Monthly Archives: August 2013

Language partner matching

I’ve been looking for this semester’s language partner program at my university’s website for a while, but today they finally posted a link on the front page of the internal network 😀

Needless to say, I signed up as fast as my fingers could type my name and scroll down to “want to learn: Korean”.

They aim to have all of us matched by September 20th, but I hope I will receive a mail from them before then.

Korean studies. Now also written in calendar

About 7.5 months to go until the April TOPIK.
If last year is representative, I should enter my pre-TOPIK crisis around late November-early December. But that also means I still have about 3 months left until my impending Korean crisis. Maybe some sort of preventive work is in order.

I have sat down and written my lectures into my calendar as well as scheduled uni-prep time. Once that was done, I started scheduling Korean studies too; in line with the thinking that by writing it into my calendar it will move up the priority ranking. Before being able to schedule something else in that time slot, I would have to move my Korean plan with corrector tape. That sort of emphasises the sacrifice…

Now all there is to do is actually following the schedule…

I’ve already had the first “sorry, I cannot on that day” experience. Not because of uni class, but because of having scheduled Korean the following day, and I wanted to be well rested. But it will pay off. Eventually…

App to read drama scripts in .hwp format

For a loooong time I have wanted to try to read some drama scripts to get a better feel for the difficulty and to see if the fact that it’s mostly spoken language would help on my understanding. Yes, I know they are considered “advanced”, but a small part of me hopes for the best.

Problem 1: actually finding drama scripts.

Problem 2: most are in a format I couldn’t read on my computer or iPad, and there is nothing like trying to download a program all in Korean that can make you realise how lacking your Korean skills are.

Solution: the HancomView app.
You can even get it for free in iTunes app store. You download it, and it works immediately. No signing up, no agreeing to various terms that you literally need to spell your way through.

You download the app, find a script that you would like to read/save, and then you just choose to open the script in HancomView rather than e.g. dropbox. And then it’s there! In proper 한글! rather than the gibberish “fjgm&3?!” that results if you try to open it in some random text viewer. It saves the entire script in one “document” and then each episode in a separate chapter in the overall document. Amazing!

One tiny oddity with the app: you might have to flip your iPad screen once to show the script in “standing” direction and then flip it back to be able to see the whole width of the page.

Then where to find drama scripts?
I have downloaded a few from

I will start by looking at something like 시티헌터 since that’s “regular language”. No need to get stuck in 사극 speech before I can easily manage something a little more contemporary.

When I have reached a higher level, I will buy proper printed scripts from twoChois drama section 🙂

Just had to share this discovery with you 🙂

Mini break with Korean

Aaah, I’ve taken a train two hours from my home town to relax for a few days with just my mum and my Korean books.

We’ve gone to a small, small town with only 3000 inhabitants (if you interpret ‘town’ very widely). Isn’t it pretty? 🙂

The city was founded in 1773 to be exact, so the sky line is a little different from the one we see in younger cities.

And like any small town, they have thing they are particularly known for. These people are renowned for their ceramic ovens and their honey cakes 😀

This is the oven in our hotel room

Honey cakes from the store on the corner

These cakes are really popular for Christmas. And yes, that is a small picture that is put on the chocolate. I have no idea why we do that, but it’s a tradition to put “glittery pictures” on “honey hearts” and then you remove them when you eat the cake.

Young girls often collect such pictures (or at least they did when I was young – back in the days before children went digital…), though not necessarily from cakes. You can get them without chocolate too 😉

So… Here we are… Just the two of us, eating honey cakes, taking pictures of the landscape and ceramic ovens, and reading our respective books.

Time management

This post is going to be a different one, but I have been thinking about this for a while. How to get more out of my time? I would like to think that I’m pretty efficient, but this summer I have not been studying Korean nearly as much as I wanted to before the holidays started. I guess that is the case for many of us?

Granted I have worked like a mad person during the holidays, which nobody forced me to, but that doesn’t answer the question of how to make sure I can catch up with Korean during the semester? How to make sure I get around to doing the things I really want to?

Adding to the sense of urgency: now there are rumours that the format of TOPIK will change and that the difficulty might increase too. Even more reason to manage my time even better so I can get around to studying Korean a lot more.

