Monthly Archives: August 2015

Goals for the new semester

A month has passed since I started my new job and next week I will start classes again. I do enjoy my work, but I’d be lying if I claimed to not having a pretty steep learning curve ahead of me. There are two yearly performance reviews for the people in my type of position, and the first one will be in just about two weeks!

While I haven’t had the mental presence to read a lot in Korean, I have been texting a lot in Korean over the past month, and I have been watching some dramas both with and without subtitles. Also I have tried to make a habit of listening to 세상을 바꾸는 시간, which was recommended to me by Sofie, whenever I can. Most of the speakers speak quite clearly since it’s a setting similar to TED talks so even if you don’t understand everything, it is at least a good starting point for listening to Korean.

As for Japanese, my classes start on the 9th so I have started revising in order to be as up to speed as I can when we start. The entire last semester I was struggling in the weekly kanji tests and I suspect that my teacher found my performance genuinely pitiful sometimes.

I have condensed my language goals for the semester to three points:
1) Finish Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in Korean.
2) Be able to hold a 15 min conversation exclusively in Korean about the most common intermediate topics. 15 min is quite a while when you’re not used to it.
3) Stay up to speed on kanji and Japanese grammar for my weekly classes.

I could add more things concerning number of grammar points per week and the like, but I doubt that would make it more attainable considering what my schedule looks like.

Watching 밤을 걷는 선비 with a friend

On Sunday I visited a friend, and we ended up watching the first episode of 밤 선비 together. We’ve known each other since our BSc days, but she also has a passion for writing fiction (she’s getting published soon!) so she’s used to looking at story lines in a slightly different way. Obviously we also share an interest in Asian cinema and TV so would there be a better thing to do than watch a drama episode after lunch/walk/talk/coffee? 

Her comments during the episode were hilarious, and I got some updates afterwards by text on how she progresses through the episodes that have aired so far. Her idea for a not-so-secret plan is to get 귀 out of his lair (which is a great word, by the way) and just force him into the sunlight – but obviously this would require way fewer episodes than scheduled by MBC, so we have decided to support the characters’ quest for the “secret plan” instead.

Variations of a theme

For a while I’ve noted the similarity of some verbs, but – as usual – attention is key:

놀다: To play, hang out, be idle
놀라다: To be surprised, to be taken aback, to be stunned, frightened
놀래다: To give someone a fright, to scare
놀리다 (1): To leave something idle or make someone play (the 사동사-version of 놀다)
놀리다 (2): To tease, make fun of

Once I had mentally lined them up I just couldn’t unsee them, so I had to share them with you 🙂

Examples of contexts:
놀라다: anyone who has heard Gee by 소녀시대 should recognise it from the refrain. I know it’s catchy – I’m sorry if I’ve unleashed a monster by even bringing it up 😀
놀래다: those who watch 오 나의 귀신님 might have noticed that when 순애 frets over her father in hospital, she uses this verb to say something along the lines of “you gave me such a fright”.
놀리다: a Korean friend was longing for a long weekend and was grumbling a bit about it being Monday morning so I (naturally) sent a super enthusiastic reply to which she replied 나를 놀리고 있어 ㅠㅠ

Without being able to provide an exhaustive list of verbs to prove my claim, in general it seems that when there are two variations of a verb, the “-애 version” implies more action than the “-아 version”. Another example would be 끝나다 vs. 끝내다 where the latter seems to involve more action and willpower.

If anyone can prove me wrong, please let me know 🙂

Word of the day: 귀동냥(하다/으로 배우다)

This is one I have just learned today from a chat over Kakaotalk with my veeery first LP.

귀동냥: learning by ear

This does not have any 한자 as far as I can tell.

It came up in a talk about work and how attending department meetings is a good way to learn from others since you “pick up” new knowledge.

This is a quite good word!

실망… Yet another TOPIK delay

On Monday on my way home from work I found a text from Sofie (SofietoKorea) telling me that she had found no update whatsoever about the TOPIK in London and that it appears that there won’t be one this year anyway. I had been wondering about the lack of updates from the Korean Education Centre in London myself, but hoped that maybe they were just a little late. From a more practical perspective, the later it gets from this point on, the more expensive it would be to attend the exam as well since those days in October are pretty big travel days due to it being public holiday in Denmark.

