Setting up daily goals and keeping them


The last few months there have been several study goals that I haven’t worked on half as much as I wanted. One of them is with regards to Hanja. I planned to study ten minutes a day at least on them. Another is Anki. Anki I have really no excuse because I’ve found even if I do one or two minutes a day it really helps me to be much more fluent and have a lot more vocabulary and grammar a the tip of my tongue.

But life happens and sometimes it’s hard to remember and then a whole week goes by and I’m like, oh dear, I haven’t done any Anki yet!

I used chains before to setup goals and keep track of doing them every day but it gets unwieldy when the chains get too long and there is no way to export the data.

Then yesterday over at EveryDay Language Learner Aaron wrote about a new site I had never heard of before — Ask Me Every.  It’s very easy to use. You put in a few questions (like, how much time did you spend on Korean Anki today?) and give it a time to e-mail you daily. When it e-mails you you email back with the time spent and it inputs it into its charts and graphs so you can login to the site and see all your data nicely and visually represented.

I’m going to try it and see how well it works. Perhaps if I log every day whether I did a bit of anki or not I’ll have more incentive to keep on doing it every day.

Bang Bang Korea — cool new site


A few weeks ago I came across this quite cool website — Korean Bang. It takes popular news stories and comments from netizens and translates them into English. What’s really cool is that by hovering over the translated paragraph you can see the original Korean paragraph. As I’ve been doing a bit of translation it is fun to take a look at how the translators translated a word or phrase.

Today they had a heart-wrenching story about a boy who tried to commit suicide and was saved by a quick-talking and quick-thinking policeman.

In addition to interesting stories they have a Korean glossary of internet slang.

Unfortunately the articles aren’t recorded (so there is no audio). Also when I tried to save articles with the scrapbook plugin in firefox (like I can do for webtoons), it the bubble original text feature doesn’t work. I’m not sure if there is a way around it or i’ll just have to save the translation and the korean version separately. (As you can see, I’m really really big into saving anything I am studying or reading.)

On somewhat of a sidenote, just perusing some of the articles and comments I was rather surprised to see the level (or lack of?) civility among netizens. This is a part of the Korean internet world that I’m definitely not that familiar with yet.

Diary writing


Diary writing

I’ve written 42 entries this month so far on Lang-8. As can be seen though, I didn’t write every day.I don’t really beat myself up if I don’t write on a given day, although I always like it when I do fill up day after day with solid blue.

Also, I don’t really consider writing diary entries as study most of the time (unless I’m trying to do some difficult dictation or something like that (and even then I’m doing the dictation because it appeals to me in one way or another)). Rather, writing in Korean has become a fun way to relax, wind-down and reflect on what happened that day or whatever I am thinking about.

*I wanted to try experimenting by writing this in Korean.

Diary writing

여태까지 이달에 43개의 일기를 랭팔에서 썼다. 그런데 위그림을 보면 알 수 있듯 매일 매일 쓰지는 못했다. 난 어떤 날에 일기를 못쓴다고 해서 자신을 구박하지는 않지만 며칠 연이어서 쭉 파란 색으로 나오면 당연히 기분이 좋다.

또한, 내가 어려운 받아 쓰기 할때를 제외하고는 대부분의 경우 일기를 쓰는 걸 공부로 여기지는 않는다. (그리고 어려운 받아쓰기할 때도 맘에 드는 동영상만을 받아 쓰기 한다.) 오히려 한국어로 일기를 쓰는 건 나한테 긴장을 푸는 즐거운 방법이고 일기를 쓰는 걸 통해서 숨 좀 돌리거나 그날의 했던 걸 아니면 그때의 어떤 생각에 대해서 되돌아보는 좋은 기회다.

**이거 원래 영어로 썼는데 우리말로 어떻게 자연스럽게 비슷한 의미를 전달할 수 있을지 궁금해서 번역해봤다 ㅋ

A code or a rebirth


I was talking to a friend the other day about her Japanese study (she has reached a very high level of Japanese and has worked in Japan). I asked her specifically about the claim that Japanese never accept foreigners as real people or as insiders. Her reply was very interesting. She told me, “If you act exactly the way you’re supposed to act in the situation you are in down to a ‘T’ they will treat you as an insider.”

Although I don’t know Japanese or Japanese culture, I wonder if the same thing is true (in part at least) for Korean.

It seems there are two ways one can approach Korean study. One can approach it either in a cognitive approach — where the language is a code to try and convey your original identity, values, and opinions. In that way you’ll always be an American speaking Korean, or a German or Australian speaking Korean. And then you complain about being treated as an outsider.

The other way is to to think of it as a rebirth into a new world. You will be a new you. You have to create the world completely from scratch again probably eventually something along the lines of the growing participator approach.


