Category Archives: Listening

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!

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 🙂

City Hunter – Joseon style

I caught the raw version of today’s episode (episode 7) of 밤을 걷는 선비 while cooking, and 35 min into the episode what do I hear??? A bit of music from 시티헌터. I seriously had to rewind, listen again and then go look for the soundtrack from City Hunter to double check whether my hearing was playing tricks on me. Nope, the track is called Black Warrior and was indeed part of the sound track from City Hunter. 

For those who want to get technical about it, try to listen to the music in the episode from 34:28 – 35:07 and compare it to Black Warrior from 55 seconds into the track.

HA! They might be recycling from a drama from 2011, but they didn’t manage to sneak that one by me!

Edit: now correct times listed for the episode… oops.

Listening widely

I was mentally going over vocabulary which resulted in the following stream of words:

이유 – 유배 – 배신 – 신문 – 문자 – 자금

유배: exile
배신: betrayal, treason

Maybe I should try to find a modern drama after I finish 기황후 (and after my exams) just to balance things? 😀

I think my listening comprehension has improved quite a bit, and it’s easier for me to “detect” new words when I hear them.

Just two more episodes to go of 기황후! I will make sure to watch them back to back since there is bound to be some wicked cliffhanger at the end of episode 50. I wonder if I will develop withdrawal symptoms when I finish all of them…

So similar and yet so different

These are words that I have come across in real life situations and while watching dramas (which should be fairly obvious when looking at the words). I just noticed how similar they are in terms of spelling so pronunciation is key here!

In random order:

충전 charge (electric). If your phone settings are in Korean, the phone will say “충전 중” when charging.
중전 queen

천하 the whole country, state, empire (context specific)
전하 Your royal highness – specific for men (anyone watching 기황후 should know this one cough-cough)

그때 at that time, then
그대 a somewhat poetic way to say “you”. It will often be heard in songs.

I will probably come up with more examples, but this is a start.

기황후 notes

Today I dedicated a notebook to words I learn from 기황후. I have a piece of paper I jot down words on while watching and sometimes when the word is very particular, I will also note what I think it means in English. The notebook I use to note down the most interesting ones I have gathered after double checking the spelling. Let’s see if I stick to that solution in the long run. It’s better than the random sheets of paper for sure, and I can bring it along to my LP meetings to ask about the words I’m wondering about. It’s rather small and thin so it won’t be a big addition to my book load.

There are some words I would like to discuss with my LPs to ensure I understand the nuances since some of the words I have noted down are quite similar or are similar to words I already know, but are yet different. Just think of the words feeling, emotion, and sensation; they may be similar, but your choice will depend a lot on the specific situation.

However, one thing is words for describing emotional states for which it makes sense that there are quite a few options, but for more regular words such a “secret” you may wonder why pick one specific word over another. Or at least I do. I better remember to bring the notebook tomorrow…