Honors Enrichment Award: Muscle Memory and Learning Hangeul Letters

My second month RMU Honors funded Korean learning experience has been interesting, to say the least.

Korean is more difficult than I originally thought. Earlier this month I realized that learning Hangeul and learning Korean would mean sacrificing quality over quantity. In order for me to learn the language, I need to continue to concentrate my efforts on understanding the Korean alphabet. So I made the decision to alter my expectations; to move the goal posts if you will. My new goal is to gain proficiency in Korean as a writing system first, and as a spoken language second.

As an exercise to improve my learning I began to write out the Hangeul letters. While practicing, I found that my hand and my brain were acting as if they had minds of their own. It turns out that while my mind was concentrating on recreating a letter in Hangeul, my hand’s muscle memory would kick in and try to write in English instead. This mostly happened with the character “ㄹ” which would quickly turn into a malformed “Z” due to my traitorous muscle memory.

Despite some interesting hiccups, a month later, I believe I have met my goal. As of now, I can write in Hangeul at a basic level with decent accuracy. Despite the fact I never learned much Korean translation or conversation, my two months of Hangeul were rewarding all the same. I learned that muscle memory can be an amusing hindrance to writing. I appreciated the challenge of the language. Most importantly, I built a strong foundation for myself to continue my studies of Korea, its language, and culture. I thank RMU Honors, Professor Harold, Professor VanDieren, and Lindsey Sobolosky for generously allowing me to pursue Hangeul this summer.

Jade Lu-Zoller