Happy New Year!

So it’s finally 2013… 2012 was a hard year for me, but as always I’m hoping this year will be better. 🙂 One thing is for certain, I will be keeping up my Korean studying – even if I have to start learning Japanese this year (I have to know two Asian languages to get a doctorate degree D:).

I don’t like to make resolutions, but one thing I would like to change this year is my methods of studying. I know I will keep studying, because I love it so much and because I have the goal of passing level 5 TOPIK. But I am really bad at sticking to a certain method of studying! I keep jumping back and forth between different things – like I’ll watch 3.5 episodes of a drama and take notes, and then flip through a grammar book, and then do some old TOPIK tests… but I never actually complete a drama or get through a whole book or finish all the old TOPIK tests… so I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished anything! Also I keep finding new books I want when I haven’t even gotten through the books I have!! I get really frustrated with myself haha.

So my plan for the new year is to try my best to continuously work on one method of studying until it’s completed so that I can feel like my time isn’t being wasted. I’ve spent a lot of time studying over the break but because I can’t say that I finished any project, it’s hard to feel satisfied.

Speaking of my inconsistent studying methods, I’ve updated pineapplegame again. For some reason, I find the ~니까 grammar structure different to wrap my head around because there’s so many different ways to use it – and yet they’re all very specific. 헐. Anyway. Happy studying everyone!

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Studying Korean through Dramas without Subs

I’ll admit it, I am not a big drama fan. Although my first exposure to Korean culture was through watching Full House back in 2006, I think I’ve only gotten through 3 or 4 dramas from start to finish since then. I really prefer watching films or variety shows (I am addicted to Running Man!!). But since megaupload was taken down, it’s gotten harder to find films for download. And watching variety shows to learn Korean isn’t ideal because they always caption what people are saying… this makes it way easier to understand but also makes me reliant on that crutch, which isn’t helpful since in real life Koreans don’t have subtitles underneath them when they talk. Unfortunately. 😦

So since I wanted to improve my aural comprehension, I decided to attempt to start watching a drama again. I knew I wouldn’t be able to understand everything, so I planned to watch the drama without any subs once and then consult a Korean transcript or Korean subs to look up the parts I didn’t catch.

But finding those transcripts or subtitles was difficult… I tweeted TTMIK and asked if they knew where students could find Korean subtitles for Korean dramas, and they kindly RTed my tweet. I got A LOT of replies from fellow learners. Unfortunately they had all misread my tweet and assumed that I was looking for English subtitles and therefore linked me to streaming sites. I appreciated their help, but I definitely needed Korean subs.

After some more searching, I had only come up with dead links that had promised scripts or hangeul subtitles. Once again, the death of megaupload was foiling my plans. But then I stumbled upon SBS’s Video on Demand site. They have hundreds of current and former SBS dramas, and while you can’t watch them without registering and paying for membership, you can access their transcripts for free!

To find the transcript for the drama you’re watching:

1. Go to the SBS VoD site.

2. If the drama is recent, it will show up under the 최신순 category on the home page. If it’s not, click on the 가나다순 tab to find it through an alphabetical search.

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3. Once you click on the drama, it will take you to the video player page. Note that you won’t be able to watch the video unless you pay for membership. But this is where you get the transcript! In the box on the right side of the player, there are two tabs at the top. The second is 자막 보기. Click that, and you’ll get all the dialogue from the drama! Great, right?

4. To watch the drama, I’d suggest downloading a raw file or using a site like Viki.com. Viki is awesome because not only does it allow users to create and share subtitles in various languages, it also gives you the option of having no subs at all! Most videos don’t have Korean subtitles (or only have say 10% of it subbed in Korean), but you don’t need them now that you have the transcript, right? 🙂

Sadly, although MBC also has VoD services, you can’t get the transcripts for free. I’m not even sure if there are subtitles or transcripts included in the purchase of each episode. KBS has a VoD site as well, but it requires a Korean SIN number or a foreign passport number to sign up, so unless you’re willing to enter your passport to check it out, it’s not an option either. But SBS has plenty of great dramas!!

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I’ve been watching 내 여자친구는 구미호 (My Girlfriend is a Gumiho) this way for the past few days, and really enjoying it. If you’re just starting out with dramas, and are like me and don’t enjoy melodramatic or overly romantic storylines, I’d highly suggest dramas written by the Hong sisters. They’re always funny and don’t take the romance part too seriously!

I hope I can keep this up and actually make it through to the end of this drama! ^^

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Korean as a Foreign Language Grammar Dictionary

I finally updated my grammar tumblr again! Of course it’s been so long since I’ve done it that I posted it on my personal tumblr first by accident. Well done, me. Anyway, it’s on the ~ㄴ/는가 하면 grammar structure. Probably one of the most awkward structures to try to translate into English.

But in other grammar-related news, I finally got my hands on a copy of the Korean as a Foreign Language Grammar Dictionary (외국어로서의 한국어 문법 사전)!!

