Category Archives: TOPIK 중급

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).

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.

Language log D-78

During the past week I’ve been on a Korean binge, and I’m beginning to sense subtle differences in my skills:

1) I recognise more words from previous checks with the dictionary so I don’t need to look them up while reading. One of the more curious ones would be 오두막 (a hut, a cabin) – courtesy of Harry Potter.
2) I read slightly faster.
3) I recognise words that I came across in one context in other contexts. A word or verb I’ve heard in 밤을 걷는 선비 will suddenly surface in Harry Potter, and I instantly know it (fist pump!).
4) I’m beginning to hear some specific words everywhere because I’ve suddenly become aware of them.

So, what I’ve been doing?

Harry Potter

Watching both 밤을 걷는 선비 and 오 나의 귀신님. Whenever possible I’ve watched the raw editions first and then the subtitled ones.
Watching interviews on youtube. Some people add Korean subtitles, which is soooo helpful.
Listening to some Korean podcasts while doing things like printing out academic articles which is time consuming, utterly boring, and requires no mental engagement in what you’re doing other than ensuring that the paper doesn’t get stuck.

Listening to podcasts shows me exactly how far I am from fluency. Enunciation is clearly not a priority for many of these people whereas people on TV or radio news are trained in speaking clearly. Picking up new words from a podcast is close to impossible for me so it’s more about getting exposed to their way of speaking and training myself in listening to conversations where people e.g. interrupt each other.

Texting over kakaotalk.

Reading aloud from Harry Potter… And singing along to Korean music when alone.

As a short update on my “screen time project”, I think it’s working rather well. I spend less time online and when I do I usually do something language related.

Korean weekend D-83

This weekend I have had a chance to really immerse myself in Korean. The weather here has been absolutely appalling so it’s been a perfect opportunity to just hole up with a steady supply of Korean books, dramas and tea.

I’ve finally reached page 70 in Harry Potter, and I read an interview for the sake of variation. Harry Potter is proving to be quite a challenge, but I’m working my way through it. I’m grateful that I’m familiar with the story since there are so many words to learn.

밤을 걷는 선비:
I’ve started 밤을 걷는 선비 and I have to admit I’m totally sold on this and its cuteness galore. What can I say, it’s a bit of a guilty pleasure. For once the “oh my God, she’s a woman!!!” reveal is dealt with in first few episodes instead of being saved for episode 12, which is A Good Thing. Of course that doesn’t mean that they leave out other drama tropes, but I’m thoroughly enjoying it so far. 이유비 can make the most incredible face expressions and nobody rocks a 한복 like 이준기 – seriously, he ought to consider just wearing a 한복 or a sharp suit all the time.
The song 비밀낙원 from the OST is totally addictive so beware before listening.

오 나의 귀신님:
This is hilarious, and I think this one will be my “modern language drama” instead of 너를 사랑한 시간. Language-wise it’s also enjoyable and they speak quite clearly so I don’t have too much trouble looking up new words.

Texting about various things over kakaotalk.

What are you guys reading or watching these days? Did any of you by any chance read the 만화 that 밤을 걷는 선비 is based on?

Learning Log D-103

Recently my Korean learning has been based mostly on reading. Firstly because I haven’t had any language exchanges for many weeks, and secondly because I think I should really work on expanding my vocabulary. Most recent endeavours count:

I have re-started reading 유행어보다 재치있는 우리 100대 속담. I remember when I bought it and I had to spell my way through each and every sentence. In the end I put the book back on the shelf because it was just too time-consuming to go through, which quite frankly took a lot of the fun out of it. This time around it’s going a lot better, although I still look up many many words (when was the last time you had to say “playground slide” in Korean?). The fact that each proverb is explained in two short pages makes it easier to sit down and read even just a tiny bit if you’re short on time because you know that you can finish at least one proverb.

Harry Potter:
I have continued from where I left off last time. This time it’s a lot easier, but to make things a little more complicated I started reading after my digital curfew started one night wherefore I had to make do with a small paper dictionary instead of my iriver dictionary or Naver. The conclusion seems to be that the little paper dictionary isn’t quite extensive enough to help me through a book like Harry Potter. Also, it has no 한자… One would think that the vocabulary in these paper dictionaries is based on the frequency of use, but it does make you wonder how the word “dungeon” can sneak in, but the word “snout” is nowhere to be found. Is it really only pet owners who use the latter more often? Does everybody else have regular conversations about humid and poorly lit basements in castles?

Drama: 너를 사랑한 시간
I have watched the first episode and read a recap of the second. I think this one will be one I will watch-watch. So far I have slightly mixed feelings about it, but I like the actors and the Taiwanese version seems to be quite popular so I’ll give it a chance. Also, it should help me bring my vocabulary from the Joseon era to present day…

Drama: 화정
Ok, it’s probably universally known by now that I might have a penchant for historical dramas, so half an episode here and there in between must-do tasks is naturally in order.

