Monthly Archives: June 2014

Why I’m happy that my parents sent me to martial arts classes

This is why all women should train some kind of self-defence. It may not be Korean language related, but maybe it will inspire some of you to expand your Korean culture repertoire with Taekwondo or some other exciting and just slightly violent sport. Even if you don’t use it in ordinary life, it might give you a sense of calmness that shines through, which is why I have decided to share this otherwise somewhat personal story. Today I had a could-have-turned-nasty experience on my way to work.

I was almost by the train station when I realised two men in their late twenties loitering at the next corner that I had to pass. Something seemed… Off.
When I approached I could see them looking at me and talking, but not like you would regularly notice someone else in the street. They *looked* at me. I was listening to music, but quickly scanned the area – there was no-one else around. I crossed the pedestrian crossing, they stayed put while I passed them, I continued towards the train while staying aware of them and then realised one of them suddenly went towards me, walking quickly to to catch up with me. His friend stayed behind to look at us.

The platform was too far away for me to outrun him and I’d have to go through a tunnel. No routes of escape. Not an option. When he was just a few metres from me, the thought “this is it, my training will be put to the test, I’ll have to fight him” flashed through my mind. It seemed like a bad idea to keep my back turned at him given that I was pretty sure he would continue to approach me and possibly also take a swing at me, so I decided to face it straight on to at least be able to see what he was doing before he got to me. I took out my earphones, turned around to face him, and put on my best evil stare. I tried to look calm.

I’m not sure what happened next. Maybe it was the surprise that I did not even try to run and also looked downright murderous, but all of a sudden he got so busy turning around and fleeing that he almost tripped over his own feet before scurrying back to his corner. I walked away quickly, keeping an eye over my shoulder.

Did I at least get a good look at him? Somehow I cannot remember what he was wearing exactly or exactly what he looked like. What I do remember is thinking of my initial impression of him “app. 1.80 metres tall. 75 kg. Slightly delayed reaction time – probably due to alcohol. Bare hands”. I figured that with 5 years of jiu-jitsu and 1 year of judo I would have a decent chance of doing some real damage against an untrained and slightly tipsy guy while getting away fairly unscathed myself.

While I was nervous, it surprised me afterwards that I was not downright frightened. Actually, I was feeling rather annoyed more than anything. It was not until afterwards I thought about how unpleasant it really was.

Only after finishing work in the afternoon did I call my mother to tell her about it. Over dinner my parents got a more detailed account and figured it would be an idea to tell the police even if nothing happened to me. The police officer praised my instincts and told me I handled the situation well. If there (God forbid) should ever be another situation like it, I should call them straight away after getting into safety so they can send a patrol even if I don’t need help anymore.

While I would never stand a chance against a guy of that size with a martial arts background, against a regular bastard I actually thought I could win. That is probably why I managed to stay so calm and not break down in tears afterwards, going to work and have a normal day with my colleagues.

So, I guess the morale of this story is: if you ever thought of going to some self-defence class/taekwondo/judo/jiu-jitsu/other martial arts class, just go! The sooner the better. Yes it will be hard, often frustrating, mostly great fun, and a source of plenty of bruises. Hopefully you will never ever need to use it in the streets, but if you one day do get into a bad situation, you might not even have to use it.

Milestone: I used Korean at work!

Today I have used Korean at work. A few months ago I had a false start where I considered using Korean, and another time I was asked to translate just a few things for a colleague, but this time I really did use it to help someone higher ranked. I didn’t speak, though. I translated something from a report so we didn’t have to send it out of the house for translation, so I was a bit nervous about it, but decided to give it my best shot. The person I translated for said it made perfect sense given the other information he had available so I guess I passed the test!

Must study more, must study more!

Learning log: in London

These days I’m visiting family in London (a bit earlier I could hear some pretty dedicated singing going on several streets away due to England playing Italy a bit later in the World Cup).

