Monthly Archives: November 2015

Update: Visiting Sofie and italki skype tutoring

WordPress deleted my draft so here we go again. Since my last post I spent 5 days in London on a family visit, and I visited Sofie from sofietokorea in her home city for an extended weekend – my first visit in that city in about 15 years!

Sofie had a whole program planned for my weekend there; we had dinner at her home with her husband and LP, we went to museums and restaurants, and I just got to see the city close up in general – snow and all. It was great to away from things for a short while, but I have to say it was also a bit of an eye opener in terms of my Korean skills.
What I learned during my weekend stay:
– I have a surprising soju tolerance considering my normally very limited intake of alcohol.
– I understood most of what was said around me in Korean, but I really really really need to speak it more.

It should come as no surprise to anyone who has read her blog that Sofie’s Korean is amazing, but she sure is also working for it – most conversations with her LP are strictly in Korean. As a bonus I got to hear a bit of banter between her and her LP, which was frankly hilarious. An example:

Sofie: oh, by the way, you sent me a message using that expression, which you said I couldn’t use in XYZ context. But isn’t it the same when you write that to me?
LP: I was just messing with you…
Sofie: … wait, so it is wrong?
LP: hehe yes, I was just making a little fun of you
Sofie: well, I’m glad I asked then!

Before I went home, Sofie really sold the idea of italki to me, so I immediately went home, signed up and found a tutor. Yesterday I had my first lesson, which started off a little awkwardly in the sense that he forgot about me… However, I sent him a skype message and he contacted me soon enough, apologised profusely, and we had the lesson an hour late so I didn’t mention it when scoring him in the Italki sysem afterwards.

I only scheduled 30 min, but we ended up speaking for an hour and 15 minutes in total. Going that much over time is probably not sustainable in the long run, but it was really nice for a first lesson since I got a much better idea of who he is. We started off in English with basic introductions and then switched to Korean to talk about the weather, where we have lived, and our jobs. When things got technical (“trial”, “legal advisory services” and so on) I really depended on the glossary that I was being fed over the skype chat. In the end we ended up speaking English, though. He offered that I can also send him audio messages inbetween classes to practice my pronunciation more. 

Next week I’m on study leave from work so I sent a request for 4 lessons to speed up my learning now that I have time (I know that sounds backwards, but since I won’t be working and my classes ended, I should have an hour here and there for Korean speaking practice and our schedules match next week). So far he hasn’t accepted my request for more lessons, though, so let’s see if I need to find another tutor. At least I think I have taken a small step in the direction of speaking Korean more readily.

Again, thank you for taking such good care of me during that weekend 언니~~~

Status update week 45

The first week with less work is now complete and everybody has survived. I still managed to put in just over 20 hours in the office, but in my newly found spare time I’ve been quite efficient too.

TTMIK 이야기: I have listened to some 25 episodes. Not all of them are equally long, but I’m actually a bit proud that I managed anyway. Some of them I listened to multiple times.
별에서 온 그대: just two episodes. But still that’s two episodes more than usual!
Writing: texting a fair bit with an old LP who is now in Korea.
Grammar: Revising some grammar from my 서강 books.
Reading: well, the trees don’t grow into the sky. I’ll make sure to read next week.

Plan for the upcoming week:
Wednesday and Thursday will be no-working days, Friday will be a half working day after my lecture is done.
Revise more grammar from 서강.
Listen to more 이야기 episodes and read scripts (aloud).
Watch drama whenever I have time. Preferably with Korean subtitles (my reading speed for Korean subtitles is pathetic).

Nooo! don’t give him shoes!

The other day at work I ended up in a small group of people talking about buying Christmas and birthday presents. One colleague had just been gifted with a set of knives for her birthday by her boyfriend – in spite of being all thumbs in a kitchen according to herself – and an other colleague was contemplating buying shoes for her boyfriend for Christmas.

I wonder if I had thought twice about giving such presents just a few years ago. This time I ended up thinking “of ALL the things you could come up with…”. I naturally kept that to myself.

Obviously, it’s superstitions, and the one about knives is also known outside Korea, but I immediately thought about how we were basically making rounds in the “don’t-give-category” according to Korean traditions and slowly ticking off every item on the list.

A tiny culture shock right there in my home country.

Meet-up D-15

This week I’ve taken two study-at-home-days to get back in the Korean drill and it feels like such a treat!