Learning log D-118

This past week I have prioritised fitting in some Korean studies between my uni studies, which I won’t bore you with so let’s just stick to languages.

I use my vocabulary book and memrise to work on vocabulary and ensuring new words stick.

I have texted a bit in Korean.

I admit to watching a few episodes of 화정 here and there while doing the dishes.
Listening to TTMIK.

Not much new, a few TTMIK podcasts here and there.

This coincides with my Japanese homework, but I try to look at the hanja for new Korean words I come across too. As you might have noticed, I have had a few hanja posts based on somewhat random words as well as my hanja cards, but I have adapted my approach a little: I don’t care about the order of the cards when studying. Rather I look at how many of the hanja I already know in a four character expression. If I already know three of them, learning the fourth seems “easy peasy” in comparison to learning four new hanja and a new expression – even if the expression itself for the four new ones is relatively easy.

On a different note, I have changed a few things in my daily routine which I hope will also have an impact on my language studies in the long-run: I have introduced a 10 pm digital curfew and I have joined a gym to get back in shape-shape (because I dislike running outside when it’s raining and then I end up just not doing it). Not that I’m hopelessly unfit at all, but there is definitely space for improvement in endurance, and I just tend to be in a better mood when I work out regularly. The idea is that these two things will help me sleep better at night and improve my focus during the day so I can get more things done. Anything that improves sleep, fitness, and increases my energy for Korean when all my other work is done should surely be a good thing 🙂

Learning log D-148

This week one of my LPs had to cancel our meeting because of an exam project, but I will meet my other LP next week on Tuesday. It’s been a few weeks since my last Korean meeting since both of them have been ill, I went to Sicily for a week and then exams have made our lives difficult. These days I’m reading up on my uni materials, but I have gained some motivation from being offered a student job by a big law firm (I’m so excited I can barely contain it!).

I try to sneak in some vocabulary practice during otherwise non-efficient hours by looking at my vocabulary book, listening actively and expanding on the vocabulary book while watching 기황후, and looking up words from Korean music here and there. Studying grammar points when I come home doesn’t sit well with me these days since I’m simply too tired, but I feel like I should.

Listening: 기황후 and music. I feel like I have improved my listening comprehension quite a bit since I started watching it the second time and formalised my note taking although it might be a false sense of security.
Reading: Not really… I studied some of my hanja cards while focusing on the 한글 explanations. This is totally going to come back and bite me…
Writing: Very very few text messages. It almost doesn’t count, really.
Speaking: As for speaking Korean with actual people: none whatsoever. Does the random singing in the shower count? I try to formulate sentences in my head, though, for instance while walking to/from the station. That is when I’m not going over law hypotheticals. AAARGH!

Once my exams are over I really need to hit the Korean books!

Remembering vocabulary

Yesterday I met one of my language partners for a quick study session before I headed off to Korean Movie Night at Copenhagen University and she had to return to her exam revision. We didn’t have time for much, but she tested my vocabulary retention from my new vocabulary book. I remembered the words from 기황후 much more easily than those from my text books. Also, I had to write them on the whiteboard to make sure I could also spell them (yay, not even one mistake!). Maybe I should just watch more dramas, but make sure to fit in some modern ones so I don’t end up with a vocabulary consisting of the likes of 혈서, 후궁, and 환관? 😉

Since it can be difficult to find a place to study we stayed in the lecture hall where I had just finished class. It’s not uncommon that students do this so we were joined by three random guys who seemed to have a field day watching me write obscure vocabulary on the whiteboard whenever they looked up from their laptops.

Often when I failed to remember one, the following happend “…that’s a blue word, right?” “yes…” “… how many syllables?”. Twice I managed to get the comment  “it’s correct, but your grammar is a bit Japanese. In Korean it’s perfectly ok to just say… but when you write, you should write what you said” when translating something on the spot. Well that’s new! However, I’d like to think my translation skills are improving. If nothing else I feel more confident even if making mistakes.

At Korean movie night we watched The Thieves (도둑들) which was absolutely hilarious. It’s a heist movie and super entertaining. If you have time, I can definitely recommend it.

Learning Log D-164

These days are just flying by. D-164. 164??? How did that happen??! This week is the final week of lectures for two of my courses and then I have to revise for my exams. So far it seems to work out, but I have to admit it’s a bit much since especially these two courses are super heavy on the readings. Literally… One of the books even caused a bruise on my back a while ago because I brought that + my law collection with me several days in a row.