During my first MSc I watched a talk online about time management held by the late Carnegie Mellon professor Randy Pausch at University of Virginia and last night I came to think of it again.

I recommend you all to watch it. Yes, it’s 1hour and 16 min long, but trust me, time will fly.

When Professor Pausch held this talk, he knew that he was terminally ill, so most would think that “time management” has slightly different connotations in that context and that might make it a depressing video. However, rest assured that the circumstances do not make the talk melancholic, quite the opposite. It’s humorous and it’s very relatable since he talked about time management, efficiency and effectiveness in relation to colleagues, advisers and bosses.

When I watched it the first time, I did actually bother to change the way I did a few things.

Before letting you know which things I changed, I should probably start out by saying that at the time, I studied with some people who were big fans of “face time”. They would send mails at the strangest hours or update facebook in the dead of night about how they would soon fulfill the requirements to change official adress to the study halls due to spending so many nights there. I didn’t quite share their passion for 24/7 accessibility so sometimes I had to be creative to make sure that I got to control my own calendar so I could get stuff done for my teams as well as individual studies.

Cutting people off
It’s not as harsh as it sounds, but Randy Pausch was right. “I’m sorry, but I really have to go now since I only had 5 minutes” is an excellent phrase. And really, people don’t need to know why you only have 5 minutes.

Book time for when to work on your own
This was inspired partly by the video just mentioned and partly by a manager who came to give a talk to my class at grad school. Professor Pausch was right when pointing out that the hour between lectures is a prime candidate for procrastination, but by scheduling a fake class for yourself, you might actually manage to get to the library rather than donkeying around on campus, drinking coffee.

The manager who came to speak to my class added a dimension to that idea. He told us that after he got to a managerial level where he got to have a secretary, he started to pre-schedule some time in his own calendar so his secretary wouldn’t hijack it and put meetings just because “there was a free slot in the calender”. It took me a while to follow his lead, but it’s great!

As a student, you’re never really off since there are no official working hours, but at some point you need time that you can spend to just get stuff done; Whether to get actual work done (rather than just talking about it in meetings) or to go grocery shopping so you don’t wake up in the morning and belatedly realise that your fridge contains only butter, some kind of pickled vegetable, and a bottle of soya sauce (I have been there…).
At some point I was part of a team that wouldn’t take no for an answer unless they could literally see in my calendar that I was booked for something else. They would take out their planners, line them up at the table and compare. In the beginning I just followed along, but after a while I got so annoyed about not getting around to do the things I had to do due to other people to a large extent planning my time for me and in a way that benefited only them that I began to put fictive appointments in my calendar just to get some proper me-vs-work time.
It works best if you mix and match languages and pen colours so they are none the wiser if they actually do look at your calender to compare free time slots ^^

So what is missing? Obviously I didn’t study during the summer so something must be wrong. Is there something I stopped doing?

Important? Soon?
I think I may have lost track of how my to-do list fits into the important/not important/soon/not soon matrix lately. This was not intentional of course, it just slowly happened.
To me, Korean is “important” as well as “due soon” since it’s something I really want to do, and there is still so much to learn before the next exam. Also, we all need to have time to do something that “recharges our batteries”. This qualifies as important.
However, lately I have failed to schedule my Korean studies. My work hours are scheduled, so are my lectures, and I have always been fairly structured about my university studies. I did schedule my Korean studies during the last academic year – maybe that’s how I got so much done – but I haven’t for a long time, and as a consequence my Korean has suffered. Studying while commuting is not enough.

I’m not that bad at procrastinating, but I should probably just go to bed early rather than trawl the internet if I come home and I am too tired to do something useful.

Did some of you watch the video? What did you think? Have you used some of it already or is there something you will begin to do differently?

Learning log

Hi guys, what have you all been up to?

New app
Through TwoChois I came across an app called 끝말잇기 which is basically a game where the app will give you a word and you then have to use the last syllable of that word to make a new word. The app will then take the word you have written and find a word starting with the last syllable.
For instance 의사 – 사무실 – 실수 – 수결 and so on.
This is on time! If you fail to write a reply you lose.