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I’m too broke to buy it myself at the moment but Ali somehow magically found out that there’s a copy at the Toronto Reference Library. I never would have thought of that… I’m so used to our public libraries having very few Korean materials. So I went to the library the next day and found it! And found SO MUCH MORE too. They have a ton of Korean textbooks and dictionaries there! Yay for reference libraries! I can’t wait to peruse them all. I wish I could take them out but they are only for in-library use. But I think if I find the dictionary really helpful I’ll get myself a copy eventually.

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So far I’ve found the grammar explanations to be very helpful and succinct. It would be nice if they included more comparison between similar grammar structures, but really this seems to be a great resource. I struggled a bit with the grammar terms in Korean but once I figure them all out I think studying for the TOPIK test will be a lot easier. The only thing that was annoying was the index, which I haven’t gotten a handle on yet. I’ll go back to the library soon to look up more structures! Oddly exciting…

By the way, I tried to surreptitiously take these photos in the library while a couple of Korean guys were sitting across from me at the table (I’d say 80% of the people at the library are Japanese or Korean international students) but my camera phone always makes that shutter noise when I take photos so… that was pretty embarrassing. I would be a terrible spy. 😦

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A Werewolf Boy (Film)

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Last night I went with some friends from the Korean-English language exchange group at my university to see “A Werewolf Boy” (늑대소년) at the Dundas Square cinema in Toronto. The place was PACKED full of Koreans on dates. It was a very sweet movie – nothing like what it looks like from its poster. This photo portrays the mood of the film a lot better than the poster:

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Definitely not a horror movie like it looks like in the poster. But I guess sexy, mussed-up bad-guy werewolf Joongki is a better draw than flannel-shirt preppy haired good-boy Joongki. In truth, there was barely any “werewolf” and a lot of “boy getting head pats from a pretty girl”… It was very cute, just don’t expect a satisfying plot line or any real meaningful message from the script. But there’s a lot of light hearted jokes and enough “plot twists” to keep it interesting. It’s good, entertaining eye candy. Apparently it is the latest melodrama film to break the box office records in Korea. Not surprising, considering the teary reaction of most of the audience last night. So I guess it’s tear-jerking eye candy… pretty much the formula for success in the Korean box office!

Anyway, I think the movie would be a good watch for most Korean learners because it’s entertaining and the language is fairly simple. There were English subtitles last night, but it would have been easy for any intermediate learner or above to grasp the film without them.

If it’s showing in a theatre near you, you should check it out!

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Do-It-Yourself Studying…

I’ve been going through this list of the 6000 Most Common Korean Words for the past few days. It’s really made me wonder how these words were determined to be the “most common” words in the Korean language… At first, the order of the words seems to make sense. Obviously 하다 and 있다 are going to be pretty high up there on the list of common Korean words. But it takes a couple thousand words to get to 어머, and to get to it you have to first go by words like brokerage (증권사) and a military company (부대). And “저고리” (the jacket part of 한복) is more common than “구두” (shoes)?!

Anyway, despite the nonsensical ordering of the words, this is a pretty helpful list. I’ve been adding the ones I’m not familiar with into my flash cards database, along with example sentences from Daum and Naver so I can better understand their usage. I would definitely not recommend that anyone just copy the English definitions that are provided on that website. The same goes for any list of words that you’ll find on the Internet, including other users’ lists on sites like Quizlet.  Although I appreciate all the work that was put into matching each word with an English definition for this list, and most of the time they are correct, there are a few reasons why I think it’s better to search for definitions yourself instead of using other people’s work:

1) Looking up words and writing/typing them out yourself will help you remember them because you’ve experienced the act of engaging with that word. One of my Anthropology profs once suggested that we study in different places and in different environments so that we would be able to jog our memory about the subjects we were studying by thinking about the environment. I find this is true for all subjects, including language learning. Oftentimes I won’t remember the meaning of a word right away, but I’ll remember where I was when I looked it up on Daum, or what music I was listening to, or who I was sitting near. Associations like that can jog your memory and you’re more likely to remember what it is you were studying at that time. If you’re just copying/pasting someone else’s list, you won’t have the personal experience with each word and you will be much less likely to remember it.

2) A lot of the time, a simplified definition can really be unhelpful or even misleading. This is why dictionaries can be so frustrating. You get a language-to-language translate of the word without any sense of how it’s used in context. This can really screw you up if you’re relying on a one-word definition from someone else’s flash cards list to understand the meaning of a word.

Imagine this situation. You copy/paste someone else’s vocab list into your own, and start using it in your study rotation. You see the word 저지하다 for the first time, and see the definition the other learner has included for it: “to arrest”. Soon after, you’re talking to your Korean friend about a bank robbery they saw on the news, and you ask “경찰은 그 도둑을 저지했니?” (Did the police ‘arrest’ the thief?). 뭐라고? Your Korean friend gives you a funny look. Turns out that this word doesn’t mean “to arrest [a criminal]” it means “to arrest” as in “to hinder”. Like Arrested Development. Since English has more than one definition for many words, you need to have a better handle of what the Korean word means and not just rely on a simple definition.

