Using Italki for Language Learning

Ever since I did the TOPIK test back in April, I’ve been feeling like I’m in a bit of a Korean studying slump. The goal of getting an advanced level on the TOPIK test was such a great motivator. I was studying flash cards every morning and reading news articles to find new vocab, and testing myself occasionally by doing old TOPIK tests. Having that goal was really helpful for me.

Now I feel like I’m floating around from one thing to another while I’m studying Korean, without a concrete goal. Some days I read newspapers, some days I listen to radio shows, some days I just watch variety shows. Not having that goal makes me feel like I never finish anything when I’m studying so it’s not nearly as satisfying. I’m really frustrated with myself!

So to get some of my studying mojo back, I’ve decided that my goal for right now is to focus on my speaking skills. Of course I still do language exchanges with friends regularly. The problem is that my language exchange partners rarely correct my Korean, which is what I really need. I worry that I will keep making the same mistakes and they will become habitual.

So I’ve signed up on a site called Italki to get some structured language practice and find someone to correct my speaking. It’s a site that links people who are learning languages with people who are professional teachers or want to do informal tutoring. It’s got a great system for scheduling sessions with teachers, and you buy credits to pay your teachers with so that you don’t have to worry about the hassle of transferring money internationally (such as added fees and exchange rates). The sessions themselves are conducted via skype.

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TOPIK 30 Results!

The TOPIK results were released today at 3pm Korean time, which meant 3am here (in Toronto)! I didn’t stay up for it last night, but I’ve been having anxious dreams about it for a few hours now this morning so I decided to get up super early and check my results. I can’t believe it!


6급… 합격?!?1 Oh my god! I was really just shooting for 5급 so this is amazing. I felt like I’d done well on the 어휘/문법 section, but I found the 듣기 part really difficult because I was so nervous I wasn’t able to pay attention well. I’m so relieved and thrilled!

Of course, this makes me want to study more now, and not less. I mean, according to the TOPIK website I’m now supposed to be “absolutely fluent in the Korean language for professional research or work”, which is hilariously untrue. My speaking skills are still very lacking and I definitely cannot understand everything I hear. And there is still plenty of vocab I don’t know. But this has given me a bit of a confidence boost and now I’m excited to hit the books some more!

Now I’m heading back to bed for some more sleep – this time without the nervous dreaming about failing grades!


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Time for hardcore studying!!

It’s been so long since I’ve posted on here… mainly because once midterms hit I was overwhelmed with other work and haven’t been able to study Korean as much as I’d like. Now that I’ve finally finished my undergrad (woo!!), it’s definitely time to get back to hardcore Korean studying. TOPIK is only 17 days away! Ahhh!!

To be honest I’m not really sure where to begin… my flashcards app has definitely been piling up my “due” cards, so I need to get on that. After that, I need to focus on my writing, because I think the writing portion could be my downfall. The problem is coming up with topics that are advanced enough to be good practice, while also not being ridiculous… like come on, TOPIK #23, “talk about desirable human relationships”? Whaaat?

So my plan for today is to get through at least half of my 1350 due cards (ahhh), and write up an answer to a previous test question that I haven’t tackled yet, and post it to lang-8. After that I need to do some more of the grammar exercises in my advanced grammar book.

Okay, here goes!!

Toronto Korean/English Language Exchanges!

One of the best parts of studying Korean lately has been doing language exchanges. Like I mentioned in my last entry, I went to my first Say Kimchi meeting a few weeks ago. It’s a Korean/English language exchange in Toronto that’s apparently been going on for years and I never knew about it (fail!!).

It’s organized really well, with the intention of having an equal number of Koreans and English speakers so that we can all partner up. We speak in Korean for 45 minutes and then switch to English for another 45 minutes. The organizers even bring textbook printouts for the Korean learners and fun lessons about idioms and slang for the English learners, so that the partners have things to go over and talk about. Then we go to a restaurant after to talk more! So fun!

I’ve met some really interesting people, including some Koreans who are actually planning to stay in Canada and not go back to Korea after a year, which is great. I’ve made great Korean friends before in Toronto but since they were all here as international students on exchanges, they had to go back to Korea for a year and we’ve lost touch. Even in this age of 카톡 and facebook it can be hard to stay connected when you can’t see a person in real life once and awhile. So I’m really glad to find some people who are planning to stick around here!

I’ve also been running the language exchange at my university, which meets once a week. We’ve had an uneven ratio of English speakers to Korean speakers lately, with most of the students attending being university students who are studying Korean, so I went on a promotion spree and sent flyers to ESL schools and English language programs at local colleges, and it totally worked! Last week we had equal numbers of Koreans and English speakers! Woohoo!!