My kimchi

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A few weeks ago I emailed one of the guys in charge of the Koreans in Turkey website asking where in Istanbul it was possible to get 배추 (Chinese or Nappa cabbage). He emailed back right away saying that they sold it all over the place. I hadn’t seen Chinese cabbage in the several months I was here but after scouring around and asking at different shops I finally found 10 heads in a corner and bought them all.

I had made kimchi once before with 양배추 (the western cabbage) in Israel and it tasted good and fermented alright but it didn’t have quite the same taste. So I was pretty pleased they have the right kind of cabbage here.

Over 50 cloves of garlic and more than three big mugs of pepper later I had enough of the kimchi sauce left over to make make more than two kilos of 오이 소박이 (stuffed cucumber kimchi).

The cucumber kimchi is ready to eat after a few hours and the taste of the cabbage kimchi (after sitting in my room for two days and outside for two weeks) is just awesome. Now I want to try a bunch of other different kimchi and banchan.

Cracking the Korean speaking nut: a languacultural critique


I’ve been continuing to think about why we Korean language learners (and definitely some much more than others) face trouble with speaking Korean to other Koreans.

Reader choronghi shared a link to a post at Korean Champ with a couple different tips he’s used for overcoming this language speaking barrier. David Wills over at Triumph of the Wills offers complaints along a simliar vein but no real solution.  Prof. Arguelles wrote in the HTAL forum about his Korean study:

Of course having access to many native speakers helped, but I all too often felt as if I had to force people to speak their language with me, which was unpleasant.

Of course is not a Korean-only problem. Benny over at Fluent in Three Months has written about his weapons in this  battle of wits in the languages he studies (which doesn’t include Korean as of yet).

Looking over different posts by language learners on this subject, one of the most startling complaints was from Steven over at Nojoek Hill: My view from the top. Seventeen years after starting to learn Korean he writes.

It’s Downright Impossible More

When language is like breathing

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The Everyday Language Learner posted today an interesting quote by Greg Thomson:

“If we ignore a whole bunch of problems, the hardest thing about language learning is getting started. The second hardest thing about learning another language is not quitting.”

Perhaps this is true in the beginning stages. But if living the language has become as integrated in your life as breathing . . . it’s not really that hard not to quit.

Someone remarked to me about this just yesterday — wow, you study Korean so hard. My response was, actually not really. Although the last couple months or so I have been trying to study Korean a bit here and there. . . mostly I just use Korean so much in my daily life it would be rather hard to go for any length of time without using it.

Shanna at HangukDrama wrote about this as well today.

떠남 (이용규) – Leaving (Lee Yeong Gyu)-


486182_10100838653737985_807283822_nOne of my goals for this year is to do a lot more Korean reading. I’ve started several books in the last few weeks. One of the books Is this new book by Yeong Gyu Lee. It’s called “Leaving” (떠남) and is about his spiritual experience living in and leaving Mongolia. He writes about trusting God through different sometimes somewhat incomprehensible situations that come up in his and others’ life.

It’s pretty easy reading with relatively short sentences and the vocabulary is not that hard either. I had started his other book 내려놓음 when I first left Korea but never finished it. After I have finished this book I want to read that as well as his sequel — 더 내려놓음. 

Speaking Korean I don’t know


I had a rather fun experience speaking Korean two days ago. I was mainly listening for a couple hours to a friend. I was tired and headachy so I’m not sure how good a listener I was but afterwards when I started to talk suddenly all the words and what I wanted to say flowed out very naturally and fluently. And the strange thing was I found myself using loads words and phrases that I really didn’t know on a cognitive level where I could give a dictionary definition or even know the English translation. But I knew them on an emotional level and knew they conveyed my meaning.

I kind of felt like I was watching my mouth speak without  knowing exactly what I said or why suddenly my mouth was using all these  words or sentence patterns. Then again at night in my dream I kept hearing myself continue to talk and talk in Korean.

I have had this experience before, but it felt rather more extreme than usual this time. I wonder though if this is eer how we often speak our first language — using words and phrases that we havent consciously learned or remembered and for which we often (when we think of it) can’t cognitively define. Nevertheless we eerily know what thoughts and emotion they convey.

Cracking the Korean speaking nut: Blackfoot and Korean

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One of the most encouraging articles I read when I started to study Korean was an article by Greg Thomson with the cheery title — What? Me Worry about Language Learning?

He writes about some of the troubles learning a different language and particularly the challenge of learning a host language from a bilingual community of speakers. (Perhaps some Korean speakers, like those being well educated and living overseas, fall into this bilingual category of being quite fluent in English as well as Korean.)

In Thomson’s case, he was studying Blackfoot and virtually everyone in the Blackfoot speaking community were fluent in both English. After months of memorising dialogues and stockpiling information, he still couldn’t carry on a conversation with anybody. Then Thomson writes:

 Frank [his colleague] had a simple challenge for me. He told me to make a commitment that I would never again speak to a Blackfoot person in English. I told him that I felt that would be impossible. He told me that it would be difficult at first, but fairly soon it would start getting easier.

