Category Archives: Language Use

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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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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