There is something strangely addictive about this game although I have to admit that my memory sometimes plays tricks on me so I forget my vocabulary when the timer is counting down.
I have cheated a few times in the sense of thinking “oh no! Oh no! What to write? What to write?! Hmmm… What happens if I just add this ending?”
Does that count as cheating or as “constructively testing my Korean reasoning abilities” since I do look up the word afterwards if the app accepts it as one that exists?

I have started buying books for the upcoming semester. With the prices they are charging, I better do well or it will all have been in vain… So far I have bought for 2 courses: 5 books and 2 note books which adds up to whopping £309 / €362 / $483! And the best part: I have to buy for two more courses…
Now I’m happy I worked so much overtime over the holidays or I would have downright sat down and cried at the prospect of these expenses.
That being said I have still been moderately freaked out for about two weeks which in turn means that I have been focusing on these studies rather than Korean when coming home from work, which has frankly made me a bit sad…

The book in the bag in the bag

The middle “in the bag” was intentional 🙂

I often bring books with me, and one thing that surprises people is that I keep my books in bags in my bag. I don’t usually do that with very big and unhandy uni books, but for regular literature (especially if borrowed from my brother or mother!) and my Korean books I do.

Ready to go…

Some people make fun of it, others just find it strange.

I do it for a few reasons, though; If I stuff something into my bag while out, it lowers the risk of pages getting mangled because the bag will keep the books closed and organised nicely. If it rains a lot and I end up getting soaked while waiting for a bus or walking home from the train, I can rest assured that my books will be safe. I will dry, the books might die…

Dog ears (or “donkey ears” as we call them) are a strict no-go in my books. I use bookmarks. I got some really pretty Korean ones from my language partners, but otherwise postcards from family or a nice picture will do the trick.

A bit of Korean culture to spice up readings.

As you might have realised, I feel strongly about my books, and after putting most of my things into storage while living abroad for studies, my books were what I missed the most. I still catch myself going to a shelf, looking for a specific book only to realise it’s still in a storage and every time it makes me sad.

Whether to keep the future reselling price at a decent level or just to keep a less than ragged collection all to yourself, I think it makes sense to take good care of books. I have books that were left to me by my grandfather and they are pristine. Pages might not be as white as they were 50 years ago, but they are very well kept. Not as in “never read”, but as in “taken care of”.

How do you keep your books out of harm’s way?

News too great not to share

Today I got my grade for the last of my preparatory exams and since it’s now confirmed that I passed, it’s finally official that I’ll begin my second MSc in just a few weeks 🙂 (yes, I’m a bit geeky).

See how many books and notes I brought for that one exam. 11kg worth of knowledge and it was over in 3 hours.


I’m so excited since the past year has been a lot of work and now it’s finally coming together. Passing these exams as well has having made it through all the coordination with TOPIK preparations and working a fair bit as well, I feel that I can finally relax a little and just enjoy.

You’re probably wondering if I never get tired of academia? Yes, sometimes, but that feeling usually goes away. Did I really plan to go through the gruelling experience of writing one more thesis when I handed in the last one? Nope, but right now I’m actually looking forward to doing it when the time comes.

It’s a great opportunity that I have been given, and I will try to make the most of it 🙂

Korean learning log week 31 2013

This week went fairly well Korean-wise:

Sogang Korean:
I finished one chapter 🙂

All of the reading parts are recorded on the CDs that come with the books so to improve my listening comprehension I have tried to listen to the readings as well as dialogues before looking at the “scripts”. I was surprised by how well that went.

On a different note, I think the difficulty of the Sogang readings progresses nicely. If you look ahead in the books you will notice the jump, but when you reach the reading, you will have learned most of the vocabulary already through other exercises. Of course you come across new words, but it doesn’t feel overwhelming.

I read one of the texts aloud to myself. It sounds a lot better in my head than when I speak out loud. Must practice more!

Nothing this week. Next week I will work on this for sure. Looking over my hanja notebook, my writing has improved – a little 😀

I’m so happy I have actually managed to study Korean and really get something done. I have so many books I need to work through before the next TOPIK so I need to get a move on as well.