean music, and eventually

I watched Korean dramas. The town where I grew up had a non-existent Asian population, so I

was never able to practice Japanese, which is why I lost it, but I was also never able to practice

Korean or hear either language in person and not through some kind of recorded media on the

internet.

Since I was so young and unable to access a multitude of artifacts of these two languages,

I did not have the means or motivation to actively learn the languages, so I passively listened to
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the singers and actors, and I picked up on their pronunciation and some simple words. I

eventually gave up on Japanese, but I stuck with Korean media for around seven years after

discovering K-pop. Once I entered high school, I had more motivation to learn Korean because

the dramas and music I followed piqued my interest enough to make me want to learn the

language. I listened to what was said as much as I read the subtitles, deconstructed the simpler

sentences to figure out singular words, and copy lyrics in Hangeul down while listening to the

corresponding songs to make connections between the letters and the sounds they make. It took

me a few years and a lot of trial and error in figuring out what shapes made what sounds and

where consonants and vowels should be placed in a character.

After studying like this for about five years, I was able to acquire a self-help book that

allowed me to teach myself basic words, grammar points, and phrases as well as a concrete, step-

by-step instructions on how to correctly write letters and where the placement of letters are in

characters. I took extensive notes on this book and practiced writing words over and over until I

was able to acquire Rosetta Stone software. It was a graduation gift, so I had exactly three

months to get a stronger verbal foundation in Korean before I took a language placement test that

would determine what level of Korean I would be able to enter in my first year at KU. I rushed

through the program, so I forgot a lot of the vocabulary, but I got enough practice with native

speakers, a part of the Rosetta Stone program, that I was able to test into the third-year level.

After that, I learned the language by attending class, learning grammar points through

PowerPoint presentations, speaking activities with my classmates, and identifying them in

Korean media like songs, drama clips, and comedy skits. One opportunity that I had at KU that

helped me learn Korean that was different from my learning of Spanish is that I was able to

converse with multiple native speakers and receive feedback on my skills instead of just getting a
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general idea across and wishing them a good day, like I would do at work with the Spanish-

speaking customers. This reinforced practice of language helped me to continue to want to learn

it even more than Spanish, despite the fact that I aspired to be trilingual.

In comparing my learning of Korean with my learning of Spanish and English, there are

many common themes such as motivation to improve my pronunciations and vocabulary

knowledge, but the things that sparked my motivation to learn each language were all separate

initial reasons. I naturally acquired a fuller understanding of English grammar as I acquired my

first language because I was surrounded by the language and was encouraged to speak in full

sentences by the time I was physically able and sought out words that I wanted to know. On the

other hand, I had a general knowledge of some key words and phrases, but I worked very hard to

have a coherent understanding of the grammar and conjugation rules. My Korean, in contrast

with English and Spanish, had a miniscule and very incomplete foundation in grammar and

spelling, but I had a much higher interest in learning the language because it related to what I

enjoyed and I had a certain amount of pride in myself that I was able to learn it mostly on my

own, using mostly my own methods.

Using my own experiences with learning multiple languages in different settings, I feel

that I would be able to relate to the students here at Kyunghwa who learn English by watching

American movies and dramas because that was how I learned Korean. I would also be able to

relate to the students who are learning it in a classroom setting with limited outside practice of

the language since that was how I learned Spanish. Following what mistakes I made while

learning the languages, I would advise the students to not be afraid to use what English they

know to get the point across, and once that is accomplished we student teachers would be able to

understand and potentially help them improve in structuring the sentence. I know how terrifying
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it can be to speak a foreign language to a native speaker, which is why it took me so long to

become proficient in either Spanish or Korean, but once that hurdle is jumped, language-learning

becomes more thorough, more understandable, and even more enjoyable for the students as well

as the teachers who get to watch the students grow and improve.