Since starting my new job, I have often been going to the office to study (great library facilities plus free coffee and an almost unlimited supply of food unlike university reading halls), and just made sure to sit in a different office than my usual one to make it clear I was not there for work. However, it’s a bit difficult (to me at least) to stay completely away from work when I’m physically in the same building so I would end up working a few extra hours in spite of my best intentions to just be all bookish for a day.

When I told someone that I would stay at home and study to make sure I wouldn’t get tempted to work, I immediately got a text back asking “are you well?!”. ㅋㅋㅋ

Since my last post this week I have managed to revise some grammar at night as well as watch some drama and listen to TTMIK 이야기.

As for drama watching, 별에서 온 그대 was recommended to me, and I was duly warned that next time we meet (in 15 days from today), I will be speaking Korean more readily wherefore I have started watching it – with Korean subtitles – to be as prepared as I possibly can. The Korean subtitles make it a quite time consuming task since I feel compelled to look up many more words, but it’s also really entertaining – paranormal aspects, general craziness, celebrity antics and all.

Happy studying!

Stalling studies

Last year after participating in the speaking contest we were asked if we had faced some particular problems that we had to overcome during our Korean studies. Back then I didn’t really have a good answer to that since my biggest problem up to that point had been limited to “this video is not available in your region”, which sure is a hassle (Viki, I’m looking at you), but it’s hardly a linguistic problem.

My Korean has been stalling for a while now, though, so I have been thinking about that question a lot lately. Basically, my main problem has been fitting everything into my days. I wake up at about 5:15 in order to go to work and to be quite honest, I’m not a morning person so getting up an hour before to study will just reduce me to a zombie shaking from caffeine (ab)use by 9 am by the third day of such a routine. On my way to work I usually listen to Korean music or something similar, though. My working days tend to be on the longer end of the scale (my own choice since it’s a new working place, I have a lot to learn, and they should get to know me properly before I graduate) and I also have to study for my exams. By the time I’m finally at home, done with practical stuff and dinner, time is usually pretty tight before I should head off to bed in order to survive the following day without nurturing dark circles that would make a panda green with envy.

However, maybe there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Some time ago someone from my family actually pulled me aside to ask me if I was happy doing what I was doing. I adamantly agreed that I was. The reaction was to ask why I then looked so exhausted…

I really do like my work and my studies – trust me I really do – or I would have greater problems than merely being busy since I would be busy doing something I didn’t actually like. That being said, maybe I could use just a bit more balance. Studying Korean makes me happy, and that in turn makes me more efficient and in general nicer to be around in other parts of my life too. Including work and uni.

Now that I have settled in more at work, they know me, and I know my way around things, I will try to leave a bit earlier some days so I have time to put in an hour of Korean at night without compromising my sleep. Naturally, if something pressing comes up I won’t be marching out of the office leaving others to fend for themselves, but it seems a bit sad that it took catching a flu and running a fever high enough to warrant two sick days before being able to watch a few episodes of 힐러.

In a way it’s a bit of a vicious circle. On the one hand you feel like you have so much revising to do since you’ve been away from it that it becomes a daunting task to just sit down with the books and just get on with it – and then fatigue becomes an excuse that’s really hard to overcome. On the other, the more you put it off, the more you miss it, and eventually it ends up affecting other parts of your life.

Somehow it seems easy to neglect a hobby. After all it’s just that – a hobby. Studying Korean not what I do for a living and there is no clear link between me putting in an hour of Korean and subsequently doing better at work or in my law studies. That can make it a tad difficult to defend as a valuable pass-time. After all, if there is a decent pipeline at work, a uni report to write, and verdicts to read, what the heck am I doing setting a somewhat arbitrary time for being my time “off” and then spending my time being mentally in Korea???

However, it’s also the Korean studies people ask me about even in work settings once they find out about it. Whether it’s a curious HR person or a superior at work who suddenly shares stories about having studied Mandarin during an exchange program; it’s something that people find interesting even if it’s sometimes a bit strange to them – because it’s a quirk that says something about me as a person.

So I guess that’s been my biggest problem to overcome in my Korean studies. Having to be away from it and finding my way back – sometimes forced away by other and truly more important events, but mostly by limitations that I have imposed on myself because after all – it’s just a hobby. Right? Maybe not…