Obviously that has spurred some desperate searches for both of us, but to no avail: it really seems there will be no UK exam in October.

Well, this may sound like a bit of an understatement, but it’s really disappointing…

I’m keeping my spirits up by thinking about all of the things I can learn before the next exam.

Review: Korean sheet masks

A while ago I posted some pictures of some sheet masks that I bought. Now that I have used them for a while, here is a review.

Sheet mask haul 1

Sulwhasoo: Innerise Complete Mask
Sheet mask haul 3
I love this one!!!
Type: Gel mask
Fit: As close to perfect as it can get
Absorption: Very good
Feeling: It feels very hydrating. Overall it just feels very pleasant when you wear it.
Working with other products: This one I can use both for night sessions and in the morning without any problems. It absorbs nicely and any residue blends nicely with products that are applied after the mask is taken off regardless of it being night creams or day creams.

Beaute de Royal: Red Ginseng Mask Sheet
Sheet mask haul 4
This one has been taken off YesStyle – I think a new edition has been launched to replace it, but I haven’t tried the new one.
Type: Cotton sheet.
Fit: Too long. I have developed a technique of somehow folding it along my cheekbones to improve fit. When I do that it works just fine.
Feeling: hydrating and cooling – even if you don’t keep it in the fridge, although I like to put it in the fridge for extra cooling effect.
Working with other products: This one also blends nicely with both my day and night products.
Bonus: It does wonders for redness. If you’re going somewhere where you need to dress to impress, this mask can do that last thing for your skin to look its best.
A while ago I went through a phase with troubled skin, and once my mum saw me after wearing this one she exclaimed “what did you do? let me see you properly” – that was meant as a compliment.

Skin Food: Hydro Fitting Snail Mask Sheet
Sheet mask haul 2
Type: Cotton sheet
Fit: The mask is too long for my face. When I fit it around the eyes, the forehead part reaches about 1 cm into my hairline and the cut-out for the mouth needs to be adjusted by semi-folding the mask horizontally at the level of the nose because the cut-out for the mouth hangs below my mouth. Oddly enough that’s combined with a somewhat snug fit around the eyes, but that’s workable with some creative fitting.
Feeling: I’m trying to think of another word, but “wet” seems to be the best description. There’s loads of product on the mask and when it’s finally on it does hydrate well. That being said, I recommend lying down when wearing it or make sure not to speak too much to not inadvertently end up eating some of the product when the mask slides downward.
Absorption: Good. Once it’s on. And you sort of find an equilibrium…
Working with other products: I can only use this mask at night since it blends okay with my night-time products, but really poorly with my day-time products… so no Saturday morning pampering with this one.
The above sounds quite negative, but I do actually like the mask – just not the fit. Or rather the lack of it.

For all three:
The fit around the nose is not perfect for either mask. I never realised I have such a “big” nose until I tried on these masks. I think it’s a pretty standard Scandinavian nose, but just a tad big for these masks. I just make sure to distribute product on the parts of the nose which are not covered.

The Korean way to say “pitiful” – nuance differences

Until recently I only heard the verb 불쌍하다 used to express the meaning “pitiful”, but just this past week, I came across two alternative wordings: 한심하다 and 애처롭다. Obviously that’s not something I can just let go unnoticed so I had to ask a Korean.

Broadly speaking it’s about:
1) the degree to which you can control the circumstances around you.
2) the speaker’s perspective on the event.
3) how “sad” the situation is deemed to be on some continuum.

If starting with point three, 애처롭다 is used to describe the most severe types of situations. The context in which I came across it was Harry Potter where it was used to describe the look that Hagrid gives Harry after telling him about the circumstances of his parents’ deaths. For this descriptive verb to be used, the situation has to be quite severe; e.g. losing family members, losing everything you own in an accident, being the victim of a natural disaster. These are objectively severe and sad events – being late for work might get you in trouble with your boss, but not quite enough for it to warrant the use of this particular verb.

The lines get a little blurry when it comes to 불쌍하다 and 한심하다. Both of them are used in more daily life situations, but the choice of words also says something about the speaker’s view on the events and the extent to which the speaker thinks that person could have influenced the events.