Anyway, back to Korean: My vocabulary book is slowly expanding, but I try to not just add words indiscriminately. I have started adding words from other sources too so I colour code to be able to tell them apart. Just writing in different colours helps me remember where I heard the word, which in turn helps me remember; Black ink is for drama words, blue ink is for words from my books, and green ink is for words I learned from texting/mailing/talking to people. Just knowing that a word is from a drama, I can pinpoint more or less the specific drama scene I learned a specific word if it’s not a recurring one. It sounds a bit crazy, but that’s how it works for me. I bring my vocabulary book pretty much everywhere since it’s very thin, and I try to look over the words while on the train if I’m not doing kanji practice for my Japanese class. Whenever I learn a new Japanese word or grammar point I also try to think of the Korean equivalent – I just cannot help it!

Over the past week I’ve had some moments where I learned a new word and then suddenly realised it shared a hanja component with another word I already knew. E.g. the new word 표시 (mark, sign) shares the hanja for 표 with the word 대표 (representative) which I already knew from another drama. I suddenly remembered 대표 and wondered if they had something in common and my hunch turned out to be right. Now I just seem to connect the two even if I cannot remember the specific strokes for the hanja… I guess I will have a lot more of those moments as I learn more kanji for Japanese and that way get to know the underlying hanja for Korean words I already know.

Tomorrow one of my language partners will test my vocabulary and my understanding of the first three grammar points of my TOPIK grammar book before we move on to speaking. I hope things stick as much as I think they do.

I hope all of you who got TOPIK scores today did well! 🙂

LP meeting D-187

Today I met one of my language partners for a super efficient study session. First we practiced Danish, then Korean. Today our main focus was to work on fluency. For our Korean practice, my LP used the 이화 book for inspiration and read aloud from some of the dialogues without me being able to see the text. When it was my turn to speak in the dialogue, I had free reins for more general lines, but she would provide me with the English version for some specific lines and ask me to translate into Korean. The point was to 1) mobilise vocabulary in “free” speech 2) practice different formality levels. 

Here are my notes for some of the things we discussed:

Telling people to speak comfortably:

Speaking to someone significantly older or higher status: 말씀 낮추십시오 (only the other person can switch to 반말)

Speaking to someone your age or a little younger that you didn’t know while growing up: 우리 그냥 편하게 반말 하죠? (both switch to 반말)

Speaking to someone much younger than yourself: 우리 그냥 반말 하자 (both can speak 반말)

Tell people to speak more politely:

This one is tricky and stems from me once finding myself in a situation where I asked someone indirectly to speak more politely. Some people I don’t mind speaking/writing to me in 반말, others… well… All of my LPs have made an effort to help me try to learn proper etiquette to limit the number of people I end up offending in the future so I’m not used to 반말-freebies and I appreciate that they try to hold me to a certain standard. However, that has also made me acutely aware of the choises others make when addressing me. 

One time I met a guy who seemingly got a personality transplant once switching from English to Korean. Since he would under no circumstances have used 반말 with me if I had been Korean, my first reaction was to think “that’s an awfully short sentence, isn’t it?”. Next sentence was equally short. And then the third one. For a moment I even wondered if I had seriously underestimated his age. Instead of asking since when we agreed on skipping the endings or ask outright why he was speaking in 반말, I opted for sticking to my -요 endings when answering his question and then ask “by the way, how old are you?”. Order restored, he replied with -요 endings. 

Here is a suggestion for how to ask: 참, 그런데 ~ 나이가 어떻게 되세요? 

Adding “참, 그런데 ~” before the question makes it seem a little less accusatory although the meaning should be pretty clear. 

Suggestions for how to avoid referring directly to people who are older than you (but not old enough to be your parents), and you’re just not sure what to call them:


“저 ~”: to be used with caution especially if young, female, and in a work environment or similar because of the risk of coming across as indecisive and inconfident.  

저기요: Be careful with the intonation. If said too forcefully it sounds like you’re trying to get the attention of a waiter in a restaurant.

What to say when people thank you for doing them a favour and you are still on polite tems?

Politely replying “don’t mention it” to people who thank you for doing them a favour: 아닙니다 / 무슨 말씀을… / 무슨 말씀을요 / 천만예요 (can be used for biiig favors or it sounds a little stiff and textbook-like)

What’s your name?

이름이 뭐야/뭐니?(-니 is Seoul dialect): only said to children

이름이 뭐예요?: Polite way to ask someone younger than you, but mostly children. 

성함이 어떻게 되세요?: Polite, but not going “all in”. Notice the honorific word for “name”.

성함이 어떻게 되십니까?: All in.

Random expression: 007 가방 (litterally read 공-공-칠 가방). Today it’s probably better known as a briefcase or 서류가방. I had never heard this before today, but since I find it hilarious, it just had to be included.