The opposite can also be true. Korean words often have more than one meaning. One of the definitions on that list is for 가구, and it says it means “family” in English. True (although its meaning is closer to “household”, but anyway…). But if you just studied that, you’d be pretty alarmed if your friend said to you: “오래된 가구를 버리고 새 가구를 사고 싶어”“I want to get rid of my old family and buy a new one”?? Actually, 가구 also means “furniture”. So it’s important that you know all the meanings of a word (or at least the most common ones) to avoid confusion.

3) It’s important that you not only study single words, but also sentences, or you won’t know how to use the words. I usually input single words into my study program and also include at least one example sentence as well. I include a different example sentence for each possible meaning of the world. For some verbs, this can mean a lot of example sentences! But it’s well worth it or you’ll get seriously confused if you don’t know that, for example, 타다 means more than just “to ride”. Also, the sentences help because you can choose sentences that are interesting to you or that will be most helpful in the environment you’ll be using Korean in, so you can tailor your studying to your own tastes.

4) Typos! Everyone makes them. It’s inevitable that at some point in a list of words like this, there are going to be typos. If you just copy/paste the words into your study program, you’ll never know. You’ll end up memorizing an incorrect spelling (and pronunciation) of the word. But if you study it on your own, you’ll be putting the word through an online dictionary and will discover that it was misspelled. Crisis averted!

To sum up, while I think using lists such as this one of the “6000 Most Common Korean Words” can be helpful by providing learners with a list of words that they might not have come across before, it won’t be helpful to the learner unless they study it individually and learn each word on their own. If you try to skip the hard work by just copy/pasting someone else’s definitions, you’re much less likely to remember the meaning of the word, and if you do, you could be misunderstanding the meaning entirely!

So keep at it! Even though it seems daunting, if you try to take short cuts in language learning you’re just going to end up having to learn it properly at some point. I have to keep reminding myself this too… 아자!

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University of Indiana Korean Materials

While I was doing some research on advanced grammar structures (ie. doing a lot of mad, random googling) I came across the Internet course work site for a four year Korean course run by the University of Indiana. I admit, I’m pretty surprised that a state university in the US Midwest has it in their budget to fund a four-year Korean language program…

Anyway! So this course. It’s based on the Integrated Korean textbooks. Since I’m not in Korea and I’m not able to pay $60+ to order a textbook online and have it shipped to Canada, I don’t usually buy textbooks. The site itself is meant to be a supplement to the materials from the text. Most of the levels just have supplementary stuff that isn’t very useful separate from the textbooks, but the 2nd year and 4th year courses have some great grammar explanations. To be honest, I learned the majority of these structures awhile ago but the instructor’s additional explanations are exceptional and taught me a few things I didn’t know before!

Starting in Level 102 and going until the end of 202, there’s some explanation pages for each grammar structure with lots of example sentences that should help Korean learners. Level 3 is okay – they have some good texts with related questions, but they don’t get into the grammar structures much. Level 4 is a little better, but not as organized as level 2. Still, level 4 has explanations of some grammar that you wouldn’t see on most grammar sites!

University of Indiana Korean Language Materials
Level 101.
Level 102.
Level 201.
Level 202.
Level 301.
Level 302.
Level 401.
Level 402.

Overall, obviously these site are not going to teach you Korean because they’re meant to be used along with the Integrated Korean textbooks. But for those who are studying on our own without access to the text, they’re a good resource to help understand some important grammar structures!

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Blogging n00b

It’s been years since I’ve had a blog (well, I only ever had a livejournal… do livejournals count?) so I am a little rusty!! But I’ve been studying Korean pretty hardcore lately and I think it’d be cool to have a record of what I’m doing, not only for myself but maybe also for other people who are learning too. And I’d love to meet more people who are learning Korean!

I studied Korean for 4 years in university and did well marks-wise but never really felt confident speaking Korean, and basically graduated with a mostly academic and written-style knowledge of the language. I’m going to be starting my Master’s degree in Korean studies next fall, so I need to step up my vocab level so that I can read without having to constantly consult a dictionary. Right now my goal is to pass the 5th level TOPIK (Test of Proficiency in Korean) next spring!

Honestly, I never studied Korean as hard as I’m studying it now on my own. It seems like I was more suited for self-studying all along. I love studying Korean on my own because I can study whatever I’m interested in – also it’s a challenge, and I love a challenge!

I made a tumblr account (pineapplegame) to record the grammar structures I’ve been studying for the advanced TOPIK exam. I haven’t been updating it in the past couple weeks because right now I’m focusing on studying other things, but I will get back to it soon.

So yeah!  We shall see if I can keep this blog going!! 🙂