If someone breaks a valuable item that he or she holds dear:
불쌍하다: You feel sorry for that person because he lost his precious item – even if he did break it himself.
한심하다: It’s sad, but he could have been more careful.

If someone fails an exam:
불쌍하다: Poor thing, he studied so hard!
한심하다: Wow, that’s a shame… but that being said he should have studied more…

Now it definitely makes more sense why different words were used in different contexts to say “pitiful”.

Repetition – How much? How often? Which media?

Recently I read the book “The Tipping Point – How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference” by Malcolm Gladwell, and while it obviously doesn’t focus on language learning, but on the spreading of ideas and trends, it is nonetheless interesting from the perspective of a language learner. At some point in the book he compares two children’s programmes to other children’s programmes as well as to each other. The first one I believe most of us know: Sesame Street. The other I had personally never heard of before – Blue’s Clues. Loads of experiments are done regarding what works and what doesn’t for TV programmes – what do people actually watch when they watch a programme and when do they lose interest.

The purpose of this comparison was to look at the ability of each programme to retain the focus of young children, and while Sesame Street performed well, Blue’s Clues outperformed Sesame Street. So far so good. The children were more attentive when it came to watching Blue’s Clues for reasons I won’t get into here. But now we get to another interesting point. The broadcasting of Blue’s Clues follows a quite specific pattern: the same episode is broadcast from Monday to Friday before a new episode airs the following week rather than airing new episodes after each other and then allowing re-runs later in the year .

Not only did the children pay more attention to what was going on on the screen while watching Blue’s Clues, they also retained more knowledge of what they had been exposed to due to both the structure of the programme and the repetition. Compared to the children who watched Sesame Street, they performed better on recognising items and concepts. Basically they weren’t bored by watching the same episode multiple times, but it offered them valuable predictability and repetition. Of course it’s important to recognise that there is that pesky detail that this is based on an audience which is significantly younger than us and therefore while most concepts were new to them altogether, we probably already know them in minimum one other language. Therefore the exact format of Blue’s Clues is not very appealing to an adult learner.

Also they realised that the children tend to zoom out and focus elsewhere because they don’t understand rather than because they are bored. I’m guilty as charged on this one. When I watch something without subtitles, the level of my understanding varies wildly from scene to scene, and I sometimes catch myself zooming out if my understanding drops below some undefinded threshold. 

What I think we can benefit from as adult learners is to think more carefully about the combination of focus and repetition to our own studies when it comes to movies and dramas.
1) Make an effort to watch actively no matter how much or how little we understand of any given scene.
2) Watch the same episode multiple times.

Most learners will agree that only very few new words or concepts will stick after hearing them just once, but many seem to associate repetition with flascard drills or spaced repetition through Anki or Memrise – which are basically just electronic flashcards. Some people will look through old notes. But how about including repetition in other media?

While watching the same episode of a drama of one’s own choice five times might seem a little much even for the most enthusiastic drama lover, I actually quite like seeing the same episode twice. Once without subtitles just when the episode is published, and once again when subtitles have been added. Depending on one’s level, I guess the ideal solution would be the other way around, but…

Due to difference in time zones between me and subbers this usually means that I watch the raw version during late afternoon/early evening on the day on which the episode airs in Korea, the subbers work while I sleep, and then the subbed version is ready for me on the next day. The first time both the story and the language are new. The second time I can spend more energy on the language itself and see if I understood correctly the first time I watched it. I’ve done this before, although not consistently. Maybe it’s a better idea than I had initially thought?

Many learners will switch sources all the time – don’t get me wrong, diversity in learning materials is a good thing – but maybe we would get a better return on investment if we take the time to e.g. watch the same drama episode just once more before moving on to the new and exciting episode? I’ve sometimes caught myself saying a sentence before the actor or actress the second time I watched the same episode. Being exposed to the same scene and therefore the same context once more helped trigger the memory of the wording.
Is drama watching just enjoyable pastime for you or do you make it an active part of your studies? Have you thought about how you do it? Don’t forget to leave comments below – I’m super curious how you study with dramas and movies 🙂