I’m pretty nervous though because our Korean professor messaged me the other day to tell me that the local Toronto Korean TV channel wants to come this Friday to our exchange to do a TV spot on it… and they want to interview me… in Korean. Ahhhh!! Super nervous… I told my Korean-Canadian friend about it and said that I wasn’t too worried because since it’s a local cable channel there’ll probably be like 3 people watching, and she told me “Oh, no, I know a lot of people who watch that show!”. Hmm, great…

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Taking a Breather

I’ve been feeling a little burnt out from studying today. Although it’s only the first week back of the semester, I spent almost every day of the winter break studying Korean, and I think it’s just been too much. I spent almost 5 hours today going through flash cards, to the point that when I stopped my eyes were all out of focus, haha. I’m going to take the rest of the day off and try not to feel bad about it. There’s still 3 months and a bit until TOPIK!! I need to chill out.

I’m excited though because last night I found a Korean-English language exchange group in Toronto!! It’s called Say Kimchi and they meet every Sunday evening. It looks like a lot of fun, so I’m really looking forward to it. 🙂

That’s all for now!! Time to put a pause button on studying like crazy until at least tomorrow morning! ^^

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Still learning something new every day!

I got a book called “Using Korean: A Guide to Contemporary Usage” as a Christmas present this year, and I’ve finally sat down to properly begin studying it. I will do a proper review once I’m done with it, but for now I’m really happy with it!


It’s already taught me quite a few things that I hadn’t learnt in class or on my own. For example, it breaks down how and when to use honorifics and even in what cases you would use a single “시” and in what ones you’d use two. For example, I’d always wondered where to put the 시 in a sentence with a grammar structure like ~ㄹ 수 있다/없다. 하실 수 있어요? or 할 수 있으세요? According to the book, the answer is to put it in both places! So: “하실 수 있으세요?” is correct. Also, it’s taught me that honorific terms like 댁 or 잡수시다, as well as “~시”, are not used in ~는다 endings such as in newspapers or magazines. I’d honestly never noticed that. -_- I don’t know if I’m just not very observant… But I’ve never been told off by a professor for using honorifics in that style, so now I’m kind of confused. I’ll have to look into that before I take the TOPIK in April!

Another interesting thing the book taught me was how to indirectly ask a person’s age. Although Koreans always ask other people about their ages (which we can understand considering the language and culture), it can still be insulting to ask someone’s age directly, especially if they are older. So, we know that the honorific term for 나이 (age) is 연세 and the honorific term for 생일 is 생신. But this book says that asking someone “연세가 어떻게 되세요?” is considered too direct and can be offensive (because basically it implies that you’re really old). But you can’t just say 나이가 어떻게 되세요? because that’s also offensive! Ahhhh!

So the book suggests the following indirect ways to ask someone’s age:

몇 년생이에요? = What year were you born?

몇 학번이세요? = What year did you enter college?

생년월일이 어떻게 되세요? = What is your year, month, and date of birth? (this is just used mostly in forms!).

So yeah, I’ve had a lot of “Omg really?!” moments while reading this! I’m excited to read the rest.

In other news, I’ve been avoiding trying to do any TOPIK practice tests but I finally did the vocab/grammar and writing parts of the 28th advanced one this afternoon and did pretty well! Enough to pass level 5. So tomorrow I will try doing the listening and reading parts for that one and see how it goes!No more studying for today, I’m super tired… next week school starts again!

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TOPIK Videos

So the day after I resolve to stick to consistent study methods, I end up stumbling upon the TOPIK Korea channel on Youtube and spending all day watching these vids -_-. Oi.

Oh well, it was really educational! The teachers break down the four sections of two of the most recent TOPIK tests and go through each question one by one, explaining all of the possible answer choices. Awesome, right? I learnt a lot of points that either I’ve never learnt before, or had completely forgotten. The unfortunate thing is that they only have the complete series uploaded for the Intermediate level. There is one Advanced video but it’s only one question from each section 😦 It’s like an MV teaser… that is never followed by the full version. ._.

Anyway, the teachers are really great. The instruction is done entirely in Korean, which is ideal, and they speak very clearly so it’s easy to understand. The teacher who does the Grammar section is particularly helpful, and she really reminds me of Kim Sun Ah. The way she drags her vowels out at the end of some sentences sounds just like her, haha.

I’ve embedded the videos for test 25 under the cut, but they’ve got videos for test 26 on their Youtube channel too! Happy studying!

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