My Korean studies this week:

Speaking and reading:
I met my LP on Monday where we went over 이야기 No 1 from TTMIK. We read the entire pdf out loud, and I had to answer questions after each page. On a positive note, my LP told me that my reading is better than that of a Korean elementary school student. I take it as praise, but also as a marker of how much I still have to learn, so I will continue to practice a lot.

No new grammar points this week…

I have listened to several of the 이야기 from TTMIK. It’s really good practice since I get to hear new vocabulary, revise grammar patterns I already know, and basically just hear spoken Korean.
Also, I might have eavesdropped just a little bit on random Koreans’ conversations in London. It’s difficult not to if they are sitting right next to you in a café!

Nothing. It’s been a looong time since I’ve written any essays.

Family bonds and 정 (情)

Yesterday I went for a picnic with two girls (of which one was Korean) before meeting my LP.

It was an afternoon dedicated to 여자들의 수다, 김밥, and white wine sitting in the shade of a big tree in the park behind uni. However, I also learned about the meaning of “정”.

My Korean friend had experienced in several cities that some local people of older generations would tentatively ask her where she is from. Once they had confirmed that she is in fact Korean, they proceed to tell her that their adopted son/daughter was also born in Korea, show pictures, and in some cases also share stories about how they were planning to go to Korea with their children to see their birth country with them.

She found these encounters very touching, which led to the introduction of the word “정”.

This is just one of several hanja that are associated with the same pronunciation.
Hanja: 情
Meaning: 뜻
Pronunciation: 정

It can be translated into a feeling of intimacy between people, and in this case it can be used to describe two kinds of parental affection:

기른 정: the emotional bond that is formed between an adult and a child being raised by the adult in question. This is a parent-child relationship that is not necessarily blood related. 기르다: to raise, to bring up.

낳은 정: the bond between a parent and a child related to the parents by birth. 낳다: to give birth to.

Learning log: week 23 2014

This week I have finally put some hours into studying.
Status for this week is:

Reading/ speaking:
서강 2A: grammar-wise this doesn’t bring an aweful lot of new points, but I need to bring my speaking up to par and for that it serves its purpose.
In my language exchange, I read aloud from one of the readings, made an oral summary of the text in Korean, and answered my LPs questions – in Korean.

Impression: the text didn’t feel difficult and I could read it aloud fairly fluently (no stuttering). There was one word I asked to hear my LP pronounce, but otherwise, I felt it was going rather well. Let’s see if I can keep it up.


TTMIK 이야기: I listen, then read the script in Korean, then listen again while trying to follow along the script.

Listening comprehension

Yesterday I had a bit of an aha-experience. This past semester I have been a bit too busy, working two part-time jobs amounting to a full-time job timewise while studying. That means that most of my exposure to Korean has been through less-than-structured meetings my LPs (this semester has been a bit more spontaneous when it comes to choice of subjects, and we never agreed on one before our meetings), a TTMIK lesson here and there, the occasional Korean DVD and then music – aka I have not actually sat down and studied intently as I have done in previous semesters.

Here comes the kicker: yesterday I listened to a few of the 이야기 lessons from TTMIK and found myself laughing of their jokes. It surprised me that I could understand so much of it. Of course I cannot understand 100% and I wouldn’t be able to speak like that in a conversation myself, but my listening comprehension has improved tremendously!

However, I have a problem with my concentration span in Korean. After a while I sort of zoom out because I still cannot listen “effortlessly”.

In spite of still lacking a lot, maybe I haven’t been stalling as much as I thought!

In need of ideas for how to use flashcards?

I have used flashcards on/off in my language studies. Has it helped me? I would like to think so. Many learners are quite negative when flashcards are brought up in discussions, but a little imagination can go a long way.

Martin Sketchley, who works as an English teacher, has compiled a list of ways in which you can use flashcards. Who knows, you might even end up finding them entertaining!

Check out this post at his blog ELT Experiences for 10 ideas for how to use flashcards in a classroom setting.

Most of them can easily be adapted to a language exchange so there is no need to attend a class to make it work.