Tag Archives: Discipline

수능, 수눙, 수능…

For those of you who haven’t heard any first-hand stories about how gruelling 수능 prep is, this video provides a bit of insight into what it is like.
It’s an opportunity to sneak a peek into the daily life of a senior highschooler and the effort and sacrifice that goes into doing one’s absolute best (and better than everybody else) on the exam that makes the entire country stand still and hold their breaths throughout the third Thursday in November every year.

The documentary is about 20 min long and it’s beautifully done.

One thing thing that really struck me is how nobody waited up at night for Bitna to make sure she got home safely after her late-night study sessions (I assume all mothers have the light-sleeper-ear tuned for when their children come home, though). I’m from a completely different part of the world, so maybe it’s perfectly normal for Korean highschool students, but to me that was the epitome of loneliness of preparing for an entrance exam.


Music and learning – tuning the brain to learn

Today I found Alice’s blog about living, studying (and working) in Korea.
Her post about playing an instrument made me think since I too used to play. To be honest, instuments have been on my mind a few times this week since I found out that a guy in my class used to play the clarinet like me (what a coincidence), and it used to be a relatively big part of my life as a teen.

Ok, a little disclaimer here: I was no prodigy, I played only a few years and had to be reminded to practice fairly often. I was regularly praised by my teacher, but when he suggested I join an orchestra I was not convinced I could manage.

However, I firmly believe that playing music helps learning in very concrete ways that are useful for learners of other things than music:
– It helps you focus: you have to think about what you’re doing when playing an instrument.
– You improve your ability to combine thinking and acting: reading notes while doing one thing with left hand and another thing with the right hand.
– You improve your ability to see patterns.

Then of course there are the character aspects that Alice also mentions: to become a good musician, you have to keep going even when it’s tough, it doesn’t sound right, and you would much rather do pretty much anything else.

Why is it worth considering in the sphere of languages?

Attention span:
Nowadays people’s ability to concentrate seems to be close to non-existent. When looking at my classmates, people are constantly somewhere else mentally, be it on facebook, a news site or doing something else that is completely unrelated to the lecture they are supposed to be following. And this is graduate school… These are the people who have supposedly picked a programme that actually appealed to them.
When was the last time we did something and allowed it to absorb us completely? I have yet to meet someone who managed to update facebook, check the news, text a few friends and play Bach on violin at the same time… However, I have met people who seem to think it is perfectly possible if the activity you should be doing is learning something academic.

Improving memory:
I’ve met people who can barely remember their own phone number and say about everything “I can always look it up”. And yes, we can most of the time, but even though knowing things by heart can be an aweful lof of work, it just helps tremendously if you don’t have to look up the most basic things. If your prof can make you feel embarrassed about not remembering something then imagine the day someone is paying you to know. In some professions, you might even end up with a liability suit if you don’t know and someone makes a very expensive mistake because of it.
Playing music helps us tune our memory as most teachers will include some element of rote learning even if not following the Suzuki system. One thing that annoys me when studying Korean is looking up the same word every few pages.

Seeing patterns:
Being able to see and remember patterns, similarities and differences is the learner’s version of finding a gold mine. This is something that is automatically trained when playing music, but it comes in really, really handy when you’re studying grammar patterns and vocabulary too!

Recharging batteries:
Playing an instrument is not always associated with happiness and rainbows, but that being said, it can be quite fun too.

So why did I quit playing? There are several reasons for that… Work load to get the grades for my uni programme, vocational training classical ballet on the side, and some other things which were relevant for my decision, but I will not burden you with in this post. I sometimes miss playing and when I go to see a performance the place my teacher still plays, I always listen for his warm-up routine if I cannot make my way to the orchestra pit before the performance.

I have played since then, sometimes just for fun, other times as a way to let out frustration in a socially acceptable way. And practicing scales has also proven a brilliant way to retaliate against a particularly noisy neighbour after a night of particularly loud second-hand party music.

Out of curiosity, how many of you play an instrument or used to play? Which instrument?

Korean studies. Now also written in calendar

About 7.5 months to go until the April TOPIK.
If last year is representative, I should enter my pre-TOPIK crisis around late November-early December. But that also means I still have about 3 months left until my impending Korean crisis. Maybe some sort of preventive work is in order.

I have sat down and written my lectures into my calendar as well as scheduled uni-prep time. Once that was done, I started scheduling Korean studies too; in line with the thinking that by writing it into my calendar it will move up the priority ranking. Before being able to schedule something else in that time slot, I would have to move my Korean plan with corrector tape. That sort of emphasises the sacrifice…

Now all there is to do is actually following the schedule…

I’ve already had the first “sorry, I cannot on that day” experience. Not because of uni class, but because of having scheduled Korean the following day, and I wanted to be well rested. But it will pay off. Eventually…

Studying, well sort of

This post goes for both Korean studies and other studies: how to create the optimal conditions for studying and actually getting something done?

Some people prefer libraries where the only noise comes from people turning pages, others freak out by being around quiet people for too long and prefer to sit in a crowded place listening to music. But what about “other disturbances”?

The other day I met with some classmates to have some geeky time before our upcoming exam and approximately every other minute someone’s phone was buzzing. Be it because of a text message, a facebook message, a mail coming in; something was buzzing constantly.
Granted, sometimes it’s important, but most things can wait. Really.

Sometimes I like to study quietly, other times I like to listen to some kind of music to block out other distractions or to get some energy if I’m tired, but phones demand attention in a different way in that you are expected to react on them. If a phone is buzzing, and it’s on the table right next to you, it takes quite a bit of discipline to think “I’ll check it when I’ve finished this chapter… In 25 pages time. So that’s another hour or so… Oh well, it’s probably not important”.

I remember reading in a text for an Italian class back in the days that a survey had reveiled that most office workers check their mail about 40 times/hour – just to see if something new and exciting had come into their inbox. I thought it sounded absurd, when were they going to get any work done?! and then I realised how often I check if something exciting was in my own inbox. Oops.

Nowadays I really do try to put electronic devices away unless I really need them while studying. Put the phone on mute-and-no-vibration mode and put away the iPad to avoid tempations there. I try to set a time for when I’m allowed to check them and I’m becoming better and better at keeping them. It helps on my concentration that I don’t have to look up every 3 lines to check something.

Now I just have to ignore all the other phones when I meet others for study dates… And now I should put my iPad away until I finish the chapter and have lunch.

Exam-brain syndrome vs. Korean studies

Just finished my exam and sat down straight away to prepare for my language exchange. I suppose today’s meeting will show just how much my Korean capacity is affected by exam tiredness and not having grammar books/notes with me.

So far my conclusion is that I’m in desperate need of coffee. Hopefully my language partner won’t break down in tears when he sees it… Be it the result of desperation or laughter…