How I Study Korean: Part 2
This is an update from a post that I did a long time ago titled How I Study Korean. That post covered my entire journey from when I first started up until August of 2017.
Since then a lot has changed in the way that I study, but some of the tried and true methods remain the same.
So I thought I’d do a little update for anyone who’s curious or is also studying Korean!
The first thing that I’ve added to my studying is the TOPIK exam. (Test of proficiency in Korean)
I study for TOPIK for no other reason than it motivates me to learn vocabulary and forces me to memorize grammar structures. I don’t need it for my job, although the benefits of knowing a little Korean a work are huge, and there’s really nothing to be gained by my doing well (or not.)
Because I don’t take any Korean classes or have a teacher, this is a really good way to keep myself accountable to do a little bit everyday and also force myself to do the thing which I hate most in learning a language, memorizing vocabulary.
When I studied for TOPIK 1 I used the Hot Topik practice exam book. Basically I just took each exam and circled all the vocabulary I didn’t know along the way. After finishing the practice test I’d write them all down and try to memorize the words I didn’t know.
My grammar level was a lot higher than my vocab knowledge at that point so memorizing words was the main thing I needed to focus on.
Basically TOPIK 1 is pretty easy if you’ve studied for any amount of time.
TOPIK 2 on the other hand, has been a challenge so far. Because I think I’m at about a level 3 on their scale that means that I have to work through passages and listening sections that are also testing the fluent level 6 people.
I bought a writing and reading book to practice with but right off the bat I think it is a little too hard. And after whining about how hard it is to my Korean friend, a literal angel in my Korean life, she gave me this book as a present.
Not only is it pretty, 역시 Korea, but the way it presents the vocabulary is really easy to follow. Each “Day” is broken up by topic and presented first as a “mind map” so that you can see which words are more closely related to each other.
Then it goes through each word and gives example sentences in Korean which is hugely important for understanding the real meaning of the word and how it’s used in context.
Usually I read through all of that and circle any other words in the sentences I might not know. Then at the end of the lesson there are some practice problems where you have to choose the correct word to fit into the sentence.
For grammar I still use my trusted How To Study Korean.com which continues to be the perfect amount of explanation, especially as things get a little more complicated. I’m somewhere around lesson 90 now.
That’s about all I do these days for actual studying.
But the most important thing that has changed in my Korean language learning life is the addition of way more opportunities to actually speak Korean.
It is to my very first language exchange partner and now real friend, that I owe almost the entirety of my ability to speak. She is so good about speaking slowly enough that I can understand but not in a patronizing way. And whenever I don’t know a word she can explain it, still in Korean, but in a different way.
And not only has our relationship been beneficial for my speaking, but to have a friend in this country that I am constantly trying to understand has been really special. I’m very thankful for her. (효주야~~ 이것을 보면 안녕 ^^ 고마웡)
Another way that I’ve been able to practice more is with the other teachers at my school. Especially since this is my second year and we’re all a lot more comfortable with each other now, it’s much easier to make little small talk with them. And many of them now know that I can keep a conversation going so I feel like they’re not as afraid to initiate with me.
And, although I’ve only just started, I think that volleyball is going to be another huge way to practice speaking.
That’s about all I’m doing actively at the moment. And sometimes learning this language can be frustrating, but other times stuff like this happens.
As if in response to my “beginning of school, I’m not making a difference here” blues I bumped into one of my favorite students who graduated last year, on the bus yesterday.
He was one of my biggest fans despite really not speaking English much at all. But he always tried, to his credit he did always try to speak to me in English.
I was looking at my phone on the way home from volleyball practice when I head a very familiar voice that I’ve missed around school this year say, “쌤!!” and turned around to see him.
I asked him how he was doing but I could see in his eyes that he was exhausted and in a rather pleading voice he said, “쌤, 한국어로 말씀해주실수 있으세요?” (Teacher, can you please speak to me in Korean?)
And since I could see how tired he was, and I know how much he tried last year, and now that he’s technically not my student anymore, I switched to Korean. That was the first time I’d ever spoken to a student of mine properly in Korean.
I asked him how high school was but his face kind of said it all. It’s worth noting that it was about 10:15 and he was on the bus to go home. At 10:15 he was just now going home. From school. Korean high school is something else man.
We chatted for a bit then he went to sit down.
Anyway all that to say because I could understand him, because I could speak a little, I was able to try, at least try, to make things just a little easier for a person I care about.
Studying this language, even though I may never need it for my future, is still worth it, if nothing else for times like that. I’m here now, and if I can love people better in their own language then that will be enough to keep me going as long as I’m around.
If you study Korean please feel free to let me know what you use in the comments! I’m really curious about how other people study and practice speaking! Thanks as always for reading and I hope this finds you well!