When I returned to Alberta, I took the plunge. Frank was right. The first few weeks were extraordinarily difficult, but then it started getting easier, and the Blackfoot started to flow more and more. For the next several years I spoke only Blackfoot to Blackfoot people. I was always able to get my point across to them, and they to me, so I felt justified in calling myself a speaker of the language. . . . . .

As I persisted in refusing to speak English, most people would eventually begin speaking to me in Blackfoot. The first person was my main language helper. I spoke Blackfoot to him for two or three hours per day for about a week before he began speaking Blackfoot to me. In later years it was always fascinating to watch a new relationship and see how long it took for people to begin speaking to me in Blackfoot. For some it would be an hour. For others several hours. Occasionally someone would start speaking Blackfoot to me right off. . . . .

. . . [This] gave me a large amount of practice speaking. And it gave me exposure to Blackfoot that I could understand, as people spoke back to me.

Thinking about it that way, in the Korean learning journey we are so much better off. There are loads of monolingual Korean speakers. And I hope none of us had a language helper that took a week to start speaking with us in Korean (if that’s the case, find a new helper!)

Similar posts:

Cracking the Korean Speaking Nut: What to do when someone continues to speak to you in English?
Cracking the Korean Speaking Nut: A languacultural critique
Thoughts on Speaking Korean

Cracking the Korean speaking nut — what to do when someone continues speaking to you in English?


Thinking about Korean speakers who don’t want to speak in Korean to language learners, I was reminded of a post Samier wrote at Gamcho a while back. Samier wrote in part:

Every time I meet a new Korean person, we end up chatting and continue to stay in touch. But even so, no matter what language I end up speaking, they never fail to reply in English unless they are unsure of the English word/phrase. It’s not because my Korean speaking skills are horrible… in fact every Korean person I’ve met has been taken aback from the way I talk. They even respond back withe ease… but in English. Being so, I’m usually forced to speak English with them. And the most annoying part is that they’ll speak Korean with each other… in front of me… :P

In the comments section, Shanna from HangukDrama commented:

 I’m not too sure how it’s like in America, but the Koreans that have been in Singapore for a long time (more than 6 months) usually don’t speak in Korean to me. I have Korean friends who are attending the same university as me. We dont speak in Korean at all even though they know that im pretty ok in it. It’s just somehow awkward. But they do speak in Korean among themselves. O.o

Is this partly a demographic problem? Or a ‘who is more insistant problem’? I’m not sure. Or is it a bilingualism problem? I’m not sure but I think even in these kinds of situations it’s possible to switch the language into Korean. It just takes a bit more work. I wrote Samier in the comments:

Interesting. This is actually extremely common frustration for Korean learners. I would recommend just keeping to speak only Korean even if they speak to you in English. I had one friend who six months after this lop-sided conversation switched to Korean.
(The only time when it might be impossible for you to speak Korean is if they are a lot older than you and are pretty adamant in speaking English — in that case to be ‘polite’ you might have to not speak Korean. I’ve only once been in that kind of situation though and even in that situation I tried to speak Korean as much as I could).
If they never here any English come out of your mouth it will More

Thoughts on speaking Korean


The last few weeks I’ve been thinking about what it takes to speak Korean. Whether it’s in person, or on language forums or on blogs it seems it’s a very common complaint among Korean language learners. It is definitely one of the challenges of learning Korean, particularly in the early stages.

Although it’s always a struggle to speak the language you are learning, this challenge seems somewhat acute in Korean versus other languages like Turkish or Chinese where native speakers are rather eager to speak with you in their language. Perhaps one of the reasons for this is the general ambition among Koreans to learn English, but it’s also in large part because Korea is a very closed culture compared to other cultures. Knowledge and correct use of Korean is one of the primary keys to this castle and woe to him (or her) who tries to wrench those keys out of one of the gatekeepers!

It definitely gets easier the more fluent and comfortable you are in the language. Even so though, sometimes I still feel guilty for insisting on speaking Korean.

I was quite struck by something Greg Thomson wrote on this problem in connection with his growing participator approach. He writes:

But they feel insulted if I don’t use English!

Now one thing I don’t want to do in this guide is to foster guilt feelings unless they are constructive ones. For many years I’ve heard people talk defensively about the amount of English they use with host people, saying that the host people want it that way. “I mainly relate to educated people, and they feel put down if I don’t speak to them in English,” or “English is the language of business all over the world, and business people want you to use English with them.” I’ve challenged these claims in my own practices, whenever I encountered them in a situation where I was a growing participator. I’ve held many a conversation in which the other person persisted for a long time using English with me, and I More